Sixteen Maneuvers to Avoid Really Dealing with Racism

I found this list in an old e-mail, and thought it might come in handy for recognizing some common tactics of resistance against discussions of racism, against acknowledging that racism exists as a systemic injustice that we’re all complicit in to some degree, against owning up to anything. Apparently this list — which I adapted slightly into quotations with names — was originally developed by some anti-racist education organization, but I don’t know which one. (If you do, tell me!)

Which of these moves are you adept at? We all know some of them.

Confused? Feeling like you don’t understand how to execute or evade some of these maneuvers? Feel free to ask for help in the comments.

The Bootstrap Myth
“Racism is a thing of the past… this is a free country, and anyone who works hard can make it in America.”

The Backtrack
“Hey, wait a second, that’s not what I meant… I mean… you took my words out of context, don’t make it try to sound like I’m racist!”

The Remove the Right To Be Angry
“You’re too sensitive… if you weren’t so aggressive, vocal, hostile, angry, or upset, people would listen to you and you wouldn’t get in trouble!”

The Utopian Eye-Gouger
“I’m colorblind, personally… why can’t we all just ignore race, it’s not like it’s even real… it’s not like I tangibly benefit from being white every day or anything! Can’t we all just get along?”

Turning the Tables
“You’re being just as racist against white people, you realize. You’re being racist against me right now, you reverse-racist hypocrites!”

The Good White Person (not like those obvious racists!)
“Whoa, that guy over there is SUCH a racist, unlike me… I know exactly the right things to say and I’m never racist. By which I mean overtly offensive about it. Hold on, I think I’m going to go spit on that guy. I hate him.”

The Unblemished Family History
“Hey, my family never owned slaves, so it’s not like I, as an individual, get any benefit from racism!”

The Bending Over Backwards (makes you look flexible, but accomplishes little else)
“You people of color are so right. I agree with everything you say. Because you’re right, of course… not just because I’m guilty and white and wrong!”

The Personal Justification
“But a black person, Mexican, mean old Asian lady, or Native American once cut in front of me in line, said something stupid, mugged me, or took my hubcaps! So as far as I’m concerned, they proved all of my prejudices!”

The Loophole of Escape
“I can’t possibly be a bigot or a racist… I’m part of the oppressed due to the fact that I’m a woman!” (or gay, poor, young, trans, etc.)

The Culture Appropriator
“Damn, bro! You know I’m down with the homies, I ain’t no wack racist cracker, shiznit.”

The Lean On You When I’m Not Strong
“Teach me, help me. I’m just a white person, so I need your wisdom as a person of color to show me how not to be racist. Wait, is what I said earlier racist? How about this shirt I’m wearing? Can you come with me to this party, so they know I’m not a racist?”

The Pause for Applause
“Unlike all those other white people out there, I’m an anti-racist.” (…) “I do anti-racist work and I try to educate other people about anti-racism.” (…) “Wait, did you hear me?”

The Smoke and Mirrors
“I totally agree. Racism is one system of oppression among many interlocking ones, that specifically awards more privilege and power to all white people, whether they like it or not, and serves to keep the existing power structure in place. Oh… what? You want me to volunteer in a community organization, contribute money, do security for your protest march? Uh… yeah maybe next time, I’ve got to wash my hair tonight. And walk my dog, see the latest episode of Lost, manage my stock portfolio…”

The Penitent Paralysis (will not truly absolve you)
“Oh my god… that is so awful. I’m so sorry. Sorry. I can’t imagine what it must be like… I’m sorry. That’s so awful. I feel so bad for you. Sorry.”

Whipping Out Your Best Friends
“Hey, I’m not a racist, OK? Some of my best friends are black. See?”
Best Friend: “Yeah, I’ve known him since we were kids, and he’s never said anything racist to me!”

…and one bonus one for all your folks of color out there.

It Doesn’t Matter What Comes Out of My Mouth, Just Look at My Skin
“What? I can’t possibly be racist. I AM a person of color. How can I be racist against myself, huh? No, I haven’t heard of internalized racism, and I still think affirmative action is reverse racism!”



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114 Responses to Sixteen Maneuvers to Avoid Really Dealing with Racism

  1. Jill says:

    But Holly, everyone’s a little bit racist! Avenue Q told me so. So that’s ok, right? I mean, at least until Barack Obama gets elected President and we can all come together and agree that racism is no longer a problem in America?

  2. Holly says:

    Oh Jill, you’re so right! And if everyone’s racist… well I guess that means that NOBODY is racist! Hooray!

    I can’t wait until we have a black president, a true sign that we live in a post-racial paradise!

  3. Red Queen says:

    What- you mean Obama is black? See I’m so not racist I never even noticed. I thought he was just really tan.

  4. Sam says:

    I love how the Google ads at the end of Holly’s post has a link for “great deals” on “Racist Jokes.” Systemic indeed.

  5. exholt says:

    It Doesn’t Matter What Comes Out of My Mouth, Just Look at My Skin
    “What? I can’t possibly be racist. I AM a person of color. How can I be racist against myself, huh? No, I haven’t heard of internalized racism, and I still think affirmative action is reverse racism!”

    Bullseye!!! Seen this argument used a lot by some African-American kids in junior high when they get called out for using racist slurs against Hispanics and Asian-Americans. I’ve also noticed many Asian-Americans have strong racist animus against African-Americans….in fact…that’s probably one unfortunate reason why some of my older democrat leaning relatives are going to vote for Clinton….though they will never admit to such.

    As for myself, I’ll own up to having some…though believe it was influenced far more by overseas Chinese cultural influences and narratives from parents and aunts/uncles about the Japanese government and people. This was brought to my attention when several students and the teacher of a high school history course on genocide noted an angry tone in my voice when we discussed war crimes committed by the Japanese government through its armed forces during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945). Even now, I still find it difficult to have frank discussions of Chinese/Japanese history dealing with that period with Japanese students from Japan who ask my thoughts unless I get to know them better due to my fears of putting potential allies on the spot….or worse…finding the need to calmly, but firmly call out the minority who defend Japan’s Colonial Legacy using the Japanese right-wing’s talking points. It was only a few weeks ago that I had to deal with a few who felt the formerly colonized peoples of Asia were “whining too much” and “When will the requirement to apologize end”.

  6. This is exactly why racism sucks just as much as sexism. I’ve been seeing a lot of “It’s okay for people to say sexist things, but it’s not okay to say racist things. That means sexism is worse than racism” going on lately. But people are constantly on edge about not being racist or try to prove that they’re not racist that racism isn’t seriously discussed. It’s like if you even talk about racism, you’re somehow racist.

  7. paul says:

    So what are people supposed to do then? Is there any “good” way to actually not be racist?

    But I guess that’s “leaning on you” which is racist and bad. Sorry! Oops, can’t say that either!

  8. Holly says:

    I love how the Google ads at the end of Holly’s post has a link for “great deals” on “Racist Jokes.” Systemic indeed.

    Oh, gross. The comments must have made the page go past some tipping point, because it was a totally different set that had nothing to do with racism when I posted it…

  9. Holly says:

    So what are people supposed to do then? Is there any “good” way to actually not be racist?

    But I guess that’s “leaning on you” which is racist and bad. Sorry! Oops, can’t say that either!

    I guess you might as well give up, huh?

    That’s right: there is no way to just escape entirely from the system and not participate in or benefit from racism, at least indirectly. That is part of the point. The upshot is, yeah it’s hard, and yeah we all still need to work to do something about it, even if you can’t rely on people of color to tell you what to do, even if you won’t be applauded for it, even if you feel intensely guilty and find it hard to deal with, even if it might come at some personal cost or risk. Plenty of people to figure out how to make SOME difference, in small and large ways.

  10. Kristin says:

    Paul–There’s an academic article by Spelman and Lugones called “Have We got a Theory for You!” I would strongly suggest that you read it. It points out that, when you go to oppressed communities and ask for advice about how to help, you are interrupting ongoing dialogues when it’s your job to educate yourself–not theirs. The article gives some instructive advice for getting involved in anti-racism struggles and learning to deal with the fact that your privilege will always be–and should be–questioned and interrogated within these struggles.

    The answer isn’t that you go and do this kind of work out of “obligation” either. Oppressed communities don’t need your “obligation,” and if you think about it, that’s a really condescending reason to get involved. As is “self-improvement.” Do it to stop racism. Read the article–it’s put much more eloquently there.

  11. Lisa says:

    If you come to TN you will find even more racist and sexist “tricks” they use to screw people over. Glad to find a website that makes some damn sense.

  12. kali says:

    I’ve been seeing a lot of “It’s okay for people to say sexist things, but it’s not okay to say racist things. That means sexism is worse than racism” going on lately.

    I was having a bit of a think about that whole phenomenon, and i had an interesting idea. At least, I think it’s interesting.

    It seems to me that, once egregious sexism isn’t the social norm any more, it stops being in the average man’s interest to behave in a sexist way. If he’s disrespectful to his wife, she’ll leave him for someone better. If he denies his daughter a good education or tears down her self esteem, she’ll fall behind other people’s daughters and he’ll likely end up hurting economically from it. If he makes his wife stay at home when she wants to work, then, again, he’ll hurt economically compared to other men.

    So there are mechanisms other than a taboo against sexism working to eradicate sexism in most men, at least men who have women in their lives. They’re working VERY slowly, but there’s a positive feedback loop going on there. Basically, as men evolve, the dinosaurs are getting left behind.

    On the other hand, there is almost no downside preventing white people from acting and talking racist, EXCEPT the social taboo against it. So it makes sense for the social taboo to be stronger because that’s pretty much the strongest disincentive there is to being a racist, especially for white people who don’t mix much with POC and who may not be especially committed to abstract principles of justice.

  13. Danakitty says:

    As a budding member of the media and someone who just applied to a magazine program that focuses on media diversity, I’ve been thinking about this issue a lot and I’m really seeking some answers about it.

    In the past few weeks I’ve been reading a lot about sexism and looking for my own indescretions, some unconscious, others very blatent that I feel really bad about and am working to change. But when it comes to racism, I’m having a harder time. I know I’ve done/said racist things without meaning to be racist, but being ignorant isn’t an excuse either.

    With that said, how do you confront your own racism and how do you set a better example?

    Beyond that, how can I help change the public’s perceptions of race through my role as a journalist?

    (And I don’t want to sound mean, but I’m not about to give up a job to someone of a different race just to encourage media diversity unless they’re better qualified and I know for a fact I got chosen based on being white. I do need a paycheck.)

  14. NancyP says:

    Kristin, lots of people do volunteer work out of a sense of abstract obligation, as in, I am breathing air, so I ought to give a certain percentage of my time to help improve civic life or individual lives – which is different than doing volunteer work to get absolved by the people you are working with / for. Did you mean the latter when you said “obligation”?

