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Things You Need to Understand #5 – Color Blindness

When white people say:

“I don’t see color”


“We should live in a colorblind society”

What they’re actually saying is:

“I refuse to deal with how our culture and societry treats people of color because it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t want to understand how having a different skin color or ethnicity affects other people because that means I would have to think and consider other points of view. What I want is to not have to think. I prefer to believe I live in a fantasy land where no one ever pays attention to skin color, ethnicity, culture, or religion. I am part of the problem with race relations, not its great savior.”

Just so you know.

109 thoughts on “Things You Need to Understand #5 – Color Blindness”

  1. Phil says:

    Lucky that this should come on the heels of both the SF post and the comment discussion on the last post about Imus. Was it intentional?

    The “colorblind” argument is effectively an attempt to bury issues of real, contemporary racism beneath levels of speculation and/or anecdote. You can avoid a real discussion about race by either pretending that individual instances of racism can be addressed in the absence of historical/institutional contexts (anecdote) or by submitting your feelings about an ideal future society in place of a pertinent reaction to racism as it exists now (speculation).

    Either way you’re dealing in fantasy.

  2. mike says:

    To say “I don’t see color” would be either an admission of an optical condition or a big flag that I deny the obvious. I do not refer to people by their color unless there is a need to. “Who is Joe?” – “Hes that black guy over there.” I dont intorduce him as Joe my Black friend…thats obvious and to identify it needlessly is racist in my book……And, the discussions are different to a degree because of culture.
    I have very frank and honest discussions with everybody, regardless of color…..We rip on each other pretty good too….

  3. Liv says:

    I agree with the previous posters.
    When someone says that tom me I feel invisible, there is a denial of who I am and my families heritage.

  4. Liv says:

    I agree with the previous posters.
    When someone says that to me I feel invisible, there is a denial of who I am and my family’s heritage.

  5. Liberty says:

    If everyone refused, i.e., be ignorant, to differentiate on skin colour alone, racial tensions, by definition, would cease to exist. Anything to the contrary is false.

    As for cultural discriminations, “black” culture just joins the long list of cultural discriminations in our world. In fact, I doubt that there exists a culture that does not discriminate.

    To say “I don’t see colour”, is similar to “I am going to treat you like I treat everyone else.”

  6. Ensayn says:

    ABM, You said it so well! I could not agree with your post more.

  7. Ensayn says:

    Oops, thats ABW, don’t know what I was thinking…LOL

  8. BlueGirl says:

    I have to say I am extremely impressed by Theangryblackwoman.

    However for those of you who have read my comments down in the previous post, I was never saying I was color blind.

    I am trying to make a distinction between culture and race. I think it would be both helpful and enlightening.

  9. ishie says:

    My definition of discrimination…

    Making broad assumptions about people you dont know on the basis of their membership in a group.

    This is 2007, I thought we were beyond the point where we say “white people think this… Black people all think like this…”

    I like some of you points but I found this posting to be written in a distastful way.

  10. Dani says:

    My suggestion ishie, would be to read through this blog some more. Then perhaps hit Free Slave and Field Negro’s sites as well. Read some Tim Wise.

    Because what you have written is exactly why it’s 2007, and we are not beyond “that point” where we say these things.

    It’s just another denial of the problem.

  11. BlueGirl says:

    Power dynamics are interesting. They happen between individuals — between sisters, brothers, families, spouses and significant others. Basically, when ever you have two or more people you have a possibility for one person to feel like they have less power.

    The nice thing about the US that I believe to be true in 2007 but not true in the past, is that our laws actually no longer discriminate based on race. At least not in a strict sense. (They do perhaps still discriminate on sexual preference but that seems to be for a different blog.)

    So, on paper, we now live in a country where there is no privelege other than justice.

    Before you all rant at me, I know that’s not how it works in reality. Because laws are enforced by humans. And humans are usually flawed.

    But this issue of white privelege. I’m not really sure what it means. Because what it often seems is that to labelled “white” is to be erased. It is a dismissal of culture and identity.

    So what is this “white privelege”?

  12. Deoridhe says:

    White privilege is not to have your ability to pay for an apartment called into question.

    White privilege is walking into a very expensive store wearing expensive clothes and not being stopped by the stalesperson to be asked if you would be able to pay for anything in the store.

    White privilege is driving a car and not being stopped because you “look suspicious”.

    White privilege is being able to say, “But can’t we just change that treaty?” and “That was a while ago, can’t they have learned English by NOW?” when informed the US signed a treaty stating Spanish speakers would be accomodated by the US government.

    White privilege is not having your nice mall with classy stores labelled “ghetto” because the majority of the shoppers and staff are white.

    White privilege is not having a white political figure labeled “clean” and “articulate” by the media.

    White privilege is not having a bunch of women who have worked hard and come in second place in a National tournemant labeled “nappy haired hos” and then have to endure the media and members of the group said speaker belongs to not only DEFEND the speaker but claim it was barely racist (this is male privilege, too). White privilege is having people question the firing of said person because he “just made a mistake” and “it was his kind of comedy”.

    White privilege is turning on the television and seeing the majority of the people look like you, opening a book and reading that the majority of people look like you, looking and your government and seeing that the majority of the people look like you, and looking in a history book to see the majority of the people look like you (this is also male privilege).

    White privilege is justifying the above by stating that ‘all people who weren’t white weren’t doing anything anyway, so why shouldn’t we study the important people?’ when the “important people” happens to ignore the majority of non-whites who were important.

    White privilege is being able to ask, in all seriousness, “So what is this ‘white privilege’?”

  13. Phil says:


    I think you’ll find some answers about how to understand white privelege elsewhere on this site.

    Just a quick sidenote: the term “sexual preference” is kind of rough because is it often used to suggest that the individual has the ability to alter his or her sexuality by choice. You might want to use “sexual orientation” instead. For a quick reference, check here:

  14. Liberty says:

    White Privilege is the fact that white people sit high in power over peoples of other races. This basically stems from the fact that white people dominated the globe and amassed a huge amount of wealth. The wealth, combined with inheritance, allows for white people to have access to more resources such as higher education and new technology.

    This all stems from the fact that people without wealth have difficulty gaining in the overall structre of society, the poor effectivly stay poor. The rich people also tend to get richer, thus driving up high end prices and making it more hard for the lower classes to achieve accension.

  15. BlueGirl says:

    Wow, there is so much here to respond to that I’m going to do it in a couple of posts.

    There are a hell of a lot of people who have more power than me, including the woman who owns this blog.

    While class and race have been often intertwined in the past, I think it is a disservice to people who are “black” to do so automatically.

  16. BlueGirl says:

    Phil, nte about sexual orientation taken. You are totally right.

  17. BlueGirl says:

    Just to clarify to all of you. I actually wasn’t doubting that “white privelege” in some form, however we define it, exists. I actually wanted a definition.

    I think the problem is the definition of “white” and a confusion over which of the list of things Deoridhe used as a definition so poetically are actually due to the color of one’s skin and which are not.

    Getting stopped by the police more frequently simply on suspicion. Yeah, that is prejudice.

    Malls are filled with stores based on economics. If you are rich, you get Chanel. If you are poor – wal mart.
    It has nothing to do with race in our post civil rights world.

    (SEE my above post for discussiion on intersection of race and class.

    Freedom of speech means we can say whatever we want, all of us.

    Apparantly, according to you, being “black” means you can be racist to “white” people and still sleep peacefully in your bed at night ignorant of the hypocrasy.

    I haven’t gotten into why i think the terms white and black are limiting yet. But I’m sure I’ll get there.

  18. BlueGirl says:

    BTW, Deoridhe, I use “you” generally. I am not talking about YOU. I should have said, “one.”

