Thursday, June 24, 2010

make casual racist comments to their non-white friends

This reader says below that I'd know best how to answer her question, but actually, I'm sort of stuck with this one; I also think a lot of readers here could provide better answers than I could. . . what do you think this non-white person should say to her vexatious white teammate?  ~macon

Hi Macon! I am a frequent reader of your website, but have never commented or emailed before now.

I wanted to ask your advice on something because it seems like you'd know best. I hope you can answer!

My intramural sports team is my life--the people on it are some of the most interesting and fun people that I've ever met, and we've all bonded over time and become really close. Lately though, I've noticed some things about one of the newer members that bothers me a lot. I've tried to ignore it but I feel like I've gotten to a point where I will explode the next time it happens.

She's a really awesome girl, and apparently has many friends of color. . . but she has this nasty habit of emphasizing race over anything else in any given situation, and it makes me feel awkward. For example we played a team that had two really amazing players of color--one was black and the other asian. When discussing them/their performance, instead of calling said players by their team names or numbers, it was always "that black girl" or "that chinese girl" with that sort of inflection.

This is always the case...once, when describing her hometown and the differences between their dry summer heat and our moist, humid heat, she kind of jumped into this tirade without being prompted: "oh and the black people there are very different from here, they all act preppy and classy, y'know?" I didn't know what to say. It doesn't seem that she has any filter on this, and I'm not sure if she does it with her other friends of color...

I don't want to lose her friendship or alienate her in any way, but how do I tell her I dislike this without starting a huge fallout between me and her? I don't want anyone else to jump in it either and tell me I'm being too sensitive or any of that crap, but it's so frustrating and hurtful...*sigh* Please help if you can.

Torn in Mississippi


  1. First off, I wouldn't focus on "not hurting her feelings" or not "causing a fallout" or whatever. Chances are that if she is truly unaware of her racism/privilege, which it sounds like she is, then she IS going to get defensive when you call her out. Frankly, I'd be concerned if she WASN'T upset, because to me that would mean that she isn't taking you seriously or doesn't understand the gravity of her actions.

    If your friend understands your discomfort and makes an honest effort to change her behavior, then she will thank you, in the end, for calling her out and ensuring that she doesn't keep hurting her friends of color. After all they are the ones who are being alienated--not her, for being "called a racist" or whatever, as you (maybe unintentionally) suggested.

    Hmm. I just realized that I wrote this whole comment assuming that you are also white. It makes sense in that context, because as white people we have a responsibility to educate other white people about racism. However if a POC were in the same situation as you, I would not necessarily expect them to do the same, because a "falling out" in that context is quite different than a falling out between white people.

  2. Depending on the situation, you could do the standard comparison tactic. It usually pacifies ignorance without you applying a noticeable level of stinging bluntness.

    Her: "Why are black people so rowdy?"
    You: "White people ARE rowdy too."
    Her: "Not like white people are."
    You: "Um, yeah dude." *Slight Laugh to come off as non-TOO serious* "We are." (Then proceed with examples)

    But that's just one example, and it really only works with blanketed statements that have to do with "everyday behavior". There are several tweaks that you can apply to this, to fit different situations.

  3. The next time she does it, call her out on it (privately, so she can't cause a fuss) and don't fall for her white woman's tears bullshit if she tries it (refer to this post and its comments heavily). Prepare a concise thought. Just be direct. Be sure to emphasize the ACTION, not her character, because that will throw off the subject. Jay Smooth did a great video about that.

    When my longtime friend was recently hipster racist I just chewed his ass out on it in front of our other (white) friend. We have a different relationship, though-- he's like a younger brother. I've yelled at him for stupid crap he should know better about before. And he didn't have the option to just cry the problem away.

  4. This is a tough situation, esp. in the South (where I live). Most of the time I avoid it because I'm pretty vocally feminist and anti-racist - posters on my wall, talking about my race privilege in casual conversation - but I've been having a little trouble lately with this too. My BF (whom I have no trouble calling bullshit on) and I recently made friends with a couple that we have a lot in common with, R & T; R is a light-skinned woman of color and T is a white man. I was really uncomfortable a couple of times at first because both would make pretty racist comments about black people, and, not wanting to be a white person telling a WOC how to talk about race and being intoxicated besides, I kept my mouth shut.

    But the next time I was in a situation with just R, she made a comment about black people being loud and I said "yeah....white people are plenty loud too!" When she said something about how it was different, I said, "I don't really think I agree there, all people can be pretty loud and obnoxious" and used my (white) BF as an example. She said she wasn't racist, I was right, and I nodded and we moved on.

    The next time we hung out with them, there were no racist comments, and when T started saying something vaguely along those lines, R shook her head and gave him a look.

    I don't think you can stop someone from being racist - in a white supremacist society, that's something a person has to come to mostly on their own. But this can help them to understand that even in the South, no matter how they've been raised, it's not okay with everyone and it's not okay with you.

    1. If more people were like RMJ the racial progress in this country would be more than just on the surface as it is now. The problem I see right now is that far too many people are willing to either give racists a pass and just let it slide or even be apologists for racists. The amount of people who are making excuses for George Zimmerman is astounding.

  5. Ha! I was just going to post Jay Smooth's video and I see that Eva beat me to it. I think he gives the greatest advice about keeping the focus on what they said (or did) and not on what they are. They can dispute your claim that they ARE racist much easier than they can dispute your claim that what they said was racist. And disputing the former really takes the focus away from what you want to achieve also. Additionally the writer may want to emphasize how uncomfortable her friend's comments make her; make it more about you than about her.

  6. My parents used to do this a lot. Whenever they talked about people white people would just be "man/woman/lady/guy" and any person of color would be "black man/Hispanic lady/Asian woman/Indian guy." And yeah, it really started to bother me too. Eventually I started asking, when they mentioned just a person without a qualifier, "A white dude/lady/guy/woman, right?" Which would of course stop their flow since they OF COURSE meant a white person. I found pointing it out like that and interrupting the flow or their story helped a lot. They don't do it near as often. I also asked flat out a couple of times, "You do realize you never mention the white people, only minorities?" I think it helped, though I'm not sure which helped more. They definitely don't do it as often as they used to.

    Something to try. People don't like it when their conversations get interrupted like that, it's kind of like squirting a cat with water. It's shocking. That kind of method is actually how my dad got me to stop constantly saying "um" "like" "you know" all the time when I talked. I was REALLY bad about that in middle school and after a while it got on my dad's nerves so when I'd tell him a story and say "um" he'd stop me right in the middle and ask me to start over again without saying "um." It actually worked, lol, though it left me miffed for about a week while I got used to getting rid of nonsense filler words. So it can work, if you're willing to kind of butt heads anytime your friend starts up with her usual racism and as long as you're willing to point it out every time she does it at least when you're around.

    Does anyone else on the team notice too? It would also probably help if you had more than one person backing you up with whatever you decide to do about the situation. Hope it works out. :)

  7. you should just ask "why do you have to mention that she's black or chinese? don't they have a name?"

    when I was in high school full of hearing white students, it really angered me when people called me "that deaf Muslim girl." My name is Sabina. I am not "that deaf Muslim girl." I have a name.

    These people that your friend was referring to, have names, too. Or when she says something dumb like "these black people act all preppy and classy," you can be like "what's wrong with not acting preppy and classy?" and tell her that there are white people who DON'T act preppy or classy, either. Whatever the f--k "classy" means.

  8. Everyone here made some great points, and I'm sure many more will make some great points as well.

    The dilemma faced when talking to white people about racism is that facts are downgraded over feelings. Most whites are more concerned about being called a racist than hearing about facts and truths about racism or being called out on whatever they do racist.

    I too believe that if she is an understanding AND openminded person, then she will not be afraid to face AND treat her inner racism. However, if she denies it or produce tears, then maybe, just maybe, she's not so awesome.

    I also think it may be better for you to talk it out before she slips up with some of her friends of color. If that happens, she may get a rude awakening.

  9. Well, for one, if you know the names of the people she refers to as "that black girl" or "that asian girl" you could simply interrupt and say their names when she does it. Either she'll correct herself and use their names, or not, which will tell you how concerned she is about her own racism.

    For another, whenever people start "all X do..." in my presence, I can usually stop them in their tracks by asking in a clearly doubtful tone, "Really? ALL of them?" You'd be amazed at how easily that simple question can often derail racist chatter. Because while WP will often SAY racist things, few want to be put in the position of actually DEFENDING such speech.

    But in the end, it's up to you. You say you're afraid of alienating her, but one wonders if it is you who is afraid of being alienated. After all, your post implies that she says these things in a crowd, and that no one ELSE speaks up either.

    Personally, I've never understood the fear of confronting someone over racist behavior. It's a weirdly interesting facet of swpd, because it seems to me that racists are sometimes, in a backhanded way, applauded for having the cojones to make racist statements in today's PC world. As a result, they're often treated like the "cool" kids in class while their anti-racist counterparts cower in the corner as if THEIR view is the shameful one.

    I don't get it. But I do know that once you start down the path of being openly anti-racist, your friends will know it. That's really the reality you have to confront - how your friends will view you.

