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Racist rant on London tram leads to arrest
November 29, 2011 3:39 AM   Subscribe

A woman has been arrested after a swearing, racist rant (YouTube) on a tram in Croydon, London trended on Twitter. Daily Mail reports with comments switched off, far right EDL member declares her a patriot to be proud of. Satire site The Daily Mash weighs in sardonically.
posted by TheophileEscargot (202 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
The thing is, you can't tell people on public transport to go back to where they came from - they're already doing so.
posted by mippy at 3:49 AM on November 29, 2011 [66 favorites]


I gather that this is a specific infraction because she was using public transit at the time? Or are racial epithets universally against the law in the UK?
posted by ShutterBun at 3:49 AM on November 29, 2011


You can be arrested for using hateful language, as a public order offence. She may have been arrested for using random swearwords too on this basis, but I *believe* racist and homophobic language at least is an additional offence - I can't remember exactly which law this comes under.
posted by mippy at 3:57 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I gather that this is a specific infraction because she was using public transit at the time? Or are racial epithets universally against the law in the UK?

She was apparently arrested for a racially aggravated public order offence, so basically yes. It's the same category of crime as being drunk and disorderly.
posted by atrazine at 3:58 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shutterbun: According to the Guardian article, the arrest was on suspicion of a public order offence. If she had been having a quiet conversation with a friend with the same subject matter, it wouldn't have been an offence. In this case, I suspect the charge is under the Public Order Act, 1986, and is for "using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress".

Racial aggravation is a further issue - if a court finds that an offence was racially motivated, it raises the maximum sentence.

So, no, it's not illegal in the UK to use racial epithets, but if you use them while committing certain other crimes (broadly, assault, criminal damage, harassment or public order) you risk increasing the severity of the charge you are facing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:59 AM on November 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


And to think we could have had some new Metafilter heroes...
posted by gman at 4:00 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's the same category of crime as being drunk and disorderly.

Which is, let's face it, what she was. Apart from all the racist abuse.

She must also have been going on for a bit before the video started, which is why whoever shot it did so.

Why can't we deport her? To some random country that owes us a favour, I mean.
posted by Grangousier at 4:01 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


What the hell was she repeatedly doing with her bottom lip? Was she dipping? Fucking gross.
posted by XhaustedProphet at 4:01 AM on November 29, 2011


It's interesting that the Daily Heil went with the "vile racial abuse" angle rather than the "political correctness gone bonkers" angle of a citizen being prosecuted for Just Saying What's On Everyone's Mind.
posted by acb at 4:02 AM on November 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


What the hell was she repeatedly doing with her bottom lip? Was she dipping? Fucking gross.

That looks to me like drug use of some sort. It's closely related to an ecstasy gurn. Strangely enough I witnessed something similar to this on a bus in Peckham, only it was a black woman who seemed to have a bone to pick with all Nigerians.
posted by Summer at 4:04 AM on November 29, 2011


Why can't we deport her? To some random country that owes us a favour, I mean.

Australia's no longer accepting British riff-raff; in fact, the process is now arguably the other way around.
posted by acb at 4:05 AM on November 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


I was waiting for one of the black people on the train to say "I am going back to where I came from - I was born in Croyden" but sadly not.
posted by cmonkey at 4:06 AM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Daily Mail link in the OP is down, I think they've updated it to this instead.


[Yes I just trawled the Daily Mail looking for the article in question, I'll never be able to unsee it all :(]
posted by xqwzts at 4:07 AM on November 29, 2011


[Updated the Daily Mail link.]
posted by taz at 4:13 AM on November 29, 2011


I was hoping someone might say, "I you didn't want any black or brown people in the UK, then blame your ancestors - they shouldn't have gone out and conquered half the world. You're lucky that we're just peacefully emigrating, instead of conquering you back, making you into second class citizens, etc."

But discussing colonial history with a drunk/high person at a high pitch on a train probably wouldn't get too far - the black woman had better rhetoric for that moment (that immigrants do necessary work).
posted by jb at 4:13 AM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Australia's no longer accepting British riff-raff; in fact, the process is now arguably the other way around.

Sentenced to transportation to Shepherd's Bush, there to serve a term of hard labour working in a bar, pub or other alcohol related establishment, and may God have mercy on your soul.
posted by atrazine at 4:15 AM on November 29, 2011 [32 favorites]


@Grangousier, "extraordinary rendition" was an American custom.
posted by epo at 4:16 AM on November 29, 2011


Why can't we deport her?

I can think of a few states here in the good ole USA where she would be welcomed with open arms. But I think the most touching scene in the video was when a young black male in the background was ready to engage her. A young white woman trying to keep the situation isolated reached out and clearly asked him not to engage. A few moments later as things were getting more vocal she gave him a hug--a beautiful empathetic gesture. I thought the passengers did an excellent job keeping the situation calm.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 4:17 AM on November 29, 2011 [41 favorites]


I've seen this video getting passed around on Facebook, with most people expressing sympathy for the little kid on her lap, which I have to agree with. Having some idiot hurl loud abuse at you on a crowded train is pretty bad, and I'm glad to see her facing charges for it, but being babysat or raised by such a person must be a lot more damaging.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:18 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


This is when the queen ought to issue a statement: "Everyone with this attitude is welcome and encouraged to leave Britain immediately and forever, because Britain doesn't want your kind. Says me. I am working with the government to set up an office to help such people with the paperwork."
posted by pracowity at 4:19 AM on November 29, 2011 [17 favorites]


I have this mental image of the London Borough of Croydon's Chief Public Relations Officer clutching his face and moaning piteously.
posted by Segundus at 4:20 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm whiter than she is (the BNP would have to deport me to Vinland if they were keen on keeping it Anglo-Saxon) and I would have smacked her in the face.
posted by mippy at 4:20 AM on November 29, 2011


Bus Uncle Dog Poop
posted by Burhanistan at 4:24 AM on November 29, 2011


So, by turning off comments “for legal reasons”, haven’t the Daily Mail just blatantly acknowledged that they pander to the kind of readers who would declare this woman some kind of hero and happily pitch in with racist commentary of their own?
posted by cilantro at 4:25 AM on November 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


So, by turning off comments “for legal reasons”, haven’t the Daily Mail just blatantly acknowledged that they pander to the kind of readers who would declare this woman some kind of hero and happily pitch in with racist commentary of their own?

I think the comments sections under news articles for any media outlet send ultrasonic pulses that can only be heard by xenophobes and conspiracy theorists.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:27 AM on November 29, 2011 [59 favorites]


It is easy to be snarky, but in this case, won't someone think of the children! Or at least that child. I hope that there is some serious intervention so that poor kid doesn't have another 15 years of this before he is emancipated. Train wrecks are bad enough but when the train wreck is holding a two year old, that is heart-wrenching. And the kid seems non-plussed by it, as if it has happened before.
posted by xetere at 4:31 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Heh, the really story here isn't the crazy racist. Didi you see the bemused looks on the faces of everyone else in the multi-ethnic crowd? Not to mention the other white lady screaming "I'm English, what have you got to say to me?" Also, we get some comfort hugs to boot.
posted by pickinganameismuchharderthanihadanticipated at 4:33 AM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, by turning off comments “for legal reasons”,...

Difficult to say. I mean, the Guardian turned off comments on the Levenson inquiry piece. Is that a commentary on Guardian readers? I would like an explanation in both cases from the papers themselves, but that seems unlikely.
posted by IndigoJones at 4:35 AM on November 29, 2011


What the hell was she repeatedly doing with her bottom lip? Was she dipping? Fucking gross.
Yeah, my impression watching the video was that she's on *something*. Weird facial tics, stream-of-consciousness ranting and loud, public, angry racism coming from someone who is in (and sounds like she's from) an area where that would not be a great survival trait.

Kind of depressing to see such abhorrent behaviour bump up against Londoners' ingrained determination to Not Get Involved. Kudos to the people who did, although I think that in most of the rest of the country there would've been more of a reaction.
posted by metaBugs at 4:35 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's too many Daily Mail readers in this country. THE UK IS FULL.
posted by panboi at 4:44 AM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Kind of depressing to see such abhorrent behaviour bump up against Londoners' ingrained determination to Not Get Involved. Kudos to the people who did, although I think that in most of the rest of the country there would've been more of a reaction.

Why get involved? I think this is a case for a real-life "flag it and move on". Specifically to the police or transport police or whoever.

The popularity of this video on social networks is a sign of how thankfully rare this sort of behaviour is. Once we've dismantled the still omnipresent structural forms of racism, we might live in a pretty decent society.
posted by iotic at 4:50 AM on November 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


She is reacting to what is commonly known as post-colonialism blowback. It usually occurs when your empire devolves into a second rate country and the people you once exploited take advantage of the culture you forced down their throats. All I can say is: "Suck it. Suck it long and hard."
posted by Renoroc at 4:55 AM on November 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


"You ain't English. You ain't English eifer. None of you is fucking English."

Maybe I'm missing something. Is there a more accurate way to describe London?
posted by three blind mice at 4:55 AM on November 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


re: her gurning/lip chewing thing. A friend of mine did stuff like this when she was on anti-psychotic drugs. My friend had serious mental health issues and I think this woman does too.
posted by jiroczech at 4:57 AM on November 29, 2011 [15 favorites]


Call me odd, but it also made me feel a little sad that care in the community has failed a woman who should almost certainly be receiving proper mental health support.

I mean, that situation isn't even making her happy, and her actions are super irrational.
posted by jaduncan at 5:01 AM on November 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Despicable. But if a lone hate filled druggie mother depressed me, it surely didn't depress me as much as :

- Calls for her to be raped.
- Calls for capital punishment and/or violence.
- Anger at the young lad barely keeping it together behind her.
- Mockery of her social status (adidas wearing, welfare scum, etc)

I'm ambivalent about this in that there is a part of me that doesn't want to feel any sympathy for her at all. She (and people like her) make me ashamed to be British. They deserve to be publicly named and shamed. But there's a tinge of pitchforkery (jumped on by the usually deeply racist media) that gives me huge pause for thought.
posted by seanyboy at 5:06 AM on November 29, 2011 [36 favorites]


I meant to post this link with that last comment.
posted by seanyboy at 5:07 AM on November 29, 2011


But there's a tinge of pitchforkery (jumped on by the usually deeply racist media) that gives me huge pause for thought.

It's handy for the Mail. Next time they are accused of being racist they will point to this article and say they in fact explicitly reject racism. Now back to the stories about Eastern European pickpockets on £150k housing benefit who render both the columnist and the reader astounded and thinking that they could, indeed, not make it up. But racism? In their paper? They would be *shocked*.
posted by jaduncan at 5:09 AM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Call me odd, but it also made me feel a little sad that care in the community has failed a woman who should almost certainly be receiving proper mental health support.

I don't think that's odd. I mean, what she's saying is vile, but she's not exactly Mr. Burns; she's one of life's losers, and was so even before she became functionally unemployable as a result of this video. I think there's a gleeful rush to point at this kind of isolated, resourceless racist outburst, because it draws attention away from deeper-rooted cultural and economic injustices which are harder to encapsulate in soundbites and from which the higher echelons of society are more likely to profit.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:10 AM on November 29, 2011 [21 favorites]


I can't find it, but the weirdest tweet I saw on this basically laid into the young lad behind the racist woman for failing to physically attack her, and followed it up by calling the guy a "stink head". (A racially damaging term if ever I heard one).

We're so fucked up about race in this country.
posted by seanyboy at 5:15 AM on November 29, 2011


You know, the EDL really should be more selective with the people they choose as their latest "patriot heroes." I mean, on viewing the video, aside from the antisocial behavior on display there seems to be some pretty obvious indicators of mental ill- oh...
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:24 AM on November 29, 2011


I can think of a few states here in the good ole USA where she would be welcomed with open arms.

Which ones specifically? There are a few people in *every* state that share her views. You might as well go the next step. All of America loves this woman!
posted by pjaust at 5:37 AM on November 29, 2011 [14 favorites]


Many of the reactions to this show an enormous lack of self awareness. Comments like this: "Fucking pikey bitch, drunk and living off my taxes" (directly copied from a friend's Facebook comment thread) are the direct equivalent of what this woman was saying, just replace race with class.

Sucks to be human.
posted by Summer at 5:43 AM on November 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


Difficult to say. I mean, the Guardian turned off comments on the Levenson inquiry piece. Is that a commentary on Guardian readers? I would like an explanation in both cases from the papers themselves, but that seems unlikely.

Without getting into the specific cases, it's entirely possible for a blog comment to be legally problematic, under the UK's endlessly exciting laws of libel and contempt, without it necessarily being a comment that you'd otherwise interpret as "bad" in any way.
posted by oliverburkeman at 5:50 AM on November 29, 2011


She is reacting to what is commonly known as post-colonialism blowback. It usually occurs when your empire devolves into a second rate country and the people you once exploited take advantage of the culture you forced down their throats. All I can say is: "Suck it. Suck it long and hard."

If immigration is beneficial, how can it be just desserts for colonial wrong-doings?
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 5:50 AM on November 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


There's no point in challenging her because she's obviously mentally ill, but more importantly that kid with her doesn't need to see things get more tense. That poor little boy. I hope this is the saddest thing I see today, because it's devastating. The only possible course of action there would have been to try to get her to change the subject and spare that little boy some misery.

