Study finds many white people view racism as a zero-sum game
May 24, 2011 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Whites believe they are victims of racism more often than blacks. Researchers at Harvard Business School and Tufts University have published a study (PDF) that concludes that "many Whites believe ... the pendulum has now swung beyond equality in the direction of anti-White discrimination."
posted by desjardins (265 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
O course, "believe they are victims" and "are victims" are two different things.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:48 AM on May 24, 2011 [31 favorites]


I would laugh at this if it wasn't so sad.
posted by kmz at 8:49 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


When you've known privilege, the constraint of privilege feels like discrimination.

... of course, this is totally irrational, and anyone who honestly examines this feeling has to be startled at how crazy it is. But many people don't do any of that examining.
posted by jeffmshaw at 8:50 AM on May 24, 2011 [37 favorites]


Researchers at Harvard Business School and Tufts University have published a study (PDF) that concludes that "many Whites believe ... the pendulum has now swung beyond equality in the direction of anti-White discrimination their actions should have no consequence and that anything they've stopped worrying about instantly disappeared, so why is anyone else worried about it? ."
posted by Legomancer at 8:52 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


Black guy: "Hey, the jobs still go to less-qualified white dudes, but at least I get an interview now! That's an improvement, I guess."

White guy: "A black lady at the DMV rolled her eyes at me! OMFG RACISUM!"
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2011 [70 favorites]


I feel sick.
posted by Lisitasan at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.
– United States Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), July 13, 2009
posted by clavdivs at 8:53 AM on May 24, 2011


Bakke.

Affirmative Action was absolutely necessary when it was first passed. But now it's a barrier to racial reconciliation, and a source of real, not imagined, grievance to white Americans. Either phase it out, or allow whites to use it to get into disproportionately Asian University of California system. But as long as whites can complain that discrimination in schooling and employment is written into the law, to their harm, you're going to have resentment.
posted by orthogonality at 8:54 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm not seeing on the linked page where the headline is backed up.
posted by cashman at 8:55 AM on May 24, 2011


Gee, I've never been stopped by a cop for driving through a black neighborhood. I am white. I have never heard disgusting things said about me behind my back, and to my face, because of my race like my black friends have. I have never been characterized as one of "them" who would ruin the neighborhood if my family moved in. I guess I must be missing all that racism against whites.

People are disgusting, once again.
posted by mermayd at 8:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [13 favorites]


The study also clarifies that many whites do not understand the scope of racism, and think that blacks can tell "off-color" jokes, whereas whites cannot, and that is totally racism. Remember the Obama chimp and the White House watermellon patch emails? Totally harmless fun, no racism there at all!


clavdivs: Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.
– United States Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), July 13, 2009


The full quote is much sadder.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:56 AM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


To deny that racism towards whites happens is entirely ignorant.

One particular thing that happened to me comes to mind. I was minding my own business during lunch break in High School, and about six black 'kids' (my age), male and female, lead by two males, came up to me and began threatening me, calling me racist.

For. No. Reason. Not one.

I kept to myself in school, and up to that point it racism towards blacks/hispanics hadn't even occurred to me, because I came from a large city where, in those schools growing up, being white was a minority.

So, they hassled me, threatened me, and, even being a female, shoved me around.

I don't know what kind of racism that is where you go around accusing everyone else of being racist, but I'm sure it counts.

I've also lived in primarily black neighborhoods as an adult, and have experienced racism because I'm not black.

So I don't want to hear that it doesn't happen to whites, that's complete bullshit.
posted by Malice at 8:56 AM on May 24, 2011 [23 favorites]


"many Whites believe ... their actions should have no consequence"

Do you mean liberalizing or that they should be punished for previous generations' actions?

I work in an environment that talks a lot about Affirmative Action. All that means to me is fewer jobs for people who look like my kids.
posted by codswallop at 8:56 AM on May 24, 2011


I almost wish there was some anti white racism just for the much needed perspective. Anyone who thinks the pendulum has swung to the other side doesn't know how far, and for how long it's been over on the first side
posted by Redhush at 8:56 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


* Note: I didn't read the PDF, so the study might not really delve into the understanding of terminology and history.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:56 AM on May 24, 2011


Invisible backpack!
posted by Talez at 8:57 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"On behalf of the sane citizens of the great state of Alabama, I'd like to apologize for Jeff Sessions. He's a turd carved in the shape of a weasel. We're really, really sorry, y'all. And we didn't vote for him."

-- Me
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:57 AM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


Am I the only one squicked out when "Whites" is capitalized?
posted by DU at 8:58 AM on May 24, 2011 [18 favorites]


My snippy first comment aside, I have been dealing with this on my campus. I was part of drafting some fairly innocuous diversity guidelines, and I have had immense prushback from white male professors who feel they are being discriminated against. I am not sure how to address this (entirely wrong) perception, but, since it exists (vehemently), it will have to be addressed if we want to get anywhere with these initiatives....
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:59 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


why is this relevant? It's merely an opinion. Minorities weren't given affirmative action because they "believed" they were denied opportunities, there was undeniable evidence that they were. You want an opinion: polls are fucking useless. People are always going to advocate for their own self interest regardless of the truth.
posted by any major dude at 9:00 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


This has probably been hashed and rehashed on MetaFilter more times than can count, but I think it's really worthwhile to parse out the difference between prejudice and racism. Both are noxious, yes. Race-based antipathy is very objectionable. But the way that white people and black people (to oversimplify race) have been treated by economic and social realities in this country is very different.
posted by entropone at 9:01 AM on May 24, 2011 [29 favorites]


Hmmm. Maybe someone needs to unpack "the Imaginary Knapsack of White Discrimination."
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:01 AM on May 24, 2011


I have spent too many hours defending workplace equality initaitives to be surprised by this. Sickened, but not surprised.
posted by londonmark at 9:02 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


How about this:

All people of all races can be racist against any other race, including themselves. All racism exists.

Can this be over now?
posted by Malice at 9:02 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


I'm white and I HAVE been stopped by a cop for driving through a black neighborhood. Then the (also white) cop told me to get out of there because 'the animals were coming out.' So there you go. White people NEVER have to deal with fucktards like that.
posted by mike_bling at 9:02 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


"Empathy for one party is always prejudice against another.
– United States Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala), July 13, 2009"


Oh, I didn't realize this quote leads off the article.
posted by cashman at 9:03 AM on May 24, 2011


filthy light thief: " The full quote is much sadder."

I had a really hard time believing that one of the highest profile members of the religious right in Congress actually rejected the concept of empathy, but yeah ... that actually happened.

While we're clarifying words here, empathy is understanding the feelings of someone else, and prejudice is preferring one party over another irrespective of facts. So, to clarify, whenever you say something like "I understand where you're both coming from", Jeff Sessions thinks you're a liar.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:03 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Gee, I've never been stopped by a cop for driving through a black neighborhood. I am white. I have never heard disgusting things said about me behind my back, and to my face, because of my race..."

I don't believe for a second that anti-white racism is institutionalized, but I most certainly have been stopped in black neighborhoods by cops because I'm white. Also, while I'm being checked out for possibly buying drugs, all the brown and black kids are shouting racially tinged slurs at me. Is this racism?

Being stopped by the cops pisses me off a little- I mean, it's not my fault that a drive down that street is the quickest way home for me. And unless I slow down or stop to talk to someone, just driving down the street, I shouldn't be hassled.

But the kids- they're just being kids. I don't really care that they laugh and point at the white guy.
posted by dave78981 at 9:03 AM on May 24, 2011


So I don't want to hear that it doesn't happen to whites, that's complete bullshit.

You don't want to hear that your straw man is irrelevant?

Note: I too was a white/Hispanic kid in a predominantly minority public high school and rode the bus every day with people who singled me out for heckling and worse because I was white and/or different. Doesn't mean that I think that "anti-white racism" doesn't exist. But on a systemic basis? That's complete bullshit.
posted by blucevalo at 9:03 AM on May 24, 2011 [40 favorites]


Perception studies are useless because of perception biases. I'm not surprised many whites believe they are discriminated against, just like I'm not surprised that most of the cops I know are convinced that full moons bring out the crazies, and most of the poker players I know are convinced that they lose more often than they win with pocket aces.
Perception biases are more invisible than backpacks.
posted by rocket88 at 9:04 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


For forty years, this has been a standard talking point for white supremacists. For the last 20 years, it's become part of the orthodoxy of the Republican party.
posted by warbaby at 9:04 AM on May 24, 2011 [45 favorites]


In my experience, where the resentment from whites comes from (and which they may choose to characterize as 'racism' in a survey) is the sort of "check-the-box" advantages they whites rightly or wrongly perceive that minorities receive career decisions and academic admissions (quota-based affirmative action). Most people do not have an advanced understanding of the historical legacies of discrimination and slavery, and so what do you expect from whites, especially those who may come from underprivileged backgrounds themselves, when the dark color of one's skin can be used to gain an express advantage for limited resources in such an "easy" way as checking a box that says you are black or native american or whatever, regardless of whether those same whites have already received an implicit dynastic and cultural advantage due to the color of their skin. The best way to stop discriminating based on race is to stop discriminating based on race. I think you kill a huge argument of so-called white racism by making it illegal to state your "race" on job applications and university admissions. This is 2011, not 1975.
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:05 AM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


All people of all races can be racist against any other race, including themselves. All racism exists.

Can this be over now?


No. See entropone's comment. Obviously we do need to rehash the racism vs. prejudice discussion.
posted by desjardins at 9:05 AM on May 24, 2011


any major dude: "why is this relevant? It's merely an opinion. Minorities weren't given affirmative action because they "believed" they were denied opportunities, there was undeniable evidence that they were. You want an opinion: polls are fucking useless. People are always going to advocate for their own self interest regardless of the truth"

I wouldn't dismiss this information because it's "just" a poll. What makes the poll relevant and newsworthy is that it sheds light on a prevailing set of attitudes with regards to race, such as the notion that challenges to privilege are forms of oppression, that there is no longer any need for programs like Affirmative Action because we've totally leveled the playing field now, and so forth.

Public opinion shapes policy, or how to best address it. Reading the poll to mean that opinion = fact is erroneous. It's valuable data because they're beliefs.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:06 AM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


My blood pressure was just starting to lower after reading the Tammy Camp MeTa that started Sunday. This got it right back up there again!
posted by kellyblah at 9:06 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Perception studies are useless because of perception biases

Actually, I would think perception studies could be very useful because they can expose these biases, and we want to be aware of them, right?
posted by clockzero at 9:06 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


tags: reverseracism

This phrase really makes me want to scream.
posted by Adam_S at 9:06 AM on May 24, 2011 [16 favorites]


I work in an environment that talks a lot about Affirmative Action. All that means to me is fewer jobs for people who look like my kids.

I couldn't tell if this comment was serious. So, you blindly care only about you and your own, without taking into proper consideration the rest of the world around you, the reality of past (and current!) damage to groups and how to restore those harmed people to an equal and fair footing?
posted by naju at 9:06 AM on May 24, 2011


I think about prejudice against whites the same way I think about domestic violence against men. It certainly exists and it's terrible, but it's a drop in the bucket, both in number and scale. That's why it's frustrating when anyone (on the internet, mostly) talks about domestic violence against women or discrimination against minorities and instantly the topic turns to "What about prejudice against white people?!" and "Men are victims of domestic violence, too!" It drowns out discourse to the point where it ends up being counterproductive.
posted by Alison at 9:07 AM on May 24, 2011 [34 favorites]


Sommers and co-author Michael I. Norton of Harvard asked a nation-wide sample of 208 blacks and 209 whites to indicate the extent to which they felt blacks and whites were the targets of discrimination in each decade from the 1950s to the 2000s

So there's one more white person than black person surveyed? That's biased in favor of whites!

More seriously, here is Norton and Sommers article in the New York Times.
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 9:07 AM on May 24, 2011


There sure are a lot of straw men out wandering today.
posted by kmz at 9:08 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


The full quote is much sadder.

I disagree, how is it sadder when read on another site, the context is with-in this study.

"our data are the first to demonstrate that not only do Whites think more progress has been made towardequality than do Blacks, but Whites also now believe that this progress is linked to a new inequality—at their expense." (from PDF)
posted by clavdivs at 9:08 AM on May 24, 2011


tags: reverseracism

This phrase really makes me want to scream.


Sorry, I included it for search purposes, not because I believe in its validity.
posted by desjardins at 9:09 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh god, not this again.
posted by Decani at 9:10 AM on May 24, 2011


Man, reverse racism folks can get at me when the Militant Black Ice Tea Party gets political positions and gets to push the Overton window of the left so far that we have to argue back that white people shouldn't have to "go back to where they came from".

Oh, wait, I guess Obama's plans for white slavery mean we're already there, right?
posted by yeloson at 9:11 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


The best way to stop discriminating based on race is to stop discriminating based on race.

What's that saying about how for every problem, there's a solution that's simple, obvious, and wrong? The idea is that historical/institutional racism requires systemic correction; if you pretend that it isn't a real problem, that doesn't make it go away.

I think you kill a huge argument of so-called white racism by making it illegal to state your "race" on job applications and university admissions.

But the problem is that institutionalized racism still exists. The problem is not that some white people feel discriminated against.
posted by clockzero at 9:11 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Studies of perception are, indeed, useless for telling you about real discrimination, but the perception of discrimination is still incredibly important. If there are large numbers of whites who believe that they are being discriminated against you ignore or deride it at you peril. Off the top of my head I'm not sure what the solution is, but it's more complicated than calling it disgusting. I'd suggest that a good starting point would be acknowledging that, while things like racial slur directed at whites don't have the same effect that they do on non-whites, they're still unacceptable.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:11 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've ridden the Greyhound across the US border at Buffalo - I never expected to see racism and white priviledge play itself out so blatently, but it was like I had a frickin' invisible luggage set with an invisible porter compared to how non-white passengers were treated.
posted by jb at 9:12 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Actually, I would think perception studies could be very useful because they can expose these biases, and we want to be aware of them, right?

Yeah...poor choice of words on my part. Not useless, but not indicative of anything more than personal bias. The white people surveyed aren't being stupid or disgusting, just human. Everyone sees the inequalities that negatively impact them more than the ones that benefit them.
posted by rocket88 at 9:12 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


"All people of all races can be racist against any other race, including themselves. All racism exists.

