Friday, March 12, 2010

refuse to shut up and listen when people of color explain racism

I've heard a lot of talk about, and analysis of, "internalized racism" and "internalized oppression." The understanding is that a white-dominated society tends to instill in non-white people, especially black people,* an acceptance of racist conceptions of themselves. Recognizing this insidious phenomenon became a primary justification for legal demands in the 1950s that schools and other public spaces be desegregated.

In the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision to desegregate schools, Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren wrote of black children,

To separate them from others of similar age and qualifications solely because of their race generates a feeling of inferiority as to their status in the community that may affect their hearts and minds in a way unlikely to ever be undone.

I've been thinking about that "feeling of inferiority" lately -- or rather, about its opposite. Surely, I've been thinking, there's something like the opposite of "internalized racism" going on inside of white people. If a de facto white supremacist society continues to instill an unwarranted sense of inferiority in non-white children, then doesn't it also instill an unwarranted sense of superiority in white children?

I think it does. As I consider various white people in this light, I repeatedly see in them an unjustified sense of self-confidence when it comes to racial matters. And if I'm being honest, I also see in them, and in myself, a sense of racial superiority.

Feeling "confident" is different from feeling "superior." The latter requires someone to feel superior towards. Someone that we at the same time consider "inferior."

On the one hand, if we're honest, we can quickly see that a general white suspicion of, for instance, black inferiority is rampant in mainstream society and culture. The more I think about this, the more I'm convinced that these racist suspicions and presumptions of black inferiority are deeply implanted into the psyches and emotions of individual white people as well. They make us question black knowledge and authority. They make us doubt black achievement. They make us quick to assume that when black people point out racism, they're being oversensitive. Or that they're reflexively "playing the race card" (instead of thoughtfully and carefully pointing out racism). Or that they're filing a racial discrimination lawsuit because they're paranoid or (again) oversensitive, or worse yet, because they're out for some quick financial gain (a common white suspicion that overlooks both how much more perceptive black people tend to be about what is and isn't racism, and how reluctant black people usually are to file formal charges of racial discrimination*).

So on the other hand, what also interests me is the common white sense of superiority that bolsters such views. People of color are repeatedly perceived as overly emotional, subjective, and uncontrolled; white people are in turn repeatedly assumed to be rational, objective, and in control of themselves. Or, in a word, superior.

I can't help but think that what is surely a common white sense of superiority begins in childhood.

One of the primary pieces of evidence cited in the Brown vs. Board of Education decision was the doll tests conducted in the 1940s by Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark. These African American psychologists found (in experiments that continue to yield similar results today) that most black children prefer white dolls to black dolls. Society teaches them a racial mathematics of sorts, a series of equations or formulas that basically go like this:

     white = pretty
     black = ugly

     white = good
     black = bad

     white = superior
     black = inferior

But then, as I've been saying here -- don't white children learn these equations too? Of course they do.

So, if the common and deeply damaging absorption of such identity-forming binaries by black and other non-white children has received so much attention (and to be clear, I'm glad that it has), why has the opposite received so little? Why has the common white development of an equally unwarranted sense of superiority received so little attention? Why is that so rarely even recognized in the first place for being what it is -- a problem?

I thought about this common white sense of superiority, and about a sort of relative and unwarranted self-confidence that white people often have, when I saw the following segment of "The View," which Jorge Rivas posted at RaceWire. Vanessa Williams is in this clip, and as Rivas points out, she begins by explaining to three nice white ladies what amounts to the White Knight (or Savior) Syndrome, as exemplified by The Blind Side.

[Sorry if a commercial comes up first in the clip. In case anyone can't view this segment and would like to know what these nice white ladies had to say about racism (and the supposed lack thereof) in the movies, I put the transcript in the comments.]

Barbara Walters quickly takes offense at Williams' critique of the movie and cuts her off; then Walters launches into a defense of the film, and the other nice white ladies chime in loudly with their passionate opinions about what is and isn't right in terms of race. And for three minutes, Vanessa Williams -- who may well have better insights to offer on this topic -- for three whole minutes, the probable superior commentator on race here is left twisting in a mostly stale, white wind.

In other words, it is true that the content of what Walters, Behar, and Hasselbeck are saying here differs, and it's also true that Joy Behar actually goes on to elaborate fairly well on what Williams initially said. However, what I see all three of these women displaying, right in the face of a silenced black person who may well know more about these matters than they do, is an overbearing and unwarranted sense of self-confidence. I think they're enacting, probably without realizing it, not only a common center-staging tendency, but also a common white presumption of superiority.

These three nice white ladies seem to think they know what's what on the topic of racism (in this case, Hollywood racism). Like a lot of white people that I know, when they discuss racism, they apparently feel completely confident in what they're saying -- part of that behavior seems to be an understanding that they're supposed to act confident in what they're saying.

However, these nice white ladies don't seem to realize at all the opportunity that they've lost -- to encourage Vanessa Williams to elaborate on what she began to explain, and to listen to her respectfully. Their not doing so exposes them as typically foolish and arrogant white people.

Or so it seems to me. What do you think of the racial staging in this segment from "The View"?

* As some commenters pointed out, this post is too reliant on an insidious black/white racial binary -- it perpetuates that binary. I was led to that reliance by the whiteness-and-blackness of "The View" segment, and of the doll experiments, and I can now see that this post should have been more inclusive of experiences of people of color excluded by that binary. I've edited some parts of the post accordingly, but I think it still doesn't go far enough in addressing racism against other minorities. I apologize for that, and I appreciate reminders on this point from Commie Bastard and R.

** In a series of recent experiments, psychology professor Karen Ruggiero of the University of Texas at Austin and her colleagues demonstrated that stigmatized people attribute their failure to discrimination only when they are certain of that discrimination. People may often avoid making such charges because they fear they have no control over the outcomes, which can be negative and include high costs, financial and emotional.

African Americans may also be reluctant to file suits because they know it will be difficult to prove discrimination.


  1. Video transcript:

    VANESSA WILLIAMS: And I have to be honest, the one thing about it -– I’m sure I have a, I know it’s based on a true story, she won an Academy Award, I’m sure she did a brilliant performance -– but it brings up a theme for black folks that, okay, here’s another white family that has saved the day in terms of another black story that has to have a white person come in and lift them up.

