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Weekend Fun: Comment Rescue and Open Thread

No new content this weekend, sorry. That’s because I want to draw some attention to stuff already posted on the blog that I think deserves some more attention and discussion. Comments, mostly, and some posts. Also, this is an Open Thread, say what you want to me! I can take it.

Monday Debate : Affirmative Action, Still Necessary or Outdated?

Right now the debate stands thusly:

White people – Affirmative action isn’t necessary.
Me – Yeah, it is.

How exciting! But seriously, join in. I’d love some more discussion on this because I actually haven’t completely made up my mind, but I haven’t seen much compelling argument to tip me toward being against AA.

Oh, and don’t forget the slightly newer discussion on Black Leadership, which I’m very interested in expanding.


I’m loving the links to Our Black History stuff, and I encourage people to keep them coming. I also cannot wait for the first carnival because it will rock.


While I was gone lots of people left LOTS of comments that I have been trying to read and think about. I’m going to pick out just a few to bring up now, and maybe others later. A lot of what people had to say is still very relevant.

First, a comment from jon on my “About” page:

hey ther, firstly i thought id clear this one up, im a white male, im 18 years old. an i found ur blog whilst looking for a word to descrobe people who are scared of black people. i thought your reasoning of ABW was completely relevant and true to modern day life, unfortunatly! However, i was wondering as to whether u think white people being scared of black people is racist, as i find myself being accused of being racist myself when i am genuinely scared of black people due to a few bad experiences with black people, im not saying all black people are the same or are all bad people, as i have friends who are black. however, i do often feel intimidated by black people who i am unfamiliar with!

I bring this up for two reasons. 1 – I have no idea how to answer this one. 2 – in light of what Mr. Bill O’Reilly and Mrs. Glenn Beck had to say on this subject, I’m wondering how many white people out there ARE actually afraid of black folks. And what does this all mean? (Be deep, y’all.)

Another comment on that page from Dreson:

Wow, This website makes me sad
Its not white people you need to be focusing on.

Distribution of single-offender victimizations, based on race of victims, by type of crime and perceived race of offender – Year 2002
Offender victim Estimated number of victimizations (1)
Crimes of violence- (3)
Offender/victim
White Black 100 111
Black White 466 205
Black Black 460 388

I don’t even know what to say to this, y’all.


From not_matt in the Things You Need To Understand #4 post:

Perhaps you have answered this already, but I’d like to hear again you opinion of how one can use white privilege to emilinate white privilege. Being queer I do find myself occasionally disadvantaged, but realize that it in no way takes away from the sad fact that I am a white male.

How can I use this power for good? How can I work to support the structuring of other’s privileges, and try to eliminate my own without, undermining what those in the underprivileged groups are trying to do themselves?

If anyone wants to take that one, I encourage it. I think it’s a legit question.


I was reading through the Racism debate comments and found one that I know I read, but I did not absorb. It’s from Claire Light, and I think it deserves a full quote (but it’s long enough to require a jump:

tempest rocks! (for starting this discussion.) let me state right away that i have no answers to the questions, so i’m just gonna make some sentences and let them fall how they may.

what power do you have to oppress others, tempest? well you have the power to bitchslap me all up the avenue. but then i can bitchslap you right back down the ave, so we’re even there.

what makes me uncomfortable about your definition of racism at the top of all this is that *you*, tempest, are one of the smartest, most clear-eyed and concise and sharp-pointed analysts of, well, everything, that i’ve met. you have the power (smarts, education, verbal ability, energy, drive) to smack down 99.999% of our fellow citizens with a few well-chosen sentences. i am not being misty-eyed. this is genuine power. so to say that you yourself are incapable of being racist because you have no institutional power is both disingenuous and self-disempowering. you could wreck almost anyone if you chose to. individual power is … powerful. and it can be destructive. just ask condi.

your current “powerlessness” is chosen. you *decided* not to go the corporate or conformist route. i respect you for that (i did it too), but choosing to step out (or further out than you already are) doesn’t mean that your outiness is oppression.

and i say this realizing that any minute of every day you can step outside your door and get smacked down by even the lowest of the low–for being black. it’s not a simple equation is it?

or let me put it this way: i’m asian, but neither little, nor a goodie goodie. east asians are famous for being afraid of black people, but i steel myself when i see a black man headed my way because that purposeful walk means only one thing: he’s gonna get up into my shit for being asian. 99% of the time, i’m right, too. not all, not most, not even that many black men. just the ones who actually walk towards me that way.

