You are viewing shadowhwk

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Blogging About (sorry, Against) Racism

meee
Okay. It's International Blog Against Racism Week in journal land. Given that I have posted and ranted about this before, I suppose I should say something now.

And I realized yesterday that I really didn't feel like I wanted to participate. I know why.

Because having a week to make this an issue raises my eyebrows the same way Black History Month raises the eyebrows on others. Yes, it's fantastic that something gets said/done/discussed/acknowledged, but it's not like racism (black history) ceases to exist after the week (month) is over.

The majority of people who don't think about racism (black history) on a regular basis are not going to continue to do so when the week (month) is over.

The majority of people who are talking about and participating in Blog Against Racism week (Black History Month) are already "the converted". Will it catch the attention of one or two new people? Certainly. Will it make them participants in The Cause? Probably not. Because it takes a genuine interest in The Cause and all that's come before and all that could come after to be a participant. If they didn't have it before the week (month), they're probably not going to have it after.

So yes, I feel like I'm preaching to the choir. But I'm going to stop right about now.

Because what I really feel like Blogging Against Racism week is for (and here I stop the analogy between it and Black History Month) is for beating up whites some more. It's a week where many fingers can be pointed at the "oppressive, male-dominated majority" and waggled in unison. It's a week in which, really? It's not okay to be white on the blogs. Because if you're white, you are inherently a part of privileged society and that, my friends, means you're inherently a part of the problem. Because of the color of your skin and the (mis)fortune of your birth, you are part of the problem.

I'm sorry. Aren't we supposed to be blogging against racism?

I've said before and I will say it again. Racism is not an issue of white privilege. Whites are not the only people who are racist, not by a long shot. There are blacks who hate white people, there are asians who hate blacks, there are hispanics who hate asians, there are native americans who hate hispanics and whites who hate native americans. Around and around we go.

If we're going to blog against racism, let's blog against all of it, not just one pocket or one type. Let's encourage people of all races to take a look at how they feel about people of all races, because the issue of racism really isn't black and white.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
inalasahl
Aug. 9th, 2007 09:30 pm (UTC)
Yes, it's fantastic that something gets said/done/discussed/acknowledged, but it's not like racism (black history) ceases to exist after the week (month) is over.
Neither does IBARW. Last year's IBARW generated quite a few posts that were referred to, recited and linked on the blogosphere throughout this year.

Will it catch the attention of one or two new people? Certainly. Will it make them participants in The Cause? Probably not.
In two days this year's IBARW generated as many posts as the entire week last year. While posts are not participation, I do believe that is the direct result of last year's posts being used so frequently as reference material when racial issues came up. It advertised IBARW, gave people a common framework for discussion as we'd all read the same things and provided the necessary repetition that's a part of all learning.

If they didn't have it before the week (month), they're probably not going to have it after.
I disagree; I think people can learn. Sometimes it takes people more than one explanation to understand something. Like white privilege. Which I think you may be misunderstanding. (You may be more comfortable reading this essay, which is about male privilege.) It's not about white people being inherently part of the problem, because of their skin color. It's about acknowledging that white people (even if they don't want to, even if they hold no racist beliefs themselves) benefit from racism every day and the impact that has on them and other people.

Whites are not the only people who are racist, not by a long shot.
White people are not the only people who are prejudice, but many people reserve the term "racism" for prejudiced beliefs plus institutional and societal power. Whether you agree with this definition of the term or not, I hope you can see that it is a useful distinction. As a multi-racial individual, I have experienced prejudice both for being white and for being Asian. People of color who see me as a white person and judge me for that can be really, really mean. They can call me names and assault me (for which they would almost certainly be punished if the authorities are informed). White people who see me as a person of color can do both those things, too (for which they may or may not get in trouble). But they can also deny me jobs and housing and so forth, because typically in the country where I live, it's white people who are in the positions of power that make those decisions.
shadowhwk
Aug. 9th, 2007 10:13 pm (UTC)
In two days this year's IBARW generated as many posts as the entire week last year.

