Skip

March 8, 2001
7:51 PM   Subscribe

"Maybe all this is why I'm so tired of other white folks trying to sell me bullshit like: 'I don't have a racist bone in my body,' or 'I never notice color.' See, MawMaw would have said that too. And she would have meant well. And she would have been wrong."
posted by sudama (65 comments total)

 
Thank you, sudama. That was the best post I've read in a very long time.

I'm left without words...
posted by jpoulos at 8:04 PM on March 8, 2001


After reading this, I have a few comments.

The author's grandmother reverted back to the words she was raised with, during her advanced phases of Alzheimers. Having a father that was a Klansman certainly had something to do with her first memories, and I could agree that perhaps everyone of that generation's first memories of African Americans being described by their parents would be similar.

But that doesn't mean all white Americans' base instincts are to refer to African Americans by the n-word.

It does tend to show that racism is learned, and that's something not to be ignored or taken lightly at all.
posted by mathowie at 8:48 PM on March 8, 2001


Matt, can you say for sure that in the same situation you would not behave the same way? I'm terrified to know that I might.
posted by sudama at 9:22 PM on March 8, 2001


I just love it when I'm judged to be a racist merely because the color of my skin happens to be the same as a mentally-ill woman (may she rest in peace).
posted by kindall at 9:26 PM on March 8, 2001


kindall, the article is about being taught to be racist, not about individual racist behavior. Do you really think you weren't exposed to any racist beliefs, stereotypes, words, images, textbooks, attitudes, or characterizations as a child?
posted by sudama at 9:33 PM on March 8, 2001


I'm pretty sure that if I ever began to refer to blacks as "Nigger" it wouldn't be because of any natural instinct. Some people just don't use that word. My parents didn't, I don't.
However, I think there's some merit to the thought that people in America who claim to not "see race" are either just full of it, or not very introspective.
posted by Doug at 9:39 PM on March 8, 2001


Hey, sudama...give that horse a few more whacks...I think I saw it twitch a bit......
posted by Optamystic at 9:47 PM on March 8, 2001


I never heard the n-word until I started school. At that time we still had white and black schools in my home town. The schools were not consolidated until I was in Jr. High, way past the time must other places were integrated. Our town fought it longer than most. When it finally happened it was rather a non-event. There were only about 30 black kids in the whole school system, none in any of my classes. I never saw or heard any harassment of them form the students. Some of the teachers were pretty rough on some of the black guys. The girls seemed to fair a little better. The most harassment was from the parents that came to pick up kids. They would shout insults and slurs at the black kids, it was very strange to see adults act that way. No moral here, just observations from a long time ago.
posted by bjgeiger at 9:52 PM on March 8, 2001


Hmm, the site seems to be down. Were they Metafiltered? (Like Slashdotted, only meta.)
posted by waxpancake at 9:56 PM on March 8, 2001


Here's the Google cache of that page.
posted by waxpancake at 9:59 PM on March 8, 2001


There are some good points here. Racism is absolutely everywhere and indeed it goes very deep. But I don't agree that racism is an all-"white" problem. Or that it's a "white" vs. "black" problem. That idea is of course racist itself, because racism doesn't just affect "blacks". It's a global problem affecting many, many people and it's very closely tied to related discrimination problems of sexism, classism, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, etc... Basically, people on the whole are not tolerant enough.

Right. So, although racism affects *everyone*, race itself is not a "black" vs. "white" issue... in fact, there's pretty significant disagreement about who gets to lay claim to being "black" (a sub-subject of some of Spike Lee's films). What, for example, does my friend who is part hispanic, part white, part indian and part black, put on those forms that ask about his "race"? On top of having multiple "racial" origins, he's adopted from unknown parents! It's very easy to understand why he finds the whole thing incredibly annoying and never knows what to check!

Okay so there's that.

And then when you really search out the roots of the problem, I think it gets down to the very simple fact that we're aware of this concept of "race" and the various labels applied (which may be intractable for a few generations). So what can we hope for? Painful and slow progress in the near term and total success in the long term. I think at some point in the future (if we haven't wiped ourselves out), the term "race" will disappear entirely. It will appear as weird, wrong and brutal in the year 2200 as what we know about medieval life appears to us today.

On the other hand, things are very, very wrong at present. In the near term, we're going to have to apply some serious band-aids because (as this article points out) the issue just goes too deep to fix without people dying off and being replaced. The main and most useful band-aid is to open up real and honest dialogs addressing problems, issues and grievances from *all people*. Not just people who want to label themselves as one thing or another. There are *real* problems going on out there that affect everyone, and they have to be put on the table and worked on. That work is going to be very uncomfortable for *everyone* because if it's going to work, it's going to have to reach into areas we *all* don't like to think about.

In the meantime, all us racists on planet Earth, die off every few years and generally pass on a less virulent form of racism to our kids, which helps in a big way. But I think the best news is last: with interracial marriages occurring at the rate they are, "race" will be pretty hard to distinguish in the vast majority of the world's population in only about 8 more generations (I wish I could cite where I read that) and it's going to get a hell of a lot harder in even just 1 or 2 generations. As much as social progress, the intermixing of genetic backgrounds is going to make "race" increasingly irrelevant as a concept.

posted by muppetboy at 9:59 PM on March 8, 2001


Ronald Reagan is prone to calling books "trees" in his Alzheimer's induced dementia, according to an article I read. Does this mean that deep down he's an environmentalist?
posted by rcade at 10:05 PM on March 8, 2001


sudama, I admire your energy and patience. Good article too, btw.

Really the only problem with pointing out endemic social blindness is that a lot of people just won't see your point.