    JOY BEHAR: Right.

    WILLIAMS: And I’m not saying that it’s not true and it didn’t happen, but it’s one of those, do I really want to see the same theme again? You know, Finding Forrester --

    BARBARA WALTERS: I’m not sure when you said -- I have to disagree with you. Yes, it is a true story, but I would hope that we would get to the day where the fact that a black family could adopt a white –-

    WILLIAMS: Aboslutely, --

    WALTERS: Uh, wait -- or that a white family could adopt a homeless black child, and it would not be applauded by all the races. I think to say, "Oh, it’s one more white people helping." It was a wonderful story, and it was a story of closeness between two races, so I don’t agree with you.


    WILLIAMS: I’m just telling you what people have said.

    WALTERS: One of the other things that people objected to was that Precious was a bad depiction of black people, and we asked Monique about that, because that had been a criticism. And she said it could happen in white and black families.

    BEHAR: Lee Daniels, the director, said that it was produced, I believe, in London, with a white cast, so, obviously, but the issue with Blind Sided [The Blind Side] is that it gives the false impression that the problem of poverty and homelessness can be solved by the largesse of some liberal good family which basically does not, does not attack --

    ELISABETH HASSELBECK: It wasn’t a liberal family. It was actually a Republican family.

    BEHAR: Okay, Republican family.

    HASSELBECK: Not that it matters, I’m not going to fact check there.

    BEHAR: Liberal meaning, I wasn’t referring to liberal as the party. I was referring to liberal as an open-minded and loving gesture. Let me finish! But I believe that that does not address the systemic differences in the races, in homelessness, in poverty in the country. And it puts a Band-Aid on the situation, and it’s lauded as a solution to the issue, and it’s not.


    WALTERS: This [The Blind Side] was not saying this is how, everybody should go out and adopt a homeless white child or a homeless black – it was not a documentary, it was one story of reconciliation and love.

    HASSELBECK: And it actually shed light, if you read the book, which, okay, Tim read the book, and we’ve been picking his brain about this since this subject has come up many times, and I think that he said he remembers in reading it that it was, it did shed light on the fact that it was the foster system that failed Michael Oher, it was the Memphis school system that failed him. So, in some ways, it actually was a call to action in showing, like, look, these systems which are supposed to help kids like a Michael Oher left to his mother who is dealing with drugs and other children and homelessness, regardless of race, this system is failing kids, and so I think it did shed light on that.

    WALTERS: And the other black young people – whatever, they weren’t, they were sort of – were tearing his life apart and picking on him, it wasn’t the whites, it was . . . anyway, it’s interesting that you had both of these movies that have made --

    BEHAR: Stirred up a lot of issues. ... It starts the conversation which we sorely need.

  2. I was watching that episode. I was like WTF Babs! Let the woman talk. Barbara almost seemed offended.

  3. I was pretty shocked by that. And I don't think it's quite true that Behar said what Williams was saying. Behar was primarily talking about the difference between treating poverty as individual and treating it as systemic -- which is a valid point, but it's different from what Williams was talking about, which was White Savior Syndrome.

    From Behar's perspective, if this was about a white politician who saved the day by reforming the foster care and education systems, that would have fixed the problem. From Williams's perspective, it wouldn't have fixed it at all, since it would still be a movie lionizing brave, selfless white folks who save poor helpless black folks.

  4. island girl in a land w/o seaMarch 12, 2010 at 10:47 AM

    thank you for this post. i respectfully submit that whiteness prevents some white people from listening when asians, latin@s, as well as black people, attempt to explain racism. i am a brown-skinned island woman and i have been shut up, shut out, many many times when trying to explain how i understand racism to be enacted and embodied.

    IMHO, silencing is a discursive strategy to keep some white people in control of the discourse about race, to maintain the power to name and define what's racist.

    it's enough to drive a POC crazy, to lead her to think that she's got nothing worthy to say, that her thoughts and feelings and opinions aren't worth the air required to express them. and it's white privilege that allows white media people and scholar (with some notable exceptions) to continue to ignore the very real consequences of internalized racism.

  5. island girl in a land w/o sea,

    Another point well taken regarding this post's title -- I'm going to change it in response.

  6. I think some whites do have that sense of superiority (even if its subconcious). I also think that a lot of whites maybe overcompensate and sound superior, cut people off, etc...because they are deeply sensitive about race, want to justify that they are not racist, have white guilt over past sins of the race.

    Im a white dude, fyi. I know I suffer from white guilt. How can I not feel guilty about my privilege. The thing that really makes me upset is that I feel like the media and society at large makes us feel like there isn't enough to go around for everyone, so we have to be pitted against each other.

    I shouldn't feel guilty because I got to go to college and can get a decent job. But I do feel guilty for those things. Which is bullshit. Those things everyone should be able to have (well everyone who works hard at least) ever).

    And I also feel that if the richest people in the world gave up just ten percent of their wealth, there would be more than enough jobs and food for everyone and we wouldn't be pitted against each other by race, culture, religion, etc.

    Granted, a lot of these uber rich people are white! But its not like some white trash dude is going to be favored over a black guy by these rich douche bags. That is what is sad to me. Underneath the surface of culture, a working class white dude has much more in common with a working class black dude than with a rich white person.

    Im off topic. There goes whitey talking too much again.

    But back to the point. I have caught myself in the past doing this and I am much more aware of it. But I do think in some cases whites are overcompensating for their guilt.

  7. "Why has the common white development of an equally unwarranted sense of superiority received so little attention? Why is that so rarely even recognized in the first place for being what it is -- a problem?"

    White is seen as "race neutral" as well as superior, therefore as a white person it will never be assumed that I have an ulterior motive for disagreeing with you. I can never be seen as racist even when my opinions are steeped in a racist assumption. Whites in the audience will obviously agree and gravitate towards me, for they suffer from the same malady. My opinion will be taken as gospel as I expound on where you went wrong in your argument.