    Thanks for the partial reference – the full reference is: María C. Lugones and Elizabeth V. Spelman
    Have we got a theory for you! Feminist theory, cultural imperialism and the demand for ‘the woman’s voice’. Women’s Studies International Forum 6: 573, 1983.
    It doesn’t seem to be online in a fulltext version.

  15. Marissa says:

    This was a very good list and I appreciated it, but I was depressed by it also because I saw myself a bit in a couple of those, especially Smoke and Mirrors….

  16. Hot Tramp says:

    That one got me, too, Marissa. :/

  17. denelian says:

    i see, sorta, what upsets others about some of these. they can be hard to get a grip on.

    the reverse racism one is one that i fall into a LOT. because i have a big big big huge problem with ebonics. and most patois/creols. any real bastardization of english (i hate the word “ain’t”… and actually, a lot of other words). and i despise rap.
    which can actually be kinda funny at times, because my boyfriend is black. and his best friend will, periodically, try to “teach” me ebonics. in a goth bar.
    on the other hand, in the 4 years i have been with my boyfriend, i literally canNOT count the times where he has been lectured on “dating outside his race” by some supposedly well-meaning stranger. or the number of times some OTHER random guy has seen me with him, and come to me later with something along the lines of “so, you love black c0ck… want mine, too?” (a guy literally said that to me…)

    and i have a problem with it. a HUGE problem. i see myself as that colorblind person listed above (without the sarcasm and bitter whininess, i hope) i spent the first 12 years of my life in Salinas, CA. my godparents are mexican. i spent days at a time on reservations (where i am STILL called an “apple”, which is like an oreo only for Indians instead of African Americans). my 2 best friends in high school were Japanese.

    i dont know anyone personally who would call me racist (or, at least, i dont know anyone who would SAY it. i guess its possible some might think it…). and yet, i hit those two stereotypes dead on.

    ah. stereotypes. that may be it. just because i, in theory, grew up with “white privilege” (where the hell was my privilege? i missed out on it! can i apply for a refund? no, its not funny, but believe me, i wasn’t raised with privilege), i MUST be racist, right?

    and i never know how to respond to a stranger’s allegation that i did (whatever i did that annoyed someone) because i am a racist. if i am calm and explain my motivation, i’m being patronizing. if i get mad, i’m trying to direct attention away from my faults. if i appologize in the hopes of avoiding it all, i’m called passive aggresive. even when i park in a handicap spot, i’m told by someone that i have the placard because i’m white, and i park there to keep disable POC from being able to park in that spot. ???

    some days i want to give up and just never ever talk to strangers again.

    so, the point of this whole long rant is literally, what the hell am i SUPPOSED to do? when no matter WHAT i do, it always seems to be written off as “white privilege”??????? even, it seems, saying yes to my boyfriend 4 years ago…

  18. Henry says:

    Perhaps if we scourge ourselves regularly, we can atone for our uncleansable racism.

  19. little light says:

    Oooh! Oooh! I’ve got another!

    The Tiger Lily:
    “I can’t be racist. My mom says I’m 1/16th Cherokee. So I’m a minority, too, and I’m exempt. What? You say I’m blond and blue-eyed, grew up in the suburbs, have no connection to Native culture, and know of no actual Cherokee relatives? Well, one of my Grandmas was adopted. She might have been Cherokee. Or half-Cherokee. Nobody knows, right? Anyway, I’m exempt.”

    Also, the Lost in Translation:
    “I went to Japan/China/Mexico/Uganda/Malawi/Bangladesh/the neighborhood a couple miles away with the good barbecue joints one time on a tourist jaunt/mission trip/cruise/lunch break, and I was the only white person there. So I get what it’s like to be a minority, you know? I can’t be racist. And man, is it ever scary to be surrounded by black(/etc.) people.”

  20. Holly P. says:

    This list is really sort of self-defeating, because what the heck am I supposed to say or do? If every single thing I say is racist (including saying “I’m not racist,” or “I want to be less racist,”), am I just basically a KKK member no matter what I do?

    You gotta give me some options here. I hate to sound like an item on your list, but I didn’t actually ask to be born white. So it’s pretty frustrating to be told that my skin color makes me an irredeemable racist (who’s comical when she tries to address the issue) not matter what I actually say.

  21. Doug Hudson says:

    Holly P.,

    Don’t lose hope! None of the items listed include “Be respectful and courteous towards everyone.” While that may not end racism, its a simple thing that everyone, regardless of skin color, can do.

    Also, its important to note that the one common element in each of those items is that they are said by privileged people who are trying to retain their privileged position. Even the ones that admit “fault” are phrased in such a way as to retain the special status of the speaker. Being privileged does not automatically make you a bad person, but it does require self awareness. When you discuss racial issues, ask yourself “why am I saying this? How would this sound to someone without my privilege?”

    An example: I was recently reading an extremely progressive (white) blogger, who made the comment, “I don’t recognize ethnic or racial groups, everyone is the same to me.” Of course, this otherwise enlightened person didn’t realize that he had the privilege to hold that position, and that members of said ethnic groups had not choice but to recognize ethnicity, since they suffer for it.

    Of course, my position is perfectly valid, because, even though I’m white, my ancestor fought for the Union at Gettysburg, so I can’t possibly be racist. :P

  22. Holly says:

    Look. Part of the point of this list is that beyond simple respect and courtesy, it does NOT really matter what you say. It really doesn’t. There is no talk that you can talk that will somehow make you less complicit in racism, because racism is not a matter of just saying the right things. It’s a largely invisible system of privileges and power dynamics that you don’t have much control over.

    What matters is what you DO and how you conduct yourselves, how you affect others. Teach your kids that racism is unjust, that it exists but that in your family, you don’t judge people on the basis of skin color? That’s doing something real. You’ll note that it’s not on the list. And there are plenty of other examples, but NONE of them amount to “saying the right thing” because it doesn’t matter what you say. As many people have noted, the most effective anti-racists are not always the ones who talk a lot about it — who don’t even necessarily have a sophisticated analysis of race, haven’t discussed it online or with friends — they’ve just been in a position, or walked into a position, where they could actually act to change people’s minds and change people’s conditions.

    And Doug is right — even something as simple as being respectful and courteous towards everyone is not on the list, because that actually does make a difference. A small one, and it’s the kind of thing that’s the effect of being brought up right. Where it gets difficult is in trying to go beyond that. Where people try to prove that they’re less racist than others, etc.

    Apparently there should be another one on the list:

    Throwing Up Your Hands
    “What do you mean I’m part of a racist system no matter how I try to distance myself from it or prove that I think differently?! That’s ridiculous… I guess I might as well give up and join the Aryan Nation!”

    This is also a good way to get some other people in the room to be like “oh no no… you’re not a racist, you’re not like those horrible men in white hoods! Don’t worry, dear.” Trying to be anti-racist is not a popularity contest that’s judged by people of color. You have to figure it out for yourself.

    Another point here is that you’re right, nobody asked to be born into this world where there are all sorts of unjust systems based on race, gender, religion, etc. Being granted privileges doesn’t mean you asked for them or that you’re a white supremacist who’s trying to grind people of color into the dust.

    Once again, the reason people obsess about this is because our culture is obsessed with racism as an individual quality of a person, as if that’s what matters most: one person says the “n-word” and another doesn’t. One person makes uneducated, stereotyped comments about people from other countries, and another is more “enlightened.” This kind of focus on individual “minding your Ps and Qs” serves to distract from systemic racism, the 90% of the iceberg underwater, the subtle way institutions treat people differently, the hidden attitudes, the different material conditions people start life with, and so on and so forth.

    Perhaps if we scourge ourselves regularly, we can atone for our uncleansable racism.

    That one’s on there under “The Penitent Paralysis” (will not truly absolve you). Or get anything real done other than send you into a shame spiral and annoy others around you.

  23. This is actually a very good list; one that exposes some of the bullshit tactics I have personally used when called on my own ignorance. (And I’m black… doesn’t stop me from being uneducated about certain things, or keep me from being human enough to resort to The Personal Justification when confronted when I once opined that the black people around me seemed more homophobic when I was growing up than white people. Of course, I know better now.)

    In general, though, it’s also a good way to see the various stupid ways in which legitimate arguments of all kinds are attacked.

  24. False Flag Operative says:

    I rarely agree with Manju, but I have to agree with his link. That’s the reason why I don’t like the Democratic Party. They are pitting historically repressed groups against one another. On the other hand, the GOP’s not exactly “PC” either.

  25. EKSwitaj says:

    Hey denelian, you know, I totally agree with you about the bastardization of English. I mean, all this latinate vocabulary we have messing up our good pure Anglo-Saxon tongue is totally offensive to me.

  26. Mold says:

    You might want to delve into the retail blogs for stories on race and status relationships. These are tales from the trenches, without the bloviating so common to the “college educated”.

    Try being PC when the 200kg hambeast is screaming at you, along with the Howler Monkeys. Attempt politeness to Ms Entitled. Grimace at FratBoy.

  27. Ladylike says:

    Best response to the bootstrap myth that I’ve ever come across:

    ‘Unfortunately, some are born with mile-long bootstraps, while others are born with no shoes at all.’

  28. this list . . . was originally developed by some anti-racist education organization

    How do we know this organization wasn’t merely engaging in the Pause for Applause?

  29. villiers says:

    Throwing Up Your Hands
    “What do you mean I’m part of a racist system no matter how I try to distance myself from it or prove that I think differently?! That’s ridiculous… I guess I might as well give up and join the Aryan Nation!”

    Remarkably similar to the following (where have we heard this before?):

    “I tried being nice to her but she still wouldn’t fuck me. I bought her stuff, pretended to listen when she talked, and look where it got me! I should have just been a jerk.”

  30. Holly P. says:

    The I’m Just Grouchy Now
    “Giving your statement a silly title and rephrasing it sarcastically constitutes a counterargument!”

    I totally agree about respect and courtesy to all, I don’t agree that going around telling every white person that they’re a racist no matter what they do or say does anything but annoy people and make the word “racist” meaningless.

  31. Holly says:

    It certainly doesn’t constitute a counterargument, which is why I wrote hundreds of other words to go with it.

    If you think this is about individuals being racist, you’re still missing the point and not reading closely enough. Part of the idea is that the focus on individuals as racists is a dangerous distraction from the real systemic problem of racism. Racism is a system, larger than any individual; it’s not one person getting wet, it’s an ocean. So yes, discussions of “OMG — am I racist or not?” are in fact, meaningless.

    How do we know this organization wasn’t merely engaging in the Pause for Applause?

    I have no idea, quite possibly they were. This organization no longer exists, so who knows? It’s not like Pausing for Applause means you aren’t actually making real contributions elsewhere. It’s just another symptom, the motivation of congratulation.

  32. Holly P. says:

    the focus on individuals as racists is a dangerous distraction from the real systemic problem of racism.

    Last year, my mother’s manager gave poor performance reviews to every nonwhite person on the unit, causing several people to quit on the spot. This manager was fired the next day and all her decisions reversed. I feel that firing the manager was a more useful course of action than going “oh no, racism is all around us, it’s a big ocean, so there’s no point to judging an individual’s actions!”

