Those are your family and friends, but you won't talk to them.
August 18, 2017 7:24 AM   Subscribe

This Twitter thread nails it: "White liberals spend more time denying reality to PoC than they do hearing reality from their white conservative family and friends."

This Twitter thread by Marco Rogers is an incisive and concise essay on why Trump won the election (and, by extension, why the kkk is surging today): because white Liberals turned away from their racist communities of origin instead of working to fix them.

More gems from the thread:

White liberals have walled themselves off from the reality of the racism in their community.

White liberals from flyover states hate going home for holidays. Because they are surrounded by bigoted family and friends.

White liberals "hate facebook" because of all the racism there. Those are your family and friends, but you won't talk to them.

White liberals have systematically and deliberately separated themselves from their conservative family and friends.

They want so badly to not be associated with the rest of whiteness. They want to stand on our side and act like they can't believe it.

Not only do you believe it. But you know exactly where it lives. You know these people better than PoC ever will. They are your people.

The white ppl that broke with white racism didn't fix anything. They just never went home.
posted by pseudostrabismus (162 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite
 
You really can't change a totalising system from within. It changes you or it destroys you.
posted by rodlymight at 7:43 AM on August 18 [28 favorites]


This is also a big part of the reason Canada doesnt want your Trump refugees. You're part of the problem. Be part of the solution.
posted by klanawa at 7:50 AM on August 18 [7 favorites]


So yet another "Trump won because of liberals" essay?
posted by octothorpe at 7:51 AM on August 18 [63 favorites]



So yet another "Trump won because of liberals" essay?

No -- I see it more as an exhortation to talk to bigoted relatives. PoC can't do that. Only White people can. And unless they do, we're going to see a lot more violence done in the name of White supremacy.
posted by orangutan at 7:53 AM on August 18 [22 favorites]


I find it patronizing when people tell POCs who want to become teachers or doctors that they have an obligation to "work with their communities back home" when they graduate instead of pursuing whatever other professional interests they have. Rogers' thoughts come from a similar place.

While I definitely sympathize with the point that the people who keep talking about "punching Nazis" are the same people who never publicly rebuke their racist relatives, we should never expect anyone to give up a peaceful, successful life in their new home and obligate them to return to a hopeless situation that they escaped from.
posted by deanc at 7:53 AM on August 18 [41 favorites]


Is there any evidence that talking to a bigoted uncle has ever worked to change his mind?
posted by octothorpe at 7:59 AM on August 18 [103 favorites]


I'm confused by a bunch of things here. But the main one is this. It seems like by the words "You didn't fix anything, you just never went home." - I, one person, am responsible that every single other person in my family is Republican and I've been unable to change that? I mean, I've tried. God, how I've tried. This person seems to think that we have magic powers of persuasion. I don't. And no amount of my talking to my jackass, conservative family has budged them one inch in 30 adult years. Honestly, I can't tell what the writer wants us to do. Keep trying with our families? Well, I do, but it's all bullshit. I don't want to dismiss this but honestly, what's the actionable takeaway? I'm not seeing how this tells any white person what they didn't already know or gives them any way to help.
posted by greermahoney at 8:01 AM on August 18 [138 favorites]


I also think the word "friends" is much too strong for people you might know who stayed behind in the most overtly racist white supremacist parts of America. We don't have the ability to choose where we are born but we can choose that we don't want to live there and be surrounded by that crap.

I grew up in Virginia, and the banal omnipresent racism there was one of the big reasons I left and don't want to return. I actually think it's gotten better there, a bit, in the 22 years since I left, but it's still there.

So, for me, I just don't have white, conservative friends. Not interested, especially since the conservative middle has moved further into coocoo right wing territory. My mom, who was always strongly Republican, is horrified by what's coming out of the White House. I'm not even sure I have true believer white conservative relatives any more, or if I do, they're pretty distant.

I don't know that this prescription from the Twitter writer is actually helpful. I don't have those kinds of connections to racist white America that the writer presupposes I have. I have entirely segregated myself away from those sorts of people.

Maybe that's the problem, but it's asking a lot to ask people to want to willingly spend time around ignorant racists.
posted by MythMaker at 8:01 AM on August 18 [21 favorites]


White liberals from flyover states hate going home for holidays. Because they are surrounded by bigoted family and friends.

If you're going to lecture me on how to deal with bigotry, employing a disdainful bigoted term for the non-groovy parts of the country and sustaining a disdainful bigoted stereotype of same is not a great place to start.

Frankly, if you moved to Portland or Brooklyn from 'flyover' because of your family, I hope you stay there and enjoy a nice life. Confronting your 'bigoted flyover family' from this perspective is not going to help those of us who live here.
 
posted by Herodios at 8:02 AM on August 18 [53 favorites]


He's not wrong but how do you change the minds of people who don't want to listen? Or who will, for a bit, but then go back to their friends and watching Fox and lose all those lessons again.

No one can make these people do the work. We just need to shut off the avenues for propaganda.
posted by asteria at 8:03 AM on August 18 [11 favorites]


I would say I've helped deepen my liberal-minded-but-not-well-informed relatives' understanding of race issues and brought them to a place of understanding and support of, for example, Black Lives Matter. That is absolutely possible. But my conservative relatives? They think I am not a moral person. Not because of race issues but other liberal stances. With them I have no political credibility.

I always challenge their racist comments in the moment but bringing them to the light? I doubt they're ever gonna follow me.

I'll see some of them this weekend and I'll try again, though. At least their kids might hear me.
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:04 AM on August 18 [27 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out if this is sarcastic and attempting to portray the absurdity of the argument it's making by exaggerating that very absurdity.

I don't think many people like to be surrounded by bigots and racists and it's obscene to demand that people subject themselves to that environment in the hopes of changing the minds of their racist relatives.

I'm afraid the author(?) is falling in the trap of thinking that racism and bigotry are cured by "talking to them". I don't have much data besides anecdotal one on "liberal family member flies home for vacation, preaches equality to family that already finds him condescending for having gone to college and entire racist family is enlightened overnight" occurrences but I would take that bet against someone who told me "500$ says that happens all the time".

There is this persistent and silly and harmful idea that racism and other kinds of bigotry are cured by talking, or regular folks who aren't racist scumbags coming out (?!) as such to their families or whatever this thread is suggesting.

This is not true, it's not effective, it can be harmful to those belonging to such families and surprise, absolves the state of the responsibility to handle the problem by upholding the law.

It's the motherf$&@@** state's job to uphold its institutions and enforce its laws in the face of discrimination.

Yes, everyone should be vocal in the face of racism and not tolerate it and speak against it whenever a chance is presented. Those who flee these toxic places in search of a more tolerant environment and who cut off entire families to protest their racist beliefs are doing precisely that.

This just sounds like one more way to absolve the state of any responsibility, and convince people that they are personally responsible for fixing structures leftover by past government-mandated racism! For the love of Zeus, how does the "bootstrapping" sentiment penetrate social justice?!
posted by ariadne_88 at 8:05 AM on August 18 [51 favorites]


I'm processing how I feel about his main point, which definitely is talking to me, a white Southerner who moved to the big city and tries not to talk to my relatives about this shit, but it seems weird to drop a reference to "fly-over country" in an age when the racist all the other racists are losing their shit over is from Queens. Hell, I live in one of those big city liberal enclaves and there's plenty of racism right outside my door, I don't need to go home to North Carolina to find it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:08 AM on August 18 [34 favorites]


I have a close and personal conservative friend from Lacey WA who I spent damn near close to two years having the toughest conversations you can imagine about this stuff (from 2011-2013) and a year or so back he told me that he was confronting his community of conservative friends and challenging them to do better, and that I had irrevocably changed his viewpoints on how power/race/whiteness functions as oppression and that now he can't ever unsee it and speaks up all the time about it no matter where he is. He's still conservative, he's still still christian, he's still one of my closest friends and he lives nowhere near damn flyover country. That said the work we as white people have to do in our communities is fucking hard but not impossible.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:09 AM on August 18 [65 favorites]


A friend of mine responded to Trump by getting more politically involved.

I got more involved by writing "this is not normal" posts on Facebook. And telling racists in multiplayer online games that their shouting the n-word wasn't ok. And posting liberal progressive takes on police violence in the Bay Area subreddits.

We all gotta engage. Two years ago I would have said "don't look at the comments on Youtube, don't read reddit." Now ... I still think that's good advice, but I can't do it myself.
posted by zippy at 8:11 AM on August 18 [11 favorites]


I'm white, and I represent many of these dynamics. Although I'm from Virginia, and now I live in a flyover state, haha.

Here's some tips on how to have these conversations so that conservatives might listen a little better.

To be a little bit contrary though...a union organizer friend mentioned this in conversation and it seems underreported. I've barely heard much mention of it.

But really, I'm not worried about the blame game. Each of us can do what we can do, and use our energy how we see fit. Even though I voted for Bernie in the primary, I was furious at the Bernie bros in November. I just want to find ways reconnect with them now, and to remain human in the eyes of the conservatives whom I know. I don't know what the best strategy is for 2020 (or even the midterms next year) but I'm just gonna keep trying my best.
posted by leemleem at 8:12 AM on August 18 [5 favorites]


we (white people) have the privilege of saying "we're not a monolith!!" when a minority race group generalizes white people into a single group but y'all, from the perspective of minority race groups WE DO look all the same. We can deny that we're not one of those "bad white people" but that doesn't change the fact that we're still white and this is still a white people problem. We gotta collect our white communities and change them for the better.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:12 AM on August 18 [35 favorites]


No -- I see it more as an exhortation to talk to bigoted relatives. PoC can't do that. Only White people can.

Do we have evidence that people don't, though? I'm granted in a weird position--I'm Hispanic on one side and so dealing with my bigoted mother has additional problems. But most people I know who have parents like this used to be close to their parents. They used to talk to their parents about politics. And they stopped because these relatives never listened to them, talked over them, made them feel unwelcome at family gatherings. I tried for years to engage my mother, and she voted for Trump anyway. She voted for Trump even with her own kids being half Mexican, because her answer in recent years about how we ought to deal with our ethnic background, paraphrased, is that we ought to claim to be white and act white and thank God that we look white. If my mom's willing to do this, am I supposed to expect that someone else's mom is going to have a change of heart because her kid tries to tell her that black people don't deserve to get shot?

Conservatives are by nature the people who believe that education in the parent-child relationship only goes one way. They see us as their children who have strayed from the flock. Even though we're in our 20s, 30s, 40s. How many people didn't actually try to talk about things before they bailed? I think it's appropriate to talk about how white people need to engage with peers, but that there are limits to this and that nobody should be feeling guilty for reducing contact with their families if being in contact with those families is emotionally unhealthy for them.
posted by Sequence at 8:12 AM on August 18 [62 favorites]


No one is forcing white people to do anything. It's really all up to you. If you feel "my family is really toxic; I don't want to spend time with them, like at all, nothing will change their mind, fuck it, I don't want emotional abuse": DON'T. No one should be forced to willingly choose a bad time.

BUT: If you're one of those that can afford to fly home and spend time with people that don't choose to abuse you whenever they can, then do it. You have no excuse.

Seriously, don't #notallwhitepeople this shit. If you feel like it's not for you, then don't say anything. Period.

The discourse is for white people who can recognize and put themselves in the shoes of what this PoC is trying to say.
posted by mysticreferee at 8:13 AM on August 18 [38 favorites]


This commentary is a projection from a unified household that hasn't made the break they assume. If someone was culturally forced to leave their childhood home due to being intellectual, artistic, gay, or otherwise dissatisfied, then they likely sacrificed the line of trusted communication to their old chums, parents, siblings, or cousins, and they really don't understand them very well. That was the entire point to leaving. And of course there is the problem of assuming racism is not religious among the ignorant, even perhaps believing it to be otherwise; that most whites are in need of some kind of sincerity conversion by talking. I would instinctively counter-suggest that any person of color reach out to them without waiting for someone else, and that could mean going door to door dressed like sales people.
posted by Brian B. at 8:13 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


Annika Cicada, that is amazing. Maybe all the awful conversations I've had over the years have piled up more than I know. I'll keep having them.
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:13 AM on August 18 [7 favorites]


This has kind of a funny relationship to the conservative notion that people became racists because liberals called them "racist" too much. They are opposed in that one posits we didn't talk about race enough, and the other that we talked about race too much, but both seem to deny that racists themselves have responsibility for their own racism.

But it is, at least, a little more plausible. Evaporative cooling is a thing.
posted by Jpfed at 8:15 AM on August 18 [15 favorites]


I don't totally agree with this point of view for reasons you all have touched on, but just before this I was reading an AskMe (which the OP posted in) where the poster wanted to stay in touch with her racist family but was worried that she was being a bad ally by not cutting them off because of their racism. I think it's important for people like that to hear that cutting them off is not the be-all-end-all of being morally right, that it's OK if you need to cut them off for your own mental health but if you want to continue to engage with them that's totally okay and maybe even preferable.

I also think that the point to not be one of those white liberals who's shocked at everything is a good one. Cut your family off if you must, but know where you came from and avoid convincing yourself that your racist relatives are just an isolated pocket of backwardness. Don't let yourself believe that this will end when all the old people die.
posted by sunset in snow country at 8:17 AM on August 18 [23 favorites]


Look, I know the tendency to respond to this is to say "But this isn't true of me," but please try to refrain from that. Sentences like this?

"White liberals spend way more time denying reality to PoC than they do hearing reality from their white conservative family and friends."

He doesn't mean you, specifically. He means white people in general. And what he says jibes with my experience. And what he says is worth considering.

In fact, arguably this thread is an example of white people spending time denying reality to a PoC.
posted by maxsparber at 8:18 AM on August 18 [74 favorites]


I think his main takeaway is in the points about those who claim to be shocked/surprised by racism, in spite of growing up with it. It's hurtful to hear "but how did Trump happen??" from people who say they have racist families. I'm a white woman who left her racist (also abusive) family but have seen the potential for a Trump-alike rise ever since childhood, largely due to that evangelical background. Evangelicals have done a lot of work to poison discourse. I have never understood why so many white people, who saw them, lived next to them, taught me, spoke with them, knew what their beliefs were... just shrugged it off, or worse, didn't believe that someone who grew up in it could know how bad it was. There is a lot of minimization and it has been going on for as long as I can remember. Since this often gets tagged as making people feel guilty: if you feel guilty, that's a good sign. It means you have a conscience. You don't have to take on the whole weight of the world. But your guilt is trying to tell you something, and listening to it on your own personal level, and taking informed actions – that would be a net positive.

There are people who can be talked to; we've seen it here on MeFi. I had a few more distant racist relatives who came around. And, as I just said myself, I was raised in this shit. I got out of it because people talked to me and I listened – the nuance being, I had never reached the point where I was cutting off others. I was ready to listen and change. Not everyone is, and of course you shouldn't keep yourself in an abusive situation with people who have zero interest in listening. But coming from that situation, you also can't claim to be surprised that abusive people who refuse to listen, exist. (I'm not saying everyone does. But damn, I have seen a lot of it.) That's hurtful to other people they're still abusing. It's a denial of reality.
posted by fraula at 8:18 AM on August 18 [24 favorites]


I'm trying to figure out if this is sarcastic and attempting to portray the absurdity of the argument it's making by exaggerating that very absurdity.

It was written after the election. A lot of people were frustrated.

Two years ago I would have said "don't look at the comments on Youtube, don't read reddit."

Reddit is interesting as it seems to have undergone a change over the past couple years and most notably during the election. Some of this is of course due to Russian bots suddenly being unemployed and Reddit itself gaining a larger base but it's interesting.
posted by asteria at 8:21 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Always been really skeptical of the argument levied upon leftists to storm racist childhood rural pockets and impose themselves after getting a dose of more progressive America.
There's a heavy handed elitism there that assumes folks can parachute into new or old places and practice their values and inclusiveness without displacing intact communities. There is plenty of disparity to contend with locally no matter where you're stationed and in aggregate, hyper local neighborhood organizing feels like the most responsible tactic.
posted by merryum at 8:21 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


Tired: Not All White People
Wired: White People have a responsibility to police thier own communities and peers for racism and white nationalism.

The strongholds of white racism are the suburban cul du sac not the rural homestead.
posted by The Whelk at 8:24 AM on August 18 [45 favorites]


Possibly helpful tool/path to discuss privilege with your family and community: Peggy McIntosh's "Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack" (broader discussion, short list) that lists 50 ways in which white privilege can manifest in your life (PDF with all 50 examples)

Some examples of privilege:
1. I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

34. I can worry about racism without being seen as selfinterested or self-seeking.
35. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.

