Race ya.

I am a white person.
I am occasionally a little bit clueless.
I am sometimes a bit racist.

Okay, now, hold on, everybody! I’m not, like, proud of that statement. The only people who are proud of that statement … I actually don’t know anyone who is proud of that statement. White supremacists? Hitler youth? No one wants to be racist. That’s why people begin statements that are usually super racist with the phrase “I don’t want to sound racist, but…” 

(Tip: If you start a sentence that way, you are almost always going to say something incredibly racist).

I don’t want to be racist. No one actually wants to be a racist.

But I have been known to say or do clueless, ignorant, or hurtful things before, because of a subconscious prejudice against people who don’t look like me.

Do I enjoy the experience of owning up to that fact? Hell, no. It feels fucking terrible to admit that.

But I know it to be true. I have unpacked some of my past shitty behaviors and understood them for what they are. And I’m afraid — no, I mean it, actually afraid — that as educated as I am, as hard as I try to change this about myself, some of that subliminal bias is just never going to be completely erased.

******

I didn’t occupy a classroom with a black classmate until my freshman year of college. College! Like – not a single black person was around in the small town where I grew up. Everybody looked like me. We were white kids who learned about Hanukkah from the lone Jewish kid, and who didn’t quite know how to handle it when the only Asian kid made jokes about how good he was at math. (For the record, he WAS really good at math).

I made friends briefly with this one girl at a high school Christian leadership camp and that was basically it. She had mixed-race parents and gave really solid advice on how to shave your legs in a shared communal tent with no running water. (Hint: cocoa butter, multiple disposable razors, band-aids). That’s it. Until the age of eighteen, that was the extent of my exposure to actual black people. Spending a weekend hanging out with my new camp friend, listening to shitty Christian rock and signing pledges promising to remain virgins until marriage. (LOLOLOLLLLOL NO BUT REALLY I SIGNED THAT PAPER. We can talk about THAT whole situation on another day).

I probably asked her if I could touch her hair. Pro tip for my fellow white people: stop asking black people if you can touch their hair.

******

In the aftermath of the horrifying events in Ferguson, Missouri this week, I’ve done what many of you have. I’ve glued myself to the news and to my Twitter feed. I’ve read through some of the evidence that was released, and I’ve watched the President address the nation. I’ve tried to put my sadness into words, and felt the inadequacy of what words can accomplish. I donated some money to the Ferguson Public Library.

And I read. I read and I read. And I read something really interesting.

There’s this statistic that explains why white people have a hard time understanding what’s going on in Ferguson. This article explains that statistically speaking, white people only ever really hang out with other white people. Like: 91% of white people’s social circles are comprised of other white people. Ninety-one percent!

‘Oh, god,’ I thought. ‘No wonder we have a hard time listening to each other. I can’t imagine having such a limited perspective into the experiences of minorities – only 9%! I mean, it’s a good thing my social circle is wider than that! I’m so glad that my perception of the world around me is influenced by many diverse voices!’

This is the part where I mention, once again, that I am occasionally an extremely clueless white person.

I thought about that statistic for a minute. And then I opened my Facebook page.
I mean, this data is unscientific – it’s using Facebook as a proxy for my actual day-to-day interactions – but it’s a good place to begin.

I have 1401 Facebook friends. I scrolled down the list of their names, making a tally mark next to those who are not white. I did some math. I ran the numbers.

Holyfuckingshit.

Guys, I’m a liberal white lady who uses phrases like “microaggressions” and “intersectional feminism.” I live in a large, racially diverse city. I know what the phrase “Columbusing” is about. I make works of theatre that address a number of issues, some of which directly explore racial tensions and the black experience in this country. I was pissed when NPR canceled Michel Martin’s “Tell Me More.” I say shit like, “You’re following Baratunde Thurston on Twitter, right?”

And my numbers were actually WORSE than the national average.

My social circle is 91.5% white.

The Atlantic’s graph is pictured below. Mine shook down like: 3% Black, 2.2% Asian, 1.8% Latino, and 1.5% “Other” (which includes my friends of Indian descent and mixed-race descent.) Close enough to the below image to merit posting.

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Take that in for a moment, because I’m still processing it. I am trying my best to be the kind of white person who thinks about what it means to have white privilege. And my stats are still really fucking terrible. The majority of voices that surround me are white voices. The majority of the people I encounter in my everyday life are white.

If I’m rocking the 91% … what do the statistics of my former classmates look like? The ones who never left that small town?

What does their view of the world look like? And how is it influenced by the views of those surrounding them?

******

“Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King

******

My friends are my friends because we share common interests.

I write, and I teach, and I make theatre for a living. Those are my interests. Here are some more of my interests: cheese; women who create their own television series and then publish sassy, funny, inspirational memoirs a la Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Lena Dunham; laying on the beach and gossiping about sex stuff; dance parties; armchair feminist theory.

