following up. and on, and through.

When I post on this blog, it’s a great day when a post reaches, say, 4000 hits. A GREAT day.

“Race Ya” just hit damn near close to 400,000.

I’ve received a lot of comments and a lot of questions and a lot of criticism and a lot of accolades and the entire thing feels very ….

For someone who is theoretically quite good with words, I’m having a hard time formulating them right now.

Partly because, well, there are a few places where I got it wrong. And I think it would be good to set the record straight. If you haven’t read the “Race Ya” post, please feel free to skip this one. It won’t make a ton of sense. Better yet, read the last post, then come on back. I’ll be here.

Okay.

1) For the record, it felt TERRIBLE to go through the process of trying to categorize and label my facebook friends. In the first draft, there were several paragraphs where I discussed how it felt to undertake that experiment, but I deleted them — because I’m trying to be a better editor, and because the piece is really long, and I needed to keep that shit moving. But yeah, let’s talk about it here: boy, it was squicky and weird and awful. There’s this blogger named Melinda Gonzalez who did the “91% Experiment” and wrote about it here, and I agree with so much of her assessment: Facebook is weird and not an accurate reflection of anything, and it felt super racist to make tally marks next to your friends’ names while also trying to remember if that friend from your sophomore biology studio identified as Latina or black or what.

2) I’m an idiot.

asia india

3) Remember when I listed Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Lena Dunham as three funny writers I admired? A lot of you guys called me out on neglecting to include Mindy Kaling, the natural companion to those three women. And also, the only non-white one. Whoops. So I wanna go on record to say that a) Mindy Kaling is the BEST. Despite never having seen an episode of ‘The Office’ until like, last year (……I know. In like, fifteen years, I’ll be that person saying Holy hell did you guys know there’s this show called “The Wire???”) I devoured her memoir. I have quoted her on multiple occasions to multiple boyfriends (usually the section about her sexual awakening re: Pierce Brosnan’s chest hair in Mrs. Doubtfire, and usually as a tactic to get aforementioned boyfriends to stop shaving their damn chest hair already).

But I didn’t mention her. Which could be that I’ve read her book least recently of all four of those memoirs. Or it could be systemic, internalized racism. I honestly have no idea.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is, buy this book.

Also, this picture.

Okay. Got the easy stuff out of the way. Phew!

Let’s move on to some of the harder stuff to talk about.

Here’s the thing. I wrote a piece about being aware that I have white privilege. And a lot of goobers* attacked me for even saying that much. Which, okay. You’re so, so very wrong. You actually sound pretty sad and lonely, most of you. But … deep, deep sigh. Okay. I hope you can read, consider, and change. I’m really glad that for some of you, I was able to help you to do that.

The rest of you seem angry because you just like being angry, and I don’t have time to take that personally anymore. Let me know when you’re ready to have a real conversation, not just use my blog as a place to scream hatefully into the void. Because — yikes. Seriously? Go for a walk or something. Hug a puppy. Life is short.

Moving on! So I figured out that I have some white privilege issues to grapple with! Step one is identifying the problem. Steps two through INFINITY are trying to figure out how to fix it. And I’m really aware that I’m not an expert. I’m struggling. I’m just as lost as many of you are. I have some ideas about how to maybe be better at being an ally, but I can be pretty clueless as to what the practical steps towards implementation actually are.

And I’m incredibly aware that everything that I’m saying … is NOTHING that a person of color hasn’t said already. And probably better. With fewer gifs, at least. And I don’t want to shout louder than voices of color, than anyone who, you know, actually knows what the fuck they’re talking about. I want to use my platform to gently but firmly say, Hey, fellow white people! I see you there! I know this stuff feels scary to talk about! I know you’ve probably never thought much about this stuff before! And I bet know you want to know more about all of this, but aren’t sure where to begin! I’m figuring it out, too! Let’s try to figure it out together.

Here’s something that surprised me. It turns out that a lot of well-meaning white people have the wrong definition of racism. As in, “I’m not a racist! I have never ONCE worn a hood, burned a cross, or thought slavery was a neat idea!”

Well, cool. Me neither. But I’m not talking about overt displays of racism; I’m talking about feeling uneasy when the black dude sits too close on the subway. So let’s clear that one up: Racism is not limited to the KKK. Racism is not “just a thing that the Nazis do.” It would be SO EASY to spot racists if they all just wore t-shirts or nametags or something. But here’s what we’re actually dealing with:

RACISM: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.

That includes things that you might not even be aware that you are doing, guys.

