Friday, March 26, 2010

A Racism FAQ sheet

[image is from here]

What follows is from *here* at the blog called Egotistical Whining. Thank you, blogger at E.W.!

A Racism FAQ (it is unfinished and not spelled correctly)

Q)Why do you say I don't know what racism is? or The Dictionary says..

A)Well, studies into race have advanced in the years after the 1960s. Many scholars talk about race as a system of advantages based on race, or use the formula prejudice + power=racism. This is because the power differences in society cause different effects when different people are prejudiced. Like even if every black person in America hated white people, the most you'd get are some funny looks, not being beaten by cops or discriminated against in the workplace for being too 'ethnic.'

Q)But I don't have any power! or I don't get any advantages.

A)The power is structural. So if one is rewarded for their degree of whiteness by getting the benefit of the doubt or having their money assumed good in stores, that is an advantage, and that is power. If someone sees your white skin, they assume you're automatically smarter, better and more normal than people of color. That's power.

Q)But it's so hard to not be racist/what can I do to not be a racist?

A)There are two general rules: shut up and listen and don't be an asshole. You'll learn a lot of other things on the way, but those two rules are the key.

Q)Why don't you take my argument at face value?

A)Because the truth is that I don't have any obligation to pretend I've never met a white person before. You see, I don't feel bound to act by old Jim Crow rules. So yea, I'm not going to smile up in your face and say "No! Of course I've never heard of that totally bullshit argument that is made every three seconds! Hahaha! Of course blacks are just too stupid to be doctors or leaders!" Why should I treat you with more deference than my mama?

Q)But I'm poor/insert ethnic group here/live in a magical bubble where there is no racism.

A)The ethnic group thing doesn't make any difference in how people treat you. It is a dishonest tactic to pull out your ethnic group when it is convenient to you, and ignore it the rest of the time. That lack of honesty does not promote good dialogue. In the poverty case, one can be privileged and oppressed at the same time. I get advantages because of my class, but that doesn't get white people to keep their bigoted opinions to their selves. It sucks being poor, but you can still draw on the psychological wages of whiteness, such as not noticing racism that is obvious to the rest of us. There's no perfect place where there is no racism- it may be less outspoken, but it's likely to be there.

Q)but I have a black friend/ fucked a black person/once I saw a black person walk down the street.

A)Antiracism is not transmitted by touch or bodily fluids. It requires a change of mind. Only your actions determine whether you're a racist or not.

Q)But stereotyping is bad!

A)Stereotypes of people of color are used to exert power, and tend not to be true in the first place. If you can say that black people don't like school, you have an excuse to not educate them. But saying that most white people are racist or that they say racist things is not stereotyping. Most white people feel free to touch people's hair, use gross generalizations based on the media, be totally unobservant of the racial reality of America(so black people stole all the spots- but there is still mostly white folks up in here, how does that work), say blacks and other people of color are lying about the existence of racism or keep quiet while their friends enjoy such behavior. Yet most blacks aren't drug dealers, nor education haters.

Q)But "if you switched the words around"..

A)The situations are totally different. You guys got the GI Bill, you guys get taken seriously, no matter what insane paranoid shit you made up, and we're supposed to cry for you? No.


A)Yet another dishonest tactic. Let's attack what's really going on, and then we can talk about some stuff that has never happened, and never will.

Q)But you're stifling freedom of speeech!

A)No, you're being an asshole. There are spaces where you can engage in racism to your heart's content. This is not one of them. Once I knew a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. This guy started to talk about how cool Nazi uniforms were. I was like dude, not cool. It is not necessary to talk about this- it's hurtful and dumb. I wouldn't talk about how the Jews were faking the Holocaust for sympathy either- it's not true, it's hurtful, and well, it's stupid. Not every word that comes out of your mouth is gold, and being respectful to others is often more useful than expressing every single thought that comes through your head.

Q)I'd totally listen to people of color, if only they weren't so angry!/Why can't we talk civilly?