    Such foresight makes many blacks shy away from engaging with white people because we know it will be an uphill battle. Its almost as if these white women take a patronizing- maternal stance towards Miss Williams, a kind of "I know she means well but she's way off on this one" vibe. It’s frustrating to say the least to think a white person by virtue of their skin color is right all the time. However, more often than not a white expert is called upon to speak on all things relative; especially in matters of race.

    Whites have book knowledge of race, but seem deficient in practical hands-on experience. Moreover, what understanding they do have oftentimes is tainted by a negative event, media stories, videos, or second-hand information.
    Whatever argument a black person might seek to offer is filtered through white denial first, the white person then addresses whatever information is left over. This leaves a black person sighing in frustration, knowing that the white person just doesn't get it.

  8. I couldn't bear to watch that whole clip. Why did they bother to have a guest?

  9. The level where White=good, black=bad is ingrained is best seen in Asia, esp. India and China. Many Indians will say this very caually, "she is beautiful, but dark" - as if being dark is a sin. Many matrimonial advertisements describe their desired bride/groom as "fair, handsome and wealthy".

    In my (Indian) family, everyone praises my nose (!!) every time because it is straight and sharp like some white people's noses, unlike my immediate family. Someone who has a wide (African) or a pudgy nose or an Asian nose is considered inferior.

    One family friend tried to talk me into marriage with their daughter saying: "she is dark and has a flat nose, but she has an engineering degree and she has good domestic skills!!!"

    Sadly, when I was growing up, I believed this cr**. It took me many years of self-deprogramming to understand this. From what I have seen, for one person who understands this, there are hundreds who don't. Wonder when they will wake up.

  10. @speedster, I'm an attractive woman. I've never had trouble finding a date or someone to be interested in me. I know, without a doubt, that there are aspects of my life that are easier because I'm attractive. I know that I don't need to be as charming or witty or funny because somebody will always approach me at a party and make conversation. I don't even have to develop the skill to be good at approaching strangers because I can almost always count on someone approaching me. I know that I have never had to feel ignored for an extended period of time at a social gathering because somebody always talks to the cute girl. I know that a lot of what I've worked for I've probably had an easier time getting because I'm an attractive woman. More likely to secure a job interview, etc.

    I don't feel guilty over my looks. I don't try to compensate for my looks, but what I do do is recognize how one aspect of my genetics gives me an unfair advantage over other people. I don't feel entitled to "what I've worked hard for" because I know that someone else probably worked just as hard, if not harder and I might be here because I was just a little bit more pleasing to look at. Some things I worked hard for and earned, but some things I put in only a moderate amount of effort and got because of genetics.

    It's not clear to me where white guilt comes from. It's not clear to me that anybody is trying to make white people feel guilty.

    Regarding the post, I find "The View" to be a joke. Barbara Walters had this vision of a variety of women from all backgrounds coming together to discuss issues but they can't seem to keep any people of color on this show. PoC's on this show are silenced in what are basically shouting matches of opinions. Vanessa Williams' experience is all too familiar to me. I often find myself beginning to explain and then getting cut off by someone who presumably knows better or knows more. Williams' response is similar to mine these days.

    I can't help but wonder, do they really think that what they have to say is something PoC hadn't already heard before? That we hadn't already heard all these arguments before about how we are in a day and age where "race isn't an issue anymore" and we can all sit together and sing around the campfire?

  11. Excellent analysis. I have no desire to see this movie. But I think a subtle defensive issue here is that it's an Oscar winning movies. And the Oscars were broadcast on ABC.

    Also, since it was the vessel for the best actress, they're going to fawn over it no matter what. I don't think they (minus Joy) gave too much thought to the underlying issues. All they care about is touting the best actress; incidentally, another NWL.

    Of course, this doesn't excuse their asinine retort, just helps explain it.

  12. The underlying trait I have picked up on in white individuals (particularly white males) in race conversations that go poorly is arrogance on their part. This is demonstrated in an inability to admit that I am more knowledgeable about a topic than they are. I have had conversations where a white male was adamant that his definition of racism, his read on current race relations, and his perception of my experiences as WOC should be, if not privileged above mine, at least considered equally likely explanations (e.g. "when that store employee followed you, they were probably just being helpful and your paranoia makes you biased, blah, blah blah").

  13. Jules, I couldn't sit through the whole thing either. I read the transcripts instead.

    I'm so embarrassed sometimes to share skintone with these people. Barbara Walters just swooped right in and shut Vanessa Williams up with her hand-holding under the rainbow "future's so bright" business. And what annoys me further is that this particular group of women would probably be the first to jump in and spout off about women's rights, but they couldn't even give this one woman the right to hold a different opinion. God forbid a black woman know more about the black reaction to the movie than white people!

  14. @suppressedinfinity: I definitely see this White=Good/Black=Bad binary in some of my Asian peers. Just yesterday I was driving some friends - 2 Chinese guys, 1 Armenian girl - home from cheerleading practice when one of my Chinese friends mistook my Armenian friend "M" as white based on the lightness of her skin. The history of the cheerleading team has been typically Asian-dominated, with the greater minority being white - so this is where I think part of the generalization is made, due to minimal representation of other racial minorities on the team. However, it was more disoncerting when M said that she was Brown and my other Chinese friend then tried to 'fix' her claim by explaining that aside from "Asian," Chinese people only classify racial others as Black or White. This Chinese binary of racial others also serves to perpetuate the White=Good/Black=Bad belief.

    Another example of this White=Good/Black=Bad belief is in the Chinese tendency to judge the suitability or attractiveness of marriage partners based on race and colour. One example is when my aunt became very pleased that my cousin married a White person because the "children would be so beautiful." I'm not going to get into the politics of interracial baby-making, but there is that hint of adding superiority to one's race, culture, and heritage by changing or modifying oneself (and one's children) with whiteness. Conversely, if my cousin had married a black person, my aunt very likely would have felt shameful and possibly even shamed - no matter how much polite cover-up she could apply - that my cousin would marry 'the' racial inferior other. Not only is it flawed to conflate a person's marriage partner with individual and family identity, but it's also short-sighted and antiquated to hold such rigid, limited, and racist views of attractiveness. This example does not even begin to account for the ignored every-other-race-in-the-world scenario.

  15. @suppressedinfinity, that sounds less like "white good, black bad" and more like "light-skinned good, dark-skinned bad", which iirc is a mostly seperate issue...

