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Have you ever heard a person of color say that they prefer the open racism of conscious bigots to the subtle racism of us do-gooders on the left end of the spectrum?

I remember an African American friend of mine here in Minnesota who years ago would often tell me that she longed for the day she could move back to the south where racism was right up front for everyone to see. I'd shake my head at her and feel completely clueless about why she would think that. After all, I had grown up in East Texas and couldn't get away from all that craziness fast enough.

Over time though, I've come to understand that view a little better. Much of that awareness came from reading in "the diversosphere." I found that people of color express things in blog posts that would never be said in "polite company," but would typically be shared with each other behind closed doors. I will forever be grateful to so many of them for opening their lives and hearts to me and so many other readers.

For example, here is what I think is one of the most powerful posts ever written on the internet about white progressives and racism. Its from Kai, who blogs at Zuky and is titled: The White Liberal Conundrum.

As I've often noted, many white liberals remain oblivious to the depth and breadth of anti-racist work, opting to hide behind the delusion that anyone who votes for Democrats and doesn't have a pointy hood in the closet is "a good guy" in the movement toward greater social justice <...> Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.

Countless blogospheric discussions on racism amply demonstrate the manner in which many white liberals start acting victimized and angry if anyone attempts to burst their racism-free bubble, oftentimes inexplicably bringing up non-white friends, lovers, adopted children, relatives, ancestors; dismissing, belittling, or obtusely misreading substantive historically-informed analysis of white supremacism as either "divisive rhetoric" or "flaming"; downplaying racism as an interpersonal social stigma and bad PR, rather than an overarching system of power under which we all live and which has socialized us all; and threatening to walk away from discussion if persons of color do not comform to a narrow white-centered comfort zone. Such people aren't necessarily racists in the hate-crime sense of the word, but they are usually acting out social dynamics created by racism and replicating the racist social relationships they were conditioned since birth to replicate.

Any of that second paragraph sound familiar? Yeah, me too. I've been there, done that. I highly recommend following the link to read the whole diary.

I remember a few years ago asking an on-line friend of color if I ALWAYS needed to take a charge of racism thrown at me seriously. I've been on the receiving end of my share of those kinds of charges and sometimes I've questioned their reliability. She didn't give me a yes or no answer. Instead she said that what I have to do is consider it...fearlessly and honestly.

Over the years as I've tried to heed her advice, I've found that there's so much I don't know and don't understand. That's mostly because I haven't experienced things through the eyes and hearts of people of color. And until I do, applying my experience to their lives leads me to dismiss whole realms of reality...and to racism.

Here's how Nezua put it years ago in a blog post titled The Skin of My Soul.

Mi novia says that it really frustrates White people that no matter how much they know or want to know, there may be an area of experience or knowledge that they cannot access.

This is another way of saying White Privilege.

How dare the world harbor some sort of Thing that I cannot experience! How dare you insinuate that you possess knowledge I may have to ask you about in humility! How impertinent of you to even imagine that I cannot, with study and great wisdom and effort, also know what it is like to grow up Brown™ in America! The voice of privilege thinks no seat is unavailable, no land unconquerable, no food untasteable, no right deniable, no experience out of reach. It is a slap in the face to this line of thought that there exists an area that cannot be known, even to a WHITE person. Gasp.

That's the crux of white privilege...thinking that what we've lived and experienced is a valid way to measure what other people have lived and experienced. And because whiteness has been the default for so long in this culture, many of us are not used to the idea that there's so much that we don't know and need to learn. Until we do - we're likely to hurt people and cause them pain out of our ignorance. I don't imagine that most of us mean to cause that kind of pain...but we do. That's what my friend who longed for the South was trying to tell me I think - that it actually hurts less when it comes from people who openly hate you than it does when it comes from your friends and allies.

A few years ago Donna at The Silence of Our Friends told a story that is both simple and poignant about this kind of pain. It starts off with her explaining that she was once part of a group for Native American women. They were open about who joined - as long as the reasons had integrity. One of the women who joined the group had Native American ancestors way back in her heritage and wanted to learn what she could about them. I'll let Donna pick up the story from there.