I agree with Doug's point, it only takes a little introspection to find that underlying prejudice even when you would otherwise deny its existence.
posted by lagado at 10:10 PM on March 8, 2001


Do you really think you weren't exposed to any racist beliefs, stereotypes, words, images, textbooks, attitudes, or characterizations as a child?

I don't think that at all. I know I was -- my father, despite working with several black men and even calling some of them his friends, is no stranger to the n-word -- and I know I do occasionally succumb to lines of thought that make me ashamed of myself. But if I have children I know for a fact they will be exposed to far fewer racist attitudes than I was and will be progressively more color-blind than I, not that I have anything in particular to be defensive about for in that regard, all things considered.

I just thought it was ironic that Wise is using the example of his grandmother, who is white, as evidence that nearly all whites are unconsciously racist. As if we all might as well have grown up with a KKK member for a father, and will most likely revert to saying "nigger" when we're senile, merely because of the color of our skin. Isn't that the kind of pernicious overgeneralization he's campaigning against to begin with? It gave me a chuckle, but then I've been told I have an odd sense of humor.
posted by kindall at 10:11 PM on March 8, 2001


Did I miss something, Opta?

Are there black quarterbacks now? Are people on death row in proportion to who commits crime? Are people caught and convicted in proportion to who commits crime now? Are people represented on TV in proportion to who lives in this country? Are government services available in languages spoken by all citizens? Has the gap in earnings and in accumulated wealth between the races evaporated? Are hair care products no longer divided into "fine" and "damaged" categories?

Does my white skin no longer predispose cops to respect me? Retail clerks to trust me? Judges to go easy on me? Employers to hire me?

And please remind me who our Asian American and Latino Senators and Justices are?

What's this about a horse?


posted by sudama at 10:12 PM on March 8, 2001


Good point, kindall.

I think if you zoom out a level, though, the general idea stays the same. White people (or whatever color you want) may not use an epithet, but the stereotypes would come out.

The deep down subconscious that MawMaw repressed because she knew it was wrong. It was still there.

Is it fair to say that everyone stereotypes? I'd say yes. Sure, some more than others, but stereotyping, fundamentally, is a response to information overload. We try to categorize people or things to deal with the fact that we can't get to know every person well. We try to predict what that person will be like, how they will act, etc. Unfortunately, it's too often negative, flat our incorrect information we use to make these stereotypes (a la sudama's examples.)
posted by gramcracker at 10:19 PM on March 8, 2001


Unfortunately, it's too often negative, flat our incorrect information we use to make these stereotypes (a la sudama's examples.)

Well, admittedly it doesn't help when the cues you get early-on from your parents are skewed, as they were in Wise's grandmother's case. Ideally children would be exposed at an early age to other kids in great quantity and variety. If you only know one or two black kids, your sample size is too small to draw any meaningful conclusion, but you're going to generalize anyway because as you note, it's the way our brains work. If you know a dozen black kids who are all extremely different, your generalizations are more likely to be useful and you will be more cautious about drawing them hastily.

Sudama, the metaphor of the horse usually has the equine dying when everything that can be said on a topic has been said, usually repeatedly. A point can be reached when additional discussion will not yield further enlightenment. I'm not burned out on this topic myself, mind you, but I understand why others might be.
posted by kindall at 10:42 PM on March 8, 2001


kindall, I think the example of his grandmother was meant to demonstrate only how deep racism runs, not how wide.

I'm not sure if it can be proven in any sense that the overwhelming majority of whites are unconsciously racist. It's pretty easy to show the extent of racist messages in mainstream media and educational materials (today, that is -- and even easier in the past when it tended to be pretty overt) but we rely on the inexact science of psychology to determine how it affects people.

In any case, it's been true for me -- and for every white person I know who's done it -- that the deeper you look for racism inside yourself, the more you find. And it quickly becomes evident that this unconscious racism has shaped your beliefs and behavior in ways you never would have imagined.

But this isn't a self-help group so I'll shut up about that. I should try to make a point, or at least another groundless assertion, so I'll say that I take it as axiomatic that unconscious racism is something that shapes the way we view the world very very deeply. So deeply that not to be racist requires a good deal more than to simply treat strangers in passing without regard to color -- indeed it requires us to recognize the race of each and every person we come into contact with, and how that person's race has affected their situation in life, and to maintain a mindful watch over our learned biases to be sure they're not spilling over into our behavior.

And, more importantly, to undo the damage done by racism is a huge task, as muppetboy has suggested, one that will require all white people to take an active role in restoring the imbalance in their communities/spheres of influence. To sit back, as many of us do, and presume that history will do the job for us is to be complicit with the injustice that takes place before our eyes (and often at our hands) every day.

To answer your question, I don't think Wise is concerned at all with overgeneralizations about whites. Overgeneralizations are wrong not because they're racist, but because they're not true. Now, to spread an untruth about white people does no damage -- how could it? You can't convince me that whites are this or that way -- I'm white, and I know how I am (sound familiar?) You can't convince people of color in the U.S. that whites are this or that way, because people of color are surrounded by, outnumbered by, overpowered by whites at every turn. They know in many ways better than we do exactly how we are. Unfortunately, white people are all too ready (conditioned from childhood, that is) to believe negative things about people of color -- and that's where the damage is done.
posted by sudama at 10:47 PM on March 8, 2001


Sudama there are tons of Black QBs now. Just thought you should know.
posted by chaz at 10:55 PM on March 8, 2001


Thanks chaz... I don't follow football, but I thought my friend (who loves to use that example) did.
posted by sudama at 10:58 PM on March 8, 2001


And please remind me who our Asian American and Latino Senators and Justices are?

