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  1. punkrockhockeymom
    punkrockhockeymom September 11, 2008 at 12:09 pm |

    I love your posts.

    I just don’t ever understand how the same woman who will call a man out for exercising his privilege blindly will, in the very next breath, claim that she should be excused from being racist because she was blind to it, and not even be a little bit embarrassed for it.

  2. White Trash Academic
    White Trash Academic September 11, 2008 at 12:24 pm |

    Amen to that. I stopped being shocked a long time ago when other professors (who claim to be bastions of tolerance and, I think, really do believe they are) say things that highlight they are ignorant of their own white privilege. I came into higher ed thinking I would not find that here, especially in a social science discipline. At first, very shocked. Now, not so much. And, the fact that I am no longer shocked is sad.

  3. nonskanse
    nonskanse September 11, 2008 at 12:46 pm |

    I’m fairly often oblivious to racism because, ya know, I’m white, and I can afford to be. I’m not proud.

    I totally understand wanting to say ‘but I didn’t notice my racism’ even when I’m ultra-aware of the sexism. Racism has very no obvious ill-effects on me as a white person, so I have to work to notice it, even in myself.

  4. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil September 11, 2008 at 1:23 pm |

    I swear I know why black people live shorter lives…we are literally stressed to death.

    Not sure if you were being flip here, but there’s a body of evidence to support this. (which is buried in a notebook in a closet so apologies for the lack of citation). The combination of oppression that many POC experience (racism, poverty, etc.) is quite literally lethal.

    Thanks again for another great post–they give me a lot to think about.

  5. Renee
    Renee September 11, 2008 at 1:33 pm |

    Not sure if you were being flip here, but there’s a body of evidence to support this. (which is buried in a notebook in a closet so apologies for the lack of citation). The combination of oppression that many POC experience (racism, poverty, etc.) is quite literally lethal.

    Actually I am well aware of the research which is why I included that statement int this post. I wanted to point out that the cost of daily racism to blacks even when “not shot by the police” ends in early death.

  6. JPlum
    JPlum September 11, 2008 at 4:11 pm |

    What do you mean by ‘racial statements’, exactly? How are they different from racist statements?

  7. Rachel
    Rachel September 11, 2008 at 4:14 pm |

    I don’t know if I make a conscious effort to keep my privilege at bay or if I even comprehend it fully, but I do know that I try my best to treat all people with respect regardless of where they stand on the privilege spectrum — although I sometimes lapse when respect is not shown to me, but even then I try to tell myself “it wasn’t personal, that person is probably just having a hard day”.

    I really hope that I don’t act or speak in ways that are racist (or sexist, classist, ageist, ableist, etc) but I know that I’m not perfect or immune from forgetting that my experience as a white woman is different from the experiences of non-white women. I hope that if I do slip up and say something racist, the person who calls me on it takes me with a grain of salt and responds in a tenor consistent with my offending words. (Not that it’s anyone else’s job to remind me to check my privilege.)

  8. NicoleGW
    NicoleGW September 11, 2008 at 4:19 pm |

    Renee, this post is amazing. I am so glad to read this on Feministe. I am glad to see anger because, dammit, we should all be angry about this.

    Amongst whites in general there’s the unwillingness to fess up to racism and a racist status quo because of the desire to maintain privelege. In some bizarre way, this issue is compounded amongst self-identified progressive whites, because admitting to racism just doesn’t fit with our views of ourselves and our happy little progressive worlds.

    So when faced with the cognitive dissonance of being a self-identified progressive who has been racist, done something racist, or in any way profited from racism, we can resolve that dissonance either by waking the fuck up and doing something about it, or by claiming ignorance and denying our privelege.

    Unfortunately, we tend to take the easy way out. Horribly, most people find it is easier to maintain a status quo that harms others than it is to look critically at ourselves and make changes.

  9. nonskanse
    nonskanse September 11, 2008 at 4:42 pm |

    To be clear I don’t think anyone deserves a pass – I’m just saying it’s not *surprising* that white feminists could turn around and not see privilege that they have.
    I think punkrockhokeymom had a post clearing up what she said for me that disappeared, but my post was saying that I *do* understand how we can call out privilege and then think we don’t have any.