I have friends who are my friends because we like dancing together and think Janelle Monae is great. I have friends that I call when I need to drink wine and talk about my day. I have friends I teach with, and friends I make theatre with, and friends on whose walls I post really dumb videos of baby animals doing cute things, and friends who send me emails with really smart thinkpieces about the American political system.

Some of those friends are from other ethnic backgrounds than mine. We are friends because we share some of these interests. Not because I like, curated their friendship in some fucked-up liberal quest for diversity. We just started hanging out. We both like Battlestar Galactica. Whatever.

It’s a lot easier to learn about other cultures when you’re learning about them from people you already know and like. I had a black roommate for a year in college, and it was great that I already knew and liked her before we moved in together. It made it easier to ask the tough questions, like, “What’s up with all the cocoa butter?” or “Is THAT why you need a shower cap?” or “Hey, did you leave a Lean Cuisine in the microwave?” It made it easier to transition to the actual tough questions, like, “Tell me what it’s like to be a minority on a predominantly white campus.”

It allows you to learn that people who look differently than you do are …. you know. People. Individuals. Hard to define as part of one giant group.

You think things like, “My friend Michael would love this book!” You don’t think, “My black friend Michael would love this book! You know. ‘Cause he’s black.”

I feel the need to say all of this lest the unsuspecting white person, inspired by this blog post, turn to the nearest black person in the grocery store and say, “Excuse me? It’s come to my attention lately that I statistically only have a small percentage of minority friends. You seem pretty nice, and you’re definitely black, so, would you like to get a drink sometime?”

You definitely shouldn’t do that. That is, in fact, super fucking racist.

And just as a reminder: Having friends who are minorities doesn’t automatically make you not racist. In fact, having minority friends has made me vastly more aware of my own internal racism. So you probably shouldn’t enter an argument with, “But I can’t be a racist because my best friend is black!”

That’s also, frankly, really fucking racist.

*

“It is difficult for a majority to see, let alone sympathize with, a practice that discriminates against a minority. It’s not unlike trying to get a fish to understand the concept of water! It is simply the medium in which the fish resides, requiring no cognition of the water that supports it. Discrimination–not just individual, but systemic–is the “water” in which the majority swims, and unless something happens to bring that discrimination into the view and consciousness of the majority, nothing will change, because the majority hardly, if ever, notices it.”
–Bishop Gene Robinson, from God Believes in Love

*

Where were we? Ferguson. Okay.

I am not here to talk about the grand jury process. I am not here to speculate about the possible motivations of the prosecution. I am not here to go full Serial on Darren Wilson’s testimony. I am not here to question why the medical examiner didn’t go buy camera batteries, and I am not here to wonder why the information surrounding the tape at the convenience store was leaked in such a specific and odd manner. I’m not here to talk about whether or not Michael Brown was a good kid, or a bad kid, or on drugs, or a robbery suspect. I’m not here to talk about any of that. It’s a worthwhile conversation, mind you, but not the one I’m interested in right now.

I’m here to tell you instead, fellow white people, that Ferguson is about more than just one scared cop and one unarmed black teenager.

I’m here to ask you, fellow fishes, to wake up and smell the water.

I’m asking you to consider, if you have not already, that the anger and frustration pouring out of Ferguson is outrage at a system of power that does not include minority voices.

I’m asking you to consider the possibility that no one is “playing the race card.” I’m asking you to consider the very real possibility that America is, in fact, a racist place to live. And just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean that it is not there.

I’m asking you to imagine what it must be like to experience inequality, every single day, in ways that are sometimes small and subtle and sometimes overt and unjust.

I’m asking you to consider what it must be like to walk home at night and watch white people cross the street, fearful of their own safety. I’m asking you to imagine trying to hail a cab after a long day at work, but no cabs will stop. I’m asking you to imagine changing your name on a job application, because no one will hire you. I’m asking you to imagine telling your children not to wear hoodies when they leave the house, just in case.

I’m asking you to imagine putting your faith in a school system that suspends black students at triple the rate of their white peers, all the while cheerfully preaching the gospel of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but only, mind you, during the designated month of February. I’m asking you to imagine living in a shitty house in a shitty neighborhood, not because you want to, but because you are unable to move elsewhere due to housing discrimination.

And then – and only then, once you think about the everyday reality, once you actually try to imagine living your life without the benefits that being white has afforded you, I want you to consider what it must feel like hear the story of Roy Middleton, who was shot fifteen times in his own driveway because a neighbor assumed he was breaking into his own car. I’m asking you to consider the story of Henry Davis, who was beaten viciously by the Ferguson police department and later charged with property destruction for getting blood on their uniforms.