    Yes, systemic racism exists, no, this doesn’t make the judgement of an individual’s racism meaningless.

  33. Holly P. says:

    Oh, and most importantly, calling people who do, in fact, respect people of all races and make every effort to treat them equally “racists” really doesn’t help any cause at all. Other than increasing their Liberal Guilt Load, what further action are not-very-racists supposed to do with this knowledge?

  34. Holly says:

    Holly – please point out anywhere where an individual is being called a racist. Do you see “all white people are racist, you’re a racist” printed anywhere on this page? Again, that’s not the point. We are all trapped in and complicit in racist systems, whether we like it or not. Only a saint on a mountaintop could avoid that. Some people are directly targeted by racism, others are not.

    And no, Liberal Guilt is not the point — in fact there are a few items in the list above that are specifically about how useless that is. The point is to take actions against racism instead of simply engaging in the defensive maneuevers listed above. And yes, firing a racist manager is absolutely an example of that. Actions; walking the walking, not just talking the talk. Another example would be looking at, critiquing, and hopefully fixing the systems that allowed

    It’s very upsetting that we can’t just place ourselves outside of racism, and assure ourselves that we’re not part of the problem, we’re better than those other people. It robs us all of a warm, reassured feeling. You’re right to be upset about this. Unfortunately, even those of us who try to think anti-racist and talk anti-racist still LIVE INSIDE the problem. Do you see the difference between that and “calling everyone a racist?”

  35. bellatrys says:

    Mold, darling, some of us have done our time in the retail trenches – in the mall, Christmas, 3 years running, and that’s just scratching the surface – and it STILL hasn’t turned us into racists or made us reconsider our feminism.

    Go away, you clearly have mold for brains.

  36. Holly says:

    And in case I wasn’t clear about this initially, I personally have engaged in these defensive or self-congratulatory behaviors any number of times. I’m not beating myself up about it, but look, nobody is perfect, especially when it comes to dealing with something insidious and pervasive and subconscous as racism.

    I’ll own up to doing all of these — to this day:

    The Remove the Right To Be Angry — yes, sometimes I can’t handle it when people are vocal about racism.

    Bending Over Backwards — I know TONS of people in progressive orgs who have this problem or related problems of being unable to really dialogue with people of color for fear of looking bad, which often stems from “liberal guilt.” I’ve had this problem myself, and been part of organizations afflicted with it. Pam Spaulding touched on this in a really good post the other day about dealing with homophobia in black churches.

    The Personal Justification — I’m not proud to say that I had problems with this one when I was younger, all the way through my early 20s.

    Pause for Applause, Smoke and Mirrors — I seriously do this shit all the time, and it’s hard to get better at it. I don’t do everything I could do, I’m a lot more talk than action myself, and I feel whiny and pouty about not being appreciated. That’s all natural and normal. But the point is, it doesn’t get the job done, and it’s good to be aware of those tendencies if you have them.

  37. trishka says:

    The point is to take actions against racism instead of simply engaging in the defensive maneuevers listed above.

    honestly, i have to say that this is the first helpful thing i’ve found written in this whole thread.

    would you be so kind as to make some concrete suggestions as to the types of actions you would recommend we take? so far the only thing anyone has offered is the name of an academic paper which is not available on the web.

    i’m asking as a white privileged person who understands that i’m not able to fully conceive of how privileged i am, due to the whole fish not being able to describe its tank thing, but i’m not defensive about it and genuinely would like to try to be helpful. not for applause or anything, but because it’s the right thing to do.

    but i don’t know what the actions are that i should take. it may be obvious to you, but maybe it’s a manifestation of my privilege that it’s not obvious to me. and i’m asking for suggestions.

    and you can ridicule me for that if you want, or say that my post is an example of “lean on me when i’m not strong”, and maybe it is. but saying that doesn’t change anything for anybody, except point out to me that i’m engaging in one of the behaviours. okay, so i am.

    i’m trying to act in good faith here, and i hope, holly, that you would too. if you have some ideas, please share them. otherwise, it’s kind of an unfair game, this “there’s a right answer but i’m not going to tell you what it is”.

    unless it is maybe trying to demonstrate to white people what racial minorities live with all the time? and how frustrating and demoralizing that can be? if that is what is going on and is your intent, i have to hand it to you, you’re doing a good job of pulling at least this white person out of her privileged zone.

    (or maybe i’m overthinking this…)

  38. John says:

    Oh, I love the reverse-racism thing. It’s like they’re not even good enough to be called just ‘racists’. They have to be compartmentalized even further.

    I also like the one about people who have to continually proclaim in one way or another that they’re not racist. It’s kind of like the whoever-smelt-it-dealt-it argument: If you have to continually say that you are not a racist, you probably are – at least a little bit.

    And even beyond racism, I find that one’s intended perception very infrequently reflects their true mind. It’s like an inner conflict of interest going on. Honesty would be so much more refreshing, even if it were ugly. Once the honesty is out there, it becomes so much easier to actually address an issue and, for lack of a better word, fix it.

  39. Holly says:

    There have been some examples in this thread. Teaching your kids what’s right and wrong in terms of racism — and teaching them, when they’re old enough, that racism is a disturbing reality and part of the bad things that go on in this world, so they don’t believe some of the myths mentinoed above.

    Calling out racism when you see it, especially in other white people. Not being afraid to engage with that, get your hands dirty, have upsetting discussions — as long as you think you can make a difference. The other Holly gave a great example of this — her mother’s coworkers were organized enough, amongst themselves, to realize that every person of color had gotten a negative performance review. Some people quit their jobs or threatened to quit (wasn’t clear if this was the POCs getting the bad reviews, or white people in solidarity). The management fired that person. These are all examples of actions.

    Another might be pushing to reform racist practices in your organization, or for anti-racist training to actually start the discussion Not all orgs are open to that — it can take a lot of work, sometimes it’s impossible.

    And of course those are both reactions to situations you find yourself in. If you don’t have to deal with racism on a daily basis, then you might not run into too many of those. It really depends on what your context is. What kind of activism do you do? What’s going on in your community? Is there a racial justice lens? Could you help bring one into focus, alongside people of color? This leads into much more complicated topics — like how to reach across divides in communities, work on issues that are relevant to communities of color as well as other groups and individuals, and so forth. “Outreach” is an incredibly difficult topic — some people don’t have to think about racism much because there just aren’t any people of color around in their lives, or they’re around only in passing, or they just have no desire to talk about race. And that’s part and parcel of the larger symptoms, the burying of racism in our society, etc.

    Another simple action is to go to a community organization in your area that works on behalf of people of color or marginalized communities of color, and just say “how can I help?” And then listen to what they have to say. Even if they don’t want to make you an important voice in the organization (because many orgs doing racial justice work attempt to be by and for people of color, with white people in solidarity, not leadership) I think most organizations like this would be more than happy to have help of one sort or another from white people.

    There are a lot of other materials about “how to be a white ally” out there, this is only scratching the surface.

    And of course, it’s not really an action that affects anyone but yourself, but I think reading the kinds of materials that are linked in this thread, and thinking about racism from other points of view than “people who use racial slurs and hold stereotypes about people of color are racist, and everyone else is not racist” is a benefit too. Mostly to yourself, but you have to start somewhere.

  40. Holly says:

    i’m trying to act in good faith here, and i hope, holly, that you would too. if you have some ideas, please share them. otherwise, it’s kind of an unfair game, this “there’s a right answer but i’m not going to tell you what it is”.

    unless it is maybe trying to demonstrate to white people what racial minorities live with all the time? and how frustrating and demoralizing that can be? if that is what is going on and is your intent, i have to hand it to you, you’re doing a good job of pulling at least this white person out of her privileged zone.

    And yes — there is no “right answer.” There are a lot of problems, a lot of them are submerged or insidious and hard to deal with. Everyone has to figure it out for themselves to some extent, but I think talking about it and confronting it, even in cases where we’re ashamed to be caught up in it through no real fault of our own, is helpful. And yeah — part of the reason I get flippant about this stuff sometimes, and many people of color do, especially those who constantly have to wade through racism uninsulated, is because dealing with racism is inherently demoralizing, frustrating, and makes you feel powerless. So yes: if you feel upset by this, it’s because it is horrible. And lots of people live with that feeling all the time, and are on the brunt end of the stick.

  41. NancyP says:

    I think a lot of the “how to behave” is common sense. Treat people politely and with respect. If they are offended at something you said and you just don’t understand after a few seconds thought, ask them “why they are offended, because you don’t want to do it again”. (Sometimes you realize – did I just say that? If you are in that position, apologize for being an a-hole that moment, but don’t make a huge deal of it). If you volunteer for someone else’s organization, don’t expect to run things, just say, “what do you need done now?” and do the scut. Or if you have skills or resources (professional graphic artist) and want to offer them a freebie, do that, and don’t get offended if they already have that covered.

    It’s not exactly news that even the best-intentioned white person has racist assumptions, so if you let off a racist fart, apologize and move on. Most people are capable of forgiving a person who is sincerely and appropriately apologetic and of good will – because we are all faulty humans.

    As for a white person asking a minority person for teaching or info, bear in mind that it’s always good for that white person to have shown a little initiative on their own. Start with a little general knowledge of the sort that people can glean from a wiki article. Then you can ask a question such as “who would YOU recommend as the most interesting younger black woman poet?” , emphasis being on the individual opinion of the person being questioned. Minority members are not walking encyclopedias, but people with different personal histories and knowledge bases, and people who have other things to do than sit around teaching people too lazy to try to teach themselves.

    Basically be a decent considerate person. Golden Rule and all that. Duh!

  42. Kai says:

    Wow, Holly, this thread has not gone all that well. I appreciate your posting this list, though of course I’m partial to the terminology of mi amigo Nezua’s Wite-Magik Attax. I call this whole phenomenon The White Liberal Conundrum.

    Creek Running North recently hosted a discussion in which white folks (and some POC) chimed in on how to be an anti-racist ally. I commented, in part: “I usually describe anti-racism as a lifelong journey. This is true for all of us, including for people of color, because we have all been socialized in racist society and have been conditioned since birth to replicate social relationships, dynamics, beliefs, and actions which contribute to and perpetuate racist structures.”

    The number one suggestion I’d make to white folks on learning anti-racism is to stop go around saying “I am not a racist” (I’ve been working with anti-racist activists since my teens and frankly people immersed in anti-racism never feel the need to make such proclamations) or worse yet, the old bitter sarcastic “Oh I must be racist because I’m white, oh I don’t get it, harumf!” I think it’s helpful to begin by learning a substantial definition of the word “racism”. Racism is not merely gauche interpersonal behavior which flows every which way on unstructured terrain. Racism is an institutional system of power and exploitation, consisting of an interlocking set of economic, political, cultural, and social structures, beliefs, and actions which systematically ensure the unequal distribution of resources, privilege, and influence in favor of the dominant racial group at the expense of all other groups. My concrete suggestion is to begin by internalizing that definition.

