Thursday, December 10, 2009

fail to understand that dismantling the anger and bitterness from racism is a very involving emotional process

This is a guest post for swpd by fromthetropics, who writes about herself, "I am mixed cultured, and always feel in-between -- both here and there, but neither fully here nor there."

Recently, readers of this blog have witnessed commenters accuse certain non-white commenters of being angry and snarky, and of shouting down others. For those who don't experience racism in the form of microaggressions on a regular basis, there’s something I think you need to know. Regularly experiencing microaggressions is seriously taxing on the psyche.

It’s hard to think of an illustrative analogy here. Okay -- imagine having a moody boss, and having to go to work every day without knowing if he/she is gonna yell at you or not that day. When they do yell, you have no idea what you’ve done wrong. You don’t know what you’re supposed to do to ensure he/she is pleased with you, because it doesn’t actually matter what you do. You have no control over what happens.

For me, the racism of microaggressions means having to be alert the minute I step outside the house, ensuring that I don’t carelessly do something that might reflect badly on my race. Every time I talk to someone, I’ve got my antennas up in the back of my mind, wondering whether white people will speak condescendingly to me or not. When they don’t, I am relieved. When something negative happens (e.g., being spoken to in a patronizing tone), I walk away wondering if it was racism or whether there’s just something wrong with me. Because quite often, I have no idea whether I did something wrong.

Sometimes it’s a car full of young white men driving by as they yell out something. Sometimes it’s incomprehensible, in which case the vibe still isn’t good. I keep walking, wondering if it was racism, or maybe they’re just boys being boys. Then one night they yell out something and I hear the words ‘Asian girl’ somewhere in their yelling. ‘Ah, that’s the vibe I was picking up that other week,’ signals my antenna. Or they throw my luggage at me and my family with a smirk at the airport, offended that I’d asked them to weigh our luggage again, to check if it really was overweight.

Or maybe I go to a shop, and a tiny merchandise rack that was standing extremely precariously (no exaggeration) falls over when I pass by. It isn’t my fault. I can pick it up, but I can see that it would fall over again anyway when the next person passes by. Then my antenna goes up: ‘But if I don’t pick it up, they’ll think Asians are rude won’t they?’

So I pick it up. The shopkeeper comes over and instead of just saying ‘thank you,’ she praises me for doing so, as though I was a child, and mentions how ‘good’ I am compared to that ‘Other’ girl who didn’t pick it up. My antenna goes up again: Was that other girl Asian too? Good thing I picked it up. Otherwise it really would have made Asians look bad.

Or let’s say, your good white friend brings up the topic of race. For the first time you think it’s okay to talk about racism. But one thing leads to another and she ends up telling you to go see a counselor/psychiatrist because you think racism is widespread. The friendship ends of course, painfully. Painfully because it was a friendship that mattered.

None of these (except the last one) are a big deal in and of themselves. But the regularity at which they happen is.* It wears you down. It really, simply wears you down to have that antenna up all the time. Some on this blog say it happens daily to them. For me, it happens about once a week. But I have to keep my antenna up every day. It’s tiring. I didn’t realize how deeply tiring it was until I went to Asia to live for a year. It’s amazingly liberating to not have to worry about this at all. To live, that is, like most white people do.

My point is, when the same thing happens again on a site dedicated to anti-racism, it’s extremely frustrating. Hence the anger, the snarks, the shouts, in many of the comments. Is it okay to be snarky? Maybe not. But this is where it’s coming from. I hope you can hear us on this.

Also, while white readers use this space to dismantle their ingrained racially prejudiced views, POCs are trying to dismantle our bitterness and anger and internalized racism. And it is a process, much like identity development (or perhaps, it’s part of identity development).

I started reading this blog in April of this year. I went from being very angry while wondering whether I was imagining racism (and if I concluded that I was, then I’d also have to also conclude that there is something very wrong with me to be regularly treated as less than equal); to being happy to know that I wasn’t imagining things but still very, very angry; to being just very, very, very angry to the point that for a few months I had a hard time picturing white people (in abstract terms as opposed to when I meet them in person) without thinking, ‘Ugh, disgusting.’ They became dehumanized in my imagination.

During this stage, I had to often remind myself of all the white friends and white people I know who were not ‘disgusting,’ who were very nice and very human. I started to make gross generalizations about white people a lot. An Asian Australian friend had to actually call me out on that.

Now, thankfully, my emotions have started to wind down. I don’t feel too angry anymore. This year, I’ve been lucky to meet several white people (some of whom are very fatherly), people who I can respect and who treat me with respect, both as a poc and a woman. With one of them, I felt comfortable enough to discuss racism (though I steered clear of the word ‘racism’ and used ‘prejudice’ instead). And yes, he got somewhat defensive, and for every point I made he would counter with the ‘anything but racism’ line of argument. But at no time did he show any disrespect towards me as a person.

I appreciated that (especially after I saw that video where White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs talks to April Ryan, a black female reporter, in a patronizing and infantilizing manner. I realized that the discussions I was having with this guy could have easily flared up into a Gibbs & Ryan type of exchange, had he been more prejudiced). It’s like pulling at the rope in a tug of war and the other guy lets go. When he got somewhat defensive, I started expressing my views more strongly and got frustrated (pulling at the rope with more gusto). But when I realized he didn’t then go around disrespecting me (he let the rope go), I calmed down and actually went back to apologize, just in case, for coming off too strongly (I let the rope go too). To which he said, convincingly, that I had no reason to apologize at all and that he appreciates that I shared my views (so the tug-of-war in my heart ended).

So it’s taken me months of venting on swpd and elsewhere, becoming ultra angry to the point of being ‘racist’ myself towards white people, meeting white people who are probably not fully aware of their whiteness but doing all they can to be respectful, and also doing other things to deal with the anger and bitterness. It’s been a long, deeply emotional and involving process. I don’t think it’s completely over yet either.

All of this is to say that I understand that being bitter and angry doesn’t look especially good or pretty. I don’t like being bitter or angry either. (The links from elise were helpful in understanding how to ensure that our poc anger doesn’t spill over into our comments in discussions of race.) But I think some of us here are in the midst of a process of dismantling our anger when we snark and vent. We’re not angry because we have an angry personality. The anger is part of a process.

I am not excusing anger. I want it gone too. But I want you to hear where we’re coming from, to hear from where the process is happening -- our hearts.

*If you picked one regular poc commenter and added up the number of times they say, ‘That happens to me too,’ I think you’ll start to see how frequently poc experience microaggressions.


  1. Wow, amazing... Fromthetropics, it's almost as though you are in my head right now.

    This is EXACTLY the way I feel right now, and the way I have been feeling for most of this year and on a daily basis. My brother consistently asks me what has happened to me, to experience racism added to bullying at work can completely change your outlook about White people. I never used to feel angry and frustrated as I do until I worked with "that woman" at my previous job. I think it actually traumatised me to the verge of being racist towards White poeople, although I know I am not, and I am better than this. I am just so angry at the way she got away with it.