  16. “If a de facto white supremacist society continues to instill an unwarranted sense of inferiority in black children, then doesn't it also instill an unwarranted sense of superiority in white children?”

    You know, I had considered this question as well. Growing up in this very white society a white person couldn’t help but feel superior to everyone. It’s all about white people!

    I can’t turn on the TV, pick up a magazine, walk into a store, or do anything that doesn’t predominately feature the view points of or cater to white people. Minorities are a side issue.

    In schools children learn about largely white history. It’s a steady stream of whiteness from day to night. That’s why whites don’t even consider their racial identity, they think of themselves as default human beings, just folks and the rest of us are other. Often an afterthought.

    If everything catered to me and celebrated me and everyone else were just background players at best and pathologizes others at worse, I would feel pretty superior I think.

  17. Oh, and with respect to what happened to Ms. Williams on the view: classic case of derailing.

  18. OMG, watching that made me cringe, I felt so bad for Vanessa Williams and she was trying so hard. Damn Barbara Walters and her derailing butt! The whole times I was watching her, I wanted to tell her that was not the point she was making.

    I need people to stop addressing racism and white privilege on an individual basis and look at the systematic, overarching problems (that is what Barbara did by saying it was one story). I wanted to ask Barbara has she ever seen a film where a POC went into a white neighborhood and helped them to be better (and no I do not mean movies in which the magic negro rescues the world in some sci-fi movie b/c that does not count) or as she said a black family adopting a white family. Probably not!

    It is not about races getting along (which is nice) or the other black people were picking on the black kid (which is another issue), it is about media stereotypes, when something that may have some truth is exaggerated to be the norm or becomes the representative experience.

    It does not matter if it is a true story or not because there are many true stories out there, it is why does this typical story have to be made over and over and over again.

    And the fact that Barbara Walters refused to see why Black people would be angry shows her white privilege and her refusal to STFU and listen!

  19. @cl re: "Some things I worked hard for and earned, but some things I put in only a moderate amount of effort and got because of genetics."

    I like this example as an analog for white privilege, and I wonder if you (or any other readers) have had success in showing a white person what white privilege means by way of the comparison with the benefits of being see as attractive.

  20. watching Barbara Walters talk over Vanessa Williams like that was painful. What got me was not only her defensiveness, but the *way* she 'shushed' Vanessa when she wanted to respond. This show is and always has been full of loud crosstalk, but on this occasion Babs has got to continue uninterrupted???

    Talk about privilege and feelings of superiority.(!)

    Thinking about this in the way of showing the inverse of children of color learning inferiority is white children learning superiority spotlights how ALL children are harmed by systemic racism. Learned superiority may seem beneficial in some instances, but [not being based in reality] it will surely lead to some cognitive dissonance and contribute to living a lie. I always try to come up with new angles, cuz normally, if I'm involved in a discussion on race with white people, I need to explain how racism is detrimental to white people for them to be receptive.

    go figure.

  21. I know that this is completely unrealistic of me to say, however, I wish that the day would come (and soon) when I would not see myself similarly defined by something I cannot change. Being white has allowed me priviliges that my black sisters have not enjoyed, such as the general unawareness OF my Skin Color when I shop, apply for a job, or walk down the street of a white dominated neighborhood (of which there are many). However it also condemns me to a life of apology for being what I am. As a Jewish woman, and now a white woman living in Korean society, I have some inkling of what it must be like to be marked by something that is inherently part of who you are. However, despite the daily racism I experience from Koreans (they do not appreciate a white woman dating a Korean man, they will not let me try on clothes and shoes, they sometimes refuse me service, and they always pay me less for a job because I am female), I try to not blame each and every Korean for the mistakes of others. I realize that while they are all Korean, not all are prejudiced against me.

    Don't get me wrong, as a writer and former Sarah Lawrence student, I understand and respect the need for discord and discussion, however, during this process of examining why our culture has developed as it has, please do not forget that European-Americans are more than their color as well. We are also further divided by our linguistic, cultural and relgious differences. It is not a simple matter to say "White People" as there are too many peoples in too great a variety to group as such. And not all people who lack a certain amount of melonin are inherently prejudiced against those whose skin contains more. When we make grandiose statements about a group of people, we run the risk of sounding precisely like the people we are critizing. Just as a black woman does not want to be defined by her skin color, neither do I. I do not doubt the power of racism; I have been a victim of anti-semiticism in the U.S. repeatedly and have some understanding of the affects of skin color on daily life (I do not claim to know what it is like to be black in America, only to have tried to understand it). Yet I shrink from defining all people by the acts of some. I enourage others to do the same: Perhaps the next step is not blaming old models of behavior, but shifting into a new one, in which the difference between your color and mine is celebrated for being an example of Nature's marvelous variety. But like I said: completely unrealistic.

  22. @Madison re: "When we make grandiose statements about a group of people, we run the risk of sounding precisely like the people we are critizing. Just as a black woman does not want to be defined by her skin color, neither do I."

    So you're a special snowflake. I get it. You're not like those other white people. Welcome to the real world. When other people see you, be they white or non-white, you are a white person. You are associated--like it or not--with other white people who have done things and thought things that you would never do or think.

    Generalizations about white people don't hurt me. And they are often true--in general. Generalizations do allow for exceptions, and even if they didn't, white people as a group DO assume their own superiority in our racist society. White people as a group DO invalidate the experiences and abilities and opinions of people of color. And nothing I do or you do changes the truth of the generalization. Or the fact that we belong to the group about which the generalization is true.

    When I first realized this about myself--that no matter what I think I am, other people see me as a white person (as belonging to a certain racial group) first--it was a consciousness-changing moment. I realized that being a good white person is not enough. Distancing myself from other white people or objecting to being "lumped in" with other white people accomplishes nothing. I have to do what I can to change not who I am or what people think of me, but who white people are, what white people believe about ourselves and racism and people of color.

  23. Madison,

    I originally had a longer response deconstructing the flabbergastingly White supremacist assumptions broadcasting themselves from every word in your gag-inducing comment.

    But I know it's just fucking useless.