46. I can chose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more or less match my skin. (And "flesh" colored crayons more or less match my skin)
posted by filthy light thief at 8:25 AM on August 18 [13 favorites]


He doesn't mean you, specifically. He means white people in general. And what he says jibes with my experience. And what he says is worth considering.

Right.

That said, I still think the Twitter thread is Bad Discourse for a lot of the reasons mentioned here, primarily this one: "liberal" places sure as fuck ain't free of racism. But also, related to that: focusing on blood relatives is missing the point.

Everywhere white people go in America, there's work for them to be doing. Everywhere. Your nice liberal friends who think BLM is taking things too far and they just need to be nice and polite like Dr. King? They sure as fuck need a talking to as well. And they might actually listen.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:27 AM on August 18 [32 favorites]


And what he says jibes with my experience.

This is the part that's making me uncomfortable, though. We're at a stage now where we're assigning a lot of blame and telling people what to do based on anecdotes. It jibes with your experience, maybe, but then it jibes with mine not at all, where everybody I know who's fled has fled for very good reason. I don't think either of those two things are necessarily absolutes, but I think we need more than just "this feels right" here. It feels right to you, but it does not feel right to me, and I'm not exactly sure why someone else's "feels right" is reason enough to be overtly using guilt to induce people to behave differently. Maybe we need more refinement here, at the very least, than just saying "white liberals", because there are in fact significant numbers of white liberals who never left the South, never left the Midwest, whatever, and our families do not, as far as I can tell, show signs of being more enlightened than anybody else's families by our continued presence.

This is not, to me, "not all white people". Because this was never about all white people. This is categorized down to white liberals. If we want to classify it further to upper-middle-class white liberals in progressive enclaves with non-abusive families, fine. But I am not, no, convinced that "people who could usefully engage with their families but choose not to" are actually the majority of white progressives from conservative families. I'm happy to be proven wrong, but I know a lot of people who had really damn miserable holidays last year and are going to have miserable holidays this year and I don't think telling those people they're not trying hard enough is useful.
posted by Sequence at 8:27 AM on August 18 [28 favorites]


>Is there any evidence that talking to a bigoted uncle has ever worked to change his mind?

Absolutely! In my own family I can think of 3 older people whose views have become much more humanitarian over time. Just think of how many formerly homophobic or racist parents have come around to eventually love and support their queer kids or interracial grandchildren?

Talking to family members is slow work, and it can be hard work, but it does work.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:30 AM on August 18 [5 favorites]


then it jibes with mine not at all

So, again, it's probably not you he's talking about.
posted by maxsparber at 8:30 AM on August 18 [5 favorites]


The core of this seems pretty simple:

1) The minds of horrible white people need to be changed
2) This should not be incumbent on POCs to effect
3) So: non-horrible white people need to step up

When I frame it that way for myself, it's hard to squirm out of, and I want to squirm out of it very badly. I love my carefully-made California bubble. I am that white person who moved away and didn't go back unless compelled to. It's so easy.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:31 AM on August 18 [40 favorites]


My late father and I had a complicated relationship over the last couple of years of his life. We talked a lot of politics and I caught him reciting a lot of right-wing media talking points without thinking much about them. I tried to be a deprogramming force to try to counter his Facebook friends, his ingrained prejudices from his younger years, his finding RT "news" programs on his HD antenna... He was never a big talk radio listener but when the same sentiments bombard the Internet too, they're hard to avoid.

He was obstinate by nature but sometimes reachable by logic and counterexamples. But certain people were simply Satan to him, like THAT PELOSI and THOSE CLINTONS and THAT CRAZY BLACK WOMAN FROM CALIFORNIA. In the end he may have voted Trump simply because he hated THAT WOMAN. Why? Because he believed the media bombardments about her. That's all he could articulate as to why.

The dead giveaway was that every other day he'd rant about Al Sharpton and how he should be in jail and how it was criminal how he was one of Obama's major advisors. I frowned every time and tried to get him to see that Sharpton was largely a nonentity and the only "news" he was in on any regular basis were hard-right rags looking for easy targets to demonize. It never took.

But the point is that sometimes using persuasion rather than screaming sometimes worked. He was conservative but at least willing to engage in rational argument some of the time, so I made the effort.

My mother, his ex-wife, still believes that Sarah Palin would be an ideal President, that Hillary belongs in jail for her laundry list of felonies, and that MAGA hats are appropriate funeral wear. Her, I don't even try to talk to. It would be like taking a sign out of a Westboro Baptist member's hands and asking it to think.

As much as I would like to see her deprogrammed, it is beyond any person's capabilities except herself. And those are the people who are our largest obstacle.
posted by delfin at 8:31 AM on August 18 [7 favorites]


I think there are people who can be shown a door and maybe choose to open it, but I think it's a myth that people are racist because they don't know better and if you just told them in the right way to stop being racist that they would. I think that's part of whiteness, where nobody's ever responsible for their behavior.

I think consequences speak louder than years of head-petting conversations about "have you considered not being awful maybe sometimes except you're not really that awful because I'm here indulging you"? This is the problem with white people and conflict: we refuse it, we will backbend and backflip endlessly to avoid it. The problem is that we never tell the truth about why we're not coming home for Thanksgiving, because we're too afraid to say, "I will not sit down at the table with your vile behavior" or "Is Cousin Horrible coming? I'm not if he is." (And if we do say that, Mom tells Aunt Horrible that we couldn't come because we had to work.)

I just think you can shame racism out of people faster than you can snootsy-wootsy-pwease-don't-advocate-genocide it out of them. They know it's wrong. They think they have backup, though, because of all the silence and refusal to push back. I guess if that's what people actually mean by "talk to", like literally say, "I'm not going to stand for your shit anymore" that's great, but that's not what "talk to" means in Waspy White English. And that kind of talking-to doesn't work with adults.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:33 AM on August 18 [30 favorites]


If you personally don't know any actualfax overt racists (I don't that I'm aware of--one side of the family are pretty woke and the other have terrible economic politics but less so in the racial department, though I have been eking out some wins there all the same, it's slow going) or you don't feel safe discoursing with the ones you do know, I'm going to bet you do know some Nice White People. You want to challenge some folks who you might actually get to come around? Engage with the "I'm not racist, but..." and the "I didn't vote for Trump, but..." crowd. The people who put respectability politics over racial justice. There's a lot of work to be done there right now in the aftermath of Charlottesville. My local "nice liberal ladies" FB encounters have been cringe-inducing to the max lately. I've been trying to amplify people of color with them to push back on the "gosh, can't we all just get along?" and "we shouldn't rustle any jimmies when challenging ACTUAL GODDAMN NAZIS" narratives.

And that actually can work. I've seen growth happen. Heck, that's been my own growth, though it occurred many years ago before all this shit started blatantly hitting the White American fan that had previously been oblivious.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:33 AM on August 18 [17 favorites]


The core of this seems pretty simple

Yeah, I'm doing the same thing:

1. White people made this problem
2. White people benefit this problem
3. White people are responsible for fixing this problem
4. It starts by white people addressing people they actually know

I mean, I could complain that I can't talk to my racist uncle because he died four months ago, so it couldn't possibly be me that's meant by this essay, but that seems rather beside the point.
posted by maxsparber at 8:34 AM on August 18 [14 favorites]


Get this. I am a white liberal person who lives in a bigoted area, and you would not believe how hard it is to hear the Fox talking points and have to know how to combat them in talking with people who really really should know the hell better. There is always a ridiculous thing that comes out of far right field that excuses the most recent outrage. With Charlottesville it was that the counter-protesters didn't have a fucking permit to protest. It is INFURIATING, and it is difficult just to maintain an even tone with them, when you have to deal with them frequently and indeed they are friends in other ways. They aren't even particularly right-wing; it's just that Fox talking points permeate these places, and without spare time and resources one cannot counter it all alone.

It's the air here. I have my own oxygen supply, but they all breathe it.
posted by JHarris at 8:36 AM on August 18 [7 favorites]


I will agree all day long that it's, like, crawl-under-the-bed-and-don't-come-out daunting, but that doesn't obviate the need to help to clean this shit up where we can.

Journey of a thousand miles, and so forth.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:40 AM on August 18 [6 favorites]


I will always remember having dinner with some cousins and one all of a sudden saying "None of us are voting for Trump, right?" and we were all like "NO! Absolutely not."

And she just said "ok, I just wanted to make sure you were all gonna do the right thing." I don't know what points she had to argue if any of us has said yes, but I loved that she just laid it down at dinner, no preamble, cards on the table.

I have no idea if that is a good strategy but I admire her guts.
posted by Emmy Rae at 8:41 AM on August 18 [18 favorites]


I just try to remind myself that for as hard and challenging and traumatizing and shitty as it is to have to confront the casual and overt racism (and ableism and misogyny and sexism and god the list goes on and on) in the white communities I'm a part of, it's still not as bad as being a POC in contemporary racist America.

Also, I can get the gist of what someone is trying to get across without requiring them to say it perfectly to my satisfaction. I want us all to try to let go of the pedantic defensiveness we feel about every little part of this twitter thread that wasn't exactly perfectly stated.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:43 AM on August 18 [21 favorites]


Is there any evidence that talking to a bigoted uncle has ever worked to change his mind?

Anecdotally, talking to my casually bigoted adoptive grandparents about racism over the years seemed to help. They never could completely shake some of their racist habits of thought and speech, but when pressed, they conceded their POV was an obsolete worldview that younger generations like mine were better off discarding. Believe it or not, true story. They exhorted me not to adopt racist beliefs and attitudes even while reluctantly admitting the habits of those beliefs were too deeply conditioned into their own perspectives to shake completely. I always thought that was the kind of wisdom American nonpartisan social liberalism was all about, supporting and encouraging the possibility of generational change and recognizing personal biases and limits and working around them as much as possible to create the possibility of growth and change at the collective level, but I don't really know or understand anything, so I'm probably just an idiot to think any of that effort and those experiences matter or demonstrate much of anything generalizable. My adoptive grandfather had a mixed racial background himself, as judged by the standards of his childhood social reality. Maybe that made him more receptive than some other Southern whites.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:44 AM on August 18 [7 favorites]


Journey of a thousand miles, and so forth.

Do you know what HAPPENS to family and friends who continually emit unpopular political opinions? Before long you become that family member, that no one talks to, or people just stop being your friend all together. Basically, I am being asked to shoulder the social costs of trying to change people's minds, and let me tell you, I don't have many resources other than friends right now that I can rely on.
posted by JHarris at 8:46 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


I find the easiest way to keep your sanity, especially if your relatives are less "well-meaning" racists and more "out and proud" racists, is to focus on holding your ground.

For whatever reason, racist white people feel very entitled to share their dumb racist opinions. There is nothing wrong with sharing your non-racist opinion as well. This is not an argument and it's not you trying to change their mind. You have a right to your opinion just as they do theirs and you can state your opinion as freely as they do theirs.
posted by asteria at 8:47 AM on August 18 [20 favorites]


Do you know what HAPPENS to family and friends

I do, actually.

This is in that class of obligations that are shitty, and that I didn't sign up for, and that I don't want to engage with, but that as a grown-ass adult I can't simply reason my way out of.

Obviously--obviously!--each according to their abilities and circumstances. I think that just considering this is very important to do.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:51 AM on August 18 [9 favorites]


White liberals from flyover states hate going home for holidays. Because they are surrounded by bigoted family and friends.

Of the Nazis identified at C-Ville, one was from Berkely CALIFORNIA another from Seattle WASHINGTON and The Sobbing Nazi from NEW HAMPSHIRE.

Coasties need to start checking themselves.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:52 AM on August 18 [70 favorites]


Basically, I am being asked to shoulder the social costs of trying to change people's minds, and let me tell you, I don't have many resources other than friends right now that I can rely on.

If you can play dumb or non-challenging with these people, it helps. I had a co-worker who wasn't out and proud but was going on about BENGHAZI!!!!1 during the election and I stopped that by wondering, in a casual way, why no one ever talked about all the embassies that got bombed during the Bush years and how sad it was that all those American deaths were overlooked.

Basically, keep it on them to explain themselves and try not to cede that ground.
posted by asteria at 8:52 AM on August 18 [10 favorites]



Maybe one way to frame the actual "what should any individual white person do" thing is "challenge yourself to do a little more than is completely comfortable".

That's not the same as "take your only time off from work all year and subject yourself to abusive racist tirades, then start the long drive home at 11pm because you can't stay overnight after fighting" or "visit the family who abused you purely so that you can argue with them about race". It's more "be willing to be somewhat uncomfortable in situations where you could be comfortable if you stayed silent".

It's like a kickstarter - if we all work on the people in our lives who it's possible to work on, some change will emerge, even if no one is able to change the minds of the really hard-core.

I think a problem with the internet is that it's so easy to write "Everyone do THING 100% or you are letting down the revolution" when if we were face to face, most people would be like "everyone, commit to pushing yourself beyond your default mode, whatever that is for you, and together we will change things".
posted by Frowner at 8:52 AM on August 18 [91 favorites]


I don't know that we need to change the minds of bigoted white people, so much as we need to start forcefully saying, "NO, you're wrong, and you don't get to say those things and enjoy the privilege of my company," even if it's Grandma. And then hold to it.

If an individual truly wants to learn and understand, then we should of course help them learn. But there's no reason to handhold an adult down the garden path and hope the scales fall off their eyes, all the while ignoring or, worse, enabling them to keep spewing their poison unchallenged just because they're old or related or whatever.

It sounds mean to shut people down or cut people off for something like that, but it's a lot meaner to everyone and all of society to allow it to continue. Teaching doesn't always sink in, but hard social consquences do--and even if they don't, at least they are effective at isolating the assholes and not exposing others to their disease.
posted by Autumnheart at 9:01 AM on August 18 [21 favorites]


Just think of how many formerly homophobic or racist parents have come around to eventually love and support their queer kids or interracial grandchildren?

No no. That is a totally different method than the article is talking about. That's not talking your family out of shitty ideas. That's *meeting* people different than your homogenous group and changing through those relationships. If the person in this article had said "the way to fix this is we have to break up the homogenous pockets of America and get POC living next to white folk more often" - I'd agree. Personal relationships are a method that has worked well. The gay kid, the trans granddaughter, the interracial marriages, all of those things have the possibility to humanize a what was once just a demographic to some people.

But the same white kid lecturing their aunt on BLM again? Usually pointless. Pointing out how Trump is failing us? "Well, we'd be worse off with Killery." If those conversations are working in your families, great, keep them up. But in that case, the article was never for you, anyway. (I can't actually figure out who it was for. If that method works in your family, you didn't need to be told to do it, you already are. If it doesn't work, the article is no help.)
posted by greermahoney at 9:05 AM on August 18 [5 favorites]


I think some of the people protesting here could do well to go read those AskMes (from white people) about "how can I possibly associate with my conservative relatives" and contemplate the deluge answers saying to write off those relatives. Metafilter sure as hell is guilty of what's being complained about here.
posted by hoyland at 9:05 AM on August 18 [18 favorites]


Ok so liberal white people have decided that all it takes to "fix the situation" is more race conversations with conservative family at thanksgiving dinner.

Nevermind the fact that plenty educated, privileged white racists are in fact racist despite having abundant information on why that is wrong.

Nevermind also the fact that the same white liberals that flee some square state wreck havoc in the East or West coast communities they seek refuge in, through gentrification and other lovely, self-indulgent and society annihilating lifestyles, displacing the very minorities that their racist families are against.

Is there anything more ironically counterintuitive, condescending and self absorbed than to assume that the responsibility of "white people to their communities" (wtf, what are you, sheep herders?) begins and ends with preaching to uncle Jim Bob?

As if their very own lifestyle and life choices, from hipster neighborhoods to social media, from start up techs to whole lives dedicated to trivial pursuits , is not part of not only racism but the whole social and environmental fabric coming undone.

Oh white people in your high horses, could you be any more narcissistic than to think your words will cure racism, as you go on to enjoying a life of undeserved privileges all made possible by racism and exploitation?

Indeed, tell uncle Jim Bob that racism is wrong , and do it over a nice dinner because we all know the power of food, it's pretty much the centerpiece of a white liberal's life. In fact, take him to a nice restaurant and have this conversation and get all the feel-good feels you can. Maybe when it's your time to be uncle Jim Bob, your kids and nephews can preach to you about why exploiting Mexican immigrants in your kitchens so you can have farm to table, kombucha fermented grass fed tofu steak is wrong.
posted by ariadne_88 at 9:08 AM on August 18 [10 favorites]


Ok so liberal white people have decided that all it takes to "fix the situation" is more race conversations with conservative family at thanksgiving dinner.