It was like any friend or neighbor who thinks you are interesting and you think she is interesting and you get along great. I don't know what got up her nose this one day, but we were sitting around discussing current problems on our reservations and things like unemployment came up. She gets a little huffy and chimes in, "Well why don't you just go get a job?" Now the others in the group just stopped talking to her, they knew they got slapped down, but I didn't. I tried to explain that it wasn't that easy and that alot of our reservations are out in the middle of nowhere and you need a car to go into town or maybe even get on a bus and completely leave your home. She didn't hear any of it. She said of course it's easy, you fill out applications and get a job! I tried one more time telling her that cars and gas cost money, that bus fare costs money, that clothes for an interview cost money, the extreme poverty means there is no money, and because of the distance to the nearest city you might be abandoning everything and everyone you know to go somewhere you know is hostile to you. And she dismissed it saying I was just making excuses. She really thought we were either too stupid to think of her simplistic answers ourselves, or too lazy to go and do it. I lost it and gave her hell over it, but her answer to that was that white people don't have to be our friends and listen to anything we say, and yet she did it all this time, and now I was being so rude and ungrateful when she was just trying to help.<...>

I got quiet. I didn't know what to say. I had to stop and ask myself, am I really equal? Am I even human? At that moment in time, I didn't know anymore. Now these kinds of things have happened to me at other times but this one was especially painful because I had been friends with this woman for 2+ years. I didn't see it coming.

Can you feel it?

Certainly this woman demonstrated some ignorance about the employment barriers for Native Americans living on a reservation. But when challenged with that ignorance...the really ugly aspects of her racism arose. "White people don't have to listen and I'm just doing you a favor by doing so. You should be grateful." It reminded me of all the times I silently (but perhaps not so subtly) assumed that I deserved gratitude from people of color for my efforts to engage. Just another layer of my own racism that Donna helped me recognize.

I tell that story to help us be mindful - not as a request to walk on eggshells (which is a whole other problem). Its the subtle things from the people you're supposed to be able trust that often hurt the most. And that's racism too.

Originally posted to NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 09:57 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Excellent (19+ / 0-)

    I hope you get the readership this piece deserves.

    And I hope you are able to avoid the usual... problems that seem to be part of the discussion when posting on this topic.

  •  A thoughtful, compassionate, rational piece. (19+ / 0-)

    You touched upon a difficult subject in a way that should be accessible to a wide range of readers.  Kudos.

  •  I'm a man of color & that blog post is bullshit (18+ / 0-)

    I'm Indian-American, a 41-year old brown man who grew up often literally a minority of one in then-virtually-all-white central Iowa.

    It's not the same as being black, or Hispanic.  It's easier.  Quite a few white people treated me as an "honorary white person" socially.  And as a son of immigrants with no "community" of children of my ethnicity, assimilation and the easier socialization that came with it was inevitable.

    And for all that, not even facing the worst of what white people will throw at people of color, no I do not and never did prefer open racism to discretion.  I don't know who the blog post author you quoted hangs out with, but I imagine (s)he's exaggerating quite a bit.  That blogger doesn't know what racism is if (s)he thinks it's better to face it out in the open.  It's not.  It's worse.

    All the open racism I've experienced has been hurtful and angering, and made my day and life only a little bit harder than it had to be.

    Think of it this way:  if you're overweight, do you want strangers calling you ugly names because of your weight?  Or would you rather they just treat you the same as everyone else and keep their opinions of your appearance to themselves?  Anyone I know who's ever had a weight problem, myself included at times in my life, will answer the latter.

    It's a well-placed principle of society that some thoughts are better kept to oneself.

    And liberal whites are far superior to conservative whites on race.  There's just no question.  It's beyond stupid to get aggressive against liberal whites who try to integrate with people of color when, frankly in this still-two-thirds-white country they don't really have to.

    In a time of war, is that really the time to be asking whether we should be at war?...When it is over we should ask whether we should leave. -- Stephen Colbert

    by DCCyclone on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:14:04 AM PDT

    •  Perspectives. (12+ / 0-)

      All the open racism I've experienced has been hurtful and angering, and made my day and life only a little bit harder than it had to be.

      It's hard to argue with that.  Without disagreeing that overt racism is more harmful, though, I wonder, if the blogger was saying something different.

      Perhaps the blogger was saying, "I'd rather we both knew that you don't think of me as an equal than for me to be the only one who realizes it."  I'm genuinely not sure, but I sort of got that sense.