    In response to the constantly asked question “Where’s my white privilege?!” one need only point at society’s institutions of power: banks, police, courts, schools, textbooks, mass media, government offices, healthcare facilities, zoning laws, placement agencies, employers, landlords, etc. That’s where racism and privilege live, built right into our society’s very functioning.

    Peace.

  43. D.N. Nation says:

    Basically be a decent considerate person. Golden Rule and all that. Duh!

    Clearly. All I want for you to tell me, a white man containing the privilege of the ages, is in tangible terms what exactly I have to do to end racism within a few moments time, and then I realize that in having to ask you I’ve assumed to the point of being racist myself, and that I should be quiet but not quiet to the point of not being attentive, and yet realizing that too much attention again assumes too much, noting that to non-assume would be to fall into the color-blind trap, all the while wanting you to realize how hard I’m trying, but then realizing that I shouldn’t do it for the sake of earning gold stars, just that I should do it, but still be motivated to do it, but still not be motivated by self-assurance, and ultimately wanting to know what you think I should do about the paradoxes but at the same time realizing that at least I’m privileged enough that the paradoxes are all I have to worry about, so I should shut up, but not shut up to the extent that I shut up to your concerns and needs, but still attempting not to assume that you necessarily have concerns and needs that you’d want me to cure/clear, because that would be to assume that you need me, which you don’t, but maybe you do, and I shouldn’t yet should take the time out of my life to figure out when, where, how, why, but yet not realize I’m doing it because that would be self-assurance again.

    Being white makes my heard hurt. And I can’t complain. Except that I should. But yet shouldn’t.

  44. Holly says:

    Thanks, Kai!

    I had totally forgotten about Nezua’s Wite-Magic Attacks list!! I think I unconsciously plagiarized it when I was adapting the older list of defensive symptoms into “moves.” Much credit to Nezua.

    Being white makes my head hurt.

    Don’t worry — everyone else’s head hurts too. Along with other parts. It’s just that some people are way more used to it… even unconsciously.

  45. D.N. Nation says:

    The above was both a brief approximation of what it’s like to be white, as well as a maneuver in of itself, yet seeing how I’ve signaled it, I’ve been guilty of another maneuver, and, and, and…

  46. John says:

    DN Nation, that was awesome! But maybe it wasn’t. Probably, though.

  47. D.N. Nation says:

    I usually describe anti-racism as a lifelong journey.

    Yep. Which is why the maneuvers come up. Quick fix.

  48. Hector B. says:

    To me to be racist means you have to assume members of another group are automatically inferior. Which is why it bugs me when Republicans criticize Obama for belonging to an Afrocentric congregation. He’s trying to build his people up, not tear another group down. I tried to point out the similarities between a pro-Africa church and a pro-Israel synagogue, but these people don’t see it.

    I realize this seems like I’m trying to be the Good White Person; but what the heck.

  49. Kai says:

    Holly, comment #42 is excellent and takes care of much of what I was referring to when I said that the thread “has not gone well”. Thanks for that. I find it striking how frequently I hear white folks demand in that huffy way, “Okay okay racism is evil but just tell me what to DOOO!!” Um, it’s like, how about doing some research on anti-racist organizations in your community, city, or region and getting yourself involved? How about reading a few books by anti-racist authors and learning more about some of the remarkable women of color who are largely ignored by white feminists and progressives? How about engaging in some seering self-interrogation and mindfulness as you go through your day, or as you watch TV or movies, tracking your own socialized reactions to different racialized scenarios and trying to make corrections to your thoughts and feelings as you go along? How about learning about the connections between historical real-estate racism and recent subprime mortgage practices, then spreading the word to your friends, relatives, neighbors, and local newspapers? How about harrassing your federal or state or local representatives demanding legislation to end racial profiling, racist stop-and-frisk police practices, racist police brutality, racist mandatory minimum sentencing, and racist practices by parole boards and probation offices? Obviously I could go on and on and on, but I mean, do folks really live in such an insular world that they can’t even imagine doing something concrete and/or creative about racism? As though it’s difficult to locate racism in our society? Wow. I know, I should know better, but I’m constantly amazed.

  50. Hot Tramp says:

    Thank you, EKS. I was afraid that “Oh man, why do those brown people speak English so BADLY?” was going to go unchallenged.

    It is the ultimate in privilege to assert the objective correctness of your way of speaking, and therefore the objective incorrectness of the ways of speaking of people different from you. Why do so many people think this way? Because of the systemic racism inherent in public education, and the individual acts of people who pretend they know something about natural language.

  51. Hot Tramp says:

    How about learning about the connections between historical real-estate racism and recent subprime mortgage practices, then spreading the word to your friends, relatives, neighbors, and local newspapers? How about harrassing your federal or state or local representatives demanding legislation to end racial profiling, racist stop-and-frisk police practices, racist police brutality, racist mandatory minimum sentencing, and racist practices by parole boards and probation offices?

    But that’s hard.

    “It ain’t easy bein’ white …”

  52. Cara says:

    I’ve definitely done Good White Person, Bending Over Backwards, Lean on You and Smoke and Mirrors. I’m sure that I did the Backtrack, too, when I was younger. I’m probably still the Good White Person. And maybe a little bit more Smoke and Mirrors than I’d like to admit.

    Thank you for posting this. It’s clear from the comments that it was, is and will continue to be necessary.

  53. charles says:

    Holly you have a done a wonderful job here, both in the original post and in your very patient responses.

    i hope people do learn the message i think i understand you to be making: the problem is institutional, there is no single thing that anyone can do to “prove” they’re not racist (even trying to do this reveals our racism). we all have engrained our socialization, we have to work HARD to free ourselves and society from racism.

    thanks, as always.

  54. trishka says:

    holly and kai thanks for taking the time to list out the concrete examples of actions. it has definitely given me a lot to think about and explore. i appreciate being given a starting point, which is something, honestly, i didn’t even feel i had before. and yes, people do live lives that are that insular. my context: i live in a small college town in the PNW that is over 90% white. the less than 10% of racial minorities are predominately latino, with a snaller number of asian and asian-americans.

    so, like for example this suggestion:

    Another simple action is to go to a community organization in your area that works on behalf of people of color or marginalized communities of color, and just say “how can I help?” And then listen to what they have to say.

    makes total sense, except that – to my knowledge there are no community organizations in my town that work on behalf of people of color. there are some non-profits who provide human services that have developed special programs to target the latino population, but there are no specifically focussed latino outreach group. and i set on the city commission that oversees the federal funds issued to human service groups, so have more than a passing familiarity w/ the community orgs in town. so yeah, it is very context specific.

    i will look over the lists some more and see where i can go with some of the suggestions though.

    i was thinking about this conversation some more today and had something of a light bulb moment. i realised that my gut visceral emotional reaction to the original list of 16 was….”but this isn’t fair! everything i do is wrong & the people who are holding the power in this situation won’t tell me what i can do right”. and whether or not it truly is “fair” or not is another discussion, but i perceived it as being unfair and that discomfited me greatly.

    and that lead to the realisation that i do assume or expect that life, or things in life, are generally going to be fair. and that’s i guess a white privilege thing. because the thing about racism is, it’s not fair. and people of color live and understand that unfairness all the time, so they don’t have the privilege that i do of expecting fairness.

    anyway, that was illuminating. so this conversation has been helpful and provocative.

    ps: i hope i didn’t sound huffy when i asked for suggestions as to what to do. bewildered yes, huffy, no.

  55. denelian says:

    so, i cringed. i could (maybe even should, but wont) play a good chunk of my PHRASING (not the intent, which was lost in translation) on my meds. but really, this is what happens WHENEVER i write a post about anything like this. observe.

    Hot Tramp says:

    March 7th, 2008 at 5:11 pm – Edit

    Thank you, EKS. I was afraid that “Oh man, why do those brown people speak English so BADLY?” was going to go unchallenged.

    It is the ultimate in privilege to assert the objective correctness of your way of speaking, and therefore the objective incorrectness of the ways of speaking of people different from you. Why do so many people think this way? Because of the systemic racism inherent in public education, and the individual acts of people who pretend they know something about natural language.”

    or maybe, just maybe, i pointed out that i have problems with all patois. and creoles. i didnt say what or why. i grant, i probably should have. at the time, i think that i thought it was understood, it was a problem with ME, that *I* have a problem. not that others people are doing some thing that is intrinsicly wrong, but it is something i do not like. like, say, someone buy a dodge instead of a ford.
    further, i kinda resent the whole “new language” thing. whatever anyone says NOW, once something is its own language (as opposed to being a patois), then you have yet another distinct group. i grant, we already HAVE all those group. but language barriers make the divides even wider… and that worries me. because, as was so kindly pointed out to me, the english we currently speak is the FRENCH version of english. true english is lost in the midst of time. and how many wars did this shift in language paradigm start? too many to count. and maybe its silly to worry about how “slang” might start a war… if we didnt already have a de facto war going on already…

    “In response to the constantly asked question “Where’s my white privilege?!” one need only point at society’s institutions of power: banks, police, courts, schools, textbooks, mass media, government offices, healthcare facilities, zoning laws, placement agencies, employers, landlords, etc”
    and this totally misses the point, if it is at all directed at me (which i think it is in part, cause i literally did post “where is my privilege) that i wasn’t RAISED white. i was indian until i was 16 and moved to Alabama (where i was all of the sudden white). no, i didn’t live on a reservation. yes, my parents had jobs. and i was still raised cherokee. granted, a half-and-half, mongrel indian. but, not white.
    and now i am somehow white. partly the fact that i have porphyria and my skin has, slowly, lost melanin so my skin tone IS that pale. but mostly just because i changed locals, again and again. and over here in Ohio, i have yet to run across anyone who doesn’t say, on being told i check the “native american” box, “Injuns are as good as white folk!”.
    okay, that was mean and dismissive. but really, i’m beginning to wonder if this is how quadroons felt in New Orleans 150 years ago. everyone thinks their WHITE…

  56. denelian says:

    and, on the other hand, while i have recieved criticism for admiting i dislike ebonics, not ONE person has even noted the other, very valid points, i listed under the “reverse racism” problems in general.

    sometimes, this makes me more angry than anything else. *I* am allowed to be treated badly. i am allowed to be sterotyped and discriminated against (and isn’t that what it is? assuming i am just looking for black men to sleep with? isn’t that stereotyping and discriminating? without even thinking about the sexism, just from a racism point of view). but when i say something about it… i need to stop complaining about my (*new!*) white privilige?

  57. Henry says:

    That one’s on there under “The Penitent Paralysis” (will not truly absolve you). Or get anything real done other than send you into a shame spiral and annoy others around you.

    I think you missed what I was getting at there. I have no intention of apologizing to anyone over and over again, because life is too short to be on eggshells for someone else. The comment was satirical.