Look in the states of Hawaii and Cali for Asian gov't officials. And Cali, Texas, Illinois, NY, and Florida for Latino's.
posted by redleaf at 11:17 PM on March 8, 2001


Thanks redleaf. Now, I'd be pleased to hear that they're not underrepresented but I'm fairly certain that's not the case.
posted by sudama at 11:23 PM on March 8, 2001


Now, to spread an untruth about white people does no damage -- how could it? You can't convince me that whites are this or that way -- I'm white, and I know how I am

i disagree. i may be missing the point of what you're saying, but black kids have been proven to believe less in themselves and to think they're stupid and etc etc in response to racism and generalizations that say those things. i fail to see how whites are immune to this.

the thing that bothers me the most about this discussion is that things that are ultimately class issues (poverty, underrepresentation in government, etc) get brought up as race issues, which is racist in and of itself, if you really want to go there. poverty is not a black problem, it's a poor people problem. the fact that blacks comprise a large portion of the poor is a race problem, yes, but it gets overgeneralized in these discussions to the point that it's a class argument disguised by race.
posted by pikachulolita at 11:35 PM on March 8, 2001


It still goes on, here's a different perspective via Follow Me Here
'Traditionally a procedure sought only by patients with excess eyelid skin or those hoping to lessen signs of aging, eyelid surgery or Blepharoplasty has become popular among young Asian American women and accepted as just another cosmetic choice in an array of many -- like tinting your eyelashes or straightening your teeth. Approximately half of Asians are born with eyelids that are naturally smooth and uninterrupted by a crease in the skin. Asian patients seek out blepharoplasties to create or exaggerate a crease in their eyelids commonly referred to as "double eyelids." ... Critics of eyelid surgery believe it is a cosmetic cop-out for Asian Americans who want to downplay their race, since all Caucasians and most non-Asians are born with the crease. Still others argue personal confidence is the issue, since an estimated fifty percent of Asians are also born with the eyelid fold. But Asians have been characterized by their eyes more than any other feature by Westerners (think Fu Manchu-style caricatures and slant-eye miming in the schoolyard.) This deep-rooted, racist cultural imagery makes it somewhat impossible not to see the widespread effort to alter this trait as a reaction. as well as a statement about the effects of Westernization on Asian Americans.'

posted by lagado at 11:50 PM on March 8, 2001


i think this article sums it up pretty neatly.

all humans are essentially brothers and sisters. it's a sobering thought.
posted by bwg at 12:14 AM on March 9, 2001


pikachulolita, I think you're missing the point I'm trying to make about stereotypes. It's not that whites are mentally immune, but that whites are socially immune -- mainstream American culture purports to be raceless and inclusive when in fact it is dominated by white values and norms, creating an environment in which whites believe themselves to be free to do and be anything they choose. Thus whites don't tend to be affected by the rare generalization tossed their way. People of color don't tend to be under such illusions, and don't have the same protection.

Your point about race and class is an important one. I agree that racism blinds whites to issues of class, but I think that the way out is to eliminate white privilege -- how else will a multiracial class organize itself?
posted by sudama at 12:23 AM on March 9, 2001


Yes, and they've been very successful too. Doesn't it make you wonder that the two areas with (somewhat) level playing fields, Athletics and Entertainment, boast much higher levels of minority participation than the rest of society?

However you still won't find many non-white owners or executives in the Athletics or Entertainment worlds...
posted by chaz at 12:26 AM on March 9, 2001


So deeply that not to be racist requires a good deal more than to simply treat strangers in passing without regard to color -- indeed it requires us to recognize the race of each and every person we come into contact with, and how that person's race has affected their situation in life, and to maintain a mindful watch over our learned biases to be sure they're not spilling over into our behavior.

See now sudama I think that's where you're wrong. I'm white, and for the most part grew up in a "colorblind" household. I remember being shocked and scared when I heard my older sister's RUN-DMC record use the word nigger. I knew it was wrong and didn't understand why they would say it.

And I agree that the socialization goes far deeper than most are willing to believe. I stand up and assert that I am not a racist, but maybe once or twice a year there will be a situation where I'm walking about a public place and an African American man or woman will pass me and the word nigger pops into my head. It's not malicious or hateful, and every occurance makes me feel sick, but for some reason it lurks there.

In elementary school we only had one black student, Jeremy Mitchell, and he was a big kid; somewhat of a bully, he boasted about his karate skills, he and I got along fine. I had a healthy fear of him based on that. Did I subconsciously form the opinion that all African-Americans are to be feared? Maybe. It's hard to say what, and how much, certain events can affect child development, but I don't believe anyone could grow up in America without smelling the stink of racism. It is impossible.

But I don't think every time I meet someone of a different racial background I should take into account everything their race means to them. When I meet someone, shake hands, and have a conversation, I don't want to dwell on his race. I want to listen and form my opinions based on what he says and how he treats me, not the amount of pigment in his skin.
posted by Awol at 12:29 AM on March 9, 2001


Does my white skin no longer predispose cops to respect me? Retail clerks to trust me? Judges to go easy on me? Employers to hire me?

No, but it's apparently saddled you with one hell of a sense of misguided guilt. At least once a week, I can be sure to log on to MeFi to be met with the "sudama standard": Some divisive garbage about how all white folks really, truly, deep down, no matter how much they may believe otherwise, are big, bad, racists.

Well, personally, I don't have time to be a racist. Last time I looked, it was a tough world all around. People treat each other like shit, regardless of skin color. I'm lily white, young, male, and broke as I can be. Cops don't like me, judges have shown me no love, and the trust of retail clerks, frankly, is not something I spend a great deal of time pining for. Hell, at least if I were black, I'd have something to blame it on. But I'm not, so I have to assume that most folks get treated this way. That is, poorly.

So, let's stop wringing our hands over what race of folks got screwed the worst. We've all been screwed, one way or the other. This discontentment and anger you see around you everyday is not about black folks, or white folks. I, as a poor white man, am certainly held in lower esteem by the average person than a wealthy black man. In other words, rich folks get the love, poor folks get the shove. Thus has it been, thus shall it be.