  19. Angel H. says:

    Malls are filled with stores based on economics. If you are rich, you get Chanel. If you are poor – wal mart.
    It has nothing to do with race in our post civil rights world.

    Bluegirl, I think you missed what Deoridhe wrote (emphasis mine):

    White privilege is walking into a very expensive store wearing expensive clothes and not being stopped by the stalesperson to be asked if you would be able to pay for anything in the store.

    Two examples:

    1) My father went to Sears after church wearing a suit and tie. When he went to the register to pay for his purchase with his platinum card, not only did the clerk verify his identification – 3 times! – but they called the manager who did the same, and called the card company to make sure he was authorized to use the card!

    2) I was walking through the women’s section in a department store. The only other people in that section were me (Black), a sales clerk (white), and another customer (white). That day I was wearing a cute skirt and blouse (I was looking sharp, y’all!) and the other customer was wearing a ratty t-shirt, cutoff jeans, and flip-flops. The clerk watched me the whole time and I was there, and then I when I actually wanted to ask her for something, she ignored me! I went over to the next department to ask for help. When that lady told me she wasn’t familiar with area, I said, “Oh, I know. But the lady that’s over there isn’t paying any attention to me. Maybe you could get the manager?”

    In other words, Bluegirl, just because you don’t see it, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist.

  20. Deoridhe says:

    Bluegirl: Malls are filled with stores based on economics. If you are rich, you get Chanel. If you are poor – wal mart.
    It has nothing to do with race in our post civil rights world.

    Ur, my example was a nice mall being referred to as “ghetto”, actually. And it was a nice mall, and it was referred to as ghetto, and when I questioned the person labeling it such she explicitely said it was because there were so many black people around.

    It was a nice mall. Suburban. Pleasant. Attractive. Rendered ‘ghetto’ because of the skin color of the people shopping in it.

    How does that have anything to do with economics? Economically, the people were doing fine. It was higher class that Walmart, too.

  21. Angel H. says:

    I may have jumped the gun. Sorry. (I’m trying to look busy at work, so I may have missed a few things! ^_^)

    Anyway, I do notice that you refer to the time that we live in as the “post civil rights world”. Granted, the sixties is what is typically known as the Civil Rights Era because that’s during the time most civil rights laws were passed. But I think that referring to the present as “post”-civil rights, gives the impression that we’ve already made it and that there’s nothing more to be accomplished.

    Bluegirl, I hope it doesn’t sound like I’m coming down hard on you because I do appreciate you wanting to learn more.

  22. BlueGirl says:

    Hey all of you. I value this discussion because I think it is useful. I think it is cool that ALL of us are openminded enough to read opposing views.

    I’m not held to my belief system. If someone gives me a good reason to change, I’d rather be right in the future than always have been right.

    Deoridhe, I agree with you that the person who called that mall ghetto for such a superficial reason has some major issues.

    Angel, Can you be a hundred percent sure that those people were being racist? It is totally possible they were, but maybe there were other reasons, like bad customer service period, or someone had a fight with their girlfriend. Etc…

    I do have a problem with people taking these individual examples and using them to define larger groups. That is part of prejudice.

    Now, I understand that that is what people do in life. We take our experiences and use them to extrapolate. How else can we exist and make judgments: about men, women, people we want to hire etc…

    I do think something like “white privelege” exists, I just challenge everyone to not rest on their pre-conceived idea of what it is. I think it is a lot more specific.

    I’m in here for a better society in the future. If we aren’t trying to make the world a better place, than why try to get someone like Don Imus off the air? The only reason to do so, is we are all willing to take a hard look at our assumptions.

  23. BlueGirl says:

    More about race vs. ethinicty and culture.

    The only reason to study the past is to not repeat the mistakes and to make a better future. So I am not advocating forgetting. But I am advocating allowing for new ways of viewing in order to make the future better.

  24. Angel H. says:

    Angel, Can you be a hundred percent sure that those people were being racist?…

    I do have a problem with people taking these individual examples and using them to define larger groups. That is part of prejudice.

    The reason that I know they were being racist is because it doesn’t just happen to me. It’s happens to thousands of Black people on a daily basis. It’s called Shopping While Black; either your ability to pay is put into question, or security follows you like a hawk because you happen to be the only Black person in the store.

    The reason that I can recognize these as racist incidents and that you have more difficulty in doing so is because all of my life, I was taught to be weary of racism. My parents have always said that people are going to try to hold me back and think that I’m unable to accomplish anything just because of the color of my skin. I’ll have to be on my guard and “work twice as hard as the little white girl sitting next to me.” And I wasn’t the only black child whose parents gave them this speech.

    pllogan mentioned this on another board:
    “Most whites don’t tell their kids that they’re white, yet they call a Black kid ‘Black’. They feel they have to point that out. I think that’s part of the problem. White kids are socialized to think their appearance is the norm for human beings and any other appearance is ‘other’.”

  25. BlueGirl says:


    I understand and respect what you are saying. I understand that in the past, parents gave their children these speeches as either preemptive armour or after something had happened as a way to help them understand the experience.

    However, for our next generation, let us remember that our parents are not always correct. That when our parents or we tell our children, don’t do ___, maybe we aren’t right but are putting our own opinions on our children.

    We all act according to the filters we develop. Of course you will view the world through the filter of race if that is what you are taught. My parents taught me to see the world through the filter of being Jewish and that was something I definitely needed to unpack for myself and figure out how that filter played out in my daily life. If you teach your children the same thing your parents taught you, you will definitely be doing them a disservice.

    So just because something has happened to many many people in stores, can you be 100% sure that in each of those individual instances, racism was the factor?

  26. Angel H. says:

    Yes. Yes I can.

  27. Angel H. says:

    Also, it wasn’t that far in the past. I’m only in my twenties, after all.

  28. BlueGirl says:

    OK, here’s a story. A Korean-american friend of mine, who is married to a Lithuanian-american, has a biracial kid and recently moved to the south, went to walgreens. She has received a lot of flack in the new community for both being Asian, which there aren’t many of, and being in an interracial relationship. She has experienced racism that was absolutely undeniable many many times. She wanted to buy tylenol. They asked to see her id. They gave her a big hassle.

    She came home and called me and told me this story and said the person was a racist but was afraid to say anything because its the store she always goes to and she didnt want any trouble. Its a small town.

    I, from across the country, called up the store, ready to bitch them out and deal with their managers or whatever. Over the phone they would have no idea what race I am (ok, maybe my “white supermace” allows me to think i have the right to call someone out on something.) i started by nicely questioning them about their policy. It is their policy in every store when selling certain things that are in the pharmacy isles, to always ask for id.

    Back here on the west coast, i went to walgreens to check this out, bought tylenol, had my id checked.

    Her filter made her see it as racism when it was store policy.

    So I’m not saying that racism doesnt exist. I’m just saying be careful with assumptions.

  29. transgressingengineer says:

    Obviously Rabiddog is a troll… don’t feed the troll! There are plenty of other posts on this string to comment on that merit an intelligent discussion.

  30. ABW's Guest Blogger says:


    As the housesitter while ABW is gone, I’ll ask politely once. This space is for intelligent discussion, as transgressingengineer said. If you can’t offer that, please leave. BTW, if you *do* make another comment, please at least put your grammar-check on; it’s really painful for those of us who are writers to read your posts. Subject-verb agreement is your friend, okay? =)

  31. ABW's Guest Blogger says:

    All right, so it seems a nutjob has started weighing in. Apologies to those of you who were having an intelligent discussion, but I’m going to have to moderate comments to keep RabidDog aka NewlyConfused, or any variation thereon, from wasting anyone else’s time.

    As always, intelligent and thoughtful discourse is welcomed here, even if you disagree. Just keep your disagreements rational and comprehensible, and approach the discussion from the perspective of someone who wants to learn and share rather than preach their own racist agenda, and you’ll be fine. =)

  32. Phil says:

    Logging on now it seems that all of the nutjob comments have been deleted…I feel as if I’ve missed out.