Can this be over now?
"

No.

Sorry.

Look, I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood. I've had my ass kicked for being white. Racial minorities can be racist — the most recent crazy racism I've had to endure is from my uncle's wife, a Dominican of obvious African descent complaining that it's genetics that makes blacks steal (because, of course, she's not black — she's Dominican).

But even for all that, the scale and impact is so infinitesimal compared to the endemic racism in this country. I mean, fuck, we've got Southern states still trying to legislate racial profiling of hispanics. Minorities are still disproportionately denied opportunities — something that the "race blind" white people would like to ignore, because they feel like Affirmative Action somehow makes their pie slice smaller instead of realizing that diversity makes all of us stronger.

So, no. It's not over.

Given my druthers, I'd like to see more results-based benchmarks for AA programs, leading to their ultimate phase-out, but while people still deny that they're needed, we can't even get to the point where we can envision their removal.
posted by klangklangston at 9:12 AM on May 24, 2011 [27 favorites]


That's why it's frustrating when anyone (on the internet, mostly) talks about domestic violence against women or discrimination against minorities and instantly the topic turns to "What about prejudice against white people?!" and "Men are victims of domestic violence, too!"

As this study shows, a lot of people honestly believe white/male/straight/cis/fully abled folk are the truly discriminated against in society today. See also the huge amount of whining about the ADA, affirmitive action, gay pride parades, feminism, etc.
posted by kmz at 9:12 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


This whole thing makes me want to take up driving nails into walls with my forehead.

I have so many intelligent things to say on this topic but lack the nuance to even begin to approach them here.

But yeah, I appreciate the prejudice vs racism comment earlier in the thread. That's a good point which needs to be made over and over.
posted by hippybear at 9:13 AM on May 24, 2011


On average, whites rated anti-white bias as more prevalent in the 2000s than anti-black bias by more than a full point on the 10-point scale. Moreover, some 11 percent of whites gave anti-white bias the maximum rating of 10

Not to be all judgemental and stuff, but that, right there, is kind of delusional-sounding. These people should reconsider their opinions because they are not being a credit to their race and are making me look bad by association.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:13 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]



I couldn't tell if this comment was serious. So, you blindly care only about you and your own, without taking into proper consideration the rest of the world around you, the reality of past (and current!) damage to groups and how to restore those harmed people to an equal and fair footing?


I'm completely serious. I care more about my family than random strangers. Shocking, isn't it?

If a policy hurts my family, I don't support it.
posted by codswallop at 9:15 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


That's why it's frustrating when anyone (on the internet, mostly) talks about domestic violence against women or discrimination against minorities and instantly the topic turns to "What about prejudice against white people?!" and "Men are victims of domestic violence, too!" It drowns out discourse to the point where it ends up being counterproductive.

I think maybe a lot of us white men who aren't domestically violent or racist resent the systemic suspicion that we are not to be trusted because "men are the violent ones" or "whites are the racist ones" - not to belittle non-white or non-men's similar problems, mind you.
posted by scrowdid at 9:15 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


rocket88:

Yeah...poor choice of words on my part. Not useless, but not indicative of anything more than personal bias.

Personally, I disagree. I think studies like this can reveal social trends, which one might maintain are composed of discrete personal biases, but they manifest in aggregate as broader social phenomena like racism.
posted by clockzero at 9:16 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


One way to think of it: racism is prejudice PLUS power-- power to enforce your prejudice.
posted by BundleOfHers at 9:16 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


There are two impulses that have gained special prominence in America over the past decade: "I need to get mine and look after my own", and "I need to convince myself and others that I'm a victim, especially if I'm seen as advantaged." The two are related, and 9/11 seemed to break something in the national psyche that let these two horrible impulses seem completely justifiable, even admirable. It's really ugly to watch, and we're seeing it manifest in groups like the Tea Party and studies like this one.
posted by naju at 9:16 AM on May 24, 2011 [19 favorites]


I don't deny that non-white people feel the impact of racism more fully in their everyday lives. I just get sick of hearing the arrogant scoffing when someone suggests that, perhaps in some places, situations, etc., white people can feel it to.

All racism should be addressed as such, and if a white boy or girl comes home after being beaten for being white, he shouldn't be told "oh they have it worse, get over it".

That's all I've got to say, carry on.
posted by Malice at 9:16 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


You know how liberals make fun of conservatives that watch the Colbert Report without realizing it's a schtick? Y'all realize when Colbert says that he's colorblind, that's also part of his schtick, and it's in fact not a good thing, right?
posted by kmz at 9:17 AM on May 24, 2011


I just get sick of hearing the arrogant scoffing when someone suggests that, perhaps in some places, situations, etc., white people can feel it to.

Who here has said that?!
posted by kmz at 9:18 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


All people of all races can be racist against any other race, including themselves. All racism exists.

I think that is an excellent starting point.

Can this be over now?

Oh, sorry, didn't see that.
Um, no?
posted by benito.strauss at 9:18 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I'm completely serious. I care more about my family than random strangers. Shocking, isn't it?

If a policy hurts my family, I don't support it.
"

It's weird — I've worked and gone to school at places with AA policies, and never thought that somehow minorities were hurting me by being there.

Don't you have enough faith in your kids to think that they don't need to hold other people down in order to succeed?
posted by klangklangston at 9:18 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


So I don't want to hear that it doesn't happen to whites, that's complete bullshit.
posted by Malice at 8:56 AM on May 24 [6 favorites +] [!]


Luckily you don't have to hear that, since not a single person said it. What they did say is that whites believing they were MORE discriminated against than actual minorities WAS a load of bullshit. If you think you have been more discriminated against than every single other person in your neighborhood, you are believing a silly and not-true thing. Get some perspective.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:19 AM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


"I couldn't tell if this comment was serious. So, you blindly care only about you and your own, without taking into proper consideration the rest of the world around you, the reality of past (and current!) damage to groups and how to restore those harmed people to an equal and fair footing?"

In all fairness taking care of yourself and your own should always be priority one. Nobody is going to do it for you. I'm not going to waste time "taking into proper consideration" the rest of the world around me if if I , or my children, are struggling. Having time to worry about how to rectify past, and current, injustices to marginalized groups is a luxury a lot of people don't have (even if they have an invisible knapsack chock full o' unacknowledged privilege).
posted by MikeMc at 9:19 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Look, your opinion on this matter is simply an extension of your own racism. If you can't see it, it's because you're so embedded in your own privilege. Privilege is a concept you will never understand on account of your privilege. On the other hand, my personal view on the subject is much more nuanced. I am obviously a better person than you. Please take this into account when addressing me. You racist.
posted by seanyboy at 9:19 AM on May 24, 2011 [28 favorites]


Sure, there is some prejudice against white people -- I've been stereotyped by both black and white people as middle class/well-to-do (which I'm not) based on my race, and when I was six, some older girls were mean to me once based on my race.

And guess what - some girls being mean to me is NOTHING like being systematically targetted by the police or border guards or most authorities, and being stereotyped as middle/upper-class is an ADVANTAGE, not a disadvantage.

White priviledge is something which I have come to be increasingly aware of in my life. Not the cosmetic things, like "I can see people who look like me on tv" (because there aren't actually any fat female but still awesome nerds on tv), but in the "I'm not stopped by the police for no good reason" and "I can approach a police officer for assistance and know that he will not threaten me" and "People will hire me and treat me like the intelligent, competent person that I am" way.
posted by jb at 9:19 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


The Republicans, class warriors of the rich have been very successful in convincing poor and middle class whites that their decreasing opportunities and security are not a result of the increasing economic imbalance in favor of the richest of the rich, but the result of anti-racism measures to help counteract discrimination against blacks.

That's the really brutal thing about the Southern Strategy. Back in the day when Republicans stood for rich assholes and blacks, and Democrats for poor people and white racists, you at least had each side fighting for *something* worthwhile, and positive things were often piggybacked onto the awful things each side did.

Now you've got one side fighting for all the people with no power and one side fighting for all the people who do have power. Is it any wonder that the Republicans always seem to win, and the Democrats who actually win anything all seem to do it by selling out?
posted by edheil at 9:19 AM on May 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


"All racism should be addressed as such, and if a white boy or girl comes home after being beaten for being white, he shouldn't be told "oh they have it worse, get over it"."

God, your parents must have sucked.

When I got beaten up for being white, my parents were pretty sympathetic and did their best to get the other kids punished.
posted by klangklangston at 9:20 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Relevant table from the PDF - White and Black respondents perceptions of anti-White and anti-Black bias in each decade.
posted by cashman at 9:21 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Marisa wrote:

What makes the poll relevant and newsworthy is that it sheds light on a prevailing set of attitudes with regards to race, such as the notion that challenges to privilege are forms of oppression, that there is no longer any need for programs like Affirmative Action because we've totally leveled the playing field now, and so forth.

Marisa, all this shit does is create cover for the real oppression elite by pitting poor whites against poor blacks while the rich tiptoe away with their fucking billion dollar tax cuts. Polls like this basically function as Push Polls sending the participate and reader away with a newly reinforced prejudice thereby taking their focus away from the real enemy to their future prosperity. The last thing the rich elite at Harvard (who funded this poll) want to happen is for the poor and middle class to band together and turn their guns on them. Don't take the bait and allow them to divide us even further.
posted by any major dude at 9:22 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


"many Whites believe ... the pendulum has now swung beyond equality in the direction of anti-White discrimination." will be quoted as " the pendulum has now swung beyond equality in the direction of anti-White discrimination."

I'm white and grew up in the United States without financial hardship, making me incredibly privileged. My brothers, much more so. The white men I've heard complain about reverse discrimination have been ignorant and whiny. This is not research, it's anecdote. I believe we've made huge strides. I believe that some members of the underclass need to own some self-imposed barriers. But white men are still incredibly privileged. Anti-African-American racism is very much alive in the United States, and everywhere else I've been. Plus, anti-Semitism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, racism (Asians, Hispanics, Indians, etc.) are alive and thriving in the US, and, as far as I can tell, the rest of the world.
posted by theora55 at 9:22 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


People suck. Sometimes it's about race. Sometimes it's about sex. Sometimes it's about religion. Sometimes it's about money. I try to do my part to not be part of the problem when the opportunity affords itself. I try. The key is keeping perspective. Remembering the scope of the problem. That it isn't really personal. It's just that people suck. Yes - me too.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:22 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


I got pulled over by a state trooper last Sunday. He scolded me, but did not write me a ticket. He let me off with a warning.

While I certainly think that it is important that A) my offense was minor, and B) I was completely respectful and didn't try to argue with the cop...the fact is that I'm a white dude. It's hard to argue that this wasn't also a factor.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 9:23 AM on May 24, 2011


"The Republicans, class warriors of the rich have been very successful in convincing poor and middle class whites that their decreasing opportunities and security are not a result of the increasing economic imbalance in favor of the richest of the rich, but the result of anti-racism measures to help counteract discrimination against blacks."

OTM!

The very idea that there's a competition between one race and another for jobs is insane, and (not to get all Marxist) a manifestation of the class warfare here in America, which we tend to ignore under our general national myth of individualistic egalitarianism.
posted by klangklangston at 9:23 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


Here's the thing: many people still believe that there is a way things should be. It's not a malicious thing in most cases; it's just what's been true for most of their lives. It's safe and comfortable. Why should it occur to them to challenge it? How could it be wrong? It's always been this way. Therefore, it's supposed to be this way. It's correct.

Black kids getting accepted to college not as special race-representing specimens but just like white kids, like they belong there, is Not How Things Should Be. President who isn't an old white guy—Not How Things Should Be. Cultural influences that aren't majority-driven—NHTSB. I understand why people who feel this way feel under attack.

The problem is that those people are on the wrong side. Well should they mourn for the Norman Rockwell ideal, Greatest Generation stuff, Mayberry and all that. They are the definition of How Things Should Be for them. And none of them could have existed without monstrous, insidious racism. What people and politicians who cry out for a return to those gentler times cannot understand is that no, actually, that's not at all how things should be. And the more we move forward, the less like that they'll be. It scares them. Too bad, assholes.
posted by peachfuzz at 9:24 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Marisa, all this shit does is create cover for the real oppression elite by pitting poor whites against poor blacks while the rich tiptoe away with their fucking billion dollar tax cuts. Polls like this basically function as Push Polls sending the participate and reader away with a newly reinforced prejudice thereby taking their focus away from the real enemy to their future prosperity. The last thing the rich elite at Harvard (who funded this poll) want to happen is for the poor and middle class to band together and turn their guns on them. Don't take the bait and allow them to divide us even further.

To the best of my knowledge, this poll was not created nor conducted by the rich elite, but by academics. The rich and powerful may every well try and use this data in some divide-and-conquer fashion, but look: knowing how the public feels about the effects of legislative policy is a really, really important thing. Are you honestly suggesting that we forsake polling on how people feel about certain policies because the rich might use this data for the advancement of their own agenda? Because that seems like throwing out a whole lot of baby with the bathwater.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:25 AM on May 24, 2011


I kind of understand the complaint. There are plenty of scarce public resources such as financial aid scholarships, college admissions, fellowships, certain government jobs etc. that are quite literally a zero-sum game and use race as a criteria for acceptance. I don't think that's a crazy thing to believe that white folks (and often Asians) are at a disadvantage in applying for these resources.

Ultimately it's the borderline applicants that suffer which is a shame as they tend to have fewer options. Yeah, rich white people will always be fine, but lower middle class kids (who don't count toward the "poor" quota) without connections suffer.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:26 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I suspect that they have experienced discrimination: but they are mistaking it as race-based rather than class based.

It is the racist's stock card: dress up the disenfranchisement of lower and middle class white people as the result of immigration/other "races" rather than the true source: the transfer of wealth to a handful of very rich, largely white individuals.

Once the idea has taken hold that disenfranchisement has been caused by a group obvious by their color, rather than hidden away in city offices creating unfavorable policy - it's easy to spot real examples that "prove" the case and extrapolate out to a false conclusion that this is the root of the world's ills: the black comedian who gets to say the n word; the feckless coworker who plays the race card and gets a soft ride etc etc.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:28 AM on May 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


Yeah, rich white people will always be fine, but lower middle class kids (who don't count toward the "poor" quota) without connections suffer.

