Tuesday, October 7, 2008

No Niggers Allowed

I went to see The Miracle of St. Annas this weekend with my good friend L (and no I am not going to blog about the tofu) Back on topic.  I went to see this movie because of the way that Hollywood and history have erased the sacrifices of black soldiers during WWII, while elevating someone like John Wayne who never fought a real battle.  I went because I wanted to see these men get honoured and feel the kind of connection that is often lacking with the media.

As I sat through this long movie (to be expected with Spike Lee) only one incident really touched me, and it actually had very little to do with the movie itself.  The men went into a little restaurant to get a strawberry float in uniform and were denied service and told to go around back.  When they refused to leave they were ordered out at gun point.  They left but returned fully armed and demanded service.

We no longer have this kind of obvious segregation in our everyday lives but it still exists to some degree.  I found myself really relating to this scene as I recalled the times I have been shown cheaper items, or instructed on the stores layaway policy when asking about certain products.  I have been in restaurants with white acquaintances where I have not been given a fork to eat with while everyone else around me was supplied with eating utensils.  I have gone into empty restaurants and been seated by the washroom.  I have had cashiers refuse to put change in my hand, and even heard waitress argue about not serving me. I have stood in line watched as the white person who arrived after me was served before me.

The aforementioned occurrences are not unique to me.  I am sure any POC has a list of similar degradations that they have had to deal with because of racism.  This is why that scene amongst all others in that movie stood out for me. Despite all of the time that has passed and the sacrifices of so many, to the world at large we are all still no good niggers. 

I am not going to sugar coat it and say the N word because that takes the sting away.  Nigger, Nigger, Nigger, that is what people see when they look at me.  It does not matter whether or not I am a good person, it does not matter whether or not I am educated, or even if I come from a higher class background than the person that I am interacting with.  What matters is that when given an opportunity to exercise racial privilege most people will do so.  They will claim not to be racist, and even loudly pronounce that nigger is a word that they will not use, but if your everyday interactions reify racial bias you might as well forget about policing your language because actions speak louder than words.

Being anti-racist means more than refraining from using racist language. You can scrub every single racial epithet from your vocabulary and still be a racist. If you feel the overwhelming need to cross the street when you see a group of young black men in fear, that is racist behaviour.  If you never think to question when you see blacks portrayed in the media as drug addicted criminals, that is racist.  If you can mentally picture all of your friends and cannot point to a single one that belongs to a marginalized group, that is racist.  If you think that by consuming food from a different culture you are displaying your global ideals, that is racist.  If you believe that you can appropriate cultural symbols and wear them for the sake of fashion, that is racist.  This list can go on and on because daily people participate in actions that are either directly racist, or have racist undertones, with little or no thought to the bodies that it effects.

When you are living a life of privilege you can afford not to make these distinctions. A white person can at anytime limit the amount of time spent with a POC by carefully choosing where to live, what jobs to take and what social events to participate in.  This choice is not available for POC.  We are continually negotiating not only our own marginalization but the hegemony of whiteness.  It surrounds us daily and at times attempts to swallow and destroy our entire being. 

Just when you reach a point where you are individually about to loose all sense of restraint and react in kind, the social discipline arrives to remind you that it is not your place to resist, or feel any form of discomfort with the racial hierarchy because it is naturally occurring.  It comes in statements like why are you so angry, or you know you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.  In essence you are told to swallow the bile because despite your personally indignation, the humiliation is for the good of society.  Yes racism is good for some people.


61 comments:

AR said...

Some nit-picking...

If you never think to question when you see blacks portrayed in the media as drug addicted criminals, that is racist.

But you yourself point out that a disproportionate number of criminals and drug addicts are black. Wouldn't a realistic portrayal of society in the media have a disproportionate number of drug addicted black criminals because... drug addicted criminals actually are disproportionately black? It seems to me that the opposite position would be glossing over a real problem.

If you believe that you can appropriate cultural symbols and wear them for the sake of fashion, that is racist.

What if I just don't accept the idea that cultural symbols are sacrosanct? I'm American, but I don't mind the Japanese appropriation of American culture, which can get far more ridiculous than any use of "tribal" designs in tattoos. Not to mention their use of the English language. They regularly trivialize a lingua franca established over bloody centuries by one of the greatest empires in history into advertising gimmicks and ways to sound cool, and I only find it amusing when I'm not completely indifferent.

And you can't say that the Japanese are a marginalized group; they have a longer history of imperialism than we do, made a credible attempt at conquering their corner of the world within the last century, and are among the wealthiest nations on Earth.

Renee said...

But you yourself point out that a disproportionate number of criminals and drug addicts are black. Wouldn't a realistic portrayal of society in the media have a disproportionate number of drug addicted black criminals because... drug addicted criminals actually are disproportionately black? It seems to me that the opposite position would be glossing over a real problem.

It means that there is an over representation of blacks in prisons or addicted to substances in comparison to other groups but whites still outnumber blacks in terms of drug addiction and incarceration. If you go by total numbers the ones to fear are the white criminals because there are more of them.

And you can't say that the Japanese are a marginalized group; they have a longer history of imperialism than we do, made a credible attempt at conquering their corner of the world within the last century, and are among the wealthiest nations on Earth.

Yes I can say that they are a marginalized group within western countries. Can you turn on the television and routinely see Japanese people represented? Are children shown positive images of the Japanese in schools? When you ask to see the person in charge do you assume the person will be Japanese or white? Yes they still face racism and are subject to social construction. Japanese women are constructed as docile little lotus flowers available for white men dominate and fuck. Look outside of the white privilege and see that unless you belong to the majority you are in the outgroup and with that comes different forms of marginalization for each characterization.

AR said...

Then I see what you mean about the media's portrayal of drug-using black criminals.

When I said Japanese, I meant Japanese-Japanese. Within Japan, it is they who have the privilege, and they have no qualms about discriminating against foreigners of all types, including foreign-born people of Japanese descent. White privilege is almost a universal racial trump card, but the Japanese don't accept it any more than they did Discover before 2006.