    •  I think DCCyclone, you missed the point of the (10+ / 0-)

      post.  The point isn't to encourage us to exhibit overt racism or that overt racism is "better".  It's to make us think.  To make us realize that we can't understand what we have experienced and so we have to listen to those who have experienced it.  And then we can't expect gratitude for being "better".  Instead we need to continue to try and understand why there might still be some hostility to us and what we try to do.

      "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

      by gustynpip on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:20:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Add a "not" before "experienced in above post. (8+ / 0-)

        Duh!

        "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

        by gustynpip on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:24:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  A friend from the South (7+ / 0-)

        who migrated north once confided to me he'd rather have the racism he knew in Mississippi than the Minnesota Nice he experienced in my state.  

        The reason is he never knew what to expect in any situation.  One minute he could be having a pleasant conversation with a white person, the next minute something ignorant would be said and then the denials would start flying.  He said he'd rather be confronted by an out and out cracker than someone who was pretending to know about his plight and try to tell him how to think.

        The advantage of being able to tell a racist by their pickup truck was being able to prepare for it.  

        When he first said it I was taken aback.  He grew up in the days and area where people were getting the fire hose.  

        Over the years, I keep going back to what he said.  

        I found the blog post to be most illuminating in light of my experience with him.  

        "Policies that were wrong under George W. Bush are no less wrong because Barack Obama is in the White House." -Bob Herbert

        by Nada Lemming on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:46:12 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes, as Kai says: (5+ / 0-)

          Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.

          Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

          by NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:51:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Fear of the unknown and unexpected is one of (3+ / 0-)

          the scariest.  I've found there are few situations I can't handle as long as I'm prepared and know what to expect.  And I can understand how that would be true of racism as well.  Now if we could just get rid of ALL of it - overt and covert - that would be best case scenario.

          "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

          by gustynpip on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:24:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  I'm gonna go with you on this one. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paul2port, miss SPED, KentuckyKat

      I find it hard to believe that open & vile racism would be preferable to annoying white liberalism. (as people, almost anyone is preferable to annoying, hyper-PC and overly-earnest white liberals, but we're talking specifically about their racial attitudes)

      My take: if I have some micro-racism that expresses itself in small & minor ways, I'm more-or-less OK with that.  I'll just continue to try to be a basically decent person to everyone and let others worry about putting their subconsciouses under a microscope to scrub out any last vestige of racial thought.  That level of self-policing seems kinda creepy to me, frankly (see, eg: Foucault's descriptions of technes of the self as creepy.  It's the same thing: compelling and proscribing confession so that we can control the discourse of the self.)

      We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

      by burrow owl on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:22:02 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I appreciate your perspective very much!!! (12+ / 0-)

      And I immediately realized when reading what you said that I had no intention of minimizing the ugliness of outright racism and hatred. I join you in condemning that with as much vigor as I can.

      In weighing the seriousness of one over the other - I have to sit back, listen, and learn from my friends of color...like you and other people I interact with both online and off. Its not for me to say.

      I suppose part of what prompted me to write this is that we have had a lot of ranting here at dkos about how awful the racism of the wingnuts is. I felt a little balance was in order.

      I'm a big believer in Gandhi's statement about our need to "be the change we want to see in the world." In addition to condemning the racism of others - we need to examine our own.

      Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:22:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I agree insofar as overt racists (12+ / 0-)

      have institutionalized racism whenever they've had a chance to.  

      That said, I get the point of this diary.  To me is far more hurtful to be "betrayed" by a friend than hated by an enemy.

    •  I would think it's more a matter of what's around (8+ / 0-)

      you at a given point in time.

      If you're surrounded with the 'subtle' racism, but no overt racism, it's probably easier to make the statement that you'd prefer the overt.

      But if you then go someplace where you're surrounded by overt racism I think you might decide to change your views after a while.

      'Grass is greener' syndrome.

      Obviously the ideal is to actually find a place where you aren't surrounded by either - but you won't do that until we drastically alter the American history taught in public curricula to include a heck of a lot more of the reality of 'living while black' in America so that liberal whites don't actually shrug off dogwhistles out of ignorance of the experience.  As one of the boxquotes mentions, they'll never actually experience it firsthand, but unless you show it to them, they'll never see it.

      Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

      by Ezekial 23 20 on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:31:11 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It made me think of this: (12+ / 0-)

      Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

      Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Letter From A Birmingham Jail

      Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man" Loving v. Virginia

      by KentuckyKat on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:32:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  rec'd (4+ / 0-)

      for diversity of opinion.