I think the debate always tends to devolve into a shouting match between which sucks more: being a poor white kid or a poor black kid and then weighing the advantages of the "poor white people invisible knapsack" against "affirmative action," which is a balance of a completely subjective concept against a partially objective one. This never goes anywhere.
posted by gagglezoomer at 9:31 AM on May 24, 2011



Don't you have enough faith in your kids to think that they don't need to hold other people down in order to succeed?

If they don't work at a structural disadvantage, they're (my kids?) are holding others down?
Fuck that noise.
posted by codswallop at 9:31 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


In all fairness taking care of yourself and your own should always be priority one.

No, this is incredibly selfish when it comes to public policies and systems that are about more than just you, you, you. Attitudes like this are why my rich doctor relatives so stupidly vote Republican and complain about taxes - because they care only about themselves, even when it harms everyone else around them.
posted by naju at 9:31 AM on May 24, 2011 [10 favorites]


More of the methodology:
Respondents were recruited by an online survey research company and paid $5 for participation. They were randomly selected from a panel of 2.5 million respondents matched to the 2000 United States Census on gender, age, and education level. Mirroring national trends for White and Black Americans, the two samples differed on age, and education, such that the White sample was slightly older and more educated (see Table 1). The two groups did not differ on gender composition. Respondents were asked to "indicate how much you think Blacks [Whites] were/are the victims of discrimination in the United States in each of the following decades." They began with the 1950s and proceeded through the 2000s, rating racism against Blacks in each decade and then racism against Whites in each decade.
Also of note - "In accordance with our policy, as a condition of publication, the authors have agreed to make their full data set available to others."
posted by cashman at 9:31 AM on May 24, 2011


I think maybe a lot of us white men who aren't domestically violent or racist resent the systemic suspicion that we are not to be trusted because "men are the violent ones" or "whites are the racist ones" - not to belittle non-white or non-men's similar problems, mind you.
Ooh, this kind of is about something important. The big problem isn't so much you in particular being "racist" and if you stay out of the white hoods, don't burn any crosses, and don't say any N-words, then everything is cool.

The problem is that you are given a bunch of privilege, by society, for being white (and that's not something you control, and that's not your fault), and you mostly can't see it because you're used to it and it's "normal" to you. And you have the potential to help the situation by paying attention to that, by realizing that not everybody has that, and by acting in accordance with that understanding.

That's why people who are trying to raise consciousness of racism tend to provoke unnecessary hostility -- because the everyday commonsense interpretation of "racism" isn't "some people, through no fault of their own, possessing privilege other people have, and acting without malice but without consciousness of that privilege, cause pain and injustice against those without privilege" but "assholes Being Racist and telling racist jokes and firing people for being black etc etc". And people are like "hey, I'm not like that, why are you accusing me of being a horrible person? Racism means people being horrible, right?"

Nah, it means going with the flow in an unjust system.
posted by edheil at 9:31 AM on May 24, 2011 [15 favorites]


God, it's so. EMBARRASSING. when privileged people squawk about the correction of their privilege.

"I'm a white. MAN. You can't even hurt my FEELINGS."
posted by EatTheWeak at 9:32 AM on May 24, 2011 [12 favorites]


Note to white people who believe that being accused of racism for no discernable reason is racism: it is not racism, it is a challenge.

When I was in fourth grade, a busing change turned my all-white school into mixed race overnight, and there were conflicts. At one point, one of the new kids confronted me out of the blue, accusing me of being racist. I knew what racism was, and I got in his face the same way I would have if he'd called me "retarded" or somesuch. It wasn't a conniving plan to convince him I wasn't racist; it was my immediate reaction, and I was normally a quiet kid. He apologized and we were friends, that was that.

So if someone accuses you of being a racist, and your response is to turn inward and feel fearful, that might be a red flag to examine why you feel that way.
posted by davejay at 9:33 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Or, as linked from the NYT article, the full PDF is there.
posted by cashman at 9:33 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is nice to see my President enter 10 Downing, after his wife...
(I just love this)
posted by clavdivs at 9:33 AM on May 24, 2011


Wow, they can't let us have anything, can they?
posted by Eideteker at 9:33 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fuck, how did I miss that in the FPP.
posted by cashman at 9:34 AM on May 24, 2011


And what edheil said.
posted by davejay at 9:35 AM on May 24, 2011


Thank you EatTheWeak for playing the much-needed Louis CK Card. :)
posted by edheil at 9:35 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think about prejudice against whites the same way I think about domestic violence against men. It certainly exists and it's terrible, but it's a drop in the bucket, both in number and scale.

Well, not to the guy it happens to.

You've got to have some empathy for these guys -- if you ever want racial reconciliation.

They feel they've played by the rules, worked hard, and have (as instructed by "elites") tempered their racism. And they feel that despite that, they're getting knee-capped. As good factory jobs disappear overseas, these guys look around and see every other group getting breaks they don't get.

And as they try to make their mortgage in a new job that pays a third of what they used to make, they're more and more scared and angry. Years ago, I did some research into the status of free blacks before and after Emancipation. The most virulent racism arose in times of economic hardship, when blacks (who tended to work for lower wages in the first place) were seen as taking "white jobs". (The only stronger trigger was fear of sexual rather than economic displacement.)

As long as you make Affirmative Action about skin color (as opposed to income), you're creating a class of people that truly is discriminated against (for all the the "right" reasons) and is rightly resentful of it. And the vast majority of these poor whites have little access to white privilege -- the small bit that they did, the "right" to get in line in front of a black man -- went away thirty years ago.

Dismissing poor whites' grievances as mere racism or ignorance is just lighting a powder-keg.
posted by orthogonality at 9:36 AM on May 24, 2011 [26 favorites]


Still worried about "race" when class affects us so much more deeply. We sure do get distracted easily.
posted by edgeways at 9:37 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


"No, this is incredibly selfish when it comes to public policies and systems that are about more than just you, you, you."

So...if I don't try to take care of "me and mine" who will? You? Can I trust you act in the best interests of my children? Of course not. You talk of public policies and systems, I'm talking about day to day living. The ability to even have the discussion we're having is a luxury.
posted by MikeMc at 9:37 AM on May 24, 2011


There is no such thing as racism against white people in America. Full stop.

There is prejudice against white people in minority cultures. There is bias against white people in minority cultures. But there is no racism, because it's IMPOSSIBLE. For anything to be called racism, it has to include power. I know that this has been mentioned in this thread, but it bears repeating. Racism (all -isms, really: classism, sexism, etc.) can only come from those in power--in this case, white people. Note the constant use of "reverse" preceding -isms when it comes from those in power; IMPLICIT in those phrases is that it *isn't* racism, even if those who use the phrase don't realize it. It's fucking bullshit. Women can be prejudiced against, bigoted against, hell, even flat-out *hate* men, but that's not sexism. The poor can feel/think the same about the rich, but that's not classism.

If you disagree, please look for other threads on the blue about these subjects. If that doesn't help, maybe you should seek out some way to raise your consciousness about these issues, though I have little hope that those of you who think I'm full of it will bother, *precisely* because you have the privilege of being a member of the powerful, and can't conceive that you're wrong.
posted by tzikeh at 9:40 AM on May 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


Well, AA is a public policy and a system. Hence why I'm talking about public policies and systems?

There are arguments against AA that I can acknowledge are reasonable and worth discussing. But shutting down all arguments by saying "My only concern is looking after my own kids, and my kids are white, fuck everyone else", I don't even know how to respond to that without seeing red...
posted by naju at 9:40 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


"If they don't work at a structural disadvantage, they're (my kids?) are holding others down?
Fuck that noise.
"

Well, except they don't. They've got all the myriad structural advantages of their race and class. Affirmative Action works to offset those in some ways, but framing AA as a structural disadvantage for them is bullshit, given the structure of American society.

So, again, why don't you think your kids can compete without a structural advantage?
posted by klangklangston at 9:41 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


"There is no such thing as racism against white people in America. Full stop.... If you disagree, [with my narrowing redefinition of a contentious word]... maybe you should seek out some way to raise your consciousness about these issues"

That's a condescending (non-)argument from authority, and it doesn't help.
posted by orthogonality at 9:43 AM on May 24, 2011 [24 favorites]


Note to white people who believe that being accused of racism for no discernable reason is racism: it is not racism, it is a challenge.


Barf. Seriously, I mean bully for you for using the time you were accused of being a racist as a teachable moment, but "I think all white people are racist" isn't any more of a challenge than "I think all black men are violent" or "I think all hispanics are lazy".

Going up to a person and accusing him of racism just because he's white is racism/prejudice/whatever.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:44 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


So...if I don't try to take care of "me and mine" who will? You? Can I trust you act in the best interests of my children? Of course not. You talk of public policies and systems, I'm talking about day to day living. The ability to even have the discussion we're having is a luxury.

This is rather disingenuous; I wouldn't think that your support for the provision of public education would stop if your children went to a non-government funded school. Likewise, I wouldn't think that you approve or are indifferent about the deaths of the civil rights era Deep South blacks merely because you are a white man yourself.

Injustice is injustice, and lining up to benefit from that makes you not far morally removed from those inflicting the harm.
posted by jaduncan at 9:44 AM on May 24, 2011


I think maybe a lot of us white men who aren't domestically violent or racist resent the systemic suspicion that we are not to be trusted because "men are the violent ones" or "whites are the racist ones"

In which case, take it up with the other white men who are domestically violent or are racist. They're the ones you should be angry at, not women or racial minorities.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:45 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Reverse racism is great! It's like racism, but in reverse! Kinda like that old joke about playing country music in reverse, only instead of your truck getting fixed, your wife coming back to you, and your dog coming back to live, you get undenied access to quality education, your parents get richer (and healthier) over time (and you often get a second parent back!), and you get accepted by the power elite. Also, parents push their children toward you as you walk down the street, your girlfriends never tell you that they were 'worried' about dating someone 'from a different background,' rent keeps getting more and more affordable in your area (due to all the reverse gentrification going on), you have access to the freshest fruit and produce...

(do I need to keep going?)
posted by Eideteker at 9:46 AM on May 24, 2011 [21 favorites]


Injustice is injustice, and lining up to benefit from that makes you not far morally removed from those inflicting the harm.

That's a little unfair to the beneficiaries of official discrimination, Affirmative Action.
posted by codswallop at 9:46 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


"There is prejudice against white people in minority cultures. There is bias against white people in minority cultures. But there is no racism, because it's IMPOSSIBLE. For anything to be called racism, it has to include power."

I'm a lefty liberal and I hate this bullshit definition of racism into a jargon term, usually used to control the debate and assert correctness in inarguable terms.

There are many definitions of racism that don't involve "power," and attempting to win an argument through definition of terms is bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 9:46 AM on May 24, 2011 [28 favorites]


Klang, why should it matter if a person's children can compete? I want my children to have a good life, even if they're stupid, lazy, and useless. So it makes sense for me to try to rig the world so that they have a good life, no matter what. Now, that makes for pretty terrible public policy, but as a personal policy, it makes sense.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:47 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


So...if I don't try to take care of "me and mine" who will? You? Can I trust you act in the best interests of my children? Of course not.

Which turns the whole world into this depressing prisoner's-dilemma situation whereby everybody is settling for a least-bad outcome out of fear that others take advantage of their "weakness" if they do anything else. Look: I strive to act in the best interests of all children, whenever it comes up, to whatever degree that's possible. If you did too, and so did everybody else, you wouldn't have to live in this siege mentality where it's your team against the world.

I recognize that my position is unrealistic in the real world; I would have you recognize that it's your position that makes it so.
posted by penduluum at 9:47 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Racism (all -isms, really: classism, sexism, etc.) can only come from those in power--in this case, white people.

Even if one buys into this definition, when looking exclusively at race, white people don't have all the power.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:49 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Klang, why should it matter if a person's children can compete? I want my children to have a good life, even if they're stupid, lazy, and useless. So it makes sense for me to try to rig the world so that they have a good life, no matter what. Now, that makes for pretty terrible public policy, but as a personal policy, it makes sense."

If they can't compete, then nothing's being taken from them aside from the privilege of not having to compete.

In America, there are longstanding structural reasons as to why minorities as populations aren't competing on an even level, so we craft policies that will mitigate against those reasons.

But seriously, the bullshit that I hear out of AA opponents is like arguing that it's discriminatory not to let anyone have a second piece of pie until everyone's had their first piece. Framing it in the language of discrimination is stupid and flatly unjust, and I'm being a lot more diplomatic here than I have been when people in real life have spewed this shit around me.
posted by klangklangston at 9:52 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


We are all so perfectly balkanized now. Everybody is a victim. The white is victimized by affirmative action, the black is victimized by the white, the asian is victimized by the black, the hispanic is victimized by the asian, and the gay person is victimized by all of the above. We feel secure in our unique sub-cultural superiority without ever considering that we all share a common and more important one. We all now believe that we have some kind of civil right to never be offended. Our university campuses are PC cesspools where unicorns and glitter rule over any kind of provocative challenge that might make somebody uncomfortable. Can't have that. Send the offender off to cultural sensitivity training! And when anybody tries to comment, it is impossible. This country has embraced the full-on ad-hominem attack as a legitimate way to ignore a new perspective. Andrew Serwer put it this way: "No one can be given credit for speaking from genuine moral or political conviction anymore; everyone can be dismissed or derided with a nod to their personal background. This may be the logical end of identity politics, where ultimately we're each locked inside whatever little box we check, tiny caucuses of one, and common ground is impossible". Once you start embracing the idea of being a victim as your identity, you have lost. And all races in this country are playing the victim game all too well.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 9:53 AM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


"That's a little unfair to the beneficiaries of official discrimination, Affirmative Action."

"My kid can't have two cookies until everyone else has at least one? That's discrimination! It's not his fault he was born with cookies! He wants these new ones too!"
posted by klangklangston at 9:53 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


That's a little unfair to the beneficiaries of official discrimination, Affirmative Action.