I don't personally know the author of this Twitter thread, but looking at his photo, I'm going to say he probably isn't a white liberal.

Also, I literally don't see a single person saying that's all it takes.
posted by maxsparber at 9:09 AM on August 18 [30 favorites]


I'd like to hear some success stories, if anyone has them.

I've had a lot of success with my parents around trans issues and racial justice issues, but my parents are dyed-in-the-wool hippies, and my Mom is further left than I am on issues of economic inequality. Even so, I've calmly pointed out where I think they might be wrong in terms of respectability politics. They've always been in the reachable camp. (Likewise, my Mom has pulled me further left on economic justice over the years.)

What's been useful to respond to those who have relatives who watch Fox News? I've gotten into the mud a bit recently on social media with other people's families, but I'm just a crazy stranger to those folks. I'd love to be able to give my friends some strategies that work.

(Also, my Mom, as much as I love her, is pretty close to being an anti-vaxxer... so if these things work cross issues, I'll be using them.)
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 9:10 AM on August 18 [3 favorites]


all it takes to "fix the situation"

Nobody is saying that, though.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:10 AM on August 18 [2 favorites]


This twitter thread greatly overestimates the power family members have to convince their fellow family members that they're wrong and should change themselves. I've been trying to convince my brother since 2015 that Trump is terrible and will lead this nation to destruction and will be a disaster for both people of color and the poor white working class alike, and there's no way to nudge him out of his position because it's informed by a constant diet of insane-right media like infowars and even scarier rabbit holes. But he's my brother and he's dying of cancer and he really means well, so like wtf am I supposed to do? It's exhausting. I'm ready to shoulder the burden of the horrors of whiteness, but arguing with my alt-right Brother is not going to solve anything.
posted by dis_integration at 9:12 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


I don't personally know the author of this Twitter thread, but looking at his photo, I'm going to say he probably isn't a white liberal.

I wasn't referring to him. I was referring to everyone responding to this thread with anecdotes of how after a conversation their racist relative is less racist and other actions of "white people responsibility"
posted by ariadne_88 at 9:12 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


(I just noticed that I missed an opportunity for the pun "tie-dyed-in-the-wool hippies" and I am annoyed with myself.)
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 9:13 AM on August 18 [13 favorites]


100 awkward, non-confrontational white liberals having half-assed, unpleasant conversations is going to move the needle more than 100 awkward, non-confrontational white liberals saying, "welp!".

And like Autumnheart said: there is value in merely sending the message, clearly, that these ideas and actions are not acceptable.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:13 AM on August 18 [29 favorites]


This twitter thread greatly overestimates the power family members have to convince their fellow family members that they're wrong and should change themselves.

A big part of the thread was about white people getting out of their bubble of thinking racism doesn't exist, or isn't as serious as it is, and it is a bubble they have created by blocking out racists from their life, which is a privilege white people have that people of color don't have.

So it may be less about convincing racist relatives and more about not being so freaking surprised to discover how racist the world is because we have the unusual power to protect ourselves from racism that doesn't affect us.
posted by maxsparber at 9:15 AM on August 18 [13 favorites]


I don't know that we need to change the minds of bigoted white people, so much as we need to start forcefully saying, "NO, you're wrong, and you don't get to say those things and enjoy the privilege of my company," even if it's Grandma. And then hold to it.

THIS!

My family is full of bigots. I left ages ago, and since my dad died I haven't been back nor do I expect to go back. I also, at every single family gathering, called them out on their bullshit. My useless cousin makes a comment about Mexicans taking his job? I replied back "I didn't realize you could get paid to sit on the couch and play video games." Racist uncle makes remarks about the N-word in the Oval Office, I say, "Jesus fucking Christ Uncle Richard! It's not 1865 or even 1965 get the fuck over it already." I countered each slur, each twist of the truth with facts and sometimes even documentation from history. It got to the point where my cousin's husband started to say something about Obama at a Christmas, stopped himself and said, "Oh yeah, sorry Teleri, that's an asshole thing to say just because I don't like the man." After nearly 20 years of doing this, they stopped saying that shit in front of me. They're still racist assholes, but they know that at least one person thinks they are wrong for saying it. Hell, after my dad died, my virulently racist uncle asked if I'd be around much and I smiled and said, "Probably not." He responded, "Well, I guess a good bit of that is our fault. We are proud of you though. You've done well."

Thing is...I came from them. There but for the grace go I. And we've talked about it, my uncles and cousins, why did Teleri turn out differently? Where did she get this crazy liberal bent? It was there before I went to college, hell, it was there before I went to high school. My cousins and I watched the same tv shows, listened to the same music, heard the same stories, and yet they don't see what I see. And if they do, they don't give a damn. Every time they ask me, I ask them, How did you not? You had the same exposure, the same world as I did, how do you look at this shit and say it's okay? That's what we have to tell our family members. The question isn't why are we weird for wanting to fight racism, it's why are they so broken they don't?
posted by teleri025 at 9:15 AM on August 18 [54 favorites]


"If you did the right thing and it did not give you the right result, it does not mean it is right to stop doing the right thing." - me, 2017.
posted by mysticreferee at 9:16 AM on August 18 [22 favorites]


I'd like to hear some success stories, if anyone has them.

I got an uncle to stop being such an Islamophobe by getting him to read "No God But God" by Reza Aslan (he's a voracious reader). Eventually he was recommending that book to others and sometimes defending Muslims against his brother who calls himself a liberal (because he votes Dem) but shares mostly the same beliefs as my other uncle. Also got him to be less anti-Semitic by talking about the roots of anti-antisemitism.

Almost hooked him with "A People's History" but he is still extremely anti-black. He lives in Chicago, a lot of his friends are cops. Between that and Fox News, I'm not sure if he'll ever change his mind much.

I also had an ex-boyfriend who credited me with changing his anti-Semitic opinions which were mainly the results of the 00' form of hipster racism and his Jewish fiancee leaving him when he was recovering from a serious car accident. I was unrelenting on that to the point where even he noticed how I remained stonefaced during his racist jokes and it was part of the reason our relationship ended which I made sure he knew. Years passed, he dealt with his issues and grew the fuck up.
posted by asteria at 9:20 AM on August 18 [10 favorites]


At the very end of the documentary The Brainwashing of My Dad, the filmmaker's mother was able to almost totally reverse her father's decades out contempt and outrage. She did it by getting a new television and programming it so he couldn't watch FOX, and also unsubscribing him from right wing email chains he had been subscribed to. I think they may also have subscribed him to a few liberal chains, and he went ahead and read them, and quickly deprogrammed himself.

Sometimes the little things can have big effects.
posted by maxsparber at 9:24 AM on August 18 [24 favorites]


Folks, I think we all know there are some conversations that are going to go nowhere. My cousin who loves to say conservative points to make me mad? I don't talk to him, because he's an asshole. If we see each other and he starts needling me "Hey Emmy, I know you're excited about how great we're making America! Thank god for Trump, right?" I just say "You know I don't want to have this conversation, and I'm not going to. I disagree with you."

I save my energy for the ones who just earnestly believe some bullshit and a) try to counter their talking points with my values (i.e. racism hurts the community I live in, there are trans people I care about and I don't want anyone to speak about my friends in such a cruel way) and b) shut down the obvious bigotry so they don't feel like everyone agrees with them, like Autumnheart described.
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:24 AM on August 18 [6 favorites]


FoxNews should be put out of business. That would solve about a third of the problem right there.
posted by asteria at 9:27 AM on August 18 [23 favorites]


I feel like people in this thread are understandably reading too much into, "you didn't fix anything."

The idea in the thread that resonated most with me was that wealth and whiteness can help people to escape uncomfortable situations. (This is just fine! We should strive to take care of ourselves!) The point is this isn't a privilege that many other people have.

The author isn't explicitly asking us to go home and deal with our family and friends. But he is explicitly reminding us to not lose perspective.

Thanks to maxsparber for doing some heavy lifting in this thread.
posted by el gran combo at 9:31 AM on August 18 [17 favorites]


It's beyond disappointing to come to Metafilter and see that the tenor of this discussion is basically "what this person is asking us to do is much too hard, and I resent being asked to do it, show me the ironclad proof that it's worth my precious time". Y'all. I thought we were better than this. I thought we wanted to fight, and make things better. Why are y'all rolling over, giving up, and whining that it's just too hard? This is gross. I am honestly sickened.
posted by palomar at 9:31 AM on August 18 [39 favorites]


100 awkward, non-confrontational white liberals having half-assed, unpleasant conversations is going to move the needle more than 100 awkward, non-confrontational white liberals saying, "welp!".

So, when I left my home state and broke off relations with the truly horribly virulently everything-ist half of my extended family, that was not a "Welp!" That was a "fuck you." Continuing to associate with someone and ignoring their bad behavior may be viewed as supporting and facilitating it. Cutting someone out of your life explicitly because of that bad behavior? That's the opposite. (I didn't fix racism, though, you got me there.)

It's quite rare and refreshing for me to be accused of being too non-confrontational.

And, yes, in this past week I have spent more time telling other white people they're wrong about things than I have drafting this comment.
posted by praemunire at 9:32 AM on August 18 [6 favorites]


Sorry, not wasting breath, time or resources talking to brain damaged cretins. Let them die off and will work as hard as possible on a generation who can still be saved.

in medicine on any given day there are close to 40 people in my panel who are begging for help and one that wants nothing to do with prevention or my advice. I don't take it personally but won't cut the willing and available off to waste resources on a nihilistic jackass.
posted by docpops at 9:35 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


If we see each other and he starts needling me "Hey Emmy, I know you're excited about how great we're making America! Thank god for Trump, right?" I just say "You know I don't want to have this conversation, and I'm not going to. I disagree with you."

You're a better person than I. At this point my response would be something like, "Go fuck yourself, Nazi sympathizer."

I've been doing this work for decades. Biggest success story: helping push my Rockefeller-Republican parents to become Dems. But some people don't want to change. If you're still on the Trump Train today, IMO you're a full-fledged extremist and my time is better spent resisting rather than listening to and trying to change you.
posted by Lyme Drop at 9:38 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


a nihilistic jackas

White supremacy doesn't exist because of one nihilistic jackass in 40. They might be somebody else in that group that's worth talking to.

Does MetaFilter in general think White Supremacy in this country is a very small coterie of extremely noxious racist uncles? I freaking guarantee you right now that there are people in your life, people that you know and love, people that you have not separated yourself from because they are so poisonous as to be useless, who have viewpoints that support and maintain White Supremacy.

They may not know it. They may not realize it. They may not think they are racists. They may think they are good liberals, and, mostly, they might be. But this is an institution, and it is an institution supported by an awful lot of white people.

Come on. You're getting so hung up on the idea of the racist uncle that you're ignoring your friend Michael, who works to keep city parks from getting privatized but also has never made sure there is a black person among the leadership of his nonprofit.
posted by maxsparber at 9:40 AM on August 18 [32 favorites]


I mean while I appreciate and understand his point, I feel like it's totally not taking into account that many of these white liberals are queer, disabled, poor, or otherwise also marginalized by conservatives. It's very rarely just racism that white liberals are escaping; it's homophobia, and ableism, and sexism, and classism as well. And while I understand white people need to stand up even when it's not easy, I'm not sure it's fair or reasonable to ask that queer/disabled/poor people put themselves at risk for further marginalization and abuse, especially when that is then going to make them more ineffective at working in their own communities.

I do engage with my family on issues of racism, but I have to do it very, very carefully if I don't want to put myself at risk for attack for my queerness or my disability. I've also found that engaging them doesn't change anything at all. It never has. Not once. Even when I'm pointing out factually, blatantly wrong information. My mother "doesn't trust Snopes," because fake news and all that. However, it sometimes seems to sometimes have an effect on the people around them, so at this point I only engage them if I'm in a group setting where other people can benefit from the discussion (e.g. Facebook).

On the other hand, my partner and I have had a lot of difficult but productive conversations with their family, who are very much Nice White People. They've got a lot of "why can't we all get along" and "what's with all this diversity stuff now" ideas, but they aren't actively hateful and entrenched in rightwing media. That has seen a lot of success, despite how difficult the conversations have been sometimes.

I don't know, I just feel like the kinds of people that white liberals cut out of their lives are the kinds of people who are so bad that no conversation with their white niece/grandson/daughter/sibling is going to change. Like, it seems to assume that these people have specifically decided never to challenge them on racism, and if they just tried hard enough it would work! Rather than understanding that either a) they have tried, and realized it won't work, or b) they have known this person long enough to understand they are not the sort of person to listen to facts or arguments. I've had years and years of abuse to show me that my parents will not listen to facts or reason or calm discussion. If they were the kind of people who would listen, I wouldn't have cut them off in the first place.

And yes, I understanding giving racists consequences, but for a lot of people, there's no functional way to do this in a meaningful way. Sure, I can tell my parents "racism is bad and wrong and you're horrible and I'm not going to interact with you until you're less horrible" and it will have the same exact effect that me telling them "hitting me is wrong and bad and you're horrible and I'm not going to interact with you until you're less horrible" had, and they will just think I'm a bad daughter and not feel in the least bit punished, because I do not have the power to punish them. All of their friends and family agree with them, so when I left at 18 and refused to interact with them for a year, all they got was sympathy and support and the further idea that they are in the right. Same thing happens every time I try and contradict them on pretty much anything. From every angle they get "what a bad daughter you have, you poor family, you're right and she's wrong."

And yes, eventually they did stop acting so horrible to me, and then I resumed contact. But I've found out through my brothers and friends that they act exactly the same way when I'm not around, and still think they're right, and still promote their shitty parenting ideas to other people, so really I'm not doing anything except making it less uncomfortable for me to be around them. And that year of no-contact was hell for a poor queer disabled girl dependent on her parent's insurance. Is it really necessary for me to go through that again, just so I can achieve some sort of moral "haha I punished them!" victory even though it doesn't change anything? Are my queerness, disability, and class struggles less important, should I risk serious abuse and marginalization just so that I can say I stood up to racists, even though doing so will likely only entrench them in their beliefs further?

I don't know. I'm sure for a lot of people, these tactics are effective and that's great. But for a lot of disabled, poor, queer, abused, etc. people, these tactics do nothing (or worse), and I think my energy is much better spent working on people willing to change.
posted by brook horse at 9:42 AM on August 18 [12 favorites]


It's beyond disappointing to come to Metafilter and see that the tenor of this discussion is basically "what this person is asking us to do is much too hard, and I resent being asked to do it, show me the ironclad proof that it's worth my precious time".

That's not what I'm seeing here at all. I'm seeing a bunch of people saying this method doesn't work. Why would people spend time on an ineffective method? We're saying "Please, let's find something that *does* work."

Thank you for the reminder of those AskMes, Hoyland. I'll take a look.
posted by greermahoney at 9:42 AM on August 18 [7 favorites]


100 awkward, non-confrontational white liberals having half-assed, unpleasant conversations is going to move the needle more than 100 awkward, non-confrontational white liberals saying, "welp!".

That's my basic takeaway, too. And the thing is, this is a game of numbers, it's a probabilistic thing. Setting aside the ardent framing of any given tweet or whatever, the basic idea that collectively pushing back more is useful seems like a pretty solid one.

Collective and probabilisitic. This doesn't mean that you, specifically you, with your specific circumstances, bear the total responsibility for this. There are people with no practical option to do more on this front, and that's okay, and noping out when noping out is the only sane and safe option is fine. You don't have to defend that; you know you, you know your situation.

It's not about being Superman and swooping in and rerailing the locomotive. Nobody can do that. It's about everybody, to their ability, looking at trying to get out and push when and if they can. Fighting back socially accepted racism is a marathon, it's death-by-a-thousand-cuts.

So do what you can, when you can. Maybe you can't do any more than you are; maybe you're doing quite a lot; maybe you're fucked for options and really can only just share space with folks and commiserate. Everybody's different, you do you, that's okay. But all of us looking for those spots where we can get out and push, and doing it, will make a difference.
posted by cortex at 9:42 AM on August 18 [24 favorites]


It's beyond disappointing to come to Metafilter and see that the tenor of this discussion is basically "what this person is asking us to do is much too hard, and I resent being asked to do it, show me the ironclad proof that it's worth my precious time".

Comments like these are unhelpful as they're basically strawman arguments and I have flagged it for that reason. FYI.
posted by asteria at 9:44 AM on August 18 [5 favorites]


In general, do people on the other side ever comprehend why they've been shut out of someone's life?