A)Talking about how much you think me, my family and my ancestors are worthless,don't matter or insert negative stereotype here is not civil, no matter how much you dress it up. Saying that nobody can be angry is stupid- it says that whites don't need to be responsible for their actions, or that our anger is somehow illegitimate. Also, it's dishonest. No matter how nicely we phrase the fact that we're human beings and are just as good as whites, you won't listen anyway.

Q)But you didn't praise whites!

A)It is the year 2006, right now, in the 21st century. White people are not entitled to praise. Being born white is not an accomplishment. It's a starting place. You can choose to do good with your life or evil, but being white doesn't automatically put you on the good side.

Q)But you hate white people!

A)I am angry at them for treating me poorly for years. It's the natural consequence of their actions. Yet, I do not seek to hurt white people. Not letting them off the hook for treating people poorly, lying to people's faces, and generally being butts is not the same as hate.

Q)Why are blacks so sensitive?

A)We know the score, and have heard every single one of your lies before. The idea that blacks are stupid is pure projection.

Q)Why do you say I'm lying? I'm a servant of the truth!

A)You deliberately misrepresent untruths or distortions as fact. That's called lying.

Q)Racism stopped a long time ago!

A)That statement in itself is racist. As if people of color are so unimportant you can't crack open a book or use google. Yet somehow you know all about baby bumps or sports stats- I'm not buying it.

Q)Why can't I wave a confederate flag?

A)Imagine that we waved a flag at a "let's kill the white folks" rally or above the state house for 'segregation forever" for a hundred years or so. Would you be like 'hey, that flag is super cool!" No. I was shocked that Robert Jensen had to explain that in fact, people of color would rather be alive, but confederate flag apologists make me reconsider.

Q)The NAACP is as racist as the KKK!

A)You're a dumbass.

Q)Why is there self segregation?

A)Because you segregate yourself in your mostly white group,dumbass. Learn some math. And sometimes we need safe spaces to talk about real issues without hearing your whiny ass,ok?

Q)But my grandpappy didn't own any slaves!

A)Great for your grandpappy, but he probably was full of pride that he was not a nigger. Race riots, restrictive convenants, segregation academies, racist immigration laws. This could not have happened without the consent of the average white dude on the street.Some whites were abolitionists or proto antiracists, which was good for them, and if you think your ancestors were one of those, maybe you should continue the good work, and if you think your ancestors were in the Klan, hey, nobody said you had to have the same attitudes.

Q)But like, a black person totally said it was ok for me to say the n word.

A)Yes, I understand that some people have internalized racism. Don't be an asshole anyway.

Q)But rap music!

A)Dude, if we judged white culture based on reality shows, we'd be dumbasses. It's not reality- it's something made for our entertainment. Most of the people listening to that stuff are white. Simply putting a black face someplace doesn't mean they are the ones running it, although shame on blacks acting in stereotypical roles(ingroup thing, sorry).

Q)The biggest racial problem in America is that there are scholarships for black people/my Asian girlfriend's family thought she shouldn't date a white boy/nobody believes I'm such a great Japanese speaker

A)No, the biggest racial problem in America is racism- the systematic oppression of people of color. It hurts when people in your lives are dicks, but come on, it's not like your family has been consigned to the bottom rung in education for years, and then finally, after a bloody struggle, managed to get college admissions and have people try to help with that so that people don't have to live in poisoned neighborhoods. Nor do your grandparents worry about your safety if you visit your girlfriend's grandparents and you have to reassure them that you won't get hurt. The problem with recognizing this as 'racism' is the same as recognizing the fact that my meal card in college has run out of money as starvation. It's ridiculous, and shows your lack of empathy for real problems. Not to mention, white people are being preferred as well. When they cynically try to co opt our struggles for justice to keep power, they are actually listened to uncritically. Snowflake doesn't have to be the perfect victim(like if she didn't get into college, she could have an F-- in high school) nor do the perps have to be perfect perpetrators. They automatically get "oh, poor snowflake".

Q)Why don't they speak English?

A)English takes a long time to learn to speak, read and listen to well. So while the people who have time to take classes(and money in some areas) are working hard to learn English, they won't be able to learn to speak it automatically, just by making an effort. And yea, they will probably have an accent for some time. Be patient.