Everyone's irate about a racist idiot, but the real loser is sitting under her chin. I'm hardly the "will somebody please think of the children" type, but it's apt here.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:50 AM on November 29, 2011 [18 favorites]


My wife, 16-year-old daughter, and I took the train to grandma's for Thanksgiving this year, a 9-hour trip. On the way home, we were seated next to an awful family, yelling , threats of (but not actual) hitting and smacking, a constant stream of "Shut up!" from the father, directed at his 3- and 7-year-old sons. After a couple hours of this, my daughter turned to me and said, loudly, "I love you!" She then turned to my wife, and said "I love you!" We passed that around for a bit. I suspect we're happier than that other family.
posted by MrMoonPie at 6:06 AM on November 29, 2011 [21 favorites]


That Daily Mash article was vile.

As for the poor Miss West, she's lucky to live in a society where a train load of people she's abusing care more about the welfare of her child than she does.
posted by fullerine at 6:15 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


A few moments later as things were getting more vocal she gave him a hug--a beautiful empathetic gesture.

That's a great point; I hadn't noticed that the first time I saw it. I concur with those who have noted that she most likely has more problems than just racism, either mental health related or substance related, but that doesn't make it any easier for the people on the tram to listen to, and it really is impressive that they tried to stop it but didn't escalate it, partly because only one person really engaged with her at a time. I agree it was well handled by the people who found themselves in that situation.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 6:21 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for pointing out the hug, Seymour Zamboni; I had no desire to listen to that garbage for more than a few seconds and missed it. The guy gets up to engage the mentally ill woman at 1:13; the hug happens at 1:40.
posted by mediareport at 6:28 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Tea Party UK.
posted by spitbull at 6:28 AM on November 29, 2011


"What the hell was she repeatedly doing with her bottom lip? Was she dipping? Fucking gross."

That's just the Big Book of British Smiles.
posted by clvrmnky at 6:32 AM on November 29, 2011


Comments like this: "Fucking pikey bitch, drunk and living off my taxes" (directly copied from a friend's Facebook comment thread) are the direct equivalent of what this woman was saying, just replace race with class.

Don't even have to do that replacement - one of the etymologies of "pikey" is as a slur against Gypsy and Irish Traveller communities, making it arguably a straight-up racist comment in and of itself.
posted by ZsigE at 6:39 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Funny. Tragic. Heart-warming. Reminds me of a Ken Loach movie.
posted by night_train at 6:52 AM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Australia's no longer accepting British riff-raff; in fact, the process is now arguably the other way around.


I realise that's clothed in 'arguably' tags, but I find this sentiment worse than the outburst of recognisable insanity from this silly lady.

The idea that Australia, rife with xenephobic 'how do we keep the boat people out' angst has got it more right than Britain with a public transport carriage full of reasonable people despite someone kicking-off while demonstably high and acting the fool.

It just smacks of 'lol multicultural experiment failure' to me.


posted by panaceanot at 7:10 AM on November 29, 2011


I find this sentiment worse than the outburst of recognisable insanity from this silly lady

I think acb was just joking that Britain doesn't send its undesirables as convicts to Australia, but Australians sent to live in the UK are, ha-ha, "undesirable". This was in response to a previous joke that this (ranting) person should be the one deported.

acb wasn't suggesting that Australia has "the right idea" about race relations.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 7:21 AM on November 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


Oooomg, Charlotte Gainsbourg will have to play her in the movie. The resemblence is striking.
posted by hermitosis at 7:27 AM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


panaceanot: "The idea that Australia, rife with xenephobic 'how do we keep the boat people out' angst has got it more right than Britain with a public transport carriage full of reasonable people despite someone kicking-off while demonstably high and acting the fool."

I had a guy calling me all sorts of ugly shit on a crowded tram in Melbourne for a good ten minutes and got no hugs, so London kind of wins this round.

People really are the same everywhere, though. Once immigration of visible minorities (even within a country) hits a certain level, every insecurity comes gurgling out, and reason, tolerance and education tend to go out the window. It's rare, for example, to see a crime reported on an Indian newspaper's website without the comments quickly devolving into the predictable north-vs-south and hindu-vs-muslim nonsense. Is there a country where this doesn't happen? I'd really like to know.
posted by vanar sena at 7:28 AM on November 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oooomg, Charlotte Gainsbourg will have to play her in the movie. The resemblence is striking.

Personally, I think she's the spitting image of TV presenter Davina McCall.
posted by Summer at 7:30 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I clicked a "related" reaction video out of curiosity, and of course the one I picked turned out to be supportive of the Tram Lady.
posted by hermitosis at 7:31 AM on November 29, 2011


Is there a country where this doesn't happen? I'd really like to know.

North Korea. I don't think they have much of an immigrant issue and one can hardly call them "racist" for the terrible things they say about South Koreans.
posted by three blind mice at 7:32 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


It would be interesting to have Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Anglo-French woman of Jewish extraction, play an English racist. Sort of like having Stephen Graham, whose grandfather is Jamaican and whose father is mixed-race, play the English Nationalist in This is England. Or having Canadian Jew William Shatner play a racist in The Intruder.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:39 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I laughed out loud when I noticed she or her kid was wearing Burberry. (Even though it's supposedly over.)

But I think the most touching scene in the video was when a young black male in the background was ready to engage her. A young white woman trying to keep the situation isolated reached out and clearly asked him not to engage. A few moments later as things were getting more vocal she gave him a hug--a beautiful empathetic gesture. I thought the passengers did an excellent job keeping the situation calm.

I was fascinated by that too. He seems to have a white girlfriend with him, and the arm that reaches out to him looked male to me -- maybe he was with a group of friends. Either way, they kept the situation from getting exponentially worse.
posted by dhartung at 7:51 AM on November 29, 2011


Reminds me of a Ken Loach movie.

One of my thoughts as well. Ken Loach or Mike Leigh. There was something strangely performative about it and for a few seconds I hoped it was, but alas, she's fucking nuts.

And the thought of that little kid having to deal with her for the rest of his life is just a tragedy in the making...
posted by Skygazer at 8:00 AM on November 29, 2011


Lets not forget that what she's saying *is* indicative of a part of society that feel increasingly disenfranchised.

If you're in the UK and you haven't heard the white underclasses (and working classes) saying exactly what she says (but behind closed doors), you're pretty naive. This conversation goes on anywhere there's a large enough racial minority and long term unemployed white people.

I don't know what can be done about this, but you can bet a lot of her racist views come from the fact that she feels that she's in a race for increasingly tight resources with other marginalised sectors of society, and her team is losing.

The frustration of people like her is used by groups like to BNP to foster more & more hatred in this country, and the working-class myths that conversations about race have been censored by the sort of people that advocate "Diversity training" doesn't help at all. All conversations about race are now being driven underground where they can putrify into this sort of vile babble.

Gah! It's all too depressing.
posted by seanyboy at 8:00 AM on November 29, 2011 [21 favorites]


dhartung:

It may have made you laugh, but lets leave the chav-bashing to the Daily Mail and those middle class nimby's that make me feel increasingly sorry for this woman.

There's nothing wrong with wearing Burberry, big hoop earrings or cheap knock-off threestripe. Fuck anyone who thinks there is.
posted by seanyboy at 8:05 AM on November 29, 2011 [10 favorites]


I think the comments sections under news articles for any media outlet send ultrasonic pulses that can only be heard by xenophobes and conspiracy theorists.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 4:27 AM on November 29 [24 favorites +] [!]


that's just the kind of conspiracy nonsense I'd expect from a FILTHY CHUWERO
posted by FatherDagon at 8:06 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't know what can be done about this, but you can bet a lot of her racist views come from the fact that she feels that she's in a race for increasingly tight resources with other marginalised sectors of society, and her team is losing.

Well, that definitely sounds like huge swaths of the US. You've heard the one about the Tea Partier and the cookies, right? It goes like this: "A CEO, a Tea Partier and a union worker are sitting at a table. In the middle of the table there is a plate with a dozen cookies on it. The CEO reaches across the table, takes 11 cookies, looks at the Tea Partier and says: "Look out for that union guy, he wants a piece of your cookie." Sub in white and non-white and there you are. It's the greatest trick the upper class has ever played.
posted by desjardins at 8:11 AM on November 29, 2011 [35 favorites]


But I think the most touching scene in the video was when a young black male in the background was ready to engage her.

I really thought he was going to lamp her one across her stupid, filthy mouth when he got up and threw off his shoulder bag. I'm glad he thought better of it though.
posted by essexjan at 8:15 AM on November 29, 2011


If you're in the UK and you haven't heard the white underclasses (and working classes) saying exactly what she says (but behind closed doors), you're pretty naive. This conversation goes on anywhere there's a large enough racial minority and long term unemployed white people.

Only this morning there was an item on the news about white working class people feeling 'neglected by politicians'. I'd find a link but it seems to have dropped off the news agenda already.
posted by Summer at 8:24 AM on November 29, 2011


seanyboy: "but you can bet a lot of her racist views come from the fact that she feels that she's in a race for increasingly tight resources with other marginalised sectors of society"

I feel there is an element of wishful thinking here. There are plenty of racist wealthy people. Take away their economic stability and they are just easier to trick into voicing and acting on it, that's all. Tribalism is a deep-seated part of humanity and it's going to take more than a socio-economic safety net to root it out.
posted by vanar sena at 8:25 AM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you're in the UK and you haven't heard the white underclasses (and working classes) saying exactly what she says (but behind closed doors), you're pretty naive

Or you need to open more doors. Some have prizes behind them. Others, racism. But the prizes are pretty good, so ... yeah. Good luck.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 8:30 AM on November 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


I understand that white poor people feel vulnerable - we are suffering. Where I think they are wrong is when they don't band together with other poor people against the middle and upper classes who perpetuate the growing inequality.
posted by jb at 8:31 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


She seems ill.

Couple weeks back I was on the train with a guy that was obviously off. He kept moving from seat to seat getting sort of close to people and saying "suck my dick". A couple guys got up and looked like they were about to hit him but realized there was something wrong with the guy.

I believe you that there are people who believe whatever this lady is going on about but how many of them start going off on the tram seemingly at random? There has got to be dozens of racists and tea partiers and chavs and whatnot in every crowd but how many people have seen something like this? It never happens because normal racists are sane enough to keep it to themselves when out in public.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:34 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


An outburst like this in public is more indicative of someone who needs treatment, not jail time.
posted by Oh OK HA HA at 8:35 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


vanar sena:

It's not wishful thinking. You're right of course that there are a lot of rich racists, and I have little sympathy for racism from either side, but when you've got fuck all money and there's people coming to your house to tell you that the Poles are stealing all your jobs and the Bangladeshi are getting a load of money off the council, then this sort of festering hate is difficult to avoid.

I can't condone it, but a lot of the racism where I live is exacerbated by perceived unfairnesses in resource allocation.
posted by seanyboy at 8:41 AM on November 29, 2011


This conversation goes on anywhere there's a large enough racial minority and long term unemployed white people.

While I agree that unemployment is a factor, I'm afraid that presence of a significant (or even noticeable) racial minority is not a precondition of this sort of conversation. I could take you to towns in Cornwall where the only non-whites are the people who run the Indian restaurant and the Chinese takeaway, and the only other ethnic minority is a single digit number of Polish workers, and you'd hear people blaming their situation on immigration. They'll also tend to pick on Muslims, despite the fact that many of them have ever met anyone whom they could reliably identify as such.

Bigotry is never having to say anything that makes sense.
posted by howfar at 8:43 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is there a country where this doesn't happen? I'd really like to know.

North Korea. I don't think they have much of an immigrant issue and one can hardly call them "racist" for the terrible things they say about South Koreans.


You should see what they think about Americans. I mean, a friendly game of bayonet-the-imperialist is one thing, but the caricatures they use of the US imperialists are every bit as hook-nosed, hatchet-jawed and bug-eyed as you could imagine. (Here's some posters with a few similar illustrations; I don't have access to my photos right now.) It was astounding. And they don't care much for the Japanese, either.
/derail
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 8:47 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Only this morning there was an item on the news about white working class people feeling 'neglected by politicians'. I'd find a link but it seems to have dropped off the news agenda already.


Here's the story, following some research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

White working class feel ''last in line''
posted by essexjan at 8:50 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know she could well be drunk or otherwise intoxicated and not "omg crazy". It always makes me slightly queasy to to see a rush to label as mental ill any horrible social behavior.
posted by edgeways at 8:51 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


I agree with those above who attribute this sort of thing largely to fear, drugs and/or mental illness, and clearly, this woman cares nothing for her own safety or that of the child she's with, which is frightening.

What is the answer? I think others standing up to this can help in some situations, but in others, engaging with the bigot would only exacerbate things.

As the ratio of available resources to population drops, I expect we will see some pretty ugly behavior on the part of the "civilized," especially with the predicted shortages due to climate change.

I do not envy young people. The future of the world could well be a downward spiral of squabbling over who gets what, and when the chips are down, the hate comes out.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:58 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea that Australia, rife with xenephobic 'how do we keep the boat people out' angst has got it more right than Britain with a public transport carriage full of reasonable people despite someone kicking-off while demonstably high and acting the fool. It just smacks of 'lol multicultural experiment failure' to me.

Australia is no more or less "rife" with xenophobia than Britain, and you'll find carriages full of reasonable people in either place. Just because there are examples of loud-mouthed xenophobic Australians doesn't mean that all Australians are like that, any more than this example of a loud-mouthed xenophobic Briton tells us much about the extent of British xenophobia.

22% of Australian residents reported that they were born overseas at the last (2006) census - twice the UK percentage of foreign-born residents in 2009. And yet everyone gets along, for the most part. The exceptions attract attention, there and here, because they're exceptions.
posted by rory at 9:00 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


But I think the most touching scene in the video was when a young black male in the background was ready to engage her. A young white woman trying to keep the situation isolated reached out and clearly asked him not to engage. A few moments later as things were getting more vocal she gave him a hug--a beautiful empathetic gesture.