And then I’m asking you to consider what it must be like, to consider the body of Michael Brown, lying lifeless on the street for four and a half hours, and think, “Michael Brown looks like my brother. Michael Brown looks like my husband. Michael Brown looks like my son. Michael Brown looks like me.”

Because here is the thing, fellow white people. Racism isn’t over because Barack Obama is president. Racism isn’t over because Beyoncé. Racism isn’t over because Oprah. Racism didn’t end when we all read To Kill a Mockingbird in tenth-grade English class, and it’s not over now.

Racism is when you reduce a human being to a series of beliefs, stereotypes, or cultural identities that remove their ability to be seen as a unique individual. Just as you wouldn’t minimize any of my personal problems related to being a woman by saying, “But your problems aren’t real, because Hillary Clinton and Taylor Swift are both doing pretty great for themselves!!” – you cannot argue that having a black president is the hallmark of a country that has moved beyond the issues of race.

Racism is when you equate all black people in Ferguson with the specific few vandals who were looting buildings and smashing windows. Racism is inherent in the word “thugs.”

(Double irony points if you’re using the word “thug” now, but were one of the people celebrating on Broad Street in Philadelphia during the 2008 Phillies World Series win, when cars were burned and windows smashed and storefronts destroyed. I remember that evening well. Back then, we called them “fans.”)

I’m not interested in hearing anyone use the phrase “white guilt.” I’m not fucking guilty, and unless you’ve killed an unarmed black teenager lately, neither are you.

But I am angry. I am upset. I am striving to understand.

I want to think about using the phrase “white compassion.” I want to think about using the phrase “white ally,” or “white empathy.”

Because the truth is, my white friends, many of you have been really great at caring about what’s going on in Ferguson this week. Many of you have been posting and sharing and discussing and questioning and trying to unpack and understand. That’s awesome. That’s probably why we’re friends.

But as Ferguson burned, I also read posts from my white friends about how excited you are for Black Friday deals. Your outrage at FedEx for a misplaced package. Nail art. Weight loss advice.

You are the same people who dumped buckets of ice over your heads for ALS. You are the same people who wear t-shirts emblazoned with “Boston Strong.” You post that same picture of an eagle and the American flag on 9/11. “Never Forget.”

And when the riots began, you were …. instagramming photos of your dinner? Excited about your new H+M sweater? You literally have more to say about The Big Bang Theory than a national fucking tragedy?

I also received several OkCupid messages that night. All from white dudes. No, I don’t want to come to Cherry Hill and eat pizza with you. I’m watching the world burn down.

What that tells me is that, for some of you, the destruction in Ferguson was not a “Never Forget” situation, or a national tragedy, or even something to be particularly concerned about … because the bodies in the streets did not look like yours, or your family’s. Because it looks like “other.” Because the problems faced by Black America are not the same as the problems faced by White America, and therefore, they aren’t worth considering.

Perhaps you don’t see this because your number is closer to 99% than 91%.

White people, we have to do better.

And here’s where I’m going to give some of you the benefit of the doubt. I’m going to assume that you are afraid of posting about this, of talking to your family and friends about this, afraid of speaking out or asking questions or having tough conversations. I’m going to assume that you are afraid of being called a racist. I’m going to assume that you are afraid to talk about race, that you fear that as a white person, your voice is not welcome in the conversation. I’m going to assume that you are operating from a place of fear.

I’m going to assume that all that stuff I said at the beginning of this post, the part where I straight-up owned the fact that sometimes I think and say racist shit — not on purpose, but because of deeply ingrained cultural attitudes — is a scary and hard reality for some of you to deal with.

Some of you aren’t there yet. Okay. Okay.

Say this, then. Say that you are sad. Say that you are sorry. Say that you are grieving. Say that the people of Ferguson are in your thoughts.

Say that you are thinking about what this all means. Say that you are grappling with challenging issues. Say that you are struggling. Say that you are unsure.

Say that you want to live in a country where the American Dream is afforded to all. Say that you are afraid. Say that you are hurting. Say that you are angry. Say that you don’t understand, exactly, but you’ll try to imagine it.

But for fuck’s sake, say something.

Look around, fish.

It’s a very big pond we’re swimming in.

***********

 

**

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486 thoughts on “Race ya.

  1. This is so very interesting. I, too, grew up initially attending a predominantly white school with one Asian family (well… white people who adopted siblings from China), and one person of mixed-race. I was lucky to be able to attend a private high school with students from 30 different countries and many races, so that exposure helped a great deal in terms of my general exposure to those who don’t look like me. But then I went to a college where the population was again mostly white. When I went to grad school in a large city, I attended a university that was very very white (even though the population of the city itself was decidedly mixed), with some Asian people and a few none-whites sprinkled in (which the university tried very hard to publicize… Look! We have some black people and there’s this one guy from Mexico!!!). However, I lived in and spent a significant amount of time in a part of the city where the population was mostly black.