    What I was trying to say was that all this talk is exactly the same as “original sin” religious dogma. Due to events that came before you that you can’t control, you’re born a sinner (racist), and you’ll die a sinner (racist). No matter how hard you try to be righteous, you will fail by default, so accept your humbled state and do what you’re told.

    Some religious people deal with this unbearable burden by flagellation. Perhaps white folks could scourge themselves to bear their shame.

    Or, you could just try your best to be a decent person. If someone accuses you of racism unjustly, ask them politely to please pack sand up their asshole, and move on. Why care what others think of you if you know you’re doing your best?

  58. astronautgo says:

    Or, you could just try your best to be a decent person. If someone accuses you of racism unjustly, ask them politely to please pack sand up their asshole, and move on.

    Awesome. Who gets to decide whether the accusation is unjust? Or are you saying that you are inherently immune to acting or speaking in a racist way?

    What I was trying to say was that all this talk is exactly the same as “original sin” religious dogma. Due to events that came before you that you can’t control, you’re born a sinner (racist), and you’ll die a sinner (racist). No matter how hard you try to be righteous, you will fail by default, so accept your humbled state and do what you’re told.

    I was actually thinking to myself as I read this thread that the people getting upset about this list seem to primarily have the problem that there’s no way to absolution. We don’t want to be racist, and we just want to figure out how not to be racist, as though not being racist is a quality rather than an endeavor. But there is no absolution. There’s no promised land, there’s no end point. We’ll be working at it and getting it wrong sometimes but also hopefully getting it right sometimes for the rest of our lives. To paraphrase, the price of an ethical life is eternal vigilance.

  59. ripley says:

    this is a great list.

    for people wondering “what to do” and especially those who don’t see any activist organizations near them or something like that…

    other real work you can do is examining why the institutions you are surrounded by and are a part of don’t have any people of color, or don’t focus on issues of race. This means you will have to ask uncomfortable questions of yourself and people around you. You may not always be popular for it.

    It also means examining how things that happen every day perpetuate racial hierarchy, and trying to work against it when you can. This can be standing up against racist assumptions and commentary when you hear it, for example. This also can make people uncomfortable.

    It also might mean you will have to learn something about what issues regarding race are important to the communities or localities you are in. This is important as well. Then, raising those issues and working to get those issues discussed or represented (or get the people to represent themselves) in those institutions would be helpful.

  60. quincy says:

    Let me add another one:

    The Holly
    Let’s justify my own racism by pretending everyone is complicit in “systematic racism” to some degree, and then compile worthless lists instead of actually dealing with my own racism.

  61. LeggoMyMeggo says:

    Another concrete suggestion (and nice and passive– you can do it anywhere!):

    I have known for a long time that the feminism I feel so comfortable in is a white feminism, that women of color’s voices are systematically silenced. But it is just in the past few months that I have started leaving my comfort zone (which is a big part of any anti-racist activity– privilege means you never have to, and can just live in the happy magical world of smoke and mirrors!) and reading various feminist blogs by women of color, as well as the anthology “Colonize This!” (which I highly recommend), with other literature by WOC earmarked to read next.

    I do other, much more active anti-racist endeavors… but this one has been long overdue, and is making me feel a lot less of that panicked, narcissistic white guilt feeling, and more of the calmer, “Okay, let’s get going. We need to work together on this,” that is a lot more productive.

  62. Donna says:

    The one that always makes me want to tear out my hair and scream is smoke and mirrors. It’s because to some (a lot of) white people how they appear to others is more important than what they are actually doing. And I think it’s behind some people’s idea that there is a list of dos and don’ts that will make them non-racist. All they really care about is that no one calls them bad names like “racist”, but heaven forbid, don’t make them do any hard thinking or hard work.

    If you want a fairly easy place to start, read some blogs written by people of color. My favorite is La Chola written by BrownFemiPower. From there in the sidebar under “Pages” she has LINKS and has a huge blogroll where you can check out all kinds of other blogs written by people of color and anti-racist white allies. Get a feel for the different blogs and how conversations go before jumping in, you can ask questions and at a busy blog like La Chola you will likely get an answer even if it isn’t from BFP herself, but don’t demand. And don’t argue either. We are talking about our lives and our realities, not some hypothetical or theoretical academic exercise. That’s another thing POC hate, when you want to argue about our reality, like we don’t know what it’s like to live in our own skin or process what is happening to us.

    Don’t tell us we’re being oversensitive. When we have things happen to us over and over again, we know its probably racism. Consider for a moment that it might be the other way around, that you are insensitive because these things never happen to you. If you screw up, it’s not the end of the world, even if you get called a racist or the POC gets angry at you. If you know how you screwed up, just apologize, for heaven’s sake don’t do the self flagellating thing, and don’t go on and on about your intentions. You make it all about you instead of trying to make it right to the person you hurt. There’s no harm in saying, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it that way and I’ll avoid making that mistake again. Even though you mention your intentions, it’s in passing, it’s not making it all about you, it’s showing that you learned something and you will do your best not to do it again. It’s easier to forgive a mistake if you prove your intention instead of saying it. Keep coming back and learning something, don’t get scared off because you got your feelings hurt if someone corrects you. We get alot worse than just getting our feelings hurt. Keep talking but not just to argue, to have a conversation on an equal footing. If you are there often enough it will happen. You’ll actually get to be friends with the POC community you comment at….shocking I know! It also gets easier to ask questions if we know you aren’t a hit and run, smoke and mirrors type and really want to get to know us and care what we think.

  63. Mitchforth says:

    Awesome. Who gets to decide whether the accusation is unjust? Or are you saying that you are inherently immune to acting or speaking in a racist way?

    Well, in a situation where I am accused, and it pisses me off, I am going to just roll with that.

    People have various interests in claiming victimhood. Most white people, and pretty much all the white people in any sort of position of power, would be very upset to be called racist, and would never use an epithet or consciously discriminate on the basis of race.

    There are still racism problems in our society. Minorities are disproportionately imprisoned, and that says something about how we police minority communtities, and how we deal with minorities in the courts. Also, despite near universal condemnation of race-based employment discrimination, studies have shown that resumes of job applicants with black-sounding names fare worse than those of similarly qualified applicants with European names.

    However, regardless of lingering problems, race issues are being addressed, and race relations have improved dramatically. This list strikes me as being a kind of bullying, a sort of weapon against disagreement with political positions or narratives.

  64. Isab says:

    I would like to point out, to all the people who are like “hey! why are you calling white people racist?” that this list isn’t actually a list of racist things people do. It’s a list of how to avoid dealing with racism, which exists everywhere and will probably come up in your life often enough. When it does, you should deal with it.

    language barriers make the divides even wider… and that worries me. because, as was so kindly pointed out to me, the english we currently speak is the FRENCH version of english. true english is lost in the midst of time.

    Yeah, it’s such a shame that we have to have all those different Romance languages now, if only the Mediterranean was still a hubbub of Latin speakers! True Latin is lost in the midst of time. And you know what, even that was divisive. I miss having eight noun cases and five verb moods! Why did we have to get two new vowels? Proto-Indo-European RULED, why did it have to change?

    Seriously though: what does this even mean? Language evolve. This is why “daughter” and “laughter” no longer rhyme, and people don’t say “thee” anymore. Farther back, this is why Hamlet didn’t sound like a character out of Chaucer. I guess you could argue the world would be a better place if we did all speak the same language, and maybe it would, but that’s not the way language has existed since… well, since the beginning of humankind. To say “true” English is lost is sort of like saying “true” humans are lost since Homo erectus is extinct.

    Also I’m no expert on the topic, but I suspect in this age of mass communication it is unlikely that separate English dialects will give way to wholly separate languages. English has survived many different evolutions since the 1700s in England the rest of the UK, the US and Canada, and Australia and New Zealand, all of which have their own varying accents and dialects, and while I always have a brief moment of shock when I hear a British person talk about smoking a fag, I can understand speakers from any of these parts (though I admit it helps if Scots speak slowly). This despite long periods of linguistic near-isolation. I don’t think we’re going to need ebonics-to-English dictionaries anytime soon.

    (fun fact: scholars suspect that British English of the 17th and 18th centuries sounded much more like Southern American English than modern British English).

  65. Henry says:

    Awesome. Who gets to decide whether the accusation is unjust? Or are you saying that you are inherently immune to acting or speaking in a racist way?

    Well, you do. You get to decide who you want to deal with and on what terms. “Don’t be an asshole” is a good rule to follow in general, for everyone. If you’re doing that as best you’re able, you should only worry about other people’s opinions up to a point. Some people will be angry at you no matter what you do. Those people are assholes, white or otherwise, and there’s no sense losing sleep over what they think of you.

    Of course I’m not somehow immune to natural human behavior. People are clannish. But I will say that I don’t go out of my way to offend people, racially or otherwise. I generally have love in my heart for my fellow man and all that good stuff. But if someone wants to call me a racist and refuse to accept a sincere attempt to apologize and go about my business, well tough. I don’t have a pathological need to be acceptable to everyone, and I haven’t made a fetish out of my open-mindedness.

  66. nezua says:

    hey, cool. you posted what feels like a tribute to the Glosario on my birthday!

  67. Holly says:

    It was a mostly unintentional tribute but retroactively it is totally in celebration of Nezua’s birthday!!!

  68. woodland sunflower says:

    To Denelian:

    Can’t contribute a whole lot to this discussion, & isab at 57 already mentioned this, but the cure for “I hate that X is happening to my language” is languagelog. I happen to love the dialect known as ebonics, or AAVE as it’s more commonly called now, but it’s no more threatening to me or my relatively close-to-broadcast standard midwest twangy dialect than gay marriage is to my straight one. And reading these linguist folks has made me much more aware of the wonderful richness of all human language.

    And tolerant of the foibles of people using it. Why, even greengrocers’ apostrophes hardly bother me at all now;) Plus, it’s interesting!

  69. Mitchforth says:

    In response to the constantly asked question “Where’s my white privilege?!” one need only point at society’s institutions of power: banks, police, courts, schools, textbooks, mass media, government offices, healthcare facilities, zoning laws, placement agencies, employers, landlords, etc. That’s where racism and privilege live, built right into our society’s very functioning.

    I don’t really understand what this suggests. Every major police force has lots of black officers and detectives, there are many black police chiefs and commissioners, and significant numbers of blacks among police leadership are generally seen as necessary for any sort of decent community relations.

    Business schools, medical schools and law schools all use very extensive affirmative action policies to admit black students.

    Most major institutions and power centers include blacks and compete with each other to recruit qualified black applicants. Assuming similar academic records and test scores, blacks have better access to opportunities which lead to positions of power than similarly situated whites.

  70. This is a fantastic post! Thanks Holly.

    Doug said:

    Also, its important to note that the one common element in each of those items is that they are said by privileged people who are trying to retain their privileged position. Even the ones that admit “fault” are phrased in such a way as to retain the special status of the speaker. Being privileged does not automatically make you a bad person, but it does require self awareness. When you discuss racial issues, ask yourself “why am I saying this? How would this sound to someone without my privilege

    YES! So good and true.