Thankful for her. And thankful for mefi -- glad this is not the Reddit front page and people are not defending her freedom of speech, which don't you know is the real thing under threat here.

But yes, just as sick of the classism and the tabloid hypocrisy, the mob with their new Jade Goody. I very much hope she gets help, and that her life is not ruined. I wish she could watch the video and see how the people of different colours stood up for and reached out to support each other, and understand how she has been lied to, and that she can change and make up for this.
posted by catchingsignals at 9:01 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Bigotry is never having to say anything that makes sense.

This x 1000.

The interesting part of this that often is overlooked is the entitlement-to-a-job double standard - when POC are disproportionately left without jobs, there's all kinds of "meritocracy" reasons bandied about- when the white people are without jobs, suddenly people are "stealing" jobs and ruining the country.

Which really shows the mentality - it's never about anything resembling meritocracy or fair shake, it's really the expectation that of course white people should have an easier time than other people - including fellow citizens of the country who happen to not be white.

The second issue is also the fact that integration means having to see people who are different than you and perhaps encounter music, languages, or food different than your own. Seeing public areas that aren't all white and being upset by it, tells you exactly how backwards people like this are. The sorts of double think that goes around this stuff, "Well, it's our country, there's too many of them" etc. but if you ask them if they supported segregation, (most) would say "No! No!, I'm not racist or anything!"
posted by yeloson at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2011 [17 favorites]


How is this not a point and laugh post? Other than seanyboy, pretty much every comment in this thread is either diagnosing this woman or having a go at her.
posted by stinkycheese at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know she could well be drunk or otherwise intoxicated and not "omg crazy". It always makes me slightly queasy to to see a rush to label as mental ill any horrible social behavior.

As a drunk, I'd prefer to credit her behavior to her simply being an asshole with a big mouth.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:02 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


There is a certain amount of research about the demographics of supporters of racist organizations.

Demos report on the EDL:
Supporters are older and more educated than many assume: 28 per cent are over 30; 30 per cent are educated to university or college level; and 15 per cent have a professional qualification. There are far more male supporters than female: 81 per cent are male and 19 per cent female...

A significant percentage of supporters are unemployed – although this is especially true of older supporters. Among 16–24-year-old EDL supporters, 28 per cent are unemployed, compared with a national average of 20 per cent for the same age group. Among 25– 64-year-olds, 28 per cent of EDL supporters are unemployed, compared with a national average of 6 per cent.

Richard Seymour on the BNP:
Recently, there was a very useful analysis of the BNP and the 'white working class' by James Rhodes in the Sociology journal. It took issue with the idea, circulated by politicians and journalists alike, that the BNP's support comes from the most deprived among whites. In this respect, he points out that while the BNP have made real inroads into working class areas, there is no natural affinity between the BNP and white workers, and nor is it the poorest they appeal to. The two class fractions most likely to be represented among BNP supporters are 'skilled workers', and the lower middle class.

I'm a bit wary of generalizations about the "white working class". It's easy to do a study or survey of "white working class" people and report the results. But do they really exist as a distinct group with distinct attitudes? Do white working class people feel more resentment than black working class people? Do white working class people have different attitudes to race than white middle class people? Do white working class people have different attitudes to asian/east european people than, say, afro-carribean working class people?

I'm not convinced that the white working class are more racist than the white middle class, they may just be less subtle about expressing it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 9:03 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


howfar:

Maybe. I've lived in a number of places, and my experience of the racism has been different in each place. All places contain racists - That's for sure. But in Halifax and Huddersfield (The towns which defined my understanding of "how normal people get racist", I saw a widespread dislike of what I suppose you could call the dominant minority. By white people.

The further down the socio-economic pole you went, the more pronounced that hatred got.

In Huddersfield, it was all about the blacks, and what the blacks got and the white's didn't and how black people exhibited certain attributes. It was pre-911 then and Asians(*) were OK.

In Halifax, it's all about the Asians(*). They don't like the Asians in my little town. I'm constantly suprised how deep this goes. Black people are fine though, because their aren't that many Black people in Halifax.

I'm not singling white people out of this BTW. Amongst Afro Caribbeans, it's the Africans that are getting the easy ride & Don't They Know It, and if you've spent time in certain places the hostility between black and Asian is more than palpable.

All this is getting further from the point though. essexjan flagged up the study I refered to. I believe Obama made strong points about the same issues in one of his election speeches. There have been multiple studies and television programmes about this happening. The white underclasses in this country are Very Angry About Race, and poverty is a contributing factor to this anger.

* American friends: I'm using the Common British Definition of Asian. Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, etc
posted by seanyboy at 9:07 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Strangely enough I witnessed something similar to this on a bus in Peckham
Was it the 12? It's always the 12.
posted by fightorflight at 9:08 AM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


TheophileEscargot: Interesting. I shall investigate further.

I suppose I hold onto the "white working class" thing is because of where the BNP canvas support in my area. The poorer you are, the more likely you're going to get some thug come round your house to explain about the Poles.

This may be confirmation bias on my part though.
posted by seanyboy at 9:10 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't see much of a difference between the things she said and some of the comments here.
posted by luke1249 at 9:13 AM on November 29, 2011


Bigotry is never having to say anything that makes sense.

That's exactly the kind of thing a horrible leek-eating Welshman would say.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:16 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "So, by turning off comments “for legal reasons”, haven’t the Daily Mail just blatantly acknowledged that they pander to the kind of readers who would declare this woman some kind of hero and happily pitch in with racist commentary of their own?"

To be fair, the CBC often has to do this when they run a story about First Nations' troubles:

"SEND THEM BACK TO..... wait."
posted by klanawa at 9:16 AM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


The interesting part of this that often is overlooked is the entitlement-to-a-job double standard - when POC are disproportionately left without jobs, there's all kinds of "meritocracy" reasons bandied about- when the white people are without jobs, suddenly people are "stealing" jobs and ruining the country.

Which really shows the mentality - it's never about anything resembling meritocracy or fair shake, it's really the expectation that of course white people should have an easier time than other people - including fellow citizens of the country who happen to not be white.

The second issue is also the fact that integration means having to see people who are different than you and perhaps encounter music, languages, or food different than your own. Seeing public areas that aren't all white and being upset by it, tells you exactly how backwards people like this are. The sorts of double think that goes around this stuff, "Well, it's our country, there's too many of them" etc. but if you ask them if they supported segregation, (most) would say "No! No!, I'm not racist or anything!"
That's because to many people, non-white (though these days with the fear and hatred of Polish immigrants, non-English? I'm sure Americans and Australians are fine though.) people are still guests, always and forever guests, even if you or your parents or grandparents were born here. So it's always the "ethnics" (example 1 2). And then they will turn around and say, But I don't understand, why do they keep themselves to themselves? Why don't they feel a sense of belonging? Why won't they integrate?
posted by catchingsignals at 9:17 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've been on that tram a couple of times on my way down to the IKEA in Croydon. (New apartment to furnish, no car, not a huge amount of money...tram to IKEA.) It was pretty laid-back apart from being horribly crowded, but you can say that for pretty much any mass transit in London. (Bonus semi-touristy thing--it goes right past the local branch of the Home Office where they processed my student visa extension. I had an urge to get off the tram, walk up to the door, knock, and say "So...finished yet?".)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 9:20 AM on November 29, 2011


Was it the 12? It's always the 12.

No. The 37, where things like this happen.
posted by Summer at 9:21 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


gman: "And to think we could have had some new Metafilter heroes..."

Holy crap.
posted by zarq at 9:22 AM on November 29, 2011


Well, we now know who she is.
posted by Summer at 9:27 AM on November 29, 2011


I do hear it can be stressful in IKEA. (never been, but have been warned.)
posted by catchingsignals at 9:28 AM on November 29, 2011


Boy, she sure has a 'potty mouth,' doesn't she?
posted by ericb at 9:30 AM on November 29, 2011


The white underclasses in this country are Very Angry About Race, and poverty is a contributing factor to this anger.

I wouldn't disagree with you, although I think TheophileEscargot's point about belief vs expression across classes is valid and significant. Where we differ, perhaps, is on the idea that "all conversations about race are now being driven underground". We have a very active public conversation about race, as far as I can see, and it's almost entirely racist in its tone. People don't get their perceptions about unfair resource allocation from nowhere, they get them from the media they consume, media that tell them, in no uncertain terms, that people with dark skins and different accents are getting a free ride. This seems to me the primary reason why poor people in poor white dominated places still blame non-whites for their woes, and a major contributor to the racism that occurs in multiethnic environments.
posted by howfar at 9:33 AM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


This woman is, like all racists, a fucking idiot.

But there's really not much she can do about it.

So if we criticise her for being stupid, we're guilty of discrimination just as the racists are.

Punishing individuals is useless, it's a societal problem with no easy solutions - most unfortunate.
posted by dickasso at 9:34 AM on November 29, 2011


Thank you for pointing out the hug, Seymour (may I call you Seymour?). I would have missed that otherwise and spontaneous acts of kindness and empathy are worth a lot.
posted by neuromodulator at 9:38 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Cocaine is a hell of a drug.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:39 AM on November 29, 2011


She's clearly a wreck of some kind - she looks drunk or spun out to me. Honestly, I find her awful and hard to watch, but I'm not sure where I stand on the "arrest people like this". If arrest came with some help of some kind, sure.

But it just fucking breaks my heart to see the kid sitting on her knee, taking it all in.
posted by freebird at 9:39 AM on November 29, 2011


So if we criticise her for being stupid, we're guilty of discrimination just as the racists are.

Punishing individuals is useless, it's a societal problem with no easy solutions - most unfortunate.


The law (IANALOREB) is not for believing anything or being stupid. It's for creating a dangerous situation with words. It's not OK to go into a crowd (or a bus) and incite a riot, which is what this woman nearly did.

She was a lot more restrained than I expected, i.e. not in anyone's face or shouting or anything. It seems like an interesting edge-case for any hate-speech or incitement laws.

it just fucking breaks my heart to see the kid sitting on her knee, taking it all in.

Ditto. And you can tell by his (non) reactions that he's quite familiar with the drill by now. Sad.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:42 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Semi-related.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:43 AM on November 29, 2011


I can think of a few states here in the good ole USA where she would be welcomed with open arms.

C'mon. Please. You are doing the same thing Bus Lady was doing, only sneakier and more shyly.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:43 AM on November 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


People don't get their perceptions about unfair resource allocation from nowhere,

It is currently a respectable opinion in the UK to claim that unemployment and housing shortages are due to the influx of Poles. This is usually accompanied by a back-handed compliment that the person thinks makes it less racist, something along the lines of 'they're better workers, they don't mind working for less, they still have a work ethic etc', but the basic claim is that immigrants have stolen all our jobs and have taken all our houses.

It isn't helped by a constant stream of stories that state there are, in fact, plenty of jobs out there but the lazy feckless British youth (who are apparently unemployable anyway due to their lack of pride and discipline) just won't stoop to take them.

This is the level of debate on places such as Radio 4 for example, not just the Daily Mail.
posted by Summer at 9:44 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


This woman is, like all racists, a fucking idiot ... So if we criticise her for being stupid, we're guilty of discrimination just as the racists are.

Umm
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:45 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


If this lady really doesn't like being exposed to minorities she should just do what most white Americans do; avoid public transit like the plague. We've got it all worked out amirite?
posted by MikeMc at 9:49 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Umm

I just realised that could have been expressed better by "Uhh?"
posted by the quidnunc kid at 9:53 AM on November 29, 2011


This is usually accompanied by a back-handed compliment that the person thinks makes it less racist, something along the lines of 'they're better workers, they don't mind working for less, they still have a work ethic etc', but the basic claim is that immigrants have stolen all our jobs and have taken all our houses.

Put a fence around your border! Worked for us!
posted by desjardins at 9:55 AM on November 29, 2011


They deserve to be publicly named and shamed. But there's a tinge of pitchforkery (jumped on by the usually deeply racist media) that gives me huge pause for thought.

It is ironic how little self-awareness exists in the expression of those two sentences.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 9:56 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Couple weeks back I was on the train with a guy that was obviously off. He kept moving from seat to seat getting sort of close to people and saying "suck my dick". A couple guys got up and looked like they were about to hit him but realized there was something wrong with the guy.

A few weeks ago, a guy got on MUNI with me (L train, I think) and just started shouting obscenities. Directly at people who wouldn't respond to him or got too close to him. Clearly mentally or physically (Tourette's maybe, but probably not) ill. He had thick bottle glasses and was holding himself a bit like he had CP, but no crutches, so I dunno.

Passengers gave him a wide berth, and he took one of the handicapped seats, next to a young woman. I was standing above the young woman. It was quiet for a minute or so, then he started shouting at the young woman: "WHAT TIME IS IT?!" ... "DO I NEED A HAIRCUT?!" ... "WHAT THE FUCK?!"

She pretended like he didn't exist, then she stood up and moved to another part of the train. He continued to yell "WHAT TIME IS IT?" to no one in particular. So I told him, "It's two o'clock."

A minute of silence. ... "DO I NEED A HAIRCUT?!" ... "No, it looks pretty good to me" ... "WHAT DAY IS TODAY?!" ... "Thursday"

I got off at the next stop, but I think about that guy a lot, shouting questions into the void, getting no response except the backs of people as they walk away. Life is sure sad sometimes.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:57 AM on November 29, 2011 [26 favorites]


I got off at the next stop, but I think about that guy a lot, shouting questions into the void, getting no response except the backs of people as they walk away. Life is sure sad sometimes.