  10. I haven't commented on this blog in a long time but I have to ask... what is up with white people insisting that someone is awesome, kind, amazing, brilliant, and a whole slew of other glowingly positive attributes, and then adding "but they're a bit racist"? As if racism is just a little bad habit, like being forgetful or flakey. I completely agree with trufizz, many times it seems like racists are applauded for having the guts to speak their minds, even if what they're saying is idiotic and hateful. Why DO white people care so much about hurting the feeling of the very people who hurt large groups of people's feelings on a daily basis?

  11. Assuming you're white, I'd begin with a private, soft-toned yet confident, "You know, whether or not you mean it to, when you identify people by their race/ethnicity instead of their names, it sounds racist. You may want to change that." If she doesn't change her behavior, in the group I'd move on to a simple, "Do you mean Maggie?" or "Are you talking about Ruth?" when she starts in, interrupting her train of thought like pmsrhino said.

    If those don't work, or if she pulls out the white-girl weepy act, she ain't that awesome and you can do without her.

  12. "these black people act all preppy and classy

    Apparently they're not really classy, they just act like they are.

    Anyway: in your situation, the first thing I'd do is ask around with your other teammates. Find out if others feel the same way you do. There's solidarity in numbers, and it's going to have a lot more impact if you say something and then others back you up (as has been previously agreed on), rather than you saying something and everyone stands around in uncomfortable silence. If you can find others that agree with you, you can stage a kind-of intervention where you take her aside (with this group of people) and explain that her actions are making people uncomfortable. I agree with RMJ that there's no way to make someone not racist, that's something they need to do themselves; but at least if you can get it through to her that she's alienating her team-mates by being open about it, she should at least STFU.

    @Jihad Punk 77: Were you "Deaf Muslim Indian Anarchist" before? If not, I apologize, it just seemed an unusual coincidence to have two deaf Muslim people who identify themselves as either anarchists or punks (I know there's a difference, but there's often a lot of crossover) among the SWPD commenters. :)

  13. @Cloudy: People are really good at compartmentalizing in general, I think. About the only thing people *don't* seem to compartmentalize is if someone's a child molester; if zie's a child molester, there are no other good qualities to speak of. But if it's things like racism, sexism, homophobia, etc., most people don't seem to have any problem compartmentalizing it. Even things like murdering someone can get compartmentalized. (Like how when someone kills somebody else through drunk driving or other manslaughter, people are often rushing to their defense and talking about what a tragic accident it was and how the perpetrator is not a bad person? Or how when white kids gang up on and kill a PoC, the focus is always on what nice, upstanding people these kids supposedly are, and how their lives shouldn't be ruined over what was supposedly a youthful mistake?)

    Hell, even child abuse often gets compartmentalized. I can't even count the number of times I've heard bullshit after someone's abused their kid, and then people follow it with, "But you know, zie really loves zir kids, [zie just has some anger issues that zie needs to work on / zie is just doing what zie grew up with / zir friends parent the same way / other rationalization here]."

    Basically, as long as someone isn't actually fondling children or being a serial killer, there's little they can do that won't still find plenty of people willing to excuse away their bad actions and instead focus on whatever good qualities they also possess. The problem with this kind of compartmentalization is that it excuses bad behavior and reduces the consequences (such as losing friends) when people do wrong.

  14. i have a coworker/friend like that. she just says whatever racist thing comes to her mind.

    (cause we're all white folk right? nudge, wink)

    usually it takes me 10 minutes or so to figure out why what she said was problematic. and by then the moment has passed, but on the occasion that I'm quick enough I just ask her questions that push her further into a corner with her racism to make her uncomfortable.

    That discomfort in turn forces her think about what she is saying but she can't escape into victim mode because I haven't done anything that could be seen as an attack.

    but her face still turns red though every time.

    I never come out and say "you ma'am, are a racist!" or even use the word racism. because really even if you don't call someone racist directly, if you use the word racism in reference to them they will take it personally and start losing their shit and you run the risk of losing the battle and the war.

    So, next time she says some shit like "that BLACK girl bla bla bla" just ask "why did you say black like that?" and imitate her tone.

    it sounds like a small thing but you've just totally redirected the conversation and put her words under a microscope in front of all her friends.

    She will feel the pressure, silence and discomfort meanwhile you will just be asking an innocent question.

  15. @Cloudy

    I don't think there's one neat answer to your question, and I'm not necessarily sure if what I'll describe can be applied to Torn in Mississippi's question, but I think it has to do with not being able to separate personal affinity from behavior that doesn't directly affect you.

    We can (all people, not just WP), for reasons of marriage or relation or shared history or guilt, continue to like/love/spend time with people, even if they do something we find detestable. It's just human nature. It's easier to overlook something than to cut someone off. However, it seems like in this case TIM isn't just letting it go, which is certainly the path of least resistance.

    I think it's especially hard to call someone out on something when they might not see why it bothers you. I'm assuming TIM is W, is the person they're trying to confront might be surprised their language is offensive. My boss has a habit of calling things 'retarded (mature, right?), and I had to ask him to please stop using that word. I don't have any leaning or mental disabilities, so I think he was genuinely shocked that his using the word bothered me. They get more defensive when they don't get why you're offended.

    Also, I think TIM wasn't showering praise on this specific person, but the people in his/her intramural group that had been there longer.

  16. It's so much more interesting when the white folks talk about how THEY deal with racist statement from their friends and family. It's informative and I hope more white people learn how to overcome this oppressive thing that covers their souls so they can live brighter lives.

  17. Why DO white people care so much about hurting the feeling of the very people who hurt large groups of people's feelings on a daily basis?

    I've been wondering the exact same thing.

  18. Talking about race, seeing race, doesn't equal racism, so I would need more to understand the full scope of the situation. White people are often taught that the mere mentioning of race equals racism. Not so, my friend. Not so.

  19. i think if you just ask her flat out, "why do you keep pointing out the race of those two girls every time you refer to them?" it can be a good place to start a conversation.

    actually, in general, questions can be easier for us white people to handle--especially in the fledgling stages of our understanding--without retreating too quickly into defensive mode. and then when you explain why it makes you uncomfortable, and what's wrong about it, she might keep her ears open enough to listen without interrupting as much.

    but you should definitely say something.

  20. With my friends, I have said, "Totally not okay thing to say, dude." and the worst that happens is that I have to explain why. I also use "not allowed" terminology but, upon analysis, I think it may sound like I'm trivializing the position of the unmentioned whomever is disallowing the behavior. For example, I might say, "You're not allowed to refer to people by their race." and then they say, "Why not, it's the easiest way to reference whomever I'm talking about...I don't like that PC b.s. I like to keep it real." and I say, "It just singles them out as 'other' and implies that there's nothing else to say about the person and, also, do you even know that person is Chinese?" and they say...(on and on usually). Anyway, as a WP, I just tend to get a lot of argumentative crap from these sorts of comments. It doesn't make a scene, especially if no one else is listening. It's just a big pain in the neck that is worth the hassle if only so that the person knows that you, for one, are not on their side. This is probably not what happens if you are yourself a POC.

  21. This is really great! I am also a frequent reader, but have not commented before. My fiance and I have run into a fairly similar situation, and don't know what to do. We are getting married shortly, and have met with our JP twice. I am white, my fiance is Japanese, and our commissioner keeps pulling the "oh! Your English is so good!" and asking those "since you, S, represent your entire race, please answer X so that I may continue to exoticfy you." (My words, not hers...
    It is too late to change, but both of us are curious how we should approach her unchecked privilege and racist ignorance.

    *Sorry if this is derailing, but I thought that it was fairly on the same line...

  22. If it were me (I happen to be a WOC, btw), I'd make it personal. That is, I'd say something like, "Y'know... it makes me kinda/really uncomfortable when you refer to people like that. Zir name is ___." No qualifiers ("I'm not angry, but...") and no details (no need to get sidetracked trying to detail exactly what "like that" is— she knows).

    That way it's more clear that the complaint is, "I'm uncomfortable," (consequences) not "you're a racist!" (intent).

    And then move on (ie: I said my thing, and I'm done. Now, you were saying...?).

    If they want to reply to the call-out, that's all on them. At that point, I'm done; they can squirm uselessly (sigh), take offense (double sigh) or deal with it constructively, but any which way, they need to do it on their own time.

  23. I know I may be jumped on by many of you. However, I honestly have made mistakes when talking about people of color. I realy don't believe I have any problem with any race. I come from a family that are clear about how much they hate people of color. I correct them all the time, to the point they have cleared up their mouths,(around me anyway). But sometimes to identify a person of color that I don't know I will say "the black man in the front row", or something like that. So I thank you all for giving me insight on this subject. Pls don't assume your friend knows what she is doing and just doesn't care. It could be simply a stupid mistake. I would thank a person of color if they would speak up and correct me (with kindness). What a great way to educate, right when the problem occures. I grew up (in Maine) not knowing or seeing anyone but white folks. I remember hearing bad things about people of color, any color. As soon as I was old enough to know better I started getting after my family. I didn't like it and I knew it wasn't what Christ had in mind for human race. My family thought I was self-righteous but to me it was plain old common sense. So I will follow this site so I won't be so stupid. Pls know this comes from my heart. Thank you all!

  24. OT, but I REALLY like the new layout (with the map).

  25. @Cloudy: Why DO white people care so much about hurting the feeling of the very people who hurt large groups of people's feelings on a daily basis?