    The point of my story here is that what angers me SO much about SO MANY (especially American) ignorant-as-f**k white people who have “lived in the city” where the population is mostly non-white and so therefore “know what it’s like to be a minority” is that they (we) obviously really don’t know shit about what it’s like to be a minority. Even if a white person lives in a city where the majority of the population around them is non-white, we still feel inherently valuable AND valued – which is decidedly not the experience of many minorities surrounded by mostly white people. I felt valued every day, because I KNEW that I was valuable. And while a lot of that came from my background and education (which so many black people who live in cities don’t even get the chance to achieve due in large part to the abysmal cycle of poverty), honestly part of that was because I grew up in a town/state/country that values white people. It doesn’t matter that you’re surrounded by non-whites where you live or work, because the people in power – the “valuable” people – are still white.

    So I GREW UP feeling valuable. And that is a major distinction that white people who’ve “experienced being a minority” and think they somehow “know what it’s like” need to get into their thick skulls.

    • Thank you for an excellent article. I have one question, though. What is the mix, in terms of population, of blacks in the US? I thought it was around 10%, but I may be mixed up, demographically. If that is the case, however, a 9% level of black friends isn’t so far off the mark. Even if the national population mix is 20 or 30%, it isn’t possible to have an “appropriate” percentage of friends of color if you’re not in a situation that permits it. I’m getting clumsy here, but what I want to say is that if you live and/or work in a predominantly “anything” area, that’s with whom you’re going to come in contact. I just don’t think it’s all that important to bemoan the fact you don’t have more black friends than you do. I think it’s more important, as you so eloquently put regarding the sight of Michael Brown’s body, that we place ourselves in other’s shoes. Think before speaking. Follow the golden rule. Be unafraid of what you don’t know, so as to learn something. Just, really, be kind.

      • She didn’t say she had 9% black friends. She said she had 9% who were not white. Don’t forget about Latinos, East Asians, South Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, etc. Demographic experts predict that White Americans will no longer be a majority within 30 years.

      • I don’t think she was bemoaning it. I think she was using it to show that while she thought she was racially aware, as many of us do, when she looked at her friends she realized that she couldn’t really be since she wasn’t spending significant time with non-white people.

        • I’m white, and four years ago I bought a lovely craftsman home here in the largely black Crenshaw District of Los Angeles. There’s nothing like living in a neighborhood that’s only 3.3% white (2000 census) to make the acquisition of non-white friends and acquaintances a natural, non-racist process.

    • maybe you did but I did not looking white. I worked at low end Jobs such as food stores and retail work and I was not valued as much as the minorities and people of color

  2. Hey guys, for all of those who are against this piece… it’s your lucky day! Dr. Brown from Back to the Future is on his way to pick y’all up! He’s making two stops…. the year 1840 (woohoo, you get to have slaves!) and 1930 (heck yeah Jim Crow laws!). Of course he’ll be sticking to the South for your comfort’s sake. Just tell him where you’ll be getting off!
    You don’t have to pretend you’re interested in this country’s eternal war on race. Heck no! Go hang out with your great-grandpappies and drink from an only-white water fountain!
    But do note, you can’t come back and if you support blacks or minorities in any way and you’re detected, you’ll be lynched alongside them.
    Have fun!

        • There is a difference between believing there is more institutions of racism in the South and believing everyone from the South is racist. Segregation lasted longer there, slavery of course lasted longer there, Jim Crow flourished there, the South had to have laws to prevent unconstitutional voter suppression and in North Carolina where the law was pulled back they immediately began voter suppression once again.

  3. Reblogged this on Madeline Graceless and commented:
    “Say that you are sad. Say that you are sorry. Say that you are grieving. Say that the people of Ferguson are in your thoughts.
    Say that you are thinking about what this all means. Say that you are grappling with challenging issues. Say that you are struggling. Say that you are unsure.
    Say that you want to live in a country where the American Dream is afforded to all. Say that you are afraid. Say that you are hurting. Say that you are angry. Say that you don’t understand, exactly, but you’ll try to imagine it.
    But for fuck’s sake, say something.”

  4. Reblogged this on amakasflockingthoughts and commented:
    I, along with many of people of this country, am still coming to grips about what is happening across this nation regarding police brutality against people of color and the lack of accountability. I will have a blog post later about my own reactions. If you know anyone who is siding with Darren Wilson or the NYPD in these cases, I encourage you to help your misguided friends, family, coworkers see the light.

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  9. This is a very insightful piece, thanks for posting and giving voice to things I’ve noticed but never mentioned because it’s so hard to talk about race in this country.