There but for the grace of the Flying Spaghetti Monster might go you or I. If you're not utterly alone and screaming into the uncaring void in desperation, you may be one crisis or one snapped neuron away from being so.
posted by acb at 10:28 AM on November 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


If you're in the UK and you haven't heard the white underclasses (and working classes) saying exactly what she says (but behind closed doors), you're pretty naive. This conversation goes on anywhere there's a large enough racial minority and long term unemployed white people.

I don't know what can be done about this


How about informing them of the facts of the matter?
"We have found no discernible statistical evidence to suggest that [eastern European] migration has been a contributor to the rise in claimant unemployment in the UK."*

"Research for the US and other European countries finds, with very few exceptions, modest or zero effects of immigration on employment and wages of residents."*

"This graph shows the employment rate for those born in the UK and those born out of the UK. The employment rate for those not born in the UK is materially lower but the gap has reduced over the period, from some 10 percentage points to about 5."*
Rhetoric such as that spouted by this young woman often goes unchallenged, is echoed by opportunistic populist politicians or (less cynically) is at least not challenged too harshly by elected officials because so many people believe the myth of the job-eating immigrant; to tell so many angry people that they are wrong about their anger is seen as political suicide by many of these officials. And no one wants to be seen as "taking the side of people not even born here".

Many of the people this woman was yelling at likely were born in the UK, and are thus just as English as she is; she's angry that England isn't white, so it's unlikely she would be satisfied with such data. But the racial insinuations that slither into talks about the economy need to be addressed swiftly. At this point, I wonder how much it would take turn around these commonly held but misinformed beliefs. I admit I don't know very much about the general state of race relations in the UK right now, so I'd be happy to hear what some of you living there think.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:29 AM on November 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Seanyboy, I really appreciate an "insider" view on the situation in the UK. Thanks for sharing.
posted by Phire at 10:33 AM on November 29, 2011


The popularity of this video on social networks is a sign of how thankfully rare this sort of behaviour is.

Sadly not. I used London public transport at least two to three times a day five days a week in the last year I was there. In that time period I discovered some people regarded me as a a capative audience on public transport - there were usually about 3 incidents similar-ish to this during any given week, sometimes more (mostly from loud, susbstance-addicted/mentally-ill people riding the bendy bus for free). It's worse if you're travelling east, beyond say Bow. The fact that this video made it out of the packed, non-ecapable train compartment for the condemning eyes of the entire country makes me beyond glad.
posted by everydayanewday at 10:34 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


On the BBC London news right now: Croydon is considering paying people to move out of the borough to places like Hull (at the other end of the country), to ease the housing crisis caused (by their own admission) by the cap in housing benefit.

In other words they're shipping the poor people out.

This how their own borough regards the people of Croydon. Just as background info. And they wonder why they tried to burn the place down a few months ago.
posted by Summer at 10:47 AM on November 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


In that time period I discovered some people regarded me as a a capative audience on public transport ... (mostly from loud, susbstance-addicted/mentally-ill people riding the bendy bus for free)

I have the perhaps obvious hypothesis that women are more often the recipients of this than men.

Having seen one or two drunk/mentally ill people yelling girl-hate obscenities at woman on London buses, I also worry that it is another instatiation of the kind of "sexual verbal abuse" that women are generally much more exposed to than men, and which many men (I accuse myself) don't even notice, as it is not constantly happening to them. Now, in contrast, where the offender yells racist abuse, it can make the whole internet shiver (not that there's anything wrong with it doing so).

One might imagine a public health campaign on the lines of "Stop Domestic Violence" which is focused on verbal abuse, "stop verbally abusing women with stupid sexual insults." Not that it would have any immediate effect on crazy folk, but ...

To highlight the lack of attention to sexual (verbal) abuse, I note that there are currently two high-profile cases/investigations in the news about Premier League footballers who have allegedly racially abused other players. One could not conceive, however, that if a (say) male footballer said that a (say) female linesperson a "was a stupid bitch who needed a good hard fuck", then the police could be involved. It would probably be roundly condemned, but I imagine it would not have the same public impact and possibly criminal consequences as racist abuse.

My point here is only that, in UK society generally, the attention to racism through words alone is commendable, but the lack attention to sexual verbal abuse (outside the workplace) is at the very least notable.

However, if you think I am overstating the issue, please do educate me.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:09 AM on November 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


North Korea. I don't think they have much of an immigrant issue and one can hardly call them "racist" for the terrible things they say about South Koreans.
North Koreans are huge racists.
So if we criticise her for being stupid, we're guilty of discrimination just as the racists are.
Stupidity is not a protected class. You can't fire someone for their race, but you can certainly fire them for being an idiot.
Having seen one or two drunk/mentally ill people yelling girl-hate obscenities at woman on London buses
Well, next time tape them, since apparently you can get arrested for it.
posted by delmoi at 11:18 AM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ah, the Croydon tram.

A post-midnight trip on that vehicle is something I would recommend to any visitor to our fine city - assuming they're the kind of visitor who likes to see the wild and dirty side of their holiday destination.

As it makes its way through Addington and into the Croydon loop you will start to feel you are traversing some middle-to-lower circle of hell. There will be people on the tram drinking from bottles of vodka. There will be laddies and lassies shouting and swearing and you-fucking-cunting all over the place. As the tram rattles through the streets of Croydon you will see ghost-faced girls in tiny skirts and vertiginous heels, voices like corncrake karaoke; you will see beered up lads giving it all that, holding the doors open, hurling abuse at the driver, doing the monkey swagger. You will be the passenger, traversing the city's ripped backsides.

So what I'm saying here is that if I had seen this video without knowing anything about it, I would have guessed it was on the tram, somewhere between Addington and Mitcham. Please do not judge London and Londoners on the basis of this inarticulate scumsack.
posted by Decani at 11:22 AM on November 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


So, will she be in the Big Brother house next series or Celebrity Come Dancing?
posted by Abiezer at 11:27 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's good that this sort of thing bursts out into the open periodically, lest we comfort ourselves with the story that this rawness of racism doesn't exist anymore. It is this usually only privately expressed venom that our right-wing politicians tap into to shore up their weak little coalitions. It is a reliable shard of a voting block and a nose-holding pol can count on it after the appropriate dog-whistles to its members.

Those of us not members need to be aware of the block's existence so we can call it out when necessary, along with those fetid pols who utilize its nastiness for their own ends.
posted by Mental Wimp at 11:28 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


the quidnunc kid, not at all. The abuse I was describing was more along the lines of one loud person on the bus yelling racist crap at no-one in particular and everyone in general, but I do get a lot of grief using public transport, which is why I much prefer cycling.

Having seen one or two drunk/mentally ill people yelling girl-hate obscenities at woman on London buses

Well, next time tape them, since apparently you can get arrested for it.


The number of times a week you'd have to do this, coupled with the fact the police don't even take sexual assualt seriously, then add in that it's way lower down thier list of priorities than stabbings and other violent assaults... without the clout of a national paper behind you, I think you'd be very lucky if they gave you the time of day.
posted by everydayanewday at 11:28 AM on November 29, 2011


Idiot/crazy woman acts idiotic/crazy. Film at eleven. I just couldn't feel worse for that boy on her lap. He's got a tough road to hoe, being raised by her, and he won't even realize that for years to come.

The woman deserved to be "outed" by having this video put on YouTube, but a big FUCK YOU to the asshole who posted it without covering the boy's face. The threats aimed at her will trickle down to him, and he doesn't deserve it. Shit like this makes me apoplectic.
posted by zardoz at 11:32 AM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


the quidnunc kid, not at all. The abuse I was describing was more along the lines of one loud person on the bus yelling racist crap at no-one in particular and everyone in general, but I do get a lot of grief using public transport, which is why I much prefer cycling.

Gotcha - and thanks, everydayanewday. I hope your bike travels are more pleasant than your bus experiences, although I gather that when one is on a bike, the bus itself (rather than its passengers) is the potential maniac!
posted by the quidnunc kid at 11:48 AM on November 29, 2011


How about informing them of the facts of the matter?

There is a more complex picture than the immigration good/bad polarity though; there was this report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission (Guardian outline here) that found the new migration from Eastern Europe was hitting the wages of the lowest paid and helping suppress terms and conditions, not least for the migrant workers themselves - not surprising given the classic consequences of a 'reserve army of labour'. It's not the bare fact of the phenomenon of increased labour mobility, but the way it's being used/exploited. Of course, that is best tackled by resisting attacks on pay and conditions, not attacking the incoming workers who suffer from the consequences.
posted by Abiezer at 12:05 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"but when you've got fuck all money and there's people coming to your house to tell you that the Poles are stealing all your jobs and the Bangladeshi are getting a load of money off the council, then this sort of festering hate is difficult to avoid."

posted by seanyboy at 4:41 PM on November 29 [+] [!]

The CBI said recently that companies should take on more foreign workers as the british are lazy workshy and stupid. Following that, the UK Chamber of Commerce said the same thing.

Also: 1 million youth unemployment

Also, stuff like this, when you have had your housing benefit capped : Warning: Daily Heil - Somali gets £8k a month rent paid (whether true or not) you can imagine how it goes down.

Then there is the issue of Muslims grooming and raping underage and teenage working class white girls and nothing being done about it (it has been in the Times most of last week but is paywalled off.)

If you are poor and working class, you really do feel at the bottom of the pile. And you are. The politicians hate you, the rich hate you, the media hate you, the Corporations and companies hate you (it was the working classes who formed all those pesky Unions), the liberal elite hate you (for being regressive in your views), and so on.
posted by marienbad at 12:10 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


So we should feel sorry for racists because "the liberal elite hate [them] (for being regressive in [their] views)"? Racists are worse off than the targets of their hatred because liberals don't like racists. POOOOOR racists.
posted by howfar at 12:27 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's not actually what anyone was saying.
posted by Summer at 12:31 PM on November 29, 2011


So if we criticise her for being stupid, we're guilty of discrimination just as the racists are.

There's a series of false assumptions here. She may be stupid. She may not be. Nonetheless, absent any evident that she suffers a cognitive impairment to the point of disability, she's engaging in a deliberate public action, and, in general, screaming racist tirades at strangers on a train isn't a demonstration of stupidity, but social hostility that has allowed her to giver herself permission to misbehave toward strangers in public.

If it comes out that she has some problem that makes it impossible for her to behave like a reasonable human being, I will giver her some leeway. But my criticisms are based on the notion that her behavior is volitional -- that she is making a choice.

She, in the meanwhile, is criticizing people for something that is not volitional -- where they were born and the color of their skin.

There is a world of difference between taking issue with something somebody can't help and taking issue with something somebody has chosen to do. And that's my issue -- it is not with her intelligence, but her decision to break very fundamental social norms to insult strangers in public, and to do so when a child is on her lap.

Is this discrimination? In the most literal sense, yes. We discriminate in a literal sense all the time, when we decide who will be our friends and who won't, or what movie we shall see, or what we shall eat for dinner. In the world of taste, being discriminating is often seen as being a good thing. And so, by recognizing a distinction in her behavior, and calling her out for it, yes, by the dictionary definition of discrimination, this is what I am doing.

But with discrimination, as with comedy, volition is the key. Volitional behavior is always open to criticism. Non-volitional behavior, such as skin color, or ethnicity, or language, or place of birth, is the sort of thing that criticizing tends to demonstrate prejudice. Which is what she was doing.

So I think you are making a false analog. I get to discriminate against jackasses. That's my right.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:37 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Howfsr: I disagree with the more contentious points in marienbad's comment, but it is a common viewpoint in this country. mocking that viewpoint will achieve nothing more than make you look good.

marienbad: I think the grooming story is a distraction here. For the rest of it, I think you highlight the frustrations felt by our white disposessed poor. I've always contended that young afro-Caribbean kids get the worst of it, but we're getting into this becoming a pissing competition. Truth is, this shouldn't be about who's the most disposessed , it should be about improving the lives of those who are now almost invisible to the better off amongst us.
posted by seanyboy at 12:41 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Latest I've read (Internet rumour-mill only so far, for what it's worth) is that she in fact was on her way home from an appointment with a mental health care professional.
posted by Abiezer at 12:44 PM on November 29, 2011


hen there is the issue of Muslims grooming and raping underage and teenage working class white girls and nothing being done about it (it has been in the Times most of last week but is paywalled off.)

This is the sort of comment that one must, first of all, be able to back up with an actual link, and second, phrase cautiously. Unless you can demonstrate that the participants being Muslim is somehow essential to the story, identified the participants by a religion that they are, in fact, defying with their behavior fans anger, rather than explains it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:44 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Most folk who spout this kind of bull behind the kitchen door don't know they sound like this woman. They think they're pretty reasonable and in touch with England's economic and political problems. They drink in the Daily Mail's hate and repeat it word for word, as though it were some brilliant critical analysis. I'm so used to it that I just think they're silly and stupid, and give them some facts to correct their idiocy. It rarely comes to me that I'm witnessing something racist.

It's good that events like this one remind us from time to time that their words are still poisonous, even there is nobody around whom they might hurt.
posted by Jehan at 12:47 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


BU - I think marienbad was satirising the reporting of the story rather than giving his/her own spin on it. Something that seems to have passed a few people by in this thread.
posted by Summer at 12:47 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


A flavour of the 'grooming' story.
posted by Summer at 12:48 PM on November 29, 2011


BU - I think marienbad was satirising the reporting of the story rather than giving his/her own spin on it. Something that seems to have passed a few people by in this thread.

Oh, I didn't think marienbad was representing his/her own opinion. It's still worth caution.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:49 PM on November 29, 2011


If there are race riots in London, I hope the Daily Mail is taken to court, just as local print and radio media were after the Rwandan genocide.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:51 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think marienbad was representing his own opinion. I hope not though. Prove me wrong here marienbad, please.
posted by seanyboy at 12:52 PM on November 29, 2011


The Muslim grooming crap (sarcastic reference or not) is a serious derail, so I'll try to nip it.