    A friend of mine has commented on the change in me too.

    I can totally relate to the examples you have given here as it completely relates to my situation as well.

    This is an excellent post, thank you for writing it.

  2. I like this entry. It's very honest and conveys the reality of her feelings in a way that anyone with empathy can realize.

    I'm mixed-race and look pretty white. My sister looks non-White, and I know we have two very different experiences in the U.S. WRT race and gender. It is through growing up alongside her, watching the treatment and statements towards the two of us, that I have gone through the stages of understanding and growing with respect to my comprehension of racism.

    When I first opened my eyes to racism in society in an even deeper sense, I immediatley became suspicious and distrusting of white people, their motives, and their actions. Was someone my friend because I was their 'proof' of them not being racist? What did my friends really mean when they said my sister was 'so smart'?

    It is indeed a process and this piece is very honest, which is appreciated here,

  3. Beautiful post, but I wonder how long it will be before somebody White decides to use it against POCs, particularly Black people.

    An animal that is cornered and wounded will viciously attack anyone stupid enough to approach them carelessly. The same goes for people. Black folks in America are cornered and wounded everyday. When you speak or act carelessly, what else do you expect to happen?

    It's easy to label anger as negative, as something that is always illegitimate and unhealthy, rather than to stop doing the things that trigger it. It's easier to condemn anger than it is to promote justice. It's easier to make anger the problem than it is to examine the violations that give rise to it.

    It's easy to make the anger of POCs into the problem instead of the things we experience that piss us off. Like using our lives as a public service instead of letting us be complete and complex human beings.

  4. Oh, and as a follow-up, most of the people I see who are genuinely bitter and angry about racism - to the extent where they will hurt or harm others because of it - are Nice White People.

  5. Wow. You really hit me with that post, Fromthetropics, because I know what you are talking about. Does it ever get better? No. Can I ever get mad or show disappointment without the label of "Angry Black Woman"? Oh, but wait, I'm a yellow/redbone, so it's okay with boundaries.

    I'm still working on not having that "Ugh disgusting" outlook as well. I must say that I do feel pity for them as they are so entrenched in their ignorance or blind hatred that they ultimately hurt themselves. At least, I can say that I would have rightfully reason to hate them (they cannot, though), if I had a heart that could do it.

  6. fromthetropics, thanks from me also for your post. i'm always here reading, but i don't post as much as i'd like to. the derailers and trolls here over the past few months have gotten me down, and i've needed to sit back and watch how some of you who are more skillful at rebuttal deal with them. even in my own life, i've chosen to swallow more instances of racism in silence than i'd care to admit because, as your post illustrated, the schizophrenia that we people of color go through while negotiating real and potential white supremacy makes so much anger, bitterness, and crushing disappointment well up in me that i can barely speak.

    i, too, had the opportunity to spend some time away from a society riddled with white supremacy. i spent 2 years living in the Caribbean and just returned few months ago. i'm still trying to process all of it, but what i do know is that, while there, i felt a great physical and mental weight lift off of me. i realized for the first time in my life, i could feel what it was like to live without the exhaustion from dealing with the constant effects of racism.

    since i knew that my time there was finite, the longer i was there, the more terrified i became, knowing what i would have to face when i returned to the States.

    and, as a funny but infuriating aside, it was interesting to watch all of the white folks down there (i was living there with my husband while he attended school, and the majority of the students at his school were from the States). many of the white students were SO uncomfortable being part of a minority for the first time, they could barely stand it. i could see it manifesting itself in them in many different ways.

    only a few would say overtly racist things, but i heard many conversations about the local population that were simply thinly disguised racism. for many of them, their white privilege showed even more plainly than it might have if they were back in the States.

    although the island is one of the safest in the Caribbean--and has MUCH less crime than any major US city--the students would only travel in nervous groups on the few occasions that they strayed away from campus. never attempted to get to know local folks, learn about the island's history, politics, or culture. never attempted to take advantage of the priceless opportunity they were given to learn something about themselves and another nation while they were there.

    the nicest white folks i met down there--those who i hope to keep as friends--were from Canada.

    not that white Canadians are perfect. but somehow, i was able to have more open, honest, SAFE discussions about hard topics (race, poverty, religion, etc.) with the Canooks than I've had with most white Americans in a long, long time.

    anyway, i'm WAY off topic now. but thanks again. and thank you all for continuing to post here. it means more than you know.

  7. I'm a frequent visitor of this blog, however, I've never commented. This post hit the nail on the head. I just want to say thank you.

  8. Well said! This helps me quite a bit, actually.

    One thing I've been struggling with for the past month or two is the apparently different rules for behavior between white people and people of color. It felt like in anti-racism forums white people were supposed to accept being treated how society treats PoC (although if that were true, we'd have to accept a whole lot more than we do), rather than everyone being equal. I assumed it was some sort of empathy training, but I think I see now that it's more about giving what we have and accepting what you can offer in return.

    And if you can't offer what I think I need, well, here you've given me a set of reasons that I can come back to, to remind myself to be grateful that you're here anyway giving what you can.

    Now, there's a risk here for me that I'll take this and say, "oh people of color need to be coddled since they're so tired after a full day of racism." Possibly that's what RVCBard means by us using it against PoC? I haven't quite figured out an answer to that thought, but it's definitely wrong: either the wrong framing or wrong entirely.

    In any case, I hear you, and I'll be coming back to this post whenever I care more than I should about PoC treating me "unfairly". Thank you for writing it.

  9. And some of us are just plain tired and really don't have the psychological spoons to do it anymore.

  10. fromthetropics, you have concisely encapsulated what is most troubling about racism...the toll it takes on a person psychologically. For this I praise you. At the core this is by far the most damaging effect. It leaks into every corner of your life. Your sense of wellbeing, your ability to grow and develop as a healthy human being is somewhat stunted by the abuse of racism. And it's awful.

  11. I and others have described dealing with racism as akin to being in a constant abusive relationship. And racism shares many traits with such relationships too.

  12. Excellent post. I definitely understand and can relate to some of the emotions you spoke about. I read this blog regularly but I don't usually comment because I find I am learning so much just by reading the posts and other people's comments.
    Only this morning there was a piece on the radio that African and Caribbean people in the UK, where I was born, are nine times more likely to suffer from schizophrenia than other groups. I don't think that's just by chance. My dad was telling me some of the horror stories he went through as one of the first black people to work on the buses in England. Some of the guys at that time dealt with it better than others. My dad has come out ok, but he has brothers and friends who went through similar experiences and now are either mentally ill, alcoholics or what you would call 'drop-outs.' People don't realize how certain things like racism, poverty, etc. can chip away at your soul bit by bit daily. Some are able to cope and rise above it but not everyone can and, like From The Tropics said, it is an involved process.

