Black History Month for White People.
February 19, 2013 11:49 PM   Subscribe


 
That article he mentions at the end, 28 Common Racist Behaviors is totally worth reading. [Warning: PDF]

ModPrimate has been getting linked a lot on feminist sites I visit. I liked his bit about the I Need Masculism Because meme too.
posted by NoraReed at 12:17 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I heard someone dropping the 'why isn't there white history month' thing, I'm much more likely to ask if they knew that Alexandre Dumas was black and let that answer the question than to link to this video.

But, hey, I feel pretty good about the fact that I agree with everything he said!
posted by b1tr0t at 12:27 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The most common racist behavior is white liberals lecturing everyone else on racism during Black History month. A skinny, white, scraggy-bearded, long-haired Seattle hipster talking about the indignities that black people suffer, bemoaning his white "privilege", petting his dog, and blowing his liberal pan flute. He obviously paid a lot of money for that progressive outlook and those second-hand clothes. I bet this makes black Americans glad that February is the shortest month of the year.
posted by three blind mice at 12:40 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think I might turn him down for a job.

Unless that job is poorly ripping off Ze Frank. Good luck with that Des Moines Ted talk.
posted by converge at 1:10 AM on February 20, 2013


The most common racist behavior is white liberals lecturing everyone else on racism during Black History month.

Man, I wish that was the most common racist behavior. Think of how empty the jails would be.

Racism isn't a "black people" problem. It's a human people problem. We're only going to get so far in solving it until everybody in this society figures out how it affects them, and how to talk about it, and starts trying to personally figure out what they're going to do about it.
posted by billyfleetwood at 1:16 AM on February 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


converge: "I think I might turn him down for a job.

Unless that job is poorly ripping off Ze Frank. Good luck with that Des Moines Ted talk.
"

I thought of him as more of a white occupy Jay Smooth.
posted by johnpowell at 1:25 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


A friendly reminder: it's YouTube, so as you value your peace of mind, do not read the comments. 'As a white person, I'm ineligible for Affirmative Action, so don't tell ME I'm privileged!' and the like. Egads.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 3:01 AM on February 20, 2013


Eh, I thought it was worthwhile, if not spectacular. Better, anyway, than I expected given his appearance - which I realize is a valuable lesson in its own right (cue the ABC After School Special).

Besides, just because everyone on Metafilter has an advanced degree in Political Correctness is no reason to knock this guy for making a Racism/White Privilege 101 video. A lot of people haven't even given it this much thought. (The fact that the majority of Republicans are now Birthers isn't exactly an encouraging bellwether)

No, I am not saying all Birthers, yet alone all/most Republicans, are racists. Just noting that there are some questionable overlaps in talking points and lack of sensitivity that might not exist if these views were questioned and challenged more often.

But 'whatevs' - this guy looks weird, amiright!?
posted by Davenhill at 3:01 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I thought of him as more of a white occupy Jay Smooth.

Man, I am conflicted on this. Because, yeah, it's kind of ridiculous (I lost patience when the dog got into the frame) but it seems to be reasonably sincere, and I think we should have more guys calling out white male privilege. So, "B" for good intentions, "C" for execution? While we can't all be Jay Smooth, at least this guy is making an effort, and maybe he will grow into a more effective voice (for me; for all I know the kids are eating this up).

I was kind of sorry that it wasn't a white guy waxing eloquent on Black history, though -- 5-6 minute bios of interesting historical figures? I would have eaten that up.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:17 AM on February 20, 2013


The most common racist behavior is white liberals lecturing everyone else on racism during Black History month. A skinny, white, scraggy-bearded, long-haired Seattle hipster talking about the indignities that black people suffer, bemoaning his white "privilege", petting his dog, and blowing his liberal pan flute. He obviously paid a lot of money for that progressive outlook and those second-hand clothes. I bet this makes black Americans glad that February is the shortest month of the year.

What the hell do you want, exactly? People to avoid talking about systemic injustice?
posted by odinsdream at 5:33 AM on February 20, 2013 [31 favorites]


three blind mice: "The most common racist behavior is white liberals lecturing everyone else on racism during Black History month."