From MSNBC:

"One aspect of the issue that has gotten a lot of media attention in the U.K. is the race of the victims and perpetrators. There have been high-profile arrests of men of Pakistani descent who abused white girls.

But (Sue) Berelowitz (Britain’s Deputy Children’s Commissioner) emphasized that unfortunately this is a widespread problem. 'It would also be wrong for anyone to conclude or assert that this is an issue for one particular ethnic community,' Berelowitz told the BBC."

Emphasis mine.

From BBC:

"On Friday, Mohammed Liaqat, 28, and Abid Saddique, 27, were jailed at Nottingham Crown Court for raping and sexually abusing several girls aged between 12 and 18, often after giving them alcohol or drugs.

The judge in the case said the race of the victims and their abusers was 'coincidental'."

Britain's Sex Gangs

Enough on that one?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:54 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


But what's even better than the grooming story in the Daily Mail, was a follow up column by Melanie Philips which blamed the girls for their own abuse.
posted by Summer at 12:55 PM on November 29, 2011


seanyboy, doesn't even make me look good, if we're being honest. I was just irritated. I think I stand by my irritation, if not my rather puerile response to it.

I am familiar with the racism of the white British underemployed and underpaid, largely because I was one of them for a number of years, and encountered it face to face in people I've worked with. I understand and sympathise with the frustrations of the white working class. In reality I even sympathise with a lot of the racists I know and have known. What irritated me was the (I believe unintended) appearance of offering sympathy to racism.
posted by howfar at 1:08 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


howfar - I think we went through this with the riots. It helps to understand the context in which things happen. Sometimes that understanding comes off as sympathy, but I really don't think anyone here was trying to excuse this particular woman, or racists in general.
posted by Summer at 1:18 PM on November 29, 2011


The testimony of ex-Daily Star journo Richard Peppiatt to the Leveson inquiry this morning is worth checking out for his testimony regarding how the tabloid press simply makes shit up about Muslims and immigrants.

"[A] classic example of the creation of a tabloid story was -- the headline is "Airports facing turban warfare", and it was a line in the Sunday Telegraph that said that Muslims may be planning to disguise themselves as Sikhs and plant bombs in their head dress. It was just a throw-away line in a story that wasn't even about that but this was seized upon by the news editor of the day and I was told to write this story. So I called up the Home Office, called up the police, security sources, to try and get some sort of veracity to this, and was told: "Never heard of it. Never heard of it at all." ...

The first you know of it, you've been dictated: "This is the story that we want." And your job is not to then turn around and go: "Actually, I have investigated it and it's not quite true"; you would be told off for that, and certainly if you repeated it, you would be out the door pretty quickly. Your job is simply to write the story how they want it written ... and then you need to get some sort of official quote. So then I called up Inderjit Singh, director of the Network of Sikh Organisations and said to him: "We've been hearing that Muslims are planning on disguising themselves as Sikhs. What do you think of this?" So you add this veneer of legitimacy by getting a quote off someone by telling them something that you know is probably not true, but then you've got your story.

That, as I said, is not a truth-seeking exercise. It's an impact-seeking exercise. The spectre of having a story that lashed out at both Sikhs and Muslims at once was far too good to pass over.
"
posted by bright cold day at 1:23 PM on November 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


The other side of the coin is that 'Britain today is arguably the most mixed race nation in the western world', and that's largely happening among the working class, plus we've been at it for ages. So while racism hasn't gone away, many working class people in the UK has resolved their frustrations by boning one another senseless.
posted by Abiezer at 1:34 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The other side of the coin is that 'Britain today is arguably the most mixed race nation in the western world', and that's largely happening among the working class, plus we've been at it for ages. So while racism hasn't gone away, many working class people in the UK has resolved their frustrations by boning one another senseless.

My uncle's granddaughter is half African. He came round one day a few months after she was born to show us pictures of her. Between cooing over how adorable she was, he came out with, "Aw, she's my little chocolate drop!"

posted by Jehan at 2:04 PM on November 29, 2011


Australia's no longer accepting British riff-raff; in fact, the process is now arguably the other way around.

So you've not been to Perth?
posted by the noob at 2:13 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


but a big FUCK YOU to the asshole who posted it without covering the boy's face. The threats aimed at her will trickle down to him, and he doesn't deserve it. Shit like this makes me apoplectic.
posted by zardoz at 2:32 PM on November 29 [+] [!]


kids that age all look alike. Could you pick him out of a crowd of blond three-year olds? It's most likely he would be identified by his mother's name and face.
posted by jb at 2:23 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


So while racism hasn't gone away, many working class people in the UK has resolved their frustrations by boning one another senseless.

Keep boning each other (interracially) and racism will go away!

"There is no such thing as a white anti-racist."
posted by mrgrimm at 2:57 PM on November 29, 2011


She's been remanded in custody until 6 December.
posted by maledictory at 2:58 PM on November 29, 2011


kids that age all look alike. Could you pick him out of a crowd of blond three-year olds?

Of course I could. I'm guessing you're not a parent. Own-age bias? lol.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:59 PM on November 29, 2011


The Mail claims it's for her own protection. Perhaps something is wrong then?
posted by maledictory at 3:01 PM on November 29, 2011


I'm a parent. I'm white*. I'm around little blonde kids all day. I couldn't pick him out of a crowd.

Want to call me racist too? "lol"

*Well, ginger.

posted by coriolisdave at 3:05 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


The one heartening thing about that video - to my mind - is that hug in the background.

The worst of behaviours happening in the foreground, yet this spontaneous show of respect, empathy, acceptance and even reassurance is really beautiful.

Good on those who provided reassurance to the young guy who, quite rightly, seemed very upset and furious with the rant. They're the ones we should be paying attention to here, and lauding as indicative of the thinking - and feelings - of the often silent majority.
posted by chris88 at 3:27 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Her poor child - imagine having to grow up with her as your mother.
posted by echolalia67 at 6:53 PM on November 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Substitute "poles" with "dirty irish", and this woman's rant would be almost identical to the kind of vitriol my mom experienced from time to time when she emigrated from rural Ireland to London back in the 1950. It left her a pretty bitter person and to this day she is still a little uncomfortable when someone notices her accent, as if she's bracing herself for verbal abuse. When I was a child she would have me schedule appointments over the phone for her, saying that she didn't want people to know that she was irish. She still doesn't quite believe that most americans find her accent charming.

I'm glad that other passengers stood up to her. That sort of toxic verbal shit should never go unchallenged.
posted by echolalia67 at 7:23 PM on November 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Of course I could. I'm guessing you're not a parent. Own-age bias? lol.

somehow I doubt other 3 year olds are going to be gunning for the kid because they disapproved of his mother's rant after watching it on YouTube. Enough with the bleeding heart oneupmanship, this is a silly derail.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:28 PM on November 29, 2011


Christ. Now you're letting a ginger post. Get off the blue and off to your own site!

(grin)

I was surprised she got to go on so long. I take the bus a lot and recently there was a young(ish) mother yelling at her child with a goodly deal of obscene language. The bus driver promptly reprimanded her and told her he would pull over and put her off if she continued. No YouTubery required.
posted by Samizdata at 12:42 AM on November 30, 2011


Australia's no longer accepting British riff-raff

The demographics of Perth say otherwise.
posted by rodgerd at 1:33 AM on November 30, 2011


I think it's harder to counter obscene, rather than racist etc. language in public. I was walking through London one evening and saw a father call his very young daughter 'a stupid little cunt', which I found genuinely quite shocking and upsetting to hear; I've also seen mothers use strong swearwords to their small children in supermarkets. But other than general taste and decency, it's not seen as criminal where use of racist language in public places is. And the risk for me, and for bus drivers, is that if we were to reprimand people for doing so we'd most likely get an earful ourselves, or worse. If someone will swear at their infant-school children, what are they going to say to a stranger who tells them they can't?

Of course, there's the same risk with challenging racism or homophobic or sexist* abuse, but when it's just obscene language, and particularly when it's from a parent to a child, people feel it's their right and their business to behave that way.

*yes I know 'cunt' is seen as enormously misogynistic in the US, it isn't particularly gendered here, but it's still considered 'the worst' swearword.
posted by mippy at 4:06 AM on November 30, 2011


when it's just obscene language, and particularly when it's from a parent to a child, people feel it's their right and their business to behave that way

Honestly, as someone who would (hopefully) never call his daughter a cunt or bitch, I can't see anything good coming out of telling a parent they can't talk to their child that way.

If the abuse is bad enough, report it to an authority. You will accomplish nothing by confronting the parent, and will probably just make things worse for the kid.

I've also seen mothers use strong swearwords to their small children in supermarkets. But other than general taste and decency, it's not seen as criminal where use of racist language in public places is.

Again, not well-versed (not even badly versed) in British law, but it's not the racist language that's criminal, it's the manner in which it's used. Two people in public having a calm, quiet conversation full of racial slurs is not criminal is it? I thought racist language (or any hate speech) was only illegal when used in an attempt to incite ... no?

Anyway, my experience as a youth basketball and soccer coach makes me think that most parents just plain suck eggs. There are ways to help those kids, but telling their dad, "You can't do that!" is not going to help. AT ALL.

somehow I doubt other 3 year olds are going to be gunning for the kid because they disapproved of his mother's rant

Uh, no. But he will be famous. And his face will be recognizable. I would recognize that kid if I saw him. It was extremely irresponsible not to blur it out. That's all.
posted by mrgrimm at 7:34 AM on November 30, 2011


"There is no such thing as a white anti-racist."

Wow, what a terrible article. Such things are so rare these days, but every time someone vomits them up it serves as a kind of rocket-fuel for resentful rightists and the racist fringe. Apparently they just gave this person a PhD!
posted by Dreadnought at 9:44 AM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Whiteness is a social and political construct rooted in white supremacy. White supremacy is a structure and system of beliefs rooted in European and US imperialism in which certain racialized bodies (non-white) are selected for premature negation whether through cultural, physical, psychological genocide, containment or other forms of social death. White supremacy is at the heart of the US social system and civil society. In short, white supremacy is not just a series of practices or privilege, but a larger social structure and system of domination that overly-values and rewards those who are racialized as white. The rest of us are constructed as undeserving to be considered human, although there is significant variation within non-white populations of how our bodies are encoded, treated and (de)valued."

You disagree?
posted by mrgrimm at 12:46 PM on November 30, 2011


How does your quote show that there is no such thing as a "white anti-racist"? An anti-racist is someone who actively works and advocates against racial supremacy of one race over another (including the structures of white supremacy); anyone of any race can do this, just as there can be men who advocate for gender equality.

What I think Dreadnought is also reacting to is the lack of data within the article. The social sciences and humanities seem to have become split between those who feel that one needs evidence and data to support your interpretation, and those who don't. I would never dream of publishing any article or chapter which did not have a great deal of evidence to support my claims (evidence derived from primary sources, since I'm a historian). It's not a discipline versus discipline thing, but an intra-discipline difference: recently, someone was telling me about a political science article that relied entirely on a few quotes from a documentary as its "evidence" for public opinion.

Of course, maybe that article is meant only to be an editorial; I found it a little too personal to be academic.
posted by jb at 1:23 PM on November 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, of course that article is an editorial. She apologizes for the academic tone at the end, but it is an "Open Letter." ??

I probably wouldn't agree with her that there is no such thing as a "white" anti-racist (well, I could agree maybe semantically, the idea that anyone who identifies as "white" is promoting the existing white supremacy), but I agree with plenty in that editorial and in Race Traitor. Now we are really off the rails.

I am curious what Ms. Nopper thinks of Morris Dees, but I'm pretty sure I already know. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:25 PM on November 30, 2011


I'm very sorry for the derail, people. In my defence, the rest of the thread more or less seems to have run its course. Perhaps we should take this to the gray.

You disagree?

What on earth makes you think that that is the paragraph with which I was taking issue?

I probably wouldn't agree with her that there is no such thing as a "white" anti-racist

Yes, there is that little peripheral detail, isn't there? You know, the title and thesis of the piece.

but...

well, I could agree maybe semantically, the idea that anyone who identifies as "white" is promoting the existing white supremacy

Ah yes, clever. Except that the author herself says:
"However, this does not mean that white people who go around saying dumb things such as "I am not white! I am a human being!" or, "I left whiteness and joined the human race," or my favorite, "I hate white people! They're stupid" are not structurally white."
The essay is called 'The White Anti-Racist Is an Oxymoron'. That, in itself, is profoundly racist, and it appears to confirm the worst stereotypes of racists who can then use this deeply miss-judged rhetoric to confirm that anti-racists 'just hate white people'.

The thing that makes the 'political correctness gone mad' charge persuasive, to people who aren't really paying attention, is that sometimes people pushing for social justice really are barking mad. If you actually want social justice, then, it is important to call out that crazy fringe for the crazy fringe it is.

Good grief! What happens if this joker gives one of her white students a bad mark? They could basically sue the pants of the university for employing an openly racist prof! Even if that had nothing to do with the grade. Rush Limbaugh and the Daily Mail would think they'd died and gone to heaven.
posted by Dreadnought at 7:47 PM on November 30, 2011


"There is no such thing as a white anti-racist."

Cool. Guess I can sit back, 'cause I can't do shit 'cause I'm white. (Does being Jewish count as white these days? I'm not hip to the lingo like I once was.)
posted by Snyder at 10:59 PM on November 30, 2011


Guess I can sit back, 'cause I can't do shit 'cause I'm white.