What to do then? Two broke men, one black, one white, standing on a sidewalk, (or sitting at their computers) blaming each other for their problems, or the fact that judges hate them, or whatever, is not very productive. Two broke men deciding that the world is only going to respect them if they cease to be broke men...that's productive. They can then pool their talents, resources, and energy, and assist each other. This works exactly the same with communities as it does with individuals. So let's get crackin' shall we?
posted by Optamystic at 12:46 AM on March 9, 2001


the thing that bothers me the most about this discussion is that things that are ultimately class issues (poverty, underrepresentation in government, etc) get brought up as race issues, which is racist in and of itself, if you really want to go there.

Ahh. But Marx said it best no?

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles"
posted by redleaf at 1:09 AM on March 9, 2001


but black kids have been proven to believe less in themselves and to think they're stupid and etc etc in response to racism and generalizations that say those things

I can back this up. The research is coming out of Stanford, studying the effects of white privilege (in the US) on African American school children, through a series of aptitude testing experiments. Depending on what is said before a test (whether the test is measuring academic performance or not), it can be shown that black kids test lower, based on their lowered perception (same test given to subjects without the importance stressed on being measured for academic achievement yields higher scores in black students).
posted by mathowie at 1:12 AM on March 9, 2001


It's not that whites are mentally immune, but that whites are socially immune -- mainstream American culture purports to be raceless and inclusive when in fact it is dominated by white values and norms, creating an environment in which whites believe themselves to be free to do and be anything they choose.

okay, that does make sense. i took your original statement differently. however, saying "white values and norms" as an inherently negative thing is odd to me. yes, we're a melting pot, but we're also majority-white. if i went to any majority-black or majority-latino or what have you country, i would expect the majority's values and norms. the part about "believing themselves to be free to do anything they choose" is the part that's bad.

however, overall, i'm with optamystic. i think if you took care of class issues, a whole lot of race issues would resolve themselves. and i ultimately disagree with your statements that every single person's race must be taken into account. i don't ever want to have to take anyone's race into account - i want to judge people on their merit. i don't want people judging me based on the history of sexism. i don't want any special allowances because god knows women have been under the thumb of the man for so long. i just want everyone to be equal but to be able to celebrate differences. i think having heritage is a great thing, it gives you roots and a community and lots of other things. but that's the only part of race and lineage that i want to preserve.

i think part of the reason some people (myself included) have such an impulsive reaction to what you always say (other than the fact that we want to be innocent of racism) is that you leave no one any way out. how do i stop being racist? if you can tell me, i'd love to do it. but not only do you never give solutions, you say that even people that treat everyone equally, who never have a single racist thought, who love black people are racist. if i marry a black man and love him to death, am i still a racist? where's my solution? are you racist? if yes, why so holier-than-thou? if not, how did you do it? share the love, friend.

if we would all stop sitting around bitching about how racist everyone is deep inside and try to level the playing field for blacks and whites and the rich and the poor, i think that latent racism would resolve itself. in a world where black implies poor in these race discussions, i think some latent racism is obvious. but i think that if i were to look at it through the glasses of feminism (since that's what i can relate to), i would much rather have a level playing field and latent sexism than totally guilt-stricken people unable to take any action because they're all too busy standing around pointing the finger back at themselves plus all the usual setbacks. however, this ties into the other discussion we're having about women's rights. i'm not black, and i can't speak for the black community. nor are you, and i don't think you can speak for them either.

"The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles"

exactly. so let's stop trying to drop the veil of racism over it so that we don't have to take any decisive action. unlike with racism, there's a pretty clear solution (at least to me) to social inequality: narrow the gap between the rich and the poor. unfortunately, that involves rich people becoming less rich, which means that people don't want to deal with the issue, so instead of saying it like it is, they pretend it's something else (racism, laziness, government reliance). while these are definitely factors, they're not the reason for the disparity. classism is. greed is. it bothers me that the thrust of these discussions is "get blacks out of poverty" when it should be "get everyone out of poverty". white starvation is just as lethal as black starvation.
posted by pikachulolita at 1:29 AM on March 9, 2001


Pardon me. Your white liberal guilt is spilling all over me. To me, you guys' characterization of the " 'po black man" hurts blacks almost as much as the attitude of a racist.

The black race is not a "project" for you guys to fix because you feel some sort of guilt. Guilt is the completely wrong motivation for someone under these circumstances. It's like a lot of environmentalism - "let's save the cute animals".

People are products of their environment. I would laugh at the thought that a white person is inherently racist at a genetic level. That's as silly as saying blacks are stupid at a genetic level.

I would say most of society's problems are more in regards to class than race. And while the current percentages of blacks in poverty may be the product of past racism - I see no need to blame "the white man" for it, when it has become a crutch. Pull yourself up.

I don't want to see minority characters on TV to fill some sort of quota. If people want to see different races represented on tv, they'll watch shows with different races.

Football has finally gotten to the point where coaches realize its retarded to not make someone the QB based on his race. They want to win, not fill some inane quota. The best man gets the job.

That's how it should be.
posted by owillis at 1:39 AM on March 9, 2001


thank you! while i realize that you don't speak for The Entire Black Race, it is nice to have the perspective of someone that is affected by racism outside of a (misguided) sense of white guilt. i also think it's kind of arrogant of us to sit around and say that we have to solve the problem of racism for black people. yeah, the problem resides in us, but from this discussion, you'd think we were discussing whether or not to change a baby's diaper. while we shouldn't say "if black people want racism to end, they can end it", we also shouldn't say "oh, we have to solve all their problems because they can't do it themselves".
posted by pikachulolita at 2:00 AM on March 9, 2001


@#$@#%@ it! I just crashed and lost a 25-minute post! Now I have to start all over. So you all better read it when it's done! ;)

This Tim Wise guy is himself a racist, since he focuses only on white racism towards blacks while ignoring all other types. How do we know he's so enlightened about any other sort of -isms?