Q)But Racism is all the fault of people of color!

A)No it isn't. For example, I am going to get my masters and am very proud of that. As a white person, that's kinda neutral. Everybody's like yay. But for a black person, either I'm increasing racism by stealing the spot from a white person, or I'm the 'exception' from black people, who all are terrible people. It's not how POC act, because white people have jackasses and heroes too, but how you see how we act. Like if white people are in an all white frat, it just happened that way, but if Indians have their Indian club, all the sudden, they are 'self segregating' because they want to enjoy their own culture. And the whole Africans sold slaves thing is dumb. So you're saying that they made Europeans take the slaves, shove them in dirty ships, beat them, and mistreat them and their descendants for hundreds of years? Yea, that's not a racist viewpoint at all. Here whites are always blameless, even if they do immoral things like be racist or enslave other people. The idea that whites are without blemish distorts reality.

Q)Let me show you an innovative new perspective.

A)No, whatever it is, it's been around since the first vestiges of racist asshattery. Simply, nothing is new. Whites are allowed in libraries to discuss their dating lives loudly and distract me from studying, and thus they should be able to check out books. In fact, I saw my white former next door neighbor check out books!(and she didn't even go to my school) So yea, maybe you should try a history book. If you can't read, well, you're not going to be reading this.

Q)The way whites do this is the only good way/Whites are the only people who have ever done anything important.

A)The problem with this is that it's simply not true. For example, languages other than English the way whites speak it aren't wrong, they just are languages or dialects. It's you putting the value judgment on what is right and wrong, and through the lens of racism, white is right. Also, important is a value judgment as well. I have noticed a pattern in which whites say blacks haven't done anything, and when shown evidence to the contrary, they say it's not important, because you know, a white person didn't do it. But if you sincerely don't know, try a history book.

Q)But like, you didn't spell this word right, so you're wrong!

A)Yea, the truth is that you need to do your own homework, and see where you have been racist.

Q)But my motives are pure!

A)I have no way of telling if your motives are pure, but I can totally tell if you're giving me a line of bullshit. Also, your motive is also being judged by what the likely outcome of what you propose will be. If your answer to racism is to pretend racism doesn't exist, yea, I'm going to conclude you don't want to get rid of racism.

Q)The idea of cultural appropriation is ridiculous! Does that mean I can't eat Chinese food?

A)No, the point is just not to be a dick with someone else's culture. It's like the guy who always shows up when there is a party, but when you need help, they are nowhere to be around? Folks are around when it's time to wear someone's religious symbol as a fashion statement(they are oh so deep! Other cultures are soooo cool!) but when it's time to be like hey, don't randomly act like every random Indian has something to do with the 7/11, it's all don't be so sensitive! They are around when it's time to smush many different dance styles from countries they know nothing about into their exercise routine, but when asked about our meddling into the middle east, it's all "they are all terrorists anyway."

Q)But sexism is the root oppression/racism is unacceptable but sexism isn't/if classism was destoryed, racism would be too!

A)There's no hierarchy of oppression. They all operate at the same time. Also, structual oppression is way more pervasive than whatever suburban legend you are using to bolster your position. For example, one guy got fired for saying niggardly, maybe, but that happened at least 5 years ago, and this year hundreds of thousands of black men and women are in jail away from their families and messing up their job prospects. This affects us all. Also, although the oppressions are interlocking in some ways they differ. Even though I'm not class oppressed, people still treat me like crap because of my race, and try to outlaw birth control,etc. Note: if you call yourself a feminist, and you say something like that, I'm throwing you out of the feminist movement, and beating you with chicken wire, and damn what the hugglybears say about it!

Q)Why is this FAQ not a scholarly document?

A)Because you're not reading it in the way it is offered. The truth is knowledge is knowledge, even when cut with snark. This knowledge was distilled from years of life experience, books on subjects from race to history, plenty of conversation with people of color, white folks with a clue, and willfully ignorant whites, a childhood spent in whitebread suburbia and a college career in a predominately white college and a dollop of good sense from my mama. I try to pass it on, but you can't fix stupid.