  13. @fromthetropics, as they say in Oz (or so I hear) TOO RIGHT!! For me it has gotten better since I've lived in DC for many years and have spent the past several years working with a decent number of black professionals but when I was younger and lived in an almost all-white suburb? Oh lord. Even my all white college was better but still I encountered much. I remember my Mom saying how I didn't look angry the first time I came home and part of it was just not having to deal so much with feeling like a 2nd class citizen. I swear the kids I grew up with, some of whom I'm sort of friends with still, would always say whenever they would refer to black people or say that someone was black, "No offense, Lisa." No matter what. Such as, "Then these black dudes walked in and ordered fries. No offense, Lisa". I almost kissed somoene the first time they mentioned someone was black without apologizing. Craziness. I still see some of it, especially since I know lots of white folks but as I get older I seem to both be around more people of color and to isolate myself more too, which isn't good. Man I wish there had been sites like this (or the web) back when I was in white-bread suburbia, it might have made me more sane.

  14. Gosh, thanks guys for coming out and commenting. It's very encouraging to hear that you can relate.

    >An animal that is cornered and wounded will viciously attack anyone stupid enough to approach them carelessly.

    Great analogy RVCBard. And I read the post you linked to. I hear ya.

    RVCBard said: "It's easy to label anger as negative,"
    Jeffrey Yasskin said: "It felt like in anti-racism forums white people were supposed to accept being treated how society treats PoC...Now, there's a risk here for me that I'll take this and say, "oh people of color need to be coddled since they're so tired after a full day of racism." Possibly that's what RVCBard means by us using it against PoC?"

    Instead of seeing it as 'they need a coddle', would it help to see the situation from the following angle?: POCs frequently deal with ignorant & ingrained racist attitudes in real life. But in real life, they often don't have the energy and sometimes courage to be honest and say to the other person: That sounds racist, could you please not say that? They come to an online anti-racist blog. They think it's a safe space. But they encounter the exact same ignorant and ingrained racist attitudes or excuses as in real life (e.g. 'anything but racism' line of argument). But this time they're willing to say it plain and clear: That's racist, can you please stop. So when a white person, in this instance, lets go of the rope, so to speak, it doesn't mean they're being extra nice. They're just treating the POC as an equal by listening.

    MissCegenation said: since i knew that my time there was finite, the longer i was there, the more terrified i became, knowing what i would have to face when i returned to the States.

    Hahahaha. Same here. In fact, my assignment was for one year. After 3 months away from Oz, I was already wondering how I'll cope with going back (even tho it was 9 months away!). I've met quite a few Americans of immigrant background (both Caucasian & poc) here who had moved to Asia to get away from that 'minority' experience in the US.

    >many of the white students were SO uncomfortable being part of a minority for the first time, they could barely stand it.

    I've only met a few of those. (Maybe I just avoid the ones who would complain.) Most of the ones I talk to understand that their treatment as Other is that of a privileged Other. But some do seem to have a genuinely hard time dealing with the more benign things I've always dealt with so many times before and used to think it was just part of life.

  15. What an extraordinary post, fromthetropics. Thank you.

  16. Really great post. Thank you for sharing, fromthetropics.

  17. I am someimes blown away that POC don't walk around in a state of perpetual anger.

    Not that I'm saying you all *should*--I have no right to tell POC how to feel about racism!--and as a person who cares about other people's feelings I would rather people be happy instead of angry/sad...but, honestly.

    I know, based on my experiences as a disabled woman, that the objective answer is "you can't be angry all the time, you just can't, it's not possible"...but I can't make the transfer. It's flabbergasting. Racism just seems worse, I guess because it is so utterly pointless and baseless.

    Bah, I don't know how you all deal with it. You amaze me.

    (Not looking for cookies or anything...just sayin'. FTT, that was a beautifully-written post).

  18. This was a very striking post. It may sound strange, but I can relate too.

    "imagine having a moody boss, and having to go to work every day without knowing if he/she is gonna yell at you or not that day. When they do yell, you have no idea what you’ve done wrong. You don’t know what you’re supposed to do to ensure he/she is pleased with you, because it doesn’t actually matter what you do. You have no control over what happens."

    That right there is exactly what it feels like to be a white person interacting with POC. When whites complain about having to walk on eggshells around POC, and when they complain about all the things they can't say for fear of being called racist, it's because they're feeling that tension too. Like personally, I actually try not to look funny at black men I pass in the street (which happens every time I walk down a street - I work in DC), or veer out of the way too far, because I am not afraid of them and I don't want them to think that I am.

    I don't say this to lay blame on anyone, and a given white person obviously experiences this sort of feeling far, far less than any given POC. It's on my mind a fair amount, just because I, again, work in DC where there is a relatively even balance of whites and POC. But even so, I have the advantage of being white, and seeing that the heads of departments at work are all white too, and knowing that if there is some sort of dispute I stand a fair chance of being given the benefit of the doubt. So even though I can relate, I know I can't relate to the full extent.

    Whites and POC do have such a strained relationship. I feel like we should all be going to relationship counseling of some kind. Which, incidentally, is why I think RVCBard's "Anne & Me" series is so compelling.

  19. As a scientist, something that struck me recently are these two stories on npr which suggest health impacts of daily stress from racism:

    (Actually, on this second one, the summary infuriatingly doesn't include the conclusions on racism so you would have to listen to the story to hear it.)

    And, I know this is no surprise to any of you, but, when I brought these stories to the attention of my white friends, people (1) had heard the stories but had failed to hear that there was anything said about racism, and (2) got really angry and yelled at me for kind of a long time that certain control experiments needed to be run in order to demonstrate that racism really was to blame (these are actually close friends so I was surprised at how they yelled at me). Finally, something that was infuriating but, for all of you, unsurprising, is the lengths the narrators went to to stress that all economic factors, etc. were removed from comparisons such that racism was the only hypothesis remaining. (Now watch as white people insist that comparison studies be conducted with "African people" to rule out genetics...)

    I'd like to point out that there was one exception to my statement above regarding a friend who is consciously working, like I am, to wake herself up to racism...she and I agreed that this scientific evidence for something we already should have known actually made us feel like throwing up. Anyway, it's a slow process to grow up and realize how fundamentally broken the world is in a lot of ways but this blog is helping me a lot. Thanks, Fromthetropics and other contributors, for helping to catalyze my awakening.

  20. >When whites complain about having to walk on eggshells around POC, and when they complain about all the things they can't say for fear of being called racist, it's because they're feeling that tension too.