    I’ve been black all my life. Was in that first wave of kids who went to integrated schools. I protested inequality and naively hoped that by the time the 21st century got here, we would have figured this stuff out. But I was wrong. The system was designed to benefit the RIch White Male™ at the expense of pretty much everyone else. It is operating as designed and it’s SO big and powerful that we may never figure out how to make it equitable for the rest of us.

    Thanks America. “Thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.”

    • Duckhunter1 wrote, “yet you have all this power and still do nothing with it.”

      I’m not sure what you’re talking about or why you think I have so much power that I’m not using, but I can assure you that I’m doing as much as I can. Maybe you should stop making assumptions about people and things you know nothing about. What are you doing with your power?

  10. Racism will never go away unfortunately. No matter how hard we try to get rid of it, it will always be there. Whether you are Black, White, Hispanic, Asian, whatever, we class ourselves which in of itself, promotes racism. What do I mean? We call ourselves African-American, Mexican-American, Chinese-American, Italian-American. Why not call ourselves what “WE” are, Americans! Yes, you can be all of the above and still be an American. There is nothing to say that you can’t be PROUD of YOUR HERITAGE and still be an AMERICAN! In fact, you would be a fool if you are not! This does not apply to just us here in America, it applies to everyone that is a citizen of this world.

    Mainstream media,Television, Radio, Newspapers, Digital, they are what keep racism alive! Corporations help keep racism alive! The Government helps keep racism alive! Mainstream media for going after the high tension, heart strings, shocking, tragic stories and then they just keep hammering away at it! Yes, it requires to be told. yes it needs to be addressed. No, it does not need to have more volatile fuel to be thrown into the fire by repeated covering day after day after day. Corporations in their applications for a job, ie. “Race: ……………………………”. Government, by keeping statistics, requirements for % hiring levels. The list are endless. That does not help the situation.

    You talk of the 91%. Whites are not the only ones that are guilty of this. If you were take a poll of every race and their Social Circles, I bet you would find that 91% of Americans are in the same boat! That will change only when racism changes. The “Fans” that you also referred to in Philly, they are not fans. At least not in my book! They, just like those individuals in Ferguson or any other town or city, that burn, loot, destroy in the name of protesting/celebrating are what they are! “Fucking Assholes!” It does not matter what their ethnicity, skin color, religion, sex, whatever, is, they are still “Fucking Assholes”.

    I spent twenty plus years in the Marines, to protect and defend “God, Country and Corps” and I will still. I, like you, like to believe that I am not a racist. I try not to be just like so many others out there. But, there are times that it comes out and it is disturbing. I have grandchildren and I do not want them to be racist and I do my very best to “set the example”, when they say or do something that is not right, I correct them and hoping that I am not setting a double standard. I am trying but, just like the rest of us, I too am human.

    Despite what I said at the beginning of this comment, racism will disappear eventually. But only through the combined, continuous efforts of ourselves, our children, our grandchildren, their children and their children until, eventually, there is no racism and hopefully, we as a people, do not direct our dislikes towards others that may come into our community just because they are different, not from here. Someday, that will come I hope, I really do! But, it will be a long road that will be uphill all the way for everyone! Till then, all we can do is keep trying, learning from each other and doing our best to “behave”.

    • David, I get that question a lot. “Why do you have to hyphenate your heritage?” As a Native American and American of Mexican descent, my family has been here before Europeans knew this land existed, and we never crossed the Rio Grande. We were here before the southern part of the states became New Spain and later Mexico, and when New Mexico (where my family is from) became a part of America with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. However, because of my last name and the color of my skin, I automatically fall into the “Hispanic” category, and have to mark that on every form I’m asked to fill out. Even though I’m American, the Government and everyone else asks me to separate myself by marking a box that separates me as “other.” Not to mention, because of my last name, I get tons of mail in Spanish even though Spanish is not my primary language. I took Spanish in high school and college like many Americans, and I’m what you call an intermediate learner. I understand Spanish and can read it, but I sound very American when I attempt to speak it. My grandfather fought in World War II, and my father in Vietnam. However, that doesn’t matter. I’m still grouped into a category, and people automatically assume I’m from across the border. My particular favorite is, “Why don’t you go back from where you come from?” Now that one’s the best. I also find it interesting when white people ask me, “Brandy, when did your family cross over?” Or, they will say, “Hola Brandy, Como Estas?” without knowing me personally. When I explained I didn’t cross over, nor do I speak Spanish, these people look at me in confusion.