It was a little unfair to expect people to have the same advantages when they have had statistically worse schools (and remember, even formal Jim Crow laws only ended in 1965), worse provision of healthcare, less representation at the political level, implicit and explicit discrimination (still statistically demonstrated in CV response rates for black sounding names), and a completely different relationship with the police and state in general.

But yeah, I don't know why people would have the idea that taking this into consideration in hiring and college to both reflect how much harder it was to succeed and how much the hiring was stacked against them was fair.

No idea at all.
posted by jaduncan at 9:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think about prejudice against whites the same way I think about domestic violence against men. It certainly exists and it's terrible, but it's a drop in the bucket, both in number and scale.

Well, not to the guy it happens to.


No, certainly not. Anyone who is a victim of domestic violence deserves whatever care and attention they need to make themselves whole again.

However, the problem is when any controversial topic, such as racism or violence in the home, gets saturated with talking points about an extreme minority of incidents to the point that the edge case gets inflated into having equal time or even dominating any conversation about the topic. It comes at the expense of the thick part of the bell curve, the place where the most common and extreme cases live. It would be nice to be able devote a proportional amount of energy and thought, just once in a while.
posted by Alison at 9:55 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Look: I strive to act in the best interests of all children, whenever it comes up, to whatever degree that's possible."

"To whatever degree that's possible". Exactly.
posted by MikeMc at 9:56 AM on May 24, 2011


I think you're underestimating the degree to which that's possible.
posted by penduluum at 10:00 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, the problem is when any controversial topic, such as racism or violence in the home, gets saturated with talking points about an extreme minority of incidents to the point that the edge case gets inflated into having equal time or even dominating any conversation about the topic. It comes at the expense of the thick part of the bell curve, the place where the most common and extreme cases live. It would be nice to be able devote a proportional amount of energy and thought, just once in a while.

Interestingly, the British National Party (our [openly] nationalist/racist party) devotes a lot of energy to attempting to create the perception of many Asian pimps attempting to pimp white girls, as well as a wave of black-on-white violence and discrimination. I put this down to projection, and the fact that they don't then have to confront their own behaviour. It's hardly surprising that people who wish to deny the seriousness of domestic violence, racism etc. take the same approach to being told by minority groups that things are unfair. The cognitive dissonance, it otherwise burns.
posted by jaduncan at 10:01 AM on May 24, 2011


Threads like this bring out the Best of MetaFilter, that's for sure.
posted by Gator at 10:03 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Our university campuses are PC cesspools where unicorns and glitter rule over any kind of provocative challenge that might make somebody uncomfortable.

Even as hyperbole, was this supposed to be insightful in any way? Because it kind of just makes you sound like you're grinding a worn-down axe. I mean, really, unicorns and glitter? Have you been to university in the US? It's mostly beer pong and fucking in the library. Not very politically correct, if you think about it.

Once you start embracing the idea of being a victim as your identity, you have lost.


Yeah, that's what we needed to fix race relations in this country: a sternly-worded reprimand about not being such a victim. I have an idea; instead of going after people who have been injured, why don't you use some of that well-crafted vitriol on the structures which actually oppress people? That'd be a pretty good way to demonstrate your commonality with those humans around you. But no, you'd rather view the perfect end of racism as the moment when people who are victimized stop talking about it. Well, sorry to disappoint.
posted by Errant at 10:07 AM on May 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


@Gator: Agreed. Though threads like this also take up most of my lunch hour.
posted by lily_bart at 10:08 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a tall white man seconding the whole "You can't even hurt my feelings

I get the fear a lot of whites have, I went to a school that was highly mixed racially and got into fights that probably had an element of race resentment to it but come on.

I'm planning a wedding right no in nyc and vendors are always shocked when I get through the building's security and walk right into their office. Why would anyone stop me? I look like I'm supposed to be there.

I've been caught BY POLICE breaking into a community center in broad daylight in suburban Baltimore (post college democratic activism, previous group locked the building by mistake) and they completely believed our story. Didn't give us a hard time in the slightest, just waved and went back on their way. Would a group of black or hispanic students been given the same credibility?

Please, being white and male is the easiest thing going (and don't get me started on what my indian physician finance has to deal with: "Hey nurse! Nurse! Do you speak english?")
posted by slapshot57 at 10:14 AM on May 24, 2011 [14 favorites]


DU: "Am I the only one squicked out when "Whites" is capitalized?"

I prefer "Honkies"
posted by symbioid at 10:19 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


But there is no racism, because it's IMPOSSIBLE. For anything to be called racism, it has to include power.

There was a story here on the blue from a couple of years ago. It involved the (majority black) Detroit city council openly insulting white business owners and contractors, and denying access to city contract bids to white-owned construction companies. Wouldn't you say that particular government body wielded power, and was using that power to engage in racism?
This is not meant to support the general idea of reverse-racism as commonly used, but to illustrate that your absolute 100% full-stop no-argument assertion is incorrect.
posted by rocket88 at 10:21 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Am I the only one squicked out when "Whites" is capitalized?

It's APA style guide appropriate, to separate white/black as colors from White/Black as descriptions of race (recognizing that these terms are used in a more abstract societally formed way and don't refer to people actually just being white or black).
posted by bizzyb at 10:22 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've searched for the term and saw a couple comments, but I think the issue here (at least the anecdotes I've read in the few comments I've read discussing the real racial/tribal attitudes expressed against them for being white) is that of systemic and institutional racism vs smaller levels (tribal) and subcultural (I don't know what the term would be).

But the kind of complaining that these people are complaining about is that white privilege is being taken away (hence "all things being equal"....) Does this potentially lead to some problems? Perhaps. But the funny thing is, everyone I've known saying this tend to be ... well... they're not the cream of the crop, to put it nicely.

I'm not being particularly clear here, sadly, so I'll just shut up.
posted by symbioid at 10:24 AM on May 24, 2011


White guy here.

When I was 22, I was at a beach party, drinking openly and generally fucking around. Cops showed up and rousted the group of black guys next to us, asking things like "When did you get out of jail."

When I was 24, I had the sports editor of a major daily newspaper, during an interview, look me right in the eye and say, "You have no future in writing because you're a white male."

It takes all kinds. But at least I got to prove the sports editor wrong. Those kids probably never went to the beach again.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:24 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


I bet that group includes a lot of lower class white people being distracted from the fact that they're treated like shit for being poor, not white.
posted by mobunited at 10:25 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


God, it's so. EMBARRASSING. when privileged people squawk about the correction of their privilege.

When anti-racism stops being about the lived experience of individuals and starts being about the "correction" of something (in this case, progressive jargon that will exist so long as the sort of people who support affirmative action want it to exist), I start to worry. This is exactly what a lot of white people worry about - that their job prospects are being sacrificed on the altar of social engineering that tries to make up for the past.

Racism (all -isms, really: classism, sexism, etc.) can only come from those in power--in this case, white people.

Maybe I find this argument so singularly unconvincing because it seems designed to let people mentally off the hook for dealing with the results of their favoured policies (in particular, affirmative action that puts white individuals at a relative disadvantage). Rather than have to deal with the quite powerful charge that these policies institutionalize unequal treatment on the basis of race, and are therefore racist, it simply says, by definition, these policies are not racist because white people IN GENERAL have more power. With this blanket definition in place, people can feel free to put in place policies that treat white people unequally and they just swat away arguments that try to point out that they may be hurting real individuals. I would love to be able to convince myself that any policy I favoured could not be wrong by definition because other people in the world have more power than I do, so I'm just trying to right that historical imbalance (I imagine that being an Objectivist would be sort of like this). Defining away criticism of your politics may make you feel better, but outside of people who already agree with you it's unlikely be very persuasive.

Groups don't experience suffering. Groups don't experience injustice. Individuals do. Denying a white man a promotion he's earned is no less racist just because he won't get pulled over for being white on the way home from work.
posted by Dasein at 10:25 AM on May 24, 2011 [5 favorites]


" Our university campuses are PC cesspools where unicorns and glitter rule over any kind of provocative challenge that might make somebody uncomfortable."

Are you fucking high?

It's been a couple years since I got out of college, but my programs were full of the same entitled white babies whining about how hard done by they were whenever AA came up in my journalism or poli-sci classes.

The only guy who consistently complained about PC there was the fucking Randroid j-history prof I had, and, well, much as I like the guy personally, he was a fucking lunatic on all sorts of policy levels and routinely got called on his shit by students.
posted by klangklangston at 10:26 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


In all fairness taking care of yourself and your own should always be priority one. Nobody is going to do it for you. I'm not going to waste time "taking into proper consideration" the rest of the world around me if if I , or my children, are struggling.

Forgive me for inserting a quick apparent digression but it so happens I was browsing this thread right after finishing watching The Road, the movie from the McCarthy's novel, and this comment stood out so much and reminded me of so much of the story, it's kind of creepy really.

And here I was, naive me, watching the movie and thinking "well thank god we're not living in broken down post-apocalyptic brutal societies where 'taking care of yourself and your own' is the main priority in life".
posted by bitteschoen at 10:28 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yes, yes, we know. Having a Black President will drive a certain segment of White America crazy. Whatever, this is just a warm up to the first female President. That's when the real crazy will come out of the closet.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:28 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seymour Zamboni: Our university campuses are PC cesspools where unicorns and glitter rule over any kind of provocative challenge that might make somebody uncomfortable. Can't have that. Send the offender off to cultural sensitivity training! And when anybody tries to comment, it is impossible.

Bravo! Better recitation of rightwing cant I've not seen in quite a while. Bill Bennett owes you a round of expensive beers at the nearest PC cesspool tavern of your choice.
posted by blucevalo at 10:29 AM on May 24, 2011


Metafilter: mostly beer pong and fucking in the library

if only that were true
posted by desjardins at 10:30 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


DU: "Am I the only one squicked out when "Whites" is capitalized?"

No, I am too -- and for some reason, the spell-check on my ipod wants to capitalise it EVERY time. Like "the White house on the left" or "follow the White line down the hall." Apple must be run by Nazis.
posted by jb at 10:30 AM on May 24, 2011


I thought Stephen Colbert hit it on the head when he said "I don't even see race -- I'm color-blind. People tell me I'm white, though, and I believe them, because cops call me 'sir'."
posted by KathrynT at 10:32 AM on May 24, 2011 [20 favorites]


bitteschoen, did you actually believe that taking care of yourself and your family ever stopped being job one for the vast majority of people? I make money, most of it I spend on my family, some goes to my friends, a smaller portion goes to people I've never met. It might no be a stark as in a postapocalyptic scenario, but these are pretty much everyone's priorities.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:34 AM on May 24, 2011


Groups don't experience injustice. Individuals do. Denying a white man a promotion he's earned is no less racist just because he won't get pulled over for being white on the way home from work.


Does this ever happen? I think Affirmative Action just lets you in the door, and once you are there I have seen no evidence that more doors will suddenly open. I have to say as a minority who is been on tons of interview within the last year: I havent had ONE single interview where the hiring manager/HR person looked remotely like me.

A lot of people have to check their assumptions of what affirmative action actually means.....

(P.S: and the overall point of affirmative action is actually that because of your race there is an inherent advantage for you getting that job on the first place, whether it is because it is more likely for a white person to know someone at the place to get them that job, someone in your family who has actually attended an university and can guide you better, are the kind of advantages that affirmative action is looking to fix but probably never will)
posted by The1andonly at 10:39 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


(and I could have worded that better but I am on a phone and on a rush to another interview)
posted by The1andonly at 10:40 AM on May 24, 2011


I came back to the US from Victoria on the MV Coho during college (late 90s). I had forgotten my ID, and my buddy had bought an ounce of BC bud (and a vaporizer, and about six new blown glass pipes), but I smiled and was white, and we were waved through. Again, with no ID, and wearing grungy flannel with a scruffy beard. Immediately behind us was a group of high school-aged Middle Eastern soccer players -- all wearing matching Adidas suits, and carrying matching duffel bags, and carrying soccer balls. They got diverted to the enhanced security line. That was a pretty stunning reinforcement of white privilege to me.
posted by norm at 10:44 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Can this be over now? - Has Matt paid for his kids' education?
posted by Ardiril at 10:44 AM on May 24, 2011


because it's IMPOSSIBLE. For anything to be called racism, it has to include power.

1. Power comes in lots of forms. Physical power, for instance.

2. Please explain how it's perfectly OK for AA to discriminate against Asians.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:45 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Groups don't experience suffering. Groups don't experience injustice.

That is completely and utter bullshit and make believe. What you're asking for, and desiring, is a fake belief that somehow, through individualism, we will all be able to stand on our two feet and declare to the world who we are, where we come from, and be defined as such in those terms. And that's an admirable goal. It's a very American thing to state, to say, to believe, and to wish for. It's also completely misguided, reductionist, and silly.

Groups do suffer and can be persecuted. Social memory, culture, and experience are all greater and above just one collective individual. You are bigger than the sum of what is inside your mind, body, and soul. You didn't get to where you are because of your own metal, luck, experience, favor, or lust for life. You came from somewhere, you have a history, you have a social memory, and - when people look at you - they deal with you in terms of social constructions and culture. You don't get to control how you communicate or how people view you. You belong to something bigger than you and, since you do, that bigger thing can be attacked, belittled, damaged, persecuted, oppressed - just like individuals can be.

A policy that encourages and promotes groups and individuals to take a moment to think beyond their own social, racial, ethnic, and gender constructs, are not bad things. Individuals who think that is so are believing that their own sense of entitlement trumps the opportunities for others. And that's utter crap.
posted by Stynxno at 10:46 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't think I'm a racist because I'm white. I think I'm a racist because I grew up in a racist society. I was fed racist imagery from an early age, learned jokes I'm now embarrassed to know, and said and did things (out of intention or ignorance - it doesn't really matter). Of *course* I'm a racist. I don't understand how people can think that it's possible to not be a racist after growing up in America. The trick is to not be an asshole about it - to push to be better or at least less racist than the folks who came before me, and to notice racism and push back against it when I can.
posted by rmd1023 at 10:49 AM on May 24, 2011 [24 favorites]


I find it hilarious that the same people who rail against affirmative action because it admitted less-qualified minorities into universities are now complaining about the disproportionately large Asian student body.