      Because there IS that much diversity amongst people of color. Some would rather confront the overt racism of the south and others would not.

      "Show up. Pay attention. Tell the truth. And don't be attached to the results." -- Angeles Arrien

      by Sybil Liberty on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:45:34 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's not BS... (10+ / 0-)

      to those of us who have not had the luxury of being viewed as "honorary white folk"... The reason it's true is because one is vulnerable around friends and allies; one's guard is down and when the ignorant statement or attitude comes, it cuts to the quick... David, in the book of Psalms puts it like this:

      Psa 55:12 If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. 13 But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14  with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship...

      When you know you are in the presence of those who mean you no good, you are on guard for any attack... but when that wound is struck by someone you have trusted... that trust... and the friendship it fostered... is destroyed. Compounding that is the fact that moving forward you will find it difficult to trust another because you don't want to be vulnerable again... so you will let people in up to a certain point and no further... and humans are beings in whom living in close communion is inherent in our being so having been wounded one will eschew that which our innermost being seeks to keep from being wounded again.

      •  So beautifully put (6+ / 0-)

        that it brought tears to my eyes.

        THANK YOU!!!!

        This is one of the lessons that Donna taught me with the story. I used to get frustrated and a bit judgmental when my African American co-workers continued to keep me at arms length when I was trying so hard to connect.

        I finally realized that I had never had the kinds of experiences they had of being wounded by offering trust across these color lines. It gave me patience.

        Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

        by NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:14:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I have to agree with (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      miss SPED

      you DCCyclone. Give me a break. One generation is too polite to be overtly racist. The generation after that is colorblind. Then you're free to divide the world into two classes of people. People you can trust to have your best interests at heart and those you can't trust. How do you tell the difference? You watch what they do, not what they say.

      What we learn from History: History repeats itself. History never repeats itself. Histories lessons are always ignored.

      by Hector Gonzalez on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:12:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Implicit in liberal thinking is the belief that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sybil Liberty, NLinStPaul

      all people are equal.  If the society we live in systemically treats one group of people in an inferior manner based on race, gender, sexual preference or class, is it not incumbent upon liberals to help change that society?

      You wrote:

      And liberal whites are far superior to conservative whites on race.  There's just no question.  It's beyond stupid to get aggressive against liberal whites who try to integrate with people of color when, frankly in this still-two-thirds-white country they don't really have to.

      I believe that we should either be part of the solution or we inevitably end up being part of the problem.  To borrow a phrase:  Silence=Death.  Why do you believe that the diarist's perspective appears aggressive to liberal whites?  The woman in the example that the diarist noted made no effort to try to understand the obstacles the people she was trying to help face.  While it is indeed true that liberal whites do not have to try and "integrate with" non-whites, doesn't that attitude run counter to liberalism?  

      I may be wrong but I don't agree that non-whites need to be grateful.  We are after the same things; equality benefits both of us.

  •  Well said. n/t (10+ / 0-)

    "If you come to a fork in the road, take it." - Yogi Berra

    by brooklynbadboy on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:17:15 AM PDT

  •  This Was a Great Read (10+ / 0-)

    I know that I cannot relate to racism and it doesn't bother me.  I know that my straight minority friends cannot relate to homophobia and I don't know if that bothers them.  Everyone's experience is different, and all you can really do is allow someone to evaluate their own, and try to understand when they explain it to you.

    In terms of racism though... specifically in terms of the African American community in the United States.  There seems (and I'm using seems because it's all I have) to be a good deal of internal disagreement about the sources of racism and the strategic next actions for dealing with it.  I don't actually believe there is a universally agreed upon definition of what racism is or to what extent individuals can work to end it.

    I just try to be good to everyone.  If it comes across as genuinely being nice to white people and "phony white elitist paternalism" or whatever to non-white people... well that's an interpretation problem not a delivery problem.

    Free Beer, Hot Wings, Eric Zane, Producer Joe, and Steve For President. OK Not Steve, but he can be chauffer or something.

    by TooFolkGR on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:17:18 AM PDT

    •  You might want to rethink that last line - or at (7+ / 0-)

      least be open to rethinking it a little bit.  Every interpretation problem is also a delivery problem to some extent.  If you don't know or understand the history when making your delivery, the interpretation will be different than you intended.  And that's why listening to your audience is important.  

      "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

      by gustynpip on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:23:03 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Could Have Phrased That Better (6+ / 0-)

        If I called myself a non-racist but literally everyone who talked to me walked away thinking, "That guy is a racist," that would be a different story, and I'm sure those people are out there.

        But from what I know about my reputation, that isn't it.  I strive to treat everyone the same.  When I'm being a dick, I'm being a dick to everybody.  When I'm being nice, I'm being nice to everybody.  When I'm being indifferent... I'm guessing you get the idea.

        Intent is ALL that matters.  Period.  Anyone who gets offended by something OTHER than what was intended, that is THEIR problem, not anybody elses.  Now if someone tells me, "That word / phrase / etc really upsets me and I wish you wouldn't use it," or, "I think what you said was hurtful because of ______" obviously I'm human and if they are someone I care about I can decide not to say that anymore.  But that's just me looking out for someone I care about and avoiding one of their hangups.  It isn't me realizing I was actually racist / sexist / whatever and fixing it, because I'm not any of those things.

        Free Beer, Hot Wings, Eric Zane, Producer Joe, and Steve For President. OK Not Steve, but he can be chauffer or something.

        by TooFolkGR on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:28:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  It was phrased fine. (0+ / 0-)

          Your meaning was readily apparent.  To the extent one is concerned about a misreading that leads to effects, they reproduce the error you note in your comment.

          We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

          by burrow owl on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:35:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Well I Know Most of my Phrasing is in Absolutes (0+ / 0-)

            But obviously I'm not saying, "If I say GET OUT OF THE WAY N*******" it's cool because I'm not a racist.  There are words, phrases, and ideas that ARE racist, where there's only one way to intend them.  And I wasn't saying I should have a free pass on those because I'm not a racist.

            That's also why I added the second bit about if someone tells me I'm upsetting or hurting them, I'm not going to be an obstinant dick about it if it's someone I care about.  But I just don't think of it as, "This is me correcting my racism."  

            Free Beer, Hot Wings, Eric Zane, Producer Joe, and Steve For President. OK Not Steve, but he can be chauffer or something.

            by TooFolkGR on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:41:28 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I'd apply the situation (7+ / 0-)

          Donna described to what you're saying. If the woman in question was able to listen to what was being said and expand her understanding about the issues of unemployment on a reservation, I think folks could overlook her intent because it comes out of ignorance.

          That's why I think her final statement is the one that exposed her racism much more than her lack of understanding about a particular issue.

          Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

          by NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:36:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  What I see is lack of empathy. (10+ / 0-)

            The white person couldn't and wouldn't put herself mentally on a reservation, jobless and hungry.

            Empathy is the fatal blow to many prejudices.

            Wee-wee'd up, fired up, ready to go!

            by droogie6655321 on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:41:29 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Completely Agree (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kj in missouri

              And a lack of empathy (in my opinion) doesn't become racism or one of its constructs simply because the person you're not empathizing with isn't white.  I have a white friend who hasn't had a job in three years.  I think he's a lazy, shiftless moocher.  I'm sure there ARE challenges in his life and legitimate reasons he's got for why he isn't working, but I can't help thinking that those challenges can't be THAT significant.

              Would I suddenly be a racist if I felt the EXACT same way about him and he were black?

              I think this is part of the construct that can support societal racism but there's also a risk of backlash when you tell someone, "See because you don't understand, that's racism."  I don't think it gets us closer to fixing the problem.

              Free Beer, Hot Wings, Eric Zane, Producer Joe, and Steve For President. OK Not Steve, but he can be chauffer or something.

              by TooFolkGR on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:44:39 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  I see what you're saying. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                kj in missouri, miss SPED

                No, you would not be a racist if you noticed that a black man who is a lazy mooch is, in fact, a lazy mooch. You judged him on the kind of person he is.

                Wee-wee'd up, fired up, ready to go!

                by droogie6655321 on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:46:16 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  . (0+ / 0-)

                interesting example and one to think on.   our judgments of 'others' in these times, especially the unemployed, require (of me, anyway) self-scrutiny.

                right now, i'm employed.  but which panhandlers i chose to hand $$ to everyday (or chose not to hand $$) is entirely based on what i think their "story" is.  and since i have no way of knowing what the stories are, i'm making them up based on judgment, image, eyes.