What were you doing before? ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:51 AM on December 1, 2011


Aside from benefiting from white supremacy, that is. ;)
posted by mrgrimm at 9:51 AM on December 1, 2011


What were you doing before? ;)

Well I, for one, was making the nuanced understanding of racism a major plank of my classes for trainee diplomats while also spearheading a campaign to fight systemic racism in the military. But I guess, as Snyder says, I can just stop now as my poisoned genes make it all futile.

(Does being Jewish count as white these days? I'm not hip to the lingo like I once was.)

Oh silly Snyder! Didn't you read the article? Of course we count as white, because we haven't been "selected for... psychological genocide, containment or other forms of social death".
posted by Dreadnought at 11:24 AM on December 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's good to know that no matter if I say I'm white or not I must not be anti-racist/if I do community work I'm patronising/I should stay out of some areas due to making people uncomfortable(!) due to my lack of melanin.

If only there were some word to describe those people who made sweeping statements, moral judgments and statements that people should avoid areas of town explicitly based only on skin colour.
posted by jaduncan at 3:13 PM on December 1, 2011


I read that article. From a theoretical point of view it's all over the shop. The author provides a conception of "White" as an identity produced by the othering and marginalisation of "non-white" identities. This is fine, but she has no care for the importance of this either to her logic or rhetoric. She treats as essential that which she has defined as contingent, and seems to maintain that the category "non-white" can continue to exist in the absence of the category "white".

I don't care about the politics, it's the kind of politics that does fuck all for anyone anyway. The rigour, though, oh God, where is the rigour?
posted by howfar at 6:35 AM on December 2, 2011


There's a kind of symmetry, I guess, in this thread starting with a single woman complaining about a group of people, and turning into a group of people complaining about a woman. It's like an ouroboros derail...
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:15 AM on December 2, 2011


starting with a single woman complaining about a group of people, and turning into a group of people complaining about a woman.

Symmetry indeed. Disagreeing with or disliking someone's views is almost exactly the same as hating them for their ethnicity, isn't it? It's clever of you to point that out.
posted by howfar at 9:20 AM on December 2, 2011


I didn't point that out. It feels like anyone who is actually structurally able to read - you know, anyone who has a grasp of basic grammar and a workable vocabulary - would be competent to understand that from the available words.

I mean, a lot of the protests against Tamara Nopper here are absolutely buried in a desire to make the issue about race, or more specifically about phenotype - jaduncan is talking about lack of melanin and Dreadnought is talking about poisoned genes, when it's pretty clear that Nopper's whole point is that whiteness is not a genetic but a social characteristic, but that could probably be explained by a limited exposure to the way academics talk about race. Whereas you've just kind of... hallucinated a whole paragraph.

If you're desperate to have a fight, I guess we could have one, but I'd probably recommend finding whatever it is in your life that is making you want to have one and working on that, instead.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:58 AM on December 2, 2011


I'd probably recommend finding whatever it is in your life that is making you want to have one and working on that, instead.

I've seen that done here before - people suggesting to those who disagree with them that their disagreement stems from emotional or psychological difficulties, and faux-sympathetically suggesting they get professional help. It's cheap and cynical and evasive and it would be nice if people stopped doing it. Of course there are all sorts of things that will never happen that would be nice, but still.
posted by Grangousier at 10:15 AM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Indeed, Grangousier - and there are a couple of things that I'd like to see happen right here.

I've seen that done here before - people suggesting to those who disagree with them that their disagreement stems from emotional or psychological difficulties, and faux-sympathetically suggesting they get professional help.

First, I'd like to see you tell me where I suggested that anyone get professional help. Just point to the words "professional help". Or "talk to a therapist". Or "go and see someone". Anything like that. Because I think you might dislike this so much that you've imagined that something happened here which didn't, and I'm happy to help you with that, especially because it's kind of germane to my next request.

Second, I'd like you to help me out with that word "disagree". Can you point out where Howfar is disagreeing with anything I've said? Because here's what I said.

There's a kind of symmetry, I guess, in this thread starting with a single woman complaining about a group of people, and turning into a group of people complaining about a woman. It's like an ouroboros derail...

And here's what howfar said:

Symmetry indeed. Disagreeing with or disliking someone's views is almost exactly the same as hating them for their ethnicity, isn't it? It's clever of you to point that out.

He's not disagreeing with anything I said. He's taking issue with something I didn't say, which he appears to have imagined me saying.

So, my options here are either to assume that howfar had made a conscious decision to act in bad faith. But that would be unkind and unhelpful. Or I could assume that howfar actually had some reading problems, but that would be poor form on my part - it would be dismissing without good reason the academic register that howfar had previously adopted.

Or I could decide that s/he had imagined something had happened which had not due to some other issue - much as you imagined a suggestion that s/he should get professional help. I imagine that in your case this is because you are so used to seeing this, and dislike it so much, you have gone into a kind of auto mode unrelated to the actual content.

In much the same way, I assumed that howfar was being acted on by an force external to the thread that was making him or her see a fight where none existed. It seemed the most charitable interpretation.

Short version - it would save us all a lot of time if we read and responded to what was there, and didn't read and respond to what was not. It would be awesome if we could get in on that action together.
posted by running order squabble fest at 10:44 AM on December 2, 2011


I didn't point that out.

Um... you kind of did, actually. By saying 'symmetry', you were implying an equivalence between our words and those of Tram Lady. I mean, I'm sure you didn't mean that, that taking issue with Nopper's essay was in some way an inchoate howl of rage...

I'd probably recommend finding whatever it is in your life that is making you want to have [a fight] and working on that,

... ok, well maybe you did mean that... at any rate, its easy to see how somebody could draw such an inference from saying that there's a 'symmetry' between the beginning and ending of the thread. A better way to disabuse them of this notion might be to say something like "oh, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you people were a symmetrical reflection of Tram Lady".

absolutely buried in a desire to make the issue about race, or more specifically about phenotype ... could probably be explained by a limited exposure to the way academics talk about race.

Ok, well first up, I am an academic. And yes, I'm very familiar with the way academics talk about race. Familiar enough, as it happens, to know that Nopper's thesis is deeply old fashioned, thoroughly discredited and long since discarded by most academics. Nonetheless, the ideas that Nopper brings to bear are continually thrown up in our face by members of the racist right, who use them to discredit the academic study of race in the public eye.

As for the confusion between phenotype and social construct... well to be perfectly honest, I think that this confusion is being made by Nopper, not us. The thesis of her essay is that white people (or people identified as white people by society at large and Nopper in particular) cannot be anti-racist. This is astoundingly offensive because it imputes a negative social characteristic to a whole segment of the population. When we say 'low melanin' or 'poisoned genes', we're trying to point out that being 'white' is not something we can choose or change, and thus attacking us is racist. We're accusing Nopper of taking the phenotype, confusing it with the social construct, and then confusing the social construct with the personal motivations of individual people.

Now I don't know Nopper, and I'm not familiar with her academic work, but I have a pretty shrewd guess as to where this (crazy and unacceptable) view is coming from. There's a certain discourse about power which tends to go like this: "Group A is benefited by factor B, so therefore group A can't really be against factor B." I've seen this argument used in many contexts, and I've always been deeply suspicious of it, at the very least. The problem is that it doesn't stand up to reality. There are plenty of white people who are anti-racist. There are plenty of rich people who are for progressive taxation. There are even plenty of black people who are against affirmative action. Even if, in some cases, these views represent only a small minority of the group, that group still exists. They aren't an oxymoron.

I've said in this forum before that I'm a pretty die hard structuralist. But this view is structuralism taken too far. It doesn't withstand the scrutiny of the real world, and it can often produce results, like we have here, that are deeply misleading and even offensive.

This kind of power discourse also flawed because it rests on the incorrect assumption that power dynamics are simple hierarchies, when they're not. Nobody doubts that racism makes it harder for people of colour to get on in society. Nevertheless, nobody doubts that there are very successful and powerful people of colour, and that certain non-white people might well have a better time of it than certain white people.

Nopper actually tries to head off this argument in her essay. She basically says (paraphrasing) 'lots of white people also face social discrimination, but it's still not as bad as what non-white people face'. Oh really? I think we all know that this is false. It might be true in many cases, but it's impossible to sustain it as a generalization.

For these reasons, I take strong issue with Nopper's article. I think that it's offensive, racist and deeply politically counterproductive. If she was here, I would urge her to withdraw and repudiate it, if only for the sake of her career and her future students (cynical though that may be).

Nevertheless, I'm very willing to argue this out on the issues. This doesn't need to be an anti-Nopper pile-on. All you have to do, if you want to convince me, is to make a sustainable argument as to why I have either misinterpreted this article, or why I'm wrong that it is wrong.
posted by Dreadnought at 11:08 AM on December 2, 2011 [4 favorites]


it's pretty clear that Nopper's whole point is that whiteness is not a genetic but a social characteristic, but that could probably be explained by a limited exposure to the way academics talk about race.

Kind of a problem that you posted that straight after I'd commented on the fact that she handles this distinction incredibly poorly.

(But on preview Dreadnought is expressing this far more effectively and thoroughly than I would)

He's not disagreeing with anything I said. He's taking issue with something I didn't say, which he appears to have imagined me saying.


There was either an implication of equivalence or you were just flapping your gums to no purpose whatever. Which was it?
posted by howfar at 11:12 AM on December 2, 2011


As I say, howfar, if whatever in your life is making you want a fight is overwhelming, we can work with that. It seems your desire is ramping up, since you are now specifically using fightin' words, like "flapping your gums", which is delightfully last-chance saloony. However, it would be a derail in this thread. Maybe try to start an AskMe thread? Not sure what the topic would be. "Fighting is essential, but there is nobody contingent - hope me!"? Just go wild with it. See what you come up with.

Dreadnought: The thesis of her essay is that white people (or people identified as white people by society at large and Nopper in particular) cannot be anti-racist. This is astoundingly offensive because it imputes a negative social characteristic to a whole segment of the population. When we say 'low melanin' or 'poisoned genes', we're trying to point out that being 'white' is not something we can choose or change, and thus attacking us is racist. We're accusing Nopper of taking the phenotype, confusing it with the social construct, and then confusing the social construct with the personal motivations of individual people.

I think you're missing the point she's making, though - to be exact, I think you've got it wrong from the get-go. Her thesis is not "white people (etc) cannot be anti-racist". It is, verbatim, "The White Anti-Racist is an Oxymoron". That's actually a different statement, and I will hope to explain why in the following. In fact, I think we might be looking at something like Gangousier's professional help thing - you are looking for something specific, and that kind of overrides what you're actually seeing.

So anyway, Nopper seems to think that paleness as a phenotypical expression is distinct from whiteness as a social construct, and that distinction is pretty much maintained, although one impacts on the other. Nopper's points are, in order:

1) Anti-racist here means "person involved in an avowedly anti-racist activist movement", rather than "person who disapproves of racism", as you seem to think. This is made absolutely clear at the start, in fact:
So I am writing this open letter to white people who engage in any activist work that involves or affects non-whites. Given that the US social structure is founded on white supremacy, and that there is a global order in which white supremacy and European domination are at large, I would challenge any white person to figure out what movement or action they can get involved in that will not involve or affect non-white people.
I think it's pretty much OK for us to assume that many of these movements or actions are not avowedly anti-racist, however. So let's concentrate on the ones which are, as she does. There is then a detour into what "white" means, taxonomically and socially.

2) Whiteness as a social construct allows bodies to be racialized (i.e. assigned race for social purposes) as white or non-white. Being racialized as white gives one access to sympathetic perception by the overwhelmingly white American power élite, even if you do not belong to them. Incidentally, your paraphrase of this:

Nopper actually tries to head off this argument in her essay. She basically says (paraphrasing) 'lots of white people also face social discrimination, but it's still not as bad as what non-white people face'.

Makes it sound like this is Nopper attempting to patch a hole she has suddenly discovered, but this has been around in the discourse for a while, as intersectionality. Strong and warm and wild and free.. A classic example is the American women in the early days of suffrage who demanded the vote because it would be a social ill for black men to have more of a franchise than white women.

"Paraphrasing" is a dangerous thing to do, if you have a clear interest in representing someone's argument as weak and bad, because your paraphrase is likely to be affected by that desire. What she is saying, for reference, is:

3) Further, although racialized-as-white people, and in particular women and queer people, certainly experience harassment, imprisonment and disadvantage at the hands of élites, this is considered exceptional and directedly punitive behavior, whereas for other groups (sc. in America) it is normalized and expected. (This I would take issue with, by the way - but it's worth understanding what she's actually saying):
What I want to point out is that, while I do not condone police violence and harassment, there is a way in which white people will not be viewed as inherently criminal or suspect unless they are perceived as doing something that breaks particular norms.
4. For this and other reasons, people who are benefiting from white privilege destabilize any multi-racial group or assembly by joining it. One cannot have white privilege and at the same time demand to be treated as an equal partner in an anti-racist movement or group, even if that cause has as its ultimately goal the destruction of white privilege . Likewise ostentatiously identifying as "not-white" while continuing to enjoy white privilege.

In either case, this leads to racialized-as-white people, because they are more acceptable to white élites even when not being part of the élite, being listened to more, being identified as spokespeople, making the cause dependent on their ability to get white élites to listen, getting their books published to the exclusion of non-white writers within the movement und so weiter. Their involvement with the cause ends up disempowering the people who have the most to gain from being empowered by it.