We'd all like to imagine that racist uncle/aunt/cousin quietly acknowledging to themselves that they drove us away and having a moment of introspection while contemplating how to reconnect, but I think it's far more likely given the propaganda and religion that they're exposed to that we've either just fallen victim to the conspiracy or fallen from grace.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 9:46 AM on August 18 [3 favorites]


Maybe the argument should be reframed. Just like how men should talk to other men about toxic masculinity, I guess white people need to talk to each other about racism and Trump.
posted by FJT at 9:48 AM on August 18 [9 favorites]


I feel like it's totally not taking into account that many of these white liberals are queer, disabled, poor, or otherwise also marginalized by conservatives.

I'm pretty sure the author is plenty aware that white people are not uniformly privileged. It's completely gross to suggest that POC can't demand better from white people in general.
posted by hoyland at 9:48 AM on August 18 [26 favorites]


If you're still on the Trump Train today

I can't speak for the man who made the thread but I'm sure he's aware there are people who can't be reached. Making it uncomfortable for them to express their viewpoints is important and IMO, all you can do about them.

Especially right now, I would bet there are conservatives who are very uncomfortable with having a Nazi in the white house but have heard nothing but trash about Democrats. That's an opening to take advantage of and insert yourself, a human non-conservative who has values.
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:53 AM on August 18 [6 favorites]


OH! And I forgot about the Southern aspect of it. As a white Southerner with a slightly noticable accent, I feel that it is my moral obligation to call people out when they say racist shit. You'd be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't, at the number of people who think, upon hearing my accent, that I will welcome their racist bullshit.

It's hard and it will and has lost me friends. I have to shut that shit down as fast as humanly possible because if I don't, they will assume it's cool. I've seen it happen more than once and it's hellish when you meet someone and you think they are awesome to only have them open their mouth and say something like, "Well, I think you folks down south had the right of it back in the day."

White people can hide their racism pretty easily. They can pretend they are all good with people of color and play nice, but when you get them alone and a southern drawl appears, the racist shithead within comes out. All you can do in those moments is kill them with kindness or fire. But you cannot stand quietly.
posted by teleri025 at 9:53 AM on August 18 [35 favorites]


I feel like we took a giant leap in focusing only on the mention of "family," even though the author is careful and clear about mentioning "family," "friends," and "community."

I'm willing to believe that some families are a lost cause. But I know for a fact that friends and community aren't. 95% of my friends are to some degree woke, but there are some that are still doing work. And community? Hell, here at my desk I can throw a rock and hit whole clusters of people who are comfortably liberal in theory but painfully retrograde in their language, their conceptions, and their notions about race and politics and sexuality and other forms of marginalization. Most of us have co-workers, students, club members, sports team members, church groups, volunteer groups, hobby friends, nonprofit boards or some other organization of which we are a part, and those organizations almost certainly bring us into contact with people who aren't quite as aware as they ought to be - and often, with opportunities to become more inclusive and more knowledgeable about matters of race.

So let's not focus only on how we can't do anything with racist uncle. While that might be true, the author didn't limit his argument to them. What about all the hundreds or thousands of other white people we're around all the time?
posted by Miko at 9:54 AM on August 18 [31 favorites]


This past weekend, I was talking to my dad on the phone, and I started off by asking "I never thought I would have to ask someone this, but (pregnant pause) You hate Nazis, right?"
posted by etherist at 9:55 AM on August 18 [12 favorites]


I thank all the powers that my own parents are not part of the Trump rabble. However, when I called home the other night and we were talking about the situation in Charlottesville, my father and I started fighting about this issue when he grumbled about how "most of our friends around here" (Cape Cod) were Trump supporters "so we can't say anything."

"But no, you should!" I pressed him. "Don't let them get away with that shit! Call them on it!"

"It's not that easy," he said. "You can't just say that to the people you've been friends with for years."

And we went back and forth like that for a while until I busted out the metaphor of the missing stair and asked how long he was going expect people to go around it. "You're right, someone's gotta fix the stair," he agreed, "but who will?"

"Why don't YOU do it if no one else will????"

I think I got through. I don't know.

A whole flock of people are going to be gathering for my parents' anniversary in a couple weeks, and I'm starting to wonder if I should come up with a plan for crowd control and deflection if a political argument breaks out.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:57 AM on August 18 [13 favorites]


At the very end of the documentary The Brainwashing of My Dad, the filmmaker's mother was able to almost totally reverse her father's decades out contempt and outrage. She did it by getting a new television and programming it so he couldn't watch FOX, and also unsubscribing him from right wing email chains he had been subscribed to.

The best progress my family (mom and brother and I) have ever had with my father was when my parents switched providers and somehow (I don't know how) they briefly lost Fox News. In the interim my mom encouraged my dad to watch other news sources and he actually came to really enjoy things like The Daily Show and Colbert Report. His commentary about things changed. Noticeably.

But whatever the issue was got fixed, and they live in a small, bigoted town, and he watches Fox News again. And you can tell.

I'm in no way saying that I don't every day intend to keep challenging him and other family members and friends when they say unacceptable things. But it's so, so frustrating to see just how much more effective a television station has been for him than the influence of close family members who love him despite the bigotry and want to see him change.
posted by suddenly, and without warning, at 9:57 AM on August 18 [9 favorites]


I feel like we took a giant leap in focusing only on the mention of "family," even though the author is careful and clear about mentioning "family," "friends," and "community."

Kinda like the focus on greeting cards in the emotional labor thread.

I mean, flag my comments as noise or strawman all you like, folks, but... you're proving that tweetstorm correct, right here in-thread. When you're asked to stand up, do your part, confront the people that YOU KNOW are racist or anti-Semitic or misogynist because you've heard them express those viewpoints, you push back and say it's not worth your time, or it's not your job, or whatever.

I've been ostracized by family and friends for speaking my mind on these topics. I still do it. You should, too. That's it, that's all. Instead of looking for excuses or telling me I'm bad and wrong for calling this out, ask yourself why it's hurting you so much to hear it.
posted by palomar at 9:59 AM on August 18 [25 favorites]


This tactic worked with one family member in one circumstance:

My family is in St. Louis

Me: Ferguson thing is terrible
Brother: yeah, but black on black crime
Me: [thinks...] hmmmm.... how to expose a non-sequitor...

Months later
Brother: Daughter going to new school
Me: yeah, but black on black crime

Brother: talks about new job
Me: yeah, but black on black crime

Brother: the Cardinals!
Me: yeah, but black on black crime

Brother: the Rams are moving :(
Me: yeah, but bla
Brother: I fucking get it, okay!
posted by Groundhog Week at 10:00 AM on August 18 [31 favorites]


t's frustrating to see just how much more effective a television station has been for him than the influence of close family members who love him despite the bigotry and want to see him change.

I completely understand that. There's an older fella I know, near-family, who used to listen to right wing talk radio to and from work every day, and every time I saw him he would want to have conversations rooted in right wing talking points, and we would seem to get through to him, and then, a week later, the same discussion, the same talking points. No matter how much influence I might think I have, it's hard to compete with several hours of continuous propaganda per day.

For some reason, he switched over to listening to a Spanish radio station, perhaps for the music (he doesn't speak Spanish), and now we almost never have those discussions. I'm not crazy about the fact that talk radio meant more to him than we did, but if anyone was going to wean him off it, I'm glad it was his interest in Mexican music.
posted by maxsparber at 10:01 AM on August 18 [15 favorites]


Calling folks out to be better is tough and they rarely thank you for it. So I wanna take this opportunity to thank the people doing that in this thread, especially palomar and maxsparber.
posted by Emmy Rae at 10:02 AM on August 18 [22 favorites]


I wasn't referring to him. I was referring to everyone responding to this thread with anecdotes of how after a conversation their racist relative is less racist and other actions of "white people responsibility"

Please feel free to PM me.
posted by Annika Cicada at 10:06 AM on August 18 [1 favorite]


Does MetaFilter in general think White Supremacy in this country is a very small coterie of extremely noxious racist uncles? I freaking guarantee you right now that there are people in your life, people that you know and love, people that you have not separated yourself from because they are so poisonous as to be useless, who have viewpoints that support and maintain White Supremacy.

They may not know it. They may not realize it. They may not think they are racists. They may think they are good liberals, and, mostly, they might be. But this is an institution, and it is an institution supported by an awful lot of white people.

Come on. You're getting so hung up on the idea of the racist uncle that you're ignoring your friend Michael, who works to keep city parks from getting privatized but also has never made sure there is a black person among the leadership of his nonprofit.


Except that's pretty much the opposite of how that twitter thread framed the issue. Not: "be conscious of the implicit racism embedded in your current communities and confront it more explicitly than you have been." If he wanted to say that, I'm sure he would have. Rather, he said: "you need to go back to your communities of origin and fix things." He talks about "flyover states" and "liberal enclaves," dots of blue in seas of red, and how that represents a moral failure on white people's parts. That was his rhetorical choice, and I'm not sure that he would welcome your rewriting it for him.

And if you consider "never made sure there is a black person among the leadership of his nonprofit" as a viewpoint that supports and maintains white supremacy, that is most definitely a defensible position, but then that condition is well-nigh universal among white people (again! very defensible position!), and we are just as well-advised to stay home working on ourselves and our chosen communities than to go running back to the "flyover state"--his words!--to confront that racist uncle. To me, I've got plenty of racism right here where I live now (including in my own mind) to deal with, I don't need to get on a plane to the Midwest to go see it.

People are very frustrated right now. I'm frustrated by some of the leftist rhetoric, and I can't imagine how much more infuriating it must be for a person of color to hear, e.g., that Charlottesville is not the country whites recognize, when in fact it's the reality we built. But if we could reconsider the impulse to lash out at those who are closest, that might be a good idea. I'm not talking about sparing white folks' feelings here, I'm talking about accomplishing things. Asking people to repent and change their ways for not confronting cousin Steve annually over Thanksgiving turkey--does that get things done? Is that confrontation really the best, or even a very good, use of a Mefite's time and energy to fight racism and other forms of oppression? I believe that's a fair question to ask.
posted by praemunire at 10:13 AM on August 18 [17 favorites]


Except that's pretty much the opposite of how that twitter thread framed the issue.

I'm sorry, but I'm beyond giving a shit if a person of color framed their argument perfectly.
posted by maxsparber at 10:16 AM on August 18 [13 favorites]


No matter how much influence I might think I have, it's hard to compete with several hours of continuous propaganda per day.

I'd like to have more insight into how hate media acts on people psychologically. It's clearly very powerful. It seems to me to link into deep systems - it calls up, or channels, feelings of righteous anger, of contempt, of resentment, of being overlooked, of being a victim or a martyr against a crazy world. I think it's pinging some kind of unaddressed trauma in people, which is why they get so hooked on it, and why it worms its way so deeply into their consciousness.

I've often said this, but at the end of the day, even if I were a conservative (ha) I simply could not listen to Fox or talk radio all day because I don't have it in me to be that angry all day. But clearly, some people do. They are getting something out of that emotional, adrenaline-driven experience. It makes me wonder if there are useful to tactics to sidestep the oppositional politics - which are like the drug they need to deliver the hit of self-aggrandizement - and get at whatever festering sore is inside their spirits.
posted by Miko at 10:16 AM on August 18 [11 favorites]


I'm beyond giving a shit if a person of color framed their argument perfectly.

And I don't feel it's appropriate to rewrite his argument so it sells better. I give this writer the respect of assuming that when he chooses to construct an argument a certain way, he does so deliberately and skillfully. I prefer to disagree with him on this point, although I'm sure we would agree on much else, than to "agree" with him by reinterpreting him.

This is not "oh well maybe he didn't use the best example, so I reject the whole premise," this is taking what he said ("you need to reconnect with your racist communities of origin and fix them") and turning it into something else ("you need to be conscious of the racism in your world now and confront it"). Those really are two different things, carrying very different implications for what one's moral obligations in this world are.
posted by praemunire at 10:22 AM on August 18 [7 favorites]


#yesallwhitepeople

I think taking it literally as "you have to talk to your family" is not the best takeaway.

Here is the thing: I'm no contact with my family and they consider themselves flaming lefties, and I basically didn't have friends in my community of origin, so no, I can't talk to those people.

But here in Chicago, I dip in and out of the gay bubble. And that bubble has plenty of white guys who'll say things like "BLM is cool but they shouldn't fuck with the pride flag." [Not a hypothetical.] And those are white people who might listen to me, who are reachable. And I need to do a better job of talking to those people instead of rolling my eyes and biting my tongue.

You don't have to go back from whence you came to make a difference. Because I can't do anything about my community of origin but maybe somebody local I clue in can do something about theirs.
posted by PMdixon at 10:23 AM on August 18 [15 favorites]


Here is what I believe:
1. White liberals cannot "fix" racism.
2. On the other hand, racism (in the US), is a white people problem. We absolutely own that shit.
3. And racists show few signs of spontaneous remission.
4. Therefore, white liberals are obligated to fix racism.
5. But white liberals cannot actually fix racism.
6. But we are still obligated to try.
7. Maybe the struggle isn't the answer, but if it's all we have to give, then we struggle.
8. It's hard not to take it personally when someone points out that the struggle hasn't done enough. But it's true. It hasn't. Because white liberals cannot actually fix racism.
9. But we're obligated to try.
10. When someone points out that we're failing, or says that we're not trying hard enough, it's important to remember: it's not about us. Even when it's about us, it's not about us.
11. One way to help is, if a criticism doesn't apply to us, or seems unfair, we can choose to let the point go unargued. The less drama between allies, the better.
12. I may be wrong about any or even all of the above. Frankly, I hope that I am wrong about some of it. I've talked a few people into questioning some pretty shitty beliefs over the years, but I can't say the country seems much better off for it. It's hard not to despair. But then I remind myself that it's not about me.
13. And get back to work.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:33 AM on August 18 [28 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the author is plenty aware that white people are not uniformly privileged. It's completely gross to suggest that POC can't demand better from white people in general.

I don't think I suggested that? It just seems that he is asserting that the reason white people distance themselves from their relatives is because they don't want to deal with racism, e.g. when he said "White liberals "hate facebook" because of all the racism there. Those are your family and friends, but you won't talk to them" and "White liberals from flyover states hate going home for holidays. Because they are surrounded by bigoted family and friends." While I'm sure that is definitely part of it, for a huge portion of people, they don't interact with their conservative family because they are marginalized and abused by conservatism along a variety of axes, not just because their family is racist. And I have seen this argument very often before, to the point of literally telling queer disabled suicidal teenagers that they need to stand up to their abusive parents in every instance or they're being a "bad progressive" (and I am not saying this is his argument, but that this is how many people take this line of argument when they don't stop to consider the reality of multiple axes of oppression).

I mean, I guess if his point is not "this is the primary reason white people distance themselves from their bigoted families," but rather "I am talking about the subsection of white people for whom this is the primary reason they distance themselves from their families" then that's fine? But it sounded to me like he was saying that is the primary reason this phenomenon occurs, when I don't think that's necessarily the case.

That's it, that's all. Instead of looking for excuses or telling me I'm bad and wrong for calling this out, ask yourself why it's hurting you so much to hear it.

Because many of us have tried it and it's ineffective and/or made things worse, and it hurts to be told to keep doing something that's actively harmful and doesn't work? I'm not afraid of being ostracized by my family if it would work; I have my partner's family to support me and I am much closer to them than my family anyway. But speaking up against my family has literally only made them more sure of their views, because they are surrounded by a culture that tells them I am a poor lost lamb who has been brainwashed by the liberal media and am just being a bad daughter. That's the case in many conservative communities. In these places, it's pretty much just self-serving to stand up and call everyone out on their racism--it makes you feel good about "standing up" and "showing your work" but all it does is give them an outpouring of support from like-minded people and make them think they are even more in the right. Sure, you're showing them that you think it's wrong, but the problem is they don't care. As long as they have their tight-knit community of people supporting them, it doesn't matter how many relatives speak up against them. The only thing that could change their mind is people with power over them speaking out against them and giving them consequences, and that's something that most people don't have. That's why we focus our energies on people we have the capacity to change, e.g. the Nice White People soren_lorensen mentioned.

Like I said, this tactic probably works for a lot of people. But I am tired of being told that if I don't use it, I'm doing activism wrong, even though I know it won't work, and it will actively make things worse. I don't know if the author falls into this group, but I hear this line of argument most from heterosexual, able-bodied, neurotypical people who do not understand the uniquely toxic family dynamics that occur when you are queer/disabled, and how that impacts your ability to engage in activism in your home communities. How simply being queer/disabled completely invalidates you in the eyes of the community; what turns anything you say into words of the devil because you are queer/disabled and that means you will always be the "bad apple" poisoning the flock, and how strongly conservative communities will unite against you to confirm their beliefs. Just by being the queer disabled girl who ran away from home, anything I say to contradict conservatism will immediately be attributed to my, as RonButNotStupid put it, fall from grace. If I weren't queer/disabled/an abuse victim, maybe they would listen to me, or at least be bothered by me refusing to interact with them. But because I am, they just see it as more proof of how the liberal media is destroying America, and how they must unite to keep their children from walking the same path as me.