Black people don’t need convincing that systemic racism is a thing because black people have to navigate this shit every day of their lives. A lot of white people, as it turns out, need a lot of persuading that racism is totally real. So if you are a white person who does a lot of screamy-shouting into the internet that WE ARE A POST-RACIAL SOCIETY BECAUSE OBAMA/OPRAH/BEYONCE/ERIC HOLDER/EBOLA/WHATEVER — I hereby issue you a personal challenge. Go find a black person. Better yet, find a small-ish group of black people. Try politely saying, “Excuse me, but I was just wondering. Do you believe that we live in a post-racial society?” Now shut the fuck up and listen. Do not say one single word. Just listen, for as long as it takes. And if the idea of doing that makes you uncomfortable … if you think that you would, perhaps, be skittish of expressing your opinions about black people in front of actual black people … then maybe you should think twice before voicing said opinions on the internet.

Because in the weeks since I published “Race Ya,” a grand jury declined to indict the officer who placed Eric Garner in a chokehold, killing him as he said, eleven times, “I can’t breathe.” A twenty-eight year old man named Akai Gurley was shot in the hallway of his girlfriend’s Brooklyn apartment… for walking down the stairs at the wrong time. Tamir Rice, age twelve, was shot by a police officer who mistook his toy gun for the real thing.

Still don’t think this is about race? Sorry. You’re wrong. This IS about race. At a certain point, the data just adds up until it becomes intolerable, before not saying something feels complicit. It is about race. It is about race. It just IS about race. And I know that I’m saying that in a post that includes a “More You Know” joke and a link to Pierce Brosnan’s chest hair. And please know that I’m doing that shit on purpose. I’m doing that because I wish I could scream, in fury and in outrage, that this IS about race. I’m doing that because I wish I could personally shake the shoulders of anyone who willfully fails to understand the complexities of the situation (YES, cops have hard jobs / YES, systemic racism is real / YES, the whole thing is fucking depressing and traumatic / YES YES YES THIS IS SO BIG AND SO VERY BAD ) and I wish I could just yell and scream and cry.

But I can’t. Because when I yell and point fingers, knees jerk up. The outrage cycle continues. Nothing happens.

So I do it with a joke. And a link to Jon Stewart. Who knows what’s up.

Here’s the second thing. A lot of you wrote to say that you would love to make friends with more diverse groups of people, but you live in predominantly white areas, and you have no idea how to go about making diverse friends in a way that isn’t tokenizing.

Yeah! I know! Shit! That one is hard! I am struggling with that one, too!

Here’s where I think we can start. You know what’s great about the internet? A LOT OF STUFF. Like, for instance, the ability to be exposed to other voices via social media. ( …. new slogan idea: ~The Internet: Sometimes, More Than Just Cats!!!~)

Read some books by black people. Follow some black voices on Twitter. Subscribe to some sweet YouTubers who make fun, informative videos about race and racism. That’s a great place to begin.

So let me end this with a reading list. Here are some terrific voices of color that you might enjoy. Because the truth is, a twenty-nine year old white girl from Philadelphia probably shouldn’t be your only exposure to a conversation about race. No, scratch that. DEFINITELY shouldn’t be your only exposure to a conversation about race. As the funny and amazing Franchesca Ramsey puts it, “White allies shouldn’t be the lead singer… or the second lead singer. They’d be Michelle.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 2.11.54 PM

Thanks for listening to me. Now it’s time to listen to them. And so many more that I haven’t posted here. If you would like to add to this list, please do so in the comments.

My Vassar College Faculty ID Makes Everything Okay, by Kiese Laymon

Why Do Millennials Not Understand Racism? by Jamelle Bouie

How To Be Black, by Baratunde Thurston

In Conversation: Chris Rock

The Perfect-Victim Pitfall, by Charles M. Blow

On Being A Black Male, Six Feet Four Inches Tall, In America 2014, by W. Kamau Bell

Dear White People, by Justin Simien (I mean, I would recommend the movie rather than the book, but while I can buy the book right now at Target, the movie didn’t actually make it to Philadelphia theatres. So I haven’t actually seen it. Which sucks, because every review I’ve ever read says it’s an incredibly brave, funny, and impressive debut film. So why isn’t it playing right now in my racially diverse city? YOU TELL ME.)

Glitter Pills (For Your Poop), by I’m Just Checking To See If You’re Still Paying Attention

10 Simple Ways White People Can Step Up To Fight Everyday Racism, by Derrick Clifton

Only Words, by Roxane Gay

* I used the word “goobers” because I’m pretty sure most of the people that I’m talking about didn’t actually read the post I wrote, and therefore won’t make it this far down into the page on this one. So. Confidential to everyone who made it this far into the post: ASSHOLES. The word I wanted to use was ASSHOLES.