  10. punkrockhockeymom
    punkrockhockeymom September 11, 2008 at 4:55 pm |

    nonskance, yes, there was another comment and it did disappear? Oh well, it was not earth-shattering wisdom or anything. :)

  11. Emily R.
    Emily R. September 11, 2008 at 5:52 pm |

    Since comments were closed when I initially tried to respond, my comment is here: http://www.pushback.org/2008/09/11/responding-to-the-audacity-of-whiteness/

  12. The Girl Detective
    The Girl Detective September 11, 2008 at 5:55 pm |

    Despite all of the privileges that white bodies are able to marshal if the slightest problem occurs it is always the fault of the body of colour. We’re all equal until a white person feels disenfranchised.

    Nicely put.

  13. shah8
    shah8 September 11, 2008 at 6:31 pm |

    People *really* need to read Screen Saviors: Hollywood Fictions of Whiteness, by Hernan Vera and Andrew Gordon. It’s a great book, about films and race, but to me, what is truly awesome about it is that it has a focus on the genesis and acculturation of mass culture of whiteness. This tends to be lacking in other books about whiteness.

  14. [dave]
    [dave] September 11, 2008 at 8:19 pm |

    @renne: your words have a strong kernel of truth to them, as they often do, but are obscured by the extreme breadth of the brush with which you utilise.

    conflating those who act with the audacity of which you speak with all white people is disrespectful to allies and other white folks who work against this sort of privilege and behaviour. and conflating the perpetrators of racist thought and practice with white people encourages and colludes with the racist practices of people of colour between themselves, posits race struggle as strictly black and white, negates the struggles of folks who don’t fit into those categories.

    its pretty obvious that you’re really smart and know history, probably more so than myself. but here and other places you trample on the small details that can really make your words stand up tall. the conversation you have with the dude in your linked post “admit you like us passive” is indicative of this too … he isn’t totally on the mark, but instead of having a conversation about internalized bigotry and the differences between it and overt racism, you just told him he was wrong.

    just wanted to write in and say i’m enjoying the dialogue but i think it’d be more engaging if approached from another angle. and to be frank, this sort of writing is hurtful: “If at any point a white person has found said privilege to be mitigated by class, gender, sexuality, or ability the problem is not the system which creates a hierarchy of bodies it is the uppity brown bodies of the world. “ The “mitigation of power” as you call it is most frequently the lens through which folks learn empathy, and to lump everyone who lives with that “mitigation” as attributing it to POC then you are effectively invalidating the contributions of everyone who puts back, knows how to say something and doesn’t put up with bigoted bullshit. it gets into the pimping of victimhood… sets up hypothetical “who’s got it harder?”

    and nobody ever wins that game.

  15. Lauren
    Lauren September 11, 2008 at 8:23 pm |

    Yes, Dave, let’s *do* have a talk about tone. Let’s start with your tone of condescension.

  16. BeccaTheCyborg
    BeccaTheCyborg September 11, 2008 at 8:45 pm |

    But Dave feels like he’s not getting enough attention as an ally! Aren’t we just not paying enough attention to white allies?
    /snark

    Seriously, why do condescending fools descend on any thread where a POC is justifiably angry about something, and start complaining about how they’d really agree, if only the POC in question were nicer about it, maybe mentioned how nice allies are, etc.?

    It strikes me that if you actually are an ally, you don’t feel the need to turn the conversation back to you. But then, I can’t imagine real allies much use the phrase “pimping of victimhood” either.

  17. [dave]
    [dave] September 11, 2008 at 8:48 pm |

    I’m not trying to be condescending, but if you think I am then I’d like to fix that.

  18. [dave]
    [dave] September 11, 2008 at 8:53 pm |

    Sorry I hit submit by accident. I’m trying to balance criticism with supporting comments because I think that this is a really useful conversation, that there’s real points here that need to be explored and acted on, that can be for a gestalt with other ideas and points. I think a condescending attitude is pretty useless to have, and to come across that way is the opposite of my intention. So if you read that in my comments I’d like to apologize, but I wanted to contribute and if you have thoughts on what I said I’d love to hear it.