      As this young woman states in her post here, these people don’t mean to be ignorant by asking such questions, but they, like most of us make their assumptions based on generalizations and ignorance. I’m guilty of doing the same. I’m sure most of us would love to be referred to simply as “American.” I know I would. I don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Hi Hispanic Brandy, let’s go eat some carne con frijoles.” I don’t think of my skin color or culture until someone else from another culture brings it up. Overall, when I fill out an application, I don’t want to mark Hispanic, so I mark “other,” because like many Americans, I’m a mixture of everything. I’m Pasqua Yaqui, Aztec, Mascalero Apache, Mexican, Spanish, and I think we have some Italian in the family line somewhere. I have half white cousins, nephews, nieces, and even half Asian cousins, but there’s no box for that. So if we want categories to end, it has to start from the top, and people have to educate themselves on what it means to be “American.”

    • We designate ourselves as Chinese American, Mexican American, African-American (BS PC term if u ask me) bc thats how whites have designated us. We will never truly be American bc that would mean we r fully accepted as Americans. Unfortunately, that wont happennin my lifetime. We will always be “other.” Sad, but true. Whites are the majority in this country and until enough change the way they think, the way they communicate, the way they put people in a box to try to “understand” them (stereotype), and their unacceptance of anyone who is a citizen of this country is an American, the others will always be the others…

  11. Duckhunter1 wrote: you have the power too and yet do nothing about it too make obama obama listen since you say he caves into the Republicans

    You claim to know a lot about what I am doing or not doing, yet you have no idea who I am. I don’t remember mentioning Obama in this or any other discussion with you. Maybe you have me confused with someone else?

  12. This article is spot on in so many ways. It does bring to mind one aspect of the issue of white people associating mostly with other white people. It’s really not easy to buck that trend. There are several reasons.
    1) Making a non-white friend for reasons of race alone is really, really racist. If you’re trying to NOT be racist, then that option is out.
    2) Since white people ARE the majority in North America, it’s hard to casually or naturally just “happen” to get to know someone who isn’t white without intentionally seeking them out. Again, try not to be racist.
    3) Often, white people don’t have as much in common with other races as they may wish. I know, this is a self-fulfilling, chicken and egg kind of thing, but no less real because of that. Again, deliberately targeting non-whites smacks of back door racism.
    4) Non-whites tend to avoid white people as much as white people tend to avoid them. Their reasons are many – fears of being the target of racism, lack of social or cultural commonalities with whites, basic insecurity borne of being outnumbered in a culture which unthinkingly prejudices against you, sometimes they are even prejudiced against whites themselves. Regardless of the reasons or their validity, it ends up being another barrier between whites and non-whites.
    With all of the above, even if one is white and desiring to grind away some of their racism through association with “people of color”, it’s damned hard to do so without inadvertently contributing to the problem. What to do? It’s easy to toss your hands in the air and concede defeat. That’s one reason why the status quo lingers so strongly.
    So long as white people continue to try and bridge the gap between races, no matter how hard, no matter how many barriers there are, at least that’s something. Right now, it’s not much. Hell, it’s not even enough, but it’s not nothing and it is a start. All momentum must begin from a measure beyond nothing.

    • I’m white, and four years ago I bought a lovely craftsman home here in the largely black Crenshaw District of Los Angeles. There’s nothing like living in a neighborhood that’s only 3.3% white (2000 census) to make the acquisition of non-white friends and acquaintances a natural, non-racist process.

  13. I am white.
    I am a very liberal person. My personal definition starts with the fact that I am liberal (and the fact that I define my political opinion as a fact tells you everything you need to know about my personal identity). I read your article and I thought, “that’s not me.” I thought, “I am married to someone who is not white.” I continued: “My daughter is not white.”
    I was raised liberally. I grew up in Ann Arbor Michigan. It’s liberal there. I spent the rest of my high school years in college towns that are liberal. The people I am still facebook friends with from high school almost invariably posted some form of “anti-cop” article after ferguson. They are liberal people.
    My facebook newsfeed is filled with liberal propaganda. This is true despite the fact that I live in the “belt buckle” of the bible belt. This is true despite the fact that I have lived here for almost six years. This is true despite the fact that I graduated from two Texas christian universities. My father (who is disabled) routinely posts liberal rants on facebook.
    So, to summarize, my liberal credentials are beyond reproach. In my high school government class (which, as we’ve previously established was full of liberals), we took a “test”. The “test” determined what our political perspective was. I was BY FAR the most liberal person in my AP senior year government class. I was the outlier for “liberalness”. I was the kind of student the statistic professor disregards out of hand. I was the crazy lunatic that would have voted “socialist” in the face of violence 100 years ago.
    I read your blog a few weeks ago, and I thought “this bullshit doesn’t apply to me.” Several weeks later (today in fact), I looked through some of my cousin’s pictures. Everyone in my extended family was white. EVERYONE. I thought “My grandfather basically ran the democratic party in Idaho for decades.” In other words, I thought “I come from a long line of liberals.” And, I thought, “these liberals have been liberal in hostile environments for decades, of course I’m post-racial.”
    I did your test. I am married to someone who is not white. I have a daughter who is not white. I am as liberal as they come. I honestly would have a hard time imagining that there is a “white person” who has been raised to embrace “post racial liberal america” more completely than me. 13% of the people I am facebook “friends” with are not white.
    Post racial america is a fiction.