do you know how long it’s been since i’ve taken shit from anyone but a black man for being asian? and yet, every single one of those black men who give me shit are wearing the aura of homelessness or some similar economic desperation on them, and they give me shit while i’m on my way to my fancy nonprofit, bleeding-heart job, or on my way to my mfa creative writing class, stinking of perfumed soap.

i’m aware of my race all day long, and it’s not usually wealthy whites who make me aware of it, who make me cringe. it’s people who make me cringe for myself, then make me cringe for them. whoever it was above who said that blacks can only be racist to asians is just. not. seeing. the mutuality. it’s not a simple equation, is it?

the top-ranking neighborhoods in the country for income are … asian. also, the bottom-ranking neighbhorhoods in the country for income are … asian. wrap your head around that. or around this: the percentage of asians with MDs far outstrips the overall percentage of asians in the population, and yet asian-specific diseases and health issues get short shrift, even compared to african american-specific diseases and health issues. asian american suicide, breast cancer, and obesity rates have either reached par, or outstripped everyone else’s.

asians have entrée, limited, of course, into whiteness, while blacks don’t. and yet asians are routinely derided in mainstream media in a manner that african americans haven’t been for nearly half a century. we have no naacp-equivalent organization, no effective asian political caucus. african americans have real, if limited, *institutional* power. asian americans don’t. yet no one even needs to ask which is higher in the racial hierarchy, which less limited in terms of how each individual in the group is welcomed into opportunity. it’s complicated, isn’t it?

if whites set the terms and forms of racism against asians, and yet it’s blacks who most often operate it, is it still racism? if an asian operates white racism against blacks at the behest of whites who make it a condition of acceptance, of economic opportunity, is *that* the racism you define as backed by institutional power? if my life is oppressed every day by the harrassment of people poorer and less privileged than i, but who exist together as a group while i am alone as an individual representative of *my* group, who is oppressed?

okay, how about this one: i know two white men who grew up in communities of color. one is from a working class family and grew up in a primarily latino school district. he was beaten up every day for two years by his latino classmates. sure, he got to go home and watch tv shows that were all white and listen to white voices on the radio. probably most of his teachers were white, too. but what about him being bullied every day in school? for being white? where does that fit in?

the other was middle class and was bused into a predominantly black school district. again, beaten up every day for years for being white. how do you measure how this man feels about race, about his own race and identity? if a kid is a minority in his school and mistreated by the majority every day for significant portions of his life, how much exactly does it matter that he graduates from daily prejudice into majority status? (should we ask israel?)

and all this is *completely* aside from latinos, indians, and arabs.

(like i said, i gots no answers.)

This comment is making me think for several reasons. Firstly, everything Claire writes makes me think. She’s a sharp woman, and you should read her blog as I do. Second, because her assertion that individual power IS powerful rings very true to me. One of the reasons I do my best to own my angry blackness is because I am trying to exert power over my personal sphere of influence.

The third reason this is making me think hard is because of some reactions to my Why Young Muslim Men Are Angry post, wherein I was accused of evoking Asian stereotypes. I’m not just connecting the two because Claire happens to be Asian, but because both her comment and the comments on that post made me realize that I have been operating under a weird kind of naiveté regarding Race. As in, because I am black and identify as black and generally perceived as black, I really have very little clue how Racism, Race, Prejudice, and other such issues affect other races. What I generally do is assume that it all operates the way I see them operate for black folks with a few exceptions. But that is, of course, straight ig’nant!

This is all to say that I’m glad I have readers and friends from several backgrounds. Not only are they awesome people, but they expose me to viewpoints I don’t normally have access to. I’m grateful for that. And I’ll do my best not to act like some crazy white person and say I completely understand where you’re coming from. Because… I don’t.

Okay, that’s all. As I said, Open Thread. Talk amongst yourselves.

14 comments to Weekend Fun: Comment Rescue and Open Thread

  • Lisa

    I wanted to say I stumbled on your site and what caught me was the tag line at the top.
    I had a white girl demand I explain to her why black women acted like she was a “stupid white girl” (her words). She shouted at me. “YOU’RE BLACK, why can’t you guys just get over it?”
    I thought, “Wow, you are a stupid white girl” I had to laugh because your tag line fit that situation so perfectly and I realized I was not alone in my thinking when someone ignorant ranting and raving at us about our attitudes or lack of feeling for their “suffering”.
    Thanks I love your blog.

  • Re: whites being afraid of blacks–

    When you’re told on one hand that as a white, you are somehow responsible for the brutal oppression of a whole segment of society, and on the other hand shown nothing but negative, violent images about that segment of society, it’s not too hard to put the two together and feel afraid.

    Not to mention the stereotypes of blacks as thugs and the sharp cultural differences (even certain words mean completely different things to blacks vs whites).