I'm confident in saying that a (native-born) Japanese person in Japan has at least as much privilege as a white person in America. Even the latest defeat of Japan by a Western power had nowhere near the character of other Western conquests, where the West came in with the advantage ahead of time. Rather, it was a case of two powerful industrialized empires coming into conflict and one of them losing, making it more like the wars between Germany and France than between France and Vietnam.

There's nothing contradictory about two groups being at different relative levels of privilege depending on who's home turf they're on, and as far as a Japanese citizen is concerned, Western constructions of them matter about as much as what Zimbabweans think of me: not at all.

Lisa Harney said...

Renee, this is a powerful post.

AR,

Renee's talking about the US and Europe.

Also, not accepting cultural symbols and signifiers as sacrosanct won't actually endear you to POC when you use their symbols and signifiers as if they belong to you. What their privilege may or may not be outside of the US or Europe is not important when they're living in the US or Europe and do not have racial or cultural privilege and see their own culture being used by white people for amusement and decoration.

Check out Orientalism by Edward Said.

auntysarah said...

Got here via Questioning Transphobia

I just wanted to say that I found this post incredibly powerful, and it's given me a lot to think about. Thank you.

AR said...

I'm just going to have to concede the point here on the grounds that I apparently can't empathize with most people in regards to offense. When I was Christian, I say Japanese use of Christian symbolism in arguably trivializing and disrespectful ways, but I wasn't bothered by it. I also support the US enough to enlist in its military, but simply can't understand why people get upset about flag-burning. So, I don't think we're going to make any headway here when we're arguing about something for which I cannot grasp what the problem actually is. I've generally thought that the fault here with whites is in not being as easy-going about their own culture as they implicitly expect others to be about theirs, since that is the only thing keeping others from appropriating and trivializing white culture as they see fit, given whites relative position of influence, (besides the problem of that relative influence existing in the first place) but apparently that is not what most people see as the main issue.

White Trash Academic said...

Great post, Renee. Just to add, it is statistically impossible (at least in the U.S.) for black to commit more crimes than whites, even though the media tells a different story.

We know that a lot of the problem lies with the amount of discretion that exists in arrest and prosecution, as well as money for a lawyer. A lot of the mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses have put more white people in prison (because they have been committing the same crimes all along), however, the crack-cocaine disparity in sentencing was a blatantly racist policy that the Supreme Court has just recently gotten around to admitting.

Also, I have a question. I do not have time to go back through all your old posts Renee but was wondering if you have written anything on the cultural appropriation of using gang signs, etc. My students are struggling with this concept so I would like to use the words of people of color instead of academics.

Danny said...

I've thought about going to see that movie but like you say Spike Lee movies are known to be very long and I just don't like spending that much time in the theater (2 hour long movies are pushing it for me). I'll will more than likely catch this on DVD.

In the racist acts you point out I have a question:
If you can mentally picture all of your friends and cannot point to a single one that belongs to a marginalized group, that is racist.
So to have a group of all white friends automatically equates racism? I would certainly agree that intentionally keeping only white friends is racist but I'm not ready to say that everyone that only has white friends is racist.

Renee said...

@White Trash Academic...I have not done a lot on it. There is this post here. and another I wrote on Halloween.

@AR Your comment about the Japanese in Japan is also erroneous. I suggest you check out Chalmers Johnson and is work on Okinawa. He very directly deals with the effect that US military is having there including the high rate of women by the US soldiers and the lack of prosecution. There the US is seen as an invading, occupying force.

@Danny..Unlike being born into a family the collection of friends is a purposeful act. When you first meet someone you choose whether or not to engage them on a deeper level, nothing about friendship is accidental or out of our control. If you find that you cannot point to a single person of color as a friend it is because you have specifically chosen to limit your interaction with them.

AR said...

Hmm, is that so? I'll look into it.

In regards to friendship selection, I can prove your position wrong by a simple counter-example: a person who has one friend. Obviously, this friend must have some race and it might just as well be any given race as any other possible race, so clearly having a single friend of one's own race is not evidence of racism, as the only way to avoid that charge would be to specifically exclude one's race from one's potential friends.

Even for people with multiple friends, the same arguments holds: the only way to guarantee that a non-racist person will have racially diverse friends is to be willing to specifically select at least one friend on the basis of race. I'm sure, in fact, that given access to all of your friends, I could find some attribute which is shared by none of them, and then argue that you discriminate against people of that type on the basis that you don't have any such friends.

Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said...

The segregation that exists in our lives now is energetic. It may not be a sign on a bathroom or a restaurant but it could be an attitude of a whole town or city. As a healer I feel that society has not cleared many fears around racial issues. There are some people who individually do amazing work and clear this fear out of their space. Then and there they attract what is not the societal norm and breakdown old ways of thinking that no longer work. My relatives and family are like this in many ways. Everyone is mixed, Black, Ojibway Native American and White. It is our understanding of one of the basic things in life - that love does not discriminate. If society could heal and move beyond the hurt and pain then all families, groups, cities, metropolitan regions and states would look like this.

Danyell said...

I also have a problem with asserting that if you have no friends of a certain ethnicity, that makes you a racist against said group. Many neighborhoods are still segregated. There are people who live in communities where everyone IS White! If a White person were to realize that all their friends are White, so they seek out a POC just to make friends with them, JUST so they can feel less like a racist...isn't that even more racist? That's a token friendship. (The same thing happens in neighborhoods that are mostly Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.)

Look, I don't really have any friends that are Asian. That doesn't mean I have a problem with any Asian people, regardless of specific nationality. I just haven't happened to have met many Asian people that I established real relationships with. I had some Asian & South Asian friends in grade school, but we drifted apart. But I drifted apart from most of my grade school friends. I don't have many friends to begin with, let alone starting quotas to make sure my friends are all culturally representative.

My friends are largely White & Hispanic. Because that's simply the majority of people I've met. But ethnicity does play a part in picking who I like to hang out with. I'm much more interested in someone's ideas & passions. The other stuff is happenstance as far as I'm concerned.