In the past few years I have had the good fortune to speak before nearly 60,000 people [yadda yadda yadda] and government agencies about racism.

Translation: Forced 'sensitivity' training. Reeducation seminars. Which do more to cause racism than combat it, because it makes employees resentful that they're being treated as if those Not Like Them have already branded them professional bigots, and it makes them feel that certain groups are getting special privileges. Plus they get angry that the "speakers" are getting paid to do this to them, often from their own budgets. I've seen completely race-blind people fly into hate-filled rages after being forced into one of those things, and the underlying resentment festers for a long time.

Oh, I feel the need to bring up the same point I always bring up whenever racism threads appear here: How does Wise feel about/interact with overweight people? It would be interesting to see pictures of all the people he's ever dated in his life.

Nigger. A word she would never have uttered from conscious thought, but one that remained locked away in her subconscious despite her best intentions and lifelong commitment to standing strong against racism.

In other words, Wise is pissed off that we haven't come up with a way to brainwash humans into losing all ability to even comprehend Mean Words ... that we can't physically lobotomize the neurons that cause an individual to be able to even think the things that Wise finds distasteful. How Orwellian of him! Wise must be a real laugh riot at Tourette's support group meetings.

I'm pretty sure that if I ever began to refer to blacks as "Nigger" it wouldn't be because of any natural instinct.

Yes it would. Your knowledgeable use of the word in this thread proves that the word and its meaning are permanently lodged in your brain, and that information is not going anywhere. If, one day, a degenerative brain disease damages the part of your brain responsible for self-censoring itself, you'll be quite capable of blurting out "nigger" to a black person, as well as any number of other tactless statements. And it will be completely natural to you.

[The word 'race'] will appear as weird, wrong and brutal in the year 2200 as what we know about medieval life appears to us today.

Not going to happen. As long as there are differences in skin color and small physical variations (such as Asian eyefolds), the word 'race' will be with us. The connotations it holds are subject to change, but the word's existence isn't going to change.

With interracial marriages occurring at the rate they are, "race" will be pretty hard to distinguish in the vast majority of the world's population in only about 8 more generations (I wish I could cite where I read that) and it's going to get a hell of a lot harder in even just 1 or 2 generations.

Also not going to happen. In order for miscegenation to cause a significant blurring of the races, all the offspring of interracial parents would have to themselves only marry and reproduce with other biracial people. Otherwise the multiracial appearance will disappear in as little as one generation.

Are government services available in languages spoken by all citizens?

There is nothing the least bit racist about this.

Just to throw this thread for a loop: Blacks are no longer the biggest minority in America. Hispanics have caught up.
posted by aaron at 2:05 AM on March 9, 2001



unfortunately, that involves rich people becoming less rich...

No, it does not. It involved poor people becoming less poor. The economy is not a zero-sum game. You do not have to take from the rich in order to make the poor less so.
posted by aaron at 2:11 AM on March 9, 2001



No, it does not. It involved poor people becoming less poor. The economy is not a zero-sum game. You do not have to take from the rich in order to make the poor less so.

okay, so say poor america needs more money. this means they need more jobs. this means that employers need to shell out more salaries. this means that employers become less rich as they get less profit for themselves because they have to give out more paychecks. how does this not involve the rich becoming less rich? wealth has to come from somewhere.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:18 AM on March 9, 2001


No, wealth can be created, and is all the time. If it couldn't be created, they US money supply would never have gotten any bigger than it was when the dollar was created. I could go further into it, but I don't want to derail the thread.
posted by aaron at 2:39 AM on March 9, 2001


so you're proposing we give money directly to the poor? i would have thought you'd be against that. or are you proposing we give this money to the rich and let it trickle on down to us poor folk?
that's my last, i won't go any further offtopic.
posted by pikachulolita at 2:45 AM on March 9, 2001


Awol -- if you are having this hypothetical conversation with a person of color, then to pretend that the race of the person you are shaking hands with has no bearing on his or her life is to do this individual an injustice. You can't set things right by pretending they haven't suffered from racism.

Optamystic -- in the big picture, what's keeping your two metaphorical men from working together is that the white person believes that he's white first and poor second. I disagree with this man's assessment as much as you do, but I reject the pie-in-the-sky notion, as I said above, that just because race shouldn't matter, we can just ignore it and it'll go away. I really don't care whether you think you're racist or not, but if you think that society as a whole isn't racist then you're in denial like I've never seen.

pikachulolita -- I don't know what to tell you. Am I racist? Are we all racist? Clearly there's no point in debating that question. Are you or I bad people? I doubt it. Are we responsible for accepting the privilege of whiteness and the resulting harm done to people of color? Of course, how could we not be? Call it what you will. As to what to do about it, well I'm focusing on education at the moment. Right now, I happen to be trying to educate the readership of one of my favorite websites. For some other ideas, check out Tim Wise's Thoughts on Acknowledging and Challenging Whiteness.

A question for optamystic, owillis, and pikachulolita -- why do you insist on characterizing me as motivated by guilt? It's a much harsher condemnation of white people to say that we could have no other motivation to work for racial justice than "misguided" guilt.

aaron -- I'd be interested to know what you think about Tim Wise's article on the difference between white and other racism.
posted by sudama at 3:04 AM on March 9, 2001


The whole poor/rich side thread is bogus. If everyone having the same amount of money would cure all social problems former and current communist countries would have no racism. And if men were angels communism would be a workable idea.

this means that employers need to shell out more salaries. this means that employers become less rich as they get less profit for themselves because they have to give out more paychecks.