  19. UBW
    UBW September 11, 2008 at 8:58 pm |

    conflating those who act with the audacity of which you speak with all white people is disrespectful to allies and other white folks who work against this sort of privilege and behaviour. and conflating the perpetrators of racist thought and practice with white people encourages and colludes with the racist practices of people of colour between themselves, posits race struggle as strictly black and white, negates the struggles of folks who don’t fit into those categories.

    Dang, I don’t want to assume that you’re white, Dave, but I’m going to go ahead and assume because you’re giving me reason, what with your bingoing all over the place.

    Anti-racism is not supposed to comfort white allies, and if doing anti-racist work makes you feel better about yourself, or somehow erase racism, there is something flawed in your approach to anti-racism. Just, what do you want? Do you want POC to pat you on the back because you’re doing what you should be doing? POC don’t get pats on the back for anti-racism. We’re met with hostility and censure. White privilege is a part of a system of racism — it is not about “perpetrators” and “white people” as mutually exclusive categories.

    Also, maybe you’re just not being clear, but did you just say focusing on whiteness takes away from talking about prejudice between groups of POC?

  20. [dave]
    [dave] September 11, 2008 at 9:29 pm |

    @Becca: I don’t want it to be about me. I just think that clarifying the language, especially when we’re talking about haters, can be useful in attributing criticism. And this post struck me as particularly unclarified, in that it touched upon a lot of “-isms” outside of colour that exist alongside each other in terms of privilege and access to the “het white able man” monolith of non-oppression.

    @UBW: I guess being white and saying what I said it will be interpreted as being a “what about my work? comment, and that’s not my intention. No pats on the back are necessary. I just wonder if arguments directed at “whites,” same as arguments directed at “men” create a “strawman” scenario where real action steps aren’t possible. But if actual groups/people are discussed, its easier to get into the meat of the “hows.” As for the point about conflating whites with perpetrators of racism, I think that the “exception” is useful to keep in mind to balance the language of the rule. I say exception with reservation since obviously in many places the bigotry may be not a local exception (Tutsi/Hindu relations for example).

    I’m not trying to detract from the issue, or the basic thrust of this piece. I also want to nod towards NicoleGW’s comment, and say yeah, its good to be able to get into something you’re angry about and say why. If a friend really needed to vent about something, you let them get through it and you don’t nitpick the details. I don’t begrudge the space to do that. If I hit the “can-we-relate-this-back-to-white-folks” nerve I’m sorry.

  21. danicaanddan
    danicaanddan September 11, 2008 at 9:31 pm |

    ” Excuses are made and explanations are proffered but essentially nothing changes because white people cannot move beyond saying, oh I didn’t know that was racism, or that really was not my intent. For a group of people who want to run the world you really do fuck up a lot. ”

    These kinds of posts just leave me utterly confused. I’ve done a lot of the reading, know the bingo cards, know the 5, 10, or 20 “most common responses to being called out on racial privilege” yet I’m still confused. What is the point? You can ready body language and use your superior understandng to read everyone correctly 100% of the time? I know I cant understand that but it confuses me. For a group of people who want to run the world? What the fuck? I know it sounds like I’m being defensive here but even after reading blogs for 5 years, speaking about this at length, trying really hard to examine my privilege in all its form, these kinds of posts, yet again, make me ask whats the point? Stressed to death? Hmm are latino men stressed to death compared to latino women? Ive read those studies too and they are fascinating and highlight many of the problems we do have, in many spaces but this kind of post, made to be unassailable or open to discussion as evidenced by what happened to dave, just dont make sense to me. Probably just my privilege and lack of mental faculty.

  22. [dave]
    [dave] September 11, 2008 at 9:38 pm |

    Oh and the “pimping of victimhood” is a phrase used by many more articulate folks than I when conversations take place where it gets close to a space where different relations to power are argued to be weighed with the same scale. i.e. claiming that being disabled or not-white or a woman is harder than the others because of _______. And comments that get like that make me nervous because it never seems like a constructive/effective way to go in, particularly when folks exist at those intersections that are contested. I don’t think the phrase pimping is a common quote of the concept but it always seemed apt to me.