    Hmmm. I see. I can kinda relate to this. As a Westernized Asian, I'm part of the privileged group while in Asia (something like an honorary white, sort of). And of course my internalized racism shows up sometimes in the form of ingrained prejudice towards fellow Asians who are not Westernized.

    On one occasion I visited university and commented on how I was surprised at how good the facilities were, how they had hot spots for wireless internet outdoors. A local university student said in a spiteful tone, 'What did you expect? That we'd be all backwards?" I didn't like the spiteful vibe. He seemed bitter and resentful of my privilege. (Sort of like that 'stepping on eggshells' feel. He had also earlier made a somewhat sarcastic comment about another Westernized Asian girl who was trying to be respectful by dressing neat for the conference but ended up looking too posh and Western.)

    But at the end of the day, what I said may have seemed benign and sounded as though I was offering a compliment, but it indeed was prejudice/racism and stereotyping! I said what I said because I (subconsciously?) didn't think the country or its people were all that capable. I was guilty as charged. So, what I had to do was brush off (forget about) what seemed like his feeling of resentment, and deal with my own prejudice. (It took a day or so to come to this realization btw.)

  21. Fromthetropics said:
    "So when a white person, in this instance, lets go of the rope, so to speak, it doesn't mean they're being extra nice. They're just treating the POC as an equal by listening."

    Great point. One of many realizations I've had from reading the brutally honest, amazingly generous posts shared here by people like fromthetropics and RVCBard is that it is my obligation as a privileged white woman to keep this a safe space by shutting the hell up and listening to what's being said without getting defensive or pontificating about how enlightened and non-racist I am compared to the rest of my benighted white brethren. Not only is that untrue, it's exactly the kind of offensive, narcissistic crap that derails any productive conversation about how we can work together to overcome the power imbalance.

  22. @ RVCBard

    I liked that you pointed out this following observation and I wanted to know more about it if you're up for answering:

    most of the people I see who are genuinely bitter and angry about racism - to the extent where they will hurt or harm others because of it - are Nice White People

    Is it nice white people who can't believe we have to be bothered to think about racism because it totally cramps our style and free speech or whatever...

    Or nice white people calling ourselves anti-racist/looking for a bucket of cookies and ending up being hurtful instead...

    Or some of both and others, too?

  23. This post is very interesting to me. I love reading about race and identity politics, so much so that if I ever return to school for a PhD, it would be in this field. And posts like this remind me of that.

    Lately I've been wondering why I'm not more angry or more upset like my fellow posters. I first have to preface it with saying that I'm from NYC and before Graduate School, spent most of my time around other people of color, namely black Americans and Puerto Ricans. Those are the two groups and cultures that I know very well and grew up with. It wasn't until Graduate School that I was the only black American woman in most, if not all of my classes. It wasn't until 21 years of age that I felt if I spoke in class I would be speaking for black American women everywhere which led one of my professors to ask me if I understood the material (wow I just thought about that just now). It angered me but I was too busy trying to do the work to care. Then at 22 years of age, I got my first full time job, in my grad school no less. Now most of the people who I worked with prior (on a part time basis) told me not to work for said woman but I needed the money to help pay for school.

    This woman was beyond anything I had ever faced to before. Most of her insults I didn't even comprehend because they didn't make sense to me--luckily some of my white coworkers told me what they meant. For example, my mother works for the Police Department and she would always introduce to me and mention that to people. I would think, wow it's not like she's a scientist working on a cancer cure but whatever. Apparently, I later found out, that that was code for, she's a good black person because that means she wasn't a criminal. I could have never extrapolated that on my own but my friends who had contact with outwardly racist people knew what that meant, I did not. Not only was my supervisor racist but she was sexist as well. It was seven years of hell. Why did I stay? Because I figured it benefited me to have classes in the same building as I worked, at least there was no commute. But after I graduated it took another three years to find another full time position so yes I was in hell.

    So now, I'm in another university, with another crop of young, white, privileged students. Luckily, though, the youth part makes them more willing to learn and all but one knows how to come to me and ask questions without getting the stank eye.

    But here's what I'm grappling with now. My best friend who went to elementary and Junior High School noticed many more instances of racism than I did. A teacher saying "I've never seen this many well dressed black people in one setting" or another teacher saying about her brother "I didn't think you're brother would go to college." How come I didn't recognize it--was it just because it didn't make sense to me and I just let it leave my head? Example I was reading a book on the train the other day and the writer mentioned BART. Now, up until the police shooting of that kid, I had know idea what BART and I would have just kept reading and discarded that phrase.

    So now I must wonder what makes these things so foreign to me as a kid but ultimately recognizable as an adult. Am I not curious enough (one of my issues)? When something seems off, if I don't understand the root, do I just forget about it? Are my coping mechanisms just better than everyone else's in this regard?

    Maybe it's because I subconsciously thought/think that most white people in the US aren't like my former boss or the few encounters with the privileged students I've had. I sort of treat those instances as anomalies instead as the norm which intellectually makes no sense; I did my master thesis on restrictive covenants in early twentieth century.

  24. Continued:

    I think that's what it is. I get so many messages that say white people are good generous, nice, courteous that when I encounter a white person who is narrow-minded, racist, dismissive and ignorant, it must be out of character. All that to say, I never have my guard up when I'm in a familiar setting so when it does happen, it's like I've been punched in the stomach. Wow, I guess I don't have good coping skills afterall.

    Sorry for the rant!

  25. @ RVCBard

    Cool, thanks. I'm going to pay more attention to this when reading/writing comments.

  26. "It's easier to make anger the problem than it is to examine the violations that give rise to it."

    Took the words right out of my mouth.

  27. i relate to much of what you've said in this post, fromthetropics. Thanks for sharing so candidly. The bit about anger especially: sometimes, I feel like the more I engage in anti-racism, both online and in my personal life, the more angry I become as I truly ponder the extent to which racism pervades my life. But I just remind myself that my anger is not the problem the cause of my anger is the problem. I don't have to feel bad about being angry until the pervasive racism causing my anger (and hurt) goes away.

  28. Thank you for this powerful essay. Every time I read swpd I get something new to think about. I really appreciate your candor.

  29. Sometimes it’s a car full of young white men driving by as they yell out something.

    Spot on.

  30. Wow! This post hits home. I didn't realize how much anger I was carrying around. I went through a really horrible experience a few years ago with a white boss who before they were promoted from being a co-worker let me know in an unguarded moment that 'they normally didn't get along with black people. Sure enough, when he became my boss my life turned to hell. Suffice to say, after a year I was forced out for 'poor performance' even though my performance over the past 6 years had been stellar. That experience left me with very little trust. It wasn't the first time I had faced racism but it may have been the straw that broke the camels back. I'm in a new job now but I'm having a hard time trusting anyone, and I'm probably getting a reputation for being standoffish. And it doesn't help that my current boss is Danish and somewhat prides himself on being politically incorrect. I make a good living/salary, but just feel really isolated and I'm tired, tired ,tired. I'm going home for a visit, and I'm looking forward to being surrounded by people who look like me and I can lay down the shield for a few weeks. Ironically, my wife, who is white, will now be the minority for a bit.