    In other words, you should probably shut the fuck up because you're doing more harm than good. In fact, the reason why you probably won't see how badly you just fucked up is exactly the reason why you need to not talk for a while.

  24. The understanding is that a white-dominated society tends to instill in non-white people, especially black people, an acceptance of racist conceptions of themselves.

    Okay, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH with this propagation of the "white v. black" binary central to white supremacy as encompassing all racism!

    Basically what you're saying (and what so many other "anti-racist" whites here claim) is that black people have it worse off than any other minority. Which on the surface SEEMS sympathetic, but is actually a reinforcement of the scapegoat minority label black people get targeted with. This attitude is also an insufferably lazy ass way to go about deconstructing and combating racism.

    Really think about it - if white people cannot even address their racism against "model" minorities, than just how truly profound is their condemnation of racism against the scapegoat minority?

    Could it be that this binary-based dynamic actually allows them to better get away with their genocide and enslavement (sexual or otherwise) of other non-white groups?

    I hear there's some crazy shit with the Middle East, too - just a rumor :P


  25. however, despite the daily racism I experience from Koreans (they do not appreciate a white woman dating a Korean man, they will not let me try on clothes and shoes, they sometimes refuse me service, and they always pay me less for a job because I am female)

    REVERSE RACISM, FTW. Fool, you must be joking (except the self-congratulatory priggishness in your statements is so overwhelming that it's likely you're not).

    Don't even get me started on your racist disregard for the other women in that situation.

    I try to not blame each and every Korean for the mistakes of others. I realize that while they are all Korean, not all are prejudiced against me.

    OH EM GEE, what a saintly white lady you are! Here, want a cookie?

  26. I read the source link in your paragraph, and to expand it:

    "African Americans may also be reluctant to file suits because they know it will be difficult to prove discrimination. Most incidents do not provide an African American victim a chance to compare the service he or she received to the service a white customer may have received under similar conditions. This is problematic from a legal perspective."

    Racism has become very slick to aid and abet the perpetrators of discrimination. That article also stated that lawsuits occur more often when the victims were in a group, either all blacks or a mixed group. The individual is out of luck too often b/c it's his word against their word. Even in a group, you can still get treated like sh*t and be called everything in the book except a racial slur, and the incident is minimized to a problem by a specific employee that has nothing to do with racism.

    This is the problem I ran into last year when I got kicked out of my apartment "for no reason" by an arrogant, racist landlord. She could barely keep from laughing when I asked her why. In my county, building owners can ask a tenant to vacate within 60 days, with "no reason". This is how they get away with gentrifying a building and entire neighborhoods; they kick out the old tenants to bring in new ones that will pay more in rent. It doesn't matter how clean or quiet you are and that you've paid your rent on time or even early. You're not white and they don't care about that once management has made up their mind to whiten an apartment building. It's white collar thuggery, but they have the law to protect their crimes, so you never see this in crime stats.

    Worse, I found getting an attorney quite hard. Most are usually white too, and they just want to get paid on easy cases or charge you up the wazoo when it's hard to prove. That source link was right about why we don't pursue legal action; we are generally not well off enough financially to afford losing a case. So you suck it up and hope your blood pressure stays down, and try to let it go. It's no wonder so many blacks die too young from high blood pressure.

    And heck, that's just one incident. Let me stop before this gets any longer.

  27. I think Barbara needs to see this:

    I think, at least for her, it might be a matter of age. My white grandmother needed some explaining after the Oscars of why I detested the concept of the Blindside.

    Oh, and the last line of that view clip was PAINFUL. I think she was starting in on the "but it was the BLACK kids making fun of him!"

  28. @Madison,
    Sounds like you need a "some."
    Check the subtitle of this blog.

  29. *sniff* It's a classic case of draptoresponsia if you ask me. Not quite textbook, but heavy enough on the symptoms.

  30. …no, I am not black, I am Zimbabwean. If the race I subscribe to shares a common adjective with words that have negative connotations such as ‘blacklist’, ‘blackmail’ and ‘black market’, then I denounce the title.

  31. Barbara Walters is an asshole, and I was done with her many years ago when she actually jumped on Spencer Christian because Louis Farrakhan had previously pissed her off. Her time has come and gone, and she needs to retire.
    Macon, this post is righteous, and folks like you keep me from just outright writing all white people off.

  32. One of the most confronting, and ultimately liberating, realizations I've had in my own race-education of these past several months is that it is not about me. When I take my own wounded nice-white-lady feelings and defensiveness out of the racial conversation, it becomes so much easier to shut up, listen, learn, and support POC. And it leads me to that crucial next step that @bloglogger so eloquently expressed:

    "I have to do what I can to change not who I am or what people think of me, but who white people are, what white people believe about ourselves and racism and people of color."

    This should be the new white liberal manifesto.

  33. @Madison

    your superior tone offends me to the core. ESPECIALLY since you mention that you're a "former Sarah Lawrence student". I graduated from your sister school in NYC, so it's clear that you wasted your money and your time. but, thank you for being a good example of the post we're commenting on.

    this from you:

    "However it also condemns me to a life of apology for being what I am,"

    disgusts me more than anything. i don't want your damn apology. i want you to EXAMINE YOURSELF AND YOUR PRIVILEGE, and correct the ways that “what you are” furthers racism and white privilege. your unsolicited, self-pitying apology solves nothing, and attempts to make the discussion all about you.

  34. I've been told to STFU by white people when discussing racism...on progressive blogs including this one. I've heard similar sentiments from other right leaning POC, as the range of opinion on these anti-racist blogs is bizarrely narrow, creating a false sense that there's a consensus among POC (presumably aligned with the progressive anti-racists viewpoint) vis a vis issues regarding racism.

    Now presumably that's because MaconD and the others thought my views inane--an opinion which they're entitled to, imo--but how does one square that with this post, ie are they not similarly refusing "to shut up and listen when people of color explain racism"?

  35. I agree with Commie Bastard it's not enough to view white superiority under a black-white binary because whites are made to feel superior to everyone who's not of European extraction. For example, Asians are viewed as lacking in creativity/individuality and Arabs/Muslims are "backwards" and "violent" and thus need to be "civilized" by white saviors.