But I've never understood why affirmative action needs to be race-based. If the purpose is to break the cycle of poverty, why not base it on economic and educational background? Give preference to students who will be the first in their families to attend college. Give preference to students who come from households and neighborhoods and counties below the poverty line.

"Diversity" always seemed like a bullshit term --- the point was never really to diversify, it was to redistribute wealth so that in a few generations racial economic disparities would vanish. Which is great, but why not just say that? You want to actually increase diversity, stop charging 3x tuition for out-of-state students.

Race-based affirmative action is one of the few issues where I end up sounding like a lunatic tea partier.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:51 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Of *course* I'm a racist. I don't understand how people can think that it's possible to not be a racist after growing up in America.

You just said you're white. Therefore, it's completely possible (even probable) that you're racist--and yes, because we grew up in a racist society. I would venture to say that all white people (including me) are racist to some extent, whether it's overt, covert, intentional, unintentional, or entirely unconscious. All we can do is *listen* to minorities when they tell us that something we've said or done is racist, and examine our speech/actions, and work to improve ourselves.
posted by tzikeh at 10:52 AM on May 24, 2011


argh - that was for rmd1023.
posted by tzikeh at 10:53 AM on May 24, 2011


Civil_Disobedient:

1. Power comes in lots of forms. Physical power, for instance.

That's not the kind of power I'm taking about. I think you know that. Political power. Sociological power. Not "I can beat you up" power.

2. Please explain how it's perfectly OK for AA to discriminate against Asians.

First of all, I never said it was OK--I haven't said anything here about AA or Asians. Second of all, "discrimination" is not "racism."
posted by tzikeh at 10:57 AM on May 24, 2011


Bulgaroktonos - I should have rephrased that sentence more clearly, or rather, specify what was implied. What I meant was more like this: And here I was, naive me, watching the movie and thinking "well thank god we're not living in broken down post-apocalyptic brutal societies where 'taking care of yourself and your own' and fuck everyone else is the one and only priority for sheer survival".

If you've seen the movie, you'll know what I'm talking about. It's brutal.

It's not just "taking care of yourself and your own" simply as making money and providing for your kids, yeah, heh, sure we all do that. BUT we also live in a society that's supposed to have progressed from a clan vs clan, tribe vs tribe brutal struggle for resources, and that's also supposed to NOT have reached the kind of post-apocalyptic scarcity that spurs a return to that kind of brutal struggle that's at the center of that movie, where people turn into worse than animals.

There you go. To expand further, human society, organised society, no, organised modern society, especially in a 'first world' country, is supposed to be about a LOT more than just a sum of individuals only giving a shit about themselves and their own kids and relatives, and only giving a shit about the policies and rights and economic choices that benefit only them, and fuck everyone else that doesn't belong to the tribe. Because that's what that "taking care of my own" in the context of this thread sounded like.

Humanity was at that level a long time ago, right? At least the idea for some time now has been something like, wait, what was it... the common good? Or is that a laughably naive principle now?
posted by bitteschoen at 11:04 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, to respond to the "I was beat up by black people because I'm white" comments -- that action comes from their LACK of power. They have no recourse for their rank in society, so they go with what they've got.
posted by tzikeh at 11:06 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


All we can do is *listen* ... when they tell us that something we've said or done is racist, and examine our speech/actions, and work to improve ourselves.

Sounds like a plan. Can we include white folk who feel marginalised in the list of those we listen to? They may be idiots but they deserve to get a say.
posted by seanyboy at 11:10 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


But I've never understood why affirmative action needs to be race-based.

Because given two people, a person in power will look at them disparately based on perceived race. Or, not even look at them, but just at names and discriminate that way.
posted by cashman at 11:11 AM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


"And here I was, naive me, watching the movie and thinking "well thank god we're not living in broken down post-apocalyptic brutal societies where 'taking care of yourself and your own' is the main priority in life".

Well...if you don't take care of yourself how can you take care of anyone else? I have a developmentally disabled son who will most likely be dependent on me and my wife until we die and then upon his brother. We have to make decisions that allow us to take care of him. Maybe those decisions dovetail nicely with the "greater good" and maybe they don't, either way that's not my primary concern. It's not a matter of "fuck you I've got mine" it's doing what I feel I have to do to allow me to fulfill my obligations to my family.
posted by MikeMc at 11:11 AM on May 24, 2011


Seanyboy: Can we include white folk who feel marginalised in the list of those we listen to? They may be idiots but they deserve to get a say.

No. That's the equivalent of presenting "both sides" on the news when there's really only one side. That's our current fucked-up definition of "fair and balanced." Idiots do not deserve a say.
posted by tzikeh at 11:15 AM on May 24, 2011


Tzikeh, I think that your comment regarding black kids beating up white kids for being white represents part of the attitude that leads white people to feel discriminated against. While I'm sure you don't mean it that way, your comment reads a fair bit like justification. If you justify someone else beating me up on the basis of his race, that seems like I'm the one suffering from discrimination.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:16 AM on May 24, 2011


I'm completely serious. I care more about my family than random strangers. Shocking, isn't it?

If a policy hurts my family, I don't support it.


So you'd be against a policy that says "People should be hired on merit" and in favor of a policy that says "Codswallop's kids should get a preferred status regardless"?
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 11:19 AM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


All we can do is *listen* to minorities when they tell us that something we've said or done is racist, and examine our speech/actions, and work to improve ourselves.

Exactly, yeah.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:27 AM on May 24, 2011


Of *course* I'm a racist. I don't understand how people can think that it's possible to not be a racist after growing up in America.

You just said you're white. Therefore, it's completely possible (even probable) that you're racist--and yes, because we grew up in a racist society. I would venture to say that all white people (including me) are racist to some extent, whether it's overt, covert, intentional, unintentional, or entirely unconscious.

Regarding these two points, last month I ran across a (2010) paper in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology that looks into this idea. I have the pdf if anybody wants it and doesn't have a means to get it: "But I'm No Bigot: How Prejudiced White Americans Maintain Unprejudiced Self-Images".
Four experiments investigate a modern paradox: White Americans harbor racial prejudice, but view themselves as unprejudiced. We hypothesized that social representations of prejudice available in American culture lead many Whites to conclude that they are relatively unprejudiced. In Experiment 1, participants primed with the bigot stereotype viewed themselves as less prejudiced. In Experiments 2 and 3, participants exposed to media representations of racists viewed themselves as less prejudiced. In Experiment 4, participants sought exposure to media representations of prejudice after a threat to their unprejudiced self-image. These experiments suggest that representations of prejudice in American culture lead prejudiced individuals to view themselves as unprejudiced, and the effect of these representations on people's unprejudiced self-images can be passive or intentional.
The paper examines physiological responses, implicit attitudes, self-report and behavioral data backed up by a small mountain of cited literature. I haven't even gotten through all of it but it is a really interesting piece.

The point being that anyone who read those earlier comments by rmd1023 and tzikeh with a "Oh god, gag" might want to rethink that.
posted by cashman at 11:33 AM on May 24, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, to respond to the "I was beat up by black people because I'm white" comments -- that action comes from their LACK of power. They have no recourse for their rank in society, so they go with what they've got.

Well, sometimes people are just jerks, too, and if you weren't white they'd call you fatty or four-eyes or something else that starts with F. I don't think we should excuse schoolyard bullying or random acts of violence because of the color of the perpetrators.
posted by desjardins at 11:37 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised the memo hasn't made its way to this part of the internet. Allow me to quote it:

To Wit:

Anything wrong with your life is because of injustice. $THE_OTHER are receiving privileges denied to you because of $CRITERION and don't let $THE_OTHER ever forget it.

Love,
Entrenched Power
posted by chimaera at 11:38 AM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Can we include white folk who feel marginalised in the list of those we listen to? They may be idiots but they deserve to get a say.

No. That's the equivalent of presenting "both sides" on the news when there's really only one side. That's our current fucked-up definition of "fair and balanced." Idiots do not deserve a say.


what

So let me see if I've got your point, tzikeh -- It's OK to marginalize idiotic white people because they claim they feel marginalized?

"Listening" doesn't mean "condoning".
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:40 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Idiots do not deserve a say. - That does apply to all sides, right? Including idiots claiming some deserve no say?
posted by Ardiril at 11:48 AM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I want my children to have a good life, even if they're stupid, lazy, and useless. So it makes sense for me to try to rig the world so that they have a good life, no matter what. Now, that makes for pretty terrible public policy, but as a personal policy, it makes sense.

See, that's exactly the point -- you acknowledge there is a conflict there, fair enough, well spotted. Do you also realise public policy IS indeed supposed to take precedence over whatever individual preferences you may have for your own interests only?

Or do you want political and economic decisions that affect everyone to be taken in your own living room, with your final say, based only on what you think will most benefit yourself and your kids? Then sorry but I want them to be taken in mine. That guy over there wants them to be taken in his. Who wins? Oh look, a long time ago, we started building these representative political institutions precisely to avoid these little trivial disagreements like whose living room should be the centre of decisional power. What a clever little idea that was, wasn't it? It doesn't always work as well as we hoped, but well the other options weren't really sustainable long term.

Seriously. If you cannot see that public policy has to take precedence, and no you cannot and should not "rig the world" in your own interests only, well, we really might as well go back to tribal anarchy. Surely the most effective forward-thinking approach to the question of racism and privilege...
posted by bitteschoen at 11:50 AM on May 24, 2011


Unfortunately, I may be in the zero sum camp in some ways. People have long used the "level the playing field" metaphor. Okay, so if you're the beneficiary of the tilted field while others have had to run uphill, what do you think it's going to feel like when the field starts getting leveled? Suddenly you can't just slightly jump and coast 5 feet down the field. When you run now, it takes real effort to get going up to speed. Those people who struggled and fought to make it 5 feet now have a way easier time. Meanwhile it has gotten harder for you, because it was so easy all this time, whether you realized it or not.

Or, since Ampersand always comes through in these situations - this is how you're living when the field is tilted your way. The cartoon is similar to some of the comments in this thread relating personal experiences.

I'm still thinking about it, but I don't personally believe it amounts to one side being level and the other side being not level (as in, 'white people have not gotten extra, other people have just gotten less than they should have'). In many situations it does seem like if your unfair benefit gets rightfully removed from you, yes, its going to be hard, and you're going to have to compete.

Oh, and "Jockeying for Stigma" - cleverly written title by the NYT.
posted by cashman at 11:50 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


No, but on the other hand, as we can see in this thread — white people complaining about being oppressed demand a lot of time and credence be given to their claims, to the exclusion of, you know, actually dealing with real victims of oppression. They, in fact, don't just want to be listened to, but they want to be validated, even when their opinions are stupid. At a certain point, it's just like, "Y'know, I'm sorry that your one anecdote happened, but can you maybe stop focusing on your splinter and start helping the impaled?"
posted by klangklangston at 11:51 AM on May 24, 2011 [11 favorites]


Sorry, that was to BOP.
posted by klangklangston at 11:52 AM on May 24, 2011


shakespeherian: I think maybe a lot of us white men who aren't domestically violent or racist resent the systemic suspicion that we are not to be trusted because "men are the violent ones" or "whites are the racist ones"

In which case, take it up with the other white men who are domestically violent or are racist. They're the ones you should be angry at, not women or racial minorities.


Look... I don't think this is the right response to that kind of concern. I'm right there with the majority MeFi opinion here - racism against whites is incomparable to the structural racism against minorities, invisible backpack, all that - but this strikes me as a seriously casual response to a real concern.
Individual in Group A: "I don't like it when people say 'As are like this.'"
Someone else: "Take it up with the As who really are like that!"
...it's not hard to figure out how this can go off the rails.
Muslim: "I don't like it when people say 'Muslims are terrorists.'"
Someone else: "Take it up with the Muslims who are terrorists!"
Despite the existence of academic definitions of racism that include a power element, and that operate on a societal level, plenty of people still think of racism as one person discriminating against another person on the basis of race. So when someone says "white people are racist, and minorities can't be," people with that understanding automatically think the speaker is some crazy racist discriminating against whites, despite any of the speaker's good intentions and subsequent valid points.

I'm not disputing the validity of that statement for those who understand the more academic meaning, I'm just saying a statement like "white people are privileged" gets across a similar-if-not-identical point without getting that type of listener's hackles up from the outset
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:56 AM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


Aha. I came to say exactly what BOP said.

I'm happy to call out idiocy, and this growing meme where white people believe they're victims of racism is idiocy.

When you get to the root of it though, the issue is that a growing number of white people feel increasingly marginalised and they are increasingly poor. Somebody said this wasn't a zero sum game, but in the poorer tranches of our societies, it is.

Ignoring the problem and laughing at it isn't working. There's an inherent lack of respect from the middle classes towards certain sections of our society. Given the fact that social care is driven by and run by these middle classes, I'm not suprised that stupid people in those societal blackspots consider themselves victims of racism.

We need to listen. There was an awesome speech by your president some 4 years ago addressing this exact issue. It's depressing that the conversation seems to have drifted backwards from there.

I suspect that the only way to stop poor people from all ethnicities driving themselves into utter segregation and increased violence is to address the poverty gap. Given the direction America seems to be going, I can't see this happening soon. That's depressing, and it's made more depressing by the fact that we're blaming the wrong people.
posted by seanyboy at 11:57 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


(I accidentally deleted a portion of my previous post that I intended to leave in there by accident, where I disclaimed that I wasn't trying to say we should allow white people to frame the conversation indirectly by taking offense to things, just that, if the goal is to reach a potentially sympathetic white audience, certain approaches present a messaging problem)
posted by cobra_high_tigers at 11:58 AM on May 24, 2011


They, in fact, don't just want to be listened to, but they want to be validated, even when their opinions are stupid.

Sure, I agree. But refusing even to listen isn't gonna get that splinter extracted, either. IOW, "shut up" strikes me as a fundamentally wrong approach simply because it creates another claim of exclusion, but "I've heard your whining, here's why you should shut up," seems better.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:59 AM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


The internet: An entire world population trying to find one definition for oppression.

That's lunch!
posted by Ardiril at 12:01 PM on May 24, 2011


I remember the casual racism of my own white, privileged youth. The jokes were awful, not at all funny, but we laughed together and... yeah. That's f'd up. So, come on other white folks, suck it up. Whatever discrimination you might be feeling, it's not really as bad as all that.