  31. Baiskeli,

    I know how you feel. After too many dealings with racio-misogyny in the workplace, I just can't do it anymore. I stopped working when my husband and I got together. I'm lucky that he values my sanity and mental health more than an extra paycheck.

  32. fromthetropics, this was absolutely fantastic. How you explained such a complex amount feelings with such simplicity & easy I will envy for a long time!


    Everything you wrote has been everything I've ever felt--right down to the very powerful resentment that you have to check.

    I live in a section of Atlanta that's known for being wealthy & young. It's also overwhelming white. I find myself walking on needles hoping my actions/inactions don't reflect badly on my race. Then I find myself fighting that, b/c I deserve to be individual damnit! It's so very taxing.

    My parents live in a much more diverse city. The burden isn't there and the feeling for freedom to not be judged is so palpable, I relish it.

    It's so sad & frustrating!

  33. I've been at the receiving end of racism and I've been studying racism in all its permutations for a long time and I just want to say in regards to anger and letting go of anger (letting go of my end of the rope): No, thank you. I want to keep my anger, not because it's righteous or sanctimonious, but because it's close enough to passion that when my passion for fighting racism flags, I still have my anger. And, too, some people don't understand anything else and frankly I'm not above busting out the anger to cower someone who is just not going to get it any other way. Anger can force some people to do what compassion cannot and I'm not above using it. It's a scorched earth policy that I'm employing when I need to, and it works. It works.

    Sometimes it's like I once heard Sister Soulja say: Two wrongs don't make a right, but it damn sure makes it even.

  34. I really appreciate that you've shared this with all of us. It was something I have long thought possible but since I have no frame of reference for myself I could never be sure. I'm grateful to be able to read your insights, and the insights of the commenters here as well. Thanks.

  35. Tentatively testing the water here .....

    Microaggression is a new word for me. Would you describe as along the same word path as hypersensitivity?

  36. @Wordsmith:

    Would you describe as along the same word path as hypersensitivity?

    Uh, no.

  37. Thank. You.

    All this anger that I've been feeling for the past couple of months (my 'reawakening' to the racism around me- I was so young and naive before that I hadn't really 'noticed' it) has made me rethink my actions and words to the point where I stopped hanging out with a friend for fear of being 'typical'

    I stopped being who I truly was to be accepted by my other classmates (most of which were White)

    I actually appreciate this entire website for making realize that I wasn't alone in my bitterness or anger to the microagressions that happen every school week (or whenever I realize it)

    Your post is helping me sort of reconcile with the anger that I have and to speak up for myself much more often. To have the courage to point out racism and maybe go into a rant once in while (outside of my mind)

    Thank you fromthetropics

  38. >in regards to anger and letting go of anger (letting go of my end of the rope): No, thank you. I want to keep my anger, not because it's righteous or sanctimonious, but because it's close enough to passion that when my passion for fighting racism flags, I still have my anger.

    Yeah. Definitely. I didn't clarify in the post, but I think there's at least two types of anger. The kind that can be very productive and help you fight for justice whether on a personal or social level. And the kind that just leaves you feeling bitter and rotting inside. I was referring to the latter. I find that for my case, I need to get past the bitter type of anger before I can feel free to express the productive type of anger and thus feel confident to stand up and speak up for myself in situations where I experience microagressions and face whatever consequences may come as a result of that.

    In fact, I told my supervisor that I'm really angry and am not sure if that's healthy for my thesis. She said, Don't worry, a bit of anger is good, it'll help you write a good thesis. Lol.

  39. p.s. re: anger - For example, at the airport we asked the guy to stop throwing the luggage at us. But he didn't. And it became clear to me that my dad (who was doing the initial talking) wasn't being taken seriously because of his slightly Asian accented English. So I ended up yelling so loud at the guy that anyone standing within 25-30 meters could hear me. Did he stop throwing it? No. Did he and his colleague stop smirking? No. They enjoyed watching me get furious. It was entertainment for them (i.e. pushing poc buttons AND getting away with it). Never mind the fact that we were their clients. I was shaking from anger for quite awhile after. I don't have a problem with being angry like that. It's totally justified, though it would have felt better if I could have actually made some practical difference.

    What drives me nuts (and bitter) is the fact that I don't feel as though talking to their supervisor would have made any difference because that kind of attitude (racism & 'I've got power over you') seems to be the general culture at this 'international' airport. I know because I've heard others at this airport make racist comments before. And it's hell annoying that I have to go back to that airport regularly as long I live in that city!

    I just wish there's a way of showing anger in a way that it would help things change.

  40. pps. As I wrote the comment above I noticed that I am still angry about the incident. (So much for saying that things are winding down for me in the original post.) This, I think, might be a good example of what I'm trying to say about the two types of anger. I am not at all sorry for having expressed my anger that day. But I do hate the aftertaste - still being angry that they pushed my buttons and I didn't/don't feel I have any avenue to correct the injustice, and how that anger can still eat me up inside when I remember the incident. I don't like it when it eats me up inside. That's the kind of anger that I want gone.

  41. Thank you for writing this. I've been very exhausted lately with this topic.

    There have been some days in which I can't get out of bed, or had a rough time doing so. Thoughts about childhood experiences have been coming to the surface in the past few years, and I'm having trouble "getting over it." I try and tell myself I was just a kid back then, and now that I'm older I can stand up for myself, but it doesn't always help. But talking about the anger could help, because I'm finding after a period of time the anger can turn into fear- fear of getting out of the house, meeting new people, engaging with people.

    I read somewhere that "anger imprisons people, and fear reveals our attitude toward personal loss." These days, I can't tell the difference.

  42. RVC Bard

    Thanks for links, and thanks for the 'kind welcome.'

    Uh, no.

    December 12, 2009 12:25

  43. Just love it when a white commenter illustrates exactly what the poster is describing as the cause of his/her/other poc bitterness, gets called out on it and then gets offended because of the call out. I really think a lot of the poc who frequent this blog (myself included) are f#$*ing tired of being "nice" about shutting down bs. Enough is enough. I had to change my name, my accent, my food tastes, the way I do my hair, to make white Americans feel comfortable (especially my white boyfriend's family who have been trying to push me to get US citizenship for the past year). I am no longer going to bend backwards to make any white person feel comfortable in a discussion about race, especially when you are gonna drop that "hypersensitivity" crap.

  44. "boys will be boys"


    Boys will be boys is no more of an excuse for misogyny as "white will be whites" is for racism.