    One thing that I mentioned briefly in my comment at the very top of this thread, and that I think is relevant in this discussion, is the problem of addressing social phenomena like racism through anecdote.

    BlueGirl, the thing that I think it is important to recognize is that your story about the pharmacy ID check may present a coherent and true lesson in itself; that sometimes a seemingly racist incident can actually be benign. But the internal validity of this anecdote doesn’t mean that it can necessarily be propped up against deeply-rooted social phenomenon that produce countless anecdotes like the ones Angel H. provides.

    That is to say, yes, sometimes folks may see racism coming into play in way that it is not. But if you take a broader look at the history of race in the U.S. (um…we’re all talking in an U.S. context here, no?), those incidents will be proven as the exception.

    And of course when I say “history,” I’m not referring to something that ended with the “Civil Rights Era.” Attitudes toward race in this country have certainly changed since 1776, and even since 1976, and lucky for all of us, lots of that change has been for the better. But imposing boundaries on racism through artifical concepts like “generations” or notions of irreversible “progress” toward a fair society don’t give an accurate picture of how race works now.

  33. Deoridhe says:

    Her filter made her see it as racism when it was store policy.

    Okay, look, you have a single example of a change in policy which someone interpreted as racism.

    You have been given numerous examples of racist experiences in public. Experiences where people judged a place based on the appearance of the shoppers alone (Are you seriously claiming my friend with “major issues” wasn’t racist? Why use “major issues”? Why not use “racist”?), well dressed people being watched and given subpar service when no one else in the store is, etc.. etc… and you’re dismissing all of them because one of your friends ONCE said something was racist when it actually wasn’t.

    Someone one who you noted was ALREADY getting flack for being Asian and in a biracial relationship. In other words, who was used to being singled out for her race, in – as you said – a small town.

    You say “be careful with assumptions,” – lets look at the balance sheet, here. How many assumptions does your friend have to endure in order to make one? A hundred? A thousand? Ten thousand? A hundred thousand? Give me a number, here.

    How many people Living Without Being White have to be called “clean” and “articulate” before we who Live As White say, “That’s not cool”?

    How many people Living Without Being White have to be ignored by staff before they can ‘assume’ it’s racism?

    How many people have to protest the firing of a man who mde a racist and sexist comment on the air about sports stars before we can say, “That’s racist, sexist, and thoroughly fucked up, and no it is NOT anti-PC or rebellious or cool – it’s just sick.”

    In terms of raising non-white children to think they’re white, I would recommend you seek out some of the transracial adoption blogs out there; Twice the Rice is an excellent launching point, and she just linked to a whole slew of blogs I’m slowly working my way through. She is Korean, raised white, and because she didn’t have Asian parents who had endured racism she had no way of coping the first time someone racially insulted her, and her parents completely ignored it. That’s what you’re recommending non-white parents to do, right?

    Raising someone in ignorance just leaves them to think the problem is them, so they’re a bad person. It does NOTHING to keep the racism away. Raising people who know what racism is and how to recognize it gives them protection; if the cost of that protection of self-worth is occassionally being wrong in an assumption, well I personally say that’s a small price.

  34. Liv says:

    Hiya BlueGirl,
    I wanted to give an example of ways children of color being raised to recognize their race vs. many white children.

    Many young black and latino men are regularly gunned down by the police, their parents must warn them that they are not only potential targets for criminals but also for the law.

    Many young black and brown folks White women too) have to have Masters degrees and 5-10 years experience to make the same money in a job as many white males. Myself and all my friends included find this very disturbing and sad.

    Today in New Orleans blacks are being discriminated against in the housing market due to shortages in housing from Katrina. The Associated Press ran the story where “testers” were sent in to cerify the stories…I can send you a link if you like the story ran today.

    I can go on and on but if children of color parents don’t prepare them for the disparities in our society not only in some cases is it a matter of life and death, it affects their over all wealth, the future of their children , their hopes for education and good jobs. To be a person of color and try to believe everything is fair will only lead to more disappointment and hoplessness which you see a lot of in the troubled kids today. It is dispair turned to anger.

  35. Angel H. says:

    The Imus situation is a perfect example of why a person of color has to work twice as hard as a white person. Don Imus immediately dismissed their academic and atheletic achievements and tried to break them down to the status of “nappy headed ho”.

    Here’s another story: A woman was a new employee at a small business. A male colleague introduced himself and showed her round the company, making her feel very welcome. The woman began to notice that the male employee would often stand a little too close to her. Whenever he walked past her, he always brushed up against her breasts or backside.

    Bluegirl, was she being sexually harassed? Why or why not?

  36. BlueGirl says:

    Using the logic exhibited above, I guess I’m supposed to assume every German is out to get me because they’ve exterminated 6 million Jews, or that all Iranians hate Jews because their leader wants to get rid of a whole country.

    Let me just restate here, because no body seems to realize this:

    -I consider it a given that there is race and racism in this country.
    -I believe racism is bad, I don’t belive race is.
    -I believe prejudice based on anything anyone cannot physically or racially change is racism.
    – I believe that our current education system, welfare system, penal system, etc… still makes it difficult for some “black” people to break the cycle of poverty that is the inheritance of slavery and racism.
    – I belive our laws give us the opportunity to challenge all of this in the future.
    – I believe that ignoring a problem, such as racism, does not make it go away.
    – Just because something has always been a certain way does not mean it always has to be that way.
    – I believe there is some level of “white privelege” that exists. It would be the privelege of being the majority in any society.

    (Interestingly, in Los Angeles, “white” people are now also a minority. It is completely possible to go around town and not see many other pale faces all day.)

    – I do not believe that I need to internalize white privelege in order to believe in a better future.
    – I do not believe in judging any individual based on the color of their skin whether it is for my benefit or against it.
    – I believe in celebrating good differences and putting negative differences in their place.
    – I believe in trying to find the common ground and working for a better society.
    – I do believe that much of what i hear many people identify as race is actually culture.
    – I am not putting down anyone’s culture either. I just want to make the point that culture is learned, changeable and a choice whereas race is not a choice.

    That’s enough for now. I really hope that some of you agree on these points and that before pointng out where you don’t agree, you take the time to build common ground.

    If talking to someone like me is such a waste of time and not a meaningful discussion, as has been suggested, than those people are people who are not striving for a better future.

  37. BlueGirl says:

    Ok, rereading my post again, I see that people with definitely misinterpret what I wrote about majority. I am not defending. I am acknowledging.

  38. Angel H. says:

    Interestingly, in Los Angeles, “white” people are now also a minority. It is completely possible to go around town and not see many other pale faces all day.

    Just because they are a minority of the population in that city does not make them a minority in the country, and therefore, any less powerfull. Also, just because a group is the minority population does notmean that they do not hold the majority of the power. South Africa is a great example of that.

    I do not believe that I need to internalize white privelege in order to believe in a better future.

    The reason that you should understand and accept your own white privilege is because without it you will be completely useless in working towards that better future that you wish to help accomplish. If you refuse to look at racism not only as individual acts of maliciousness towards people of a certain race, but as privileges given to one race as a means to disenfranchise other races, then, frankly, we have no use for you.

    Also, I notice that you didn’t answer my question in the above post. Will you answer in your reply, or shall I make my own assumptions?

  39. RabidDog says:

    Who is this RabidDog person that is mentioned above? Obviously free speech is not the operating principle on this site. Posts have been removed to help conform opinion.

  40. Angel H. says:

    I think it’s funny when people think they have “free speech” when they’re trolling on somebody’s blog!

    It’s her blog, her rules. Get over it.