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26 thoughts on “following up. and on, and through.

  1. Some Twitter accounts of black feminists I can recommend off the top of my head:
    @Karnythia
    @thewayoftheid
    @FeministaJones
    @ShaunKing has been doing excellent journalism and analysis on Ferguson and other police brutality against black people
    Mia McKenzie heads a community of activists and writers at http://www.blackgirldangerous.org/

  2. Touche! What a way to handle the mindless attacks on this post! I have been following the comments since I came across your post, and I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not. The same people who ranted and raved on this post will find other areas to do the same. Hell, I imagine these will be the same people cursing the directors who made Annie and Daddy Warbucks black. Oh wait. I may be wrong. Don’t want to generalize the ridiculous haters. Great post once again. If you would like to interact with a Native American/Mexican American (I had to add my culture on purpose), please do so at http://www.brandyramirez.com

  3. I just want to say thank you Katherine.
    When I shared your “Race Ya” post with my friends (95% of whom are white) I received nothing but positive feedback and praise for introducing them to your writing. That post put into words so many of my confused and difficult feelings about how to talk with my white friends concerning issues of race and privilege and it showed me that my friends are more than open to the kind of honest introspection needed to embrace that conversation.
    I knew you’d be inundated with both positive and negative comments because of your honesty and insight and I chose not to read or submit anything so that I could just enjoy the feeling your writing gave me without feeling the need to defend it, and I honestly think that any mistakes you made (and have now apologized for) were so insignificant in the face of how important your message was, that it’s almost laughable that anyone even called you to task for them. It’s a pity that so many people willingly lose sight of the message in order to score petty points.

    On an unrelated (but totally related) note, I think you’re going to have to change the name of your blog soon. It’s definitely something you’d want your mother and every other mother to read and I honestly can’t agree that you are a twentysomething disaster…you have become one of the most important twentysomething voices in the blogosphere today and that needs to be celebrated.

    • I was thinking the same thing. The title is very funny but the subtitle doesn´t suit you right. i am sure there is more positive and confident expression of who you´have become.

  4. As a metis person living in a predominantly First Nation community I just would like to point out that it is not just ‘white’ people who are racist or have issues with racism. I will likely get flamed unto death for that comment but there it is.

    I look white. I am not white per se, but metis. But I get discriminated against as if I were white. Happens everywhere, not just in Canada, or the United States. I lived in Nigeria and was discriminated there too.

    It is not just a United States problem, or a Canadian problem or an anywhere problem. It is part of being human. As anthropologists say it is always “I” an “other”. If you’re not “I” then you’re “other”. It is how we deal with “other” that is at issue, and I don’t care where you’re from. This is universally true.

    What every human needs to work on is how we accept “other”. If “other” looks slightly different from us, it becomes more of a challenge. But it can be overcome. It just takes work at the “I” level. And I continue to do this work, each and every day. Because at the end of the day “I” am human and “I” am not perfect.

    Hats off to you for talking about this subject. That takes true courage. And a real willingness to not be so “I” focused. imho. Your mileage may vary.

    • I agree with you, it is a “human” problem. But as long as white people treat people who are naturally darker – without being tan, as “other” there will continue to be injustices. Tragically it so happens, that Black Americans in the U.S. and Blacks around the world are the race/color that all other races/colors seem to agree is Prime candidate for racism. I have faced racism against Blacks from Latinos, Arabs, Chinese, Koreans, East Asians, and on and on it goes.

      • That is disturbing that black and Latinos are sometimes on opposite ends of the fence. I mean, really?? I am a Black Latino, my family is from the Dominicans and I have never viewed Black Americans as “different”. Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, etc are African descents and everyone KNOWS this. White America have spent years trying to divide the two groups for the purposes of gaining power, in numbers. They look at us Latinos (and other minority groups) the same way as they do blacks but make us feel as though we’re “accepted” to keep us on their “side” for power purposes. It’s just sick, sick! Africans, Haitians, Belizians all come over here and try to separate themselves from Blacks (even though they are pretty much the same, the boat just dropped them off at different locations) because the media portrays black Americans as animals, inhumane, and despised, which is FAR from the truth! Africans and Black Carribeans feel ashamed, embarrassed and want nothing to do with the group when they come to America. It is all systemic and strategically planned! I mean, no one wants to be hated…so why join forces with the group that’s hated the most? Even if you share the same ethnicity, the same ancestors, the same blood?? I am in a desperate plea for change.