    The two are intertwined; racism and patriarchy are inseparable and your experience of a car full of men yelling something about Asian women at you is a case in point.

  45. Just love it when a white commenter illustrates exactly what the poster is describing

    You gotta take a shot! Everybody, take your shots!

  46. Microaggression reminds me of (The Horribly Slow Murderer with the Extremely Inefficient Weapon). Each individual instance is small enough that uninvolved observers can say "what are you complaining about? You're being hypersensitive.", but when taken together they're actually a big deal. And the "hypersensitive" dismissal happens often enough that it's a microaggression of its own.

    Wordsmith, if this helps you understand why your question was offensive, and you're tempted to tell RVCBard that this is how she should have answered in the first place (as I would be), recall the original post: she gets to deal with stupid questions all the time, and it's tiring. It's white folks' responsibility to educate each other on things we know the answers to.

  47. This was a great posting. I think it's important to have that initial anger and rage, and to be able to translate it into something useful to help the "healing" process begin.

  48. Everything I could say has already been said, so I just want to sincerely thank you, fromthetropics. And the boss analogy is perfect, now I know how to explain this better to those who don't get it.

    RVCBard, the drinking game has grown on me. *hands Patron shots out to everyone* :D

  49. I'm trying to remember what I was thinking about when I used the term 'hypersensitivity.' I know my sister & I have discussed being hypersensitive because of our abusive parents wherein we "read" - gauge everything based on facial expression, words spoken, the tenor of someone's voice, their gait, etc. Knowing the meaning of micro, My initial thought might have been along the line that microagression is a reaction to the perception that someone is being hypersensitive,regardless of the truth value.

  50. Wordsmith, if this helps you understand why your question was offensive, and you're tempted to tell RVCBard that this is how she should have answered in the first place (as I would be), recall the original post: she gets to deal with stupid questions all the time, and it's tiring. It's white folks' responsibility to educate each other on things we know the answers to.

    Ya know, Jeffrey, I'm getting old enough that I often don't remember the original reasons for asking something, & thinking in shorthand doesn't help. For some reason I saw some linking of the two words

    I don't agree that it's always "white folks' responsibility to educate each other." How do people learn? If I don't know or have the answer(s) how is it expected that I or another can educate someone else or others?

  51. I love this blog and i am going to send this to all my white 'friends' to open their eyes.

    What i like the most about this blog's attitude is the, "damned if you do, damned if you don't" attitude and take concerning white racism towards people of color. Whites will never understand until they are put in our shoes and marginalized.

  52. @ Wordsmith:

    A couple of points. Firstly, I think the idea is more that it is WP's duty to educate themselves. This includes reading things that POC have written/listening when POC choose to speak (versus, for example, demanding that they answer our questions). Jeffrey specifically said it is only our responsibility to educate each other on things we DO know about, so the answer to your question "If I don't know or have the answer(s) how is it expected that I or another can educate someone else or others?" is, you CAN'T; go and learn.

    Secondly, with respect to hypersensitivity: after reading your post about you and your sister, I think you might be operating with a different understanding of "hypersensitivity." What you seem to mean by the term is "ability to pick up on subtle signals." Now, I am not saying that microaggression is subtle--often far from it, as evidenced by, well, read above. But it *does* connote "ability to pick up on signals that other people miss." And in this case, that CERTAINLY applies, because WP are in/famous for missing microaggression (willfully, in many cases). And because WP largely control the cultural narrative in the West, it makes a lot of sense that "hypersensitive" would come to mind for a situation that involves signals that only some people pick up on.

    That's one view of "hypersensitive." The problem is that, when it comes to conversations between marginalized and oppressive groups, the word hypersensitive is extremely loaded.

    "You're being hypersensitive" is a silencing tactic that WP use when POC say something is racist regardless of how blatantly obvious it is that an action was racist. In those situations, "hypersensitive" just means "you're a POC, and this is a way to shut you up so I can go on being racist."

    So I guess my point is:
    I get where you're coming from, but it's not a good place to be.

  53. Wordsmith,

    When do PoC get to live OUR lives for US? When do we get to go to school, take our tests, do our homework, write our papers? When do we get to go to work, build our businesses, get thar raise or promotion? When do we get to meet people, fall in love, have some sex, get married, raise some families, buy a house? And do all the numerous big and little things that constitute living one's life? In between free race tutoring sessions for ever-clueless Whites? Once you get all educated, do we then have your (general "you") permission to live in peace without the danger of your continuous dumbassedness harming us?

  54. My apologies. Recalled the point of the question of hypersensitivity & microaggression... had to do with microaggression as the reaction of the perceived hypersensitivity of POC. Regardless of whether it's there or not, it's the perception that white people may have.

    It's illustrated best in the two small paragraphs written in this post: "For me, the racism of microaggressions means having to be alert the minute I step outside the house....."

    The other is the comment above by Witchsistah & this sentence is in the midst: "When do PoC get to live OUR lives for US?"


  55. Willow -

    The hypersensitivity my sister & I have discussed is totally different. Nor was I talking about anyone here being hypersensitive. My thinking originally was that it's a deflection used, a 'defense mechanism'- apparently a tactic on which to turn one's microaggression. They see it as hypersensitivity, not that the POC is being hypersensitive.
    Why didn't the flight attendant ask the three white men to move? The other two passengers were in there seats first.

  56. Wordsmith,

    Because racism is so endemic and pervasive and soaked into the fiber of American life that it would not have OCCURRED to the flight attendant to dare bother any of the White passengers in such a demeaning way. Even moreso if the White passengers were also MEN. The PoC were automatically LESSER people who could be told to move their asses to the back of the plane because that's the message our society keeps banging away at. We can be inconvenienced, degraded, humiliated, shamed while White folks are sacrosanct.

    It's like when a woman complains about street harassment (men cat-calling, trying to "talk" to her while she's just going about her business) and then someone tells her what did she expect when she leaves the house looking attractive. For PoC, it's deemed we are deserving of this treatment because we are not WHITE and therefore not real people or some form of lesser persons. And this is SOOOOOOOOOOOO ingrained that folks do not even have to reference it actively. It's just there as part of the default operating system. The flight attendant didn't have to actively think, "Someone's gonna hafta move. Let's ditch those two darkies there. They don't have a right to sit here with all these nice White people anyway." That was a part of the default O/S of American society.

    THIS is what PoC are talking about when WE talk about race. Not overt, stupidly obvious racist acts, but how the whole fabric of society has been run through with the dye of racism to the point it seems it is truly in the air we breathe and the water we drink. These automatic assumptions we make about people ALL THE TIME. And it gets tiring as fuck when White deny it unless the flight attendant said, "Hey, get your nigger and spic asses to the back of the fucking plane. Here, take all your jiggaboo and beaner shit with you!" Then maybe she was just having a bad day.