  41. Angel H. says:

    SallyM: I may be young but I know enough to differentiate between racism and “having a bad day”. What upsets me is when I know I’ve been a victim of racial discrimination, and someone who has never even experienced racism tries to minimize it by telling me that it never happened the way I thought it did.

  42. Angel H. says:

    SallyM: Three other blogs I suggest are Rachel’s Tavern, and Racialicious, run by a White sociology professor and the co-founder and president of an anti-racism training company, respectively.

  43. Angel H. says:

    oops. Apparently, I can’t count today ;P

  44. Angel H. says:

    My experience is that black people are ready to see racism everywhere.

    That’s because we were brought up to be on the lookout for those who would discriminate against us just because of the color of our skin. We don’t want to see racism everywhere, but we do have to be that it can exist anywhere.

    I see the look in his eyes, and I’m sure he thinks I don’t want him in the house because he’s black. This isn’t the case at all.

    Amp from “Alas, A Blog” has created a list on what to do when accused of racism.

  45. Angel H. says:

    Sally, I am so very sorry I hit a nerve with you. I didn’t mean to upset you by my “bad day” remark. I shoud’ve been more clearer about what I was trying to get across.

    What I meant to say was that I know the difference between someone acting racist towards me and someone just taking out their frustrations on me, e.g. a clerk having a bad day. I didn’t mean to imply that your life was all a bed of roses. And once again, I apologize for upsetting you.

  46. Angel H. says:

    I’m just saying that those who feel the need to control speech of others and whittle things down to a range of agreement usually betray a weakness in their arguments.

    So is diverting the topic of the post.

  47. Deoridhe says:

    Using the logic exhibited above, I guess I’m supposed to assume every German is out to get me because they’ve exterminated 6 million Jews, or that all Iranians hate Jews because their leader wants to get rid of a whole country.

    Um, personally, I would completely understand a Jew who endured the Holocaust and survived to be suspicious of all Germans, Italians, and Japanese until they demonstrated they weren’t racist.

    I’m not sure where the president of Iran comes into the debate, though.

    …and I think we’ve officially hit denial 100% land, so I’ll just stop here.

  48. LeftAlign says:

    I think part of the problem is that privilege is generally perceived more clearly by those who lack it than by those who possess it.

    I was walking out of the supermarket today, for example, with bags in hands, and the alarm went off. I turned to the security guard, shrugged and smiled, and he waved me along. I didn’t think to myself “Wow, it’s really great to be a beneficiary of white privilege.” But from what Angel H and others on this thread have been saying, it’s clear that the outcome could have been very different if my skin were darker.

    Let me be clear, however, that white privilege is not anecdotal. It’s been researched for years, dissected, analysed, quantified. Study after study has shown that, all other factors being equal, African Americans are more likely than whites to be refused housing, to be turned down for jobs, to receive inferior healthcare, to be stopped by the police, to be killed by the police, to have a plunger shoved up their arse by the police, to be sentenced more harshly for the same crimes, etc etc etc. And not just in America, unfortunately – exactly the same shit goes on here in tolerant old Europe (minus the plungers, as far as I know). (Please don’t ask me to Google this stuff for you! It’s late here in England and I’m tired. But this stuff is everywhere, and has been for decades, with the results sadly changing very little.)

    So from all this I know that white privilege is real, and that people’s lives are being ruined by it. I don’t like knowing this. It would be easier to believe that the millions of black people who report constant discrimination in their lives are all delusional, or over-sensitive, or too ready to see racism where really it’s just someone having a bad day. That, to me, is a copout, and I think it would be deeply offensive to discount people’s experiences just because they make me feel uncomfortable.

    So what to do? The first thing is talk about it honestly, at every opportunity, without denial. After all, if I have privilege then the least I can do is acknowledge it.

    The next step is to dismantle it, brick by brick. Maybe the end result will be the “post-race world” that SallyM speaks of. But I’m sorry to say that we seem to be a long way away from that right now. For now the biggest struggle is to get white people to acknowledge that we are privileged, and to stop sugar-coating it with talk of colour-blindness. Which I believe was the point of the original post (if anyone still remembers).

  49. Deoridhe says:

    But I get white privelege and have been the beneficiary of it since day one. What is the plan to make it better?

    1) When someone tells you something you said or did was racist, seriously think about it and consider how to change your behavior.

    2) Actively petition for true integration in the media, in politics, and socially. Support people and places that recognize the diversity in the current day and history. When a population is ignored (like Mexicans in the recent documentary on WWII) speak up.

    3) Educate yourself on the different cultures in your country and the world and what barriers they face. Vote for people who seek to lessen these barriers, respect the US’s treaties (including the one to accomodate Spanish speakers in the US government and the many ones regarding First Nation land, not to mention the Treaty of Tripoli and it’s religious implications), and educate all citizens on their legal rights.

    4) Support social programs to make up the gap, including poverty prevention, reproductive rights, adult education programs, health programs for the poor, and affirmative action that isn’t treated like tokenism.

    5) Speak up when your peers or social groups make racist remarks. Openly disagree with them and explain why. Bring up information about your country’s history and treaties when appropriate.

    6) If you are involved in activist groups on topics other than racism, see if there are other groups from different cultures/skin tones that are seeking changes in the same area. Educate yourself on their history, policy, practices, and beliefs. Offer support or alliance to them in areas where you agree, and reconsier why you disagree in areas where you do. If they’re right, change your policies, practices, or beliefs.

    7) If you are interested in activism for groups you do not belong to, whatever they may be, as the population you want to help what they need. Then give it to them. Let them be in charge of being their own advocates and support their decisions. If you disagree with some of their decisions, think about why. If you can’t figure it out alone, ask for help from them in educating yourself. If they say no, listen more and try to learn on your own.

    That’s off the top of my head. I’m sure you can think of more.

  50. Nora says:

    Argh… this is ABW’s Guest Blogger here; for some reason I can’t log in from work.

    Anyhow, BlueGirl…

    “Using the logic exhibited above, I guess I’m supposed to assume every German is out to get me because they’ve exterminated 6 million Jews, or that all Iranians hate Jews because their leader wants to get rid of a whole country.”

    I don’t really understand where you’re getting this idea. Could you explain your logic here?

    To address your other statements — I agree with some of what you’ve said, yes. Unfortunately, some of your statements reflect a dangerous degree of ignorance of how racism works, and its impact. Again, this is why I and others have suggested that you educate yourself. Good intentions are not enough; some of the most racist acts in our history have been motivated by good intentions. If you want to make the world a better place, the first person to start with is yourself.


    “-I believe prejudice based on anything anyone cannot physically or racially change is racism.”

    No. This denies the systemic, historic, and power-based nature of racism. You’ve heard multiple explanations of why your definition of racism is incomplete and even supports the status quo. That you refuse to accept these explanations is why it’s hard to talk to you; it’s like trying to have a discussion with someone who’s got her hands clapped over her ears while singing loudly.

    “- I believe that our current education system, welfare system, penal system, etc… still makes it difficult for some “black” people to break the cycle of poverty that is the inheritance of slavery and racism.”

    Please stop putting ‘black’ in quotation marks. It’s patronizing to suggest that you can define (or reject the definition of) what other people want to be called. Thus far black (or Black) and African-American have been defined as the appropriate terminology by the people in this group, and in most of society.

    On top of that… racism does not equal poverty. Economics are part of the system, yes, but IMO, racism’s most pervasive effects are psychological. Remember a few years back when a book came out called The Bell Curve? Pop academics, really just the latest iteration of eugenics theory (and it was eventually debunked as such, I think), but for awhile people took the book very seriously. The book implied, as many people in this country honestly believe, that intelligence is linked to race, and that the failure of many blacks to perform well on standardized tests suggests that blacks are less intelligent. But lately we’ve begun to see that African immigrants, including those from other former-slave cultures such as African-Carribbeans, have done just as well as if not better than whites on standardized tests.