Sorry. I know I'm getting emotional, and I know that's not helpful to PoC or fighting racism. But I am fighting oppression on many axes as well, and it's hard to continuously hear I'm doing it wrong from people who do not take into account the variety of ways other identities and marginalization play into it. I'm not saying the author is necessarily not aware of this, but people have and will take this argument to push it on everyone, as they already have been doing, when activism does not have cookie cutter solutions. I'm not trying to say he shouldn't make this argument, but rather trying to bring to light a lot of the places where this will not work. Maybe he's aware of these issues and chose not to speak of them, and that's fine, he's free to speak generally. But I feel that someone should bring these issues to the discussion so that people who weren't thinking about these issues are now aware of them.
posted by brook horse at 10:33 AM on August 18 [19 favorites]


This is a trap in so many MeFi threads: if you know this doesn't apply to you or your situation, then don't take it to heart as if it's a personal attack; it's not.

It's not about you, specifically. It's a suggestion, aimed at a very large cohort of people.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 10:39 AM on August 18 [20 favorites]


Why are y'all rolling over, giving up, and whining that it's just too hard? This is gross. I am honestly sickened.

C'mon. This guy's Twitter breakdown of the way to solve racism isn't all that helpful in the grand scheme of things. It's pointing in the right direction (and makes plenty of fair points) but I feel it's ok to not treat this as Resistance Gospel. It's sloppy with huge sweeping generalizations about how-things-came-to-be with little useful insights into the reality of the lives of the white people who have cut contact with the most racist communities of their past or have moved from fly over to coast. Which is fine! It's not his job to fix the situation. And it starts a conversation.

When it comes to combatting racism, white people (like me) do need to do more and be aware more and be more present. There needs to be more uncomfortable confrontations and conversations between white allies and the subtle and obvious racism in their own communities. Assumptions need to be challenged.
posted by AtoBtoA at 10:44 AM on August 18 [5 favorites]


I have a similar reaction to Marco Rogers when people in my family or family friends who are Pakistani/Indian complain about the situation "back home". Like, they could have stayed there to try to change things or at least help normalize a better way of thinking and behaving but they left, and while it worked out for themselves and their families, it definitely also deprived the places they came from socially, intellectually and economically. I am extremely happy that my parents migrated to Canada back in the day but Pakistan would have been better off if they had stayed. My reaction isn't well thought-out but its always there in the back of my mind once the uncles start talking politics. I guess one difference is that we tend to send money back home or make donations to charities there (there'll be tons of people having qurbani (ritual slaughter of an animal, usually a cow or goat) done for them to feed people back home this coming Eid) so at least some assistance gets back whereas I get the feeling that a lot of people would be happy to let flyover country get sucked into a black hole.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 10:55 AM on August 18 [4 favorites]


You're getting so hung up on the idea of the racist uncle that you're ignoring your friend Michael . . .

Yeah, my family literally had this conversation -- the "Thanksgiving dinner conversation with the racist uncle". In this case, a guy who got drafted but had a cushy stateside bivvy, and then takes actual T-G dinner to started talking about getting a gun to keep "those people" from coming out to their place and stealing their stuff. This culminated with my sister storming out of the room, the uncle's side of the family departing for Chicago (300 miles away) literally from the dinner table, and in my case, never seeing the fellow again.

I also want you to know that this took place in 1968.

Further, I'll note that none of the shouty tiki-torch wielding Nazis in the newsphotos from Charlottesville appear to be nonagenerians -- nor septuagenarians, for that matter. And as we've seen, they didn't all come from 'flyover'.

If directly confronting bigotry is a thing you think you should do, you have your work cut out for you when and wherever you are, likely with your peers, which is where you're more likely to move the needle in any case.

100 awkward, non-confrontational white liberals having half-assed, unpleasant conversations is going to move the needle more. . .

I'd like to hear some success stories, if anyone has them.

I'd like to have more insight into how hate media acts on people psychologically. It's clearly very powerful


Hmm. You would be surprised how effective the teevy show All In The Family was in contextualizing the issues of the day, and carefully balancing drawing Archie Bunker a fully human protagonist while at the same time holding him up as a example of what not to be.

Coming from her time and place, 'class' was very important to my mother. Not class as in Marx but class as in behave the way people with a good moral education behave. Archie was 'no class', not because he lacked formal education and worked for a living, but because he managed to consistently embarrass himself, his family, and his friends. He was, simply, a fool. AITF connected his attitudes about race, religion, etc. with his foolishness, made bigotry part of what being a fool meant in 1972.

No one wants to be like Archie Bunker and be a figure of fun. Nobody wants to be seen as a fool.

It's hard to imagine how that could be duplicated today, what with 1,000 channels on the box, but it was effective then. I saw it working on people. In specific ways on specific people.
 
posted by Herodios at 11:04 AM on August 18 [8 favorites]


even though the author is careful and clear about mentioning "family," "friends," and "community."

For some of us, the reason is simple - we don't have friends for bigots and those that are aren't friends for long. Since HS I've been cutting people out of my life for being bigoted and I'm sure to tell them why. I may have to put up with my family but I certainly don't have to choose to surround myself with people like that.

I mean, flag my comments as noise or strawman all you like, folks, but... you're proving that tweetstorm correct, right here in-thread.

... ?

Anyway!

Here's a fun one - how do you, a white person, call out a person of color for being bigoted towards another race/ethnic group? I've been wrestling with this one since HS when I called out an Asian friend for being "racist" towards Latinos for using slurs and general anti-Latino racism. I know have Latino relatives and a couple of them are anti-black as hell.

(Edited because I didn't want the slur in my post.)
posted by asteria at 11:05 AM on August 18


Uh, speaking as someone of Mexican descent, I'd really rather not see that slur here on the Blue even if you are trying to use it as a gotcha for a non-white person.

Update: thank you for that. I really appreciate it.
posted by Kitteh at 11:07 AM on August 18 [5 favorites]


asteria, right before you quote me and act like you don't understand it, you talk about how "we" don't have racist friends, or if "we" do, they aren't our friends anymore. That sort of proves the point of what I'm saying. Rather than do any work to turn those folks around, "we" drop them and decide it's someone else's problem. You accused me of making a strawman argument about this, but... I mean... you're saying that "we" all do exactly the thing I'm talking about.

As for challenging a person of color about racist things they say about other minorities? Simple. "Dude. That thing you said sounded pretty racist."
posted by palomar at 11:24 AM on August 18 [13 favorites]


I have my work hat on right now, and if we approached the question of addressing race among white people like we do in business, then the strategy would start by identifying and grabbing the low-hanging fruit first. You don't waste a bunch of time and energy trying to convince Racist Uncle to not be racist, any more than you waste a bunch of money on marketing to people who hate your product. Why, because it sucks up the most resources for the least payoff. Why spend $1000 on getting one person to not slam the door in your face when you can spend the same $1000 to get 1000 people to actually show up?

First, define your mission and communicate it out. What are the top priorities? What are the goals? How do we define success? Answer those questions and make sure everyone knows what the answers are.

Second, direct your campaign at the people most amenable to your message. People who are already on board, people who are looking for a clearly defined mission and want to join. They strengthen your market with numbers and don't need a lot of resources to get on the wagon.

Once you've reached your initial goals for market share, then you identify the next easiest group and analyze why they are or are not on board. Teach out your mission and spend more resources on getting them on board. Because you have more strength in numbers, they will be more familiar with your message and, hopefully, more prone to thinking of you as an authority.

Repeat. Keep revisiting your priorities and mission to make changes as needed. Circumstances change and so do the needs of your audience. Make sure it's relevant.

Don't worry about getting the most resistant 10% or whatever who are entrenched in their opposition. Getting the vast majority is far better than getting the extreme minority.
posted by Autumnheart at 11:27 AM on August 18 [14 favorites]


I'd like to hear some success stories, if anyone has them.

I am the pain in the ass progressive in my family. Most of my family members genuinely respect me and are capable of empathy. Those people I can reason with, and I have seen improvements over the years. (I've even seen some of them arguing with racist trolls on Facebook! Warms my shriveled heart.) My father's not into heartfelt conversations, so I mock him mercilessly, as that's his style. He actually voted Liberal in our last election, which was a shock. He used to be a CPC fanboy.

I have other family members who are so abusive and hateful that I consider them to be lost causes. I have one cousin who is getting extreme and scary. I'm monitoring his social media and will contact the police in his area if he even hints at violence.
posted by Stonkle at 11:51 AM on August 18 [3 favorites]


Palomar, when should people who prefer to not spend time with obvious racists make the time to re-connect in an effort to change their mind? How many hours of the day/week/month/year do you think it takes to make a racist not racist? And do you spend leisure time with racists or do you meet up just to argue?

The biggest problem I see with this strategy is that it assumes people are racist because those closest to them have failed to tell them not to be racist. That they lack non-racist information and that the easiest way to fix it is to send ordinary folks in to provide it.

Racism in this country is historical and structural. It's built into every major institution. It's in the media. It's in healthcare. The legal system. Housing. It must be confronted and called out in all of its forms, whenever it's spotted. So certainly, white people should always call out their white friends/family for their racist remarks/ideas. And every white person needs to confront their own internalized racism. And every white person needs be aware of the fact that they daily interact with other racist white people. But this Twitter thread's claim that racism is still a problem because non-racist white people left their racist communities to fester is ridiculous.
posted by AtoBtoA at 12:00 PM on August 18 [5 favorites]


palomar: "Rather than do any work to turn those folks around, "we" drop them and decide it's someone else's problem."

I really don't understand this. How can you say that shunning people you once loved--who once loved you--is a non-action? That's the underlying assumption in all of this, that walking away from people is just letting them off the hook somehow, but this is so obviously nonsensical that I can't believe it's the direction the discussion has taken. For every story we can conjure up here of a racist uncle turned around by discussion, I'm sure we can also conjure up a father who decided to do some thinking once he was cut off from his grandkids.

I'm highly sympathetic to Rogers' underlying point--white people actively don't acknowledge racism--but his line of thought just seems to zip from place to place with no justification.
posted by TypographicalError at 12:10 PM on August 18 [10 favorites]


Palomar, when should people who prefer to not spend time with obvious racists make the time to re-connect in an effort to change their mind? How many hours of the day/week/month/year do you think it takes to make a racist not racist? And do you spend leisure time with racists or do you meet up just to argue?

Well, it starts with not cutting people off the instant that they do or say something racist, so there's your first problem. And yes, I spend leisure time with racists. Two weeks ago I had to escort my grandmother to Costco to get her medications refilled, something I have to do every month, and I had the lovely experience of explaining to her why it's not cool to make racist observations about the physical appearance of the black guy walking past us. Previous leisure times with her have included being kicked out of the car at the side of the road for challenging her views on Mexicans.

How much time, exactly, does it take to make a racist not as racist as they used to be? Depends on a lot of things, but not making the effort at all doesn't do shit, now does it.
posted by palomar at 12:10 PM on August 18 [7 favorites]


(And yes, my grandmother's view on Mexicans has changed, in part because of the work I've done. So. Wanna keep coming at me with reasons as to why you should never try? I have time today.)
posted by palomar at 12:11 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


True story: my stepdad started changing his views on race only after my mom moved out in 1994 and told him she wasn't moving back in until he dropped his outdated and racist views. I was away at college at the time and when I came home to visit I found him alone at the house and he said "your mom is at your grandma's house and she won't move back in until I stop being a racist. She told me the world has changed and I gotta change with it". I asked what he was going to do and he tearfully replied "well, I love your mom so I guess I'm not gonna be a racist no more". So I went over to my Mema's house and told my mom what my stepdad said and after a few more weeks of her making for damn sure he meant it, she moved back in and we've been slowly helping unlearn all his bullshit ever since. The latest round of this work involved him accepting me as a trans woman, so yeah, it takes all kinds of actions and hard work to get people to understand that racism (and all the other bullshit) isn't going to fly.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:17 PM on August 18 [23 favorites]


Well, it starts with not cutting people off the instant that they do or say something racist, so there's your first problem.

I think it's really far from given that that's where most folks are, though. I agree with you that pushing where you can is a good way to go, but a lot of people have done what they can over a period of years before making the decision to cut losses when it's gone nowhere.

This is a hard topic and it's really easy to personalize stuff that isn't meant to be; more generally I'd encourage everybody to try and recognize that and aim more for talking about what can be done than assuming that anyone else's tactical criticism or disagreement is directed at them. Everybody's in a different spot and there's not much in the details that can really be universalized.

This is one of those discussions where the difference between you-as-in-you-specifically and you-as-in-people-generally can be unclear, and the accidental conflation of the two leads to friction where folks might otherwise be more or less on the same page.
posted by cortex at 12:21 PM on August 18 [11 favorites]


We don't all walk the same paths. What works for some, doesn't work for others. Better that we find a way we each can best help, than lose ourselves in pointless comparisons.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 12:22 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


Palomar, relax. I hardly said "never try." You're arguing in bad faith and with a straw person. Few, if any, completely cut people out of their lives after one racist comment. Many ignore to keep the peace (which is wrong). Some are forced to cut contact when an individual or community becomes so toxic it becomes detrimental to their mental/physical health, usually after trying to speak up.

An argument could be made that many white liberals exist in a self made bubble (which I agree with) but usually they're not insulating themselves from a racist past community but their own racist present. The Twitter thread isn't making that argument though and I think it's fine to critique it.

And I'll add, I agree with most of what you're saying. And from what I've read, most of the people here seem to agree on one level or another as well.
posted by AtoBtoA at 12:28 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


America began as a country with institutionalized racism. Racism wasn't the only negative -ism built into our governance, because an insidious form of classism was also built in--exploiting labor (immigrants) regardless of color. It took us a hundred years and the Civil War to begin deinstitutionalizing racism only as it applied to the descendants of Africans. Then it took another hundred years to get the "coloreds only" signs down, and begin desegregation of public schools and buildings. In all those years it has barely occurred to whites to consider the other PoC that make up our citizenry.

Deinstitutionalizing racism is a necessary step. PoC must put their stories into the national conversation. But whites must first recognize their institutionalized entitlements before racial barriers can be overcome--tailoring laws to deal with racism is a subtle and nearly impossible craft, but laws are the tools we have to handle these issues. But individual comprising neighborhoods are required to break racism down.

Yes, you can sometimes talk to your bigoted relatives and friends, and you bet, it's often hard to have a civil conversation with people who hold notions that you despise. Sometimes it's heartbreaking. The very least you can do is to put your foot down when you hear, let's say, a racist joke--don't talk like that around me. Would you have said that if I were black? But it seems to me that it's like a process of erosion, where you do what you can. Sometimes the best you can do is move to another city and try to forget about it. But sometimes you can be the liberal guy in the crowd who's tolerated, and who sometimes comes up with a valid point.

I guess my point its that the tweets seem to be on the right track. It's the increasing division among whites that will turn the tide, if the tide is to be turned. We whites are the ones who need to be shown the errors of racism. PoC already know.

Anyhow, I get it that some of these conversations citing white racism are not aimed at me, they are aimed at them. Do understand, though, if sometimes I feel the need to point out that I ain't like that.
posted by mule98J at 12:30 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]




Absolutely! In my own family I can think of 3 older people whose views have become much more humanitarian over time. Just think of how many formerly homophobic or racist parents have come around to eventually love and support their queer kids or interracial grandchildren?

No offense but both those groups are the the least effective ones to produce any kind of meaningful change, and convincing them may have a positive outcome on a personal level but is nowhere near being the effective measure on a grand scale, because:

-Older people: The most likely to harbor such feelings simply as archaic remnants of their conditioning. They can arbitrarily change their mind, but since that's the generation that is about to exit next, for society in general the benefits of doing that are near zero. If they've had a whole life to be racist during their productive years, they've done all the damage they could possibly have done, and their last minute change is satisfactory on an existential but not practical level.

-Family members: Great on a personal level, but for many families who shun their relatives for coming out there are others where family love and bonds will ultimately prevail. The catalyst here though is the love that people naturally feel for their families, and for many that will be stronger than any kind of personal choice. But relying on intimate familial love to change a problem that demands that you accept someone who will de facto not be your relative is rather well, ineffective and short sighted.

All these arguments are pointless and miss the point completely. The fact that you have to politely negotiate with racist or homophobic scumbags the humanity of each individual despite color or orientation is demeaning and trivializing.