  57. Because racism is so endemic and pervasive and soaked into the fiber of American life that it would not have OCCURRED to the flight attendant to dare bother any of the White passengers in such a demeaning way.

    endemic, pervasive, and soaked ....

    What's left to say?

  58. After reading this post and being reminded my own dealings with micro and macro-aggression from whites in this white supremacist racial society, I've decided that I will give my kid the greatest gift I can offer - not raising her to be a second-class American citizen. The place of my birth before my parents dragged me to this hell-hole is one of the technically advanced nation on Earth now.. what I am doing here. Our entire family will "immigate" back to Asia, where my child will grow up as the integral part of society.
    I think the only way to end this is to marginalize white societies of US and EU to a point where white privilege diminishes. In 20-30 years, being Asia will become dominate. Then we'll help our African brothers achieve prosperity by themselves instead of giving them handouts. But if you stay a hyphenated American, it's never going to get any better. There will be a civil war before white ruling class is willing to give up all its power. Obama is simply a "Magical Negro" in the eyes of the white power structure; nothing has really changed. I don't think it ever will.

  59. I think a good analogy would be living in the Middle East as a woman; the 24/7 mysoginist threat of actual violence if I failed to behave appropriately. It was mentally and eventually physically exhausting. It began with making sure that your dress and body language was 'in line' but it also required a constant vigilance and an awareness of your surroundings.

    It still makes me angry to recall that my male co-workers from the US and Canada would go on and on about their 'welcoming' experience in that country. It was only when our company planned an outing and were informed that the female employees were not invited (so as not to 'offend' the hosts) that the men started to 'get it'. A little. But, they protested, we women could still spend the day happily shopping in the market, right???

    I think of that experience every time I read about racism here in the US and white privilege. Most white people have no clue about how defensively people of color have to live or how mentally exhausting it is.

  60. >> "Then we'll help our African brothers achieve prosperity by themselves instead of giving them handouts."

    Aaaand do your African sisters get to fend for themselves?

  61. I do not have your experience, but I have had experiences that are kind of analogous, especially insofar as anger and micro-aggression-type incidents are concerned. I absolutely think people ought to be responsible for dismantling their own privilege, and ought to respect the anger and frustrations of the non-privileged.

    I know I spent a lot less time with "antennae" up and feeling isolated and worried about sexism before coming to this nearly-all-white, mostly-male college. The process of increasingly feeling like there are almost no women here and the guys do not get when they're being sexist and are defensively clinging to their privilege has made me really angry. I retain white privilege - I am not a minority in the United States on the whole - but I imagine that experience would result in a great deal more frustration and bitterness than I've accrued.

  62. Regular reader, infrequent poster here. Everything that I wanted to touch upon has already been said here, so I won't say too much more, except for three things:

    First of all -- fromthetropics FTW! It cannot be said enough.

    Also, @ Jeffrey Yasskin: I'm really glad this post has helped you. I've read some of your previous comments, and I couldn't figure out if you were genuinely confused and frustrated, or if you were trolling. So it's REALLY nice to see that it's the former :)

    @Moviegirl: Yep, I've been there too. First of all, as a WOC, a lot of the negative, snide remarks that people made flew right by me until I started to wear the hijab. THEN the comments became more overt, and openly hostile (and this was before 9/11), and I started to feel the pricklies every time I left home. I think what hurt the most was looking back and seeing just how much of what I went though was openly and covertly racist, coming from EVERYONE, including people who pretended to be friends (but really just wanted to show everyone how "open" they were by accepting me, ME, into their wondrous group).

  63. >Boys will be boys is no more of an excuse for misogyny as "white will be whites" is for racism.

    Thanks Jennifer for the reminder. Yeah, the older I get, the more sexism bothers me too. For some reason I didn't really notice it (though I was victim of it) until recent years. I was always quick to verbally counter argue anything that sounded sexist, but I don't think I really understood sexism nor did it bother me as much as it does now. It's weird, and it seems some commenters are like this with racism. Now I often find that it just makes me sick and I'm lost for words when I see it.

    @Analogist - Great analogy. And reading your comments and others' (including the one by Jillian elsewhere), I'm slowly coming to a realization at how pervasive and hurtful sexism is (somehow I'm really slow in this area), and it's mind boggling how men just don't get it. If they don't get it even though it seems so obvious to the other half of the species, gosh, I can see why ppl don't get racism. Both situations are just so sad.

    @desolation nation - Yeah, I oscillate between thinking, Woohoo, there'll be another non-white country in power. But then I get wary thinking of how they'd be racist too towards others. I think having to deal with the hypocrisy of 'my own people' might be more heartbreaking than seeing others being racist towards me and people who look like me.

    Btw, I've heard from non-white Americans how much they like living overseas because suddenly they matter and don't have to deal with (as much) glass ceiling and being 'American' is suddenly a great privilege regardless of color.

  64. Great post. Something I encounter each time I walk out my door, some days I deal with it well, sometimes it rocks me to my core. I do envy white people who do not have to deal with the ever present need to question: was it a real or imagined insult? what was their motivation? why, why, why?

  65. Off topic, but:
    "the nicest white folks i met down there--those who i hope to keep as friends--were from Canada.

    What is it about Canadians? My mom owns a condo in a resort-y complex in Florida where a lot of the owners happen to be Caribbean (like us). About half of the owners live there and the others rent their units out. She convinced me to buy a unit a few years ago, which she rents out for me (I live in another state). Turns out there's fierce competition among the owners for... Canadian renters? I did not expect that. Apparently, word on the street is, they're great neighbors, great tenants, and generally "easy to deal with" (I think we know what that means). Plus, they rent by the quarter! Everybody loves them! My mom snagged a pair of these coveted Canadian tenants a while back, and sure enough, they were delightful.
    What is the deal?!

  66. All I know is that many American PoC who travel to Canada feel that the racism is not as thick there as it is here, especially the Blacks I know (including me) who've been to Canada. Of course, we've been mostly to the eastern part, and mostly to Ontario and Toronto and Vancouver in the western part. Those areas seem to be very, very diverse.

    Black folk who've been there also comment on how nice other PoC are to us. There isn't so much hatred against Black Americans as there is in America. It's been my experience as a Black American that other PoC, including Black immigrants have anti-Black American bias and prejudice.

    I also agree about being an "American" overseas is much like having White privilege here. I experienced that when I studied in France in college. At first, I'd get the stank eye and then people would hear me talk and either heard my American accent if I were speaking English or my un-accented (meaning non-African or non-Caribbean accented) French and suddenly, their whole being changed from their facial expression to the tone and length of their conversation. Then all of a sudden I was no longer one of "those" Negroes. In fact, they'd often go out of their way to treat me better to show they weren't like those racist American Whites.