This is just stunningly wrong. You really think white liberals talking about racism is the most common racist behavior? Wow. You must live in a really nice world. Seriously.
posted by lazaruslong at 5:49 AM on February 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I'm as fluttery distracted, tangent driven as any of us can be, so I dived in, and enjoyed some videos, followed a link or two, and most importantly added some feeds to Google reader so that I have a little more balance in my google-enforced thought bubble that tends to only show me what I want.

Thanks for helping to expand the bubble a bit... I'm one of those on the borderline of falling into those bad behaviours / belief systems... as well as knowing a lot of older white guys who are racist as shit. (Yet hate the Nazis, ironically)

You may have helped change my attitude for the better and made my contributions to the world a bit less evil at some future point.
posted by MikeWarot at 5:54 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


A tradition since 2008, here's a one-stop guide to Odienator's Black History Mumf 2013 postings. Enjoy!
posted by whuppy at 5:55 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The most common racist behavior is white liberals lecturing everyone else on racism during Black History month. A skinny, white, scraggy-bearded, long-haired Seattle hipster talking about the indignities that black people suffer, bemoaning his white "privilege", petting his dog, and blowing his liberal pan flute. He obviously paid a lot of money for that progressive outlook and those second-hand clothes. I bet this makes black Americans glad that February is the shortest month of the year."

I'm guessing that you're white.
posted by triceryclops at 6:15 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


You must live in a really nice world.

It's TBM's world, nobody else lives in it.

No, I am not saying all Birthers, yet alone all/most Republicans, are racists.

I'm pretty fucking sure all Birthers are racists.
posted by kmz at 6:34 AM on February 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Alexandre Dumas was black

What? Holy shit. That is an excellent point.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:42 AM on February 20, 2013


Alexandre Dumas was black

To clarify, he was one-quarter black on his father's side.
posted by shivohum at 6:43 AM on February 20, 2013


As a response to his assumption that they let him off because of how he looked: there are stickers on certain items (electronics and even cosmetics if they're considered a high-theft item at that particular store) that can cause the alarm to go off because the cashier forgot to take it off. It's pretty easy to miss when you're ringing up a shitload of items every single day. Chances are, the cashier will only remember to remove alarm-activating devices when it's on alcohol, because a big black cap on your shitty whipped cream-flavored vodka is far more noticeable than a small, silver sticker on the back of a compact mirror. After a while, you get used to the alarm going off, and get into the habit of just saying, "You're fine". Besides, you're also far more likely to get fired attempting to apprehend a shoplifter than you are if somebody manages to steal something while you're on the clock.

Just saying. This guy is chalking up an experience as proof that people are totally racist when they're probably just apathetic. That's not to say there aren't bigots out there, but from my awful experience in retail, employees (those that are at the very bottom, anyway) just tend to be apathetic and don't really see a reason to care if something is being stolen or not.

Blah blah blah.
posted by Redfield at 6:43 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


What the hell do you want, exactly? People to avoid talking about systemic injustice?

I know that I would prefer for guilty white liberals to just stop being so goddamned self satisfied in their progressiveness. It's not that their talking about injustice - that's awesome! It's something about the "And I am better than you, because I'm talking about this" that really rubs me the wrong way. It's just like another way for them to masturbate.

It especially rubs me the wrong way when I am not white and they are lecturing me about my history and refusing to actually listen to what I am saying, while at the same time bemoaning their privilege. It tends to go like this.

GWL: "I wish we could take leadership from oppressed peoples!"
POC: "That's awesome! I have a lot of ideas for what we are going to-"
GWL, continuing: "And that is why I am going to suggest we do this blah blah blah"
POC: "Hey, that's cool, but um, I have an idea too.
GWL: "I know, and that's so exciting! I support your people! Let me now get on to loudly proclaiming how much."
posted by corb at 6:58 AM on February 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


> This guy is chalking up an experience as proof that people are totally racist when they're probably just apathetic.