A fair point. More people participating is great! Is there going to be a study of how many of the "more" are people who didn't participate last year? And are multiple posts from one person counted in the final tally? Because I think that makes a difference.

I disagree; I think people can learn.

I didn't say people can't learn. :) I just said that I doubt the liklihood of people joining the cause because they read a few blog posts. If someone does, I think the thought or the idea was probably (and note that I said probably in my initial post too) already there and percolating in their minds.

I think it's really easy to get swept up in the heat of the moment and click 'reply to' on a blog post, but to never do anything else about it, or challenge anything in the real world, etc.

It's about acknowledging that white people (even if they don't want to, even if they hold no racist beliefs themselves) benefit from racism every day and the impact that has on them and other people.

I'm not misunderstanding. Yes, that's what white privilege is supposed to mean. But, I ask you, and I mean this sincerely, what does it accomplish to tell people this? What is the point of insisting that people acknowledge this other than to say that they're inherently guilty and inherently responsible based solely on the color of their skin?

Do you believe that it will solve problems if people feel guilty? Do you think that telling people that, even if they do not have racist beliefs themselves, they are still benefitting from traditions and practices that oppress and limit and hurt people of other races, has any positive impact?

A better question: Do we, as members of non-white races, want the white majority to want to change their ways because they genuinely want to change, or from a sense of guilt?

I personally feel that doing anything from a position of guilt makes the action disingenuous. It's not honestly, sincerely motivated. It's to get out from under the finger of blame.

White people are not the only people who are prejudice, but many people reserve the term "racism" for prejudiced beliefs plus institutional and societal power. Whether you agree with this definition of the term or not, I hope you can see that it is a useful distinction.

I've actually had this discussion before, and unfortunately, no, I don't see it as a useful distinction. To me, it's comparing apples and coconuts.

This is the definition of racism that I know and was taught:
a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

Period. End of definition.

There may be a group in power that is also racist, and if we want to address that idea, then let's address that idea. But the term "racism" will never, to me, have anything to do with who has the power and authority, in any country.

Here's a hypothetical: I'm a black man. I own an apartment building. I refuse to rent an apartment to anyone who is white. You can be asian, hispanic, purple, whatever, but if you are white, you are not welcome to live in my apartment building because I think white people are all cheats and liars, and I don't want them on my property.

I now have the power. In that situation, are you saying that you would call that apartment building owner prejudiced, rather than racist? And if so, why?
inalasahl
Aug. 13th, 2007 06:14 pm (UTC)
If someone does, I think the thought or the idea was probably (and note that I said probably in my initial post too) already there and percolating in their minds.
I agree, but I think for some people it's IBARW that gets the idea percolating in their minds.

What is the point of insisting that people acknowledge this other than to say that they're inherently guilty and inherently responsible based solely on the color of their skin?
To me, the point of acknowledging and discussing white privilege is certainly not to make anyone feel guilty or responsible for racism. The point of acknowledging and discussing white privilege is to fight racism, which can't be done if one whole segment of the problem is ignored.

Do you believe that it will solve problems if people feel guilty? Do you think that telling people that, even if they do not have racist beliefs themselves, they are still benefitting from traditions and practices that oppress and limit and hurt people of other races, has any positive impact?
It's not about making people feel guilty; it's about recognizing the scope of the problem of racism. One of the positive impacts I see of openly acknowledging white privilege is counteracting the myth of "I pulled myself up by my bootstraps, why can't they?" For example, if DeShawn and Sean both send in identical resumes, Sean's more likely to get called for an interview (no fault of Sean's that he's just benefitted from racism, unless he later attributes his success solely to his own hard work and decides that DeShawn must just not have worked as hard). If they do both get interviews, DeShawn may be late (or have trouble getting to work on a regular basis, or may have to have spend additional time each day planning how to get to work), because he can't get a taxi driver to stop for him, making Sean appear more professional. Again, it's not Sean's fault that he's just benefitted from racism, but that doesn't make it any less true. Sean's ability to successfully combat racism in society is going to be hugely dependent on whether he's aware that these things kinds of things are even happening, and that's one of the points to me of discussing white privilege.