  14. I also realize that I sometimes have racist reactions to events, and I try to do better. It’s not easy to really “know yourself”. I also have a social life that is mostly white, but that isn’t entirely my fault. I was in high school in the 60’s and my first experiences with black people came with police lines and attack dogs. But our school integrated without violence and through the years I have gone to school and worked alongside many black people. I feel that I had “friendships” with several. We have had black people in our home many times, our children have dated blacks, etc. (All this sounds condescending but it isn’t meant to be). But I have never, in my entire life, been invited into the home of a black person. And I don’t know why. I guess the gulf is still too wide for people of my generation. How is it for younger people? Better, I hope.

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  16. Wow, thank you for sharing this powerful, insightful piece. As a black woman, it expressed many of the things I have seen and felt and intuitively known but never had the words to say. Thanks for not only acknowledging the “water” but also attempting to make the other fish aware.

  17. I’m not saying you’re not right. But take for a minute, your own words and put them into another context: racism is when you reduce a human being to….

    What about the “9%” of my black friends posting about white people being this or that? What about walking into a mostly black establishment and not being acknowledged by one person?

    How can this “racism” – that goes both ways- ever change if those on both sides refuse to set aside their differences or stop passing judgement without ever getting to know someone first? I have family members who have married into black families and as a white person at their family gatherings, I can tell you I felt segregated. This isn’t a one sided battle. This goes both ways.

    The white population far outweighs the black population. So this whole 9% thing really isn’t all that surprising. I think it’s 63% white and 14% black.

    Anyway, bottom line is without both sides changing, it’s not fair to say that only whites are racist. As I have encountered equally as many racist blacks.

    • Racism is not relegated to white people. Anyone can be racist. However institutional racism, which is much more insidious, does not happen to white people. Ever. How can we expect black people, who ARE a minority for now, to relinquish feelings of distrust of the majority when the majority causes indignities large and small every day? You may have felt uncomfortable at a party once, but have you ever been pulled over because of your skin color? Denied an apartment? Looked at funny or followed around in a store? Have you ever felt like you had to dress perfectly, speak perfectly, act perfectly so as not to be judged as “one of them”? It’s not fair to say only whites are racist, but it’s fair to say that whites do not experience racism the way black people do.

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  19. Thank you for this very thought provoking, honest article. A friend on FB shared it. We are in the UK and are white, and look on at what is going on in the US at the moment with horror and shared shame and fear.

    Things are slightly different here, we freed slaves earlier, many black free men were educated and successful in the 19th century. I actually live in the city were William Wilberforce was born (he brought the anti-slavery bill through Parliament here that spelt the beginning of the end of the whole thing). Our city is proud of its heritage.

    Reading your blog made me ask myself “is it like that here?”. To some extent it is. But there is a different vibe, plus our police arent armed. I do think a big part of the wider problem is guns.

    A young black guy was killed by some whites here, his name was Stephen Lawrence. The police made a lot of mistakes and seemed unmotivated to bring any to justice for his murder. But there was such a public outcry, that didnt die, that after 20 years the white thugs who had killed him were convicted.

    Keep up the pressure, dont give up. Love your neighbour, demand justice.

    Good luck from your white sister here in Kingston upon Hull, UK.

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  21. Some good thoughts here – too bad they’re presented in what sounds like sorority-girl speak in places. May I suggest cutting out a few fucks here, a few likes there, and voila – your writing sounds like that of an educated person. Good thoughts deserve good writing. Plus, more people will listen to you. 😉

    • Why should the extra “fucks” or “likes” make her any less educated or her thoughts any less valid? And this is a personal blog anyway. Does it really need to sound like a master’s thesis? I think that the added colloquialisms (educated enough?) actually make the post more… friendly? relatable? approachable? You know what I mean.

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  24. Your article touches on some interesting points. I hope you won’t take offense, but please allow me to suggest that you look up the generally accepted formal definitions of the word “racist” (or racism). Based on explicit statements in your article, I think you will find your use is materially inaccurate. Or, as Inigo Montoya in “the Princess Bride” was fond of saying, “You keep using that word… I do not think it means what you think it means.” 😊

  25. This post reminded me of a conversation I had with a really close friend, whose family are from India. I think I said something dumb, like racism doesn’t really exist in mainstream UK culture anymore, mainly because I didn’t know any card-carrying racists personally. She told me that I couldn’t see it. It’s all these little insidious moments that add up to an unjust and unequal world. I think Ferguson has made many white people realize that we have to do more than simply not be racist ourselves. We have to listen, we have to have empathy and we have to be vocal and stand up for others, even if we feel nervous about weighing into the conversation.