You could also read it as him pointing out how apathy -- that is, taking the smoother, lazy way of doing things -- tends to fall on the side of those who already have an incremental advantage.
posted by postcommunism at 7:01 AM on February 20, 2013


Corb, that's #21 (and also kind of #5 and #19) on the linked 28 Common Racist Behaviors (pdf).
posted by postcommunism at 7:04 AM on February 20, 2013


"The most common racist behavior is white liberals lecturing everyone else on racism during Black History month.

I mean, I think there's some truth to this - that when white folks talk about racism, we need to be pretty careful and thoughtful, and even if we're doing absolutely our best possible, we're still going to hit some wrong notes, say some dumb stuff, etc. I think that when other white folks use this fact to dismiss conversations about racism, that's a bad thing.

I'm also a bit tired of the "you are white and educated, yet you have secondhand clothes and clearly do not have a professional job, ergo you have a trust fund and are part of the economic elite." I'm tired of this for two reasons: first, it renders educated working-class radicals invisible, since they are assumed to be middle class people slumming (and I sure do know some educated working class radicals in this very situation); and second, I know a lot of people who started out in what you might call moderate American privilege - come from families that owned houses in upper-working-class to middle-class suburbs, went to college with moderate rather than crushing debt, were not immiserated by abuse or drugs....and who have either ended up in jobs like mine (pink collar, secretarial, clerical, call centers, non-professional) and do social justice work when we can or who have actively chosen to be...well, people like my therapist, or the minister I know whose focus is immigrants' rights work. These are not people who chose between being directors at the World Bank and being therapists; they're just people who had the chance at work they cared about that didn't pay too much.

And I add...here is a white person I sometimes think about: J. Irwin Miller. He was a rich white dude from Indiana who was deeply involved in the fancy-pants organizing and rich-people lobbying side of the civil rights movement. I expect, in fact, that he was one of the people who pressed for the March on Washington to be more focused on nonviolence than had initially been suggested, which a lot of folks I've read think was actually a really bad idea. I think about Miller often because he was so decent and also so deeply flawed, and both those things stand out very sharply. He did civil rights work that really cost him socially (Indiana, where the Klan never went away) when he was not brought up to be anti-racist, he ran a company that I can personally testify was generous and fair with its workers (in Indiana, not precisely the most socialist-thinking state)....and yet he was also a limousine liberal whose commitment to politeness and lobbying other influential whites was probably Not The Best Strategy.

When I think about him, I think about how even the most committed and thoughtful white folks probably come across a lot like Miller, and I'm not sure there's any way around that given how white people grow up and are socialized.

I think that people of good will keep their eye on the ball - recognizing that organizers (especially white ones) are going to be flawed sometimes and fools sometimes, and that not being foolish isn't an option, but that it's still possible to come together at times to make things happen.
posted by Frowner at 7:07 AM on February 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


(I think that people of good will keep their eye on the ball - recognizing that organizers (especially white ones) are going to be flawed sometimes and fools sometimes, and that not being foolish isn't an option, but that it's still possible to come together at times to make things happen. - I don't mean "oh, don't criticize white people...I realized after reading corb's comment that this could sound like "don't say negative things when white people do dumb stuff"...I was thinking more of the whole tendency among white folks to say that because we can never get it absolutely right, we don't need to try.)
posted by Frowner at 7:16 AM on February 20, 2013


Alexandre Dumas was black

To clarify, he was one-quarter black on his father's side.


To clarify yet further, Dumas père (Count of Monte Cristo) was one quarter black, Dumas fils (La Dame aux camélias) was one eighth.

Dumas père's father Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie is the subject of a very good book.

While we're at it, might as well throw in Pushkin (I'm sorry, what was the point of this exactly?)
posted by IndigoJones at 7:25 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The most common racist behavior is white liberals lecturing everyone else on racism during Black History month.

That's actually the opposite of what actual studies about racism have determined. For example, Alvin Alvarez's 2010 study determined that people tend to ignore or minimize systemic racism, and that this refusal to address what is called "everyday racism" or "covert racism" can have ongoing negative impact on psychological health.