5. This does not mean that white people are excluded from the struggle for equality and justice. It means that white people have a different role in that struggle - a role which needs to disavow the privilege and expectations of leadership which traditionally characterize interactions between racialized-as-white and racialized-as-non-white people in America. Again, this is written down pretty clearly:
So what does this mean for the future of white anti-racists? This might mean to first, figure out ways in which whiteness needs to die as a social structure and as an identity in which you organize your anti-racist work. What this looks like in practice may not be so clear but I will attempt to give some suggestions here. First, don't call us, we'll call you. If we need your resources, we will contact you. But don't show up, flaunt your power in our faces and then get angry when we resent the fact that you have so many resources we don't and that we are not grateful for this arrangement. And don't get mad because you can't make decisions in the process. Why do you need to? Secondly, stop speaking for us. We can talk for ourselves. Third, stop trying to point out internal contradictions in our communities, we know what they are, we are struggling around them, and I really do not know how white people can be helpful to non- whites to clear these up. Fourth, don't ever say some shit to me about how you feel silenced, marginalized, discriminated against, or put in your place. Period. Finally, start thinking of what it would mean, in terms of actual structured social arrangements, for whiteness and white identity--even the white antiracist kind (because there really is no redeemable or reformed white identity)--to be destroyed.
So, you know, when you say:

When we say 'low melanin' or 'poisoned genes', we're trying to point out that being 'white' is not something we can choose or change, and thus attacking us is racist.

You're sort of fatally missing the point - a) because she isn't talking about genes or melanin, except insofar as it allows bodies to be placed under the arbitrary classification "white" and b) because she thinks you can choose or change whiteness. It's just more complicated than getting involved with causes based around people who are not white without a critical perspective, or saying "I don't see color". It involves actively working to remove the privilege that accrues to you by being white in a racist society, so that the status "white" ceases to accrue the privileges it currently has, or refusing to take advantage of the benefits conferred by whiteness - ceasing to be socially white. Which is a work absolutely suited to white people who want to oppose racism, and is unrelated to melanin count or genes, poisoned or otherwise.

In a sense, this is an expanding and repurposing of Audre Lordes' "The Master's Tools Will Never Demolish the Master's House".

So, I think that you have misread her on a fairly critical level, and that rhetorical flourishes about your poisoned genes merely put a lampshade on that misunderstanding - it is seeking not only to say that she is a racist, but to imply by metaphor that she is a very specific kind of eugenicist racist.

As it happens, independent of Nopper's point, I find devices in your response kind of weird:

Nonetheless, the ideas that Nopper brings to bear are continually thrown up in our face by members of the racist right, who use them to discredit the academic study of race in the public eye.

Is a strange way to shoot the piano player, although it's certainly one that I've seen before - it's the same as saying that Andrea Dworkin should have kept quiet because she confirmed the stereotype of feminists as angry and overweight in the eyes of misogynists. Nopper acknowledges herself that hers is not a universal view:
And don't assume that when I see how grateful non-white people are to you for being there, for being a "good white" person that this doesn't hurt me. And don't assume that when I get chastised by non-white people because I think your presence is unnecessary that it does not hurt me.
However, it feels pretty messed up to say that the response to the existence of extreme white racists should be all the non-white people whose opinions might give them ammunition should shut up and look unthreatening - especially when their utterances can simply be lied about by those extremists anyway (as Dworkin's regularly were, of course, by opponents of feminism, as Obama's regularly are by those who are unhappy to see a black man as President).

Likewise:

If she was here, I would urge her to withdraw and repudiate it, if only for the sake of her career and her future students (cynical though that may be)

It seems again odd that you are saying that, were she here, you would be telling this academic in Asian-American Studies (which I am prepared to bet is not your discipline) what will damage her career in Asian-American Studies, and that she should keep her opinions to herself if she knows what's good for her. I would say that these two statements are better instantiations of some of Nopper's theses than she provides herself, in fact.

So, in short, I think that you have misunderstood what Nopper means by "white" and what Nopper means by "anti-racist" and, although I think Nopper's language is heated and highly rhetorical, I actually find her rhetorical flourishes not significantly more or less flashy than the ones in your refutation.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:02 PM on December 2, 2011


...when it's pretty clear that Nopper's whole point is that whiteness is not a genetic but a social characteristic,...

Um, that's not clear at all. She mainly exhibits a) race-based disgust, and b) xenophobia.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:39 PM on December 2, 2011


Allow me to rephrase. It's pretty clear if you read her piece, rather than read into her piece, that the (phenotypical) paleness which Dreadnought and jaduncan believe that she is talking about is not the same as the (social) whiteness that she is in fact talking about - although the first has often been used as a signifier of the second (narratives of passing are interesting if you want to go further down that rabbit hole).

Paleness tends to provide access to the privileges of whiteness, but it's possible, in her formulation, to seek to dismantle the advantages conferred by whiteness without actually becoming any more or less pale - that paleness will just mean a different thing in social terms.

(And, to bring this back home, one of the things the woman on the tram was unhappy about was the presence of Poles - a people whose paleness is at least on a par with the English but who, from her point of view, were not within her acceptable social parameters.)

However, it may be simpler for you to go with your gut on this one.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:56 PM on December 2, 2011


As I say, howfar, if whatever in your life is making you want a fight is overwhelming, we can work with that. It seems your desire is ramping up, since you are now specifically using fightin' words, like "flapping your gums", which is delightfully last-chance saloony. However, it would be a derail in this thread. Maybe try to start an AskMe thread? Not sure what the topic would be. "Fighting is essential, but there is nobody contingent - hope me!"? Just go wild with it. See what you come up with.

You have a remarkably prolix manner of avoiding questions you don't want to answer. If you did not intend to draw a comparison between the behaviour of the people in the thread and the subject of the OP, why did you draw one?

she thinks you can choose or change whiteness

I think she probably thinks she does, but I'm not sure she has anywhere near as firm a grasp on the technicalities of this as either you or she would like.

"there is a way in which white people will not be viewed as inherently criminal or suspect unless they are perceived as doing something that breaks particular norms".

Implies that, while exclusion from the privileged group is a function of social construction, some people are inherently excluded while others are not. Whiteness here is emphatically not an activity which may be cast off. Moreover, this clause clearly implies that it is possible for whites to be perceived as "inherently criminal or suspect". If Nopper does not regard whiteness as a inherent characteristic, why are these people who are inherently marginalised still white?

But even if we accept that Nopper believes that whiteness is a social construct that may be cast off, her account of how this might be done is, I think, remarkably problematic.

"They must be committed to either picking up arms for other people (and only firing when the people tell them so), dying for other people, or just getting out of the way. In short, they must be willing to do what the people most affected and marginalized by a situation tell them to do."

Essentially, giving up whiteness requires a giving up of moral agency. The moral agency of all white people seems, on Nopper's account, to be fundamentally corrupted by their racial privilege. Any self-motivated steps taken by any white person will, necessarily, reinforce the white supremacist status quo. This is far less comfortable that your rather cuddly idea of "refusing to take advantage of the benefits conferred by whiteness - ceasing to be socially white". Nopper is quite clear that such a refusal is impossible, and that only revolutionary structural change (violent revolutionary change?) can properly eliminate whiteness. "Getting out of the way" is carrying on in one's white supremacist way until that possibility is eliminated. Only by becoming obedient to the (seemingly monolithic, but that's a discussion for another day) will of the non-white is it possible to assist in ending white supremacy.

The reason that people are reacting with dislike to this work is that there are some very dislikeable things in it.

By the way, your insistence on the use of an accent on "elite" is too acute for words. It has only been in the language 200 years, you continental devil.
posted by howfar at 2:30 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you did not intend to draw a comparison between the behaviour of the people in the thread and the subject of the OP, why did you draw one?

At the time, it seemed an odd coincidence. However, there is now some really weird stuff being said about Tamara Nopper (you know who else talked about a race having poisoned genes? and so forth), so, hey, I appear, like the stopped clock, to have conveyed something accurate without my knowing. Which is perhaps something you appreciated before I did, which might explain your sudden and remarkable fightiness.

I would look at your frankly awesome suggestion that a white person who is in a group of non-white people and not giving the instructions (or, even worse, is _taking_ the instructions) is a white person who has given up moral agency, but there's not a lot of point, is there? Again, you'll probably be happier if you just go with your gut on this one.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:43 PM on December 2, 2011


So you don't have any response to my reading of the text? Oh dear. I know you know you're much cleverer than everyone else here, but no-one else seems very convinced.
posted by howfar at 2:54 PM on December 2, 2011


Well, here's the thing, Howfar. Your reading of the text... isn't. It's a couple of attempted gotchas, with about as much relevance as the language of cod-modality you were dropping earlier on to try to look like you were operating in an academic register. These gotchas are as ill-founded as your previous assertions. For example:

If Nopper does not regard whiteness as a inherent characteristic, why are these people who are inherently marginalised still white?

Because ceasing to be white is not an easy process - obvs. However there are mechanisms by which people's status can be affected - not the changing status of the Irish in the US, for example. Again, the passing narrative is important here - whiteness is protected, which has implications for movement into and out of. This is 101 stuff.

And the moral agency stuff is pretty much beneath notice - it has no real relation to what Nopper is saying or what I have said; it's just an attempted gotcha based, it seems, on a misunderstanding of what Nopper is talking about, which is people actively involved in anti-racist groups and movements - not "all white people". I am aware that the "she is the real racist" narrative depends on asserting that the message is "no white person can ever disapprove of racism" - quo vide:
There are plenty of white people who are anti-racist. There are plenty of rich people who are for progressive taxation. There are even plenty of black people who are against affirmative action.
But that is clearly not supported by the text.

So, yeah. Me being cleverer than you and you not being convinced are, honestly, not mutually exclusive - if anything, they are mutually supportive. But, as I say, it's probably best for you if you go with your gut on this one. And it's probably best if I stop trying to engage, when you are either unable or uninterested in good-faith discussion, and insane for a fight.
posted by running order squabble fest at 3:23 PM on December 2, 2011


"why are these people who are inherently marginalised still white?"

Because ceasing to be white is not an easy process - obvs.


The key word here is "inherently". This isn't a "gotcha", it is a matter of Nopper's argument being that there are inherently marginalised people who are still part of the white supremacist group, and having no way to account for them in her theory. Calling it a "gotcha" and dismissing it really doesn't deal with the point. The problem is not that Nopper is "the real racist", I very much doubt she is any such thing, the problem is that she doesn't have proper control over the implications of her rhetoric.

the moral agency stuff is pretty much beneath notice

It's really not. I don't for a moment believe that Nopper's argument is that no white person can disapprove of racism. On the other hand it's clear that she believes that living white privilege necessarily reinforces white supremacy. The only means of engaging with society that she leaves is making oneself amenable to the will of the marginalised, even if that requires the taking up of arms. Again, not a "gotcha", a real problem.

And it's probably best if I stop trying to engage, when you are either unable or uninterested in good-faith discussion, and insane for a fight.

Goodness me. You opened discussion with a one line dig whose implication you're still denying. You've cast aspersions on the intellectual calibre and academic expertise of everyone who's disagreed with you. You've patronised and snarked your way through any attempt to engage with you. You have ascribed positions others and proceeded use them as straw men to attack. It is you who have made this into an aggressive and unpleasant encounter. My conclusion is that you should probably refrain from posting on Friday nights.
posted by howfar at 3:49 PM on December 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


Her thesis is not "white people (etc) cannot be anti-racist". It is, verbatim, "The White Anti-Racist is an Oxymoron".

In English, these two phrases mean the same thing.
posted by jb at 6:15 PM on December 2, 2011


jb: To be exact, in English these two phrases can mean the same thing. However, if you follow the link - which I really cannot recommend highly enough if you want to criticize it - you will see that the group being addressed by the open letter is identified right at the start:
I received an annoying e-mail about white people and their struggle to do anti-racist work. I keep reading and hearing white people talk about their struggle to do anti-racist organizing, and frankly it gets on my nerves. So I am writing this open letter to white people who engage in any activist work that involves or affects non-whites.
English is a versatile language, and I think this is one of the multitudes it contains. The letter goes on to talk at length about white people in the context of anti-racist organizing, so I think it's OK to go with that meaning. There is some ambiguity - in particular in the statement:
Now, for one to claim whiteness, one also is invested in white supremacy. Whiteness itself is a political term that emerged among European white ethnics in the US. These European ethnics, many of them reviled, chose to cast their lot with whiteness rather than that with those who had been determined as non-white. In short, anyone who claims to be white, even a white anti-racist, is identifying with a history of European imperialism and racism transported and further developed into the US.
So, anyone identifying as white is invested in white supremacy - like the pale Europeans who were reviled in Europe and then set themselves up as dominant upon arrival in America, and I imagine also the later pale European immigrants (Poles, Irish Catholics) who were at first excluded from and then assimilated into white American society.

I imagine Nopper would have little time for white people who self-described as anti-racist but did no anti-racist activism either, but that isn't who she's talking to.

Howfar: You opened discussion with a one line dig whose implication you're still denying. You've cast aspersions on the intellectual calibre and academic expertise of everyone who's disagreed with you.

No, dude. Just you - because you were and are trading in one-liners and ill-supported statements awkwardly loaded onto out-of-context quotations and bits of academic jargon.

If I thought the answer would be productive, I'd be quite curious to understand on what part of the text you based:

She treats as essential that which she has defined as contingent, and seems to maintain that the category "non-white" can continue to exist in the absence of the category "white".

Not because I think it's a meaningful statement. But I am curious as to where you got it.

You have been unpleasant and aggressive throughout, whereas although I think Dreadnought is mistaken in his reading, and is making some pretty unwise assertions about the right of marginalized groups and ethnic minorities to make statements about their experiences, he's outlined a coherent response, which I've been able to respond to in turn. I wouldn't try to hide behind other people, here; you - and you alone - are getting the response you've invited.