  5. I am sorry to hear that people yelled at you. Your post was an honest effort to address a very real and pernicious problem. Don’t let yourself be silenced, you clearly have a good heart, and the Internet is full of jerks.

  6. You’ve just said everything I’ve been feeling lately. I work in a terribly hateful, primarily white, male environment, and it’s unbelievably toxic and suffocating. Everyday I try to stand up, but it’s turned on me if I speak my mind. I hate it. I want to scream and cry just as you said, and I wish I could tell everyone of race how much I want to change what’s all over.

    All I can say, for anyone who’s listening, is that I am doing my best. But, like you, I’d like some help. Thank you for a great post.

  7. “Someone who is actually trying to navigate this non post racial world with some stimulating thought & full disclosure. Brave & awesome!” -My FB share quote for your blog. Job well done!

  8. Hi there. First off, I am new to your blog but I love it!

    Secondly, I’m from the UK and reside in West London where the cultures are very diverse. In fact, I would go as far to say that the town in which I currently live; being white, I am in the minority. It saddens me to say that I have received racist comments for being white, whilst at the same time been insulted for being female.
    I’m in no way saying I am hard done by for being exposed to a bit of racism; I’m aware that people experience so much worse. Alas, it is the shortfallings of our society, and I really don’t get the whole racism thing in general, especially in this day and age.
    But nor is it one-sided. Everyone needs to have an attitude change.

    • I would go back and read the “Race Ya” post and this one again and pay very close attention to the definition of “racism” and how it differs from one (or a few) individuals saying nasty things and just not liking you. That is bigotry and prejudice. You are talking about bigotry and prejudice. Racism, however, is different. It is part of the system and fabric of an entire country or society. Where, no matter where you go or how you dress you are more likely to be killed, to be denied jobs and or a place to live to be denied equal opportunity. This is not about some people who have no influence over your life trajectory saying mean things. This is about taking people’s lives and oppressing them, where they can’t just walk into a different neighborhood or dress differently or make some small change to escape it. That is racism. It is important to recognize that bigotry, while offensive, wrong, and unacceptable, is not the same type of state- or society-sponsored oppression that racism is. Understanding this difference is important. Because without comprehending that, you minimize how horrific and serious racism actually is.

  9. Oh Sister Muse-Blogger – You have inspired several posts of my own concerning this whole race question as a white person – In – http://riproarinrants.com/2014/12/05/fearless-journal-watching-white-america-wake-up-to-a-nightmare/ I covered a wide range of topics, including mentioning your last post associated with white privilege. In it is a link to an interesting psychological test developed by Harvard scientists – https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html

    On that site are a number of tests that measure “implicit” bias – which is the sneaky racism of which most privileged white folks are unaware – this is a bias that is measured in the intellectual and emotional values we associate to particular people – automatically without a second thought. It can be unnerving to take these tests, because the results are likely to challenge one’s identity as a “good” person, in many ways. And this is probably why so many people cried “foul” concerning your last post. People like to identify themselves as being good, and well “racism” doesn’t really jibe with that. And if you actually are pretty free of racist tendencies, by doing well on one test – Just wait – there’s more, they offer tests to measure one’s implicit biases concerning all sorts of ism’s – ageism, sexism, etc. So yeah, I would suggest that website is a good start is for people to take the test and just see what is going on in their brains that needs some adjustment. Awareness is the first thing.

    On the specific issue of dealing with racism via making friends, etc – I wrote another post (also inspired by a post of yours – the one located in the DMV) offering advice on this subject, because well all my life I have had friends from all sorts of backgrounds – although being a middle-class white, I could have easily opted out of this had I chosen. http://riproarinrants.com/2014/10/05/fearless-journal-silence-is-not-always-golden-or-why-being-nice-all-the-time-isnt-so-nice-all-the-time/