    African-Carribeans share a lot of cultural similarities with African-Americans. We even derive from roughly the same genetic base (West African), which puts the lie to all that eugenics crap. The difference is that those immigrants haven’t been bombarded with generations of pseudoscientific insinuation that they’re not smart because they’re black. They haven’t been repeatedly shown, through Jim Crow laws and racial cleansing and attacks on affirmative action, that no matter how hard they strive to achieve, those efforts will come to nothing. These are all things unique to US racism.

    (This is not to say that African-Caribbeans didn’t endure a whole lotta ugly; just that the nature of the ugly was fundamentally different. In much of the Caribbean, blacks outnumbered whites. This meant that a lot of the systemic elements of racism employed here simply weren’t practical there; the danger of a slave revolt [as in Haiti] was simply too great. The numbers issue also meant that African-Caribbeans managed to retain a lot more of their native culture. But I digress.)

    The only way to heal this kind of deep-seated psychological damage is to a) recognize how racism has impacted our self-esteem, ambition, etc., and b) attack those who continue to whisper behind their hand that we’re stupid, criminal, oversexed, ugly, etc. Or the people who, like Imus, say it loudly and publicly.

    “- I belive our laws give us the opportunity to challenge all of this in the future.”

    As a person of color in America, I have little reason to trust in the law. For one thing, those laws were used against us for too many generations. For another, the law is still applied differentially today, based on race (and class). For a third thing, the one legal effort that’s been truly effective in balancing the system — affirmative action — has been under attack for years from those who claim that we no longer need it. These are people who, like you, doggedly refuse to acknowledge the systemic, historic, and power-based nature of racism.

    So this is why I suspect you aren’t going to find a whole lot of agreement/allies on this statement. Again, been there, done that, and we’re still struggling to make it work.

    “- I believe there is some level of “white privelege” that exists. It would be the privelege of being the majority in any society.”

    Once again, you’re ignoring the real problem here.

    It’s not about numbers/population. Whites have always been in the minority, globally. Yet Europe and America hold most of the world’s wealth and political clout, at least until China and India take the reins from them. Why? Because they’ve put in place systems, such as colonialization in the past and gerrymandering in the present, to quite deliberately concentrate power in their own hands.

    Los Angeles might be majority-nonwhite, but I’m willing to bet that if you held a party and invited its most powerful, wealthiest citizens, the guest list would be 95% white.

    So it’s not about who’s got the numbers. It would be if our society were truly fair and democratic, but the US has never been that. Privilege, and racism, is about about who holds the power.

    “- I do not believe that I need to internalize white privelege in order to believe in a better future.”

    You do if you want to make that future happen.

    Operating from your position of unacknowledged white privilege simply means that any suggestions or gestures you make to correct racism will be ineffectual, because the people you’re so paternalistically trying to “help” simply won’t see you as sincere or useful. Frankly, you’ll continue to support the very system that you say you want to destroy, because that’s what white privilege does.

    “- I am not putting down anyone’s culture either. I just want to make the point that culture is learned, changeable and a choice whereas race is not a choice.”

    Which implies, in typical white-privilege fashion, that you are suggesting people change their culture in some way to eliminate racism. That’s been tried before, I should note — it was behind the effort to strip the African heritage from American slaves; it was behind the forcible relocation of Native Americans to reservations; it was behind the forcible kidnapping and “reeducation” of Australian Aboriginals by European settlers; it’s behind the current push for “English only” education; and so on.

    So you’ll understand if we don’t stand up and cheer when you make statements like this.

    If you’d like to change *white* culture, great. Start by acknowledging the privilege inherent in that culture. As with alcoholism, the first step to “curing” racism is acknowledging your own contribution to the problem.

    “If talking to someone like me is such a waste of time and not a meaningful discussion, as has been suggested, than those people are people who are not striving for a better future.”

    I think all of us agree that we’d like to try and create a better future. But I think it is surpremely arrogant of you to assume that you know the one true way to achieve that future, and that anyone who doesn’t agree with your beliefs is somehow in the wrong. As I said, we’ve heard this kind of talk before, and history has shown that far more harm than good comes of it.

  51. Nora says:

    ABW’s Guest Blogger again…

    ::sigh:: SallyM, RabidDog, or whoever you are…

    It’s a dead giveaway that you’re the same person when you a) use the same turns of phrase and awkward grammar, and b) use some well-known commercial website in place of your own. If you’re going to troll here, at least do it with some damn finesse.

  52. ABW's Guest Blogger says:

    Actually I complained about your grammar *and* your pointlessness, if you really want to get nitpicky about it.

    And now I can complain about your manners too. Thought not very much, since hey! I’m booting you again. Don’t let the doorknob hit ya, etc.

  53. transgressingengineer says:

    BlueGirl said: “I am not putting down anyone’s culture either. I just want to make the point that culture is learned, changeable and a choice whereas race is not a choice.”

    I am really unclear as to what you are saying here, BlueGirl. Race is a socially constructed ideology. This means that its very definition, which is determined by people, changes over time to suit people’s needs. For instance, what is now considered white today may not have been considered white 100 years ago (such is the case with Jews in the US, Irish imigrants to the US, etc). How we define race is up to people- it is not based on any biological differences, but on visual differences that help those in power suit their needs. Thus, we do choose who counts as each race, etc.

    I agree with you that culture is learned, but how is it a choice? In the US, we learn a white culture- I call this a culture of white supremacy, which is based on the inherent ideology that whites are superior to those who are not white. This culture of white supremacy is learned by all who live in it; we do not have a choice of whether we accept it or not growing up since we are utterly submersed in it in the US. White supremacy affects how we view each other, how we view our identity compared with others, our self-worth, etc.

    There is a classic example of how immearsed we are in white supremacy (though I can’t remember the name of this study at the moment)- it involves two dolls placed in front of young Black girls. One doll is white and one is Black. The girls are asked to pick out which doll is more beautiful. Most of the girls pick out the white doll and explain its beauty lies in the doll’s skin color. This example exibits what I call a culture of white supremacy- Black parents may try as hard as they can to teach their children that they are beautiful, special, and have self-worth. But the messages that bommard Black children from our society teach them otherwise. In the US, the “normal” experience is the white experience- it is the experience that all “others” are compared to. And by using the white experience as the unacknowledged normal experience to which we compare all others to, we contribute to the persistence of white supremacy in the US.

  54. ABW's Guest Blogger says:


    Wow. The world isn’t fair, give up on trying to make it so, racism doesn’t exist, people who are privileged deserve to be privileged, and if you’ve been screwed by history and society maybe you deserve that too. Ain’t this a useful contribution to the conversation. Y’know, you sound an awful lot like RabidDog and his amazing friends, but for the time being I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt. You also sound unbelievably ignorant about some basic facts.

    White women were the primary beneficiaries of affirmative action in the workplace. It was designed to benefit multiple groups, but surprise surprise, it worked best for the whitest of them.

    But of course that’s not evidence of racism.

    Immigrants of all stripes generally perform well in the US. They’re highly motivated to succeed because they’ve bought the “American Dream” ad campaign (since they haven’t seen enough of the ugly American reality to disrupt that dream). They generally come here with lots of help — a family support network, funds that they’ve saved to give them a financial base, a strong sense of their own culture and ability to succeed. Non-immigrant (inasmuch as any of us are “non-immigrants”, compared to the Native Americans) black Americans were stripped of all of this during slavery, and repeatedly afterwards. Surprise surprise, they’re not doing as well.

    But of course this doesn’t illustrate the damage done by systemic racism.