If that the case, why bother starting a business?

so you're proposing we give money directly to the poor?

What Aaron's trying to say is the economy is not a pie. The pie grows.
posted by redleaf at 3:06 AM on March 9, 2001


redleaf, being in business means getting back your investment and then some -- what it doesn't have to mean is doing that at the expense of your workers, if they're working at minimum or below minimum wage.

it might be perfectly legal or at least beyond the reach of the law, but there's something profoundly digusting about CEOs and executives who get millions a year, and raise those salaries incrementally each year, while their employees can barely afford to feed themselves, let alone their families.

the pie grows larger, yes, but the same people keep getting most of the pie.
posted by lia at 3:47 AM on March 9, 2001


What Aaron's trying to say is the economy is not a pie. The pie grows.

alright, i'll acknowledge that. but then why hasn't it grown in the direction of the poor?

If that the case, why bother starting a business?

because you still get sizable profit. i was oversimplifying in the interests of rhetoric. you can pie-grow me all you want, i'm still a socialist and you won't get me to renounce the social contract that all people are responsible for the welfare of others. sorry, guys.

as for the bogus comment, former communist countries would have plenty of it because they are now capitalist. it's foolish to say "once you're a communist country, you always enjoy the benefits of communism, even after you become capitalist". check out the women's day thread a bit further down. there was some interesting discussion in there about how women in communist russia were far better off than they are in capitalist russia. the USSR was actually pretty well ahead of its time in terms of how they treated women. while sexism isn't racism, it is an example of discrimination. and the USSR was, last i checked, a communist power.

sudama - because you sound like you feel guilty for the sins of everyone around you. that's how it comes across. and i agree that there are definitely non-guilt oriented reasons to oppose racism. but it sounds like you're overcompensating and trying to impose this guilt on everyone else. i know that you make me feel guilty, and i'm still not sure whether i should or not. i think that by treating everyone equally and doing my best, i absolve myself of feeling guilty. you may not, but it is starting to bother me that your guilt has to be imposed on everyone else.

as for there being no point in debating that question, it's interesting because that's all you ever seem to do on mefi. it's absolutely fine that this is your pet issue, but that statement seems a tad hypocritical.

in the big picture, what's keeping your two metaphorical men from working together is that the white person believes that he's white first and poor second.

how the hell do you know? i think i'm poor first and white second. i barely even think about my race (which, according to you, makes me racist). to characterize the entire white race according to your perceptions of how everyone else sees the world is a bit unfair. this is another example of why i think you're motivated by guilt - everything is the white man's fault. there is no reverse racism. white people are the root of the whole problem, and there's nothing black people can do to fix things around them. that's why people say you feel guilty. you take far more blame than you need to. yes, racism is wrong. yes, there is some ingrained racism in everyone. but to sit around whining about it and accusing your fellow white men in a misguided attempt at saving the black man is not only arrogant but divisive. i'm not saying we should ignore race, but to take it into consideration with everything we ever do is to make a bigger deal out of it than anyone ever should. it means to stop judging people on merit, which is awful.
posted by pikachulolita at 3:49 AM on March 9, 2001


I think people are being very patronizing when laying this accusation of "misguided" white man's guilt on sudama. He obviously feels pretty strongly about this subject but who are we to try and psychoanalyze his motives.

What is racism? It's just a mechanism for separating people from each other. It's not the only one but its an important one especially in a society with a history like that of the United States.

Listen racism works, it doesn't need to be terribly overt to be effective in keeping most people separated into castes. By castes, I mean the children of the people at one level of society can statistically expect to be at the same level as their parents and so would their grandchildren. The blacks and hispanics are generally at the bottom of US society initially because of history but there remain institutional mechanisms at work today that help keeping it that way and act to reduce class mobility.

In societies that are racially less diverse, other ways to differentiate become important. Some of these are things like as religion, language and kinship. They have the same effect, that is to exclude some people from the good jobs, to do business with people who are members of your group in preference to outsiders. To keep the wealth in the family so to speak.

The only positive trend the way I see it is that dynamic (First World) economies tend to allow greater freedom for mobility up and down the class pyramid than do more static ones.

We're seeing some progress but its still really a glacial rate of change. Recognition of the forces at work does nobody any harm and may actually help to break some of them down.

owillis - I would laugh at the thought that a white person is inherently racist at a genetic level. That's as silly as saying blacks are stupid at a genetic level.

i don't think sudama or anyone else proposed that white people are genetically racist. The point was about learnt attitudes.

posted by lagado at 4:32 AM on March 9, 2001


I should emphasize here that I don't think racism in the US is the only or even the main mechanism for reducing class mobility, it's only one of many.
posted by lagado at 4:50 AM on March 9, 2001


If a woman can forget the names and faces of her loved ones then she can forget the connotations of a single word.
posted by MarkC at 6:34 AM on March 9, 2001