I think another racist behavior is feeling like you always have to prove how "non-racist" you are, by performing in some way. As if you have to prove it to other people, instead of just yourself. I know I'm not a racist. If you think otherwise because of the company I keep, then that's your intolerance, not mine.

The Fabulous Kitty Glendower said...

Renee, I think you are proving AR's point about Japan when you invoked Okinawa.

In the Meiji period, Okinawa was incorporated into a Japanese nation-state
that was built on this extreme ideology. Indeed because they had their own
language, culture and history, the people of Okinawa had to endure
excessive measures as the Japanese government worked to make them
“Japanese.” For example in public schools, the use of the Okinawan language
was forbidden. A student who spoke even a word of the Okinawa language
in class was forced to wear a dialect placard (hôgen fuda) around his or her
neck, enduring humiliation until another student made the same mistake
and was in turn, forced to assume the role of class dunce.
http://newslet.iss.u-tokyo.ac.jp/ssj14/ssj14.pdf

I spent seven months between Japan and Okinawa. Mainland Japan treats Okinawa like step children.

Renee said...

@Kitty I brought up Okinawa in terms of the American base there. I made no mention of its relationship with Japan. My point is that there are always marginalized bodies.

@Danyell..let's think about how we get friends shall we? Our peer group comes out of the people we choose willing to associate with. If you do not put yourself into a position to interact with bodies of color you will not have any friends that are of color. This is exactly why I made the point in the post of saying that white people by choice can isolate themselves from interaction with POC whereas the same is not true for us. If you choose to live in an all white neighborhood, work at place where racial diversity is not a priority and then in your spare time refuse to engage with people of color those are all purposeful choices.

Relax Max said...

Hi Renee. I can certainly identify with your experiences you outline in this interesting post.

You have been shown cheaper items in stores. I have gone without being waited upon at all. I have been in restaurants with white acquaintances, too - and quite often have not been given a fork. Or a knife. Or a spoon. Or a glass of water. When the rest have been given these things. I have not been seated by the restroom in an empty restaurant to my recollection, but have been seated right next to the kitchen door near a stinking bussing cart, when many other tables were available. I have had cashiers slap my change down on the counter, even though my hand was outstretched to receive it. I have NOT heard waiters arguing about not serving me, but I have not been served because they were arguing about who should go on break. Most startling of all is that I can truthfully say that I have seen a POC be served first although I had been waiting longer.

Unlike you, though, I didn’t feel degraded. Here’s what I did:

I went to another shop who wanted my business more.

I said, “Excuse me, I need some silverware. And bring me some water, too.”

I said, “I don’t want to sit here. Seat me at that table over there.”

I have picked up my change and said nothing. Some people are rude without even knowing they are rude.

I have walked to the front and told the manager to send me a waiter and to stop his employees from arguing within my hearing.

I have stood there and waited to be served and assumed the person simply didn’t know who was next in line.

I guess my main problem was that I was not actively looking for the slight.

By the way, here’s some trivia for you: Actor Derek Luke, actor Michael Ealy, actor Laz Alonso and actor Omar Benson Miller all have something in common with actor John Wayne, believe it or not. Bet you can guess.

Thank you again, Renee. I pray, honestly, that the situation will improve for all of us. I do.

Lisa Harney said...

Danyell,

I also have a problem with asserting that if you have no friends of a certain ethnicity, that makes you a racist against said group.

I thought Renee said

If you can mentally picture all of your friends and cannot point to a single one that belongs to a marginalized group, that is racist.

I think of the ways that white people only or primarily socializing white people is reinforced not just on the individual level but all the way up to the society level, with things like gentrification and white flight, and the ways that segregation is energetically enforced (as Ojibway Migisi Bineshii said). I think that to reach across those social barriers is a decision and to not reach across those social barriers is also a decision.

And also, I took Renee as saying that decision was a racist act - whether or not any person is or is not a racist isn't important. What's important is what they do, what they choose.

uppitybrownwoman said...

This is a great post, Renee. GREAT post.

Ouyang Dan said...

This is a great and thought provoking post, Renee. We all need more of that.

It is also personally very moving.

Angel H. said...

Relax Max:

There is a different between being treated with disrespect by a jerk, and being treated with disrespect by a racist jerk.

As POCs, we have been taught to learn the difference. Yes, there are some times when the person providing customer service is just having a bad day or is just being an asshole. We, like everyone else (whodathunkit, right?) brush it off and move on. There are other times, however, when something just isn't right: Have I been courteous? Was my request too outrageous? Are people around me being the treated the same way? Are some people being treated better than other people? Why could this be?

Also, I am sick and tired of people implying that POCs actively seek out racism just for a chance to cry wolf.

BULL. FUCKING. SHIT

Do you realize the immense stress that would entail?You do realize that there are places in this world that POC will not go for fear of being racially attacked, don't you? You do realize that explaining how a situation is racially insensitive to people who don't have a clue or couldn't even give a shit is migraine-inducing, don't you? You do realize how lucky you are that we aren't face to face, because I would've have to walk out of the room for fear of slapping you for your racial stupidity, don't you?

No, of course you don't.

Now go do the world a favor and get a fucking clue.

Danny said...

Thats great I must have closed by browser at work before posting my last comment. Here goes from memory.


If you choose to live in an all white neighborhood, work at place where racial diversity is not a priority and...
Lack of racial diversity isn't the only reason someone ends up in a neighborhood that is mostly one race. Being closer to work, a school thats good for the kids, being close to family...etc. There are certainly people that will make the racist decision to "stick with their own" but simply knowing that someone lives in such a neighborhood is not an automatic indicator or racist intent.

Same with the workplace. I work in an IT department with 4 white guys (there is a black woman who only works night from home and another white guy that works in an office thats 100mi away but for the most part its just me and 4 white guys). Not exactly diverse. Does that mean they intentionally chose their jobs because of lack of diversity?


...then in your spare time refuse to engage with people of color those are all purposeful choices.
Now this one is a more accurate measure. Yes people end up in non diverse areas for plenty of reasons but when engaging in leisure activities there's not much chance at a lack of diversity unless its intentional. It could happen but very unlikely.


@Relax Max:
I can certainly identify with your experiences you outline in this interesting post.
I'm willing to bet you are. I'll bet not as often depending on where you live and where you've been but I'm sure you have been treated this way. I try not to make assumptions but I get the feeling that you're white.

Most startling of all is that I can truthfully say that I have seen a POC be served first although I had been waiting longer.
Just as racist and just as wrong. There is a good chance that in those situations the server probably thought, "I better serve this scary POC first before they start crying racism. And besides what's this white guy gonna say he? Its not like you can be racist against white people." That type of thinking insulted you and the POC in question.

Unlike you, though, I didn’t feel degraded.
Perhaps not but I would not have blamed you if you had felt degraded, angry, hurt, or insulted.

That list of reasonings sound just like me a while back. I used to tell myself that "those things couldn't be racially motivated" or that "its all in my head"

I guess my main problem was that I was not actively looking for the slight.
I would say that your problem is that you may be too quick to dismiss a racist act when its performed against you.

AR said...

I seem to have forgotten that Okinawa is not a "native" prefecture of Japan. Why does it disprove my point about the Japanese that both the Japanese and Americans both marginalize a third, conquered people?

Anonymous said...

If you feel the overwhelming need to cross the street when you see a group of young black men in fear, that is racist behaviour.

Oh, good. I'm just sexist/misandrist then; I do this for any group of young men :-P.

Good article. I'm passing it on.

amaterasu-no-ki said...

Danny: Think deeper. What are the reasons that the neighborhood that is "closer to work" or that has a "school that's good for the kids" or is "close to family" is a racially homogeneous neighborhood? "Good" work is often defined as a job with a lot of white folks at it; a "good school" is often one with lots of white students at it. Racist decisions don't have to be overt -- "I don't want to live with them niggers, let me live in this white neighborhood." Racism often works much more subtly than that.

Also, I'm generally confused why we keep bringing up Japan and the Japanese's history of treatment of other racial/ethnic groups when it's pretty clear that Renee is discussing Western cultures where white people are the dominant group. Bringing up the fact that the Japanese are racist is derailing.

Peridot said...

As a white person I just don't want to believe that you are suffering under racism. But you are, and you're writing about it, and some of it I found very surprising, such as the personal experiences you mention at the beginning of this post. But I don't believe you are lying. And I don't believe it's all in your head or that "you just took it the wrong way." I don't want to believe that the intelligent person writing this blog and raising feminist sons could be treated that way in 2008 by white people, by people like me. But there it is. Another great post to make me think about things...

Danny said...

Danny: Think deeper. What are the reasons that the neighborhood that is "closer to work" or that has a "school that's good for the kids" or is "close to family" is a racially homogeneous neighborhood? "Good" work is often defined as a job with a lot of white folks at it; a "good school" is often one with lots of white students at it. Racist decisions don't have to be overt -- "I don't want to live with them niggers, let me live in this white neighborhood." Racism often works much more subtly than that.
Some parents don't care about the race of the people committing violence in the neighborhood they want to get their school kids out of (unless you're saying that wanting to get your kids away from crime is automatically racist).

The reason the neighborhood is closer to work is because it is a close distance to work. Based on your logic I live in all black neighborhood because it is all black instead of the fact that the house and land I live in are family owned and I am 1/2mi. from work.

Good work is more often defined as the best job you can get at the time.

Your are correct in pointing out that such subtle things do happen I'm just saying that its not right to call all of those decisions racist.

Anonymous said...

If you have the chance / desire, I'd love if you could elaborate on the issues of food and cultural symbols as fashion. Or has a previous post addressed that already?

Partially because I'm vegan, also because I love a variety of foods, I'm often looking to food outside my background/culture (I'm white)and this includes buying vegan cookbooks written by white chefs with recipes inspired by Japanese, Indian, etc. food. I remember an older post that you wrote about the Food Network which I think said profiting off recipes from outside of your culture is appropriation.

I've thought a fair bit about this, but I still don't think I understand what you're saying.

Macon D said...

Renee, I'm surprised you put up with so much troll-stink around here.

For me, this post is yet another one in a long, amazing line of educational revelations. You post a lot, but I find time to read everything you write, because you write with such consistent insight.

I've been trying to see and think beyond my white blinders for long enough to realize how absolutely insulting it is for me to tell you, or other non-white people, that I know more about your experience in the world than you yourself do--that, for instance, you must just be "looking" for racism that actually isn't there.

So to the white trolls here, take it from another white guy who's clearly been LISTENING for longer than you have to non-white people who are willing to speak out and analyze these issues--sit back, shut up, read around, get to really KNOW some non-white people, and stop projecting your perspective onto theirs. And stop trying to parallel your negative experiences with theirs, as if they're the same, because they're not.OF COURSE bad things happen to white people too; that doesn't mean that the many more bad things that happen to POC aren't examples of racism.

Until you do all of that, most of your objections to what non-white writers have to say about race just clog up the conversation, and make you look ignorant and annoying, at best. And if you don't do all of that, then most of what you have to say only increases the troll-stink.

Renee said...

@Macon

I will be honest, sometimes it gets to me that I want to go on a mad sweep and delete all of their commentary however, that would not give them a chance to engage with others. I believe that conversation has the possibility to alter how people view the world if we all engage honestly.

Sometimes this space means that it is not as safe as I would like it to be. But to be honest to we blog to reach the people that already think like us or are we hoping to reach those that can be reached? Making a change means taking the time to listen to ideas that we sometimes find reprehensible and pointing out the falsehood in their arguments. I don't want an echo chamber of assent, I want people to think critically about the ideas that they have internalized.

Danny said...

I don't want an echo chamber of assent, I want people to think critically about the ideas that they have internalized.

Good words indeed. One problem that a lot of bloggers won't admit to is that they are creating an echo chamber and trying (very poorly) to pass it off as insight. If someone is so it arrogant that they think everything they say is beyond reproach (this usually comes in the form of asserting they already know what everyone is going to say and instead of engaging with dissenters they just scare them away and talk trash behind their backs) then they are just as bad (if not worse) than the people they are speaking out against.

MizDarwin said...

On the other hand, though, you're spending energy that could be spent writing, metaphorically, graduate-level stuff writing remedial anti-racism 101 material. Might it not be worthwhile to create a few posts on the basics and refer the trollies there? Like the way Feminism 101 Blog is used by a lot of feminist bloggers.

I'm with Danny on the question of whether or not having white friends means you're a racist. I feel that this is conflating living in a racist system with being a racist. My husband and I, for example, work in science-related fields where POC are wildly underrepresented. That lack of representation is the result of racism. The fact that we mostly make friends with people we work with is not; everyone makes friends with people with whom they have experiences, values, and cultural references in common. Our white social group isn't the result of individual racism, but of systemic racism.

AR said...

I remember an older post that you wrote about the Food Network which I think said profiting off recipes from outside of your culture is appropriation.

Wow, she really said that? I find it strange that someone who opposes ownership of the means of production by individuals and legally fictitious persons (corporations) would at the same time wish to apply eternal and unchanging ownership of intellectual property like recipes to linguistic fictions (peoples).

Renee said...

@AR You can read my commentary on the food network here. You can read it over and comment on that thread so as not to derail this conversation.

@MizDarwin I really have thought about accessibility when it comes to this blog. There are often ideas that I want to engage in as a post structuralist/ anti-racist that would simply not be easily understood by many. Even a conversation about power is really an impossibility because so few have a good understanding of it. That said, I believe that it is important to make information available to all that have not had the benefit of my education and training. At some point we need to leave the ivory tower behind us and reach back to others. It may be repetitive to those that are already educated but there are far more that have no had the benefit of higher education to which this is helpful. In the end I write not only for my own personal satisfaction but with the hope of educating and reaching out to others. This is the compromise that needs to be made in my mind.
As for friends who you choose to surround yourself with is a personal decision. I am a person who has friends of various ethnicities sexualities and genders specifically because I have actively sought to engage. I did not choose to surround myself with these people because of their identities but they became my friends because I entered their spaces to learn. When you expose yourself to outgroups you will find that there are commonalities. To use that as an excuse not to engage is false.

belledame222 said...

"I am a person who has friends of various ethnicities sexualities and genders specifically because I have actively sought to engage. I did not choose to surround myself with these people because of their identities but they became my friends because I entered their spaces to learn. When you expose yourself to outgroups you will find that there are commonalities. To use that as an excuse not to engage is false."

Yes, that.

And, I've said it before wrt the whole, well what if you don't have that many friends period at the moment due to whatever circumstances: you're on the Internet right now; online, I believe, counts, if it counts for anything. I mean one of the main reasons people go to the Internet in the first place is because they want to engage in ways/with people/learn or talk about stuff they can't irl. It's not that hard to reach out, one way or another. I mean I have sympathies for the painfully shy in general, but there is a difference between that and simply taking the path of least resistance.

belledame222 said...

and, what Macon D and Angel H said.

belledame222 said...

AR: You know what, regardless of your opinion on recipes and appropriation, saying "she really said that" -about- someone to someone else, when not only is "she" right here (virtually) in front of you but -this is "her" damn blog" is, guess what? Really bloody rude.

Now, question for you: Is it more or less devastating for you if instead of saying "actually, that right there might be perceived as racist by some," I just say, "wow, AR, you come off like you were raised in a barn"?

belledame222 said...

MizDarwin: but the thing about systems is, they're -made up of- individual people. They're -more than the sum of the parts- of all the people, and any one person can't change the entire system all by hirself, no, but that doesn't mean they're mutually exclusive, either.

AR said...

belledame222: Really bloody rude.

Really? I don't see it, but I guess I can avoid that sort of thing in the future.

Now, question for you: Is it more or less devastating for you if instead of saying "actually, that right there might be perceived as racist by some," I just say, "wow, AR, you come off like you were raised in a barn"?

Well, the first would make me wonder about my actions, while the second would just make me think you are biased against rural people.

Danny said...

I am a person who has friends of various ethnicities sexualities and genders specifically because I have actively sought to engage. I did not choose to surround myself with these people because of their identities but they became my friends because I entered their spaces to learn. When you expose yourself to outgroups you will find that there are commonalities. To use that as an excuse not to engage is false.

Good point...when you have people of mixed backgrounds to interact with. For almost my entire life I've only socialized with black and white people (more white than black) but that's all I've been around. Does this mean that I've been making my choices of friends with racist intent against Asians, Latin people, Native Americans, etc....?

Now I will say that my own experiences have HEAVILY influenced by the fact that I grew up in a small hick town, went to an HBCU, and now I'm back in that hick town.

Now if I were in a large city (or grew up in one) with lots of mixed people then yes I do agree that you pretty much have to avoid them (unless you have a bit of social anxiety like I do and avoid damn near everyone) for your friends to be all one race.

Relax Max said...

@Renee. An echo chamber of assent. Yes, that describes it exactly. Thank you for putting a name to it. And a dissenting point of view can only be made by a troll. A troll is a dissenter, and thus a troublemaker by definition. And trolls' dissenting points of view? Troll-stink, of course. You have it all figured out; you don't need to hear dissent - it might make you re-examine your own prejudices. I can't wait to read the indignant outbursts of smugness this comment will produce in your self-rightous all-knowing herd. Sadly, I won't be around to soak it up; even the raw amusement of your blind invective has lost it's savor for me.

I wonder how many of your "independent thinkers" remember the swinging bicycle chains of the rednecks on the beaches of Biloxi, Mississippi in 1965? I do. I still bear the scars. I can promise you they went after the white marchers first. Have you felt the dogs on your legs, Renee? Perhaps not. It is still dream fodder for me.

And today I admit your persecutions and the perceived hurts of your followers do seem trivial to me. I keep busy trying to save children in Africa, trying to see if a few might make it through another night. Most won't. Do you care? Do you even know who Robert Mugabe is? I suppose not. Do you even know what country Harare is in? But what does it matter - you have it all figured out, after all. Some of us don't though. Some of us are still searching after all these decades. Some of us who emit that terrible troll-stink that is a by-product of truth-searching.

So, God be with you Renee, if there be a God. I know as I write this that there are babies dying in the night in Sudan and many other places, and I don't believe in God anymore. The food I gather for them or that I induce Africans to gather for them won't mean shit to those dead babies anymore. I take my troll-stink and move on, leaving you and your followers to your smugness.

I will continue my work as one of your much-hated white-skinned people, doing his best to make a difference one life at a time in a precious continent far away. And, yes, Renee, you were right: I don't give a flying FUCK that you go to separate churches or that some unthinking white woman stole your parking place or cut in line in front of you. Just don't. One Zulu or Xhosa is worth 1000 of you and your hate-spewing followers. No offense, Renee. Adios.

Anonymous said...

Renee, I'm really grateful for your wiliness to be both boldly truthful but also so patient. I think you're doing a great service with the blog and certainly I've learned lots from it.

Macon D said...

Regarding Relax Max and some others: there's a difference between a) sincere expressions of dissenting opinion and b) saying the same things over and over again across various posts, and hijacking individual comment threads with multiple obstinate, obtuse comments and efforts at derailment. I agree that "a"-type commenters should be entirely welcome, but also that if "b"-types get too annoying, their repetitious comments should be ignored, at least, and sometimes deleted. Trying to engage with obstinacy is a waste of time and talent, as MizDarwin said.

Something else I've noticed--trolls often leave one "last" nasty comment, which also announces in a huff that they're going to leave forever. They're often "drama queens" that way. But since this kind of troll thrives on attention, he or she always comes back.

Danny said...

I think that one reason people get labeled trolls way too quickly is because 1)the owner and regulars on the site can't stand that there are people that don't blindly agree with everything they say. 2)they don't like the fact that people may not agree with them even after presenting their case. 3)they want that extra pat on the back for calling someone a troll so they just call people trolls just to make themselves feel good. Reason three is part of the reason why you have all those troll lists and bingo cards. Most of them are just sad attempts at predicting what someone is going to say and instead of addressing it they just cry troll so they won't have to deal with it.

Yes there are trolls out there but the definition has been broadened so much that some people think dissent automatically equals troll.

Stephanie said...

"Most of them are just sad attempts at predicting what someone is going to say"

Actually, most of them are accurate predictions of what trolls are going to say. Because trolls tend to think that their ground-breaking argument about why feminism is invalid because OMG CHILD CUSTODY, or about how this one time a POC got mad at them and that is totally reverse racism, are new and fresh and will just shock the pants right off whatever blogger they're spouting off at. Meanwhile their argument has already been a) made and b) solidly debunked enough times and in enough places that it's become a source of humor for progressive bloggers, hence the bingo cards. I think this really bugs trolls because they hate the realization that their arguments, aside from being groundless, are also completely unoriginal.

Danny said...

Because trolls tend to think that their ground-breaking argument about why feminism is invalid because OMG CHILD CUSTODY, or about how this one time a POC got mad at them and that is totally reverse racism...
That ususally because some feminist has stated with 100% certainty that:
Since there are some abusive fathers it best to just assume that they all are and on the rare occasion that they aren't then it must be something they did wrong to not get custody or they deserved to have that POC commit that act of racism against them. Although the use of reverse in regards to an -ism is total nonsense. Regardless of who is the offender and who is the offended it is just an -ism not a reverse -ism.

I've seen plenty of times when feminsits are attacked by trolls without provocation but I've also seen feminists try to pass off sweeping generalizations as fact just to cry troll (or foul) when said generalization is proven false. And the problem with the bingo cards is that while they can be useful and accurate they sometimes end up becoming shields to save them the trouble of dealing with someone that disagrees with them (because they just can't stand having their generalizations challenged).

nia said...

The fact that a certain commenter on this thread would try to suggest that persons who choose to take part in discussions of this kind do not know where 'Harare is or who Robert Mugabe is' says more about that commenter's moral smugness than anything else. And again, by showcasing their "good deeds in Africa", are they expecting a cookie?
Trust me, the persons who are doing the most useful work in other countries are the ones who don't go broadcasting it on the Net, and are also in tune with the type of issues at stake here. They also recognize that the type of moral superiority, indignation and smugness displayed by this particular commenter have also played a role in damaging the various people of the great continent of Africa itself.

nia said...

And in response to your question, do you know who Ian Smith is or what the World Bank is?

Lisa Harney said...

I thought I wrote this last night:

But was that seriously a "you don't have real problems because children are starving in Africa" argument? Seriously

Problems don't become invalid because someone might have it worse somewhere else - that's one of the reasons that Audre Lorde said there's no hierarchy of oppressions.

And, seriously, it doesn't matter how much you do, a woman of color does not need a white man telling her how she experiences oppression or how she should interpret that oppression. It's not your place, Max, to make that call.

QoT said...

Here via Questioning Transphobia - awesome post, Renee. One thing that only struck me very recently was how very, very white my circle of friends is, and when I was thinking about it I did get stuck in the loop of, "Oh, but that's just because my schoolfriends were almost all white, and my classmates at university are almost all white" and it took far too long for me to figure out why that was such bullshit.

SD said...

@ Relax Max

"I keep busy trying to save children in Africa, trying to see if a few might make it through another night. Most won't. Do you care? Do you even know who Robert Mugabe is? I suppose not. Do you even know what country Harare is in?"

How delightfully condescending of you. Many people engage in development work but unlike you, we don't use it to troll excellent blogs and leave racist comments.

Grow up.

@ Renee

Great post!

Delux said...

It is terrible that vulnerable people in Africa depend on the efforts of someone staggering under the weight of the white man's burden like RelaxMax for the basic necessities of living.

belledame222 said...

Shorter Relax Max:

"-pat pat on the head- Chill out, angry WoC! Don't be so -sensitive- about imagined slights by strangers in any number of situations (that probably played out exactly like mine, because I am the Standard Bearer); it's not all about you; be like me, calm, levelheaded, mature, rational--

WAHHHH!!! SOME RANDOM STRANGERS ON SOMEONE ELSE'S INTERNETS BLOG CALLED ME A TROLL!! DO YOU -KNOW- WHO I -AM?!- I MARCHED IN THE ORIGINAL CIVIL RIGHTS MARCHES FOR YOU, YOU UNGRATEFUL PEOPLE! I ANSWER SALLY STRUTHERS ALL THE TIME! I CAN SPELL "ZIMBABWE" AND EVEN PRONOUNCE IT CORRECTLY!! -WHERE IS MY COOKIE???!!!- SCREW YOU GUYS, I'M. GOING. HOME! (and bite my pillow)"

My heart bleeds for you, RM, rilly. Would you like a Special White Dude Award? As soon as someone cobbles one up (to go with its Special White Lady counterpart), I'd like you to know I've nominated you for the first round. Because -you deserve it.- you SPECIAL MAN, you.

Danyell said...

Renee, I still think you're making a lot of assumptions. Based on what you're saying, White people, who grow up in White neighborhoods are being racist if they don't choose to move somewhere that there are more POC. Yes, perhaps your parents or grandparents moved there on purpose, but does that make everyone who stays there a racist? I understand what you mean that POC don't have the same opportunities to leave segregated neighborhoods, and it's certainly true. But there are many other reasons to stay in an ethnically isolated neighborhood besides pure racism.

But you do seem to be encouraging tokenism. Like if one can say "Oh, I have a Black friend." they can't also be a racist towards Black people as a whole. Like how Sarah Palin has a lesbian friend, so she must not be hateful towards queer folk., which we know is not the case.

Also, your response to me seemed rather condescending. If that was not intended, then I apologize for misreading it. But I would like to have a civil conversation about this. I can see you get a lot of real trolls on here, and I really do enjoy most of your blog posts. I just want to affirm that my comments, even when angry, are coming from a place of respect which I hope can stay mutual.

Renee said...

@Danyell...sometimes the internet does warp the message that tone would take care of in a conversation. I am a very direct person and say what I mean. I was not attempting to be sarcastic or condescending in anyway and I am sorry that it came across that way. I was actually just trying to be blunt.

A child is not responsible for where they live, but an adult has choice. What I am saying is that if your life is surrounded with whiteness and there are no marginalized bodies that you interact with by choice it is a sign of privilege. It is not a matter of having a token black friend or a marginalized body in your life. I am advocating for a diversity of experience. This means immersing yourself in various cultures. How can you possibly hope to overcome racism if you don't have any relationships with people of color? It's like people that say that aren't homophobic but cannot point to a single gay person that they have accepted as their equal. My friends come from different abilities, sexualities, races, cultures, classes because none are beneath me. I have learned valuable things and shared wonderful moments of community. Purposely choosing not to engage people signals bias and fear.

Danyell said...

I hope when you say "you" you are using it in a pluralized, general sense, and not specifically making accusations against me. I don't pick friends based on any thing else than personality. My entire point was that I don't think that people whose friend pool is all one ethnicity or sexuality or class are *necessarily* doing it on purpose. You can't assume that they are specifically avoiding being friends with other people unless you know it to be true. And on a personal note, as friends have come in and out of my life often beyond my control, what flavor of friends I have is not to say that I am "against" having different friends. That is to say, as I mentioned, I had friends in high school of certain ethnicities that are not "represented" presently in my group of friends. Would that make me currently appear prejudice, even though my past experience proves otherwise? I should hope not.

I do agree that people should make the effort to cross certain lines that separate us. But not everyone who doesn't is consciously avoiding it.

Renee said...

@Danyell...I don't know you and who you may or may not socialize with and therefore you applies to anyone making the decision not to engage.
I do agree that people should make the effort to cross certain lines that separate us. But not everyone who doesn't is consciously avoiding it.
This I disagree with wholeheartedly. Every decision we make in this life is a conscious decision. There are no accidents. When someone chooses not to engage it can hardly be said that it is because of a lack of opportunity. This comes down to will. Either you (generic) are committed to interacting with others or you are not. My point is that if you have interactions with people that are different from you, in the natural course of events relationships will occur if you (generic) are open to it. If there is no interaction no such relationship is possible.

Danyell said...

Renee- I hate to use the term "agree to disagree" but I think you and I will just continue around in circles. I do understand your point, I just find it to be a rigid generalization where there might be a lot of varying circumstances.

Renee said...

@Danyell...I will admit that position on this issue is pretty fixed. I agree that we will probably not find any agreement on this issue. I would like to say thanks for engaging and I shall try and be more conscious of the language that I use as it is not my purpose to center anyone out or make personal attacks. Thanks for bringing that to my attention.

Danny said...

I think my eye is bigger than my brain in the regards that over the last few days I've literally forgotten to come back and check this thread (I'm not trying to say Renee does speak that good stuff I'm just saying that my reading material-reading time ratio is out of whack). Looks like the dance is done.

Anonymous said...

"We no longer have this kind of obvious segregation in our everyday lives but it still exists to some degree. I found myself really relating to this scene as I recalled the times I have been shown cheaper items, or instructed on the stores layaway policy when asking about certain products. I have been in restaurants with white acquaintances where I have not been given a fork to eat with while everyone else around me was supplied with eating utensils. I have gone into empty restaurants and been seated by the washroom. I have had cashiers refuse to put change in my hand, and even heard waitress argue about not serving me. I have stood in line watched as the white person who arrived after me was served before me."

I'm white and I've had stuff like that happen to me as well. Can I be offended and indignant now, too? Racism certainly exists, but one thing I've noticed is that people who make a career out of 'fighting' racism are usually able to find it where other, shall we say, less vigilant people simply wouldn't be able to see it. Does that mean that anti-racism activists are simply better able to spot the signs of racism? Maybe. Or maybe it just means that people who obsess over something will, out of habit or compulsion, see that something even when it doesn't exist. Welcome to America, where not everybody is nice to you all of the time. This doesn't mean they're treating you like a nigger. It just means they're treating you like everybody else.

Danyell said...

OMG! I hate anonymous comments! *grr*

"Oh, let me just drop something in and then scamper away, appreciating how it differs from real life wherein I must take responsibility for what I say and do!"