    So in relation to this, I quoted that section of the piece that seemed to combine the strawman problem with the victimhood problem. It seems to create an always/never dichotomy that gives no room to move,

  23. Lauren
    Lauren September 11, 2008 at 9:38 pm |

    Excuses are made and explanations are proffered but essentially nothing changes because white people cannot move beyond saying, oh I didn’t know that was racism, or that really was not my intent.

    My advice, again, if you have a problem with the writer’s tone, is to STFU. Final warning.

  24. Lauren
    Lauren September 11, 2008 at 9:43 pm |

    (Just for clarification, I’m quoting Renee and aiming the quote at the previous two commenters.)

  25. annaham
    annaham September 11, 2008 at 9:43 pm |

    This is a great post. I know that I am probably a clueless white person much of the time, but posts like these are still needed, and appreciated by those of us who wish we weren’t as clueless as we are.

  26. Katie
    Katie September 11, 2008 at 10:22 pm |

    YES YES YES, Renee. This is so awesomely on point.

  27. Butch Fatale
    Butch Fatale September 11, 2008 at 10:23 pm |

    Oh man. Post about POC being blamed for shit by white people. Cue white people blaming POC author for race relations.

    Um, yeah. It’s good to aspire to being an ally. Like it’s good to not be a jerk. But if someone tells you your behavior is jerky, like those other jerks, getting all bent out of shape about how alienating it is to be called on your jerkiness just makes you sound like, well, a jerk.

    And, you know, you don’t get to decide you’re an ally, other people call you that when you act like one. Allies don’t get offended every time someone they’re supposedly being allies to gets angry. If you’re not a dick, people aren’t complaining about you when they complain about dicks. I mean, at least that’s my take.

    Also, as far as body language goes, it doesn’t really matter, in my book, whether the read is on 100% of the time. I read body language on the street all the time to try to tell who thinks I’m dangerous, who thinks I’m there to be stared at, who might want to do more than look at me mean. It’s survival and if sometimes I’m less than generous with the people around me, it’s because I’m given good reason to be. I can’t speak for Renee, of course, but what she said on the topic resonated with me in that regard.

  28. Lauren
    Lauren September 11, 2008 at 10:28 pm |

    If you’re not a dick, people aren’t complaining about you when they complain about dicks. I mean, at least that’s my take.

    LOL, me too. Except usually I can do that in person with somebody. “Do you think I’m being a dick?” The only thing in bloglandia is someone says, “Hey, do you think I’m being a dick?” and everyone is all, “Dude, I don’t know you from Adam.”

    Which is why STFU and listen is the best advice for wannabe allies on teh internetz.

  29. Ico
    Ico September 11, 2008 at 11:37 pm |

    Oh man. Post about POC being blamed for shit by white people. Cue white people blaming POC author for race relations.

    Yeah… to be honest when the comments were down earlier I thought it was just this thread, and that it had been hijacked by a bunch of white folks getting upset over it.

    I’m truly glad to see this post up here at Feministe. I hope those folks like Emily R. come back to it and rethink it. I remember in a debate a long time back some clueless white person somewhere (I think maybe it was the Angry Black Woman’s blog, but I could be wrong) asked one of the commenters why are you so angry? And the commenter’s response was something along the lines of, “What I want to know is, in the face of all this stuff, why *aren’t* you angry right here along with me?” — only it was a million times more eloquent.

    But yeah. That. Great post, Renee.

  30. Cassy Fiano » Racism goes both ways, you know.

    […] ahead and be prepared to be very offended when you read this. The audacity of whiteness never ceases to amaze me. Some make the most obvious racial statements […]

  31. Bagel-san
    Bagel-san September 12, 2008 at 2:02 am |

    I DEFINITELY agree that white people shouldn’t try to hijack the thread/post (not that you *need* me to agree, but I do just fyi. :p) But I’m a little bit confused regarding the admonition that this is NOT about white people it’s about WOC, in that I often have difficulty drawing a very firm line between the two. Sure, if someone starts out saying “I’m white, but…” it’s kinda obvious, but I’m not sure how much you’re intending this to encompass the experiences of people who aren’t either very-obviously-white or clearly-always-POC.