  67. I've been thinking about this post for a couple weeks now, trying to figure out how I wanted to respond. I'm still not sure what to say, but I at least want to say that this was one of the most clear posts I've ever read here explaining a part of the experience of being on the brunt end of racism. I finished the article feeling like I understood it more on an emotional as well as an intellectual level. That's something I struggle with; I usually "get it" intellectually, but not so much emotionally. After reading this post I feel like I get it more, emotionally. Thank you for your honesty, and your skill in communicating what you wanted to get across.

  68. I'm posting this comment here since this seems a more appropriate place to discuss it.

    Let me reiterate something I said further upthread:

    [...]It's easier to make anger the problem than it is to examine the violations that give rise to it.

    It's easy to make the anger of POCs into the problem instead of the things we experience that piss us off. Like using our lives as a public service instead of letting us be complete and complex human beings.

    Some of you act as if I have nothing better to do than be snarky to someone's display of massive ignorance on the internet. Please, give me some credit. I have more interesting things to use my brain cells for.

    A few people who've been reading and posting here for more than 2 weeks can tell you that I've been very available to people who wanted to talk to me so they can understand and examine the underlying issues behind some of the posts and comments made here. So suffice it to say that if you find what I say abrasive and dismissive, it's far more useful for you to figure out why that's so instead of derailing threads trying to correct my tone or my speech.

    Why is it that whenever I post something thoughtful or heartfelt (like this or this), lots of White people act like I'm speaking some alien language, seemingly uninteresting in examining the points I make in reference to their own habitual attitudes and behaviors? Yet as soon as the snark, mockery, and sarcasm come out, people all of a sudden are interested when I have to say. When I'm being careful with my words to protect people's feelings, no one responds to me or tries to understand my points more deeply. But as soon as I respond with dismissive mockery, people want to engage me.

    Of course, this usually amounts to people trying to police my responses or projecting their issues onto me instead of thinking about and responding to the deeper truths I'm presenting in my commentary. To be perfectly honest, a lot of the times my comments fly way over people's heads. And rather than admit that (IOW, a Black woman can say something too intelligent for White people to understand, even in an off-hand comment), I get a lot of people projecting their baggage on me, assuming they know my beliefs and/or my motives, and attempting to police my reactions to things I experience and observe.

    It's easy to assume that I'm saying what I say just to be saying it, or that I'm being mean because - well why is that? What makes it so easy to assume? Why is it that people interpret the behavior of Black women in the worst possible light when we don't coddle or sugarcoat it for White consumption? And why is it that people feel comfortable telling POCs to treat our daily reality as an abstract concept, as something to discuss politely despite the insidious dehumanization we face just about every time we have a conversation with enablers of White supremacy? Why do people feel like such good anti-racists as long as it's limited to admitting that something they say or do could have possibly hurt hypothetical POCs, but as soon as a real POC shows the frustration, hurt, and anger that typical White comments inflict, it's all about maintaining a "polite" exchange (polite according to whom, I wonder)?

    Just some food for thought.

  69. Uhm...this has turned into something pretty big eh? (This is a continuation of this discussion.) I was gonna stay out of it as I've already said my piece of mind, but being opinionated as I am, I can't help but reiterate. Personally, the only thing I had a problem with were the two said terms/phrases that seemed like name-calling. As for all the other snarky comments directed at KD, well, it's not my place to say anything about that. What I did try was to understand where the anger was coming from. And now I get it, KD was showcasing her WWT, hence the angry comments. If this was the umpteenth time people had come across WWT (it was the first for me), then yeah, I can see why they'd be angry. No need to police the 'tone' or anything there.

    But macon, I find this somewhat offensive/inappropriate: "The examples that most raise the alarm for me are those that travel from the privileged to the subjugated -- e.g., whites calling POC various racial slurs, or a man calling a woman a "bitch." A woman calling a man a bastard or a woman calling a woman a bitch don't alarm me much -- don't seem bannable, that is -- but I know that I might be wrong about that."

    I'm with ya that slurs going from privileged to subjugated hurts a lot more. But it doesn't mean that slurs going the other way don't hurt at all. I get ya that slurs coming from subjugated to privileged don't alarm you as much. I get that. I'm with you on that. But to then apply double-standards on a blog where we're supposed to be having intelligent discussions on racial issues is, I believe, inappropriate and offensive. It feels as though you're saying that pocs and women should be held to a lower standard than white people and men because we're little children who need to vent. Yeah, we need to vent. But we're not little children. We're adult enough to follow simple rules. This will basically give ammo for anyone who are being racially prejudiced towards pocs - e.g. "See, see, we need to put up with a lot of shit from pocs coz they're just emotional and irrational, etc."

    Am I saying that those who did use name-calling in the past are like 'little children'? Absolutely not. We've all wanted to use offensive words one time or another. Some have higher tolerance for them, others don't. But to assume that we may not be able to refrain ourselves when there is an explicit rule in the comment policy saying that we shouldn't be using it is equivalent to saying that we are like little children.

  70. (cont'd)

    Yes, there is the question of “’polite’ for whom?” But that is different from applying double standards. If we’re gonna let pocs use slurs, then might as well let non-pocs (white ppl) use slurs too. But that would make for an ugly blog space, yeah? If we wanna make it safe by taking the slurs out, then let’s make it a single standard for all.

    I'm not saying you should police the snarks and the 'tone' and all that. No. I think people should be allowed to express anger. But banning simple name-calling (from wherever it comes from) is a very simple thing to do and it would save a lot of unnecessary debates and keep our focus on the issue at hand. Just a simple line like "Please refrain from name-calling" in your comment policy would go a long way, I think, in keeping the focus on the issue at hand.

    I mean, look at where two simple phrases has taken this blog. And yeah, we've forgotten what the hell caused people to use those phrases in the first place. And no, this is not the fault of those who used phrases which others thought had crossed the line. It's our own fault for forgetting and getting carried away after pointing out that it may not be appropriate. And boy, do I hope I'm not contradicting myself about being allowed to be angry.

  71. fromthetropics, thank you.

    It's really helpful in terms of my experience reading this blog and the comments to remember that for every offensive (intended or not, overt or not) comment a WP makes on here, POC commenters have been through a bajillion similar microaggressions and yes, that shit is wearing, and I wish you didn't have to go through it every freaking day - and I needed to be reminded of that.

    I also agree 100% with your follow-up comments here regarding what has been happening lately in the comments section of this blog and possible comment policy going forward.

    PS - I didn't know until I read this that you were also an Aussie!

  72. FTT,
    I just posted something in a very different spirit on the other thread, but I really appreciate what you wrote here, too.

    And maybe we're not so much contradicting ourselves as trying to wrap our heads around various ways of thinking about this. For sure, it's complicated.


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