    The biggest affirmative action program that exists in college admissions these days is not racially-based, but the legacy system, in which the children of alums get preferential treatment. Since alumni at most US colleges are predominantly white and upper-class (because prior to the most recent generation or two, that’s who got to go to college), the legacy system acts as affirmative action for mostly affluent white people. It also helps to build generational wealth, so that those families who “have” can have more, while those families that “have not” continue to struggle. (Especially since college tuition costs have risen drastically and loans have replaced grants as the primary system of financial aid, thanks to Reagan and friends. How are those “have not” families supposed to build generational wealth when their kids graduate from college with a mortgage’s worth of debt?) And surprise surprise, in the past 30 years the rich have gotten dramatically richer, and the poor have gotten poorer. Bigger surprise: the rich are disproportionately white, while the poor are disproportionately people of color.

    But none of this suggests a system of white privilege.

    No, of course not. It’s just that women are smarter, immigrants work harder, and rich white kids are “born rich” i.e., genetically superior.

    I don’t think I’ve seen a better argument in favor of racism in a long time.

  55. BlueGirl says:


    Ok, you’ve clued me in on a big thing here.

    “Race is a socially constructed ideology.” Then there needs be no argument.

    I’ll just redefine race for myself and so will my friends. we’ll come up with a new construction. And live the future as we’d like it to be.

    Thanks, I’ve really learned a lot on this website.

    More power to you all.

  56. transgressingengineer says:

    You asked for respect on this site. I have tried to respect your comments- even though disagreeing with them. But what you just posted above does not show any respect for me.

    I am done with conversing with you.


  57. LeftAlign says:

    transgressingengineer – I believe you’re thinking about Kenneth Clark’s studies in the 1940s, which were used in Brown v Board of Education to show the damage to black children’s self-esteem caused by segregation.

    It’s funny you should mention it, because I was just watching a wonderful film on YouTube called A Girl Like Me by Kiri Davis, where she does the same experiment today and gets exactly the same results. Not sure how scientific it is – she’s a filmmaker, not a psychologist as Clark was – but it makes compelling and very sad viewing.

  58. Angel H. says:

    Nora, compared to ABW, you’re a sweetheart to these trolls.

    He/She/Cousin It should be glad she’s not here this week. ^_~

  59. Angel H. says:

    Why not instead embrace education and hard work. And no I’m not saying that all blacks or even most blacks don’t work hard and don’t value education.

    Yes you are.

    I’m simply saying that why when the oppurtunity to succeed is there does every poor person black, white, or whatever not do everything they can to control their own destiny?

    Because poor people may not have access to those oppotunites. Or else they wouldn’t be poor!

    When did the black family unit (as well as all family units) begin to crumble in America?

    Ohh…right around slavery. You know, when mothers, fathers, and children were sold to different owners at the wims of their masters. As for other family units (I’m supposing you mean, white families), we were never speaking about them anyway.

    I think any data would indicate that that is a much more recent phenomena.

    Prove it.

  60. Nora says:

    Guest Blogger here again,


    This site is, as ABW described to me, a protected space in which intelligent people can have intelligent discussions about race, without getting shouted silent by rhetoric-spouting racists looking for a(nother) masturbatory soapbox. Which is why I booted you, and will do so again. You’re right about one thing, though; nitpicking your grammar *was* a cheap shot. I should’ve said you’re simply not worth talking to.


    It seems we’re mischaracterizing each other, then, because I’m not sure where “attack racism” equates to “portray self as a helpless victim”. But as I just said, this site is for discussion, not Bill O’Reilly-style rhetoric, and if that’s all you’ve gotten out of this lengthy discussion thread then there’s really nothing else I can say to clarify my position further. You’ve clearly got your own agenda.


    Unfortunately I can’t log into the account from work, or I’d’ve simply booted the trolls rather than engage with them. =( I’m really sorry, to you and all the other folks who’ve had to put up with this. I’m not as good a house-sitter as I’d hoped to be. =)

  61. Angel H. says:

    Good for you. You’ve googled some numbers.

    Now go and prove that those statistics have nothing to do with the legacy of white privilege and that they “go way beyond simple characterizations of a dominant group denying a minority group oppurtunities.”

  62. Angel H. says:

    Because I’ve lived it. My parents have lived it. My grandparents haved it. Nora has lived it. Her family has lived it…

    We know about the link between systemic racism, white privilege, and disenfranchisement because we see it and feel it every damn day. The reason you don’t is because of – D’UH! – white privilege!

    I, for one, am tired of trying to convince people like you who refuse to open your eyes to the realities of what I and other people of color go through every day.

    You come on our doorstop, tell us we that we don’t know what we’re talking about even though we’ve seen it every damn day of our lives.

    I say prove to me that we’re wrong, or shut the hell up!

  63. BlueGirl says:

    I was planning on never writing on this board again. However, I feel the need, in light of reading all this other stuff by people like rabiddog and bobinski, with whom I DON’T necessarily agree.

    1) I came on to this site, hoping to enter into a difficult discussion with a very open mind. I still have an open mind and am open to a new perspective. I politely refrained from saying the controversial stuff until I heard interest from others in discussing. The response however was to shut me down, refuse to engage and instead the conversation veered into this whole question of even defining race.

    2) Whether or not I agree with anyone else on this board from any side of any issue, I feel that many people are labelling people trolls in order to easily dismiss uncomfortable ideas.

    I’m off this board now, after this. I just really think it’s extremely sad that people are so afraid of honest dialogue and having their firmly held viewpoints challenged.

  64. Angel H. says:

    I just really think it’s extremely sad that people are so afraid of honest dialogue and having their firmly held viewpoints challenged.

    Please tell me you were looking into the mirror when you wrote this sentence.

    BlueGirl, we were more than polite with you. You were the one who shut us out and refused to look beyond your oh-so-comfortable “White Is Right” world view.

    For me, I saw you as a naive girl looking for answers; I never characterized you with the other trolls, personally. But when you were confronted with your own bigotry, you exhibited Textbook Modern Racist Trait #432:

    “Get indignant as hell.”

    Now, if you’re willing – really willing – to open your eyes and your mind to the ugly truths of racism, then get over yourself and come see us again.

    Until then ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for me to punch out the time clock. See ya in a few.

  65. ABW's Guest Blogger says:

    Boot to da bob! Boot to da Rabid!

  66. deoridhe says:


    When you feel like responding to any of my points, please let me know.

    Now, to return to the beginning again – the central point, as it were – claiming that the way to solve racism for good is to ignore it is like saying the best way to heal someone is by sending them home with tranquilizers. Not only does it do absolutely nothing to solve any and all problems that may exist, it very likely makes them worse by pointing to a false contentment and saying it’s reality.

    Really, I think one of the most valuable things I ever learned was that it’s not about me. Unfortunately, weak human that I am, I need regular reminders. Thank goodness for all the people around me, given this!

  67. Jennifer says:

    Amen. Preach my sisters because this is never ever going to end.

    When people say, “I am not racist” — I know that is the ultimate Red Flag!

    I know I am racist but I never say out loud, “I am a racist” because you know we will be stigmatized forever.

    Look at Spike Lee and his character. Most white people cannot stand him. As a black woman, I do not like how he depicts black women but sometimes he does us justice by getting certain issues out in the open.

    People know I am conversant in my black history and theirs as I start talking about black history all the time and they are informed about us because they responding by saying, “oh, gosh, I did not know that, I am so sorry what your race has encountered.”

    But what kills me is that these certain people befriend me and want to learn more. I do not mind being their “appointed teacher and inside to the black race” (token negro syndrome – black women know this all too well) and that shows me that they want to understand black people and why some of us are mad.

    Or, don’t you hate it when people say to stop referring to slavery.

    That is why we are all emotionally and mentally screwed up (in every culture – yes I am talking about white people especially because some are losing their minds as they learning more about how their ancestors brutalized Africans and continue to brutalize African Americans) because of slavery (not only black American and African but worldwide) and NO we (all minorities) will never get over it because in modern society we have to deal with the aftermath of what has occurred in our society.