    I think it's two primary things: One is the fact that someone calling out a WP's racist comment is talking to an individual, probably someone they know. For many people, it's a lot harder than to say something to someone's face than it is to say it when they're not around. (See also, the concept of the Internet Tough Guy)

    More importantly, however, I think it comes down to the dehumanization of PoC that we've talked about in many comment sections. When a WP says a racist comment, they're talking about an entire group of people. But when one WP calls another out for racism, they're talking about an individual precious snowflake. There's probably also an ironic assumption that PoC have heard these racist comments all their lives and know how to take it (especially those adamantium-teflon Black women), but the WP in question has probably never been called a racist before, so it's a new and scary experience that requires hand-holding. (*removes tongue from cheek*)

    I don't know what the answer is. As multiple people said, Jay Smooth's advice is great. But maybe it's also helpful, when calling someone out, to pass on the first rule for White anti-racists: You're going to f*ck up, and f*ck up badly, so buy some butt-hurt cream and get over it.

  26. I kind of thought it went without saying but....

    isn't it the tone of the OP's friend when she refers to POC that is the problem? (I'm imagining the white girl intro from baby got back "she's just so....BLACK")

    imo it's kind of ridiculous to try to make a big show of finding some distinguishing characteristic to describe a person other than their race if just mentioning their race will be the quickest and easiest route to identification.

    like it's something to be ashamed of or it's unmentionable? no.

    avoiding it just comes across as fake colorblindness: "Oh was she black? haha I hadn't even noticed because I'm so post-racial"

  27. Kandeezie mentioned the point that concerns me. You don't want to reinforce the colorblind ideology that it's racist to talk about race. I'm assuming that what's bothering "Torn in Mississippi" is more than just noticing and mentioning people's race. I'm guessing there are tone of voice issues and a sense of overdoing it. Similarly, it isn't inherently racist to notice that people have different cultural styles in different regions but, again, if it is bothering "Torn" it is probably more than that.

    I have a lot of opinions/thoughts about how to balance being willing to talk about race without overdoing it (and am interested in other people's opinions) but don't want to derail.

  28. Do share about that please, olderwoman. I don't think it would be a derail.

    Re the post, I think the various modes of bluntness recommended by various commenters here are appropriate it. And if your friend can't take it, well, what kind of "friend" was she, after all?

  29. I have to say that no matter how you approach her, you'll end up "hurting her feelings." I have two approaches for addressing white people I HAVE to deal with.

    The first is to just say, "Why did you say that?" and get her to explain herself. Ask more questions after her answer. But we WP love loopholes, though. "But she is Black! How else am I supposed to describe her?!" To which I would answer (with a question) "Well, how do you describe the other players on the team?" Asking questions gets people to expand on their ridiculousness and eliminates the amount of loopholes. In your case you actually want to be friends with this girl so, if you're going to directly point out how what she's saying is racist, remind her that you're not trying to attack her character, that you think she's [insert whatever good quality you see in her] and continue to tell her about what she's doing when she talks like that.

    The second is to be direct and just say, "I know you didn't intend to do it, but what you just said was racist." Another white tactic is to get White Woman's Indignation where she's so offended that you would make such an accusation that all of the focus turns to you for fucking up a good time and trying to school her when she's "got black friends" and other lines from the book of "I Can't Be Racist Because.." so be careful and line up some comments to draw her back into the realm of what she said. "So-and-so, I realize that it's uncomfortable to hear that, but we're not talking about how racist you are, we're talking about a comment you just made that was racist."

    I've had the fun experience of telling a girl in my writing class that one simple line in her story sounded racist, and I was sure she didn't mean it that way. She took it very well, denied being racist, but I just stuck to my topic and said, "That sentence makes the stereotype about black men sound like it's true, and I know you don't believe it to be true. I'm just letting you know how it sounds." And she was all right after that.

  30. For the life I cannot see what there is to be torn about. Is your employment on the line? A scholarship at risk? Is there a power imbalance to the relationship? Hell, these people are not even family, you ain’t got no risk. Sad thing is when many white folks face these same risk free situation, they keep their mouth shut, and essentially become an enabler.

    Seems like your concern is the loss of acceptance from a person (teammate) with clearly racist behavior or the loss of acceptance from a group that sides with the teammate, which obviously tells you something about the team. If they kick you off the team for questioning some racist shit, view that as a badge of honor.

    Is it really that difficult to do the right thing?

  31. jas0nburns: A big problem is if there is no real need to talk about the person's race in a situation (most incidences, it really isn't... for example, does it matter that the guy who cut in line was Latino? Not likely, unless you're using it to reinforce a racist point).

    It has a lot, also, to do with not seeing white people as "default." In describing someone in which the appearance/race might be relevant, I'd say "Tina is the tall white girl with brown hair, braces, and a green t-shirt." It's a really small way to alter your speech, but you'd be amazed how white people notice it when you start calling attention whiteness, ceasing to allow it to be the default. It's interesting, you can see the little cogs working in their brains...

    In a similar situation wherein you'd be referring to a person of color from a past run-in with a group of people (say, in the same crowd as Tina) I don't think it wouldn't be inappropriate to say "Alex was the Black guy, medium height, with a beard, glasses, and a blue jacket." In this case it is an identifier, and it isn't the only thing that might make Alex memorable. When you just say "Alex was the black guy" it insinuates that that was all that was really of note about Alex-- just that he's some Other.

    I just wanna bring up this other no-no: Once a white classmate was trying to describe to me a mutual acquaintance of color, and I didn't know this acquaintance's name. The classmate described him as "really, really tan" when the acquaintance was Black. It was so insulting and stupid. There is a difference between not othering someone based on their skin color and trying to pretend that race doesn't exist and coming up with asinine euphemisms, as if all language referring to POC is dirty and something to be skirted around.

    This is all just the way I've come to speak and think about it, though-- I would be happily accepting of a critique of this logic and open for improvements.

  32. Cloudy said...
    “Why DO white people care so much about hurting the feeling of the very people who hurt large groups of people's feelings on a daily basis?”

    Because whites see themselves as basically good people. To call a fellow white out on their racism is to do the person a disservice- for one should never make such an assertion without good cause. Whether they're associated with a racist statement, or caught burning a cross on someone’s front lawn- it doesn't seem to matter. Whites have demonstrated a tendency of separating the egregious act from the person. So don’t call him/her a racist- maybe the person was upset or maybe it was a stupid prank; you never can tell in these situations.

    In contrast- whites from all walks of life had no problem confronting Jeremiah Wright or Lewis Farrakhan on their alleged racism. You couldn’t find a blog- forum or media outlet where whites weren’t busy articulating their disgust. From pundit to layperson, whites contorted their faces, letting loose a tirade of insults, voicing their displeasure with the black preachers.

    For many whites, empathy makes it almost impossible to cause detriment to a fellow white without undergoing some kind of emotional corollary. Fear of being ostracized from the privileged group factors in as well, although there can be no fear of offending where there is no emotional investment. With whites there’s always an attempt to understand the offending white person’s motivation rather than condemn the abhorrent behavior. A genuine need to rationalize the bigotry, for in many ways you’re very much the same. Invariably you share the same fears and many of the same apprehensions as the person you’re calling out, “so I wouldn’t call him/her a racist” some whites caution.

  33. What is a 'hipster racist'? Sorry, I am relatively new to this blog. thank you.

  34. I think the most important thing is to call her out on it, using the ways others have suggested above. If she has a bad reaction and denies and there is a fallout, it's not your fault and you don't want to be friends with that kind of person anyway.

  35. [i]Why DO white people care so much about hurting the feeling of the very people who hurt large groups of people's feelings on a daily basis? [/i]

    Because white people associate racism with moral character, which is irrelevant. Of course not with "reverse racism" though. Then it doesn't matter.

    I'm not sure why this girl's friendship is so valuable or why she's so awesome if she's making racist comments.

  36. HELLO, I AM THE WRITER OF THIS EMAIL TO MACON!June 25, 2010 at 11:04 PM

    I wrote this email to Macon asking for help! So far, all of these comments have been helpful, but FAR too many of them assume that I am white! Maybe that's my fault, I should have mentioned it--it's my first time, like I said. I AM A BLACK FEMALE!

    I said that my friend is awesome because, aside from this whole thing, she does really seem to be. Thank you all for your help :) Really, I mean it

  37. Torn in Mississippi said…
    “Maybe that's my fault, I should have mentioned it--it's my first time, like I said. I AM A BLACK FEMALE!

    I said that my friend is awesome because, aside from this whole thing, she does really seem to be. Thank you all for your help :) Really, I mean it…”

    The find out that you’re black is really irrelevant, and I stand by my statement. It’s a shame you think as a black (or white woman) you have to bend over backwards to preserve the friendship when your friend is obviously not willing to do the same. I see that you used the word “Awesome” to describe your feelings for her… really? No friendship is worth the emotional toll- for if she was truly your friend she wouldn’t be speaking to you like this in the first place. Its sounds like her views on race are as ingrained as the pigment in her skin; which makes me wonder what she says about you when you’re not around.

    Whites and blacks share a long and complicated relationship with regards to race in states like Mississippi. It could be said, white women loved their black housekeepers, but that’s not to say black/white women didn’t know their place in society; race was always a reality. On this blog there are many threads that speak specifically to the denial some whites exhibit with regard to race and privilege; however in this case you’re in denial about your friend. You soothe your emotional wounds by describing how awesome she is!” just as some black housekeepers spoke highly of their employers despite their bigotry. “My employer is awesome because she doesn’t holler- or call me ni**er half as much as she used to.” Seems to me you treasure her approval more than she does yours; so by not calling her out- by your complicity in her racism, you’ve become the enabler. But there is a long history of that in Mississippi as well so I’m not surprised.