Civil discourse with people under 60 who somehow believe that if you belong in any other race, religion or orientation but theirs you deserve subhuman treatment and violence is pearls to the swine.

Instead of appealing to the sensibilities of the perpetrators, maybe focus that energy on actively protecting those who are victimized by them. Maybe instead of civil discourse, choose active political action and refuse to negotiate equality as if it is something that's up for discussion.

Civil discourse with racist imbeciles is minimizing its gravity. It should not be tolerated, there should be no dialogue, because dialogue implies that both sides can be equally legitimate.

They are not and should not be treated as anything but shameful, harmful and deranged opinions based on primitive hate, and they do not deserve an open forum.

And this does not apply only to white people in southern states, it applies to everyone , from homophic and sexist minorities to racist immigrants.

The bravest thing to do on a personal level is just that which everyone is ranting against, to shun and refuse to offer such people the privilege of legitimizing their grotesque opinions through conversation.
posted by ariadne_88 at 1:00 PM on August 18 [7 favorites]


Malcolm X: "If you stick a knife nine inches into my back and pull it out three inches, that is not progress. Even if you pull it all the way out, that is not progress. Progress is healing the wound, and America hasn't even begun to pull out the knife."

Half of America is arguing about what kind of knife it is, and who should pull it out. A quarter of America says there is no knife, while casually leaning against the knife to shove it deeper. The last quarter aren't casual about it.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:09 PM on August 18 [10 favorites]


asteria, right before you quote me and act like you don't understand it, you talk about how "we" don't have racist friends, or if "we" do, they aren't our friends anymore.

I'm not their babysitter. They know who I am, it's not my job to make adults act right. I will tell them I don't agree, I will tell them to stop. If they don't and if they know losing my friendship is the price, I can't do anything more. I am not going to stalk people in the hopes of my unwanted attention making them better.

You accused me of making a strawman argument about this, but... I mean... you're saying that "we" all do exactly the thing I'm talking about.

You should actually read all my comments. I'm one of the few who has actually had success. You seem more interested in attacking strawman than reading and participating. No one is going to give you a badge here.

As for challenging a person of color about racist things they say about other minorities? Simple. "Dude. That thing you said sounded pretty racist."

Institutionalized racism is enacted by white unto people of color. How do I as a white person convey they are participating in a racist system that ultimately harms them when they can say "um, I'm a poc and you're white so who are you to tell me?"

Maybe you don't have things as figured out as you believe and should consider that.
posted by asteria at 1:10 PM on August 18


Civil discourse with people under 60 who somehow believe that if you belong in any other race, religion or orientation but theirs you deserve subhuman treatment and violence is pearls to the swine.

I would caveat this with saying that with minors (and early college students who have just left their family culture for the first time), civil discourse can be a useful practice because often these youth are parroting what their parents have taught them without any real understanding of the implications or effects of those ideas. This is one of the rare cases where providing non-racist information can actually work; in the past couple of years, I've run into quite a few people who were my peers as a teenager, whom I used to argue with constantly over their sexism/racism/ableism/homophobia. Almost all of them have said to me some form of, "Hi, you probably don't remember me very fondly because I was super conservative as a teen, but then I went to college and I'm a lot better now." A lot of them came out as queer, too. So, there's that.
posted by brook horse at 1:12 PM on August 18 [12 favorites]


asteria, if your usual tactics are to be this snide, maybe you need to reconsider some things.
posted by palomar at 1:24 PM on August 18 [5 favorites]


Institutionalized racism is enacted by white unto people of color. How do I as a white person convey they are participating in a racist system that ultimately harms them when they can say "um, I'm a poc and you're white so who are you to tell me?"

As a non-white person, I'm really perplexed as to why this is a problem for you and why you're acting like it's such a logical conundrum. If a person, whatever their race makes a bigoted comment around you, tell them not to make bigoted comments? What are you afraid will happen if you do that? It doesn't have to be institutionalized racism for you to call it out.

It really seems like what you're most worried about is the social consequences of calling out a POC's racism and how they'll hurt your feelings (they'll say I don't know what I'm talking about!) and honestly, it's not so bad. Who cares?
posted by armadillo1224 at 1:25 PM on August 18 [14 favorites]


If anyone's keeping score, so far it's been insinuated that I'm caping for brownie points, I'm too emotional to be participating here, I'm making false arguments... all for saying that folks can do better.

Gosh, perhaps the people I need to be doing my outreach work with are right here.
posted by palomar at 1:26 PM on August 18 [15 favorites]


My relatives are evil snowflakes and conversation won't change them
My uncle is too racist and conversation won't change him
My family sucks and conversation won't change them
They don't listen and conversation won't change them

Sheesh

Beware of convenient reasons that let you off the hook. Instead of picking apartment the specifics of this article to explain why you, a good person, don't do this- perhaps flip the paradigm and look for slightly different but somewhat similar ways in which you could help make it work.

It is a simple fact that people's morals change due to social pressure and if you look at the world or even the insults you personally do and don't use and how they have evolved over a few decades- the world is rife with examples of this working beautifully.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 1:29 PM on August 18 [16 favorites]


But this Twitter thread's claim that racism is still a problem because non-racist white people left their racist communities to fester is ridiculous.

It's really not. And it's not that new. Migration was a big part of abolitionist activism when new states were admitted to the union before the civil war. George Wallace didn't believe in segregation, but pushed segregationist policies because he knew only segregationist politicians could win and he worried about the long term effects of progressives being unelectable in the South.

Lyndon B Johnson thought he was only losing the South for one generation, and the next one would be guided by the law of the land rather than their parent's backwards beliefs. But that hasn't panned out. While many children of racists might reject their parents beliefs, there seem to be enough new recruits out there to take their place and prevent the arc of justice from bending in the right direction. The most problematic people my age seem to come from well-meaning families who hoped their kids would grow out of their rebellion before doing something permanent.

Packing and stacking has made districts more Republican, and ensured that while HRC won the national vote by almost 3m votes, she lost the electoral college. Yes, purging the polls helped move that along. But if HRC voters (who I concede are not universally anti-racist) were more evenly spread across the United States, that would have been far more unlikely.

I say that as a Texan who moved to the Bay Area. I had a lot of guilt about it at the time, but in 2009, it seemed less detrimental. I'm currently on the outs with my parents about their behavior and beliefs around all of this. Right now it's the best decision I can make for my well-being. But that doesn't mean that it's without cost. And I need to be honest about that accounting, or weighing the costs and benefits of activism is going to skew the results towards not enough activism.
posted by politikitty at 1:33 PM on August 18 [7 favorites]


I think the thing about this thread that would disappoint a committed activist, especially one of color, is that everyone who is privileged along this axis who responds with some variant of "it doesn't work!" or "it's not worth it!" or "it doesn't apply to me!" doesn't realize by virtue of their perspective on the matter that this is a pattern. Somehow, for every exhortation like this, be it about talking to other white people, or showing up at demonstrations, or bringing up institutional discrimination in the workplace, there's always a chorus of people saying "I'm totally on board with the goals here, but I can't take that particular action because of self-evident justification X." And then, in spite of all the talk about being okay with doing the other things but not this thing, none of the things really see any sizable contribution from white people, and the numbers there really don't add up with what the objectors in question are saying in the aggregate.

Also, if your bar for taking action is rigorous empirical justification that the tactic in question works, you're going to be waiting for a long time. It's totally epistemologically justified to just trust the testimony and experience of people of color here.
posted by invitapriore at 1:39 PM on August 18 [18 favorites]


I'd like to hear some success stories, if anyone has them.

My American friend is coming around. He's been a straight-ticket Republican for years, mostly because he covets his dad's estate and doesn't want a "death tax." He also considers himself a "centrist" and is racist in that kind of banal way that he expresses through his insistence on "good" schools and "nice" neighbourhoods. He even goes so far as to insist that he's not part of the problem because he voted for Hilary. As if that could possibly undo decades of childish non-engagement with reality. He's not a hard-core racist Nazi, but in terms of his political impact, he belongs to a class of people who are arguably worse.

But he's coming around. I like to think I'm having a small effect by constantly sending him evidence of the failures of right-wing orthodoxy, the non-existence of centrism as a philosophy, and the successes of progressive social experiments. I know that mostly it's because the Trump admin is such a shitshow that one can't not re-examine their past behaviour and where it's led, but I have seem movement. It's not that I expect him to become a raging pinko, but just to acknowledge that there are a variety of ways of accomplishing things, some of which are supported by better evidence than others.

My own American family, though? Lost cause. I dropped Facebook like a hot rock in 2006.
posted by klanawa at 1:44 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


A Tweetstorm as an FPP? My lawn, get off it NOW. Shoo.

Ahem. White people - we broke it, now we have to own it. Yes, it's up to us white people to call out other white people, just as it's the responsibility of men to talk to other men about sexism. No way should we leave POC to do that emotional labor.

I don't think that means "talk to family members who you're estranged from" or "if I don't win converts and change hearts through my eloquence, all is lost, might as well give up!" You talk to who is in your circle, whether that's actual family, or friends, or people at the coffee shop, or the receptionist at your cat's vet.

And I can't with the "how do you expect me to change hearts and minds in one go?" You don't! It can be as simple as "I don't want to watch Fox. We're watching CNN if we have to watch the news." The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and all that. I don't think Rogers or anyone else is saying "You didn't convert your racist uncle in a single afternoon? FAIL!" Just saying "That was racist and uncool, Uncle Steve, and I'm not going to listen to you say that" is realistically what most of us can do. And if everyone just said "No, that's uncool" to racist remarks or jokes or...then fewer people would feel comfortable saying them.

A lot of us don't interact with our blood families and choose to surround ourselves with non-bigoted people - and for all I know, being estranged from one's children (or whoever) might well be the consequences racist white people need. (Then again, some parents might say "Welp..." at the least or even "Good riddance!" - not all parents love their children.)

That said: I do take issue with this "flyover country" BS. There's no such thing as the Great White Spawning Grounds somewhere in Ohio or Minnesota; some of us are actually born and raised on the coasts! Believe it or not. And as Pogo Fuzzybutt pointed out, some of those tiki-torch Nazi marchers were from such liberal strongholds as Berkeley or New England. And so many of them were millennials - Our Fyoocher, according to those who think that all we need is for old people to die off and then the glorious millennial generation will take over and then will be the dawning of the Age of Aquarius - oops, wrong era!

But this Twitter thread's claim that racism is still a problem because non-racist white people left their racist communities to fester is ridiculous.


I have to agree with this, much as I like and agree with the idea that white people need to talk to other white people about racism. Most job growth is now in the cities or at least in those "blue islands" of college towns. Many people who are fleeing "flyover country" are not seeking avocado toast and art galleries so much as they are seeking jobs, which are scarce and getting scarcer for college educated people in rural and small town America.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 2:07 PM on August 18 [12 favorites]


I have heard this argument a lot in the last few months, and it's weighed on me heavily. After the Charleston shootings and the immediate Confederate flag defensive backlash and Trump becoming a candidate for the Presidency, I went on an unfriending spree that took care of all of the racist rural people from my high school. I immediately felt relief and a sense of freedom, like I had been too worried about those people's opinions to post about politics online. And since then I have definitely... not been so worried about it. Lots of posts. Not holding much back. But then I started to see this argument and I wondered whether I should have kept them on and hopefully changed a mind here or there. The fact is I don't think I would have, but that's because I was always an Other to them, a Liberal Elite even from junior high. I was never going to change a mind there. Fine.

My in-laws, though? My nice suburban churchy racist Republican in-laws? I married their son when he was 39 and gave them the grandchild that they'd pretty much given up on getting. They positively dote on my kiddo. And that's leverage. That's leverage. We exercised the leverage right after the election, in our hurt and pain, demanding explanations from them for their Trump votes (my MIL had fretted to me about Trump for 15 months, but she still pulled that lever for him because abortion). We uninvited them to Thanksgiving last year, and we withdrew from our usual weekly Skypes. Texts and pictures of adorable grandchild were withheld- I just couldn't do it. They were unbelievably hurt about that. We eventually put together an agreement that we would avoid politics and news completely and we managed to make it through Christmas and up until this week.

This week, the argument became harder to ignore for me. I can't just not know where my in-laws stand on this anymore. If my in-laws were quietly supporting the Nazis, then they were going to HEAR ABOUT IT and then I would cut off access to the grandkid completely. No more fucking armistice in the face of fucking Nazis. I'm sorry that had to be my line. I'm sorry it had to get to fucking Nazis in the street before I would make this case to myself, but it was. And my MIL and I had a good discussion wherein of course they blamed "all the violence" (read: both sides), but they also said that my FIL isn't reading Breitbart anymore.
We now agree that the politics truce isn't a good long-term plan for us, so I expect we'll have more discussions on this in the future. They know what that means too, because I have never ever hidden myself from them. They know I am a strident, lefty, pro-choice, queer, and agnostic, and I don't think they ever expected that in a daughter-in-law, but they do love me for who I am and I know that. And I also know that I have made progress with my mother-in-law in the past, and that's why I was so hurt by her vote for Trump last fall- I felt personally betrayed. But I need to remember that this is not a one-conversation-and-the-light-flicks-on type of thing, this is a years long process.

So I guess my point is that I agree with the argument. There are white people that I can reach, and I am going to try to be better about reaching those people.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:20 PM on August 18 [15 favorites]


Here in Minnesota, when we were fighting an anti-equal-marriage amendment (an attempt to ban same sex marriage in our state constitution) I did a lot of phone calling. One thing that we did was mark down where on a scale of totally with us to totally against us people were. A 5, totally against, we never called again - they were never going to join us. A 3 or a 4, we called multiple times. Our goal wasn't everyone on board with us - it was to at least get enough of those 3s and 4s to not vote on the measure at all.

Today, who knows how many of those 5s have moved to a 4 or a 3, just because the public discourse has changed? Maybe it's none. But I think it's more than none.

This is outside of what the original tweeter was saying, but I think that is part of the progress we can make. Just getting folks who are actively promoting racism to shut up and stay home helps.
posted by Emmy Rae at 2:33 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


look for slightly different but somewhat similar ways in which you could help make it work.

Maybe we...already are?

Look, this post is saying "[x thing] you are doing is wrong/not useful; you should be doing [radically different y thing] instead." It is actually possible to come in in good faith and say "in my judgment, as a person who has done both [x] and [y], [x] has some effect and under many circumstances [y] simply does not." (As a white person, I certainly do not have more experience with racism than this writer does. However, as a white person with a family with a large openly and vocally racist contingent, I actually have more personal experience with attempting to persuade white racists, at least, not to be bigots than he does.) This is not a rallying cry to do None of the Things. It's a difference of opinion on tactics. And that is, or should be, a phenomenon that is allowed to exist without the necessary assumption that one position has a monopoly on righteousness.

I admit, I don't think tweetstorms on "your whole life: you're doing it wrong!" (which is what a critique of the very idea that you might choose to live somewhere and spend your free time with people more politically agreeable to you is) are generally of great use. And I think it's a little disingenuous to be shocked that a person making a radical claim like that is reacted to like someone making a radical claim. But, even trying to fill in what the medium forces one to leave out or oversimplify, I just don't think he's right under enough circumstances to make this into a general pronouncement. And he is literally telling me I am ethically obliged to live in quite a different way than I am now. I'm ethically responsible for how I live, not him, so I am required to form my own opinion on whether he's right or not (or under what circumstances he's right). It's not just something to ponder til the next tweetstorm comes along with the next burning issue, and I can try to be humble in considering the opinion, but I can't give it reflexive deference.
posted by praemunire at 3:17 PM on August 18 [10 favorites]


Last comment here: I guess I only bothered wading into this thread because this is a really important topic: how white people deal with racism within their communities (past & present) and within themselves. And this was a terribly put together argument for what-needs-to-be-done with a core idea ("confront the racists in your life") I agree with.

I really do think this idea that those who've left their home towns/communities should carry a significant share of the blame for the state of racism in the U.S. is ridiculous and counter productive. People leave and move away from these communities for many reasons. And if they have family/friends who remain, they rarely severe ties completely. Positioning this movement as a foundational issue, without really exploring all of the reasons why people leave or if the migration is even that significant of a problem (If the town is so racist it forces people out for that reason alone, how much of an effect could the few have, on their own, anyway?), makes an ok Twitter thread I guess but offers a poor path forward.

Confront the racism in your life. Don't feel guilty or responsible for the toxic communities you've left behind. If you're white, don't ignore the ways you've benefitted from racism in the U.S.