In that situation, are you saying that you would call that apartment building owner prejudiced, rather than racist? And if so, why?
Because, yes, I do find it a useful distinction. Although, no, I don't as a rule argue with people who use racism to mean prejudice, because I understand that language is sometimes going to be different in vernacular, and anyway most people who don't make the distinction, don't realize there is a distinction to be made. That is, most of them see racism as a one-on-one, person-to-person problem rather than a societal system that's been deliberately set-up and maintained. It's more important to me, personally, to talk about the latter problem than it is to argue about what to call it. But a lot of people feel that it's hard for people to "get" that these are two separate issues unless different terminologies are used, and I find myself agreeing with them more and more. For example, in your hypothetical situation, at a minimum, the apartment building owner would be far less likely to be able to get away with such a policy and be much more likely to be stopped and face consequences. He would not be so easily believed if he tried to claim there were no suitable white applicants and that it was just a coincidence.
shadowhwk
Aug. 13th, 2007 06:50 pm (UTC)
Sean's ability to successfully combat racism in society is going to be hugely dependent on whether he's aware that these things kinds of things are even happening, and that's one of the points to me of discussing white privilege.

Okay. Let's assuming that he believes and acknowledges that he's benefitting from what his parents chose to name him or the fact that taxis stop more readily for him. Now that he acknowledges it, what is he supposed to do about it? How does this knowledge change what he does in his own life? Is he supposed to turn down the job offer because it wasn't offered to DeShawn? Is he supposed to refuse a taxi ride or give up his taxi in favor of DeShawn should they happen to be on the same corner?

If he is, then isn't that expecting him to undermine his own success in favor of someone else's? If he's not expected to change his behavior, then I honestly don't understand how encouraging people to think 'I probably got X achievement because I'm white' is productive.

It's more important to me, personally, to talk about the latter problem than it is to argue about what to call it.

We're going to disagree on this probably until we're both blue in the face, or fingers as the case may be. Because we don't agree on the definition of the word. My opinion is that racism is racism, regardless of the skin color of the person perpetuating it. Calling it "predjudice" if it happens to come from a non-white person seems like a deliberate softening. Because let's face it, racism is a heated, nasty word. Predjudice, not as much.

For example, in your hypothetical situation, at a minimum, the apartment building owner would be far less likely to be able to get away with such a policy and be much more likely to be stopped and face consequences. He would not be so easily believed if he tried to claim there were no suitable white applicants and that it was just a coincidence.

Since when does racism depend on whether people believe the person spouting it? If a white man stands up in a room full of blacks and tells them they're all lazy good for nothing N*s and no one in the room shares his belief, does he cease being racist?

Your answer doesn't address my question. If the hypothetical black building owner is discriminating solely based on race, is he predjudiced or racist?
shadowhwk
Aug. 13th, 2007 06:51 pm (UTC)
I can spell. No d in prejudice.
tacky_tramp
Aug. 10th, 2007 02:57 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure what your race/ethnicity is, but if you're white, and you feel guilty about white privilege and your position on top of a racist society, I would encourage you to move beyond guilt and toward action. I and the other IBARW participants I know are not interested in making anyone feel shame. We are interested in educating the ignorant and persuading the recalcitrant -- or at the very least, sparking dialogue in hopes that it will stick in people's minds when IBARW is over.
shadowhwk
Aug. 10th, 2007 04:15 pm (UTC)
I'm mixed.

Thanks for commenting.
out_foxed
Apr. 12th, 2009 12:21 am (UTC)
Pardon the intrusion, but I feel I have to comment on this.

"I'm not sure what your race/ethnicity is, but if you're white, and you feel guilty about white privilege and your position on top of a racist society, I would encourage you to move beyond guilt and toward action."