  38. @TIM: #1 it's not your fault at all, we shouldn't have assumed, #2 I would like to believe that there's someone (WP) on your team you could ask to say something, which would make the situation less likely to alienate you from your suck-o friend. I suspect that this solution has the potential to explode also but, personally, I really want to believe that if I were dense enough to have missed this situation, I would at least step up to the plate when asked.

  39. @ the OP

    I think most of us assumed you were white even if we didn't say so. otherwise I for one wouldn't have presumed to give you advice on how to handle racism as a white dude myself.

    but then again, here you are a victim of racist behavior asking how to make it stop without hurting the person who's victimizing you? Don't let her have that privilege!!! Where's her concern for your feelings?

    Also what up with your other teammates? Are they all white 2? Why don't they speak up on your behalf?

    fucking white people.

  40. “once, when describing her hometown and the differences between their dry summer heat and our moist, humid heat, she kind of jumped into this tirade without being prompted: "oh and the black people there are very different from here, they all act preppy and classy, y'know?" I didn't know what to say. It doesn't seem that she has any filter on this, and I'm not sure if she does it with her other friends of color...”
    Maybe she does not have any filters when speaking with you. For a white person to have the temerity to say some bigoted shit to your face in a casual conversation, says more about you as a Black person than it does about her. I think you have greater concerns than confronting your “awesome” friend. You need to confront yourself and decide if you’re going to be a compliant negress so that your racist friends can be comfortable around you or whether you’re going to call them on their bigotry. In some way, I think you have already decided.

  41. @ eva

    ok i see what your talking about. WP will often throw in someones race when it's totally unnecessary which is racist.

    I was mainly talking about the same situation as your 2nd point about the guy saying really, really tan. that's so ridiculous.

    for example...

    me: hey Jim, will you give this memo to Lisa in shipping?
    Jim: who's Lisa again? I haven't learned everyones name yet.
    me: She's the black girl. (If she's the only one) or...she's the tall black girl with the short hair. (If there is more than one black female.)

    If I am the only WP in a given situation, I'm the white dude. The problem is really that WP hardly ever have to be the only WP in a given situation so we are hardly ever singled out because of our race. It's a novelty when we are. If I was constantly the only WP around I would get really sick of being referred to as the white guy, like "I have other traits!"

  42. Oh, Jason, please don't say "black GIRL" when referring to one of your coworkers. Please. Please. Please. It's racist, it's sexist, it's demeaning and it sucks. You could at LEAST say, "black WOMAN," even if you are okay to identify her by her race.

  43. @Torn in Mississippi....
    MGibson speaks the truth.

    For the record, I have been in your position. My best friend was a white girl, she was awesome, care free and generous. She was also a racist.

    She did the same thing your friend is doing and I would spend time talking gently to her, pointing out why what she was saying not only disturbed me but was wrong.
    She used to thank me for my patience, things would stop and then it would start again.

    Then it started getting worse because I realised that she was expecting me to eventually co-sign her foolishness because 'I was different'.
    Then she would start arguing about blackness with me.

    We had to end out friendship because one day I simply lost patience with her and told her in no uncertain terms to fuck off and stop trying to tell me about blackness through her narrow prism.

    It wasn't until we ended our friendship that I realised how utterly exhausted I had been.

    Good, kind, nice, awesome people are racist just like bad, horrible people.

    My advice to you, would be to separate your self from this person. Life really is too short to hang with a 'nice' racist.

    P.S. You know what was also really telling to me, she never could have more than 1 black friend at a time and she was ridiculously obsessed with blackness. (even though she tried to hide it). She studied black women in secret but in public she acted like she didn't notice any black women unless they were light skinned and of course they were the good blacks. The way black people should look.

    All of this wasn't said explicitly but hidden behind code words and it took a while to actual unravel all this nonsense.

    I missed her, when we stopped being friends. We did pretty much everything together. It was like being in school again and having a best friend. But I simply could not put up with her racism any longer. It was poisonous.

    Save yourself.

  44. @ sara

    ok if your a WOC i'll take your word for it and won't do that. I don't understand your reasoning but I guess that doesn't matter. I apologize.

    I tend to not refer to any female as a woman unless she's over 45ish for whatever reason. Not out of disrespect it's just always seemed overly formal.

  45. M. Gibson said...
    "The find out that you’re black is really irrelevant.."

    This makes no sense to me...but darned if it did when I wrote it.

    I meant to say..
    "To find out that you're black..."
    Very sorry...

  46. @soul
    I've read a lot of your experiences with your ex-best friend while lurking on this site, and I tear up just about every time. I really hope you found some better friends in the future.

    As for the OP, I think a "tough love" approach would be best for you. If you really care about her as a person, try starting your comment with "Look, I love you, but it REALLY hurts me when you..."

    Do not let her play the victim. YOU are the injured party here. Don't fall for any tears. If she ends up storming off, give her some time (not too much), to see if she's thought things over and come to a better conclusion. And if she hasn't? She's not worth it.

  47. @jasonburns: It's because there's a historical* tradition of calling black people "boy" or "girl" as a way of demeaning and infantilizing them. So it's inappropriate to use those terms for black people because it's invoking that history. It's similar to, when I'm at the playground, I have no problem referring to my own kids as monkeys or warmly referring to another white friends's kids as monkeys when they're climbing the jungle gym, but I'd never use that word to refer to a black friend's children, because it would pull up the whole historical* monkey/black thing.

    I'd stay away from "girl" in general though, even when referring to WW, because there's also plenty of WW who are going to find it belittling.

    * Which isn't to say those terms and imagery aren't still used today, because they are. But their origins started a long time ago.

  48. @ The OP.

    I wrote the first comment, and I'm sorry for assuming that you were white, if that influenced other people to assume the same thing. Hopefully it's not too late to get this thread on the right track.

    My advice would remain much the same, but with some qualifiers. I could understand why, as a WOC, you may not want to be pointing out racism left-right-and center every time you see it--that just seems exhausting and emotionally draining, and it's not your job. But at the same time, this is a very specific situation, and if you feel that your friendship with this WP is worth preserving, then you should talk to her about it, maybe one-on-one if that's easier. Again, don't worry about hurting her feelings, because YOU are the victim here. If she values your friendship in return, then she will listen to you.

    But as soul has pointed out, sometimes otherwise "nice" white people can't get past our racism, and if the situation becomes too hurtful for you, then you might want to consider whether or not her friendship is worth keeping.

  49. I knew about the boy thing, wasn't aware it went for girl as well my bad.

  50. Robin said...
    “It's because there's a historical* tradition of calling black people "boy" or "girl" as a way of demeaning and infantilizing them. So it's inappropriate to use those terms for black people because it's invoking that history.”

    This comment puts me in the mind of the Gordon Parks film, “The Learning Tree.”
    The word "Boy" comes up again and again like a cold slap in the face. It's the question asked by Marcus's (the antagonist) illiterate father, Booker Savage. His anger and frustration bleeds through after the Sherriff brings his son home from jail and compels him to sign the release papers. The deputy points out, “hell boy that ain’t no signature that’s an X!” To which Booker responds angrily, “How old's a man gotta be before you people stop calling him boy?” Its a pain most whites will never know...

    Marcus’s father had to be in his late 40’s to early 50’s at best, so you can imagine what a lifetime of subjugation can do the the psyche of a man. A painful reality that carries with it a lifetime of deep-seated resentment towards whites. The refusal to acknowledge another's manhood was played out repeatedly by those in power. Georgia Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland's use of the term "uppity" to describe then candidate Barack Obama only goes to show this mindset has not gone away.

  51. God forbid we make a racist feel bad. It could lead to a bad case of White Women's Tears.

    How about you have a response prepared in your mind for the next time she pulls her bullsh-t out. Because there will be a next time. And you probably won't be able to break through the wall of ignorance with just one try, but if you don't dance around the subject in an attempt to avoid making her feel bad, you might just make enough of a dent to get her to stop speaking that way around you, and maybe even plant a seed of further growth.

    Also remember that not saying anything when she says this shit is a privilege for you. And you protecting her from having to feel bad about her racism is a privilege as well. Enjoy!

  52. HELLO, I AM THE WRITER OF THIS EMAIL TO MACON!June 26, 2010 at 6:54 PM

    @ Imhotep and M. Gibson: I realized that I probably sound very stupid asking for advice especially being that I'm a black female, but I didn't really expect my character to come into question, or to be attacked. I had thought that this was a supportive-type system?

    I said she was an awesome person, not because I'm subconciously defending her/kowtowing to her in some sort of slave mentality or any of that, but because, aside from this thing, she does seem to be a pretty interesting, funny person.

    I do admit that I am a very nice, somewhat passive person, especially as of late...but the reason I am so adamant about not hurting her feelings or making her feel defensive is that I've had race based arguments with people in the past, and they all end up turning into a huge mess with me crying, the person I confronted crying and everyone else yelling. Usually the person I confronted will gather support from other friends, and no matter what I say, even if it's logical or even a fact, they will not listen--they just insist on their own way and overpower me by yelling it.