And Palomar, I'm not sure if that "insinuating that I'm too emotional to participate here" was directed at my "relax" but if it was, I apologize. I realize that's a loaded, condescending phrase. It was my emotional response to your mischaracterizations and exaggerations of the point I was trying to make. (Not to suggest emotional responses are bad, people should speak emotionally. Only respectfully.)
posted by AtoBtoA at 3:24 PM on August 18


Christ, Mefi I love you but this thread is like exhibit A in white fragility. A POC explains how the actions of white people are harmful and how we could do better, and a bunch of white people in this thread twist the conversation into being all about their emotions instead. Unbelievable.

In our endless threads on sexism and misogyny you know how we ask men to speak up? We're like, hey men, if you see other men being shitty and saying shitty things SAY SOMETHING. Because other men will listen more to you than they will to women. And you benefit from our patriarchal system so it's incumbent on you to use some of your privilege on our behalf if you want to be a good ally and a good person. That is...basically exactly what is being asked here of white people.

I feel like people are getting wrapped around the axle about the "racist relatives" thing. Only you know your own family, only you know if your racist family member is a lost cause. If you feel like there's no point in confronting them and your energies will be wasted, then great! So where are you going to use your energy instead? Because I guarantee you that there is work to be done in your own back yard. So much work that you can write off lost causes and still have tons of other useful things to do.

Due to the nature of self-segregation in America, if you are a white person you are likely to be surrounded by mostly other white people. Most of these other white people will have unchallenged racist/bigoted/xenophobic/prejudiced beliefs to varying degrees, not because they're awful people but because this is the toxic soup we all swim in. If you see something, say something. You don't have to have a deep and meaningful with every bigot you run across and then ultimately convert them to the Right Way while they cry and thank you. That's not going to happen. And don't expect to be thanked for this work either, because white people hate being called out. See for example, this entire conversation. That doesn't mean the work isn't worth doing, or that you're off the hook.
posted by supercrayon at 3:42 PM on August 18 [44 favorites]


You know, supercrayon, describing the reaction as an expression of "fragility" doesn't help. These are people's families and deeply held beliefs we're talking about, it isn't a trivial subject.
posted by factory123 at 4:13 PM on August 18


Maybe Twitter is not the medium for a nuanced post/discussion? It seems like All The Cool Kids (tm) are Tweetstorming these days, but the platform is not set up for what really should be blog posts or website articles.

I think this "article"/tweetstorm is a mixture of the very good (white people need to talk to other white people about racism) the misaimed (faaaaaaaaamily! I think it's not meant to be taken literally. Mentally substitute "racist white people that you know.") and the WTF ("flyover country," really? And people need to move there for Principles or The Greater Good? Nope).

An article or blog post would have addressed this better. Still, the discussion that has spawned is a good thing.

What is up with the recent zeal on the part of some liberals to tell people where they should live? I've seen comments by people who want to uproot people and make them move to cities For The Greater Good, and others who say Don't Move To The City, That's Gentrification and Bad, Make Main Street Great Again! Some people are native to the coasts, believe it or not, and others just want to live where there are jobs and nice weather.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:24 PM on August 18 [5 favorites]


factory123, "white fragility" is an actual concept used frequently in the context of fighting racism. A quick google search would have led you to many many many many many many many many many links on the notion. This is an actual thing that does illuminate how a lot of white people react to discussions about race, particularly in this thread, and for you to dismiss it in that fashion is a perfect example of it and the way white people deny the reality to PoC.

These are people's families, lives, and deeply held beliefs we're talking about, and it most certainly isn't a trivial subject.
posted by anem0ne at 5:07 PM on August 18 [27 favorites]


Okay, how's this for a plan:

I make a list of all the white people I interact with on a regular basis, wheresoever I interact with them, work, facebook, home etc. (This is easy for me because I am fairly antisocial by nature and don't interact with many people and can rule out many of my on-line friends because I have no idea what if they are white, pink, brown, black, or actually bots)

I divide this list up into categories: Nasty uncompromising racist, deeply racist but not nasty vicious person, somewhat racist, struggling to do better racist, I have no clue if racist or not.

I work from the assumption at all the nasty uncompromising racists are not reachable and effort expended on them will be wasted as they are the kind of people who want to kill people and are basically haters, but rather than write off making any effort in their direction I see if I can make a list of people that they might have contact to whom I can provide support. So for example if my brother's twenty-two year old roommate is a member of the KKK and I have any possibility of contact with his sister, she goes onto my list as someone who could use my support.

I come up with a game plan for each sort of person on my list. For the nasty uncompromising racist I could use shame/stonewalling. "But... that's what the Nazi's said (did). That means you want to murder children." I just keep turning it back to identifying him/her as someone who wants to murder children, refuse to debate, simplify it back to them being a Nazi and Nazi's murder children whenever interactions about racism come up. Or else in the interests of my own safety, I avoid them. Both are okay, since I am not going to change their mind. I want to isolate them, since they are dangerous. I want to make them give up saying racist things, for fear people will just keep repeating they are a Nazi child murderer.

For all the other categories my efforts go to whatever seems to work - humanizing people who are not white, shaming "You make me feel uncomfortable and sad when you say things like that." I actively seek out people who are somewhat racist to support their growth towards insight and their comfort level with people they have been conditioned to Other. I especially do this with people who may be in a position to be changing. I work to trigger reflection, not defensiveness. For example I can talk sympathetically about the people on the Aryan message boards who had their DNA tested and discovered how they had lily white skin, but had mixed race ancestry, that it was such a shock to them to discover that they, like so many other people don't pass racial purity tests. I mean, that's the whole point of the Book of Ruth in the Bible, that King David had a grandmother who was not Jewish.

Each white person I interact with I assess for if they show signs of racism and I do what I can to support them in becoming more tolerant and more aware of prejudice in themself. And of course I do this with myself on an ongoing basis, because I know that, being human, I am also affected by the culture I grew up in, so I am sexist, racist and -ist in many other ways, so I non judgmentally watch for this in myself and correct it.

Basically the method is to chip away, slowly, slowly - cultural drift takes decades. It will happen no matter what we do, because time happens. Nobody thought that the States would drift towards Nazism! We might become more sexist, or less sexist, develop a -ism towards people who use technology, or an -ism against something nobody has ever thought of. Cultural change happens. But we can steer it. When we hear people railing against an Other, whoever that Other might be, we can speak up and make the speaker aware that they are dehumanizing someone. We can say positive things about people of colour. "She's a good mother." "He's very good with money." "Smartest coder I know. She picked up MATLAB up faster than anyone I ever met." Hiphop is totally alien to me, so I have taken to checking out the top hit, just to repair some of my ignorance.

And things like the Nazi rallies can make cultural drift happen quickly -backlash can be triggered. There are a lot of people jumping ship to get away from being associated with the Nazis right now. Unfortunately they don't include certain religious leaders. We need to start branding those leaders as Nazi supporters.
posted by Jane the Brown at 5:07 PM on August 18 [9 favorites]


Thanks to those who answered my call for success stories. I think it's the basics I already know -- meet reachable people where they are and talk them through the implications of things. Also, if you can stop people from watching Fox News, that's more than half the battle.

One of the things that I honestly don't get (in this thread and in general) is the automatic defensiveness about being called out on stuff. I get it in a bigger sense, because I've been called out on other things and felt defensive -- but so much of my journey as a white woman with this work has been being called out on bad assumptions or problematic phrasing -- and going, "Oh shit, you're right" and working to stop that thought process. I don't automatically think I'm a bad person. I think I'm a person who has been brought up in a racist society and I got a LOT of crap to unlearn.

I'm not trying to be precious here. I have said unintentionally awful things and have taken up too much space and all other sorts of not great things. I also try to catch myself and listen when others call me out on it. Why is that so hard for folks who ostensibly are also trying to do better? Again... I'm railing at the wind here, but this has been bugging me for a long time... be it in my conversations with male friends about Google dude or in similar conversations about racism. Why is it so hard to admit a mistake and work to do better?
posted by JustKeepSwimming at 5:18 PM on August 18 [4 favorites]


The absolute number one positively least useful response to one of these tweet storms / Medium posts / Facebook notes / whatever the hell else the kids are doing these days is "Well, this doesn't apply to me because X, Y, and Z."

Not everything is about you. Even the stuff that's addressed to white people isn't all about you. Even the stuff that's addressed to white straight cis liberals who live in blue states and who have relatives in red states is about you. And even if it is, it's not a conversation. The people who write these things do not need to be convinced that they are incorrect in some percentage of cases.

Stop #notallofmydemographic-ing. Please.
posted by Etrigan at 5:32 PM on August 18 [15 favorites]


anem0ne, describing the very real difficulties of dealing with one's family is not an example of white fragility. White fragility is what moves your racist relatives to gang up and rip you to shreds when you object to their casual racism.

The original tweeter suggests that shitty family dynamics are the cause of racism. Maybe it is, but talking it out with the family doesn't seem to work for a lot of people who try it. Maybe you shouldn't dismiss the experience of those people as being the fault of their weakness.
posted by factory123 at 6:11 PM on August 18 [2 favorites]


Do we have evidence that people don't, though?

Are we really pulling the "show me the evidence" card?

Not for nothing is "oh, don't listen to grandpa he's just old [read: super racist]" a cliche. Liberal white people (myself included) have an undeniable tendency to try to pretend their racist relatives can just be waited out, as if cringing and not going to the next family gathering is a solution.

While there are absolutely specifics to any one person's experience, and I'm not going to say every white person is categorically obligated to push back against their relatives, I nonetheless don't think it's unfair to state that the general tendency of liberal whites to try to avoid engaging this has likely made things worse for racial justice.
posted by tocts at 6:21 PM on August 18 [1 favorite]


I had some hard right conservative relatives visit this week. They're rich. My parents asked me to switch to Fox news so they wouldn't be uncomfortable and I told them that I've fucking had it with tiptoeing around fragile conservatives. I'll watch the smart queer lady deliver her newsy essay on mute with closed captioning, but I am not changing this fucking channel. It wasn't a conversation. I changed no minds. But for once I let my freak flag fly in defiance of polite familial conventions and I felt good about it. It's not enough. I can do more. But I hear what OP is putting down, and I'm not going to make excuses for myself.
posted by xyzzy at 8:34 PM on August 18 [12 favorites]


First, a reminder. (I saw this above, but worth remembering): This tweet was from just after the election. Hard to articulate why that matters (probably just that emotions were so high), but to me, at least, it does.

Second, I see this above, re this thread: Calling folks out to be better is tough and they rarely thank you for it. . This has been my experience about this kind of conversation in general. In my family, at least, people will rarely admit that they're wrong, I just notice later that they've changed.

Third, echoing what people above say about knowing your audience, and your tactics. (I could go into detail here with some tactics that worked for me, and some realizations I had along the way - I may post that later, or feel free to message me). As for old people, I've always felt that the commandment to "honor your parents" means respecting them enough to engage, to believe they can learn and grow.

I struggle, and I learn. I spent months trying to debunk my older brother's belief that Michelle Obama is a man (yes you read that right). I failed, and now I see the rest of these evil beliefs on a spectrum. My father is reachable. One old friend probably is not.

Fourth, I would love to see us all stretch just a bit, wherever we are - but I don't judge. I finally opened an argument with that old friend post-Trump, then her father got sick and died, I haven't had the heart to raise it again but I'm also not calling much lately. I also know I'm lucky in some ways, with the people who have changed. I read a lot, I listen and learn, I live as well as I can, I debate when i have to (or just scoff) ... I prepare. None of this comes easily, but a couple of quotes that I like: "The task isn't yours to finish. Neither may you lay it down" and "I don't do what I do to change the world. I do what I do so the world doesn't change me." I also echo that it's not just about families, we can do it wherever, in all kinds of ways.

I saw a few calls above for stories about times that someone has changed. I'd be way happy to delve deeper into that. What worked? What did you learn about people, ways of talking, etc.? (Again, I don't judge people who don't, or can't.)

Fifth, I agree that this isn't the only thing. Yes, Fox News. Yes, everything. (Ugh.) But it's one thing, and PoC have requested it, and I believe in it (I believe it's possible, I believe we're responsible for ourselves and our own), it's hard but I can do it, so I do.
posted by anshuman at 8:55 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


I've greatly appreciated all -- all -- of the preceding comments, even when people have become upset with each other. There's a lot that can be learned from this thread and from listening to each other.

I'm much more in agreement with TFA than not, even though I felt a little defensive when I read it. Although I've badly wanted to move to some coastal liberal enclave and completely apart from the more overt racists I have to deal with, it's also the case that I'm painfully aware of the more hidden racism amongst my most liberal and progressive friends and associates. Really, being on MeFi since 2004 has demonstrated again and again that it's everywhere and often heartbreakingly where you least expect it. So there is only an enlightened refuge if you're obtuse enough to not see this disease in yourself and the people around you. There's no escaping it, there is no real refuge.

Not for the lack of trying and variously successful levels of self-delusion. But, even so, the fact that we can reduce it or convince ourselves we don't see it is itself a mark of our privilege. And that's what this writer is asking us to resist. We shouldn't be shocked, we should ask ourselves why we've had the privilege of being shocked.

And, bottom line, we white people need to step up to the plate, even though it's hard. As mentioned above, it's still never as hard as being a person of color. We need to work to never be that crying Fox News person, making it all about how painful it is for us.

All that said, I found TFA challenging because there's a fair number of people in my extended family that I know are overtly racist, though rarely around me. I struggle with how to respond. I've struggled with this basic issue my whole life, from when I was young and righteous and often insufferable, to now when I've learned to always work at challenging myself about how much I'm a part of the problem. Therefore I read TFA and worry that I'm letting some people off too easily. And maybe I'm not, but maybe I am. It's better to be self-critical and consider whether I could be doing more.

The sense of futility I read in many of these comments is something I share -- there's a whole bunch of people around us or in our families that we will never have any influence on, whether by being assertive or shunning -- there's people we just have to ask ourselves whether we're willing to have them in our lives as they are.

But I also have some success stories, at least to varying degrees. I know I've been a moderating influence on basically everyone close to me who aren't among the lost causes. My preferred approach to dealing with the more overt folk is confronting clearly racist talk, but otherwise just sort of living as a rebuke to their insistence that their worldview is normal and correct. In the same way some people are just blithely racist and bigoted, I'm just blithely, cheerfully progressive. I believe this is generally an effective strategy.

For those who are more reachable, I've learned to engage with them in more productive ways. Especially some of the people closest to me, I've slowly but surely pulled leftward.

Each of us with each relationship have different boundaries and requirements for minimal self-care. That's okay. Other people earlier have said this, but we ought'nt be on the defensive in this regard about any particular relationship, we just need to be thinking about working at this and to resist the temptation to cocoon ourselves.

I think every single commenter in this thread is aware that more needs to be done and, indeed, wants to do more. There's general agreement about that. It is on us, we white people -- we have disproportionate influence and we benefit from the racist system.

But I have a lot of sympathy for those who struggle with and agonize over how to deal with these people in our lives. I very well understand how it's so much a relief to just disconnect from them or, in many cases, sort of wall some things off in the relationship in a tacit agreement to not go there. That may or may not be the best thing to do. But it's worth reexamining our decisions in these cases, especially when people of color ask us to do so.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 9:13 PM on August 18 [6 favorites]


They can arbitrarily change their mind, but since that's the generation that is about to exit next, for society in general the benefits of doing that are near zero.

Pardon me for a brief excursion into the weeds. This was an unexpected claim and I wanted to give it a brief statistical sanity-check.

Voter participation increases monotonically with age. Americans 65 and older voted at a rate of 70% in 2016. Under 30-year-olds barely cracked 40%. Older folks may be closer to death but their opinions still matter a lot for the direction America takes.

Now, it's true that most of those under-30s will eventually live to become over-65s, so getting people while they're young may still reap a greater reward. But the actual expected number of non-racist votes cast over a person's lifetime depends on how fast people's opinions change in their level of racism (imagining the external environment imposing a random walk here). If people's opinions change quickly, go for people that are already old and voting their asses off. If opinions change more slowly, try to lock them into non-racism while they're young.
posted by Jpfed at 10:30 PM on August 18 [3 favorites]


I can't reach my family so much, so I didn't take that part to heart. What I do know is that I block people awfully swiftly on Twitter for -isms, and I could do more to be another voice pushing back at them instead, even if it doesn't immediately go anywhere.
posted by XtinaS at 4:57 AM on August 19 [2 favorites]


A lot of throwing up of hands in this thread, of saying difficult things are impossible, of saying uncomfortable things are intolerable, of saying bold arguments are illogical, of ignoring the suffering of others that so greatly outweighs one's own, of acting like struggle cannot be difficult, and of various special dispensations.