    I’m going to repost this link on another blog community.

  71. nezua says:

    (holly it was the best damn unintentional tributesque gift i got! :)

    yes, mitchforth, i wonder what on earth kai means. as IF there is any institutional racial aggression, profiling, or abuse within the ranks of the police! HA!!!! this “kai” person seems to think we haven’t wiped out racism, which you clearly point out that we have. can i come live with you? me and all my family? i’ll even try to bring kai around, promise.

  72. Donna says:

    Mitchforth, it can be more smoke and mirrors. Appearances vs substance. In your example of police depts, almost every police dept still doesn’t employ blacks or other people of color in the proportion representing the community. This suggests possible tokenism. It’s like the guy with twenty friends, but he has one black friend so that he can say he isn’t racist…he doesn’t hang out with him often, and when he does he has a tendency to boss him around, not really listen to him, etc. Also if a POC police officer wants to fit in with the other police officers there will be a tendency to absorb the “culture” including suspicion of POC community members and viewing them as troublemakers right from the start. You shouldn’t be too surprised if people of color don’t trust police officers of any ethnicity.

    This list strikes me as being a kind of bullying, a sort of weapon against disagreement with political positions or narratives.

    This list strikes me as a way to even the playing field. Society is already set up in a way that makes every interaction a weapon against people of color. It’s just telling people who really care to be non-racist/anti-racist some things they can be aware of that are used as weapons and bullying tactics against people of color. These things are automatic and used every day. It’s funny how you turn that around to say that avoiding using them is such a hardship for white people.

    Happy Birthday Dear Nezua!

  73. NancyP says:

    DNNation at #46, I, NancyP, am white and as WASP as they come. My post at #42 was a compilation of stuff that works for me, plus a load of common sense. The thing about “white privilege” is that it contains the doubtful privilege of being ignorant about minority or less-valued groups in the community. The minority or less-valued groups need to know about the “white cultural standard” (= WASP men in charge standard) to get along in life, whereas the guys in charge don’t need to know about people who collectively don’t have as much power or social standing.

    It is a form of respect to learn a little of substance about the history and issues of the other groups, how life looks like from their eyes. It is a form of respect to listen, really listen, instead of talking without hearing the other person. You don’t have to agree with everything. You do need to sincerely respect their right to have a viewpoint.

    Of course I have white privilege, plus a load of racist background assumptions that are part of the surrounding culture. I am a product of the culture and of my background. It is a conscious effort to examine those assumptions. Sometimes I say something dumb – I find that people will forgive rudeness and/or racist assumption if you apologize and show some evidence of learning to do better next time. It is far better to make a few mistakes than mill around being fearful of offending and never making human contact. Don’t take things so seriously! Wise people don’t expect themselves or others to be perfect 100% of the time. The Golden Rule will get you far.

  74. NancyP says:

    Sorry, my post referred to in #77 was #44.

    And before someone says “but white men can be discriminated against too”, well, of course. Barely-getting-by working class men in rural Virginia aren’t ruling the country, and are held in contempt by their upper class Beltway neighbors as “trailer trash” etc. Read Joe Bageant, “Deer Hunting with Jesus” for reflections by one who got out of there and into academia and reporting. The dynamic is the same – Beltway folks don’t need to know diddly about their rural neighbors, but the rural folk, in order to survive, best learn something about the encroaching upperclass gentrifiers.

  75. Donna says:

    NancyP that’s because what you are talking about is classism which is of course oppression too. It doesn’t negate the white privilege/racism of the poor white person, who can and usually does use that privilege to his advantage when he can. And that is the problem I find in alot of these discussions, people automatically assume that privilege is equal to wealth. It isn’t. All other things being equal a poor white man will be at an advantage to an equally poor black/latino/asian/native american/etc man in our society.

  76. nancykerrigan says:

    This post is very interesting and sheds new light in this complex issue, in a funny way, too.

    I just wanted to point out one thing, though: You say that those who are ‘colorblind’ are considered racist, but what about the belief that those who believe that race does exist are considered racist. Because think about it; genetically speaking, Blacks are quite similar to Whites, Hispanics, Asians, etc. In fact, some say that we all are at least 99.99% alike. I would like to know what you think about that argument.

  77. Kai says:

    Nezua? Donna? What are you guys doing here? This is a lot of melanin to have in a room like this! Heck maybe the times they are a-changin. ;-)

    Mitchforth, hmm, so you honestly believe that affirmative action hiring practices by police departments and admissions policies in colleges have eradicated racism from those and other institutions of societal authority? Hehe, that’s funny. I highly recommend that you do more research on this subject before you pursue this conversation with any other anti-racists. I’ve had guns pulled on me in both LA and NYC during routine traffic stops. In one instance, a cop said, “Maybe I’ll shoot a fucking chink tonight, and trust me, I can get away with it.” That was in NYC, where this week saw the beginning of the trial of the police officers who shot and killed Sean Bell with 50 bullets on the morning before his wedding; most local activists suspect that the cops will get off with a light slap on the wrist, because we’ve seen this movie many times before and all indications in this particular trial thus far suggest a crooked process.

    nancykerrigan, your question is one that is often raised (by white folks), but racism is not about genetics; it’s about socio-political constructs. White supremacism as we know it today was hatched about five centuries ago when nobody had ever heard of DNA. White society does not examine anybody’s genetic makeup before deciding who is One Of Us and who is The Other. Probably every single black person who was lynched in the US during the mass wave of white terrorism in the first half of the 20th century had a good amount of European ancestry (generally around 20 to 40%), yet they still swung from trees above smiling white people picnicking with their children.

  78. SarahMC says:

    Nancykerrigan, claiming to be “colorblind” is claiming to literally not see the difference between people of different races. So… in a room full of people you’re not sure which folks are white and which are black?
    Race IS indeed a social construct, but by claiming to be colorblind, you are dismissing the lived experiences of racial minorities. “You’re no different from a white person, so you can’t have been on the receiving end of racism.” Black people ARE treated differently than white people in our society. Telling them you “don’t see color” basically comes off like, “Don’t tell me I have privilege.”

  79. Katie Loncke says:

    First of all, I’m very thankful that this conversation is happening. As others have observed, it shows we have a ways to go in building anti-racist feminist solidarity, but there’s so much fantastic knowledge being shared here, too.

    If I may add one more maneuver to the list:

    The Adam Smith
    “I think anti-racist work is essential, and I try to learn about it when I can, but my pet feminist issue is also really important and totally urgent, so I’ve got to prioritize my expertise. As long as I specialize in Roe/birth control/sex ed/misogynist advertising, and others do Black/Latin@/API stuff, the invisible hand of social justice will work its magic and we’ll all get free!”

    I see this one a lot. But like Joe Barndt writes in “Preaching To The Choir”:

    The simple truth is if you work on any other issue of justice and do not at the same time build in an understanding of racism, you will be working on that issue in a racist way. If you work on women’s issues and do not take race seriously, you wil be a racist feminist.

    If you work on reproductive justice and only talk about abortion access, ignoring problems of forced sterilization, welfare provisions contingent upon limiting fertility, nativist advocacy for immigrant population control, and unaffordable health care, you’re approaching reproductive justice in a racist way. (Just like most white-dominated media does.) If you address domestic abuse and uncritically promote police intervention, ignoring persistent state violence and the criminalization of men of color in particular, you’re fighting DV from a perspective that privileges white middle-class experience. Etc. Racism can’t be tacked on the end of (white) feminist analysis or treated as its own ‘separate issue’ — it needs to be consistently integrated and centered.

    Anyway, thanks again, Holly, Kai, Donna, nezua, everyone, for sharing your wisdom. :)

  80. Tom Head says:

    Backtrack. Remove the Right to Be Angry. Good White Person. Bending Over Backwards. But the one I’m worst about is Smoke and Mirrors. Even when I’m talking about my cat, I’m pretty much inscrutable.

  81. Katie Loncke says:

    Oh, and on a related note: internalized racism aside, I don’t think white people are the only ones who can have white privilege. As a biracial, light-skinned woc, I think colorism affords me a certain kind of white privilege, depending on the context. Sometimes people assume that I’m fully white, and act accordingly. (Other times, folks try to strike up a conversation in Portuguese, or tell me I look exotic.) Anyone else have a similar experience with colorism?

  82. denelian says:

    woodland sunflower, and the other helpful people on language…

    yes, they evolve all the time. yes, the UC colleges are teaching ebonics. yes, differences can and, to a large extent SHOULD, be embraced.

    i said, and said again, that it is a problem with *ME* first and formost. my boyfriend is black. we’ve been together for 4 years. and yet, even HE still throws out slang (or rather, ebonic phrases) that i A)dont understand and then B)have to have translated.
    this isn’t just a problem i have with ebonics. thick southern, scottish, cockney, and creole accents are just as bad. sometimes worse. and from where i am sitting, i don’t see them as anything more than devisive. because, unlike the roman empire, we don’t have a millinia of being together… we, i reality, have 40 years of being a complete country that recognized [most of] its citizens. so, everytime i hear anything that is a patois (ebonics, creole, heavy southern) i worry a little – we divide people in two ways in the country, color and education. in most ways, the color issue can be dealt with, in legal matters (subtle racism is still there, as are some vaster institutionalized, but those are at least being attacked…) but education? if i meet a person with a Ph.D who speaks a language that is ALMOST english… but that i canNOT understand…
    yep. this is totally my problem. i have a lot of trouble asking a stranger “what the hell did you just say?” when they say something i didn’t get. (on the other hand, my b/f translates handily, even if i look silly having to have someone interpret for me what is supposed to be english) THAT is where it worrys me… cuz how many cops automatically judge based on language? hospitals? judges?
    thats where the “slang” languages, the patois, are a problem

  83. denelian says:

    i’d like to add an incredibly embarrasing point,

    i was raised in a fairly bilingual area. my godparents are mexican, as i said. i also spent a LOT of time on reservations and with the full cherokee members of my family. i have had 4 years of german.
    so, i can count to ten in spanish, cherokee and german, and cuss. and thats IT. i personally SUCK totally at languages. and patois, and creoles, and dialects…

  84. AC says:

    That was an interesting post, I definitely recognized all of the statements. The comments have been enlightening as well. In response to Trishka (#57) and building on Holly and Ripley’s (#62) suggestions: look at the organizations you already belong to – are they diverse? Why not? Consider what you might be able to do to recruit people of color to join your organization but FIRST consider diverity or anti-racism training for your organization.

    I have lived in rural, predominately white towns all my live and as a woman of color I am often intimidated or feel unwelcome joining local community organizations. A friendly face certainly helps when I’m already stepping outside my comfort zone. Maybe you too will be stepping out of your comfort zone and, if so, we can then go boldly forward together.