    Maybe I'm doing it wrong? I dunno, but all the same I appreciate your advice, harsh as it was

  53. HELLO, I AM THE WRITER OF THIS EMAIL TO MACON!June 26, 2010 at 7:00 PM


    OOps! I meant to put all this in one comment:

    Yeah, 99.9% of the team is white. I have worked to change that, with the result being one other black person...possibly one on the way.

    I don't want this to involve the whole team because I know that 1 or 2 others have done some of the same things my "friend" has done--I've heard about it through the mouths of a few more enlightened teamates, but have not witnessed it myself so I didn't feel it was my place to say anything until they slipped up in front of me...

    *sigh* Am I just hopelessly deluded? I feel so stupid and silly

  54. HELLO, I AM THE WRITER OF THIS EMAIL TO MACON!June 26, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    One more time!

    @soul & Eli Reed:
    Those comments were very helpful and moving :)I hope I am able to confront her about this soon since I've been thinking about it for weeks

  55. Look sweetheart. You want to tell this girl she's a racist and you want to keep her for a friend.

    Before you open your mouth, you need to decide if she's worth losing and maybe some of your other friends too. Because I promise, she will not fight alone. She will drag others into it and you will find yourself on the outside looking in.

    Much like "that Asian girl" and "that Black girl".

    Do you understand what I'm trying to tell you?

    To confront racism is to put yourself at odds with people you think are your friends. You will be outside your comfort zone - the zone where silence is golden consent to racism.

  56. I have just one advice: be aware of White Women Tears.

  57. ‘Whites and blacks share a long and complicated relationship with regards to race in states like Mississippi’

    I am a black woman living in Mississippi. In my experience, having travelled outside of the southeast, I don’t honestly detect any greater degree of ease (IRT race) outside of Mississippi. Yes, I know the southeast gets the painted as THE place for racism, but in my experience, it’s not much different in California or Texas; and from the comments on this website, Washington, Maine, etc. aren’t exactly bastions of racism-free living either.

    I could be wrong.

    I have a friend (yeah, okay, best friend) who is white. Once, when she was joking around with some younger white guys she used boy in reference to them (yes, they are teenage boys). In the same conversation she used the term in reference to an older black man also. I did not call her on it in the moment because others were present and I did not want her to shut down and get defensive. However, when the guys left, I told her using boy in reference to an older black man could be viewed as racist and I was sure that is not how she wanted to be perceived. She said she didn’t mean anything by it, that she was used to saying boy in relation to her kids and her white male friends. I reminded her of the history/demeaning nature of the term in relation to black men. I told her if she respected the older gentleman, as she honestly appeared to, then she should be careful not use the term in reference to him or any black man in my opinion.

    It’s been, maybe, two years since that incident. We are still friends. We talk about race often (and life and faith and fitness, etc.). I spoke up because I felt our friendship could easily sustain the conversation.

    I was right.


  58. @soul re: "Good, kind, nice, awesome people are racist just like bad, horrible people."

    This is so important for the OP and all of us to grasp. There is no divide between being an awesome, nice, cool person and having racist tendencies. Our society is racist. If racism depended only on the hard-core obvious racists to sustain itself, it would have died out already. Racism is sustained by well-meaning, nice, liberal white people at least as much (though in different ways) as by seething, hateful, narrow-minded white people.

  59. @MIT.

    No need to thank me, its cool.
    For the record. I still see my ex-bestie every day. We work in the same place.
    Everyone she knows avoids me, except a few who want gossip. I simply say... 'oh things change, smile sweetly and move on'.

    To be clear: This girl is NOT your friend and neither are the team.
    Friends do NOT argue with hurt. They are bullying you into submitting to their racism.

    See, you've been thinking about this for weeks. Thats emotionally exhaustion.

    I will also guarantee, that when you are not there.. they talk the same way about you, that your name disappears and you become 'that black girl' or you know 'she's cool for a black chick' or 'yeah, but you know shes black' or 'she's black but not black, black'.

    Listen, You might not like to read what IMhotep and M.Gibson said, but the fact is YOU NEED to hear it.
    Read again. read over. It was not an attack on you, and they are being supportive.
    At this point in time, they are seem to be guarding your self respect and self esteem more than you realise.

    Listen you are not stupid, you are not silly ( I felt the same way too). You are simply a black woman living in a racist society.

    No matter where you go, you will encounter something like this. You will spend years invested in a friendship only to realise that the person is a rabid racist.
    Now what do you do, you have grown to love this person and you think you can change them. YOU CAN NOT.

    SAve yourself, be smart. Grow-BLACK-up.

    I'm really sorry that you are experiencing this, I feel for you. But this is not going to go away and people will gang up on you again.

    I hate to say this but here is my advice:
    IF you have to work with the same team for some time, then you have to preserve your sanity:
    So, you need to start emotionally detaching from both the team and her.
    Don't say anything, yet. just start to fade away from her,
    - stop hanging with her,
    - start to tale an interest in other activities.
    - Do NOT introduce another black girl into that scene to endure what you have (they will pit the both of you against each other, as there can't - When they/she makes those black remarks, quietly pick up your stuff and leave, (not in a huff).
    - If anyone asks you whats going on, say I find that type of talk degrading and I don't want to be around it.
    - DO NOT DISCUSS/EXPLAIN/DEBATE racism with anyone.
    - DO NOT DEBATE your FEELINGS with anyone
    - DO NOT NEGOTIATE your EMOTIONS with anyone
    - DO NOT COMPROMISE your SANITY for anyone
    - Start to look for a team where you are NOT emotionally invested with the people.

  60. I'm aware that I've been going on, and I apologise. It's just that..
    I work with these people everyday, I have to put up with their BS everyday and I have to also watch out for the most important person in this whole dynamic: me

    This is my career, I have already messed up by 'telling it like it is' in an environment and with people who don't want to hear it. But I am lucky that I can start over.

    I am 'Black-smarter' now. I realise EVERYTHING is a game. they push pull and prod you into debasing yourself and justifying their racism.
    So I play smart, I'm the chick that gets things done, the 'too serious chick' the black chick who reads things they don't expect black chicks to read and WHO DOES NOT explain herself.

    White people get so uncomfortable when you they say something racist and you immediately gracefully walk away from them with NO debate.

    Its because they largely want you to prove to them why they shouldn't be abusive towards you and why they should treat you with respect.

    They expect anger, shouting, rage, even want/demand violence from you.
    But cool calmness or snark... makes them act a fool. They don't know how to deal with it.
    - This is why SWPD exists, they do it here. even anti-racist allies do it. Even people working on their racism still constantly do it.
    SWPD exists largely because because it is a place white people can debate racism or as is evidenced in every single post... attempt to negotiate acceptable levels of racism with POC.

    Because, my sista (yes, I mean that) - This is not changing.

    Protect yourself, your money, your learning.
    You have to leave the friend making outside of the team, or you will get hurt.
    Once again, I am sorry to be part of the bearers of bad news.

  61. @sparrowette....

    It is what it is, I can't change the past, but I can be better informed going forward.

    My focus as always is living a contented lifestyle and surrounding myself with positive energy and love.

    If i can't have that, then I will make it for myself and be happy with myself and I'm completely okay with that :)

    Suffice to say... I thought I loved myself a heck of a lot before this bump in the road..
    Now, I'm thankful to her for teaching me to love myself even more.

  62. You say 99.9% of the team is white? Please forgive me, but is this a case of demographics?” are there no other blacks where you live?” Reading as you lament about debates and past hurts tells me you’ve internalize oh so much. Granted this yoke of friendship is yours and yours alone to bear; however, you’ve already borne a heavy cost haven’t you. Constantly on your guard, lest any of your other white friends should slip up. Your words… “Others have done some of the same things my "friend" has done.” So it’s not just your awesome friend we see. Just look at how you’ve trained yourself to view your “awesome friends” in the best possible light. (Too nice to be racist)

    The fact that your team is 99.9 percent white tells me the burden will always be on you; to put your best foot forward- to be ever tolerant…and ever forgiving. Because you see for some, privilege means… never having to put the work in at all.

    Again your words…
    “But the reason I am so adamant about not hurting her feelings or making her feel defensive is that I've had race based arguments with people in the past, and they all end up turning into a huge mess with me crying, the person I confronted crying and everyone else yelling. Usually the person I confronted will gather support from other friends, and no matter what I say, even if it's logical or even a fact, they will not listen--they just insist on their own way and overpower me by yelling it.”

    My question is with whom? (you were vague on this point) The same group you’ve so readily extended your hands in friendship to? Second question is, who ran to the defense of the person you called out?” people of color or fellow whites. And when you stood there weeping, who was there among them to comfort you?

    “Am I just hopelessly deluded? I feel so stupid and silly”

    No just most of us are when it comes to race. That’s why your still on the team isn’t it? I hope things can change between us… I hope things get better.

  63. I wouldn't have given any advice unless specifically asked here if I had known you are not white. I don't think it's ok for a WP (me) to tell you how to stay friends with people who are, in all honesty, toxic for you to keep. WP should be doing race-work, and I thought I was encouraging another WP on how to spot white loopholes and bridge over White Woman's Indignation while still effectively calling someone on her racist comments.

  64. "and they all end up turning into a huge mess with me crying, the person I confronted crying and everyone else yelling. Usually the person I confronted will gather support from other friends, and no matter what I say, even if it's logical or even a fact, they will not listen--they just insist on their own way and overpower me by yelling it. "

    ugh. how totally unfair, and how totally unfair that you may have to go to the lengths soul describes to defend yourself. to the point of giving up something you obviously love because WP make it so costly to you.

    which makes me wonder, wouldn't quitting the team be like giving up in a way? letting them have that power to effect your life?