    And I too hate when whites accuse POC's of playing "perpetual pretend victims of racism". Most racist acts nowadays are covert in nature so contrary to popular belief it's much harder to take prove that a company/organization acted in a racist manner. Kit already mentioned one instance of how housing discrimination takes place in this day and age. Another way minorities are denied housing accommodation is by simply being lied to about there being no more vacancies. In such cases a POC will wind up second guessing the racist's motives, thus never feeling sure about whether discrimination really occurred or not.

  36. Manju,

    Do you remember where that happened (which post or posts)? That might make it easier to answer your question.

  37. The gender equivalent of this (men who assume they are less biased, and therefore more rational, knowledgeable, and reasonable, than women when discussing women's experiences or gender in general) has been dubbed "mansplaining" and has been discussed a lot lately on feminist blogs. I've seen what you're talking about called "whitesplaining" a few times. (And I hope that I'm not in the midst of whitesplaining with this comment -- just thought it might help people find more discussion of the process.)

  38. I had this same conversation at work with a White Dude. He asked me if I saw the mnovie and I told him I was not interested in seeing it. I told him why, which is basically everything that Mrs Williams said and he reacted the same way as those women on the view. He would not let me finish my chain of thought. It pissed me off so I said fuck it and walked away from him. But It left me to wondering and I think I am going to do a post about this over at my site. Feel free to check it out. I hope that I am not stealing your thunder by biting your post, but this is on my mind and I am going to write about it. I love this blog by the way... I am going to give you a shout out when I finish my version of this.

  39. Dirty Red,

    No, I don't mind one bit -- glad this post inspired you to keep spreading the word about "whitesplaining." And thanks occhiblu, hadn't heard that term, nor "mansplaining." I've seen a lot of both, and the combination in one person (a person like me, actually, if I don't catch myself) can be toxic.

  40. I feel that most, if not all whites, do have that embedded sense of superiority, and with that sense they believe that they are correct about issues they know little about like racism.

    What I also see is that whites who believe that racism is nothing more than hate groups, nooses, cross-burnings and the like, distance themselves from whites who overtly promote white supremacy i.e. hate groups. Those same whites will conclude that ANY group dedicated to the upliftment of POC is racist as well and will try to argue intelligently as to why that is so. At the same time they want to project that they know more about racism than the POC who have dealt with it for years and years, AND they would even go so far as to make POC feel inferior or ignorant on the subject.

    I'm sorry, but I have to call it what it is...despicable.

  41. The women on the view are just talking heads, especially ELISABETH HASSELBECK, why would anybody take them seriously?

  42. @ Ó Dochartaigh

    because their conversation is a perfect example of what PoC's have to deal with every. single. day.

  43. i wish they would have let her finish and explored what Vanessa was saying more because she is absolutely right about the film, the book was much more centered around the character of Michael Oher and what HE accomplished rather than making it all about Leigh Ann saving the day. I loved the book but was very uncomfortable with the spin and shift of focus of the film because it created that narrative that vanessa was talking about. On the other hand would she have preferred it if leigh ann had not stepped in? or just that white people hadn't made such a self congratulatory film about it.

  44. There was a discussion about this on a beauty messageboard I post on. Responses were

    it was a beautiful story so who cares?

    It was a true story so who cares?

    Vanessa Williams is irrelevant so who cares?

    The story would be just as important if a black family saved white people (those stories don't quite make it to the big screen).

    Barbara, Joy's and Elisabeth's dumb ass were very condescending to Vanessa Williams.

  45. Macon,

    That you even give these topics serious consideration speaks volumes about your character. I do appreciate you. Keep doing your thing.

    BTW, I've always called it "White Entitlement," and most that I've encountered in life are oblivious to it until it's pointed out. At that point, defensive denial kicks in like a fight or flight response.

    Thanks again for your reflections.

  46. …no, I am not black, I am Zimbabwean. If the race I subscribe to shares a common adjective with words that have negative connotations such as ‘blacklist’, ‘blackmail’ and ‘black market’, then I denounce the title.
    You can't opt out of your race, I'm afraid...

  47. Ms. Williams was definitely silenced by her White co-hosts.

  48. @ Paul, I don't think they (minus Joy) gave too much thought to the underlying issues.

    No, of course they didn't. It's such classic white privilege: no motivation to think about race. But it gets, worse doesn't it?

    They didn't think about the issues on their own, but then comes along Vanessa Williams who hands them (and their huge audience!) an opportunity to think about it. And they don't just passively not listen, not just avoid, they actively undermine her take on it.

    It's very unsurprising but even more aggravating because of the show business aspect. 1) They're modelling this mode of behaviour for their audience. 2) They're denying their audience an opportunity to learn something and 3) They're in the business of talking about pop culture on TV - they should have more motivation than the average white person to think about race. I think that it's due dilligence for them to have learned about media racial tropes and thought about it enough that they can recognize them and communicate to their audience about them in layman's terms. Or at least their handlers should be priming them.

  49. Babs and her white cronies did the classic d-dance: derail, dismiss, defend, deflect, deny. What they were saying to Vanessa is: "It doesn't matter that the young man whose story the film is very loosely based on was relegated to the blackground so that the mighty whitey could take center stage -- Black people are supposed to see the beauty and importance of this story, and should be happy, even grateful, that any story about or featuring Negroes is on the screen."

    Excuse me while I vomit.

    This is why I rarely talk to white people about race/racism/white supremacy. It's always about their trying to prove (1) me wrong and (2) that they are the ultimate authority on everything, including something they have no first-hand knowledge of or experience with. You can ice a billion cakes with the arrogance and entitlement they ooze (see: Madison).

  50. Thanks for this post. There was always something about this type of story (white savior) that I felt a little uncomfortable/embarrassed about as a white person but I couldn't articulate exactly what that was.

    Probably off topic, but I've never gone to school with many POCs (none until college) and never had a POC as a teacher. So, I wonder if it is a common white tendency to simply not listen at all, regardless of the topic being discussed (and probably doubly so when racism is involved). And if the white educational system doesn't simply reinforce this behavior. In my university classes up to 20% of your grade is often based on 'participation'. Which usually means running your mouth even if you have nothing pertinent to add. Sometimes in certain classes, I would like to just listen to others more but am penalized for that. Honestly, I do wonder if it is like that in predominately POC classes or POC led classes. Not trying to ask stupid questions, it's just that before I started reading this blog regularly I thought I had great instincts about human nature ... but am beginning to wonder if the only thing I know about is 'white nature'. I guess you can say I've been working on re-orienting my world view and I'm not quite in focus yet.