    Look at how the Hispanics and Asians are treated now but at least they are coming together as a community. But that is another discussion on community issues.

    And dammit as an African American woman — I want my 40 acres and mule but black people tried to get this through Affirmative Action which some people think is a backlash to equating us equally with them. Screw that!

    I want what was taken from us and continiously taken from us. So deal with it!

    That is really why most African Americans have many mental issues but we never talk about it because it is a taboo subject but now it is being discussed openly.

    Get a JET magazine – black people are talking about being bi-polar, manic, etc.

    If certain people want to understand us, read our classic books and modern books such as:

    1. The Autobiography of an Ex Colored Man
    — by James Weldon Johnson

    2. Black Boy by Richard Wright

    3. Passing by Nella Larsen

    4. White Justice, Black Robes by Bruce Wright

    5. all of Zora Neale Hurston books

    6. all of Langston Hughes’ works (poetry and books) especailly The Ways of White Folks, all books by Gloria Wade Gayles and more and more.

    7. PLEASE read any books by Ivan Van Sertima.

    —> That man is the true historian of African history that needs be taught but his genius is not spread because certain historians do not want to believe his research. Mind you he has research and documentation. And one thing too, understand that the Bible — yes the freaking Bible has been edited to take out many entries dealing with race.

    8. Toms, Coons, Mulatoes, Mammies and Bucks by Donald Bogle

    9. Assata

    10. Black Ice by Lorene Cary

    There are many more books but these are the few that I know instantly off the top of my head that I am always preaching about.

    Further, this is the basis of what keeps us in a way sane. I know his is weird but under stand this from our perspective.

    To be a little off is good because we call on the Lord to tame us. We are a praying culture. This is something that has stuck with us since our people were FORCED to come to America. Our spirituality kept us alive and still does to this day.

    And a lot of us refuse to be medicated for our craziness because we know most of that medicine is plain poison!

    And don’t know our spiritual leaders because they make sense to us.

    So, I hope that some of you will continue to keep an open mind as we are allowed to have this precious space of the internet where we can share with you in an intelligent way our true emotions and feelings if you want to understand a black woman.

    If you have time, check out this link and see the documentary and if there is any documentary on PBS that is about something informative.

  68. Pingback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » The Angry Black Woman On “Color Blindness” And Racism
  69. Trackback: Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » The Angry Black Woman On “Color Blindness” And Racism
  70. magniloquence says:

    What a wonderful post! I just wish it was written that in time for me to add it to my Colorblind series. (Parts I, II, III) It’s perfect. It’s succinct.

  71. kateharding says:

    Hi, I came here via Alas, a blog.

    I’m white (and try to be cognizant of white privilege, insofar as that’s possible while benefiting from it), and I just want to add one thing that might clarify some people’s use of “I’m colorblind.” Before I say anything else, let me say I think it’s an absolutely absurd statement–no argument there. But sometimes, I think it comes from a more well-meaning–and educable–place than you might think.

    A lot of us who grew up in mostly white areas (and so had no real opportunity to observe racism in action, let alone clue in to white privilege) were taught that being “colorblind” was the appropriate, anti-racist thing to do. I know my parents and teachers constantly told me “Black people are just like you” and “You don’t treat anyone any differently because of their skin color.” I was basically taught that acknowledging any difference between me and a person of color was in itself racist. And of course this was all theoretical, since I very, very rarely had opportunity to interact with people of color.

    When I moved to a big city and went to college and started learning about racism and privilege from people of color–not just well-intentioned but clueless white people–I eventually figured out how wrongheaded the “colorblind” concept was. But the first time I was told that saying “I don’t see any difference between me and a black person” was racist, I was completely baffled and hurt. I sincerely believed it was the opposite of racist, which was the last thing in the world I wanted to be.

    So. Certainly, nobody was obligated to give me the benefit of the doubt or not be offended by an offensive statement. I said (and believed) a dumb thing, and I deserved to get called out on it. But I guess my point is, some white people who say “I’m colorblind” are actually saying, “I’m ignorant about race, but I don’t want to be a racist.” And those people can learn–and unlearn–and become allies. There’s some hope there.

    Sadly, that doesn’t change the fact that a lot of other people say it just because they’re jerks who don’t want to acknowledge their privilege. With regard to those people, I think this post is dead-on.

  72. Lu says:

    I also came here from Alas, and I am also white.

    I think the concept of privilege is very, very hard for white people to get our heads around because, as LeftAlign illustrated so well way upthread, so much of privilege is best expressed as “I don’t have to think about x.” If you think of yourself as a good person who would never discriminate racially, and you don’t know many black people or don’t know them well, you can go happily along never thinking about any of the things you never have to think about, so they don’t exist. And then when you hear about privilege you get rudely booted out of your comfy cocoon, and you tend to get defensive and take it personally (Amp has a good post about this) and to resent having to confront unfamiliar and uncomfortable trains of thought just as ABW described. So we (usually) don’t have to think about it, and we don’t want to think about it.

    What Kate said (and she is 100 percent right) plays into that. It’s part of the whole denial.

    I’m still working on it, still learning.

  73. mike s says:

    Absolutely right. My upbringing was very harmful. I was taught in Church that homosexuals were evil. It took a lot of work and time to overcome that crap. Abortion too…

    I cannot believe the changes I have made to overcome some things that were engrained in me. I know that I have a long way to go too…

    Do I understand what it means to be disadvantaged? No. But I am willing to take the initiave to change.

    I dont deny it, I admit that I dont know it…

    I admit that I have things that are wrong with me.

  74. a person says:

    white privilege is derailing a discussion about racial issues with a whining focus on your own self-absorbed latent/aversive racism and how it isn’t really racisms because you just want to learn– so long as other people do your homework and write your term papers and hold your hand and fill in all the questions marks, just the way you want. and if they will not do this to your somehow never, ever full satisfaction, then of course they are the real racists and you can keep on trucking through life in your blissful self-focused cocoon of white privilege and self-regard.

  75. kateharding says:

    Wow, I’m really sorry my comment came off that way, because I was actually trying hard to avoid sounding defensive or whiny–let alone derailing the discussion. And I certainly wasn’t saying it isn’t really racism. I was saying that sometimes, it’s racism rooted in cluelessness rather than malice, and cluelessness is curable. Or treatable, anyway. That gives me a little hope.

    I also said that other times, it’s exactly what ABW says it is in this post. Which is shameful.

    Rather than derailing the conversation further, I’ll leave it at that.

  76. Lu says:

    Me too. I may have expressed myself badly. When I began to understand how privilege advantaged me in ways I had never thought about, I was able to understand how colorblindness could be racist, and how “maybe you were just imagining it” or “maybe the clerk was having a bad day” were ways to avoid acknowledging and dealing with racism.

    Nor did I mean “I’m still learning” as some kind of excuse, although I see why it sounded that way. I meant that I have to make a conscious effort all the time and not let myself get lazy again, and not expect anyone else to do the work for me.

    My apologies. Back to lurking now.

  77. the angry black woman says:

    Kate and lu,

    I’m not entirely sure ‘a person’ was specifically refering to your comments. She/He may have been reacting to the kerfuffle that happened upthread last week. In any case, *I* do not feel that your comments were derailing and I’m glad you joined the thread.

  78. Lu says:

    Thanks, ABW. I’m glad I came to your blog — you have a lot of challenging (for me and my lazy ways of thinking) stuff here.

    *Really* back to lurking now.

  79. kateharding says:

    ABW, thanks. You’re right that it’s not totally clear who “a person” was responding to. But hey, part of white privilege is thinking everything’s all about me. :)

  80. will shetterly says:

    Was El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz wrong when he quit being Malcolm X and said, “So when I got over there and went to Mecca and saw these people who were blond and blue eyed and pale skin I said “Well!” But I watched them closely. And I noticed that though they were white, and they would call themselves white, there was a difference between them and the white one over here. And that basic difference was this: in Asia or the Arab world or in Africa, where the Muslims are, if you find one who says he’s white, all he’s doing is using an adjective to describe something that’s incidental about him, one of his incidental characteristics; so there’s nothing else to it, he’s just white.”

  81. the angry black woman says:

    No, he was not wrong. Nor did he say that he was ‘color blind’. Malcolm came to understand that in places not so racially fucked up as America, people could move beyond 101 level classifications of race and step up to the next level. I find it highly amusing that you’re attempting to use the words of Malcolm to prop up your crazy, Will. I’m sure he would laugh in your face if he weren’t concerned with otherworldly things.

    Later in his life, Malcolm came to the realization that the entire world was not as fucked up as America. Did it stop him from condemning racism in the US? No. did it make him best buddies with all white people everywhere? No. It did allow him to understand that the worldview white people in America perpetuated was not the totality of the world. Something I know as well. However, ask some of the non-U.S. readers of this blog if they think racism somehow disappears beyond US borders. In fact, ask someone who KNEW Malcolm how he would respond to your crazy.

  82. will shetterly says:

    Okay, my crazy is wondering about this quote by him: “I believe in recognizing every human being as a human being, neither white, black, brown nor red.” You think he didn’t mean it?

  83. will shetterly says:

    My crazy also agrees with this quote of his: “We don’t judge a man because of the color of his skin. We don’t judge you because you’re white; we don’t judge you because you’re black; we don’t judge you because you’re brown. We judge you because of what you do and what you practice.”

  84. will shetterly says:

    And one last question: Why do you call him Malcolm? He changed his name. Names meant a great deal to him, and the process from Malcolm Little to Malik Shabazz is very significant.

  85. Angel H. says:

    Will, are actually reading the post or any of the comments? (Or did you decided to swoop in and save us Black people from our own ignorance of our own history?) If you did, you would recognize that Malcolm X’s quotes are not examples of colorblindness.

    Please, go back and reread ABW’s post, and pay close attention to the discussion that followed (our schooling of BlueGirl might interest you). And since you seem so interested in American History, study up on White Privilege, as well.

  86. will shetterly says:

    I first read this post around the time it was written. I confess, it lost me as soon as ABW said, “What they’re actually saying is” instead of “What we hear is.” But I don’t really expect Angry Black Woman to be talking like Thoughtful Black Woman, so that’s cool. I usually enjoy ABW’s thoughts on racism in our culture.

    But someone in a recent discussion of race and class linked to this, so I returned.

    I was curious to hear what ABW made of Shabazz’s conversion. In addition to saying that white muslims could see skin color as being no different than hair color, he said he had hope for the youth of white America. I hope he was right. Racism may be withering in our society, but it’ll be a good while before it’s dead.

  87. Tom says:

    Holy Jesus.

  88. will shetterly says:

    Uh, apologies if you consider “class” a code word. I mentioned it for context, which really wasn’t necessary, so it’s my bad.

    I’m just interested in this part of the original rant: “a fantasy land where no one ever pays attention to skin color.” When El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz said, “neither white, black, brown nor red,” that sure sounds colorblind to me.

  89. will shetterly says:

    Hmm. And I should maybe add that I always see the color of someone’s skin. If the color is different than mine, I get to wonder if the person is prejudiced against me as I look for other cues, like smiles. I think that’s what El-Shabazz meant by “neither white, black, brown nor red,” and I think that’s what some whites may mean when they say they don’t see skin color.

    I’ve never heard a white say they didn’t see skin color, but that’s just one person’s experience, of course.

  90. will shetterly says:

    I just wrote about this subject on my LJ, and I thought I would pass along my conclusion: You’re right. The metaphor of blindness applied to race sucks.

  91. Nora says:


  92. will shetterly says:

    What can I say? It’s an old metaphor–people were talking about colorblind casting in the ’70s, when I was in college, and maybe before. Took me a while to think through the implications of “blind.” But right is right.

  93. will shetterly says:

    So, now that I’ve come around on the use of “colorblind” as a metaphor in real life, I’ve got a couple more questions: Does the word offend you in the context of “colorblind casting,” and if so, what term to you prefer? And does colorblind casting bother you in principle? (When it’s used as a pathetic excuse for Halmi’s Earthsea, it offends anyone who can read and see, but I’m asking about the theory, not its abuse.)

  94. the angry black woman says:

    I’ll have more thoughts on this later when I’m not running around WisCon like a madwoman, but in general I have never had a problem with colorblind casting in theory but never quite felt I could suspend disbelief when the casting was, say, improbable. good example – a couple of years ago ABC redid the R&H Cinderella TV version starring Brandy. Whoopi Goldberg played the queen, a white actor played the king, and an Asian actor played the prince. The whole time I just kept thinking, that can’t be their son. He’s just…. not. Now, in an ideal world, I wouldn’t think that way at all. But people notice differences, even i they don’t assign anything negative to them. I have no problem with the prince being Asian by itself, but as the son of a white guy and a black woman….

    Colorblind casting works better when the roles don’t call for family members or close family members. If it’s just a disparate group of people, like in “Rent”, then anyone of any color could play any of the roles and it wouldn’t matter. The way it’s written, the actors can bring their own essence to the parts and make them non-generic. That’s when colorblind casting works.

    More later.

  95. will shetterly says:

    Colorblind casting may work a little better in theatre than on the screen because theatre is inherently “pretending,” but television and film are usually trying to hide the element of illusion, so when the genetic mix in a family seems odd, it seems odd.

    Looking forward to the later thoughts, and hoping you’re having a great time at WisCon!

  96. Joe says:

    I love this! I love it love it love it love it love it!!! Please, may I share this blog with others, with links back here and everything? You rock so incredibly! I’m happy-dancing here, this is so awesome that you’ve said this!

  97. Jennifer says:

    RIGHT ON!!!!

  98. La - msviswan says:

    Will said:
    If the color is different than mine, I get to wonder if the person is prejudiced against me as I look for other cues, like smiles.”

    I just want to add. Why is it that black people always have to “smile” and do God knows what else for white people in order to make white people feel comfortable around black people?

    Anyway, ABW, your post was well needed and very true. Clare’s blog have something similar regarding the colorblind rhetoric.

  99. Adam Sheehan says:

    Coming on board late in this discussion as well.

    Clarence Page, syndicated colunmist of the Chicago Tribune, made these insightful statements:

    “Many demand that we ‘get past race.’ But denials of a cancer, no matter how vigorous they may be, will not make the malignancy go away”….

    When Mr Page discusses “color blindness” he states: “The words of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., have been perverted to support this view. Most frequently quoted is his oft-stated dream of the day when everyone would “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” I would argue that King never intended for us to forget all about color. Even in his historic “I Have a Dream” speech, from which this line most often is lifted, he also pressed the less-often quoted but piquantly salient point about “the promissory note” America gave freed slaves, which, when they presented it, was returned to them marked “insufficient funds.”

    Mr Page continues:

    “I would argue that too much has been made of the virtue of “color-blindness.” I don’t want Americans to be blind to my color as long as color continues to make a profound difference.”

    Hoping to add meaninfully to these discussions.


  100. Pingback: The Gender Minstrel Show « Questioning Transphobia
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  102. Lisa Harney says:

    Just to clarify, I altered the above post’s title to “The Conflation of Gender and Racial Impersonation.” The person whose writing I was responding to didn’t actually resort to the “trans women are like performers in blackface” canard, and so it wasn’t really appropriate for me to call on that.

    Apologies for the misstep.

    Plus: This is a great post.

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