    I'm in the camp that believes that if your friends understood how you were being affected things could change. maybe that's white wishful thinking on my part, It shouldn't be you that has to do be the one to educate anyone.

    maybe you should post this thread to your teammates facebook page.

  65. @TIM: As a white person in the south, I'm going to tell you the cynical truth as I see it, even though I don't know that it's constructive. I think that soul and M. Gibson and the rest reflect my experience as well. I have very little hope for what may happen in this circumstance. Knowing white people as I do and having spent time with them in racially charged situations as I have, here's what i think: They surprise me in terms of how unlikely they are to step up or care. I mean, seriously, this Jason character for instance keeps saying things like, "fucking white people" and then turns around to spend comment after comment arguing the semantics of what counts as racism. The corollary to him is likely on your team and they haven't said anything because they have decided that nothing racist was done and, thus, have also decided that it's a good, efficient idea to refer to other team members by their race while he pats himself on the back for not being uptight. I only, in college, started any sort of work on racism awareness even though I have very liberal sorts of parents who do fairly radical things compared to their counterparts. Anyway, I just started in college and, frankly, I'm probably still pretty sucky a lot of the time. If you find a white person to stand with you on this matter, it will be a miracle. I don't find this sort of person very often and I'm afraid I'm not this sort of person as often as I should be. I get in a group of my own friends and bring up a race issue and they yell at me. I thought they were selected on the grounds of their not sucking and it turns out they do suck. If no one has said anything to this player yet, the best you can hope for is that they'll say something like, "You're making Mary uncomfortable," thus estranging you and making things awkward. The people you think are cool are probably not talking behind your back...but maybe inside their own heads. The people you think are not cool, are not. not at all, probably.

  66. @ sara

    I never even hinted that what the OP's teammates said wasn't racist. it was. for sure.

    I said that the racism seemed to lie more in the context and the tone of what was said not just that the girl used the word black. remember when the original poster said "in that way"?

    "that way" is the issue. it sounds like the teammate used the words black and chinese in such a way as to make it seem that being either of those things is distasteful. whatever the OP says to her teammate needs to address that.

    otherwise her teammate will walk away thinking her only screw up was saying black or chinese instead of african american or asian american. she'll say "oh so sorry i didn't use the right words EXCUSE ME for not being PC " and boom, no progress whatsoever.

    Anybody can learn to mouth the right words how the hell is that supposed to do anything about racism? Over time acceptable language has changed but racism has not been affected has it? WP can't go around thinking that if we use the right words than we're doing all we need to do.

    We can't be allowed to tell ourselves that semantics are the issue because semantics are trivial, racism is not.

  67. @jason:

    I think the gist of the argument is that the physical and psychological well-being of a POC is more valuable than what a White person can learn from them.

    But I could be wrong.

  68. Torn in Mississippi, I'm sorry you're in this situation. Sound like this team has been a good thing in your life, and that safe space is being threatened.

    At the moment you are focused on this girl and how to deal with her comments while preserving harmony. But more important are your other teammates. What are they doing while this is happening? Because if you call her on it, she may accept what you say with grace - but if she doesn't, that's when your teammates suddenly become important. Will they back you up, take an anti-racist stance and insist on the team being a racism-free safe space, or will they laugh it off, side with her, alienate you and minimise what happens? Maybe you already know since you've been thinking about this for weeks... maybe you don't want to know... But whether you speak up or not, your sense of security and happiness within this team is threatened. That's why you're here I think, looking to see if we know a way out of this which doesn't destroy the thing you love. And unfortunately none of us can give you that...

    I wish you all the best in whatever you decide to do.

  69. @ The Writer of this Email to Macon:

    You are not stupid, or silly, or deluded. You are just forced to deal with a situation that, flatly, sucks. I am deeply sorry that you have to endure it. Soul's advice is probably the smartest. This girl (and her friends which might team up on you) of privilege has/have a lot of capacity to hurt you. It's terribly unfair. I hope that the situation is resolved to a point where you feel comfortable and happy on this team. Know that you are in the right, and please do not doubt yourself, no matter what.

    Also, I am very sorry for operating under the assumption that you were white. The structure of SWPD and the title of this post (Stuff White People Do: Wonder how to confront their friends' racism) sort of lends itself to that assumption.


    May I ask that you rephrase the post's title to fit the situation better, to prevent others from making this assumption?


    No, even if she is the only black woman (I used "girl" when describing "Tina the white girl" because I assumed these were high schoolers, from the perspective of another high schooler. I am sorry all for planting the word "girl" in this situation), only describing Lisa as "the black [woman]", even if she is the only WOC there, is still reducing her to otherness.

  70. Eva wrote,

    May I ask that you rephrase the post's title to fit the situation better, to prevent others from making this assumption?

    I'd be glad to. Suggestions, anyone, for a title that better captures the common white tendency at work in TIM's post?

  71. SWPD: Force POC to make choices they will never have to make.

  72. Suggested Title: Make casual racist comments to their POC friends.

    @Torn in Mississippi

    Soul is 100% right on. Do not waste your energy fretting over how to protect this friendship and confront her racism at the same time.

    I know its alot to ask you to risk alienating all of these people you have to deal with everyday. I went to schools that were 99% white myself, and sometimes for the sake of survival you have to find SOME way to get along with everyone. But if you don't get in the habit of standing up for yourself in so-called friendships now, let alone against racism in general, you will find yourself tolerating greater and greater racist foolishness in the spirit of keeping the peace. Even worse, you will eventually find yourself complicit in racism directed at other people of color without even realizing what you're doing.

    My advice is to stop making excuses for them, ALL of them. Stop telling yourself "oh they don't realize how it sounds." and "They don't know any better, she's actually pretty cool." I did that all thru school and whether or not thats true, ITS NOT THE POINT. The point is that the behavior is unacceptable and dehumanizing and it makes you feel unwelcome in your own space (yes that space is just as much YOURS as it is theirs).

    What you want from them ultimately requires an uncomfortable level of soul searching they'd rather not deal with. And if its a choice between dismissing you, which is easy because there's only one of you, or acknowledging their own racism, which is hard, they're probably gonna choose silencing you.

    Don't allow yourself to be silenced. Don't take a slap in the face, verbally or otherwise, just because you can.

  73. HELLO, I AM THE WRITER OF THIS EMAIL TO MACON!June 27, 2010 at 2:22 PM

    @ Soul: Yeah. Unfortunately, I think you're right. It kinda makes me tear up a bit to think about it, but're definitely right. Despite being described as "the whitest black person ever" for most of my life by all of my friends (POC and WP), it's sad to know that I will still always be "that black girl" no matter what... that's the part that hurts the most. To know that I am written off, even by people who actually know who/what I am. However, I don't want to leave the team. Like I said before, it's my life! One the only things that I've ever truly loved doing, but maybe if I confront my "friend" and it gets bad and other people jump in, I'll have to? Thanks for helping me realize that what M. Gibson and Imhotep said was not an attack, I can see it now. I totally did need to hear it

    @ M.Gibson: No, actually. My city has a large black population, but it seems that not many black people arei interested in this particular's telling, but I play roller derby. It seems to have a less-than-great reputation with everyone, so that may be it. In the days when we were first starting out, I actively recruited POCs but until recently, none ever stayed more than one practice. The one other black person on the team just kind of wandered in on her own the same way I did. I stay because I love the sport

    And no, you're right, it's not just my friend that has said/done racist things. There are maybe two others, but as I've said I wasn't there to witness these particular things so I haven't said anything. Was that the right thing to do? The arguments I've had in the past have been with classmates or other random people, but not with anyone on the team. The people who defended the person I confronted were always WP, and no one came to comfort me...I just kind of stood there and cried while everyone muttered about how stupid it was for me to be angry about something that happened centuries ago, and not even to me directly. I'm kinda tearing up again thinking about it, so I suppose I have internalized a lot of hurt.

    I just really hate to be disappointed with another person I'd hoped to have as a friend for real, but like those times in the past, I'm sure I will be disappointed. I guess the only thing to do at this point is go about it as gracefully as possible (as Soul suggested) and try to stop worrying so much about being nice

    @Sara: Again, you're right. The same things have happened to me. Race can be such a painful topic though, I've gotten to where I don't often like to talk about it myself.

    @Jane Laplain: Yes, because keeping the peace is very tiresome

    I just have one more question for you all. The whole semantics thing, when she argues "well she is black what else am I supposed to say??" as I truly think she will, how would you personally phrase your counter?

  74. In response to TIM: My husband and I discussed this issue and, had you not said 'roller derby,' I was ready to say that almost every sport has positions you could use to describe her (e.g., the center, the goalie, the tight end). Were it not intramural, I would say use numbers or names on their jerseys. But, don't roller derby ladies all have names and don't those get broadcast over loud speakers? Can't she just say "Hell on wheels" or "striped tights" or "argh, the evil vampy lady!" In my experience, roller derby participants have on distinctive costumes and their pseudonyms are common knowledge. She knows she can use another word to describe these women and she's not doing it because of the dark cloud of her racism. If she asks you what she should say instead it's not because she can't think of anything...or maybe that's not true. She may be so race-centric in her thinking that she didn't even notice their awesome roller derby pseudonyms or their crazy facial tattoos (that's a roller derby joke). It's because she thinks, deep down, that she's right about race being their most important quality. That, sadly, is what I think. I wish it weren't true.