"Before copying the report, I remembered how easy it was for me to ignore what was already obvious, so I wrote down some details to remind myself of what I shouldn't forget: people were carried like chattel on ships to America; they were sold to other people; they were stripped of their names, spiritual practices, and culture; they worked their entire lives without compensation; they were beaten into submission and terrorized or killed if they chose not to submit; when they died they were buried in the ground at the far edge of town; and as the town grew, roads and houses were built on top of them as if they had never existed."
Wendy S. Walters
from Lonely in America -- Contemplating the remains of slavery
Published in the March, 2008 Harper's

posted by fartknocker at 12:02 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


bitte, my point there was just to take issue with a specific way klangklangston objected to someone else's argument. I understand and completely agree that my personal desire to have my lazy idiot children do well in life should not be policy, I'm just saying that for me personally it makes perfect sense. We have a society so that I can't inflict things like that on everyone else.

My issue was just that saying "how do you know your children can't compete" misses the point.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:03 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: Getting hackles up from the outset.
posted by cashman at 12:06 PM on May 24, 2011


I am continually fascinated by the way people of all stripes would rather have enemies instead of allies, all at the cost of a few words.
posted by adipocere at 12:06 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I prefer "Honkies"

I call them "Reverse-Negroes."
posted by Eideteker at 12:09 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: Tzikeh, I think that your comment regarding black kids beating up white kids for being white represents part of the attitude that leads white people to feel discriminated against. While I'm sure you don't mean it that way, your comment reads a fair bit like justification. If you justify someone else beating me up on the basis of his race, that seems like I'm the one suffering from discrimination.

Oh, I'm definitely not trying to justify it. Not at all. I didn't mean to say that, so I apologize. I think it's 100% NOT OKAY. (Well, I think it's 100% not okay for anyone to beat up anyone else, regardless of "reason.")
posted by tzikeh at 12:09 PM on May 24, 2011


This seems like a good place to ask: Is it just in Milwaukee, or do racists in other places use "Canadian" as a code word for African-Americans? I am not making this up. When certain people don't want to draw attention to themselves by using the n-word, they will use "Canadian" instead. It might just be a Milwaukee thing, since the north ("Canadian") side of the city is almost entirely African-American, and the south side is mostly blue collar whites (but also increasingly Latino). Example usage: "So I saw this group of Canadians outside the liquor store with their baggy pants.."
posted by desjardins at 12:11 PM on May 24, 2011


me: Idiots do not deserve a say.

Ardiril: That does apply to all sides, right? Including idiots claiming some deserve no say?

Ad hominem attacks are fun and funny!

People who believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old do not deserve a say in a discussion about the scientific facts regarding the observable universe.

People who believe that Obama's health-care plan includes "death panels" do not deserve a say in a discussion about American health care.

And white people who think they're "marginalized" do not deserve a say in a discussion about racism.
posted by tzikeh at 12:15 PM on May 24, 2011


desjardins, I imagine it's probably just a Milwaukee thing. I've never heard of people doing that here in Minneapolis.
posted by funnyinternetmemereference at 12:17 PM on May 24, 2011


This seems like a good place to ask: Is it just in Milwaukee, or do racists in other places use "Canadian" as a code word for African-Americans?

Pretty common, and not just in use among capital r "Racists" I might add.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:21 PM on May 24, 2011


People who believe that the Earth is 6,000 years old do not deserve a say in a discussion about the scientific facts regarding the observable universe.

People who believe that Obama's health-care plan includes "death panels" do not deserve a say in a discussion about American health care.

And white people who think they're "marginalized" do not deserve a say in a discussion about racism.


I could not disagree more.

ALL of those people "deserve a say", and here's why --

1) Then they can't bitch about not having a say.
2) Light and fresh air is a good disinfectant.
3) You can't correct a mistake until you know what the mistake is.
4) If they don't get a say, how will we know who to look down on?


Again, LISTENING ISN'T CONDONING.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:24 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


Bulgaroktono - oh ok, I understand what you meant now. Sorry I didn't mean to be aggressive.

There are lots people who literally think like that when they vote, though. They do not get it, that concept of public policy (and well, I think you have to get that idea first, to be able to get the idea of AA policies, right?! it's not even about racism it's politics 101). Some literally think society is there to inflict their own demands of privilege on everyone else. Some of these people are even in positions of power. Some of these are people we elected. (Not talking about the USA here, in general). Agh.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:24 PM on May 24, 2011


desjardin, in Baltimore, racist whites refer to Blacks as "Indians" when they might be overheard.

Just how this is supposed to be better, I'm not sure.
posted by QIbHom at 12:25 PM on May 24, 2011


I think maybe a lot of us white men who aren't domestically violent or racist resent the systemic suspicion that we are not to be trusted because "men are the violent ones" or "whites are the racist ones"

Yes, you're doing well. Now imagine that these aren't just slights to your ego, but actually affect the probability you will die young, that you won't be able to get a job, that you will be arrested and sent to jail. That would be really, really bad. That would be "racism."
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:29 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


Is it just in Milwaukee, or do racists in other places use "Canadian" as a code word for African-Americans?

It's waiters: Canadians don't tip. and the stereotype is that blacks don't either.
posted by orthogonality at 12:33 PM on May 24, 2011


This seems like a good place to ask: Is it just in Milwaukee, or do racists in other places use "Canadian" as a code word for African-Americans?

Pretty common, and not just in use among capital r "Racists" I might add.


desjardin, in Baltimore, racist whites refer to Blacks as "Indians" when they might be overheard.

Anybody else? This is interesting. I haven't really sought out all the terms people come up with to sneak racism by. I'm wondering what other clever little code words there are.

Also, Drake's probably pissed.
posted by cashman at 12:34 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


"bitte, my point there was just to take issue with a specific way klangklangston objected to someone else's argument. I understand and completely agree that my personal desire to have my lazy idiot children do well in life should not be policy, I'm just saying that for me personally it makes perfect sense. We have a society so that I can't inflict things like that on everyone else.

My issue was just that saying "how do you know your children can't compete" misses the point.
"

No, it reframes the issue to make a different point.

And it either requires Codswallop to reframe his argument or to implicitly agree with the assertion that his children are stupid and lazy.
posted by klangklangston at 12:35 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


...as we can see in this thread — white people complaining about being oppressed demand a lot of time and credence be given to their claims, to the exclusion of, you know, actually dealing with real victims of oppression.

Privilege always has a way of proving itself in it's attempts to defend itself. Derailing for Dummies never gets old. I mostly just look at the Art of Defending Racism as a good idea of who's too caught up in the socially trained narcissistic personality disorder known as racism.
posted by yeloson at 12:36 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


All this is quite valid but what about realities. I just got off the phone with my buddy. He just witnessed and tried to prevent a woman from shooting another. The shooter had a baby with her and still shot off a round into someone’s house. All over rumors and bullshit. This happened 40-50 minutes ago (I heard the shot but that is common around here) the police are still there and my friend most likely prevented a death, I’m sorta shaking so…if it makes the news, I’ll link it
This womans life is ruined for now. She is in jail, lost her child and place to live and job no doubt. All over crap…BROAD DAYLIGHT…god, I would have been there if I need not need smokes today- the only point I have is the two people were of different color and this, to us makes little to no difference. What matters is that lives are being destroyed and an alarming rate were I live and the luxury of racism is fast fading into the retreat of ignorance. This is about economics not race.

Yeah, she fired then tried to wheel her child up the stairs without securing the weapon…MY GOD.
posted by clavdivs at 12:37 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey.

For everyone who shared a personal experience in which you were the victim of racist attacks, regardless of your race or the races of your attackers:

I'm sorry. Sometimes human beings are just terrible and I don't know why. Some of that terribleness is normalized and people don't even consciously think about it, and some of it is probably because the person attacking you was just having a bad day. Neither is an acceptable excuse, and there's no point in blaming yourself or coming up with rationalizations that somehow excuse the actions of people who attack others in a way that your larger society tells you doesn't happen. I know it does, and I'm sorry it happened to you but thank you for sharing your experiences.

That's all.
posted by byanyothername at 12:38 PM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Whoa clavdivs.
posted by cashman at 12:42 PM on May 24, 2011


No such thing as racism against whites? Of course, my examples are strictly anecdotal so they don't speak for any entire race, but nevertheless I submit these samples:

Mr. Adams worked for a time at a Circuit City store in Harper Woods, which is a small suburb that borders Detroit on the northeast side. He was the only white person in the computer department, and after his first year he was the only employee that had worked at that store for an entire year. His manager was an African-American who constantly called him "boy" and asked him how he liked "working for a (n-word)" and literally taunted him "Yeah, I called you 'boy,' just go try to complain to someone." Mr. Adams is very computer-savvy and did a good job both selling computers and also assisting customers in minor repairs. During his second year the store manager (an African-American man) took him aside and praised his work and attendance, etc, but then confided (in a very nice way) that he could never promote him to even assistant manager status because he could not have a white supervisor in that store.

During a crucial Detroit City Council meeting concerning the funding/future of Cobo Hall, President Monica Conyers shot down a white Teamster official explaining to the Council how expansion on the Detroit Cobo Center would bring good-paying union jobs, “Those workers look like you; they don’t look like me.”
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:50 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm wondering what other clever little code words there are.

Have you heard about "the mondays"?

I do not know if that is actually real.
posted by Errant at 12:55 PM on May 24, 2011


Hola!

In my usual way, I'm coming out of the woodwork for the usual MeFi race thread car crash.

1. The opinions in this thread and in this study will only become more accentuated as our culture becomes more and more racially diverse. On this front, my friend Hua's article, THE END OF WHITE AMERICA, is required reading. The article does a good job articulating the anxiety that many white Americans feel about losing their privilege. It should be noted, however, that white identity politics and self-victimization have have a longstanding history in our country. Samuel Gompers, the hero of the labor movement, famously ejected Asians from the AFL-CIO because of the threat they represented to white workers.

2. Affirmative action is framed as something that disadvantages whites and aids people of color. This is factually wrong: White women as a group have benefited the most from affirmative action. Also, right wing critics usually find themselves unable to quantify how exactly affirmative action has injured white candidates: the most exhaustive study on this topic suggests that the injury is comparable to the injury suffered by non-disabled drivers by handicap spaces; Bakke, for example, didn't even have standing--he wouldn't have gotten into college even if there weren't an aff am policy. It should be noted that affirmative action is a complicated policy: it was implemented by Nixon as a way to cause race conflicts and even Bob Dole has said it's caused more good than harm. It's also possible to be Asian and support Affirmative Action.

3. There will always be cases where a few white people feel like they have been not treated with a full sense of respect and personhood--especially in our bad economic times, the loss of manufacturing jobs in the US, etc. My question is--if you think this is especially important--how do you want us to factor this in? No one in this thread has alleged that it's a widespread systematic problem. At the end of the day, the normative culture we live in is a white culture. (Consider the famous Supreme Court case that allowed American Airlines to prohibit a black flight attendant's wearing of cornrows.)

As many people have stated, what matters is the normative and institutional structure we live in. Some examples of widespread institutional roadblocks:

* Arizona's SB1070 was designed to specifically arrest, detain and deport anyone who did not look like a white American. I've been there--there's actually a concentration camp there where Latino kids and senior citizens are housed behind barbed wire with the horses. "Concentration camp" isn't my word--it's Sheriff Joe Arpaio's.
* Obama has arguably been one of the worst Presidents in US history on immigration. Through Secure Communities, the police have basically become deputized ICE agents. As a result, Obama deported twice as many people last year than Bush did following September 11th.
* As recently as the early sixties, Chinese Americans were specifically named by law as being barred from this country.
* Hate crimes are on the rise against Muslim Americans. I'm sure you've seen this classic, terrifying video.

As you can see from the above, one problem with this discussion is how race is viewed primarily through the lens of bigotry (rather than, say, othering) and through a black-white dichotomy, rather than with a focus on, say, Latino and Asian immigrants. Consequently, even on Metafilter, you generally have otherwise intelligent liberals saying incredibly racist things about, say, Asians.
posted by johnasdf at 12:56 PM on May 24, 2011 [29 favorites]


Maybe I'm kind of twisted, but seeing these stories actually is a good thing in a way because if you think about the unfolding of events, the fact that (even if premature) we're approaching a time where white people have these stories of discrimination -- that kind of is among things that would happen in most of the scenarios I've thought up for how racism will ultimately fall away.

Some time ago I saw a cartoon I haven't been able to find, or maybe it was on a television show - there's a black judge and white plaintiffs and they are suing and winning for racial discrimination and the caption is like 'the day racism ends', or something like that. I'm probably remembering it really poorly.
posted by cashman at 12:58 PM on May 24, 2011


can't find a link except the folks on the ground. Though my friend is the key witness. (And is in no way on this link nor am I) ((Facebook link))

S. Mead #1 fired shot in air because she's having trouble with landlord WOW!

I know this is myopic/derail, but it matters. It is just not simple and vast amounts of expository writing will not solve it...unless we are all writing and not shooting.
posted by clavdivs at 1:02 PM on May 24, 2011


"Urban youth" is a pretty common euphemism.
posted by norm at 1:08 PM on May 24, 2011


Some time ago I saw a cartoon I haven't been able to find, or maybe it was on a television show - there's a black judge and white plaintiffs and they are suing and winning for racial discrimination and the caption is like 'the day racism ends', or something like that.

Well, that's dumb. There's no reason to think that if the tables were turned, and black people were in power (I mean really in power, not just a black president), that blacks wouldn't then be racist towards others. Or if Asians were in power, or whomever. I mean, plenty of non-white countries have race issues. Power corrupts. I think this kind of reversal will probably take decades from now, but it seems to be in human nature that whoever's on top tends to want to stay on top.
posted by desjardins at 1:13 PM on May 24, 2011


I'm white. My experience of racism has largely consisted of racist whites chummily assuming I'm on their side and saying awful things in front of me about minorities and immigrants, or telling me I "look like an American." Also, my interview with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service was only eight minutes long, in contrast to the much longer interview I was told by my immigration attorney was standard. Also, this one time I got randomly selected for screening at an airport, and the security guard apologized to me.
posted by joannemerriam at 1:18 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like trying new things. Getting out there and really enjoying life, because you never know how much time you have left, right? Because it's like they say, you're only hung once!