Regarding inherent marginalization - as I say, the bounds of whiteness and how they are policed is 101 stuff. Nopper actually touches on it - in the rest of the section from which you pulled that quote out of, if you care to read it:
Of course, legal cases such as the Dred Scott Decision along with many different naturalization cases involving Asian individuals, has helped to encode a state-sanctioned definition of whiteness. But there are other ways in which white people can be racialized as white by the state. They are not stopped while driving as much as non-white people. Their homes and businesses are not raided and searched as much by police officers, INS or License and Inspections (L&I). White people's bodies are not tracked and locked up in prisons, detention centers, juvenile systems, detention halls in classrooms, "special education" classes, etc. White people's bodies are not generally the site of fear, repulsion, violent desire, or hatred.

Now some might point out to me that white people are followed, tracked and harassed by individuals and state agents such as the police. This is true. Some white women get sexually harassed and experience state-sanctioned discrimination. Queer whites are the subject of homophobia, whether by individuals or by the state through laws and the police. Some queer whites are harassed by cops. Activist whites are stopped by police. White people who play rap music and wear gear are stopped by cops. Poor whites can be criminalized, especially by the state around welfare issues. What I want to point out is that, while I do not condone police violence and harassment, there is a way in which white people will not be viewed as inherently criminal or suspect unless they are perceived as doing something that breaks particular norms.
"Inherently marginalized" isn't a phrase she uses, and it's not hugely useful. She does describe whiteness as a social construct; you seem to think that if things are described as social constructs that means they are being represented as mercurial, which is not the case. Nopper specifically says that it is not easy to unlearn whiteness. Fausto-Sterling suggests that gender is socially constructed, but that doesn't mean people hop effortlessly across genders. This is, or at least should be, evident.

Women are an interesting question, there - and I think there's a lot of this discussion that shades into intersectionality. I also think Nopper may be overestimating the extent to which whiteness functions as a protection, especially in the face of the increasingly authoritarian protection of the élite. However, this was written some years ago. I think the time you spent honing the gotcha could have been better spent reading the background stuff - Ruth Frankenburg, maybe? I think that might give you a better basis for sneering at Nopper, if that's really what you want to do.

As for the moral agency stuff - yep, still beneath note. Obviously the assertion and preservation of white privilege supports white supremacy in Nopper's worldview (or more precisely is a part of the social and political construct) - see the response to Jb, above. But that still isn't what she is specifically talking about in the quote you pulled out. Again, if you read around it a bit:
So what does this mean for the future of white anti-racists? This might mean to first, figure out ways in which whiteness needs to die as a social structure and as an identity in which you organize your anti-racist work.
The rush to generalize from the particular is odd: you seem to want to be arguing with Fanon rather than Nopper. She's talking about the impact of white privilege on anti-racist activist movements. Now, I realize (increasingly) that being quiet and letting other people take the lead - being prevented from flapping your gums, to use your words - must seem like an unendurable privation to you, but that's what Nopper is positing as what she wants as the entry price to anti-racist activism for white people. If you want to imagine that she wants white people to shoot actual guns at her command, that's your choice, although I'd suggest asking her first.

However, this is unprofitable. Dreadnought had an understanding of the piece which, although I think misguided from first principles, was at least aiming to be rigorous. You just seem to be pulling out lines and making dismissive statements about them to prove that you are smarter than the mouthy woman. In which context, I can see why my comment on symmetry might have touched an unexpected nerve for you. I found the pile-on kind of strange, especially since it seemed to be taking umbrage at stuff that seemed relatively well-defended and ignored the low-hanging fruit like the dislike of white dreadlocks and black masks. But I hadn't expected it to turn out quite this intense.

At this point, though, we are merely pig-wrestling; we both end up covered in mud, and which of us is the pig is only revealed by who wants to carry on doing it indefinitely. I see no purpose in continuing.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:30 PM on December 2, 2011


Sigh. You decided I was looking to sneer. I was, in fact, being slightly glib and silly. You've also made a lot of assumptions about me and my position that are inaccurate.

You're probably alright usually, but you really have been a bit of a dick tonight. But then again, so have I. I apologise for my dickishness, but I stand by the points you've failed to answer. Just telling me that such and such is a "gotcha", or that I should improve myself before arguing with you is pretty much bad form in my book.

There really are problems with that essay, you know? If you adopt a rhetorical style that sets aside caution and qualification, you really need to be sure of the implications of your position. In this piece Nopper is not in control of the distinction between intrinsic and imposed qualities, which is all that I was interested in talking about at any point. I know you think I shouldn't be. And yes, I do have the right bits of paper to allow me to talk about these subjects, which appears to be something that's important to you.

But yeah, this is all a bit of a shame, as far as arguments go. But you can chalk it up as a win. After all, you did say that the next person to speak smells.
posted by howfar at 8:04 PM on December 2, 2011


Yeah this whole Nopper derail was pretty ugly in the worst sort of way. I think things went wrong at this point:

If you're desperate to have a fight, I guess we could have one, but I'd probably recommend finding whatever it is in your life that is making you want to have one and working on that, instead.

There was absolutely nothing in howfar's comment to suggest desperation, aggression, the urge to have a fight, or some extenuating circumstances in his life driving him to want a fight. All that happened is he took your "symmetry" comment to be an equivalence between the Tram Lady and people in this thread who disagree with Nopper. His comment is couched in mild sarcasm, sure, but there's no evidence he wants to "fight" you; he just disagrees with you.

I think this is what Grangousier was talking about here - that there's a certain rhetorical trick on the internet where, when someone disagrees with you, you describe for them their heightened emotional state - even if there's little to no evidence to suggest this is the case - often followed by some condescending advice on how to deal with this perceived emotional state.

It's a shame this got tossed about here, especially as you're one of my favorite posters on this site, to be honest. It just sucks that what could've been a decent discussion got sullied this way is all. But hey, I've certainly done worse, and I'm not trying to scold or anything. Just offering my two cents on that point is all.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:31 PM on December 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really do apologise for typing irritable 'quips' which add nothing to the argument. I'm obviously finding the temptation to do it too great today, though, so I actually will shut up now.
posted by howfar at 8:38 PM on December 2, 2011


Fair enough, Marisa - and I'm sorry I let you down. I'm also aware that I am now back in the pig-pen and oinking merrily, but. I was surprised by the rudeness of howfar's response:

Disagreeing with or disliking someone's views is almost exactly the same as hating them for their ethnicity, isn't it? It's clever of you to point that out.

His response to both Nopper and me is basically to patronize and dismiss - It's clever of you to point that out and The rigour, though, oh God, where is the rigour?. But his response to Nopper isn't hateful, per se - it's just a little pretentious, whacking in some terminology from Leibniz or thereabouts to put an academic gloss on an unevidenced assertion. Not even the master's tools, there - more the antique tools the master keeps in a display case over the fireplace.

However, there is a powerful strain of "this woman is stupid" and "this woman doesn't know what she's talking about" in the responses - and, indeed, "this woman is a racist" (aggravated by the fainting-couch stuff about poisoned genes and melanin counts), along with "this woman should not say these things (followed by something she has not said), because it will encourage racists". Which is kind of great, because it's an instance of precisely what she's complaining about - white people asserting their anti-racist credentials, and then telling non-white people how they should be doing anti-racism, because they are doing it wrong. (Which doesn't mean that she isn't doing it wrong, but that's honestly a level that is never reached, because the critique is based on a largely hallucinatory account of her thesis).

A startling number of reactions appear to be based on either not having read the piece at all ("Cool. Guess I can sit back, 'cause I can't do shit 'cause I'm white") or having apparently read a totally different piece from a parallel universe ("But I guess, as Snyder says, I can just stop now as my poisoned genes make it all futile.").

So, that's problem the first - and I guess problem the second is the approach to the Academy: when convenient, this op-ed piece is treated as if it were a scholarly article, and denigrated for not being fully evidenced and footnoted. However, the critique is clearly unaware of much of the work she is building on - which might have been cited if this were a scholarly article, but might even then have seemed too blindingly obvious - both academic (Fanon, in particular, and Ignatiev) and historical (the 1790 Naturalization Act, Thind vs United States). It may be significant that many the more vehement critics here seem not actually to be from the United States (being either British or Canadian), but still feel able to dismiss out of hand Nopper's account of racism and anti-racism in the United States.

So, actually, the more I think about this the more this does feel like unevidenced grievances and personal abuse being blurted out in response to a perceived assault on entitlement (in this case the entitlement of self-identified good white anti-racists not to be told that the fruit of their activism comes from a poisoned tree - or, for the ones who read the parallel-universe article, that all people with fair skin are always and inevitably racists). But howfar was by no means the worst of that - his quasiacademic register and snarky comeback just put him in the wrong place at the wrong time. So, sorry about that, howfar.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:02 AM on December 3, 2011


Seems to me that the problem in our interaction was that, after getting off on the wrong foot, each of us felt patronised and dismissed by the other, giving rise in each to more of the behaviour that was alienating the other*.

For the record, I don't think that Nopper is stupid, or that her piece here is valueless (although I really do doubt its political value). I think there are some troubling aspects to it that go beyond attempting to in some way catch her out, particularly, as you note, with respect to women and other groups who might be seen as intrinsically marginalised. I would defend what you saw as 'gotchas' as gestures toward a close reading that deals with the ways that these difficulties emerge in the piece itself. It is a shame, for me at least, that we failed to have a sensible discussion about it. You, OTOH, may well not think I have anything to say you need to hear.

Ho hum. You live and learn.

*not 'the Other'
posted by howfar at 5:42 AM on December 3, 2011


For the record, I don't think that Nopper is stupid, or that her piece here is valueless (although I really do doubt its political value)

Well, bear in mind that it's an op-ed - and that it is to a very great extent talking about her personal feelings about a specific group of people (white people complaining about the resistance they are getting when setting themselves up as organizers of anti-racist groups). It's only being described as the enumeration of a universal political statement about all white people, or an academic article, when it is useful to denigrate it.

I don't think you have nothing useful to add. I do think that what you think are conclusive disproofs have already been addressed by a considerable literature that you have not encountered. You cannot say, at the same time "I understand the underpinnings of this op-ed piece" and "I believe that the question of why marginalised subgroups within whiteness are not removed from whiteness by whiteness itself is a question that has never been raised within these underpinnings, and is therefore a fatal flaw in Nopper's thesis". Basically, you're trying to have an argument with Fanon's ghost about something Nopper presumably already understands her audience to be familiar with the arguments around - because this is an op-ed in a publication called "Race Traitor", not a fully-attributed paper delivered at the International Symposium for White People Who Need to be Walked Through Everything.

I've done a lot of walking-through here - I've largely assumed that people are good-faith bugging in the face of unexpected concepts (which is causing them to make weird interpretations, question the intelligence and competence of the writer and seek to silence such expressions of dissatisfaction with the state of anti-racist activism in the name of anti-racist activism). This is not wholly unusual when one is confronted with an unfamiliar viewpoint - there were fistfights at the first performance of Rite of Spring.

The random insertion of Leibnizian concepts of essential and contingent properties (17th century solutions for 21st century problems?) and the unsupported and tangential claim:

(Nopper) seems to maintain that the category "non-white" can continue to exist in the absence of the category "white"

(Which was a) uncited and b) just a weird thing to focus on in an op-ed about activist group dynamics) led me to believe that you were straight-up bugging out.

[Despite your statement:

I do have the right bits of paper to allow me to talk about these subjects, which appears to be something that's important to you.

- which, again, is uncited and kind of offensive - all I've suggested is that people actually read the article and do not pretend to have a deep understanding of Nopper's field of study if they do not, and have demonstrated this by straight-up bugging out (qv "Familiar enough, as it happens, to know that Nopper's thesis is deeply old fashioned, thoroughly discredited and long since discarded by most academics", followed by a comprehensive misstatement of her thesis.]

It was only when you responded to a general observation with a specific and personal insult:

It's clever of you to point that out.

That I became less convinced that you were good-faith bugging out, and more that you were looking for a rumble.

So, yeah, there's some learnings in there.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:47 AM on December 3, 2011


(Which is to say, I should have done better, and will endeavour to to do better in future.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:04 AM on December 3, 2011


running order squabble fest: "I think there's a gleeful rush to point at this kind of isolated, resourceless racist outburst, because it draws attention away from deeper-rooted cultural and economic injustices which are harder to encapsulate in soundbites and from which the higher echelons of society are more likely to profit."

The reason is pretty simple: as long as racism can be painted as an individual problem, we can blame those individuals and believe, aside from a few rotten eggs, that the issue is solved. But once it's recognized as structural, it means the problem is difficult, requiring serious reworkings of the current system, not an easy fix, and still an issue.
posted by Deathalicious at 7:59 PM on December 3, 2011


When I was a child she would have me schedule appointments over the phone for her, saying that she didn't want people to know that she was irish. She still doesn't quite believe that most americans find her accent charming.

Ohman, when I was in Dublin with some other American tourist ladies, we let these incoherent, amaaaazingly drunk local guys stagger-follow us around a grocery store for like an hour, just so they would keep taaaalking to us in their Irish, Irish accents. "Yes, I DO want you to explain about the thing with the stuff! Say it again."

On the same trip we caught random pieces of an ongoing news imbroglio about Travellers not being Irish etc., which totally bewildered us. "But...but! They have Irish, Irish accents!" Oy.
posted by nicebookrack at 1:23 AM on December 4, 2011


I had a friend from Belfast whose account would become progressively more Dublin the more attractive he found the woman he was talking to. It was absolutely awesome, and I remain disappointed that I never worked out how to measure or represent it graphically.
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:15 AM on December 4, 2011


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