Beyond that, I am not clear about what is actually racist about discussing racism during black history month. If you have a critique of his so-called lecture, I am curious about what that is, but instead it just seems like you want him to shut up.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:26 AM on February 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


While we're at it, might as well throw in Pushkin (I'm sorry, what was the point of this exactly?)

Humerously: Gosh, non-White people can write literature!

Non-humerously: Non-Advantaged Writers who achieve note get their non-advantaged signifiers filed off as much as possible and may well appear to be wealthy straight white cis men unless you look closely.

For some value of "humor," naturally. It's less funny than depressing.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:10 AM on February 20, 2013


Hm. I knew that being white got me job opportunities I wouldn't have otherwise gotten, but I never thought about how being over six feet tall and having a basso profondo voice contributed.
posted by davejay at 8:19 AM on February 20, 2013


Is it wrong not to trust (or watch) any video with a pre-load ad?

I never thought about how being over six feet tall and having a basso profondo voice contributed.

Really? I'm pretty average (a little over 5'10") and I think about the Last Bastion of Discrimination all the time. I guess I have short friends.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:42 AM on February 20, 2013


I never thought about how being over six feet tall and having a basso profondo voice contributed.

He could be talking about being male, which definitively helps your job prospects.
posted by patrick54 at 8:59 AM on February 20, 2013


> If I heard someone dropping the 'why isn't there white history month' thing

I like pointing out that there are quite a few official "White History Months" in the US. I should note though, that this has never changed anyone's mind. The kind of people who get worked up over Black History Month aren't doing so for rational reasons, so much as using it as a proxy to express their own unacknowledged discomfort about Black people.
posted by Panjandrum at 9:20 AM on February 20, 2013


Non-humerously: Non-Advantaged Writers who achieve note get their non-advantaged signifiers filed off as much as possible and may well appear to be wealthy straight white cis men unless you look closely.
Not only that, but the junior Dumas is firmly embedded in the popular western literary canon. Odds are good that the person you are speaking to is aware of the Three Musketeers, even if they don't recall the author's name. They probably expect that the author was some implicitly-white French aristocrat with hundreds of years of family military service to the French crown. Every point where those expectations diverge from reality is interesting.

And that is why Black history month is important. Righting past injustices is certainly a laudable goal, but demonstrating that major portions of Black History have been systematically suppressed and that they are very interesting in their own right is the key to making a compelling argument.

ModPrimate's video preaches to the choir, and offers little to anyone who doesn't already agree with him. It isn't a bad video, it just doesn't make a very compelling argument that is likely to change the minds of people who think that Black History Month is a waste of time.
posted by b1tr0t at 9:27 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Videoing yourself and putting it on youtube != "making an effort"
posted by humboldt32 at 10:18 AM on February 20, 2013


Why not? It was edited, at least semi-scripted, and placed in a large public forum where it can generate discussion. It may not be the only effort one might make, but it does strike me as an effort.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:22 AM on February 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Videoing yourself and putting it on youtube != "making an effort"

It's making some sort of effort. Not as much as, say spearheading a National campaign to pass useful legislation, but more than, say, a single tweet or comment on MetaFilter.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:24 AM on February 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sadly, the racism of most of the people I know on my FB means that they are more likely to watch this than a piece by someone who is black. So I put it up, not because it's anything but basic stuff that non-white people have been saying for years, but because most of the white people I know don't really want to listen to non-white people, or are afraid to, or assume it's a black-person thing and Not For Them. It may not do any good, but it seemed worth a try.
posted by emjaybee at 10:36 AM on February 20, 2013


I never thought about how being over six feet tall and having a basso profondo voice contributed.

Have you ever applied for the role of Wotan in Der Ring des Nibelungen?
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:01 AM on February 20, 2013



I like the guys voice, I appreciate his delivery, and he makes his case well.

The cuts in that video are going to give me epilepsy.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 11:43 AM on February 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


To clarify, he was one-quarter black on his father's side.

No one calls Obama the half-black president.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 3:45 PM on February 20, 2013


I do.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:23 AM on February 21, 2013


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