Jeez. At least when I disagree, I leave my name. Then again, I have no trouble defending my opinions.

Bernie Misiura said...

The men went into a little restaurant to get a strawberry float in uniform and were denied service and told to go around back. When they refused to leave they were ordered out at gun point. They left but returned fully armed and demanded service.

And you feel that returning with guns was an appropriate response by these men? I for one would not want to patronize a place that did not want me. Why should I help keep them in business?

We no longer have this kind of obvious segregation in our everyday lives but it still exists to some degree.

For EVERY type of group of people this is true. If you ride a motorcycle establishments do not want you as a patron

I found myself really relating to this scene as I recalled the times I have been shown cheaper items, or instructed on the stores layaway policy when asking about certain products. I have been in restaurants with white acquaintances where I have not been given a fork to eat with while everyone else around me was supplied with eating utensils. I have gone into empty restaurants and been seated by the washroom. I have had cashiers refuse to put change in my hand, and even heard waitress argue about not serving me. I have stood in line watched as the white person who arrived after me was served before me.

*** The aforementioned occurrences are not unique to me. ***

You can say that again. It happens to me all the time and I am white. But for me I am sure you will say that it was an oversight but for you it was intentional.

I am sure any POC has a list of similar degradations that they have had to deal with because of racism.

Yeah, your are an exclusive group and no one else in the world has had any similar experiences that you have had. You can be a victim all you want OR you can not let ignorant people like that anger you. It is your choice, and your anger. You can choose not to let their bad behavior bother you and if you do you are lost by your own hand.



This is why that scene amongst all others in that movie stood out for me. Despite all of the time that has passed and the sacrifices of so many, to the world at large we are all still no good niggers.

That my dear is completely out of line. It is no where near the world at large, or have you already forgotten who is President elect?

I am not going to sugar coat it and say the N word because that takes the sting away. Nigger, Nigger, Nigger

Words do not scare me I have no issue using the word nigger in context and I believe that you have it backwards. The more the word nigger is used the less power it has especially if the people it is directed at no longer react to it. THAT is the way to take the sting out of a word.


, that is what people see when they look at me. It does not matter whether or not I am a good person, it does not matter whether or not I am educated, or even if I come from a higher class background than the person that I am interacting with. What matters is that when given an opportunity to exercise racial privilege most people will do so.

You are right what matters is how you act toward others, you know many can sense a person with a chip on their shoulder, as you say you can see what people are thinking when they look at you. It works both ways you know.

They will claim not to be racist, and even loudly pronounce that nigger is a word that they will not use, but if your everyday interactions reify racial bias you might as well forget about policing your language because actions speak louder than words. Being anti-racist means more than refraining from using racist language. You can scrub every single racial epithet from your vocabulary and still be a racist.

I cannot argue with you there.

If you feel the overwhelming need to cross the street when you see a group of young black men in fear, that is racist behaviour.

Yes it could be BUT it does not mean you are a racist. If you do not go with your instincts and take measures to protect yourself that is just plain silly. You see it does not have to be a group young black men. I have seen this happen with young white men, it is called common sense.

If you never think to question when you see blacks portrayed in the media as drug addicted criminals, that is racist.

That is overboard. Someone in the media has to be the “bad guys” and if you have not seen more white people in these roles in the media (I assume you are talking about cinema and TV and not real criminals) then you have not been looking. Even today there are still Russian, German, and other euro trash that dominate the bad guy themes in movies.

So let me ask you do you question when white are portrayed this way?


If you can mentally picture all of your friends and cannot point to a single one that belongs to a marginalized group, that is racist.

When I was a child there only 2 black males in my high school of 3,000. Yes I was fortunate enough to know both of them, but is would not be hard to imagine that others did not. Besides when my school student teacher ratio became over 40:1 I chose to go private. NO I am not privileged I worked to go to that school out side of school and as a janitor in the school. The school was in Buffalo and no all the “big bad negros” (as you would like to believe that I think this way) did not deter me from going.

So, can you mentally picture all of your friends and do you have a single white person in that group in not then you are racist


If you think that by consuming food from a different culture you are displaying your global ideals, that is racist.


That is just plain silly

If you believe that you can appropriate cultural symbols and wear them for the sake of fashion, that is racist.

Why? If you like the way they look you can not wear them because you say that is racist? Naw, sorry I do not buy it. That is like saying black women who dye their hair blond is being racist.

This list can go on and on because daily people participate in actions that are either directly racist, or have racist undertones, with little or no thought to the bodies that it effects.

Yeah but if you went any further it would only become an exercise in futile absurdity.

When you are living a life of privilege you can afford not to make these distinctions. A white person can at anytime limit the amount of time spent with a POC by carefully choosing where to live, what jobs to take and what social events to participate in.

I am not privileged but live in a predominantly white neighborhood and that is because my parents died in their 50’s and I bought the house. I do not think that is privilege.

This choice is not available for POC.

Are you kidding me? There are no POC that are privileged? That argument is not worth the time it took you to type it.

We are continually negotiating not only our own marginalization but the hegemony of whiteness. It surrounds us daily and at times attempts to swallow and destroy our entire being.

You know there are so many white people that fall all over themselves as to not even give the glimmer of being prejudice because no matter what they will always have that scarlet letter on their lapel after getting into anything that slightly suggests that they are prejudice today even if it was not true.

Just when you reach a point where you are individually about to loose all sense of restraint and react in kind, the social discipline arrives to remind you that it is not your place to resist, or feel any form of discomfort with the racial hierarchy because it is naturally occurring. It comes in statements like why are you so angry, or you know you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. In essence you are told to swallow the bile because despite your personally indignation, the humiliation is for the good of society. Yes racism is good for some people.

Ditto. I could have been retired by now after scoring tied for first on a civil service test that I took, but no, my being white had nothing to do with the fact that I was not hired. They went to over 1,500 on the list. So you are right racism is good for some and it is not who you think.

You know someday if you live remotely close to the falls we have got to have a heart to heart sit down.

b