  51. I am a long-time lurker on this blog - absolutely love it, link to it and read regularly. M. Gibson's fantastic comment expresses much of what I want to say, and I just wanted to flag this up:

    as a perfect example of whites thinking they know what 'racism' is and turning it back on POC who complain about it!

  52. "I thought I had great instincts about human nature ... but am beginning to wonder if the only thing I know about is 'white nature'."

    OMG tell me about it.
    Sometimes I wonder if I even know my own nature.

    And I'm not even white!

  53. Also,
    If there is any other public image that symbolizes this is the interruption of Ross Williams, Director of movie Music by Prudence by a white woman Elin Burkot who rudely and pompously jumped in front of Williams just as he was about to give his acceptance speech. She totally cut him off and hogged the spotlight. Keep in mind this is the first time the Oscars acknowledged a black film director making a film about an African country in the movie it takes place in Zimbabwe and allowing Zimbabwean to speak for themselves.

  54. Excellent post on "refuse shut up when people of color explain racism." There's an excellent children's book that talks about this view white people and mainstream society had about black=bad, horrible, etc. The name of the book is "Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad?" Its an excellent book despite being for children it says about self worth, identity and being proud of one;s heritage and roots.

    That sucks that Vanessa Williams was interrupted by Walters and other three "nice ladies." I don;t understand why white people refuse to hold their comments until the end whenever People of color speak about racism and as Ms. Williams put it, "white savior syndrome" always feeling they (white Americans) need to save a child or children of color (look at how many celebrities have gone to Malawi or another African country to adopt African children to "save them" from dark continent of Africa making it seem Africans can not raise their own children. Keep in mind, African parents do not need celebrities or white missionaries raising their children, they can raise their kids by themselves with the help of the community and extended families) as though the children do not have role models, parents or community figures who can raise them and have or to look up to.

    As for not refusing the shut up, I can count the many times I have hinted and explained racism to my white classmates and peers and they will either interrupting me mid sentence, get a little annoyed keep wanting to return to the subject or try to excuse the racist act with the phrase, "well maybe they didn't know how to act toward you..." As a matter of fact a classmate who is a Native American and I were explaining to our experiences abroad in Latin America to a white peer of ours one evening. He had also studied abroad in central America. I will not call the countries name. Anyway he explained to us how he was treated by locals of the said country. He was respected and seen as valued guest partly because he was white. The way he described it reminded me of how the conquistadors were viewed as Gods upon reaching the AMericas. So my classmate and I listened to his story without interrupting him showing respect.

    Than we began explaining to him that we were both placed in color and class system of the respective countries we studied as though we were Latin Americans which we weren't by the way. I told my friend how I dislike having my name be "negrita" instead of my actual name though it is not considered an insult in most Latin American countries. Actually, Afro-Latins are seen as hardworking, trustworthy, etc. However, I still disapproved of strangers calling me by my skin color instead of name or just chica. Not everyone acted the same way towards me. My friend also told me how he was called, "moreno" as a name and said in the country he studied, most non-indigenous European descendant and mestizo people looked down upon the indigenous as "feos" or ugly for having brown skin and looking too indigenous. We both told our white peer how we were automatically lumped into negra and moreno by default because most of Latin America only views blond, Americans as "real" Americans whereas if you're a person of color in these countries you have to explain again and again that you are American and not from Latin America or the Caribbean which we both had to do on several occasions. Before we finish our explanation of our not so privilege treatment, our white peer was interrupting trying to downplay and outright excuse our experiences with color caste system by saying, "Well they don't know where to put you. You can't blame them." As though my friend and I can fit into neat categories according to class while he is treated with the uttermost respect.

  55. Previous commenters have said much of what I wanted to say. One other thing I noticed was that Behar started, early in the clip, to interrupt Walters, and then she apologized and asked if Walters wanted to go on.

    Nobody offered Williams the same courtesy, and apparently none of the whites at the table even noticed that difference.

    Couldn't watch the whole thing.

  56. Here's something I've wondered: do you think the bias against anattractive people is greater than a racial bias? Every time Halle Berry or Vanessa Williams or any other beautiful black or Latina woman complains about race, I just wonder how much they have been spared any prejudice because they are so attractive.

    Because being beautiful is, I believe, more valuable in our society than being white.

  57. @jennie w.,
    The first few seconds of this clip look to me like a pretty dramatic example of the prejudice that Vanessa Williams experiences as a black woman, even though she makes your list of "beautiful black women."

  58. I have nothing to add to your post since it's not really new shit coming to light. Except, I love how meta to watch white folks explaining whitesplaining. LULZ.

    Actually, I coined "White Translating" which is a better term since it fully embodies exactly what's going on and shows an ACTIVE rather than passive role in the behavior. 'plaining sounds helpful and it's most certainly not.

  59. OMG!! Those bitches are not only arrogant,obnoxious,loudmouthed,and stupid but they are downright RUDE!! And spare me 'jennie' yeah the Klan wasn't thinking she was so 'hot' when she won Ms. America and there were FBI agents guarding her door because the Klan was sending her death threats. I have seen this kind of thing from the supposed 'liberal' media all the time. That's why they are WORST to me than the conservative media because they are just as racist and full of it but you use the 'I'm liberal so you KNOW I got your back right?' bullshit. And keep in mind the very shitty way Babs treated Star Jones I'll bet they wouldn't have pulled that shit if Whoopi was there. So they instead do it with the more 'polite' Ms Williams.

  60. I find this both familiar and disturbing, but for more than one reason. It reminds me of the arguments about racist Sports Mascots.

    White people explode about not being allowed to,"honor" us with these offensive caricatures. And we are told to stop being so sensitive, and basically to shut up and let them use our images in any way they like.

    Like I'm honored by the Washington, "Redskins."