    I understood what that comment meant immediately. But then, I’m white. The link you posted was full of people mocking the comment, all (I think) black. Like I said, the two cultures are very different, and I think that’s where the friction comes sometimes. I noticed this a lot during the showing of the TV series “Black/White” and the MySpace discussion that went on afterwards.

  • Oh, and I wanted to add that I’m very happy to have found your blog. I put a bit more about myself on the affirmative action discussion, but my main reason for being here is to learn more about how racism affects people. Now that sounded a bit clinical, didn’t it? It wasn’t meant that way.

    I’m a writer. My first book is partially about bigotry and how it affects people, and being mostly white I haven’t been on the tail end of too much of that.

    (Well, except in my senior year of HS where I was moved to a majority black school and felt a little of what being in the minority was like, and when I spent six weeks in Japan. I’ve been told the same word for foreigner is used for dog.)

    So if I say something out of line just nudge me a bit.

  • Preach on, woman! I haven’t been keeping up like I should, but I see I have some reading to do around here. Stay encouraged. Be what the enemy hates.

  • However, i was wondering as to whether u think white people being scared of black people is racist, as i find myself being accused of being racist myself when i am genuinely scared of black people due to a few bad experiences with black people, im not saying all black people are the same or are all bad people, as i have friends who are black. however, i do often feel intimidated by black people who i am unfamiliar with!

    I bring this up for two reasons. 1 – I have no idea how to answer this one.

    With the truth.

    It’s normal human nature to imprint on intense situations. Your fear is not racist, but it IS a personal problem that YOU have to address. And since it is internal and all anyone who doesn’t know you can see is the avoidance, you have to understand that people’s assumption that you are racist is just as reasonable as your fear.

  • Perhaps you have answered this already, but I’d like to hear again you opinion of how one can use white privilege to emilinate white privilege.

    Disaggregate your privileges and pick an appropriate one for the circumstance.

    In this case, you got the privilege of being taken seriously by white folks when you discuss it. At least when you open the discussion. WHat happens next depends on your personal skill set.

  • On Matt’s (not Matt’s?) question: I echo Prometheus 6. Also: in hiring. Make sure they actually look at resumes of non white people.
    I have often noticed that when there are a lot of candidates people only nominally do this.

    OT: Thanks ABW for WordPress advice! I found the instructions and tried them, they have not worked yet, but at least I have a Path… :-)

  • on the affirmative action question, if i may chime in:

    i’ve worked in education for over ten years, and spent much of that time in “selective” college admissions. the schools i’ve worked for and with generally accept less than 10% of applicants, sometimes far fewer than that depending on the applicant subgroup in question. i’ve also been on the other side of admissions, and fought for my own education, which i never could’ve paid for on my own, by getting scholarships. i was lucky enough to get scholarships for my MA and doctoral programs, at a school where there were exactly two black people in my class, including me.

    so to those who think that “we” don’t need affirmative action programs, let me tell you as an insider: you’re full of shit. sure, there are more black folks in college than during, say, slave times. but the sad truth of the matter is that there are still places in which blacks (and latins and underrepresented asian groups) are rare. oddly enough, these places are frequently the schools which boast placing graduates in high paying jobs and exclusive opportunties with great frequency. if you don’t think that people who go to top 25 schools have a significant advantage over everyone else, you need to take another look.

    many schools have done a great job of keeping minority matriculation rates high. the problem is that minority graduation rates are still not as high as for whites. same with placement into top graduate programs, fortune 500 companies, government…

    i believe that affirmative action in education is key to improving diversity everywhere. obviously, if you don’t have the education they’re looking for, entities like corporations, the military and government aren’t going to even consider you, let alone admit/hire you. more importantly, far too many white people spend all their lives surrounded by nothing but other white people, the token affirmative action minority or two aside. this is why racism lives on today- because too many white people have no direct experience working with, living next to, and sitting in the classroom with real, live, not-sports figure, not-hip hop artist, black people. it’s so much harder to hate what you actually know and have friendships with, and it’s so much harder to stereotype when you work with someone who breaks that stereotype every day.

    i was just reading an old harvard study (2001) that reported that if you’re a black person, you have the same chances at being hired as some white…felons. this study equalized for qualifications in terms of education and experience. simply being darker hued means most employers would rather hire a less qualified white person or former white criminal instead of you. six years into bush’s blatantly racist administration, i can’t believe things have gotten better.

    affirmative action *does not in any way* “cost qualified white people jobs/opportunities in favor of less qualified minorities.” compared to minorities, even problematic white folks have a much better chance at getting into a school, getting a job or grant or contract. those facts are well established, and only nutbags like horror-witz think there is a problem or imbalance.

    i encourage white folks to look around, and count the number of black and brown folks (not the ones on TV) who are in their lives with regularity. have you ever had a black boss, or been in a classroom that was mostly latin? lived in a majority-minority ‘hood? what do your friends look like? you?

    i don’t want to hog this post, so i’ll just end by saying that the problem extends beyond areas in which affirmative action has been applied. minorities have a harder time getting credit, insurance, buying homes and cars…it’s a long list. you may not want to believe it, but lots and lots of times, the reason we don’t have those things has absolutely nothing to do with our “lack of qualifications.”