  75. @OP - Thanks for saying I was helpful. After I posted I started to worry that I was too harsh.

    I really do believe in the having a standard reply thing set up. I took my inspiration from this post:

    “I just have one more question for you all. The whole semantics thing, when she argues "well she is black what else am I supposed to say??" as I truly think she will, how would you personally phrase your counter?”

    Just be aware however you choose to confront her, there's going to be fallout- for there's no way she's going to keep this to herself. When she tells the tale (to her other friends) she’ll put her own little spin on it- for you’re the expendable one... not her. I really feel for you, for I’ve had to sever a relationship with a white male friend and it wasn’t pretty. There was no way to spare his feelings as it was needful to exit the friendship for my own peace of mind.

    And there's the rub... For if you remain quiet (to preserve the friendship) your problem remains unresolved and you suffer. Consequently, should you confront her and things go from bad to worse- you lose someone who wasn't friend enough to appreciate your concerns in the first place.

    Yours is a social dilemma as well as a personal one. You love the sport; there’s an opportunity for you to participate in said sport, but at great cost to you personally. Most whites don’t get it- for they lack the empathy needed to get it, and your friend is no different. Your effort to force her hand may prove futile, for even if you square things with her, there are other team members to consider. What about your coach? How does he/she feel and do they know? If you’ve no allies to confide in, than you’ll be more alone than ever. I say this because if you are the member of a team that is 99.9% white, then you are truly alone.

    As in any discussion about race, one point of contention invariably draws a counter- until you have a full-blown argument. If she’s truly able to embrace her error you may have salvaged a friendship; sadly you must put in the work not her. Should she continue “to slip” as it were, you'll have to write her off as a lost cause and “hope” for other opportunities. And please forgive me, as it wasn't my intent to be harsh...

  77. HELLO, I AM THE WRITER OF THIS EMAIL TO MACON! said...June 27, 2010 at 4:27 PM

    @ Sara: Lol You're very right about that roller derby jokes. All of us are unique to the point where we are easily recognizable. It shouldn't even be an issue really...except it is.

    The last game we played, my other POC teamate got hurt. She is quite a bit shorter than me, has a darker complexion and a vastly different playing style and name. But, after the game I can't count how many people came up to me and asked how I was feeling/about my injury etc.

    So irritating!

  78. i do not consider it racist to say "that black girl" or "the chinese guy" if you do not know their names. if there is only one black girl or asian man on the team, then it is extremely easy for anyone to know exactly who you're talking about. it is not at all racist or condescending, in my opinion, to refer to someone as black when, in fact, they ARE black. all your doing is highlighting someone without using their name. you might not know it. the people you're talking about might not know their name either. like "the really short guy", or "the woman in the bright pink top". referring to race only simplifies the target of your statements to your audience. people who consider it racist are just trying to make themselves look better amongst their peers. it's like saying that you are being sexist for referring to "the girl" instead of trying to identify her by some other means. does this make you sexist, or does it simply make you good at explaining a situation to someone without the need for them to ask you who you are talking about? to me it just seems pretty simple.

  79. @Torn in Mississippi,
    You said: "the whitest black person ever" for most of my life by all of my friends (POC and WP), it's sad to know that I will still always be "that black girl" no matter what... that's the part that hurts the most. To know that I am written off, even by people who actually know who/what I am

    1) You are NOT the whitest black person ever. You are a black woman. Period. That is not a compliment, it is an insult.

    Please just say this with me.
    I am a black woman. I am a black woman. I am a black woman.
    Everything I do, is the doings of a black woman.
    Everything I see is through the eyes of a black woman
    The way I walk, talk and dress is that of a black woman.
    And damn is it fucking fabulous!

    2) know this... the perception of who you are is set in peoples heads once they see your black skin. You are going to have to rise above this.

    3) Seriously, these people do not know you and quite frankly they don't care to.

    4) dont give up the team but be smart, you have to remove your emotional dependence o

  80. HELLO, I AM THE WRITER OF THIS EMAIL TO MACON!June 28, 2010 at 6:08 AM

    @ Shawn: It's not just that she said "that black girl"/"that chinese girl", which I suppose would've been okay had she not already known their names and known that the Asian girl was not Chinese. It was the tone she used, and the fact that it seemed there was nothing else worthy/descriptive about these people but their race, even though they have team names and both played exceptionally well and seemed to be the two mainstays of the team, the ones everyone could remember being beaten by

    Also, you didn't seem to take in the second comment she made or that fact that saying things like this on numerous occasions is just...wrong.

  81. "had she not already known their names and known that the Asian girl was not Chinese."

    what!? that's huge!

    I misread this situation and totally gave the offender more credit than she deserves. how very white of me. I assumed she didn't know their names.

    She knows their names and she's calling them out by their race? That's really, really fucked up!!!

  82. @ Shawn

    Your comment is dismissive to the OP. There are other ways to describe people. In fact, since they're playing a sport, I'd wager that there are numbers on the backs of their shirts, and as the OP has said, their styles when playing are unique as well.

    If you're white, you might want to think about the way you're phrasing things because, clearly, everyone who has commented here sees this manner of pointing people out as not acceptable. Just something for you to consider in the future. You might be "that guy/girl who makes casual racist remarks" we're referring to here. Just because you think your comments are harmless, doesn't mean they're not doing damage.

  83. HELLO, I AM THE WRITER OF THIS EMAIL TO MACON!June 28, 2010 at 7:22 AM

    @jas0nburns: Not your fault. Really, when I emailed Macon, I intended to be brief and summarize the situation so that he could help me find an answer, but I think maybe I should've put more into it? Since this post, I realized that there are a lot of other details that may or may not be important to answering this question. But yes, she knew their names...or at least the team names we all go by in playing such a sport

  84. I had also assumed that the person referring to "that black girl" had no idea of the person's name, and that the team wore uniforms, so race could be a differentiator, like being tall or red-haired or having a tattoo sleeve -- something people do notice. I don't play on any sports teams, so I don't know if people notice/remember numbers on uniforms.

    But the inflection on the word black is another thing entirely.

  85. @Hello, I am the writer of this email to Macon:

    I'm so sorry that your teammate and friend that you care about doesn't treat you with respect like you deserve (actually, she's being a total asshole). And it's especially bad that, if (when) you point out how hurtful she's being, you face the possibility of loosing a friendship, or you face realizing that she wasn't really a friend in the first place. Or even the awful possibility that everyone might side against you. Ugh.

    In your email you said a lot of the comments are coming from a newer member of the team. Maybe you could talk with some teammates who've been there longer than this newbie- especially the other WOC, but also any whites who you think might at least be willing to listen and help you. That might help you gauge how you want to handle the situation. I mean, if they're dismissive (or pull out the white women's tears or just tell you to ignore it, etc...), I guess you have your answer- if they can't listen to you, their friend they should care about, then they aren't really your friends after all, and you don't owe them your friendship (*soul's post is absolutely right). And if they really are your friends, then they should be your allies and help confront her. Not because you *need* backup or validation (you are completely right to want to address racism-especially when it hurts you directly! Peacekeeping be damned!), but because your friends should be there for you, and you shouldn't have to deal with this alone.

    I know I've never been in this situation, so I don't know what you're going through personally. You sound like you have gotten a lot of enjoyment out of being on the team, so I'm hoping that some of your teammates will listen and understand you. (somewhat naively- I do love to think WP really do care at heart, even when that's definitely not always the case... swpd, I guess). I do wish you the best!

  86. @ op

    the fact that she knew their names aaaand that she used a tone clearly makes her actions different from what i was talking about in my previous comment. i never said what she was doing was or was not racist or rude. i was just stating my opinion on when i think it is perfectly fine to use such differentiators.

    @ victoria

    i was never really addressing the op in my comment, and thought it was clear that i was just stating a general opinion of mine that was germane to the subject matter. again, i never said that what she had done was or was not racist or rude.

    yes, i happen to be white and i am always monitoring what i say and how i act because my fiancée is actually black. she's definitely opened my eyes to a lot of subtle racist actions that i didn't understand until i met her. most of the comments here have all agreed that this woman's actions have racist roots and i agree. the tone of her voice, the knowledge of their names. it's wrong of her to act like that especially on a team of which she is a new member. there is a way to act courteous and respectful without the need to completely ignore someone's race for fear of "acting racist".

  87. @shawn....
    No your comment wasn't germane to the point, it was completely obscure and out of the blue.... because nobody said simply using black as a descriptor is wrong.

    What you are doing is classic derailing.
    You are arguing a point which no one is contesting.

    I do like the "acting racist" in quotes though... you do that round your fiance much? I mean the putting quotes around things....

    Cos you know, we really need your endorsement to determine what is and isn't racist or when an act is or isn't racist.

    We've really been waiting for you to get with a black chick, learn a few things and then "enlighten us" (ohhhh I like those quotes now)


  88. Shawn said...
    “Yes, i happen to be white and i am always monitoring what i say and how i act because my fiancée is actually black.”