(Surprisingly, I was not lynched for this joke in Lynchburg. You can tell they wanted to, but reverse racism was keeping them down. Those poor guys.)
posted by Eideteker at 1:18 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


(They didn't want to hang me cuz I'm half-black. They're just real sticklers for using "hanged" instead of "hung" in that context.)
posted by Eideteker at 1:22 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Heh, one clear privilege signpost is being able to say "randomly selected for screening" unironically. On one trip I got "randomly" selected at every stop on the way, including at all the boarding gates where they'd pull me out of the line to search me one more time, just in case I was smuggling unsanctioned crossword books or something.

Not calling you out or anything, joannemerriam, I just thought that was funny.
posted by Errant at 1:27 PM on May 24, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, that's dumb.

I'm remembering it poorly, I assure you. It was well done. It wasn't b. deutsch I don't think.
posted by cashman at 1:30 PM on May 24, 2011


Well I now have to lift my own luggage—if that ain't racism I don't know what is!
posted by Mister_A at 2:15 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've also lived in primarily black neighborhoods as an adult, and have experienced racism because I'm not black.

So I don't want to hear that it doesn't happen to whites, that's complete bullshit.
posted by Malice


I grew up in a poor, completely black (except my family) neighborhood before I moved away at 20 to go to college. I was called a cracker one time. That was the extent of racism I experienced.

Of course, my experience is just an antidotal as yours, but I'm still willing to bet it would have been different if I had been black growing up in a white neighborhood.

I'm sure it happens to whites; keep up the good fight. But it's not equal in scope. Not even close.
posted by justgary at 2:39 PM on May 24, 2011 [4 favorites]


Anecdotal.
posted by Mental Wimp at 3:06 PM on May 24, 2011


You guys are quoting the wrong line from that Louis CK routine. "If you're white and you don't admit that it's great, you're an asshole!" Because that's the obvious and ridiculous thing about these white whiners: they wouldn't change places for all the affirmative action in the world.
posted by nicwolff at 3:29 PM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


Anyone who has done anti-racist work for more than a few years has run up against this problem: most racists are happy being racists, and simply don't want to change. But at the same time they want to be protected from accusations of racism, and resent anyone who makes them "feel bad" about it.
posted by yeloson at 3:51 PM on May 24, 2011 [21 favorites]


Anybody else? This is interesting. I haven't really sought out all the terms people come up with to sneak racism by. I'm wondering what other clever little code words there are.

"Muslim."
posted by Amanojaku at 4:28 PM on May 24, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have never heard disgusting things said about me behind my back, and to my face, because of my race like my black friends have.

Where do you live? I live in an urban area where I'm a minority and I pretty regularly get called "faggot" because of the color of my skin. There's also the physical intimidation, the dismissal, the sideways looks.

I'm white, privileged and, thank jebus, I don't have to deal institutionalized racism. Still, the bullshit I have to put up with is pretty fucking shitty. Never say never.
posted by En0rm0 at 5:00 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


desjardins, here is a language log snippet about the usage of Canadian as crypto-racism, a bit over 3 years ago it was at least somewhat new.

And thank you for prompting me to look for that article again, I accidentally came across a guide by our department of justice promoting singular 'they', an issue that has brought me many arguments in law school. More ammo!
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:15 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


So I don't want to hear that it doesn't happen to whites, that's complete bullshit.

Racism in ALL its forms sucks.

Sure, racism happens to whites. But until it starts happening to whites as much as other racial minorities, I don't think you are going to garner sympathy from anybody except other white people.

And none of the above even alludes to institutional racism that whites don't really get.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:19 PM on May 24, 2011


yeloson, excellent link.
posted by hal_c_on at 5:21 PM on May 24, 2011


yeloson, depressing link
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:36 PM on May 24, 2011


I live in Australia, where racism is of course unknown, but I've observed that the education system in the USA has structural problems which disproportionately affect African-Americans even though they are actually racially-neutral and hurt poor people generally. For instance, education is funded locally, which means that students in poor areas tend to have worse schools. Many colleges have special admittance programs for wealthy students and "legacies"; these actually make discrimination into a point of principle. Then there are things like the lack of universal health care, the high cost of college, and the absence of a welfare safety net. Going to college is risky for poor students - if they fail they're saddled with huge debts that they'll carry the rest of their life.

Affirmative action does very little to deal with the consequences of poverty and nothing at all to deal with its causes. It's a distraction from the root cause of educational disadvantage; and to the extent that it does benefit poor students, it does so in a racially-selective way. It's not a horrible idea, but I think that energy devoted to fighting either for or against affirmative action would be better directed at fighting for a more equitable education system.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:13 PM on May 24, 2011 [6 favorites]


what I find laughable on both sides is that tomorrow AIG is coming out with an IPO priced at 29 bucks worth of your fucking money and this is what you are (do we stutter at "coincidentally?") obsessed with. While you patter on with your righteousness your pockets are being picked by The (Real) Man.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 8:25 PM on May 24, 2011


This is exactly why I am changing my name to Eunique.
posted by pianomover at 8:53 PM on May 24, 2011


Last year, a census worker came to my house, and when he got to the question which asked me to declare my "race," I simply refused to answer, as I have for the last 30 years. I did tell him that I thought, in the context of the 21st century, and with what medical science has to tell us about the whole concept of human "races," that I was deeply offended that the U.S. government was still posing such a question, every 10 years, to all of its territorial occupants.

Ending racism starts with laying to rest, for once and for all, the bogus idea of "human races." Until and unless we discover some population of homo sapiens that can't readily inter-breed with the rest of us, it's not only not a useful concept, so far as I can see, but a highly damaging and divisive one.
posted by paulsc at 9:17 PM on May 24, 2011


This is interesting. I haven't really sought out all the terms people come up with to sneak racism by

In Texas I haven't come across any. The one that kills me is the *look left, look right, lean forward, lower your voice* "...Black..." As if it's a bad word or that people don't realize they have different skin tones. Otherwise, it's the n-word. (Used in only white company, and only by the exceptionally racist. So, maybe 30%?)

One I have heard more recently is "Spanish" for anyone vaguely brown-skinned. That just strikes me as weird.
posted by threeturtles at 9:32 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Threeturtles: why does it sound weird? That's exactly what "Hispanic" means.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:43 PM on May 24, 2011


Well, yes, but it's something I've only heard recently, and it's just not a very accurate way to describe someone who's most likely from Central or South America. I would reserve the word "Spanish" for someone from Spain. And perhaps it's the way it's said.
posted by threeturtles at 10:03 PM on May 24, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ending racism starts with laying to rest, for once and for all, the bogus idea of "human races."

Definitely a white guy.
posted by codswallop at 10:06 PM on May 24, 2011 [8 favorites]


So you'd be against a policy that says "People should be hired on merit" and in favor of a policy that says "Codswallop's kids should get a preferred status regardless"?

No. People wouldn't trust their skills because their position would have the taint of being by fiat instead of accomplishment.
posted by codswallop at 10:15 PM on May 24, 2011


Potentially useful to nerds talking to other nerds about race:

Many nerds are "colorblind" libertarians. Many of those same nerds kind of idolize physics for the deep order that it gives the world; thankfully, physics is a deep well for analogies. Here's the analogy that made me finally understand why colorblind policy is inadequate; maybe it will work for others up a similar ideological creek.
            ferromagnetic material : minority groups
            applied magnetic field : explicitly racist policies from back in the day
                  magnetic domains : life aspects of minority group members
co-orientation of magnetic domains : mutual influence of life aspects*
           residual magnetic field : lingering effects of old policies

*(e.g. need money to get an education, need an education to get higher wages)
In short, affirmative action may be necessary to disrupt a feedback network of suck that stabilizes the historical influences on minority groups' well-being.
posted by Jpfed at 11:32 PM on May 24, 2011 [7 favorites]


It seems like a lot of the heat in this thread is coming from terminology differences. It's kind of like if I said "Hey, let's get a group together for a meetup" and then others, used to the very specific (and weird) definition of "group" in mathematics, started arguing with me about my choice of binary operation.

Some people are talking about institutional racism, others are talking about individual racism. It is nonsense to say that one of these usages for the ambiguous term "racism" is "right"; they're both in use, so we have to deal with it. One way to deal with it is by being explicit every step of the way (to take one example from this thread, which I am explicitly not giving an opinion on with these hypothetical interpretations, so don't quote either of these out of context as if they were my opinion, kthx: someone might say "When I say 'Every white is racist.' I mean 'Every white participates in the promulgation of institutional racism.'."; alternately, "When I say 'Every white is racist.' I mean 'Every white person has implicit prejudices whether they know it or not.'.").
posted by Jpfed at 11:56 PM on May 24, 2011


paulsc, the problem isn't and has never been a plurality of races, cultures, creeds, or perspectives. In the United States, it is only white people who believe that race is fictitious and that colorblindness is a virtue. It is the privilege of the unmarked category that leads well-meaning individuals to espouse a hypothetical world in which race and culture do not exist. It is an unconscious arrogance which claims that everything would be better, if only everyone were treated as though they were members of the dominant category.

I don't want to be treated like a white person. I want to be treated like who I am, a person from some of many world heritages with a perspective that is worth adding to the tapestry of human experience.

I would take the invocation of colorblindness far more seriously if I thought it meant people willing to abandon their status in order to live together at the level of the least of us. But that's not what people usually mean. What they usually mean is that it would be better if everyone were basically white. No thanks.
posted by Errant at 2:01 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want to work in the UN and you are a white male that isn't from some highly connected upper class then you are facing the toughest road of all qualified candidates.
posted by tarvuz at 2:46 AM on May 25, 2011


I think this is funny. This is the first time I ever heard of an insecured white person.
posted by skincarebeautytips at 3:10 AM on May 25, 2011


"... I don't want to be treated like a white person. ..."
posted by Errant at 5:01 AM on May 25

Me neither. Nor do I want to treat you as ___________ person.

How about you and I just treat one another as simply persons, neither of whom need adopt any of the other's attributes or attitudes to deserve that simple civility, and to yet respect each others rights? We could do it if we were fans of different baseball teams. We could do it if we were natives of different cities. We could one of us favor cupcakes, and the other deeply prefer muffins in all cases, and still be persons to one another.

And, uh, how do you know I'm "white?"
posted by paulsc at 3:23 AM on May 25, 2011


dude yr pic's in yr profile

mite wanna take it down b4 gettin into this argument
posted by Eideteker at 3:49 AM on May 25, 2011


"dude yr pic's in yr profile

mite wanna take it down b4 gettin into this argument"

posted by Eideteker at 6:49 AM on May 25

I'm well aware of what's in my MeFi profile. But, um, why would you assume that the picture posted there is me, instead of someone who could plausibly pose as an interpretive dance critic and avuncular bubba? And, do you really feel comfortable assigning a "race" to someone, based simply on their appearance in a photograph?
posted by paulsc at 4:02 AM on May 25, 2011


This seems relevant to the conversation.
posted by seanyboy at 4:29 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bah! hat tip to yeloson who already posted the article I thought I'd found all by my self.
posted by seanyboy at 4:34 AM on May 25, 2011



If you want to work in the UN and you are a white male that isn't from some highly connected upper class then you are facing the toughest road of all qualified candidates.

If we remove the bolded is this statement still true?
posted by Rubbstone at 6:47 AM on May 25, 2011


White guy: "A black lady at the DMV rolled her eyes at me! OMFG RACISUM!"

To be fair, we are talking about a sub-human species, here.

The DMV, that is.
posted by rokusan at 8:14 AM on May 25, 2011


I think this is funny. This is the first time I ever heard of an insecured white person.
posted by skincarebeautytips at 3:10 AM on May 25 [+] [!]


My spammy sense is tingling.
posted by the_artificer at 8:55 AM on May 25, 2011


the_artificer: just because the user joined today, and made three random low-content comments within 5 minutes? nawwwwww.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:03 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I'm well aware of what's in my MeFi profile. But, um, why would you assume that the picture posted there is me, instead of someone who could plausibly pose as an interpretive dance critic and avuncular bubba? And, do you really feel comfortable assigning a "race" to someone, based simply on their appearance in a photograph?"

Because only white people talk (if you prefer, circumlocute) like that when they're being smug. Black/brown/yellow people are all smug in different ways.
posted by Eideteker at 9:53 AM on May 25, 2011


I'm well aware of what's in my MeFi profile. But, um, why would you assume that the picture posted there is me, instead of someone who could plausibly pose as an interpretive dance critic and avuncular bubba? And, do you really feel comfortable assigning a "race" to someone, based simply on their appearance in a photograph?

Personally: because I've heard your views on many things, and your experiences and attitudes seem far more likely to be so. Also you don't get many minorities complaining about the desire to monitor ethnicity to try and avoid racism. Or voting Republican. Or spending $500 to go on a BBS in the 80s. So there we are, I guess.
posted by jaduncan at 10:37 AM on May 25, 2011


Me neither. Nor do I want to treat you as ___________ person.

But I want you to treat me as _______ person. I want you to see me for who I am, not for some whitewashed image of me that erases a history, heritage, and culture that is very important to me. I want you to see me as a ______ that is also a person, and it saddens me that you seem to be professing that we can't be persons to each other and still be entirely ourselves.

And, uh, how do you know I'm "white?"


Because you've said so on this site, and because, as I said, it has been my experience that only white people think race is fictitious and irrelevant, only men think gender is unimportant, etc. etc. Not all of them think that, of course, but of people who hold the views that marked status should be elided, invariably they are people with unmarked status.
posted by Errant at 10:55 AM on May 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


But, um, why would you assume that the picture posted there is me, instead of someone who could plausibly pose as an interpretive dance critic and avuncular bubba?

Why would you think that most people assume that people evaluate pictures with the same criteria they use to evaluate text? Interpretive dance critic is an obvious joke. If the picture is supposed to be funny, there's no way to tell that.