  • that’s a great quote, great post, and a great thread. i’ve been thinking on the junctures of privilege myself. it makes everything strange when in some situations you have some and others you do not. the quote is so good because it shows really how complex it all is…if only it were as simple as so many of us (well me, sometimes) imagine it to be. a lot to think on.

    and the personal power is another thing. yet, i’d say the cultivation of personal power can be a reaction to types of oppression. it can grow out of not having any at first. but i would hope that that kind is easily tempered with understanding, given some exposure to the feelings and thoughts of others.

    education and finance are other ways of having privilege, separate from ethnicity. there are so many combinations….

  • Once again I am rudely dropping by to read and comment on the post without reading the foregoing comment thread. Forgive me.

    I wanted to address a couple of things, first, your question:

    how many white people out there ARE actually afraid of black folks?

    I am. I think this is the primary active area in which my own personal unconscious racism operates, and I think it’s one of the worst components of racism today. Plenty of well-meaning white people who don’t necessarily have conscious racist beliefs about black people, and who don’t even have an instinctive
    dislike of black people, still have a fear of black people.

    (I’m obvously not talking about a conscious fear; nor does it really apply to black people I know. It’s also lessened over the years as I’ve made myself conscious of it. But still: black guy suddenly comes around a corner on a dark street? You know I’m going to jump.)

    A lot of it comes from the constant, unrelenting representation of black people in our culture as scary. Other stereotypes about black people — stupid, lazy & shiftless, etc. — are increasingly difficult to just drop into a movie, TV show, etc., without anyone saying anything. But representing black people as dangerous and villanous is never a problem. Especially if you have a little implied nod to social determinism, like of course it’s the ghetto, so they have to be bad-ass. That’s why they’re stealing your car. Etc.

    But I don’t think the media representation is all of it. I think it’s more subtle than that, and more bound up with guilt. Because, you know, I’m not scared of Africans. Or British black people. Or Brazillians. I’m only scared of American black people.

    I think that at some level, as a kid, I was taught (as much by official efforts to deny this truth, as by official efforts to expose it): “your people, the people who you belong to, did terrible things to these people which have never been remedied. So they hate you. They want to hurt you. And they are justified in feeling that way. They should want to hurt you.”

    That’s a pretty terrifying thing for a kid.

    And I think that white people’s fear of black people is one of the most toxic elements of racism. When I hear black people talking about how racism affects them, especially black men, a key psychological cost is that of being constantly feared — of constantly having to prove that you’re not a monster. Exhausting, infuriating and heartbreaking. (All men get this to some extent, but black men get it to a degree that makes a difference in kind).

    And unconscious fear is also sufficient to create and perpetuate most kinds of institutional racism. You don’t have to hate someone, or think of them as lesser, in order to not hire them, to not want you to live near you, to call the cops on them. You just have to be afraid. Not even consciously afraid. Just… uncomfortable. For some reason you can’t put your finger on. “I just don’t think he’d fit in here.” “He looks suspicious.”

    If, in your heart of hearts, you suspect that someone is angry at you, and *all the more so* if you suspect that maybe they have a *right* to be angry at you, if only because you have more of the pie… would you want to be around them?

    So there we have the neat little vicious cycle which I think is at the core of the modern strain of American racism. White people have the fruits of centuries of theft. They suspect black people might be a little mad about this. This makes them nervous. And this makes them more reluctant to share the fruits. And this makes black people madder. Which makes white people more nervous.

    Well, that was enough for now, I will comment on not_matt’s question later!

  • nemoforone

    What about the possibility of pulling out of Iraq, letting Iran invade and lose resources fighting their own kind,
    and then come in and mop up the dregs?

  • xztheericzx

    i’m eric. joining a couple boards and looking
    forward to participating. hehe unless i get
    too distracted!

    eric

  • Tertyfrothe

    Hello
    I’ve just registered at the forum. This is my first message.
    Please don’t become angry about me.
    Thank you.