I'm sure there are some people who are not in a position to safely engage in this kind of close-to-home activism. For example, those who are white but also e.g. queer. But there are also a lot of people who are in a much better position to do this activism than anyone else, even if the chance of success isn't certain, even if the doing of it is hard and unpleasant compared to the not doing of it. People's minds can and do change. Not always, but sometimes. That sometimes is something we have an obligation to pursue with our best efforts if we can.

I echo the dismay of palomar and hoyland. The general tone of shrinking from responsibility is at odd's with the site's supposedly progressive bearing.
posted by Drexen at 5:50 AM on August 19 [10 favorites]


My relatives who are probably Trump fans stopped talking to me years ago, so that one's not gonna happen. They weren't gonna listen to some freak who never got married that they don't like because she's weeeeeeird anyway.

I think the point a lot of people are trying to make is that arguing is fucking hard and doesn't always work. Whoever mentioned the rankings of 3, 4, and 5 was dead on--some people you cannot get anywhere with, some you might. But we don't know what the Konami code is or exactly what the right buttons to push or the right things to say are in order to get those people to listen to us. Not everyone is great at arguing.

For example: my mom's not a bigot, she does not like Trump, the one time in her life this came up she voted for Hillary. But have I figured out the Konami code to get her to stop being a Republican? Nope. You'd think she'd listen to her only child that she loves more than say, the financial guys she works with that spout off crap, but nope. I can only argue logic and reason, which don't seem to work when she demands that I spout out a list of my points and then she forgets them 5 minutes later. I can't get logic and reason to work when as far as I can tell deep down everything with her Republicanism boils down to "it would betray my dead parents." How the hell do you argue with "dead parents" when the logic and reason of "hey, they're dead, how are they gonna know" does not register? In general, I haven't the faintest idea how to argue with BUT MY FEELINGS! I can't get anywhere on this earth arguing with someone who is in the midst of feelingsbomb, or spouting "But I love him!" or anything that boils down to "because I have feelings, I stick with my jerk."

So hey, anyone here offering tips on how to argue and what worked with their parents might help. Perhaps if someone could compile them into that wiki-thing(?) that's around here somewhere?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:28 AM on August 19 [1 favorite]


@jennfullmoon: I try not to think of people who are racist "other" but "part of my tribe". I own a part of that. That helps me be less fighty and more understanding of where said racist is at and trying to work out from there.

Toning down the polarization starts with me.

That even includes if I ever have to talk to a nazi after punching the ever loving shit out of them.
posted by Annika Cicada at 7:38 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


Alas, there's no such thing as a Konami code for making people be not bigots. I really strongly wish there were, because we would've implemented it one million years ago and be much better human beings today. (Not even being snarky. I would pay cash money for such a code.)

These arguments are most frequently incremental and frustrating as hell because of that. What I figure is it's chipping away at their horrible beliefs so that they're open in the future to those beliefs changing, maybe. At the very least, it gets them to internalize that said beliefs aren't a good thing to hold.

As a bonus, if you're arguing with family members on their horrible beliefs, it shows other family members that at least one person disagrees with such things, and shows other your-side members that there's at least one person on their side.

I'm not putting my words together well this morning. I hope I'm making any sense.
posted by XtinaS at 8:17 AM on August 19 [3 favorites]


Toning down the polarization starts with me.

Yeah, there are entirely more ways of engaging than "arguing." It's not about putting on our super-hero capes and issuing the logically flawless putdown. It's about actual engagement. Throwing up walls is not engaging. We white people need to do more engaging and less wall-building.
posted by lazuli at 8:24 AM on August 19 [10 favorites]


Alternately, I have been helped some by this reframing by Gene Demby on twitter (click through for the whole thread, just quoting the first few):

"I keep thinking abt what @DrPhilGoff said: confronting racist fam isn't abt converting them, it's abt changing the norms at the dinner table / they may never change, but if you confront them, they have to decide whether popping off is worth the added effort of thumping with you / and your audience is less your uncle than your young nieces/nephews, who might see that pushback and grow to reasonably expect it elsewhere / you will probably never convert your uncle. / but if he shuts up abt how he hates Mexicans + Muslims bc it ain't worth it, that dinner table is a diff space. / one of the many society-altering consequences of the Civil Rights Movement is that it created powerful new taboos against public racism."

Obviously, still, if your family is abusive/dangerous or your job situation is fragile, you can't do this at the dinner table or the breakroom, but something will probably come up. I still do not believe that most racists can simply be talked out of thinking racist, but being embarrassed or uncertain is often a strong motivator of behavioral change and sometimes even philosophical change.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:46 AM on August 19 [23 favorites]


Lyn Never: Yes, that, and thank you for that link. That's exactly what I meant.
posted by XtinaS at 8:58 AM on August 19


I just had a chance to read this thread. I was assaulted by my grandfather for refusing to turn off The Cosby Show in his home...back before it was in reruns. My parents marched for civil rights in Washington in the 60s. My son was almost suspended from school last year for pushing a kid who was trying to pull off a girl's hijab. My (white) family has been having these conversations literally my entire life, often at the dinner table.

I have also had years and years where I was not engaged, where I was focused on my suburban home and my suburban lifestyle and eating at hipster restaurants.

I got away with this laziness for one reason and one reason only, which is privilege. I do not find that hard to admit. I am human and I fail over and over and I guarantee you I will again in the next ten minutes.

I guess my point here is...I fully support Marco Rogers' statement. I had that defensive reaction reading it that so many people are having because we all want to be considered good people, and we all struggle, and it does feel like being told that I'm not doing enough but the fact is...I don't do enough. Confronting family is probably not my specific thing, mostly because any overtly, exaggeratedly racist family members are already steering clear of me. But yes. This is a good time in history to do more.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:00 PM on August 19 [10 favorites]


I'd like to hear some success stories, if anyone has them.

I've got a friend in their 70s, lifelong republican, who's come around to voting democrat because of W. They voted for Clinton but predicted Trump would win because they're tapped into and surrounded by the Fox News nation.
posted by zippy at 12:00 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


I know of a trick my husband uses - he flies RC airplanes, and the clubs are notoriously conservative even in very liberal areas like ours. (His is a less-conservative club, but it includes several people who voted for the president.)

So this trick. It's called, "This White Guy Said."

When he's telling them about something that's recently happened to him - I went to the store to get batteries but they were out; I picked up lunch at the deli on 5th street; I saw some news article about model cars; etc. - he mentions the race of whoever else was involved. "I went to pick up new LiPo batteries for my piper cub model, but the Asian guy at the counter said they were out." "I ordered a salami sandwich at the deli, and the Latino guy doing prep gave me extra pickles; that was cool." "I saw a thing on YouTube; this white guy said he'd found a new wiring system for model cars" - and wow, do they stop and blink when he gets to that part.

Just saying "white guy" or "white lady" when describing an everyday event bothers the racists. The more racist, the more it bothers them. (They usually can't state why. It's because it declares that "white" is not the standard, not the default assumption, that you have to actually tell someone - or whoever you were talking about might not be white.) It's a tiny bit of challenge to their thinking patterns that they can't articulate a problem with - with the bonus side effect that any children in the area will notice that whiteness is a trait of its own, something people mention, not the background setting.

This works best coming from white men, but it's not meaningless coming from white women. And if you really want to rile them up, refer to Trump as "our white president," or "our most recent white president."
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 12:37 AM on August 20 [19 favorites]


Thanks, metafilter, for picking up on the insults of "Flyover country." I'm not in "flyover country", i'm in the Mississippi River Valley, the 33-odd states of the nation where much resource and much cultural extraction happens.

The capitalist coasts suck the money and natural resources out of the Mississippi River Valley, and the southwest, and the gulf coast, and the southern states, and they take the kids. They take the more progressive white people out of our communities. we're left with dirty water, fracking, a busted ass farm with no one to work it, a whole in our hearts where you pansy liberals used to be, and a 45% to 55% or worse permanent vote split with conservatives.

a bunch of it has to do with regional employment trends, the financialization of the national and global economy and the total rot in washington, the total unwillingness of democrats to take control of the economy for the nation

and there's something in there about how white liberals self-displacing to the east and west coasts recapitulates the massive unrooting that was the original colonial genocide, which was an amplified, turbo boosted echo of the massive displacement from the enclosure of the commons back in the european lands, but i'm not smart enough to write about it

but, it's not about "go back to the mississippi river valley and talk" it's about "go back home, throw down roots and fight for your home"

here in the valley, to your bitter uncles, at least, actions speak louder than words
posted by eustatic at 8:33 AM on August 20 [1 favorite]


Okay, so here's an example from just a few minutes ago.

I was conversing with my mother and her husband -- both of them are about 72 years old -- and we were talking about his grandson, just out of the military, who'd been working as a schoolbus driver. I mentioned that I'd always wanted a job driving, and I'd applied to be a schoolbus driver when I was that grandson's age, but wasn't interviewed. Then I mentioned that I'd also one almost got a job driving a cab. And my mom said to her husband, "tell [Ivan] about when you were a cab driver". This is actually something I didn't know.

So basically all his life he worked for TWA, except for one brief period when he took his family to LA and didn't like it there and they moved back and it took him some number of months before he got his old job back in Albuquerque. During part of that period, he drove a cab.

This was about 1970, he thinks, and he went on to say that he didn't really like it and especially he remembers this one time...

There had been an "Indian uprising" [by which I'm sure he meant something during the period when AIM was very active] and one night he picked up "three huge, drunk Indians from a bar", And he was "afraid they were going to jump me".

Pretty much as soon as he said "Indian uprising", I could tell that both me and my mom were thinking, "welp, I don't like where this is going". And when he explained why he was afraid, a whole bunch of things went through my mind. Did he think that because of AIM activism that any random Native American was likely to attack him? What made these guys special relative to all the other drunks he'd probably picked up?

But I didn't say anything. I just nodded. Now, you can say that I should have spoken up. But that would have become very tense, very fast, and I have been working for years to get along well with him and, also, we've been dealing with the fact that he was recently diagnosed with stage IV cancer. There is just no way that I was going to introduce a point of contention this afternoon. It did bother me. I sat there thinking about how odd it is that he is totally oblivious to the racism of his anecdote, that it just never occurred to him how he had then and still, apparently, just groups these extremely varied peoples into some monolithic "other" who are to be feared if any few of them do anything other than be nice and inconspicuous. I mean, this is Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is bordered on the north and west and farther south by three, -- or four depending on how you define the metro area -- different reservations (pueblos).

So, interestingly, this is what my mom said: "Didn't you get other drunk people who were scary?" It was a pointed comment, but he didn't pick up on what she was getting at.

Basically at least half his family are at least this low-level kind of racist. His older sister and her husband are much worse, but they stopped saying anything explicit around my mom because she (like me) will speak up on those occasions. While both my parents and their families are/were all solidly Republican, my mom's family was very much centrist "country club Republican" and my maternal grandmother (like my mother) moved steadily leftward later in life. My dad's racism was more hidden and subtle than my mom's present husband and I didn't even recognize it for what it was until I was older. So I didn't grow up hearing anything at all explicitly racist from either of them. Some of my uncles, my dad's siblings, though would occasionally say stuff around me when I was a kid that made both me and my dad squirm.

The point is that I've been fortunate in not having that many family or even friends -- although I grew up in a small town 20 miles from the Texas border -- who were overtly racist. However, there's a lot of the more subtle stuff present at varying degrees in almost all my extended family and childhood friends. My cousin -- my dad's niece -- has a son who is black and although everyone seemed delighted at his birth and never said anything explicitly racist around me, at least, it's also the case that almost right from the fucking day he was born some of them would make comments about his presumed athletic prowess when he was older. I mean, that family is sports-crazed, but it was pretty blatant that it was about his race. It drove me crazy.

If I were to speak out against every single one of these implicitly racist comments, things that I'm pretty sure that often the speakers aren't even aware of the racism in them, then I'd be doing this every single time I am around family and they'd hate me and I'd hate them. Yes, it has worked to call out the explicit stuff -- my mom has always been pretty brave about doing that and she still is. But all the other stuff? It's hard.

So, in contrast, in terms of success stories: my mom. She's not "woke", she's just a pretty nice person with natural center-left tolerant tendencies who has always been sensitive to bigotry. But there's a huge amount of stuff she's never thought about and both my sister and I have talked with her over the years and she's been very receptive. She's learned a lot and her thinking and behavior has grown much more self-aware about racism. You can get through to the people who have the ears to hear what you're saying, even when it makes them feel a little challenged and defensive.

Anyway, yeah, in the context of this anecdote, I do feel challenged and defensive given this post. I am telling this story and I'm thinking, well, I should have spoken up. My mom should have spoken up, and not just asked a subtly pointed question that went over his head. Imagine if all of us who know enough to do so, always did. How much could that change things?

Basically, I speak up when my anger overwhelms my empathy. In situations like the one I just describe, all I can think about is how surprised and hurt and defensive he'd be that I called him on this. He wasn't aware of the subtext of his story and he'd definitely feel attacked. In these sorts of situations, I don't really have the stomach to make people feel like I'm attacking them. When it's explicit, though, my anger flares and then my feeling is that I couldn't care less about how they felt. I guess that's when it is easy for me and the point is that I need to push my boundaries, to do some things that aren't easy. I agree with that. I agree with this fundamental premise of the article. But, damn, it's hard to do.

"So this trick. It's called, 'This White Guy Said'."

That's interesting and pretty provocative. I like it. The only problem I would have with it is on the occasions you happen to be only talking about people in the marked groups, then you're reinforcing the -ism.

For many, many years I've gone the other direction. I will pretty much never use the marked term for someone, race or gender or whatever, unless it's actually salient to the conversation. This has really confused and upset some people in that I've talked about certain people to others for weeks or months before they discover that the person was black or a woman (harder to do, though, because of pronouns) and they often tell me they're confused about why I didn't mention this from the beginning.

In my lifetime -- because I'm pretty old (52) -- I've watched "doctor" (medical) go from commonly being marked ("lady doctor") to unmarked. It's the single most vivid example of this change over time that I can think of and I think it makes how this all works pretty clear. There are many other examples, of course. But it's really damn upsetting when you become aware of how, sociolinguistically, pervasive the "default white male" truly is. I first learned about all this in the context of feminism in the early 80s.

A really interesting point that DiAngelo makes is that white people somehow manage to have our cake and eat it, too. That is, in the sense that being unmarked, we are by default thought of as individuals while, at the same time, whiteness being the default means that the standard, default identity is "white". We have the privileges that come with membership in white identity, but also expect to be, and usually are, seen primarily as individual people. The situation is the inverse with people in marked groups: in common language, they are at once singled out and placed apart, while also being faceless and merely a representative of the entire group. It's awful.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:32 PM on August 20 [5 favorites]


it's not about "go back to the mississippi river valley and talk" it's about "go back home, throw down roots and fight for your home"

I feel like this is closer to what the original article was about. All these comments about talking to your family and friends are kind of missing the point. Rogers is talking about the impact of having a large number of white liberals decide that would rather not live in the communities where they were born. In some ways it overlaps with The Big Sort. He's talking about what you've left behind, not how you interact with people you are still in touch with.

But besides re-railing the thread, I don't think I agree with much else in this comment. For example:

"The capitalist coasts [...] take the more progressive white people out of our communities. we're left with dirty water, fracking...."

The people who leave have agency. They are not "taken". Further, they are not responsible when the people who stay behind decide to pollute their own wells. And honestly, think this through. Suppose the out-migration hadn't happened. Suppose there were still a bunch of anti-fracking people around. The issue comes up. And they still lose. Can they leave then? Or do they have to stick around, drinking the polluted water, in case the community needs them to save them from themselves at some later date? When can you just give up and go? It's absurd.

Further there are ideas about "home" and "people" in the original thread and in this quote ("go back home, throw down roots and fight for your home") that just honestly make my skin crawl. I am home. Home is where I live, not where I was born. My people are here with me, not back in the town I haven't engaged with in nearly 30 years. You may as well start talking about blood and soil. It's grotesque.

Demographically, I totally agree with Roger's diagnosis. Morally, I don't think people have any responsibility to fix what is happening in the places they've moved away from. And even if there were a moral case, practically you aren't going to argue millions of people into leaving their communities of choice.
posted by great_radio at 6:34 PM on August 20 [6 favorites]


I personally am most likely going to move away from "liberal safe spaces" because they don't really exist and I don't feel safe anywhere personally, and I can buy whole buildings pretty cheap in the center of the US. I'm going to gentrify whiteness.
posted by Annika Cicada at 5:34 AM on August 22 [3 favorites]




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