    The other suggestion I have to live a more anti-racist life is to accept and not dismiss the concerns of others when they point out racism. I can’t tell you the number of times I have had to gird my loins and steel myself to have what will be an extremely uncomfortable and painful discussion of racism only to have fight an additional uphill battle past all the other “helpful” people (bystanders) who don’t see any racism, any intent, any reason for me to cry foul. Don’t be the kind of person who thinks their privilege includes validating all occurrences of racism.

    To Denelian I respect that you are trying to work through your prejuidces about Ebonics. I too have some language prejuidces I tam trying to work through. I wonder if it would help you any to consider the linguistic origins of Ebonics?

  85. Rosehiptea says:

    I wonder if it would help you any to consider the linguistic origins of Ebonics?

    I took a class in Ebonics (which the teacher referred to as African-American language) in college and it was really eye-opening. It dealt heavily with communication differences between cultures as well. I would really recommend that to people who feel they don’t “get” this language or respect it.

  86. Donna says:

    Yes and no, Katie. I’m Native American (Maliseet) and most people can’t figure out what the heck I am just by looking and guess Asian (usually Korean) or Latina (Mexican or Puerto Rican). And yeah, I have had people come up to me speaking Spanish or Korean. When I was in Mexico it happened quite often to both me and my sister, and when we told them we didn’t speak Spanish they would laugh at us. We knew they were assuming we were Mexican Americans who had lost the language. I didn’t bother correcting anyone, but it annoyed my sister and she would tell them that we were Maliseet. One time when I was visiting friends of my husband’s family a little boy, about 6, was standing near my chair staring and he blurted out, “You’re Mexican, aren’t you?” His mother was horrified and told him not to say things like that. I answered, “Buenos dias, amigo.” and he said, “I told you, mom!”

    So no, I still get racism because I’m “not-white” even though they can’t tell what I am. On the other hand I have been in weird situations where black people are ignored and I am not, or white people think they can complain to me about “those people” (immigrants) who refuse to learn English or are hard to understand because of an accent. My mother speaks English with an accent, just like “those people”.

  87. Sailorman says:

    The simple truth is if you work on any other issue of justice and do not at the same time build in an understanding of racism, you will be working on that issue in a racist way. If you work on women’s issues and do not take race seriously, you will be a racist feminist.

    true… but doesn’t this also ring true for most of the other major issues as well? Switch racism and sexism and the above statement isn’t wrong. Insert (in any order you choose) almost any two issues: classism, sexism, racism, capitalism, communism, criminal justice, choice, you name it.

    It doesn’t make the statement false as applied to racism, but I’m not sure what the point of it is. Racism is an issue of justice, not the only issue of justice.

  88. Holly says:

    I think that is a big part of why so many people think “intersectional analysis” and things like that are important. To avoid narrow, single-issue, exclusionary politics.

    thats where the “slang” languages, the patois, are a problem

    But whose problem are they? The speakers, or the listeners? denelian, you were pretty good throughout that paragraph at owning that problems yourself: it’s hard for you to understand other dialects and you find it difficult to ask people to clarify. But who should bear the burden of this problem, at least ideally? Also, in the bigger picture… I think polyglot communication, patois and trade language throughout history and throughout the world are more common than a single, unifying tongue. Look at enormous nations like India and China, where so many different dialects are spoken. It’s not necessary to eradicate these or mandate the language of power as the “only” one in order to facilitate communication between everyone.

    Oh, and on a related note: internalized racism aside, I don’t think white people are the only ones who can have white privilege. As a biracial, light-skinned woc, I think colorism affords me a certain kind of white privilege, depending on the context. Sometimes people assume that I’m fully white, and act accordingly. (Other times, folks try to strike up a conversation in Portuguese, or tell me I look exotic.) Anyone else have a similar experience with colorism?

    I think my experiences with this are somewhere between yours and Donna’s, interestingly. Throughout my life I’ve mostly gotten questions (and looks that I learned to recognize) that circled around “what ARE you, anyway?” The experience both of not-whiteness but also of uncategorizability. Which, it really should be said, also means you don’t encounter the same kind of racism targeted at specific groups, like anti-black racism. (That’s the only “guess” I’ve never gotten.) It’s also changed depending on where I live — out here on the east coast, people seem to be less adept at identifying half-asian people, and tend to play the “let me guess… half Korean? half Japanese?” guessing game less. The ones that do… half the time are fetishists. There are any number of racial differentials inside of not-whiteness that I wish were discussed more. For some guys, a half-Japanese girl is the ultimate non-white trophy girlfriend, because we’re perceived as being “extremely close to white” and also having some exotic coolness factor. Of course, this is not exactly a desirable “positive stereotype.”

    Oops, I have to go catch a ride back to New York. Thanks to everyone who’s been answering questions and continuing the dialogue in this thread, especially the people of color — Kai, Donna, Nezua, Kate, others. I don’t think I could have handled this whole thread myself if I had tried to, between the rather intense feelings it can bring up and the fact that I am traveling right now and can’t even pass comments through moderation regularly!!

  89. Katie Loncke says:

    One time when I was visiting friends of my husband’s family a little boy, about 6, was standing near my chair staring and he blurted out, “You’re Mexican, aren’t you?” His mother was horrified and told him not to say things like that. I answered, “Buenos dias, amigo.” and he said, “I told you, mom!”

    Hahaha. Well played. Reminds me of my dad’s experiences traveling in France and hearing a child exclaim to his mother, “Maman! Il est noir!” Kid had never seen a Black person before.

    Holly, I’ve noticed coastal differences, too — at least between California and Boston/NY/DC. In New Orleans most locals pegged me for mixed right away; everywhere else, I mostly get that guessing game you’re talking about. Once, in Sacramento, I approached the register at a fast food place, and out of the clear blue, the girl taking my order whipped out a classic wide-eyed “What ARE you?!” I mean, seriously?

    I like the way Fanon describes this experience as part of the way racism functions — constantly being reminded of your embodiment, having your “schema” disrupted.

    Sailorman, absolutely, Brandt’s point applies to other issues (he lists work around economic justice, environmentalism, peace and militarism, and queer activism as other areas that require racial analyses — I just used a short, feminist-topical excerpt from his piece, which focused on race). And I totally agree: the idea applies in the reverse, too, in that all those areas need gender analysis to avoid perpetuating sexism. Hence, Feministe. ;)

    Travel safe, Holly!

  90. Boris says:

    This is a great discussion.

    I’m still having trouble, though, with what a person CAN do to not be racist. Not to PROVE that one is anti-racist, because it’s pretty clear that there’s no decent way to do that, but just do BE an anti-racist without looking like you’re trying to prove that you are.

    I’m going to try to explain why I want to be involved in anti-racist work, but the stumbling blocks I come across when I try to be.

    What I find difficult is that if I try to go to certain anti-racist meetings/events/organizations etc. in my area (usually these are queer, anti-violence, or feminist organizations because those are the other things I’m involved in) I’m scrutinized more than other people and alienated enough that I’ve never stuck around. I was once told that I could not attend an anti-racist yoga class because I am white. I have actually been told outright while trying to participate in something anti-racist that I do not belong there, that I do not understand violence (not true, for certain) or that my family was privileged from the moment we arrived in Canada (not true – my ancestors were Jewish refugees), etc. While I personally have not experienced racism, I have seen in my family history and all around me what its effects are. And somehow, there are people who believe that I am not “good enough” to participate. I am disgusted by white privilege, just as I am with any other unjustified privilege (sexism, classism, I could go on and on) and want to change that.

    I wish that the anti-racist movement would accept that there are white people who recognize that we have privilege, and want to change that as best we can, but that we are not perfect. Being a person of colour would make it easier for me to engage in the social activism that I do, or try to do, because people seem to see you as more credible when you’re talking about your own identity. It is really pure chance that I am white; nobody chooses their appearance. I want to be accepted as an ally because I am willing to learn, to work together, to pull my weight, etc. But how can I act against privilege if the local organizations would rather not have me there? Am I not a good enough ally?

    I’m sure I’m falling into one of those traps right now, but I have no idea how not to.

  91. NancyP says:

    Boris, don’t take it personally when non-white groups defend their space. Sometimes people feel inhibited about talking about certain topics around “outsiders”. There’s a time to work stuff out in private, and a time to interact. My reaction is that if that is the case, the group should be called POC-only and not anti-racist, to clarify things. Get used to being scrutinized a bit. It is somewhat uncommon for white heterosexual men to commit to anti-racist, anti-patriarchy, anti-lgbt, anti-violence work, so individual WHetMen can be underestimated. The knee-jerk reaction is that the WHetMen think that “it’s all about me” and will try to dominate discussion unduly. Go to the events that are open, and observe politely. After seeing you there a few times, chances are that you will be taken more seriously.

  92. FemNYC says:

    A lot of you might have read this before:

    http://media.www.thecampuspress.com/media/storage/paper1098/news/2008/02/18/Opinion/If.Its.War.The.Asians.Want-3216954.shtml

    I recently saw this, and it made me puke a little inside.

  93. denelian says:

    as a note… i’ve been on extra pain meds. so i haven’t looked at my computer in a couple of days. i’m sorry it took me so long to respond

    so, holly says to me (and to be silly, i go “squee, i was seen!”)

    But whose problem are they? The speakers, or the listeners? denelian, you were pretty good throughout that paragraph at owning that problems yourself: it’s hard for you to understand other dialects and you find it difficult to ask people to clarify. But who should bear the burden of this problem, at least ideally? Also, in the bigger picture… I think polyglot communication, patois and trade language throughout history and throughout the world are more common than a single, unifying tongue. Look at enormous nations like India and China, where so many different dialects are spoken. It’s not necessary to eradicate these or mandate the language of power as the “only” one in order to facilitate communication between everyone.

    i waver back and forth on this all the time. i totally get going to India and speaking farse (sp?), or going to Korea and speaking KOREAN, not chinese. and i get being raised in, say, an inclusive mexican family where no one knows any english to teach you.

    and no, the US doesn’t have an “official” language.
    and yes, many other countries also don’t have official languages.

    but, those other countries are ALSO divided by those multiple languages. in Ireland, one of the ways “rebellious Irish” were seperated from good, anglican englishmen was language. same with Indian Mutiny, except of course the specific language.
    so, while i totally grant i have this issue, i also think its a different “Big Thing”. people are targeted by the way they sound. and yeah, the onus of that original bigotry is on the hearer (ugliness is in the ear of the hearer?), and i never want someone to think i am say “conform and be safe”
    i don’t want everyone to speak just the way i do. even if i cant understand them.