Is that a picture of you?
posted by 23skidoo at 11:05 AM on May 25, 2011


"I'm well aware of what's in my MeFi profile. But, um, why would you assume that the picture posted there is me, instead of someone who could plausibly pose as an interpretive dance critic and avuncular bubba? And, do you really feel comfortable assigning a "race" to someone, based simply on their appearance in a photograph?"

Actually, even better refutation: A minority individual, any minority, would have chosen a cooler avatar if they wanted to appear white. Not necessarily someone famous, but definitely not that guy.
posted by Eideteker at 11:22 AM on May 25, 2011


Joe in Australia wrote: Threeturtles: why does it sound weird? That's exactly what "Hispanic" means.

It sounds weird because Spaniards are white, at least in the sense that the French and Italian people are white. As in, they have a light skin tone compared to everybody but the Scandanavians.

And I'm sorry if this is white privilege talking, but the entire concept of race is indeed stupid in my opinion, at least insofar as it does not relate to culture.
posted by wierdo at 12:46 PM on May 25, 2011


"If you want to work in the UN and you are a white male that isn't from some highly connected upper class then you are facing the toughest road of all qualified candidates."

I know a couple people from my third-tier state college who went to work for the UN. They weren't highly-connected upper class folks, they just really liked the UN, took a bunch of IR classes (one of them ran Model UN, which is where I met him), and got involved in unglamorous parts of the UN.

Neither of them went there straight out of undergrad (one got an international law degree, another went into the Peace Corps in, uh, Tanzinia I think), but they're there now.

It would have definitely been easier for them if they were upper class and connected, but frankly, the minorities that were in the Model UN club had already had at least 18 years of disadvantages, so it's not a big deal to me if some of that gets offset by the UN, and none of them went into it anyway (most of them just went to law school; one got her masters in public policy and works for, uh, I think Wayne County in Michigan now).
posted by klangklangston at 1:05 PM on May 25, 2011


Yes, that is privilege speaking, but you knew that before you said it, so.
posted by Errant at 1:07 PM on May 25, 2011


Hey guys, enjoy Pharyngula's image for this story.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:42 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Errant wrote: Yes, that is privilege speaking, but you knew that before you said it, so

I would be interested in knowing why it is you have a different opinion.
posted by wierdo at 2:02 PM on May 25, 2011


I've already explained it, above. Race is important to me, it is a part of my identity and my experience in this society. You believe that "race is a stupid concept" because of your unmarked status in this society, which leads you to believe that markedness is artificial and the social inequalities associated with recognition of markers can be done away with if we get rid of markers. That idea has as its root the assumption that the only true identity is the default one, the unmarked one, and that we should all strive towards unmarkedness.

I do not find this to be the case. It is the concept of the unmarked category which is fictitious, the idea that there is a default norm and that the "other" has strayed from it in some way. Please note that I am using the terms "marked" and "unmarked" advisedly -- I do not think that "whiteness" is fictitious, or "maleness", or "straightness", or any other default dominant in an unequal society. We gain equality when we recognize that we all bear markers of difference, and that those markers provide a necessary and vital plurality and diversity.

You as a white person have your own experience which should be considered in its fullest context. It is the privilege of your experience as a default dominant which suggests that the "other" experience is less valuable, "stupid", and should be removed as a contextual consideration, and it is the privilege of that experience which allows you to override the claims of "others" who do not want their experience erased in this way.
posted by Errant at 2:31 PM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


That's not what I said, though. I specifically noted that my statement was not applicable to culture.
posted by wierdo at 2:55 PM on May 25, 2011


If "culture" and "experience" are synonymous in your mind, then you cannot deny the integral quality of race in culture, because the effect of race on experience is obvious. This "it's not race, it's culture" thing is quickly becoming the new "it's not race, it's class". No, it's race.
posted by Errant at 3:58 PM on May 25, 2011


Just to clarify — I think Weirdo's coming at this from a more biological point of view, where "races" very much don't exist. There are phenotypes, but (and this is easiest to see in edge cases) race itself isn't a legitimate descriptor.

Another example would be the "whitening" of former "races" like Irish, German, Polish, etc.

In America, culture dominates any sort of phenotypical ordering of populations — hence everyone of African descent being "black," even when the phenotypes are pretty divergent outside of skin color (Masai and Pygmy, for example).

I'll also say that while race is important, the focus on it to the exclusion of other factors, does lead to the push-back of "It's not race, it's culture," and "It's not race, it's class." There are plenty of times when those statements are true.
posted by klangklangston at 4:22 PM on May 25, 2011


I'd argue that the intersectionality of kyriarchical inequalities leads to no time when it's not one thing but another. All of them operate with different intensities at various intervals and interact to form a full portrait of injustice. Put another way, it's never not race but instead class, but it's also never only race or only class. Race just happens to be the focus of this conversation.
posted by Errant at 4:34 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


A great book about the history of race in America (that looks at races that have and have not been promoted to "white") is Takaki's A Different Mirror: A History Multicultural America. It looks at different stages of American history focusing on different ethnic/religious groups.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:08 AM on May 26, 2011


My hazy point is something like this: Race itself is becoming less and less of a differentiator to most people in our society. There are, of course, some racist fucktards who can't see beyond the color of people's skin and another group who aren't consciously racist but are the sort to enforce what they perceive as the norm, but they are certainly on the decline. (I can't argue that they're gone by any means, minorities meet plenty of racism and class assumptions in this country)

Culture, on the other hand, is (sadly) in its ascendancy as far as a something a person can point to and say "those people are different." And while culture is somewhat related to people's origins (and thus their skin color), it's also very not related. Take Dominicans as an example. There are a lot of them that are as black as night and a lot of them that are as white as the fairest skinned Scandanavian, and a whole lot who are somewhere in between. Almost all of them act like Dominicans, regardless of skin color.

It's interesting how integrating with the norm in this country has slowly become less and less of an ideal. I'm not saying that's a bad thing, just pointing out that it is in fact a thing. And there are plenty of people who wouldn't hire a person with cornrows regardless of the color of their skin because they see that hairstyle as somehow being unprofessional and marking the wearer as unable to act professionally. So yes, in many ways I think "it" is becoming more about culture than race specifically.

The societal average person makes fewer assumptions based on the color of a person's skin than they used to (even in Alabama) and more assumptions based on other markers.
posted by wierdo at 8:31 AM on May 26, 2011


My hazy point is something like this: Race itself is becoming less and less of a differentiator to most people in our society.

Respectfully, I wonder how many people of color would have to tell you their stories before you would reconsider this thesis.

But I understand you to mean that you perceive racism as being about prejudice relating to skin color, and that while that is on the decline "culturism" takes its place. My argument is that racism has never been solely about skin color, although skin color frequently acts as a visible indicator of marked status (cf. "passing", hierarchies of lighter skins over darker skins in India and elsewhere, etc). What you are describing is still racism, and it is what racism has always been. It may be that it is now more perceptible to you because of a de-emphasis in your experience on skin color, and so now you view the major marker as being cultural differentiation. If that's how you prefer to view the issue, I guess I can live with that, although I think we're defining race so differently from each other as to not really be intelligible to each other. My point is that your "culturism" is precisely racism, but if you want to call it something else, you can do that, I guess.
posted by Errant at 10:17 AM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think it's naive to say it's about culture and that race is unimportant. Take your cornrow example: if I (white woman) wore cornrows to work and my employer didn't like it, I could just take them out and I'd be acceptable again. My hypothetical black coworker could take hers out, but she would still be black.
posted by desjardins at 10:53 AM on May 26, 2011


The whole concept of race was made up by people in order for one group to discriminate against another. There is no scientific basis for the classifications, because they are ad hoc. Skin,eye, and hair color, culture, religion, clothing, geography, even stars on bellies (well, maybe that one was made up) have been used at different times to accomplish the goal of discrimination. Race will be important as long as we treat it as important. And we will as long as racism plays a role in determining major life events, like education, housing, employment, incarceration, health, and mortality.l
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:13 AM on May 26, 2011


"Race" makes a little more sense when you think of its origins in strict kinship terms — both the Romans and the Greeks thought of essentially every tribe and city as having a distinct "race" and racial character. At the point where everyone in a race is actually fairly closely related, and we're talking about populations in the high hundreds or small thousands, it makes a little more sense to conceptualize like that.

It's obviously dumb now, and chauvinism was always a huge part of it (especially for Greeks, who were always pretty damn sure they were the best possible civilization, race and language ever), but it makes more sense when you remember that they also thought dolphins were fish and that brains were mostly spongy ballast.
posted by klangklangston at 12:09 PM on May 26, 2011


Hey, just wanted to back some of the people up on this race vs. culture divide. My main question would be: what do we gain by separating these things? I'm typically suspicious of this impulse, as it's a way of ignoring and downplaying race, when race and culture are of course incredibly interlinked. My general way of looking at things is very historical: I think if you look at things with an eye towards history, these conversations become less about individual intent than about certain invidious repeating trends that are baked into our culture. This may sound strange, but I think that acknowledging the existence of race--which is obviously biologically fictional and a social construct--is really just acknowledging that we exist in history, in the real world, in a contingent time and place, rather than some dubious Randian make-believe land.

Weirdo writes: "Race itself is becoming less and less of a differentiator to most people in our society. There are, of course, some racist fucktards who can't see beyond the color of people's skin and another group who aren't consciously racist but are the sort to enforce what they perceive as the norm, but they are certainly on the decline."

I think this may not be a useful way of thinking about things for two reasons. First of all, things are arguably worse now re race in a lot of ways than they were ten years ago, as we live in a resurgence of white nativism and xenophobia. Most people don't seem to have problems with detaining large swaths of the population, whether they be Muslims or Latinos. Second, I think that the problem is that it puts all the emphasis on "racist fucktards." Most of the problems with racism are not about bigotry, but about institutional history and network effects. Consider the Hmong--a community that was enlisted by the CIA as US military fighter pilots and then ended up as refugees in the US. They have incredibly high poverty and dropout rates and were never really compensated for essentially being US mercenaries. This is inextricably tied to race, but not in a way that isn't about people being obviously bigoted, but about the US consciously deciding that certain people were more expendable.

One more note to anyone who thinks race is just about people looking differently: Homer Plessy of Plessy v Ferguson fame was 7/8th white and actually decided to get arrested to test the racist legal regime. This is what he looked like. Take a look--he looks way more like a Tea Party candidate than he does Barack Obama, but that didn't stop the Supreme Court from implementing segregation.

Also, someone earlier made a joke about Australia's history with race. Did you know that prior to 1967, Aborigines were categorized as flora and fauna?
posted by johnasdf at 12:10 PM on May 26, 2011


desjardins wrote: Take your cornrow example: if I (white woman) wore cornrows to work and my employer didn't like it, I could just take them out and I'd be acceptable again. My hypothetical black coworker could take hers out, but she would still be black.

Sure, but your hypothetical black coworker is much less likely today to face outright discrimination based on her skin color. However, cornrows are common within her culture, and thus she faces discrimination against that culture. (Not to mention the myriad other ways in which she is likely to be disadvantaged relative to you that start pretty much at birth)

I'm not at all saying that discrimination based on skin color no longer exists in this country, I'm just (once again) saying that that particular form of discrimination is on the wane while others rise to take its place. It's early yet in this transition, but it is clearly happening.

Let me put it this way (which may sound a little racist, if so I'm sorry), if you put a black man in a suit rather than jeans and a t-shirt, most people these days will react to him much the same way as they would a white person wearing the same garb. That wasn't at all the case 20 or 30 years ago.
posted by wierdo at 12:16 PM on May 26, 2011


More to the point, if we keep looking at where we've been instead of where we're going, we'll unintentionally allow the bigotry to change form unnoticed.
posted by wierdo at 12:18 PM on May 26, 2011


"Race" makes a little more sense when you think of its origins in strict kinship terms — both the Romans and the Greeks thought of essentially every tribe and city as having a distinct "race" and racial character.

klang2ston, I agree but I don't think that's really the same thing as our modern (i.e., post-classical) sense of the word. The word race in its approximate current meaning came into being in the 17th century and it pretty much meant then what it means now, although the meaning is quickly evaporating. In that sense, it is made up of the factors I mentioned before and has no scientific basis.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:46 PM on May 26, 2011


Let me put it this way (which may sound a little racist, if so I'm sorry), if you put a black man in a suit rather than jeans and a t-shirt, most people these days will react to him much the same way as they would a white person wearing the same garb.

So when people appear in court in suits, the outcomes are much the same, regardless of race, right? Bias has basically been eliminated once you put on a suit?

I mean I see what you're getting at, but I think you're vastly underestimating how many people get discriminated against before they ever get a chance to say "Hey, I like to play golf too!"

When I get the shifty eye in some store, it isn't because they are discriminating against my love of barbecue cookouts.

I think your problem is where you assume one is taking the place of the other, as opposed to one (culture) replacing the decline of (phenotypical) racism. I assure you there are plenty of recent situations where I have walked in wearing a suit and still "showed up black." But anyway, thanks for reminding me I need to buy a couple of ties.
posted by cashman at 1:56 PM on May 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I think all white people are racist" isn't any more of a challenge than "I think all black men are violent" or "I think all hispanics are lazy".

I didn't say "I think all white people are racist"; I was speaking specifically about when YOU (ie one person) are being accused of being racist. Totally different thing, and obviously so. Don't put words in my mouth.
posted by davejay at 11:43 AM on May 27, 2011


johnasdf wrote: Did you know that prior to 1967, Aborigines were categorized as flora and fauna

I'm pretty sure that's false. Before 1967 they were counted as people, they were just excluded from the Commonwealth census and the Federal Government had no right to make laws specifically affecting them. It probably started with something like "the biggest mention of Australian Aborigines in New South Wales law is their right to hunt otherwise-protected species given by the Flora and Fauna Act."
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:22 PM on May 28, 2011


I didn't say "I think all white people are racist"; I was speaking specifically about when YOU (ie one person) are being accused of being racist. Totally different thing, and obviously so. Don't put words in my mouth.

I never said that you said "All white people are racist". I implied that the reason that you were called racist was because you were white. Do you think that you were being called racist for some other reason than the color of your skin?
posted by 23skidoo at 3:08 PM on May 29, 2011


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