I going off of the basis of the article for the moment. Let me try to understand this...what exactly is racism?Ok, now I'm speaking from the viewpoint of a 21 year old white male...you mind has now made that association...your brain goes (click click click click..ah 21 year old white male! I've heard that before in my blogging travels...we've talked about him!). The first association with race and age should be met at this point (unless you read really quick, I suggest slowing down and giving it some thought).
Now with all the ideas in your head about the 21 year old male...how many good things can you say, how many bad things can you say, and how many are ideas or feelings that you originally expressed? (Huh??? What does that mean?) Well, let me explain in further detail. You already know who I am on the surface which is a good/bad thing because it's really not an informed decision...I'm not a person you can relate to or even describe other than I am (you guessed it) white and 21 years old. To give further background, I was practically raised by black (African American, n-word, whatever) from the age of 4-9. My roots of respect and understanding of culture is probably better than most...but (now get this) I know I have a strong preference for people that look like me. Does that make me a racist? NO. It makes a person who has what seems to be instinctive favor for genetic similarity. Using the n-word does not make you a racist either. Mrs Doris (going back to my childhood) used the word quite often to describe people of her own color that were merely screwed up or complete slobs. There were drug problems Edgewood, MD (where I grew up) that just happened to be in the same town where lots of these n-words lived as well (did I make a mistake? there's no hatred in that word for me). Being a racist, folks, is not as simple as having a strong feeling of someone...it's having a strong feeling about a type of person who is of a different race just because of their race. The word itself is meaningless until it is applied to someone that you have not taken the time to know any better. (I'm not sure if I made a point, I'm going back to work now....)
posted by samsara at 7:08 AM on March 9, 2001


If you're interested in the Race/Class debate, check out William Julius Wilson. He's a famous sociologist who used to be at UChicago, and is now at Harvard.

He argues that race is no longer a real issue, and that the real problems in today's society are the poor and underpriveleged. Poor whites, blacks, Asians, Native Americans, Hispanics have more common struggles than ALL of a racial group. I'm not sure if I agree with him, but he presents some very strong points. He's written lots of great books and The Declining Significance of Race is probably his most famous. Hopefully that helps explain the class argument.
posted by gramcracker at 7:11 AM on March 9, 2001


I have to agree with Mathowie here. This article, from the normally dependable Z Magazine, reads like a badly written melodrama and overgeneralizes the idea of a latent racist seed within all Caucasians. Certainly, it is our early formative years that would most likely find their way into our words, should we all be stricken with Alzheimer's. This is not to suggest that racism does not lie within us (or other prejudices, such as my own against a particular type of selfishly rich and elitist yuppie who could care less about the average Joe) -- certainly there's a good deal of hypocrisy in white liberals who eschew the streets in favor of their gated suburban communities. But to extend this medical case as a primary indicator for the fundamental demon seed that lies within all Caucasians is both misguided and unscientific.

This article is a sloppy though well-intentioned polemic.
posted by ed at 7:21 AM on March 9, 2001


"But the message I deliver is always the same: those persons called "white" have a particular obligation to fight racism because it is our problem, created in its modern form by us, for the purpose of commanding power over resources and opportunities at the expense of people of color. "

Oh, I do so hate me. I wish I wasn't born a whitey, honkey cracker, so I would be able to see Caucasian Americans clearly and without regard to their skin color first.

If only I wasn't 'The Man', so I wouldn't feel the accusations and onus of responsibility on my shoulders that my boss, an African American, is so clearly devoid of.

Yes, although I am one of the poor getting poorer, I can live troubled nights knowing I am being held responsible for the troubles of others because of my skin color.

I wish I was African American, so I could be free of racism.

~SIGH~
posted by Perigee at 8:22 AM on March 9, 2001


"And, more importantly, to undo the damage done by racism is a huge task, as muppetboy has suggested, one that will require all white people to take an active role in restoring the imbalance in their communities/spheres of influence."

You're misconstruing my thought. *All people* (not just all "white" people) are going to have to take a role in restoring the imbalance. Although, as someone considered "white", I clearly have certain advantages in society... I too suffer from racism. We all do. This *fact* will obviously be uncomfortable for both "blacks" and certain "liberals" who see the whole issue in more simplistic terms.

Just one example is that there are places in essentially every major city where it's really pretty unwise for me to go just because my skin and culture are "white". The bottom line is that in these places, I've been harrassed, stolen from and threatened (largely by people that label themselves "black"). I would argue that that problem is only *partly* a racial issue (economics are more primary). But it's still an issue of discrimination, now isn't it?

And the safety of "white" people in the so-called "ghettos" is *obviously* not a "white" issue alone, now is it? Nor is the issue of the infighting among "blacks" that very often goes on when "blacks" date "whites" (or even "lighter skinned blacks"). You see, it's not just "white" people that have problems with racism!

Okay, so here's what I think you should do...

I think you need to introspect and carefully re-examine your inflammatory rhetoric that racism is a "white" problem alone. Instead follow through on the other more reasonable thought you have that racism is an INSTITUTIONAL problem affecting *everyone*. Now that you've spent a lot of time examining ways in which racism affects "black" people, wouldn't it make sense to investigate the ways it affects "white" people? Or do "white" people not deserve to have their issues aired and addressed too? Does it somehow not matter that *just last night*, while totally minding my own business, I was verbally assaulted by an angry "black" man? What was my crime? As far as I can tell, it was "walking down the sidewalk while white".

In a way, I think what's really holding back meaningful change is the inability for people on *both* sides of the table to put real issues and ideas on the table. "Blacks" need to fess up that racism isn't a "white" problem. "Whites" need to understand that there is an imbalance. It's not a "white" problem... it's just a problem. And the sooner we stop spitting venom (like the base article of this thread) at each other, the sooner we can start actually working on the problem. Trying to find someone to blame for the problem isn't going to help anyone.

posted by muppetboy at 8:31 AM on March 9, 2001


I meant to add latinos, asians, indians and other minorities to the list of people being left out of the discrimination discussion. When you get down to it, there are problems of racism going on between pretty much *all combinations* of all racial groups everywhere in the world.

posted by muppetboy at 8:39 AM on March 9, 2001


Dead on!! Growing up in Seattle in the late 60s early 70s I did not realize that one of my best friends/personal heroes was black. The grown-ups thought it was cute, strange, and some appalling that a 4 or 5 year-old white boy would be walking around downtown Seattle holding hands with a 7 to 8 year old black girl. I thought she rocked!! I did not have this recounted to me until a few years ago. I found the comments that others had when they viewed this as very odd.