    but it DOES worry me, as it is devisive. because cops are trained to profile based on accent and etc. bankers. doctors. lawyers. damned near every professional is trained to profile this way.
    historically, there was generally some few tongues there were “trade tongues”. Latin, Greek, Mandarin, etc. so, everyone spoke whatever they were born into, and then had a generic language to fall into for traders or whomever. and again, not a bad idea. but, currently, the trade tongue is (mostly) english… i don’t care what else people speak, but i do think everyone who has gone through the american school system to even 4th grade should be able to communicate in the (not to be too D&Dy) Common Tongue. the tongue the doctor is gonna use. yes, translaters, but… i have never seen a translater for any brogue, patois or creole. and i dont think i ever will…
    so, to answer the question, what should IDEALLY happen? why, we should all have universal translaters, of course! barring any star trek flavored devices, i think that whatever the “trade tongue” is should really be that universal language everyone knows… even if its sanskrit. even if *I* have to somehow learn sanskrit. because right now, anyone who hasn’t had the eloquistion (again, i can’t spell) exercises that make up for NOT being raised without language quirks is at a huge disadvantage.

    and before this, AC commented, also in direct reply,

    I respect that you are trying to work through your prejuidces about Ebonics. I too have some language prejuidces I tam trying to work through. I wonder if it would help you any to consider the linguistic origins of Ebonics?

    to my knowledge (which i grant is like a decade old) Ebonics is based on “rap” (20’s “jive”? i know what i mean here lol. the set of slang that grew up around the Black Jazz Scene…). is this not the case? its not that that bothers me, its the whole “no one who’s not part of your group can understand you and you never drop the group talk so that outsiders CAN understand you” mentality. not just around Ebonics, either. its really big on any movie/tv show about the Mafia :D and is big in many Mexican families i know (and then they have to translate for me, because i totally suck…). i hate being left out of conversations…

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  95. Boris says:

    NancyP, just to clarify, I’m not actually a white, heterosexual male. “Boris” is very much a pseudonym, which I use because I have had problems with stalking in the past. (as a sidenote, it can be interesting in non-radical or non-activist sorts of websites that I am taken more seriously when I go by “Boris” than my real, more obviously female name – and even more interesting if I go by “Boris” initially and I am supporting women’s rights, and am listened to, and then get discredited when people find out that I’m actually a woman!)

    Back on track, I do agree that “POC-only” would be a better title than “anti-racist” for a group that specifically excludes white people. I think that there ARE discussions where it’s probably best if only the people who are victimized by an issue participate, and I don’t mind not being allowed to join certain groups, as long as they specify in advance who their target audience is. To me, “anti-racist” means that anybody is welcome, as long as they agree with the values of the group. I know that I can get quite offended in an anti-violence support group if somebody comes just to observe or get a perspective on something, and has not experienced violence and just doesn’t understand the issues. So there are definitely situations where having white people in an anti-racist discussion might seem threatening.

    What bothers me more are activist organizations that are planning something specific and won’t let a white person be involved AT ALL. I can understand not letting me march in a protest, if that’s what they think will be most effective, but I’m still happy to make signs, help with publicity, take photos, help with childcare, etc. Or organizations that really have little to do with anti-racism, but are restricted to People of Colour. For example, the yoga class I tried to go to was marketed as being against all the yuppie types who monopolize some of the yoga studios downtown and drink $10 energy drinks before class, and do yoga for their “image”. I’d thought that it was more of a class solidarity thing, but then wasn’t allowed to participate because I am white. I don’t really see how yoga can be specifically “anti-racist” or how it would benefit from being just for people of certain races.

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  97. AC says:

    Well this thread is just about played out but I walked away and missed Denalian’s reply to my reply. Denalian – should you check back…it’s my understanding that the roots of Ebonics, formerly black slang, formerly jazz jive, descends from the days of slavery. Many africans sold into slavery and arriving in the New Wrold, alone, in schackles and not speaking the language. At no time along that route were they taught english. Slaves, the majority of them, taught themselves english along the way and were responsible for teaching newcomers as well. Some of the unique verb conjugations have been noticed to be replicated by modern day Africans from certain regional areas trying to learn English. All of which have lead linguistics to theorize that Ebonics comes, through the generations, from the original slaves teaching themselves English (one of the hardest, if not the hardest, languages to learn) to survive in this new and hostile world. Blacks have continued to use it almost like a secret language, usually amongst themsleves up to the crossover of rap and hip hop. Now it’s gone mainstream, to some extent, but it still seems to exclude those who aren’t in the “know”. If it makes you feel better, not all blacks have this historical background and therefore access to this “language”.

  98. John Timbrell says:

    My grandfather was English. In spite of that, I feel no guilt because of the way the English treated the Irish. I am an American. I
    feel no guilt because some Americans had black slaves 140 years ago. The fact that many blacks have been unable or unwilling
    to take advantage of the opportunities available to them in the US today causes me to feel no guilt at all.

    I am responsible for my actions. I am not responsible for the actions of others. The fact that some whites are racist and that many blacks let resentment over the past consume them, engenders not one whit of guilt in me.

    JT big11dawgs@hotmail.com

  99. Juan says:

    Thank you John Timbrell for actually putting forth those examples on how to avoid really dealing with racism. You’re a credit to your race. =)

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  101. True Racist says:

    Sorry for posting so many times at the end of a died-out discussion, but I just wanted to address those who claim not to be racist because they’ve never met anyone of a different race. Please see “The Smoke and Mirrors” in the above list. Of course you’re a racist if you’re not working toward doing anything about it. There are no excuses not to be working against racism. Not poverty, not social activism in other areas. Because even if racism appears to have little or no impact on your life, that is wrong and you’ll remain a racist until you work toward solving the problems of racism like I (in my enlightened state) do.

  102. Don't Agree says:

    True Racists
    This
    Of course you’re a racist if you’re not working toward doing anything about it. adnd … that is wrong and you’ll remain a racist until you work toward solving the problems of racism like I (in my enlightened state) do.

    I just don’t agree with.
    1) not working toward against racism doesn’t make you racist and working against it doesn’t make you NOT racists. The question that has yet to be asked is – do I have issues with a person because of their ethnic, political, sexual orientation, religion or economic status, or do I have issues with a person simply because I have issues with them?

    The assumption is is that if you don’t look like me, and i don’t like you, I must be racists. And it just isn’t true.. We get to not like each other.

  103. Because I care says:

    I know being a white person and growing up in an inner-city neighbourhood, I was a minority in my school and my neighbourhood. I was lucky never to be a minority in society, and how sad that is (in regards to the media for example and not being able to have dolls that look like you among other things)

    I never had a problem with anybody. I had maybe two white friends that passed through my life in my childhood and all the rest were “minorities” of which I didn’t even see at the time because they were just my friends. I feel lucky to have these experiences and honestly don’t know if other white people that are from non-ghetto neighbourhoods are racist. Even though I prejudge them with out knowing anything about them.

    Then one day when I was a teenager all of a sudden people start discovering their identites, and saying stuff like ” it’s a black thing”, ” white people are…” and so forth and all of a sudden things are different. It was a very damaging experience.

    I just want to let any “minority” know who hears this at least from my own experience which seems to be proven over and over again in the behaviour of other white people. When you see me on the street, and I give you a look of fear. It’s not fear of you that you’ll hurt me or something. It’s fear of being rejected because I’m white, and no matter what I can do, and no matter how hard I try I’ll always be bad simply because I’m white. I suspect this is why most white people act like this.

    If I avoid you or feel uncomfortable with you it’s because of the same thing. Even Obama doesn’t get it. But I still love him.

    I am a racist. I’m racist against other white people, because that is what society teaches me and what influences my perceptions.
    I don’t know if it’s true. That all white people are a certain way. Even though I am white I’m judging white people too. That I can’t relate too. (white people from other social economic groups)

    And I’m racist against all “minorities” because I think that each and everyone, of you no matter how hard I try will hate me just because of the simple fact I’m white. I don’t know how to let my heart believe again that someone could truly like me even as a white person.

    I’m also racist because I too am just a person and I can’t understand everyones perspective or accomondate everyones need. I just don’t know how. Neither does anybody else.

    It’s crazy because I’ve been homeless and in fostercare and so forth and when your on the fringes of society the racism seems to disappear. At least from my experience.Your outed by everyone else. Your on the lowest rung of society, and nobody wants you.
    And you band together because your all on the fringes of society. It feels good and my whiteness seems to go away.

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  105. Sick of Racism says:

    I love this blog, this list really does expose all the now-classic ducks, dodges, bobs and weaves that people (I have to say, most of them tend to be White, sorry) use to avoid honest discussions about racism in America. If you don’t mind, I’d like to add one that bugs the hell out of me because I see it in virtually every online racial discussion I’ve witnessed or participated in:

    The Minority Defender of All Things White
    “I’m Black, and from my experience us Black people are the most racist people on the face of the planet. A poor White man can’t even walk down the street without being mugged by an animalistic Black criminal. You people, I mean US people, need to stop blaming the White man for our problems. Racism is over! We’re our own worst enemy! No one is discriminating against us and we have even more opportunities than White people! Stop blaming White people for your problems and catch up with them! We should be thankful for the opportunity to be in this country and should be imitating what makes them successful.”

    I can’t stand that Black/Latino/Asian/Arab/Native American guy/gal who flies to the defense of White people at the drop of a hat if any non-White person so much as dare to grumble about anything negative that White people do. That’s the best term I could think of to describe them, that title comes from a line a White guy said to Don Cheadle’s character in the movie “Crash”. That line “What are you? The defender of all things White?”

    But yeah, I don’t know what’s going on but it seems like in the past 4 or 5 years the level and frequency of White people whining about Minorities whining about White people has increased substantially. Every conversation that has to do with anyone non-White ends up devolving into a discussion about how that person’s race is delinquent. White criminals are sympathized with while Black offenders are called “animals”, “savages” and “brutes”. Yet those same White people will swear up and down they are colorblind and don’t see race, but they can see that non-White people are supposedly more racist and supposedly enjoy more privileges due to damn liberals/socialists/communists/politically correct committees/etc. pampering them. I’ve seen tens of threads calling Barack Obama (the guy who a lot of Black people felt/feel is an “oreo”) a “racist” for talking about his grandmother’s racism as not uncommon for White people and for talking about resentment among White people for Minorities who they feel are somehow getting something that Whites aren’t. I’ve seen endless threads where 85% of mostly-white posters on polls believe Minorities are more racist while Whites are innocent victims suffering from the irrational wrath of the brown peoples who can’t forget all that bad stuff that totally ended like 500 years ago and no longer affects them! Even though Tim Wise showed that 55 years ago many White people during Jim Crow still believed that Minorities had more privileges than Whites.

    It’s so stupid and I wish it would end. This must be a sign we are in an economic downturn or many White people are realizing the rate at which the Latino and Black population is growing. I can’t see why else this racism is increasing so. It’s very disheartening and makes me wonder if most White people are really like this deep down behind their smiles in public.

  106. Tanker J.D. says:

    When are all us american whites going to realize that we’re racist, and there’s nothing they we do about it? I, along with all the rest am guilty, guilty, guilty of racism. See: other, more sensitive white people tell me it’s true. It’s kafkaesque in the extreme. You were born guilty, because you’re a white american. That’s all that’s to be said on the topic, thank you very much.

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  108. eric moor says:

    racisim is evil, its ungodly and reduces one to a piece of metal that can only fit in another

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