No offense, but it sounds like many of the people behind IBARW are assuming that all white people are privileged, which, no matter which way you slice it, is pretty damn racist. That mode of thinking is akin to "all Germans are Nazis" and "all black people are dumb". It's intellectually lazy, arrogant, and does this project disservice as a whole.

"I and the other IBARW participants I know are not interested in making anyone feel shame. We are interested in educating the ignorant and persuading the recalcitrant"

Call me pessimistic, but somehow I doubt that many of 'the ignorant and the recalcitrant' are going to find their way to this blog gathering. It would be more effective, in my view, to seek out said people, and talk to them. It still won't be easy to convince them, but it's better than staying locked up in a cul-de-sac, patting one another on the back for how non-racist we are all being.

"or at the very least, sparking dialogue in hopes that it will stick in people's minds when IBARW is over."

I'm afraid that what's stuck in my mind more than anything about IBARW so far is the lack of consistency, and the lumping of perfectly good arguments with terribly bawdy ones. How, exactly, is that meant to help in the fight against racism? It's one thing to vent, it's entirely another to construct good arguments in favor of one's cause.
tacky_tramp
Apr. 12th, 2009 08:05 pm (UTC)
many of the people behind IBARW are assuming that all white people are privileged, which, no matter which way you slice it, is pretty damn racist.

It's not, and here's why. The word "privilege" has different meanings. We often use it to mean rich, elite, snobbish, pampered, etc. It has a different meaning in the context of feminism, racism and antiracism, classism, homophobia and queer rights, and so on. Privilege means the unearned benefits that members of the majority/dominant group get. I'm sure you understand that racism gives disadvantages to people of color and sexism gives disadvantages to women, but the less obvious thing is, racism gives advantages to white people and sexism gives advantages to men. Those advantages are called "privilege." White privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, able-bodied privilege.

Individuals can have some sorts of privilege and lack others. I have white privilege but I lack male privilege. It can even get more complicated -- I am bisexual, but I'm in a long-term relationship with a man, so the vast majority of the time, I get heterosexual privilege. Remember, privilege isn't about what I do or who I am, exactly. It's about how other people perceive me and what they do for me, or about the way the world is arranged for my benefit.

Whether or not you believe that white privilege exists, saying "white people are privileged" is not the same as saying "black people are dumb." It's not a harmful generalization about white people. It's the articulation of a social theory.
out_foxed
Apr. 16th, 2009 10:16 pm (UTC)
This reply's a bit late, as I have been busy writing for a speech contest at my university all week. Anyway..

I never said I didn't believe that "white privilige" exists. But from the way people on this blog gathering talk about the phenomenon, it sounds as though only white people are privileged, and that racism only comes from one side.

Another thing that I've encountered while browsing through the myriad of op-eds here is the attidude that "you can't have an opinion on these matters, because of the color of your skin (i.e. white). We don't want your help/sympathy". I'm certainly not happy about the legacy that other whites throughout the ages have left for me, in regards to racial intolerance and exploitation, but does that mean I shouldn't have a voice in the matter? Because of the actions of people long dead before I was even born? Quite the prejudiced attitude, wouldn't you say? I thought that was something we were trying to fight against.

Furthermore, I am dating a "PoC" (gods, how I loathe that term). Now, I didn't fall for her because of what she is, but because of who she is. But some posters here would have one believe that dating or being married to a person of a different racial background gives one no real say in the matter, either. In fact, it would seem, somehow, to further undermine my ability to argue against racism. How can anyone see any logic in that?

"It's the articulation of a social theory."

Indeed, the problem is not merely racial, but social, economical, political, and so on. Therefore, it requires a wider focus and better solutions than simply chanting mantras like "white privilege" (or "kill whitey", if you will).

I care deeply about the matter of racism, and combating it, but frankly, I am at times stunned by how narrow-minded and vitriolic the discussion is becoming on these blogs. That is my main concern here.

Good hunting.
tacky_tramp
Apr. 16th, 2009 10:30 pm (UTC)
Wow, if you think talking about white privilege is anything like saying "kill whitey," then our perspectives are entirely too far apart for productive conversation to take place.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )