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Allies Talking

I’ve been thinking about many things since the whole “Thank You, White People” post debacle and subsequent influx of white supremacists who seemed to come here with the intent of saying, “You thought you dealt with racists on a daily basis? HA! We’ll show you what REAL racism is!” And they did. One of my reactions was to say that for every white ally who acknowledged racism and worked to fight against it, there were 20 others wishing to drag us back to Jim Crow and worse. Then smart commenter Jackie said:

Thing is, I don’t believe there’re 20 of them for every one of us (black or white or other) who wants to make things right; I think there’s actually somewhat fewer of them. But for each white supremacist (and for each person of any color who wants to make things right) there are 20 nice, well-meaning, but privileged and entitled white people who thing “racism is bad” but have no idea whatsoever that real racism exists, or what it’s like to be a target of it. Or how much they have benefited from their European coloring, and from not having centuries of slavery and legally enforced poverty limiting every aspects of the parents’ and grandparents’ and great-great-great-grandparents’ lives.

This got me thinking about those white folks who exist in that liminal space where they are against racism but don’t understand how it works and get defensive, hurt, and freaked out when folks point out how they benefit from it without trying. We saw a lot of that on the Thank You thread before the others showed up. I am wondering how you turn that kind of person into an ally. I’m wondering if maybe I cannot simply because, when they read my words, they are so filled with defensiveness and perhaps guilt, nothing I say can get through. If they can’t listen to me, can they maybe listen to other White people?

And that got me wondering if this was true for any kind of ally. Is it easier to understand oppression, to move past guilt and on to useful dialogue, etc., if the person explaining these things to you in-depth is a person like yourself? White or male or straight or Christian or whatever? I don’t know. But as this is the Internet, it should be easy to figure out.

I call a Carnival. The Carnival of Allies. Where self-identified allies write to other people like themselves about why this or that oppression and prejudice is wrong. Why they are allies. Why the usual excuses are not good enough. I figure allies probably know full well all the many and various arguments people throw up to make prejudice and oppression okay. Things that someone on the other side of the fence may not hear. Address those things and more besides.

And when I say allies, I’m talking about any and every type. PoC can be (and should be) allies to other PoC, or to LGBTQ people if they are straight, or any number of other combinations. If you feel like you’re an ally and have something to say about that, you should submit to this carnival.

Now for the nitty — this is how it’ll work. I’m not sure if this carnival will happen more than once, so I’ll keep it local for now. Submit links (with short descriptions) via this contact form:

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by May 5th. I’ll run the Carnival itself on the 2nd or 3rd week of May. Instead of doing it all in one post, I will make a week out of it. Every day for 5 days there will be links and discussions about allies, ally work, etc.

Spread the word!

ETA: A few people are confused about how a Carnival works, so here’s a short explanation. If you’d like to be in the Carnival, write a post on the topic at hand. Then publish the post at your blog whenever you feel like doing so/you’re done writing. Once you’ve published the post, come back here and submit the link plus a short description of the post in the form ABOVE (not in the comments below).

Once I get all of the submissions in, I will go through and decide which posts to include in the Carnival. I will link to your blog, excerpting from the post or describing it. Then more people will go to your blog and read your post.

Clear? If you’ve never seen a Carnival before, check out my right sidebar. I’ve linked to some of the Carnivals that linked to me.

175 comments to Allies Talking

  • Diatryma

    This seems like a good idea, though I cannot help at all. I’m deep in the guilt-and-defensiveness stage; every time I read the words ‘white privilege’ I want to argue because by my own logic, white privilege means that I am perpetuating evil in the world and will never be able to stop. And even though I know that’s not generally what is meant by it, “You’re what’s wrong with the world and you will never be able to correct it or you,” is a pretty nasty message whatever the source. I’m trying to fix that in my own head first, and maybe then I can explain it to others.

  • This sounds like a brilliant idea, thank you. As someone who has trying to educate herself about these issues, I’ve been looking for a way that I could participate and do some good without stealing the thunder and the attention of those people who are directly affected by them.

    Back last year I came across your blog via IBARW, and had all the clueless-white-person feelings that you’ve described. It made me angry, and not in the constructive way. Since then I’ve had to do a lot of reading and considering, and I think I’ve made some progress, but I do still identify with the liminal people that you’re describing. It seems to me that I might be of some help to them, not because I have much of a clue, but actually because I’m only slightly less clueless than them. I can say, “look, I was where you are six months ago, but I’m here to tell you that you can get past it.” Then, I guess, I can point them in the right direction (to your blog, most likely), and hope.

    Basically I guess it helps to have a guide who’s been where you are. So, I will definitely try to write something for your carnival, and will let you know when I figure out what it is.

  • Julia

    And this is yet another reason why you are awesome. I am impressed with how you’ve managed to find something proactive to do with the extra-racist BS that’s been coming at you since the Thank You post (which I thought was excellent, btw). I struggle to find that kind of proactivity, so I always admire it in others.

  • Veronica

    It’s not that, though. It’s “you are benefitting from what’s wrong in the world and you cannot single-handedly make that stop.” Part of it is acknowledging that you are in the grip of forces beyond your control and doing your best to speak up against them anyway. It’s kind of existentialist.

  • Rachel

    I have to say that I really think there is something to the idea of seeing an appropriate model for your own behavior. I look forward to seeing what this Carnival brings together.

  • Paul Jessup

    Sadly, I would join but my website is down. Stupid greedy web companies stealing my monies. And of course it happens right after I posted a link to the original post about white assholes.

    I agree on the amount of white people out there who think racism doesn’t exist. I had a professor in KSU who told an entire class that racism wasn’t an issue any more, and that it had been abolished.

    I told him he was wrong. And then we got into an argument over it. I had spent over a year in a small town in mississippi called Amory. And it was scary just how casually extermely racist terms were bandied about, and how voilently racist they people were. It frightened me.

  • Several thoughts:

    1. Is relying on someone in the same “group” (whatever that group is) to do the explaining, implicitly supporting the idea that empathizing across that chasm of difference between their group and your group (i.e., white and black) is supposed to be difficult?

    The real problem, IMO (today, at least — by which I mean I could realize the scope of my stupidity on this tomorrow), is that white people, or members of any dominant group (white, straight, etc.) aren’t taught to empathize with the “other”. Its one of the benefits of being on top. If members of the group you want to talk to can’t empathize with you, then, yeah, you need an ally in the same group to do the talking for you, because they *can* empathize with that speaker.

    2. I want in on the carnival but it’s not clear what I need to do. I’ve read through a few carnivals but never really paid attention to the concept. I just blog on being a white chick who cares about racism? Do I need to blog on a certain day or anything?

  • Sidra

    2. check out the original post. I added an explanation of Carnivals to the bottom.

    1. empathizing across differences CAN be hard. It doesn’t have to be. I think that one can never have too many different resources for reaching across that gap. For some people it only takes truly listening to a person different from them. For others, it takes someone IN the group for them to listen. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with acknowledging that not all people are going to come to these realizations the same way.

  • outfox

    Great idea. Do you mean USA or people you know by keeping it local?

    I’m neither, but I’d like to do it because I’ve been thinking about what it means to be an ally around giving proper credit for POC work in activism.

    Something I’ve been thinking about in feminist and GLBTI circles is this dynamic: when POC do something that educates whites about racism and activism, some whites are openly defensive racist to them, and others are civil but still taking that education for granted.

    Then I’ll say something similar [which I usually learnt from that same POC] and white peers will reward me in some way -like tell people I’m such an “approachable” teacher or “radical” , ask me to write for their journal [but don't buy the POC persons book].

    That throws up a conversation I need to have with other allies about recognizing how racism is perpetuated by taking POC labour for granted and how anti-racist education is labour.

  • I like the concept, and I look forward to reading the posts.

  • My Keep it Local I meant that I wasn’t going to administer it through the carnival administration website. If there is enough interest in doing more carnivals after this one, the admin can go there.

    anyone and everyone is welcome to submit.

  • One important way folks become comfortable with “others” is when they know someone who is a part of that group. Having a family member, for example, has made a lot of straight people gay allies… or at least not total homophobes. They get over the exoticism or strangeness of whatever it is.

  • Jackie M.

    Sure. Um, I mean, I don’t know what I’ll contribute, so I’m not using that there form just yet… but yeah, sure. Increasingly I believe that allies should try to carry more of the load than they do–exactly because they can put it down at any time. Well, there’s a whole lot that needs unpacking right there, huh?

  • Sounds like a great idea. I’m excited to read all the resulting entries :)

    I think Sidra is spot on when she wrote:
    “members of any dominant group (white, straight, etc.) aren’t taught to empathize with the “other”. Its one of the benefits of being on top. If members of the group you want to talk to can’t empathize with you, then, yeah, you need an ally in the same group to do the talking for you, because they *can* empathize with that speaker.”

  • It’s precisely because white people aren’t taught to empathize across the divide that white allies should speak up. We may be the only ones who can “get through” to those in the liminal space at first, and so it behooves us to try, to “bridge the gap,” if you will, until that empathy is learned, at least enough to actually *hear* PoC past the kneejerk defensiveness and guilt.

    And then we keep talking, until the next group of clueless learn better, and the next. I think that’s an important part of *being* an ally.

  • Capsicum

    What excellent timing on my part. I’ve just finished polishing a post on Christian privilege (from the perspective of a convert to Christianity), and also been working up a post on solidarity across different non-white groups.

  • brownstocking

    So can we minibloggers participate? I’m just starting an “issue-driven” blog, so I have no audience.

    I’m more than willing to join the carnival, though!

  • Adam Ziegler

    I’m just starting out on my process of learning, but I’d like to offer the idea that it is too simple to say that white people aren’t taught to empathize. As a person who has benefited from white male privilege, I can say that most of us are taught to imagine what life looks like from another person’s perspective. But I suggest that our imagination of what life looks like from the other’s point of view is highly distorted by the assumptions that come of having white privilege our entire life.

    Another way to put it: I learned how to imagine myself in another’s shoes. So in my imagination I change my viewpoint to be that of someone else, but I’m still imagining it as ME. But that’s broken, right? It doesn’t work because the other person’s experience is so different from my own. That’s part of the reason we white people sometimes end up saying such absurd and offensive things about how people of color should behave.

    What I need to learn is to imagine being in another’s shoes, as THEM. That really is hard to do, because it means you must learn so much about that other person and what life is like for them. It’s a bit perilous too, because if you get it wrong you could make things worse. (Down that path lurk the most evil incarnations of racism.)

    And aside from being difficult to do, you first have to realize it is necessary! Coming to the realization that the perspectives are so radically different is like some kind of elusive magic. How do you see something that is invisible and that you don’t even know is there?

    It’s like being on the street and an angry person starts telling you about the giant monster behind you and how you need to help do something about it. First of all, you don’t believe in monsters and second, you can’t see it. You might try to have dialogue, but it doesn’t go anywhere that seems useful to you and eventually you give up and walk away. What you need is for the giant invisible monster to reach out and touch you in some way that doesn’t scare you off but lets you know it is real.

    So I think this carnival is an awesome idea, because allies who shared the white world view prior to “seeing the monster” may be able to talk about it in ways that are easier to understand and digest. And if not, at least their voices make it harder to dismiss the problem.

  • I think the Carnival is a great idea. I’m really grateful to the very patient, very understanding white ally who finally got the message through to me.

    In addition, can we find ways to make ourselves more visible? I’d love to have some sort of symbol, or a button that said “ask me why I’m a white anti racist ally” or something.

  • Adam

    ABW,

    Thank you for giving this consideration. I have not set up my own blog as of yet. I have simply been posting on two or three as I can.

    I believe I can articulate a solid Christian position on racism (both structural and on a individual-attitude level).

    Further, I am of the persuasion that where emotional and intellectual honesty meet the right resources and learning, those barriers (in one’s heart and mind) can (and do) come tumbling down fast.

    It is helpful to find white folks who have built strong relationships and/or married across racial lines who can draw from those experiences as well. For instance, there is a woman of color I call “Mom”.

    I think I am fairly useful for suggesting ways to engage oneself in the community to accelerate learning and activity.

    Adam

  • i’ve had good anti-bias education and i’ve had bad attempts at “multicultural” education. what i’ve learned, speaking as a white person in a predominately white, privileged school, is that when it’s done right…when there is clear literature that defines white privilege, examples of its existence, and a safe space for dialogue, white people start to get it. i’ve seen it take anywhere from one class to one quarter to two years for people to come around. i had a couple people in my graduate classes who began the program completely oblivious to the “other side of racism” and left the program an ally that was completely transformed. that said, it also takes skilled educators who have clarified their own ethnic identity and developed an empathetic, historically accurate view of other ethnicities and cultures. and cross cultural experiences are, i think, a must for it to really sink in. not shallow ones, but meaningful ones. i guess this is hard to put into words, but…when it works, it works. education is the key, i think. i only wish i had some of these classes and professors when i was an undergrad. and i think of all the half-hearted “diversity” training we received in college that completely missed the point.

  • Since this is the opening of the Carnival, would submitting old posts be allowed?

    I don’t currently have any new insight on what it means to be an ally (nor do I have time to write even if I did), but I have written various items that I think would be helpful for the kind of well meaning but ignorant people you’re talking about.

  • yep, old posts are welcome. I’m sure there are a lot of people who have good posts on this topic and I want to see them all.

    And yes, brownstocking, minibloggers, too.

  • Diatryma, I wrote something about that recently that might help (hope I did the html right, here goes).

  • Dianne

    I love this idea, but sadly don’t have a blog so won’t be contributing.

    This post did make me think about my reasons for being against prejudice and discrimination though. I was suprised at how many of the reasons turned out to be self-interested or downright greed based.

    The basic reason is, of course, because prejudice is wrong and unjust, which is fine in itself, but then I start to think about other reasons…

    Because as a child a good friend was Vietnamese and I didn’t like the idea that 10 years earlier (yeah, I’m old) I wouldn’t have been allowed to play with her because she wasn’t one of “us”.

    Because without the work of minority scientists like Evert Just or Neil Tyson de Grasse we’d know much less about the universe and prejudice keeps them and other potentially brilliant researchers from their work.

    Because one of my favorite attendings, who helped me find 2 of my last 3 jobs, is black and without him my career would have been much more difficult.

    Because I don’t want people being prejudiced against me and if I say that I (or my group) can be prejudiced, what possible grounds do I have for denying anyone else the same privilege?

    In summary, because white privilege (and I won’t even try to pretend I haven’t benefited from white privilege) just isn’t worth it. You lose too much. Too much talent, too many potential friends.

    Now if it were only as simple as saying, “Ok, I’ll stop being prejudiced now.” Unfortunately, it can take years to change assumptions and habits. And giving up privilege, even when you know it is wrong, isn’t the easiest thing in the world either. Oh, well, one step down, N to go…

    Sorry to be ranting off the real topic of the thread.

  • I would join gladly as an ally, since I have entries of this nature frequently on my blog(s). I have an entry of this nature up today, for instance.

    But I’m Carnival challenged, despite reading as many of them as I could after discovering the concept.

    Love, C.

  • As an ally, this is an issue near and dear to my heart. I was a colorblind racist for decades. Trying to reach other colorblind racists, to open their eyes… in part I want to do that because I want to understand how I shifted, because I’m still not sure.

    I’ll try to write a post. Fantastic idea.

  • Meep

    I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for everything that’s happened, and that I’m glad you still blog. I like reading what you have to say because you do it so well, and you make me think. :D

    If I could I would offer you a mini-muffin.

    I do have something to write for the carnival but I don’t know if I’ll have a chance to write something – if I do, I hope it will be as good as anything you write.

  • Foxessa,

    send me the link to the two best posts of this nature you have in the form in the post. that’s all you have to do :)

  • ABW,

    I swear you become more and more amazing with every post. This is an incredible idea. I am almost jealous that I did not think of it myself.

  • Melissa

    I think this is a wonderful idea and I look forward to reading the posts – the only place I currently blog is on MySpace – I know it is lame, but that is all I have right now – is that OK?
    Thanks,

  • O.K. I think I did it.

    Love, C.

  • Red

    This is a great idea! I don’t know what I will write yet, but I’m thinking something about the way that feminism needs to acknowledge the voices of women of color. Or maybe how white people are real quick to point out sexism in hip-hop and other non-white art forms, but act like there’s none in their own culture, which is a form of racism. (“White culture is so much better, we’re not deplorably sexist” as if they give a shit about women.)

    Thanks for everything you do.

  • Melissa

    Is just a MySpace blog OK? Sorry that is all I have right now.

  • ispower

    “I’m wondering if maybe I cannot simply because, when they read my words, they are so filled with defensiveness and perhaps guilt, nothing I say can get through. If they can’t listen to me, can they maybe listen to other White people?”

    Thats probably quite true. I don’t like that white people will listen to white peoples words about racism – or how privileged people will only listen to people with their privileges. It doesn’t seem right – but I do think thats how it goes a lot of the time.
    Like there was a black guy at work who got mad when other people said the N word and they’d not really listen to him because of some ‘race card’ crap. One of them said it around me once and I was all “I don’t like that, its racist” and the dude who said it was shocked and listened to me and we had a conversation about it. I guess he thought I was “unbiased” which seems pretty shitty.
    So, even though I’m uncomfortable with the idea of white people only listening to other white people talk about racism, from what I understand it works and for the reason a carnival of allies is a good idea.

    But I also think though that blogs aren’t the best way for getting the well meaning but defensive people to see our side of things. I have a male friend who reads my blog and sometimes gets a bit spluttery and “why would you think that?” about things I write where I find the only real way to figure things out between us is to have a conversation in real time where we can interupt each other, there’s time for someone to say “I don’t understand” as you make your first point so you can explain it before you get to an argument depending on that point etc.

    Not saying that we can’t blog – but I personally find blogging good for talking to people who are already on the level with me, and real time conversations for people who don’t understand the basics.

    Anyway: I’m not a great writer, but I’ll see if I can get something together for your carnival.

  • I read you frequently but have never commented before. I’m Swedish (but blog in English) and would love to participate if you would let me. The nature of racial relations and of racism here in Sweden/Europe is somewhat different from that in the US (history and all) but I would love to write something about ally work with a starting point in the situation here in little Sweden.
    Love the idea!

  • Very exciting, ABW. I love the idea of splitting it over multiple days, because the sheer volume of posts in a carnival can be overwhelming.

    Will definitely be submitting something, just don’t know exactly what yet. :) So *many* possible angles.

  • GirlNamedCarl

    That you could put up with the insanity and abuse you received this week and turn it into such a great idea… wow. You are made of positively *spiritual* win, ABW.

  • Have my topic and getting to the research. I’m looking forward to submitting my blog.
    Love, an ally

  • Great idea. I’m looking forward to reading everything (and I’ll see what I can come up with myself).

  • Veronica

    I don’t have an open blog, so I’m just going to write something here.

    I don’t know if I’d call myself an ally–I don’t do anything very active. But I do try to exist in the world in an anti-racist way, if that makes sense. In some ways, I have a leg up in that I was brought up by extremely leftist anti-racist parents who encouraged me to learn black and Native American history from an early age, who bought me black baby dolls and found books for me that featured nonwhite protagonists, who watched _Eyes on the Prize_ with me when it first came out and supplemented it with their own memories of the New Left’s relationship with SNCC and the Black Panthers, etc.

    But there are plenty of racist leftists out there. What I really try to do is to think about what I want, as a feminist woman, from male feminists. I’m aware that these kinds of analogies can backfire, but in this case I think it is helpful to me. In the situation in which I myself am part of a subjugated group, what do I want from sympathetic members of the dominant group?

    Well, what I don’t want is a lot of whingeing about how bad they feel about things. I don’t want them to be snivelling and apologizing for things they have no control over. You have male privilege? Fine. It’s not your fault and I don’t want an apology for something you have no control over. You’re not in charge of the system, and there’s not much you can do to change it. What I want is for those people to be aware of their privilege, to acknowledge it, to acknowledge and feel genuine anger and outrage over gendered injustices. I want those men to feel sympathy with women’s impossible positions in patriarchy and to be open to hearing women’s anger and analyses of the situation and to be open to altering their own perspectives based on that.

    So that’s what I try to do with my white privilege. I try to be aware of it and acknowledge it. I do get angry about racist injustice and I try to listen to nonwhite people’s experiences of the world and their analyses of it (and, by the way, that’s the one piece of advice I would give to white people who want to be allies–shut your mouth and listen; you just might learn something), and I try to sit on my own gut reactions to things that I care about (I have a real gut reaction to what feels to me like attacks on feminism, but that reaction is unhelpful and blind to what nonwhite women are saying, so I don’t put it into play).

    And I don’t try to get cookies for such behavior. I keep reminding myself that that’s just the base level for what being a decent human being is.

  • Jenny Penny, I’d definitely love to see your posts. Please send them :)

    also, I didn’t need any more reasons to heart Veronica, but she just gave me one.

  • meeneecat

    I think this is a good idea, But I still have trouble trying to talk to white people about their privilege and how they have benefited from it without even trying, like you said. They get all defensive and upset and give me all this BS about how whites can be targeted by racism, (all that “reverse racism” crap) geez. I don’t know what to do with these people anymore. I HATE it when they bring up the “reverse racism” crap. I find that the people I’m friends with are already allies and understand this stuff, but there’s a bunch more people out there that I have tried talking to and just aren’t receptive to this stuff and it’s really sad to me. I want to bang my head up against the wall. Anyone have any suggestions about talking to white people, esp. about white privilege? What to do when they get defensive and start talking about the “reverse racism” crap?

    All my frustration aside, I’m still going to fight the good fight, and talk to everyone and anyone I can about this. It’s definitely necessary and needs to be done.

  • meeneecat

    I also meant to say, that because I don’t have a blog, I’ll instead try to talk to other people and get a dialog going…and see if I can convert some allies.

  • Abydosangel

    I am going to do something with this and am so glad you thought of this.

  • Ico

    Meeneecat,

    I think if white people are getting defensive the first thing to do is remind them that when you are talking about white privilege, you’re not accusing them personally of being prejudiced against PoC. That “white privilege =/= you are racist.” Tell them that even if they are not prejudiced themselves, the world around them *is,* and people treat them differently because they are white.

    I think a lot of white people take the topic of white privilege (consciously or unconsciously) as an accusation because we aren’t used to thinking of ourselves as having a race; so defusing that whole whiny defense of “but I’m not a racist” makes them pause and rethink. Then they can consider the idea of racism without being bogged down in personal guilt.

    (Sidenote: though we all know most of them actually *are* racist to some degree. At least I suspect so, because if they’re “colorblind” they’ve internalized all kinds of racist garbage)

    As far as reverse racism goes, I honestly just think that a barrage of facts combined with personal stories is the best way to go. Most white people don’t know anything about affirmative action and/or reverse racism. It’s just something they’ve heard from other white people and internalized. At least with many of the white students I saw coming into my writing class, they’d never questioned that sort of thing because they’d never been exposed to anything different (having come from predominantly white, middle-class backgrounds).

    It’s exhausting to deal with people who are blind. But keep fighting the good fight. :)

  • Veronica

    I’d actually say the point to hammer home with respect to nonsense about “reverse racism” is institutional power. Black people do not control government bodies or economic powerhouses in the US by and large, so quite frankly, if a white person gets called a name it’s nothing more than a personal insult. Personal insults suck, but it’s really nothing more troublesome than that. Whereas institutionalized racism affects everything about a black person’s life chances.

    Then, y’know, smack ‘em and ask ‘em how they’ve been impoverished and abused due to the overwhelming power of “reverse racism.” They will stand there gaping and muttering something about affirmative action, at which point you can mention that if a given white person can’t get into college/a job/whatever with only 10 percent of the slots reserved for nonwhites, maybe that white person just isn’t smart enough to be there.

  • Excellent idea. I will try to participate but I will not be writing around racism in the US or elsewhere but the problematics of building allies in the global south -

  • JoAsakura

    If they can’t listen to me, can they maybe listen to other White people?

    (delurking)

    Even then, man. There’s that deer in the headlights look sometimes. :sigh:

    A small, stupid, but timely example. SItting in a waiting room yesterday. Myself and two other white people. Conversation about how some crazy-ass dude on the internet.

    White Guy: Oooh, but you have to watch out what you say to people! You can’t call people “monkeys” or anything.

    Other White Woman: (tch) You can’t say anything anymore.

    Me: :blink: You two do realise that there’s a ton of racist context with that kind of language, right? And, please, just because you say “well I heard a black guy call another black guy this or that” doesn’t mean you have any right to appropriate that language. It’s not only offensive, but it makes you look like a complete asshole.

    (Two sets of eyes staring at me, then uncomfortable shuffling of papers and looking away.)

    N knows that I want to be the best ally I can, and I’m far from perfect, but I’ll keep trying ^_^;v

  • This is a fantastic idea and speaks very much to where I am, because I attended WAM – and I see this as a good thing. I’ve started to explore/express a little bit on Adele Nieves’ blog and she has been extremely kind (maybe some would say too kind but I do appreciate it) in inviting me to explore. She specifically mentioned what I read as saying, it’s not so much if at all about feeling the guilt as it is taking action:

    “Jill, I encourage you to examine what kind of power you have, and challenge you to use that power to start the conversation, to propose a new dialogue; to create a diverse panel, group, or media alternative and invite me (and others) to lead it with you. Make WOC/POC, transgender, queer, disabled, immigrant, fat, and gay communities the basis of your programming. Do the research, listen, and learn!”

    You have proposed the new dialogue. And with tears in my eyes, I thank you because I’ve just been completely stymied at how.

    I hope to submit something and will look through these comments again to see if you’ve said more about what kind of mix you’re hoping will be represented.

  • Thank you, ABW. I will try to do something that is worthy of your idea: self-identified allies write to people like themselves.

    I believe there are some white feminist editors around who could use a little helpful advice….

  • Kim

    This is a fantastic idea and I wish I’d seen more like it before. I doubt I can contribute anything of worth – I was still using a phrase like ‘but why can’t we just not see color?’ only a year ago, without realizing the broader implications of that – but I do look forward to reading what other people say, and learning.

    I like this blog a lot, I like the way you express most of your ideas, and I think I’ll be following it from here on. :)

  • A Sarah

    I really enjoy this blog. I’ve only lurked so far, but I’d like to participate in the carnival, if you don’t mind that I’d have to start a blog to do so. Would that be okay?

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about white heterosexual feminists and the mistakes we make over and over and over and over and over and over and friggin’ over and over and over again and over again fifty more times for good measure.

    I’ve been such a typical obnoxious white feminist so many times — crying during discussions of oppression and making it about me, asking “but what do you want me to dooo-hoooo-hooooo!!?!”, making such a big deal out of my anti-racist cred that I talk over people of color, asking POC to certify me as racism-free or be my conscience or teach me about racism, making the approval of the white men in my life more important than real justice…

    Now I think about things and I just want to cringe/vomit/hide, but I think that writing about it for other white women would be a lot more productive.

  • ABW — Thanks for instigating this.

    A question about the Carnival: Do you want new posts only, or are past posts also acceptable for submission?

    As to this: “I’m wondering if maybe I cannot simply because, when they read my words, they are so filled with defensiveness and perhaps guilt, nothing I say can get through. If they can’t listen to me, can they maybe listen to other White people?”

    I’ve had mixed results when confronting other white people on racism. Sometimes, I think my words have more weight with them, sometimes, I’ve heard shit like: “Well, you’re not a person of color, so you don’t really KNOW whether what I just said is racist or not” *insert eye-roll here*

    I think that there is both defensiveness AND guilt (even when the confrontation comes from another white person). . . . but I also think that there’s a lot of fear. If white people take a look at their privilege — I mean really take a look at it — then it means they’re going to have to start changing things in themselves. If you tug on that single strand of white privilege — a whole huge basket of crap starts to unravel, and whole lot of active responsibility has to be taken.

    I think that’s probably the hardest nut to crack — at least for me (both in confronting others and myself) — that fear of taking full responsibility and facing the fact that a lot of what I “have” is granted to me automatically in this culture by virtue of my skin-color.

    Anyway, thanks for starting the Carnival, and for your blog. I’ve been by frequently over the last year, but rarely comment.

    PS. I invite you to let me know any time I’m acting like a stupid white person — I’ll not only listen — I’ll probably send you flowers and a thank you note.

  • Susan Rose

    Hello all. I’m an educator at an inner city school in a large city on the East Coast (I’m being vague on purpose). I myself am white. The assignment was open because no one else wanted it. These kids are tough, but I was up for the challenge. I get them as Juniors so I have two years in their lives to make that difference.

    An average teacher lasts maybe a year or two here; I’ve been doing it for 18. I’m not painting myself to be a saint or savior, I just enjoyed doing something that someone else (of any race) was not willing to do. I wasn’t willing to throw away these kids just because they were reacting in anger. Some never come around, too bitter to rise about any kind of anger, racial or socioeconomical.

    So this is my question: Am I doing enough? There are incredible feelings of helplessness reading some of the comments on other posts here. Some PoC feel we, as white people, can never understand the racial divide. But if my whole life is dedicated to my students (not just in the classroom), aren’t I doing “my part”? What becomes enough?

    I am not making this about me either. I read in one of the posts that he/she wanted to open up the dialogue. Tell me how I can help.

    There will always be a Pat Buchanan in every race who feels the need to spout bigotry like it’s gospel. He doesn’t represent the majority of white folks, just like his generalizations don’t represent all black folks.

    I ask, in all sincerity, what else can I do?

  • pixelbrat

    I just started a blog (well a new blog anyway) and I was going to make a few posts that would hopefully be good for this project. I was just wondering is it ok if I submit more than one post?

  • Lindsay

    Susan Rose,

    You are in an incredibly powerful position as an educator. How can make such an impact -whether it’s positive or negative depends on how you do it, I think.

    ‘What becomes enough’? You might not like this answer, but actually – nothing. Nothing you do will ever be enough to ‘fix’ the oppression your students face every day. If you find yourself thinking you can singlehandedly ‘fix’ oppression for your students, save them from the effects of racism, then you are succumbing to ‘white saviour complex’ – an all too common ailment of those in the teaching profession, for some reason :-) Does that mean you shouldn’t try, or do anything? Absolutely not. There are lots and lots of things you can do to start to make things better.

    First – educate yourself about your privilege (white, able-bodied, english-speaking, etc whatever your personal list may be). You can start with the recommended reading on this blog. Also some books: Uprooting Racism, by Paul Kivel; Becoming an Ally, by Anne Bishop; White Like Me, by Time Wise; Understanding White Privilege, by Frances Kendall (some of these are Canadian – you can probably find them online).

    You don’t say what you teach. If it’s history or english, or social studies, there are some really great ways to incorporate anti-oppression into your teaching. Even if you teach math or science, you can still find a way. I recommend getting a subscription to Rethinking Education (just google them), they have lots of great publications as well.

    Examine the language you use – how do you speak to and about your students? How do you think about them, and how do you talk to colleagues about them? Be very critical of yourself here, try to look at things you’ve taken for granted, assumptions you made with fresh eyes. Pay attention to the media- ho do they describe your school, your neighbourhood, the kids you work with.

    Find an ally. I’m guessing you already have one or two people you lean on within your school, otherwise you wouldn’t still be teaching! Hopefully these are people who have some knowledge of anti-racism, or are willing to go on this journey with you. If not, look outside your school. You’ll be swimming upstream and you’ll need support!

    One advantage of working in an ‘inner city’ (this is an example for thinking about language – ‘inner city’ is a euphemism for ‘place where people of colour live’, and includes ideas of poverty, degeneration and dangerousness), one of the advantages is, no one in power really cares that much about your classroom, so you often have space to try some wonderful, progressive teaching methods and ideas.

    Something I remind myself of on a daily basis in this work: INTENTIONS are not important, but IMPACT is. It’s not about what you intended to do or say or mean, it’s about the impact your words and actions have on your students. And you are not the one who gets to judge impact – which makes it tricky. Really listen to your students. Listen to what they are not saying as well. How do they speak to you and interact with you? This will give you some clues about how you are impacting on them. Just listen – it’s been said before and it’ll be said again – it’s good advice – just listen to what people of colour have to say

    You will never really understand what it’s like to be a racialized person, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can contribute to the fight. I feel like we white people use guilt as an excuse to do nothing. “Well, I just feel so bad about it all, I feel like there’s nothing I can do, I’m afraid of screwing up, I won’t do anything”. Feeling guilty and choosing to do nothing and being able to do nothing with that choice having no negative impact on how you live your life is a privilege.

    I hope this helps, it’s really just a starting point – these are some of my thoughts and ideas gleaned from my own journey, and my experiences at my work.

  • Veronica

    this is an example for thinking about language – ‘inner city’ is a euphemism for ‘place where people of colour live’, and includes ideas of poverty, degeneration and dangerousness)

    Off-topic–this always confused me as a kid until I figured out what it was supposed to mean. Somehow “inner-city kids” was never supposed to mean me, and “inner-city school” never meant mine, but you couldn’t get more urban that my home.

  • Drew

    Amen, Veronica. Susan Rose likes to think that she’s a white savior, but in fact she can’t even move away from racist language like “inner city”. She doesn’t even see her white savior complex. That fuels my black anger, and you bet she won’t even get it. That’s what I’m talking about when I say it’s a token cause for them. I’ll bet she doesn’t live in that inner city neighborhood where she teaches. She lays her head down in the “safe” white neighborhood, far, far away from the hood.

  • Susan Rose

    Excuse me, Drew. “Inner city” is geography, not a pejorative term. As a generality, inner city often happens to be the most socio-economically depressed area of a city in education terms. As a matter of fact, my district is 66% hispanic, 22% black, and the rest “other.” Regardless of their color, I fight for them to get into the best colleges out there (or whatever transition they want to make after high school) that represent their needs, not a need I have as a so-called white savior. After all, ALL kids deserve to go to the best school that they can afford and ones that reflect their values of education.

    I know the teachers to whom you refer. Those teachers who feel like they are on some mission to “save the poor” from themselves. Yet they don’t live what they preach. They get a power kick from working in the district but not LIVING in the district.

    That’s not what I am doing. This is not, as you say it, my token cause.

    I live in the same community as these kids. These kids are MY kids, just not biologically. I am part of their lives even after they graduate school and leave. I’m guests at their houses for ever holiday under the sun. I know their parents. It’s something I take very, very seriously.

    But there will always be people who say what I am doing is not never enough.

  • Susan Rose

    I forgot to mention that I am a guidance counselor, not a teacher.

    I would also like to thank the moderators of this forum for having this forum. I am trying to bridge the gap of racism and I am honored that I can be a part of this dialogue.

  • This is a great idea. Thanks!

  • jennie1ofmany

    Susan Rose, I’m not part of the general commentariat here, and I don’t want to jump on you, firstly, because I think cities and communities in general might be healthier if more people lived in the communities in which they work (I don’t, but then I work in an industrial park. Nobody lives here.)

    When you voiced concern about whether what you are doing is “enough,” some people answered that it isn’t. I don’t think those people meant to belittle your efforts or to question your sincerity. I think, instead, that they took “Am I doing enough [to eradicate the effects of racism in the lives of my students]” to mean “Will my efforts be sufficient to eradicate the effects of racism in the lives of my students?”

    And, of course, the answer to that question is “no.” Because it’s impossible for any one person, no matter how enlightened, how hardworking, and how full of goodwill and energy, to eradicate the effects of a broad societal system aimed at privileging other people at the expense of your students and their families.

    I think part of being an ally is accepting that nothing we do will ever be “enough,” in that sense. Accepting that we can’t fix racism. Accepting that we will always have a lot to learn about being allies, and about where other people come from. Accepting that, while a white person living and working in a multi-cultural community may indeed have insights into the effects of racism on the people in their community that a white person from a predominantly white community may not have, that same white person (the one in the non-white community) still doesn’t know as much as his or her neighbours about existing in a white hegemony as a person of colour. That in a lifetime of learning, we may never know that.

    That doesn’t make us wrong, or evil, or insincere. It simply places a higher burden on us to listen and reflect, to keep our minds so open that it sometimes feels like our brains are going to leak out our ears (and what if they do?), to not impose our values on other people for their own good, and to help keep the focus of conversations on the students, rather than on us, and what good anti-racists we are.

    And still it will never be enough.

  • That’s fucking awesome! How come I never thought of that!? Hells-to-they-yeahs!

  • Drew

    I underestimated you, Susan Rose. You are full bore into your white sainthood. You come here to a PoC blog that helps those of us who actually experience racism and spew your nonsense about these being your kids. Try the other post that talks about adopting a token black baby and raising it without color. Before you comment about me being so hard on you and your efforts, let me remind you that I’ve know a 1000 other Susan Roses who have all said the same thing, and they all get tired and leave the cause and move to Utah or somewhere entirely without color. You may have a few people fooled, but I see through you like a window. You’re a poser, and a bad one at that.

  • a little afraid of the backlash

    Drew, you assume a lot about Susan Rose. You may have known “a 1000 other Susan Roses who have all said the same thing”, but that sounds suspiciously like when white racists say they know “a bunch of black people who act this way”.

    Wasn’t the whole point of this to try to entice allies and create solidarity? Your words are full of presumption and don’t seem to be helpful.

    So, instead of giving up on Susan Rose and the thousand others you know like her (you must be very popular to know so many!), perhaps a different tack might be used to help people like her understand?

    Because, see, it’s people like Susan Rose that talk other, more bigoted white people out of being so bigoted… they’re the ones that serve as vectors for ideas like “black people are human and deserve respect”.

    I usually comment with my regular name, but your words are full of anger, which makes me hesitant.

  • L.M.

    Is it ok to submit older posts? I have several in mind.

  • Drew

    My words are full of hate because we have a woman without color coming on this site trying to be a saint for the cause that she couldn’t understand. It’s about having white allies, but her talk is so beyond what an ally should do. From her comments, I sense a certain level of entitlement for working with the “inner city kids” when “no one else lasts more than a year or two”. It screams of sainthood. It screams “See me, I’m working with the poor black kids who don’t know no better but I get them into college!” In fact, I can’t believe that YOU aren’t more angry at her speech. I don’t see the genuine concern.

  • A Sarah

    “So this is my question: Am I doing enough? ”

    Susan Rose — I’m also a white woman, also a relatively new commenter.

    In the past I’ve gone into places belonging to people of color and presumed to ask them to DROP whatever it was they were doing do they could explain racism to me IMMEDIATELY and/or certify me as a “Good White Person — 100 percent racism-free!” I didn’t say that’s what I was doing — I’m not sure if I knew that’s what I was doing — but that’s exactly what I was doing.

    It’s not fair, and it’s not an antiracist thing to do.

    What makes me think I can go into any space I want and expect a warm welcome? What makes me think that POC have any duty to pacify my guilt or police my conscience? And what in the hell makes me think I can expect great congratulations and gratitude for any acts of “service” I do for the “less fortunate”, while also getting a free pass for the countless ways in which I’ve benefited from racism (institutional and personal)? Why do I presume to think that my saintly acts are not only above reproach but are somehow really me while being a beneficiary of white privilege is just an accident of my history having no bearing upon my relationships with people of color?

    Internalized racist superiority, is what.

    I don’t want to go on at great length because I don’t want to make it all about white folks’ issues; but in response to this post and in particular the comment upthread about a blog (not directed at me, but I’d like to take the advice anyway) I’m starting a blog for white feminists to work on our racism with each other. I’ll post the link, if you’re interested, once it’s fit for other eyes. :) (Right now it’s got one post and no blogroll, but I’ll work on it this afternoon.)

  • A Sarah

    I wrote: “I don’t want to go on at great length because I don’t want to make it all about white folks’ issues”

    Just to clarify — When I said “I don’t want to make it all about white folks’ issues,” I meant, I didn’t want to make it all about ME ME ME ME AND MY FEELINGS ABOUT BEING HORRIFIED AT MY WHITE PRIVILEGE, and all the other issues that inevitably arise when one white person tries to call another white person out on racism.” Since those things seem best handled by caucusing, or… uh, whatever the blog equivalent is.

    (In other words, I wasn’t presuming to say that I thought “white folks’ issues” should be off the table or anything. I was just acknowledging that it isn’t my table.)

  • Drew

    A Sarah, you are THE woman. I’m completely surprised that it took a white woman to see exactly what this poser was doing. And I was really very surprised that more PoC didn’t notice and shut this bitch up. Where are the moderators of this blog and why was she allowed through? Allies? More like white sainthood. “These are my kids?” It sounds more like the actions of a lonely woman who probably never found love anywhere else and had to resort to feeling superior by taking on the “black cause”. Shocking.

  • Bach-us

    I don’t have a blog, and I’m not sure that I’ve understood the assignment, but I have one method that seems to work fairly well with the most stubborn of the defensive pseudo-allies. I talk about the bad behavior of other non-allies in the same tone that I use for gossip.

    Example:

    Client: I don’t see why we have to have Black History Month.

    Boss: Oh, I don’t see why everyone needs to make a big deal. I don’t see color. If everybody were the same way… (you get the idea)

    Later that day…

    Friend who Doesn’t Get It: How are things at work?

    Me: My boss is clueless, like, we were in a meeting, and Client was complaining about Black History Month, which, duh! Every other month is White History Month! And then Boss is like, “I don’t see color,” and I’m thinking, “Shyeah, right, but everybody else sees yours.”

    Friend: …? (sometimes with the deer in headlights look– but it’s chipping away at the thoughtlessness)

    I don’t mean to sound like I’m going to break my arm from patting myself on the back. This really feels like a “teaspoon in the ocean.”

  • Susan Rose

    I was defensive in my second post to Drew, and I am sorry. Many people have the misconception about what “inner city” means, and I can’t expect you to know that I was referring to it in non-racist terms.

    I do not expect anyone to drop everything and comment about me “doing enough.” But this is a blog, which was calling for allies to communicate how they are working to combate racism, a issue that is near and dear to my heart. I put the question out there to foster dialogue. The inherent nature of a blog is to induce dialogue. I’m still learning myself.

    Whether I got a “welcome mat” or not by posting here is consequential to what happens to my students. Being called a bitch or a saint is the least of my worries. Too many students and teachers give up. If I don’t keep an open mind about what affects my students, then how can I, as a guidance counselor who is also a white woman, do an effective job? So long as I am part of the chain to combate racism–and yes, I DO get a sense of accomplishment, why else would anyone do anything–then I’m happy to listen to the insults that come with the process.

  • Drew

    You just don’t get it, Susan Rose.

  • Drew

    That is hilarious, Angel! I hope Susan Rose watches and sees the idiocy of what she’s trying to do with her white sainthood.

  • Drew

    Since you asked about doing enough, Susan Rose, here’s YOUR homework for the weekend. Enjoy! There will be a quiz on Monday.

    Dumb bitch. You posers make me want to kill all white people for being so smug. You have no idea how fucking stupid you sound, going to a PoC website spewing about how you’re going to “save the world” by being some white teacher in a sea of darkies. Do you think you’re special? Original? Hollywood proves you wrong. I’d appreciate if you’d never come back to this site, because you are NOT WELCOME.

    http://www.mixedmediawatch.com/2006/08/07/the-white-savior-returns-has-it-been-3-years-already/

    Then you can rent:
    Dangerous Minds
    Freedom Writers
    The Ron Clark Story
    Lean on Me
    Sister Act 2
    The Substitute
    Music of the Heart
    Dance With Me

    And one last thing: GO FUCK YOURSELF!

  • Drew

    I’m going to change my stance. While I maintain that Susan Rose is a white elitist bitch, White Elite America is the real culprit for all of us.

    Without prejudice, rich white America is looking to keep all of us down. I’ll refer to the top 1% of America.You know those people are fucking white.

    That’s not to say that there aren’t people without color who are full on racists. They are, as clearly evidenced by Miss Goody Two Shoes Rose here. But I’m sure she is also middle or lower class so I can guess that she is affected by rich white America as much as I am.

    The difference is she can get a job, and with better pay, just for being a person without color. She can live anywhere she wants without being judged. I can go on.

    I concede a tiny bit to Susan Rose, but it doesn’t absolve her of her white savior complex.

  • Kim

    Drew and others: exactly where is the proper space for Susan Rose to ask a question? Even one that might come from an incorrect and even latently racist place?

    I believe I understand the irritation that comes from white people derailing another topic, asking to be given a ‘get out of racism free’ pass – and the ‘I believe’ is a big qualifier, as in ‘I’ve read posts on the subject here and elsewhere and I’ve sat down and really tried to get it but I could certainly be wrong’. But this is a thread about white allies and learning to be white allies. The question was on topic, it wasn’t breaking into a separate discussion between people of color – and considering the nature of the thread, it might not have even been addressed solely to people of color. So why was it inappropriate? Because it still had some latent racism and assumptions attached to it? Because she still has some covert racism, much more than she realizes? Maybe I’m wrong, but if we’re here to learn then aren’t mistakes going to be made?

    Are we forbidden to talk about race with people of color until we have a completely perfect understanding of our own whiteness? I know the biggest answer here seems to be ‘read a book or two’. I agree, that’s probably the best way to deal with it without offending anyone. But no one’s going to understand everything on their own. I mean, if that was the consensus, then what would this post be for in the first place?

    Because it seems to be a required disclaimer: I’m white, I’ve checked out the required reading and tried to understand it as best as possible, so please try and forgive me if I said anything stupid regardless.

  • nojojojo

    Whoa. That’s what I get for letting myself have a free weekend.

    Drew, you asked where the moderators were — well, here’s one of ‘em, and I’m here to tell you that YOU are out of line. Check the rules and then check yourself — nobody here is a bitch or any other gendered or racial slur on this site, unless they choose to call themselves such. Quit with the ad hominem attacks; if you have to pull that shit, then your argument is too weak to stand on its own. And you’re off topic — while this blog is a safe space for PoC, please remember that this thread is for “allies talking”. The whole point of this thread is that white people need to talk to each other about racism, and confront the privilege issues of their fellow white people when they see them. That way the burden doesn’t land on us all the time. So — never thought I’d say this, but — STFU and let the white people talk amongst themselves.

    And consider this a warning. In ABW’s house we follow ABW’s rules or we get the hell out, end of story.

  • nojojojo

    An addendum, directed obliquely at Kim but more kinda the whole thread:

    I have to say that though Drew expressed his anger in a less-than-acceptable way… I do understand it. I’ve been on other anti-racist sites/communities, and the ones targeting white people do tend to be frustratingly gentle and soothing. Occasionally they devolve into self-congratulatory back-patting of the “Nice White Lady” variety (regardless of whether Susan fits this type or not, it is a pattern seen often among whites discussing racism). Strangely, I’ve found that the soft, warmfuzzy atmosphere of such communities has a silencing effect on me; I feel out of place expressing my very real, very serious anger when I feel it.

    And there’s a reason for this. I think that, as white allies begin to talk with each other, they may need to remember that this is a tremendously painful, infuriating, crazy-making subject for some of us. Less so for you. Not saying it’s your fault, but you might be surprised to realize that your very lack of anger triggers anger among some PoC. It’s a pretty clear reminder of white privilege; racism may affect us all, but not to the same degree. And when something that sends us into blood-vessel-bursting fury provokes only milquetoast calm from you, then it seems like you don’t empathize. You’re singing the lyrics, but we’re not sure you’re feeling the song. And sometimes that’s enough to push us from merely “angry” to “incandescent”.

    Again, not your fault. But something to keep in mind.

    I’ll shut up now and let you all get back to talking and preparing for the Carnival. But if I can make one suggestion? Not even a suggestion, really — simply a statement. Anger is OK. It’s beyond OK — it’s a good thing. It lets us know you understand on more than a superficial level. It lets us know you give a shit.

    Give it a try sometime.

  • Veronica

    Actually, Nora, that’s info I needed, and I thank you for it. I do get angry about racism, and I have often wondered–does my anger feel to black people like so much posing or being outraged about things that they take in stride because it’s so much a part of their lives? Hearing that the anger is actually welcome (not that you speak for all black people everywhere, but you are addressing an issue that is on my mind every so often) sets my mind at ease about that; there is at least one interpretation of my anger which is positive. So I will go on expressing it.

  • Susan Rose

    A Sarah wrote ***What makes me think I can go into any space I want and expect a warm welcome? What makes me think that POC have any duty to pacify my guilt or police my conscience? And what in the hell makes me think I can expect great congratulations and gratitude for any acts of “service” I do for the “less fortunate”, while also getting a free pass for the countless ways in which I’ve benefited from racism (institutional and personal)? Why do I presume to think that my saintly acts are not only above reproach but are somehow really me while being a beneficiary of white privilege is just an accident of my history having no bearing upon my relationships with people of color?

    Internalized racist superiority, is what.***

    Well, my dear, that is a very good Hollywood depiction of many white people in this world. Notice I say many, not all. “All” would be a stereotype.

    But the fact remains that you don’t know me, nor do I know the full intent of your comment.

    Every damn day is another struggle for these kids. The city, as usual, wants to slash their education budgets in favor of a high-paid athletic director and another assistant principal. Not 20 minutes ago, the guidance counselors were told that out of the 7 of us, 3 will not be returning in 2008/2009. The money is going to more “respected” districts. Ironic how the majority of the money goes to the good performing schools (where money was dumped in the first place) when it’s the ones that don’t perform as well that so desperately need the money. And that, my dear, pissed me off exclusively. A black administrator cutting funding to a minority district. He’s a bad one in the bunch. But he has a boss to answer to. Makes you wonder why he bothers if he’s not going to fight for the kids.

    The other staff are worried if their jobs are next. My concern is that the quality of education will suffer further. You bet your ass I’m fuming mad. When we get comments from our principal who has given up on these students that it was “for the best that we dropped our economics program because we’re talking about future low-wage earners who won’t have a checkbook to balance,” you bet your ass I’m going to say something about it. And I do. Every day. They’re sick of hearing me ramble on about it, so much so that I’m not always invited to meetings because I make waves. Too bad. I ask: Why aren’t other teachers and staff risking their reputation to ensure the quality of education at this school? Aw, is it too hard? Do they feel alone?

    So if it makes YOU feel better to label me as a pollyanna for the white savior movement, feel free. I think it may pacify YOUR guilt more than it will mine. My acts are FAR from saintly–I still trip over stereotypes and racist language, too–but they are the ethical thing to do.

    So since this is supposed to be white people talking to other white people about racism, I challenge my fellow white people to take a look at your school district’s budget. Check closely to see exactly what schools are getting the better funding and which ones are falling apart around the kids. But don’t stop there. Go to school budget meetings. Write your school administrator. Become a face for equal rights at these meetings. It’s your right as a taxpayer. What you see should piss you off. It will be hard, but obviously worth it. What better way to combat racism than to start with our kids.

  • A Sarah

    “But the fact remains that you don’t know me, nor do I know the full intent of your comment.”

    Susan Rose, when I wrote “what makes ME think I…” etc. it wasn’t a cheap use of the first person. I’ve done racist shit, because of internalized racist superiority. Which I learned because I’m white. Which I never have to think about (unless I want to) because I’m white. Which, even now, when i DO think about it and try to acknowledge it and be antiracist, I STILL kind of mentally pat myself on the back for – seeing as how it’s totally optional for me to think about it, and all – BECAUSE (all together now!) I’M WHITE. That’s what I HAVE learned. There is a lot I have left to learn. You’re right that I don’t know you. But I know ME, and I’m starting to see a very very very little of how whiteness has shaped me. I have to rely on other people to show me when I’m doing things that come out of internalized racist superiority BECAUSE I’M WHITE AND BLIND TO MY PRIVILEGE. That’s the big perk of whiteness. I really have barged into places where people of color were talking and asked them to drop everything so that I could pacify my guilty white conscience. I’ve been the crying white lady at anti-oppression trainings. Me. I’ve screwed up in ways that have had racist effects – regardless of my intentions. Many, many, many, many times. It’s an ongoing struggle. I still do it. I am grateful when people take a risk and let me know. In pointed ways, because sometimes that’s what it takes FOR ME to get the point.

    Started to write another paragraph but maybe best to leave it at that…

  • A Sarah

    Drew: “I’m completely surprised that it took a white woman to see exactly what this poser was doing.”

    Drew, thank you for the compliment. If I saw anything it’s only because I’ve made every play in the nice white lady playbook and I had people in my life who called me on it.

  • Kim

    Thank you very much for stepping in, nojojojo. I try to step back and understand where black anger is coming from most of the time, but I really couldn’t believe this was acceptable, and I’m glad it isn’t how we’re supposed to hold a discussion here.

    I can see how a ‘gentle’ handling of white allies would be frustrating. So many of us have no idea what we’re doing and think that’s perfectly ok. This is a subject that affects POC daily and hurts you profoundly, and you should be able to express that. Making that anger feel unwelcome or silenced is pretty much anathema to the whole discussion.

    On the other hand, I’ve seen a great deal of sarcasm and negativity directed towards white people who honestly had no idea they were doing something wrong. I’m not saying anyone is obligated to explain racism or why something is racist. Or that they shouldn’t feel frustration over dealing with something over and over. And it’s my own privilege and experience with privilege that leads to my ‘empathy’, for lack of a better word, towards people in these situations.

    But it seems to me like there’s anger and then there’s personal insults, and sarcasm, and a lot of assumptions about the white people who have made these gaffes. Not everyone is mature enough, or secure enough, to step back and figure out where they were wrong on their own. I know some grown adults who won’t even stand up for themselves to report a rude waiter, much less know not to take a complicated discussion like this personally. I keep imagining a commenter or even an observer who’ll step back from a flare-up on this blog and say “Well, obviously they don’t actually want our help,” or even “They demand equality but when we try to figure out how we’re attacked because of our own race, what a bunch of hypocrites.” Full-on privilege in action, and it’s something I have done too, before actually taking the time to read and figure out where people are coming from. But some people might never take that second look at it. And these are people who were trying make the overture of dialog, in their own well-meaning and mistaken way, and now may never do so again. They might even form the wrong assumptions and become increasingly racist as a result.

    I’m not saying that’s the fault of people of color, not at all. It’s our own fault for reducing our education of racism to ‘everyone is the same even though we look different’, then completely avoiding the subject outside of superficiality and spectacle. It’s in no way your obligation to be ‘gentle’ as a result, especially when you deal with this all the time. I think it’s more of a Catch-22 that has losers either way. But the ridiculous optimist in me (the same mentality that makes me think these people are just well-meaning and poorly taught, rather than trolling or already assuming they’re right) makes me think there has to be a better way to expose covert racism and white privilege.

    Damned if I know how, of course. I feel like I’ve only gotten as far as ‘I shouldn’t assume I’m right, and I shouldn’t be afraid to be wrong’.

    Continuing this in a second post, and I’m sorry this is huge…

  • Al

    Hi,

    A little hesitant to jump in at this juncture, but also feel that after reading the thread, another voice who has been in both positions (A Sarah and Susan Rowe),may be helpful to echo and clarify what A Sarah is saying. I can also offer the idea that what she is talking about, she has clearly lived. The “crying white woman at anti racism training”? Hi, I was the crying white male!

    Susan, maybe you could look at is as not so much a challenge of your principles or your dedication, but more of a way to keep your very clear motives and goals of anti racism in line with your actions, if that makes any sense. The idea that we all need each other to keep a look out (as A Sarah has said to you), because when it comes to our own sense of privilege and entitlement, we are blind and always will be.

    Certainly we get better than we were in the past, but it is never, no matter what we do, going to be an easy fit. But we can help each other on that and other points. That’s why the whole intention thing is key. The idea that your intention is irrelevant is not meant to suggest one doubts your commitment. It’s meant to say that intention, good or bad, does nothing to mitigate the damage caused by an action. Seeing the difference there, in my experience anyway, was easier for me to reconcile when my actions were screwed up.

    At any rate, I hope you understand what I tried to get at. The best to both of you!

  • Kim

    Not saying it’s your fault, but you might be surprised to realize that your very lack of anger triggers anger among some PoC.

    I was thinking about this recently myself. It reminds me of my own indignation as a bisexual woman, when I see a person talking about GLBT rights in a very abstract sense. (I’m not saying the stakes are the same, just that they have similarities in this case.) It’s harder to empathize with something that doesn’t affect you directly – but that doesn’t justify the lack of response. At the same time, you can’t make someone be angry just by telling them that they should be.

    I feel like I do get angry at overt racism, though my anger on most things (racial and nonracial) tends to be very intellectualized. Covert racism is harder to take out of the abstraction, for the reasons above. It seems like the best thing we as allies and potential allies can do is expose ourselves: educate ourselves on the issues affecting people of color, take in intelligent media by people of color, listen to people of color speak. Don’t be afraid to enter a very diverse program or discussion of anything, because by sitting back and listening we will learn.

    Susan Rose: Clearly you’re very passionate and your suggestions are good ones. As someone who will be entering social work, who can’t stand this education system that is set up to reward “successful” schools while ignoring the ones that are actually in need of more funding, I will try to educate myself further and your suggestions might be a good springboard for me.

    But I think you’re missing something very major here. You can be mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, you can live in the area these kids live and be passionately committed to them, you can feel and do all these things (and my flawed white self is inclined to believe you do) and still be unwilling to examine your own whiteness, and how your own privilege has shaped you. I don’t want to assume I know you. For all I know, you’ve done this for a long time. But I hear people telling you to do this and you’re either not hearing them or meeting them with defensiveness. It’s polite, but it’s still defensiveness. You can be doing a lot and still have even more to learn – and from a different tack, that’s called being human. Be open to that.

  • Drew

    Thank for the gentle lecture, nojojojo. I’ll keep myself in check.

    But I am glad to hear that others, especially white people, are echoing my concerns about what Susan Rose is posing. Sometimes I just get so irritated by white people who just don’t get it yet keep coming back at me like I don’t get what they are doing to “help me”.

    On the note of defensiveness, welcome to our world. This is what we have to live with every single day of our lives. Having to defend ourselves against white privilege. Maybe you could pause for a moment and listen to what the other white folks here are getting that is not connecting in your head.

  • Susan Rose

    Thank you dearly for the comments posted. I am listening.

    The very first post here by Diatryma on 4/9 probably sums up my position well:

    “every time I read the words ‘white privilege’ I want to argue because by my own logic, white privilege means that I am perpetuating evil in the world and will never be able to stop. And even though I know that’s not generally what is meant by it, “You’re what’s wrong with the world and you will never be able to correct it or you,” is a pretty nasty message whatever the source.”

    It’s pretty hard to take when, after 25 years of doing what I do, I’m faced with my worst fear: it’s not enough, and worse—did the kids I try to mentor see me as this “white savior” instead of an ally? And if this is the only offer of empathy, I have to say it is truly exhausting.

    Since there’s no expiration on learning, perhaps I will one day understand. I do this because I’m first generation American born of parents who never spoke English well enough to get anywhere and who were treated like dirt because they were immigrants, tricked by employers and landlords alike because of limitations with language. That’s where the passion comes from.

    Thank you all for the insight, and best of luck with the carnival. Hopefully someday I will be one.

    To Drew: A white elitist would not be here to learn, or even at all. I truly did give it my best shot.

  • Drew

    When the going gets tough…

    Did I call it or what!

  • Kim

    Susan Rose: Now I *am* getting irritated with you, and I’m starting to better understand where PoC like Drew are coming from on this front, because you really don’t seem to be hearing what we’re saying.

    You’ve encountered a few people in this thread who have attacked you personally and made assumptions about you, using nasty language, with what at the time was very little evidence ‘against’ you. That was not, in my opinion, fair. And I don’t like the idea that every white person who steps up here has to be judged a perfect ally, because IMO it limits discourse. (Woman of privilege talking here, I might be saying something stupid, etc. etc.) But I also can see exactly why PoC believe it necessary, and how skepticism and cynicism can show up in people who have viewed this a hundred times before. (And I mean neither of those terms as negative or insulting ones.)

    You’ve also had a number of excellent commenters of various colors who have explained exactly why ‘it’s not enough’, because nothing any one person does is ever ‘enough’, and why white privilege is a dangerous thing that can creep into the views of every single person learning to be an ally. Because it’s the world we were raised in, it’s the system we were taught to operate in. And even if we will never assume a person of color is stupid or shouldn’t have a voice, some of us don’t think about how few minorities are shown on tv, or are still intimidated every time we walk into a gathering of mostly black people. And that’s a form of racism too, one that we have to recognize and work on.

    I know some of the discourse here has put you on the defensive, and that’s not a comfortable position for anyone to be in. But if your reaction to the useful stuff expressed towards you is to bring up how much you have done and how much you care, and how disappointing it is that you’re being told you’re not 100% okay, then yes, you are missing something. I don’t see much learning coming from your front, and the message you’re sending is that of a person who came here looking to be validated. I see why some people have the urge to do that. And I’m going to assume you don’t even realize you’re doing it. But it’s still how you’re coming across. You’re talking about what you do right rather than your own self-examining, and it’s the self-examination IMO that this is all about.

    Yes, discussions like this are exhausting, especially to a person without color who is just recently entering them and quickly encounters assumptions, and new forms of racism they hadn’t even known not to perpetuate, and it very quickly turns into reading a response over five times to make sure you’ve said everything as perfectly as possible. But if you want to be committed to this, especially in your life’s work, you need to be able to stick it out.

    A white elitist would not be here to learn if they knew they were an elitist. So few people do, and so many of us have elements of elitism still present in us.

  • A Sarah

    Kim: “And I don’t like the idea that every white person who steps up here has to be judged a perfect ally, because IMO it limits discourse. (Woman of privilege talking here, I might be saying something stupid, etc. etc.) But I also can see exactly why PoC believe it necessary, and how skepticism and cynicism can show up in people who have viewed this a hundred times before. (And I mean neither of those terms as negative or insulting ones.)”

    Kim, I just quickly wanted to say that I took this to heart. In fact, I think I did this in this thread — expected every white person to step up and already be a perfect ally. You’re right that it can WAY backfire. (In my own case, I gotta admit it becomes a way to deflect attention from how I’m not yet a perfect ally. So Susan Rose, I really do apologize if I was doing that to you here.) As I’ve said upthread, in my own case it took some pretty harsh critique to finally make me become critical of my Nice White Lady status. I often assume that’s what it takes, but maybe I shouldn’t.

    It’s so hard to judge, when talking to other white people, of when hard sayings are called for and when it’s better to soften. This week at my son’s school they had a parent-organized teacher appreciation week organized around daily themes that were all about cultural stereotyping. Monday was “Asia Day,” with the theme “Our teachers are our good fortune!” and parents were supposed to bring in Asian-themed gifts. Then there was a Mexico day — “Our teachers keep things spicy!” Anyway, I tried the nice approach and it seemed to backfire too. In this case, I gently pointed to how the early childhood accrediting agency has resources for anti-bias best practices that avoid the “multicultural tourism” approach, and what they seemed to hear was, “A parent thinks we’re not meeting accreditation standards!” So the response was, “Well, this was done by well-meaning parent volunteers who had good intentions so it’s okay.”

    “Yes, discussions like this are exhausting, especially to a person without color who is just recently entering them and quickly encounters assumptions, and new forms of racism they hadn’t even known not to perpetuate, and it very quickly turns into reading a response over five times to make sure you’ve said everything as perfectly as possible. But if you want to be committed to this, especially in your life’s work, you need to be able to stick it out.”

    That’s a good point. I’ll try to keep it in mind.

  • Julia

    Susan Rose,
    I’ve been following this discussion with interest, but have been silent so far because I wasn’t sure I had anything to add. At this point, I find myself wondering: why do you want your work to be “enough”? Why put it in those terms? I’m honestly not trying to pile on you here, but this is something I genuinely don’t understand and am curious about. Isn’t there some way of assessing the value of what you’ve done without resorting to such stark terms as “enough” and “not enough”? Not only is that an either/or line of inquiry that leaves no room for the vast gray middle area, but it also puts the other people in the conversation in the position of having to give you affirmation or not. This is good if you’re asking whether you’ve put enough sugar into the cookie recipe, but not so productive in ally work. A big point of ally work, to me, is to leave the whole concept of “enough” behind.

  • Susan Rose

    You are right. I don’t get it. I can reread every post posted and I still don’t get it. That’s why I excused myself from the thread.

    I’ve said and asked the wrong things, which has been met with opposition and lots of “Why don’t you get it?” and some name calling. The advice posted here could very well be great, it just isn’t clicking in my head. I thought I got it, but the responses back show that I don’t. And really, I’m tired of the name calling. So I ask more questions—again the wrong questions—which are met with more opposition and frustration, because the questions showed that I didn’t understand what you all said to me. I’m not putting this back on anyone else, because I’m sure it’s been broken down into the simpliest terms you know how. To me it feels like I’m reading Japanese. I get defensive, you get frustrated, the communication breaks down.

    But leaving THIS thread doesn’t mean I’m giving up. It means that I’m searching for people who can communicate with me and give me the “For Dummies” explanation for being an ally—and they can help me find the right questions to ask to RETRAIN my thinking and help me recognize what I do that is racist. It sure beats being told: “You posers make me want to kill all white people for being so smug.” How unneccesary.

  • Susan Rose

    Julia, thanks for that. “Enough” was not the right thing to ask. I can’t explain it, but to me there was a magic point where suddenly my langauge, thoughts, and actions became racist-free. It sounds corny and simpleton and probably very racist, I know that now, but at the time of asking I didn’t realize there wasn’t an “enough” point.

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