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  29. I very much enjoyed your comments on recognizing the situation in Ferguson as a national tragedy- not one specific to their immediate community. Particularly, in regard to your references to ALS Challenges and Boston Strong wear in opposition to the business-as-usual take on Ferguson events. Why aren’t the same folks who adopt such causes ignoring this event? It does point to our national consciousness as deliberate and, thus, deliberately avoiding this topic because of its roots in the black community, not “our” community. It was a quite enlightening point. Well made. Thank you.

  30. I definitely dont think your racist but you fall on that category even though your not. Internally all black people, and other minorities think white people are racist. The white privilege thing is something you have to thank you white supremacists ancestors for because if it weren’t for them youd be under Black rulership as a free white man. Thousands of years ago your ancestors were in caves eating one another until they were taught civilization by black Afrikans. I for one dont blame you all. You were programmed to be racially driven socialist. I have white friends. I was raised in the country part of my childhood, Kentucky. And I spent the rest of my years in Detroit MI. I understand that separation does make you clueless. I always wondered why my white friend would say she wished she had black hair until we were going out one day. All she could do was curl her hair or have to manipulate it for hours to make it look different than the regular straight down look shes limited to. I also wondered why white people have to wear sun tan lotion until I found outh they have no Melanin in their skin….thats why they are so pale. I understood tanning then. Black people and minorities laugh at white people because honestly how can you feel privileged knowing your liberation was built on theft, deceit and lies. Everything white people have was stolen from other cultures thousands of years ago. Laws/religion/culture/Land/People its honestly pathetic that any white person would even feel subconsciously supreme/better in any way. Its laughable.

    • But I say this to say….We are not equal. Should we be? HELL YEAH. The situations in police brutality are just the beginning. This is going to happen everywhere and whites are not exempt. The fact that it happens to black people gives it national attention because we are the oppressed. Police brutality could never gain the attention of the nation if it were any other race. So all this Im white Im different shit….just save it. We all are different and we all have questions about the next race especially if its foreign to us. Know that we have to band together as one right now because if your not running the world your in trouble to buddy.

  31. 2 big issueshere. The US is about the least racist country on the planet. Doesn’t make racism ok. Doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do in ALL colors and ethnic groups. Most of the world is very very homogenous. Matter of fact, so homogenous that you’d have trouble finding other Asians in Japan let alone whites, blacks, etc. Same in the middle east, Africa, etc. The solution to diversity is exposure but it can’t be forced. BUT, your biggest failure in your analogy is the 90%. The population is only 13% black. That’s why so many people are not exposed. I’ll stop here, this can go on and on.

  32. I am writing an article about the misconceptions of race and race relations/politics in contemporary America and would really appreciate it if you could answer the survey I made.

    https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/KHBTRCN

    I need as many responses as I can get. Pass the link along, I am collecting data until the 15th of January.

    I am also interviewing people and providing profiles. If you would like to be interviewed, email aotieno@gm.slc.edu. Thank you in advance.

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  34. Interesting article. Got lots of thoughts but struggling to express them all. I am a mixed race English guy who reads a lot about American politics and culture. The racism the US has does seem ingrained and powerful, yet beneath the surface. The racism the US has is also exported around white majority countries around the world albeit in a watered down form. I think I like your article. Maybe this is the place to start in your country. Racism is built into your development as a white American, in ways so subtle you don’t realise it. I have often asked myself why blacks in the US just blast thru the barriers, just use racism as a motivator? But when it invades every aspect of your life and is just so established yet just far enough beneath the surface for drastic change not to be deemed necessary it must sap out any rebellious energy in all but the most determined.

  35. I grew up in not only a predominately white environment until high school but in a very closed bubble of the Greek community…I never could understand the racist comments I heard growing up and EVEN encouraged to follow from my parents. I don’t look at anybody and judge by what color their skin is, I give everyone a chance for who they are and can only hope my children and their generation do the same. My husband on the other hand has lived a very different life…always fighting for his human rights starting from a young child because of his skin color and has not stopped fighting since. Currently his boss looks and talks to him like he should be washing his car and is incapable of his position, meanwhile my husband has proven himself in the business for 20 years now and was running a successful office with high morale BEFORE his ignorant boss came on board. Everyone knows how awful he treats my husband and they choose to not say a word. His fear of my husband and this bs fear that non-blacks hang onto is ridiculous. (his boss is not white but also not black, although no one looks at him with fear.) Courage and peace to us all but in the meantime, I have to remind my children NOT to wear their hoodies up!

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