  61. i'm in involved in something similiar right now on the internets. in a thread asking if white folks realy have a problem with a non-white lead, someone mentioned europe and some white brit took umbrage and proceeded to state how there is no problem for black and asian actors there (also claimed there was no such thing as a magic negro trope).

    i responded, and in another response i gave links to black brit actors with their own stories about the fight for roles and relevance and of course he dismissed their experiences and proceeded to state there were plenty of roles that just don't get filled.

    there's other racefail material from his posts but frankly i'm tired of dealing with this type of bs, it's a waste of time and stress and an assault on my spirit. i simply don't have the patience anymore. i. don't. give. a. fuck.

  62. racism,is so foreign to whites, it's amost like a myth..they get so tired of reading about it, and hearing about it..because it doesn't exist in their's like reading about the weather on mars..

    If asked, they'll tell you, black people are just lazy criminals, making excuses, looking for a handout, upset about what their ancestors did to our ancestors during slavery........still clueless as to how racist, many of them really are.

    so, because of this, they tend to believe, that black people are just "blowing things out of proportion",,or that we should just ignore it...because they cannot relate..they minimize the black experience..they even compare the gay rights movement to the civil rights movement..which is can walk into a store as a gay white man, you don't have to disclose which hole you prefer, and nobody will know you are will get the best service, that store has to offer..but when i walk in, i cannot choose, everyone knows that i am black, and i am treated accordingly....i hate the comparison...

  63. The whole "Brought up feeling they're superior" thing is true. I stopped by a kindergarten/daycare to deliver a sign for the front of the building, and went inside to get a signature for the paperwork and ran across this scene. There was a group of kids who were going to be a play group, with a black girl as the leader of said group.
    The lone caucasian kid in the group didn't like that deal.

    Bobby (white child): I'M s'posed to be the leader!

    Teacher: Why is that? I never said you were the leader.

    Bobby: But I'm S'POSTA be!

    Teacher: I'm sorry, but Keira (black child) is the leader today.

    Bobby: *pouting, arms crossed* She doesn't LOOK right!

    Teacher:...well what about Miguel, or Roberto (twins, either puerto rican or latino)?

    Bobby: No! They don't look like a leader's s'posta, too!

    Teacher: *a little annoyed, since she herself was latino, and she could see where Bobby's logic was going* "Either", Bobby. What's a leader "sposta" look like, then?

    Bobby: *proudly* ME.

    Teacher: Well, not today.

    Needless to say, Bobby was a little disappointed during playtime THAT day. Damn, that woman was evil, and if she wasn't pushing 60, I might've asked her out...but that's altogether off-topic.

    Caucasian racial superiority is ingrained, from cartoons, fantasy novels, to movies. The cast may be multi-racial, but the leader/superior/good guy figure is always either caucasian, or has caucasian features that mark him as a noticeably different race than the other characters. Kids pick up on this, even if they don't have racist parents feeding them propaganda.

  64. I have always disliked Barbara Walters. She has a huge tendency to interrupt people generally when they are speaking. The double standard is obvious: if it were a group of black female commentators who interrupted a white woman, they would be branded RUDE, AND LOUD, for all eternity...and no, Vanessa's beauty has nothing to do with this.

  65. With any other race, I have never had problems with: horrific deception, backstabbing, stereotyping in order to displace people who are perceived as competition, the hiding of information required for you to be successful in your job, refusing to train new minority staff and yet setting other whites up to achieve; blatantly leaving minorities out of information circles, and the endless political games. I have survived this long only for two reasons, I am genuinely talented in my area of management and administration, and I keep a positive attitude. In my field 98% of the white men I work with are egomaniacs and about a quarter have actual talent.

  66. I have of late been making my space parts of the South, Maryland, and in particular Baltimore, Frederick, Hagerstown, and Laurel. One thing I believe I can say is that in Maryland I have seen whites that would most vociferously agree that there is racism and not enough of it. That they would say that the country is going to hell through giving too much to people of color. And I will say that there are whites in New York City that would say the same thing. I can't say how many of the whites I referred to Maryland are the descendants of the millions of poor whites of the antebellum South that could not compete against slave labor and subsisted because planters aimed to drive out competition from those poor whites. How many of us today even came across the concept of how slave labor affected other groups? I only became aware when reading Black Reconstruction in America:1860-1880 by W.E.B. DuBois. He talks about the white planter, the white worker, and the black worker in a certain part of the book. He posits that when slavery (chattel)ended many of the planter society were ruined and that the white poor that had been eating their dust was able to assert themselves. They became those militia that rode around assisting the poor whites that became Southern Democrat politicians in rolling back the gains made by blacks. These militia were known as the "red shirts" and also the "white league" and I don't want to leave out the ku klux klan, and the knights of the white carmellia. These mostly formerly unempowered whites were poorly educated since during slavery there was no public school system and children of the merchant and professional class sent their children to private schooling as did the planter class. These were the folk that devised the black codes and jim crow with systems that were "slavery by another name" (see the documentary online free). A prison system that was practically lily-white before emancipation quickly became 70% black in slightly less than a generation after emancipation. I also refer to the 13th amendment,Article I reads:

    Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

    I think one need not point out the utility of the black codes in creating a population that could be forced into servitude through convict leasing, chain gangs, and the force of debt peonage a la share cropping. I set up these facts of history underscore the efforts used to suppress black participation in so-called american society. In those days it was proper to be so forthcoming. Today, in an era referred to as color-blindness it is more politically correct to engage in covert, subtle coded forms of suppression of people of color. When times change methodology experiences a metamorphosis. So I said all of this to point out that white people in america are not a homogenous group except possibly in the area of the lack of awareness or consciousness in varying degrees of white privilege or white entitlement. This "privilege" or "entitlement" is akin to the the type of "privilege" enjoyed unawares. In fact,can the white person in the main define or articulate what whiteness or being white means? I am reminded of instances where people in finance sectors are asked to explain derivatives. It becomes apparent that it is more difficult to explain with an economy of words. It is the same for someone that is white to explain what being white is. At the same time I am also reminded of John Howard Griffin's book "Black Like Me" published in 1961. A few years after when he was attempting to repair a flat tire on a Mississippi road he was beaten and left for dead by a group of men who had apparently somehow recognized who he was.


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