    In other words, I am completely on board with it being black-only or brown-only or everybody-but-white-people only, or whatever, but I’m just not clear which of these you want it to be. (Or seriously, delete the hell out of my post, ’cause that’s a plenty clear message too. ^^;)

    And seriously, Dave, you’re not doing yourself any favors by talking back. If it doesn’t describe you, it’s not addressing you, and if it *does* describe you, her outrage is a lot less of a problem here than your level of suck.

  32. Alyssa
    Alyssa September 12, 2008 at 2:50 am |

    Yes you have a right to be angry. Yes you should be allowed to express that anger without others trying to take away that anger. Yes racism should make everyone angry. But keep in mind there is a difference between venting anger and having a constructive conversation between races/ genders. etc.
    For those of you having trouble understanding why you get such a negative reaction from people that are “allies” (I hate that term) there is a Addicted to Race posted on Racialicious that speaks to this very topic.
    http://www.racialicious.com/2008/09/10/preview-of-atr-premium-7-dr-peggy-mcintosh/

  33. Angel H.
    Angel H. September 12, 2008 at 11:26 am |

    Yes racism should make everyone angry. But keep in mind there is a difference between venting anger and having a constructive conversation between races/ genders. etc.

    And here’s a post about why we get pissed off when people tell us to watch our tone:

    One item that comes up over and over in discussions of racism is that of tone/attitude. People of Color (POC) are very often called on their tone when they bring up racism, the idea being that if POC were just more polite about the whole thing the offending person would have listened and apologized right away. This not only derails the discussion but also tries to turn the insults/race issues into the fault of POC and their tone. Many POC have come to the realization that the expectation of politeness when saying something insulting is a form of privilege. At the core of this expectation of politeness is the idea that the POC in question should teach the offender what was wrong with their statement. Because in my experience what is meant by “be polite” is “teach me”, teach me why you’re offended by this, teach me how to be racially sensitive and the bottom line is that it is no one’s responsibility to teach anyone else. And even when POC are as polite as possible there is still hostility read into the words because people are so afraid of being called racist that they would rather go on offending than deal with the hard road of confronting their own prejudices.

  34. Kim
    Kim September 13, 2008 at 10:22 am |

    Don’t you realize how much power you have?

  35. DaisyDeadhead
    DaisyDeadhead September 13, 2008 at 2:22 pm |

    Hey Cassy, take a look at my big WHITE ass!!!!

    ((((moons Cassy Fiano))))

  36. Links you should read « Uppity Brown Woman

    […] Audacity of Whiteness (Feministe & Womanist Musings) In the generous post racial world in which we live whites continues to feel […]

  37. Juan
    Juan September 13, 2008 at 5:41 pm |

    GAH! *headdesk* Why did I click on that Cassy link? Just a continuation of audacity and failure. *shakes fist at Daisy for perking my curiosity*

    It’s a example of the quote:

    “In the generous post racial world in which we live whites continues to feel entitled to their anger at the minimal loss of privilege that they have experienced, yet when a WOC rightly speaks out about issues effecting our lives our anger is somehow overly aggressive or uncalled for.”

  38. Cola Johnson
    Cola Johnson September 13, 2008 at 6:30 pm |

    Nobody needs a mansion all to themselves. It’s lonely up here, and while I can think of the ways that I have benefited from privilege, it is of great importance to me to identify and own my privilege. You can’t essentialise whiteness; there is an overlapping of identities, and I don’t know what precipitated this post, but some of us suffer too, and many of us are making sincere efforts to be better people and make the world a better place. That totally starts by opening up the doors, because these halls are damn drafty, and I don’t want to run a world that makes you feel like this.

    I respect and appreciate your contributions here and elsewhere.

  39. Grandpa Dinosaur
    Grandpa Dinosaur September 14, 2008 at 5:26 pm |

    [DaisyDeadhead]

    *high fives*

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