    Generally, I would say to people that live in a white majority area, just exposing yourself in someway to the reality of Blacks in America via art is a really good way to go, especially since artists speak to our heart, which is color-blind. I remember falling in love with Maya Angelou’s voice when I was 14 – reading her autobiography – I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Beyond exposing oneself to the voices/artistry/reality of Blacks in America and in the world … one should consider that racism really isn’t about color … it is about generalized fear about the OTHER … someone you don’t feel comfortable with socially or personally and because of this discomfort you create a barrier of perception, or buy into the pre-packaged on-the-shelf stereotypes that are pushed on us by the mainstream society. I would say to whites who want to rid themselves of racism – and don’t have a “handy” black person around to befriend — I say this with GREAT sarcasm, … They should ask themselves – Is there ANYBODY in my community, with whom I naturally resonate, or whom I would like to know, but I stopped myself because they were “different” in some way? This could be a disabled person,or an older person,or someone from a different social class, someone from a different religious group … This is how I to this day have friends from ALL over from all sorts of backgrounds … because I have always been curious about people. And through this process of just being OPEN to people, not judging them without listening to their truths beforehand … I was freeing myself of the lies and hates that society insinuated themselves into my psyche. It isn’t about how many people of a particular group you know and love … it is about holding strong to the basic belief that we ALL deserve the respect to be judged by our own truth in words and actions – we are not human billboards for the agenda of a political or social machine – we may share similar messages or realities, but we should never be stripped of our humanity. Isms strip up of our humanity. And what the white howlers of the song – I am not a Racist — forget is that this sick way of thinking chains us all to a sick way of being. Do we really want to continue harboring lies in our psyche, like serial killers that murder our own rational thoughts or compassionate feelings concerning human beings – just so truly evil forces can rule unquestioned on a morally bankrupt system of privilege?

    And here I go again – this is another blog inspired by you : )

  10. My facebook has been blowing up with arguments about white privilege because of the Ferguson case and nothing ever gets solved because if someone says they do have white privilege then someone else will come and say that white privilege doesn’t exist at all. I just keep my mouth shut and my head down. Kudos to you for being so open!
    http://www.danikamaia.com

  11. I feel the need to write: I don’t want to take sides on the white-black divide. I think both sides need to take a long hard look at themselves. My main issue here is the tone. What I have read of your blog is witty and intelligent, bordering on flippant. And that’s where you and most people lose the race game, in the credibility stakes. You cannot be flippant and serious at the same time: not about something so morally profound; not unless you have been given the express authority to be so. As a white female, in a matter so sensitive, you do not have that authority. You do not have that authority (yet) because in the eyes of the oppressed you have not earned it — not yet anyway. Anything you say on this sensitive-and-still-very-raw matter admixed with light-heartedness will come across flippant. By doing so you lose credibility — you have failed to connect to the source of suffering in the other. There’s a cognitive dissonance here. The tone of your post is incongruent with the gravity of the situation, at least to a black person. A cognitive dissonance can be funny, sure. Humour can be appropriate in tragedy, but it can also be inappropriate if the empathy is not commensurate, the understanding not innate. And I’m afraid yours is not … because it can’t be. Not yet anyway. In other words, your “race post”, although a genuine attempt at the contrary, portrays the very black-white disconnect that is the problem. Just the title alone (“Race Ya”) belittles the problem and betrays any attempt at sincerity. You have not demonstrated enough remorse to justify sincerity. You have not earned your “stripes” on this matter to justify humour. Not yet anyway. Because you can’t have, until you have grieved. And not enough time has passed to grieve. And not enough remorse has been shown. Not enough by you and not enough by most whites. And so although you are laying the cards bare in attempting to identify your limitations as a white, it doesn’t go far enough. Your words ring hollow. Our words ring hollow. Well-intentioned flippant is still flippant by any other name. Happy blogging. Sincerely, white male.

  12. I did not comment on that Race Ya post, even though I wanted to. My initial interest in commenting got lost as I read the comments. Hug a puppy is a good summation of how I felt when I left the page.

  13. Pingback: Ten Ways a White Person Can Be Interrupted by the Ferguson Movement

  14. I just wanted to make a point about the study your original post was about. I recently analyzed it for a statistics class to see what kinds of procedures the institute followed when they conducted their survey. The 91% comes from data in which they asked over 2300 people who their “social network” was. Their definition of social network is the people you have discussed important topics with in the last six months, up to SEVEN people. So to compare your life with that study, you would need to follow that definition of social network, not your facebook friends. Great points in your article overall! Really refreshing and totally truthful! It is about race, and how people don’t even realize what they are doing impacts an entire culture.

  15. That is a great first step against racism. Because I, like you don´t have the most diverse group of friends and I wouldn´t wanna make new friends simply based on their ethnicity. But this great for me and I guess many other people because it is very comfortable for the beginning and you´re still becoming more aware of the problem.

  16. 1) Please don’t forget to keep talking about this. I’m curious about how quickly we’re going to see tangible changes as a result of the discourse surrounding the Ferguson/Eric Garner/racism in America issue and I’d really like to see your perspective on it. We can’t allow this issue to be talking point surrounding what some people treat as a current event like any other – we have to make a commitment to making discussion abot this issue more commonplace.
    2) For the record – Dear White People played at the theatres on Temple’s campus.
    3) I just want to say that you’re inspiring to me.

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