    And this little tidbit makes you an authority on the black experience? Things white people do: dub themselves experts on race when their partner is a Poc. Your fiancée may have opened your eyes to some things, but your naiveté is still showing. Moreover, did you notice how you went out of your way to mention that she’s black? As if having a black “significant other” precludes you from being racially obtuse yourself? Tell me, do you go around calling black men brother now? I mean with your black fiancée an all, we’re practically from the same hood now.

  89. Shawn, the OP's comment about the teammate's tone was in the original post ("...with that sort of inflection"). It was always there. I'm done participating in the derail now.

  90. @ soul

    "nobody said simply using black as a descriptor is wrong"

    actually EVA did. @ me

    Not defending shawn or contesting your broader point which I agree with. And I don't wan't comes across as whiney or demanding an explanation. But I had hoped a POC commenter would jump in and comment on the black as a descriptor thing. I always thought it was a non-issue but several commenters called me out for assuming it was not offensive even in a neutral context. So I'm still struggling with the othering vs. false colorblindness thing even though it's not relevant to the OP.

  91. >>And I don't want to come across<<

  92. I have been reading this blog for a while. This conversation definitely brought me out of lurk mode. LOL I look forward to even more interesting discussions!


    jas0nburns stated:

    1) "But I had hoped a POC commenter would jump in and comment on the black as a descriptor thing."

    Your words give the impression that one POC of color saying it's "okay" or "not okay" would decide the matter. What if the POC was Japanese-American and said it was okay for black to be used as a descriptor? Do you see where I'm going with this? If so, is that how you intended to come across?

    2) "So I'm still struggling with the othering vs. false colorblindness thing even though it's not relevant to the OP."

    Unless there is biological colorblindness, one can also easily notice that the only black person in an area is also wearing a red shirt---and use the red shirt as the identifier. It isn't false colorblindness to see someone's race and yet not have that be the focal point of your description of that person.

  93. @Jason....
    You might want to read it over again carefully.

    I repeat nobody said using the word black as a descriptor is wrong
    What eva brought into question, was the odd use of black as a descriptor when others would perfectly suffice.

    I am black, I didn't address the 'black descriptor thing' because it is a nonsense and a stupid little thing that white people obsesses over.

    Its simple. Everytime you describe white people even in black company... you do not start off with 'He/SHe is white' (unless you are describing some racist event where you feature as the enlightened one)

    Simply so why do people ask silly questions with regards to 'black as a descriptor'? AS if black people are this unique breed of freak where regular rules don't apply.

    Skip with that nonsense.

  94. Whoa, whoa, whoawhoawhoa.
    What's all this sidebar about being amazed that this person "didn't know their names," and that somehow "oooh! well that changes eeeverything"? STOP.

    They're teammates, people.

    This... is off, somehow.

    All the necessary details are there. I didn't need all of these extra reasons to understand that this situation is problematic. Cuuuz... the OP's entire stance is: this is problematic.
    Sounds some of you are looking for reasons not to believe... her? This? Look, I don't even know; I'm tired right now. But what's all this "but, wait, no, actually, it's okay to refer to someone by their race if this, or if that, or in that one case where it's surely got to be okay, and by god we're gonna suss it out!" nonsense? It's out of order. Even though I can't articulate exactly why right now.

  95. Oh, I know what it is.
    It's that it sounds like some people are having a hard time believing that the problem here is, in fact, racism.

    Well, it is.

    I'm just sayin'.

  96. In fact!

    @Torn in Mississippi:
    Just so you know, I understood you perfectly from the get-go. I suppose I see why some people assumed you were white, but I dunno. I didn't. And this other stuff...? As noted, I didn't need all that other information— although: roller derby! ThatIsAwesome— and I read the same post...?

    I'd let it go, but for "maybe I should've put more into it?" Um, NO!

    *tears hair out/rends clothes*

    . . .
    I need to go to bed.

  97. "Do you see where I'm going with this?"

    yeah and I was afraid it might come across that way. It wasn't that I hoped one POC would come in and draw me a diagram that I could whip out whenever needed. it's just that so far everyone who called me out was white and TBH i don't really consider WP authorities on the subject. I'm not just going to take a WP's word on the matter is what I mean, and just go with that. I probably shouldn't be asking anyway though.

  98. @Jasonburns

    That's probably because the black people are purposely ignoring this ridiculous diversion and distraction from the main topic.

    Sometimes we are tired of having white people over analysis the fuck out of an incident which we have TOLD them is racist.. only for them to be debating what the exceptions might be. Or some off topic piece of nonsense... that is completely irrelevant.

    Just stop it, already.

    Some of us are sitting here, rolling our eyes at how you have managed to change the direction of the convo to... 'how we can excuse some of the possibly racist things we do'.

    Its so transparent its damn near translucent.

  99. @M.Gibson...

    Didn't you know... Fucking a black person makes you 'Plus Black'.

  100. @Torn in Mississippi,
    This is a "spot on" discussion happening right here. Why not send her a link to the site?

  101. Soul said...
    Didn't you know... F***ing a black person makes you 'Plus Black'.

    Reminds me of an episode from Seinfeld; Elaine thinks she's dating a black man, so she claims solidarity with the black waitress who serves her.

    "Waitress at Monk's, handing Elaine a menu: "Here you go."
    Elaine, to the black waitress: "Long day?"
    Waitress: "Yeah, I just worked a triple shift."
    Elaine: "I hear ya, Sister."
    Waitress: "Sister?"
    Elaine, as Darryl comes into Monk's: "Yeah. It's OK. My boyfriend's black.
    Here he is. See?"
    Darryl: "Hi, Elaine."
    Elaine: "Hey."
    Waitress: "He's black?"
    Elaine: "Yeah."
    Darryl: "I'm black?"
    Elaine: "Aren't you?"
    Waitress, leaving: "I'll give you a couple minutes to decide."
    Darryl: "What are you talking about?"
    Elaine: "You're black. You said we were an interracial couple."
    Darryl: "We are. Because you're Hispanic."
    Elaine: "I am?"
    Darryl: "Aren't you?"
    Elaine: "No. Why would you think that?"
    Darryl: "Your name's Benes, your hair, and you kept taking me to those
    Spanish restaurants."
    Elaine: "That's because I thought you were black."
    Darryl: "Why would you take me to a Spanish restaurant because I'm black?"
    Elaine: "I don't think we should be talking about this."
    Darryl: "So, what are you?"
    Elaine: "I'm white."
    Darryl: "So, we're just a couple of white people?"
    Elaine: "I guess."
    Darryl: "Oh."
    Elaine: "Yeah. So do you want to go to the Gap?"
    Darryl, leaving with Elaine: "Sure."

    It’s OK for me to say Nigga, its OK for me to call you Brotha or Sista, because I’m dating a black person; therefore I couldn’t possibly be racist. I agree...he’s more than mere man, more than machine- more than a fusion of the two...
    He’s...'Plus Black' man!

  102. jas0nburns: It's fine to ask. Just be aware that there's a time and place for certain questions. "Reading the room" is a skill some need to develop. There's a lot of insight on this blog, in fact, on this thread alone. Perhaps you should take more time to process what is being said.

    Soul: LOL @ 'Plus Black'

    MinneB: I'm also in favor of sending the "friend" the link. It might be even more beneficial to provide her with portions of what is on it. Since the poster's "friend" is quite clueless/insensitive about race, many of the comments on here could just distract her.

  103. @M.Gibson..
    lol. I remember that episode. It actually irritated me a lil. cos they did the joke and then bam... nothing. no depth no nothing anyway....

    and you know this is just begging for a sketch:
    >>lighting strike!<<: more than mere man
    >>thunder clap!:<< more than machine-
    >>hurricane wind<< more than a fusion of the two
    >>black/blank screen<< blacker than the darkest night
    >>ghetto blaster playing eminem<< is down with the brothers.
    slogan slides in: Fuck a black person, today! For instant coolness and black knowledge.

  104. Soul said...
    "Slogan slides in: F**k a black person, today! For instant coolness and black knowledge."

    You forgot the traditional product disclaimer (In fine print of course).
    "Saggy pants, Doo-rag; Glock and shiny Rims sold separately. Void where prohibited by law." "Plus Black" is a trademark of B-Boy International, a wholly owned subsidiary of, "White Guys Inc.." All products are herein provided without warranty; either expressed or implied, including but not limited to commodities duly deemed for suitability by White Guys Inc.. All Rights Reserved.

    Soul said...
    "I remember that episode. It actually irritated me a lil. cos they did the joke and then bam... nothing. no depth no nothing anyway...."

    I agree...
    The one thing you'll never see on a Seinfeld episode is "depth of character." These people were written expressly, to be shallow- neurotic and narcissistic; lacking of warmth- humanity and genuine empathy. To me that was part of the joke; collectively they were a mess and knew it.

  105. M.Gibson....

    With the disclaimer read super fast!
    you know this so needs to be created lol.

  106. Soul said...
    "With the disclaimer read super fast! you know this so needs to be created lol."

    Reminds me of the Happy Fun Ball disclaimer on Saturday Night Live..
    The brisk read-through is what made it so funny.

  107. I had a high school media teacher who often did the same thing. He'd refer to non-white students as "this Asian" young lady or "that black kid."

    This is what I think people mean when they say "colorblind." However, I often stress that there's a difference between recognizing someone is of a different race and "dwelling" on the fact that someone is of a different race (what the poster's friend was doing).

    I would point out this difference to people who do this and emphasize learning someone's name, instead of identifying them by race only.


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