I can not say the world has not tinged my views. Overall I agree that a person's understanding of race is learned.
posted by vanderwal2 at 8:50 AM on March 9, 2001


I'm sorry, but the story in the linked article is really stupid.

There's nothing inherently racist about the "n-word". It's just a word, a way of refering to African-Americans. Using the n-word is only racist if you know that it has all these historical negative connotations and that people currently find it offensive. If a little child uses the word, it might mean her parents are racists, but it's not evidence that the child already has racist attitudes toward African-Americans.

My point is, that a person with advanced Alzheimer's has been stripped of all that awareness of social context and connotations. It's very likely that was simply the only word MawMaw could remember to refer to African-Americans. It doesn't prove that she had some hidden inner racist attitudes, it just proves that at some time in her life she learned that word refers to African-Americans. Sure, it shows she grew up in a racist household, but we knew that already. I don't believe it necessarily reveals anything about her "hidden" attitudes or biases.
posted by straight at 8:50 AM on March 9, 2001


sudama - a very valid point. Thanks for making it. I read once about a museum (although I have never been there) which invites you to enter through one door if you are racist, another if you are not. If you enter through the former door, you are met with a brick wall inscribed with words to the effect of "Everybody is racist, please go back."

That’s because even with the best of intentions, everyone is brought up in a certain way, and of course one is never exposed to all religions, cultures, and ways of doing things. This often colors our way of looking at the world more than we are prepared to admit. I find that outlook to be a true one, and feel that I am more able to work towards addressing these faults, when I am honest to myself about them.

I have attempted to make clear my own thoughts and experiences.
posted by lucien at 9:15 AM on March 9, 2001


Am I racist for wishing through my Law School application process that I wasn't a white male? White Privilege as a concept rings hollow for me right now.
posted by norm at 10:07 AM on March 9, 2001


I've always thought that these "liberals need to acknowledge their racism" people are full of crap, and this article does nothing to disuade me.

The problems of the underclass (of whatever race) are of two sources overwhelmingly: lack of opportunity, and bad parenting.

As to lack of opportunity, every person, whether liberal or conservative as to other issues, should have the compassion to see its injustice. Assuring the chance at a suitable education and employment, via basically adequate primary and secondary education (as well as libraries and adult schools), minimum wage laws, and access to affordable college and vocational training will do the trick, supplemented by enforcing the laws against discrimination in entrance to the trades and professions and access to credit. This can and should be done in a race-neutral fashion; issues like affirmative action and ethnocentric education are nothing more than trivial distractions. The vast majority of the middle class and plenty of the upper class, if they even have college degrees, have them from non-competitive colleges, and anyone who relies upon school curricula to derive their pride and ambition is beyond help ...

As to bad parenting, there are only two things that we can do that really can make a difference: set a good example ourselves, and don't excuse or pretend it doesn't exist in the underclass. All the programs and guilt (whether justly felt or unnecessary) in the world can't make a poor parent care enough about education to assure that her kid does her homework or keep him from hanging with kids who glamorize crime and stigmatize ambition and determination, it has to come from inside.
posted by MattD at 10:38 AM on March 9, 2001


Talk about a strawman arguement, Perigee. Please, feel free to add something useful to the conversation instead of spewing for pointless rhetoric that is on the level of jr. high students.
posted by chason at 10:50 AM on March 9, 2001


MattD, I'm not a "liberals need to acknowledge their racism" person and neither, I suspect, is Tim Wise. We are "white people need to acknowledge racism" people. And you seem to be a "poor people are poor parents" person. What do you conclude from the fact that blacks -- for example -- are poorer on the whole than whites?
posted by sudama at 11:23 AM on March 9, 2001


Here's are the relevant numbers if anyone wants to knock themselves out explaining how black povery/lack of black poverty proves that America is/is not racist.
posted by snarkout at 12:44 PM on March 9, 2001


Bad parenting?
posted by lagado at 5:55 PM on March 9, 2001


no offense to anyone in here, but what really irks me about the united states is the constant flow of PC terms so as not to risk offending one group or another.

excuse me? african-american? asian-american? et al?

that's such bullshit.

if you were born in africa or asia, and emigrated to the u.s., perhaps you qualify for those names.

if you were born in the u.s., you're an american. period.

and guess what? you're born a human being first. then you're either male or female. you aren't white, black, yellow, red, or flipping periwinkle.

my father came to canada from holland. he started his new life by adopting all things canadian. he studied english, ditched his accent, and raised a family.

i was born in canada. i am not a dutch-canadian. i have ethnic roots and family in holland. but i know nothing about what it is like to be dutch - i never lived in holland.

i'm all canadian. why? because that's what i know and who i am.

you wanna end racism? stop pandering to it with all the labels, and start treating people like people.
posted by bwg at 10:00 AM on March 11, 2001


I'm not usually the type to say this, but bwg, that was a great post.

I remember reading an article in Reader's Digest by a man who went to Africa, witnessed the wars, famines, and hatred among the tribes, and decided then that he was never going to call himself an African-American again. He was American, just as his family had been for generations.
posted by crushed at 12:35 PM on March 11, 2001


When everyone of a different race treats you like an American first, then Black/White/Asian/Hispanic/whatever next, then the races will disappear.

It ain't happening any time soon.
posted by owillis at 2:39 PM on March 11, 2001


owillis: Damn boy! i'm getting me a sex-change... nice posts there. BWG too...

I mean that's the way out, isn't it. We keep fucking each other until we're all the same colour. Excellent. I'm all for it *wink* *wink*

posted by holloway at 4:44 AM on March 13, 2001


« Older Farewell, e-Toys...   |   EA:WTF? Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post