                "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

                by kj in missouri on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 06:08:09 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  I actually disagree.. (4+ / 0-)

              It was those last lines about white people not needing to listen and how she expected gratitude for doing so that were the content of the racism. She was seeing things in an superior/inferior way. And that was what was so painful to Donna...because she thought they were friends.  

              Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

              by NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:56:02 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

            •  If she could imagine herself on the reservation (0+ / 0-)

              and that reservation had available jobs, then she'd be empathetic and within reason to be a scold.  So the issue isn't empathy, per se, but a factual misunderstanding about employment on the reservation.

              We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

              by burrow owl on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:00:53 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Except the factual misunderstanding exists (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NLinStPaul

                because of her lack of empathy.  Had she been making an effort to understand, she'd have listened to the facts when they were provided her rather than terming them "excuses".  

                "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

                by gustynpip on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:14:56 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  Disagree with idea that the issue is (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NLinStPaul, amazinggrace

                "a factual misunderstanding about employment on the reservation."

                I think the issue is that the woman revealed herself to be operating from a deep belief in a framework of inferiority/superiority.  

                When that is operating, facts alone are never enough to change the relationship.  

                "Never say you know the last word about any human heart, except maybe Max Baucus." - Henry James, with apologies.

                by RadioGirl on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:21:42 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

            •  well said. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NLinStPaul, etbnc

              Empathy is the fatal blow to many prejudices.

              a 'there but the grace go i.'

              "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

              by kj in missouri on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 06:03:07 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

        •  Words as signals of intent (6+ / 0-)

          I've been thinking a lot lately about the ways that words signal intent, the ways we interpret those signals, and the ways we respond.

          I suspect some readers may interpret a couple of your word signals differently than you might intend (even in clarifying) but I think this begins to explore an interesting area.

          Thanks for bringing some attention to the idea of words as signals of intent.

          Cheers

          •  I Think You're Absolutely Right (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kj in missouri, NLinStPaul

            When I hear words that would typically upset me, I always talk to the speaker/writer about it.  What I most often find is that I'm picking up on something they weren't trying to telegraph, or whatever.  Until I know for sure, I don't feel like there's any point in me being angry or hurt.

            Free Beer, Hot Wings, Eric Zane, Producer Joe, and Steve For President. OK Not Steve, but he can be chauffer or something.

            by TooFolkGR on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:46:05 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  But often words trigger emotions that people (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              kj in missouri, NLinStPaul, TooFolkGR

              have a difficult time getting past to do the intellectual, calm discussion that would help.  They feel and often don't understand why they feel it.  The listener can no more delve into their pshycosis to either fully understand or explain anymore than can the speaker.

              You said above that intent is all that matters.  It might be all that matters to you, but I think in life, you're going to find that intent is often the least important thing.  You also say, however, that when someone you care about has let you know that you using a certain word or phrase offends them, you will not use it to avoid hurting them.  And I guess that's where the difference is.  You're willing to listen and change your behavior, and therefore your intent and your delivery both become nonoffensive.  

              "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

              by gustynpip on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:21:28 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          •  ohhhh (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            etbnc

            any idea framed like this:  "words as signals of intent" are going to draw me in like... well like a moth to a flame, might as well get all clichie about it.   ;-)    

            i revere words, so i truly dig that phrase/idea/intent/signal, etbnc.   thanks.  :-)

            "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

            by kj in missouri on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 06:20:11 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I respectfully disagree (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NLinStPaul, QES

          with almost all of this:

          Intent is ALL that matters.  Period.  Anyone who gets offended by something OTHER than what was intended, that is THEIR problem, not anybody elses.  Now if someone tells me, "That word / phrase / etc really upsets me and I wish you wouldn't use it," or, "I think what you said was hurtful because of ____" obviously I'm human and if they are someone I care about I can decide not to say that anymore.  But that's just me looking out for someone I care about and avoiding one of their hangups.  It isn't me realizing I was actually racist / sexist / whatever and fixing it, because I'm not any of those things.

          Your white [male] privilege necessarily informs your intent, inspite of how you want to perceive yourself. For me, that's the most important point of this diary -

          The voice of [white] privilege thinks no seat is unavailable, no land unconquerable, no food untasteable, no right deniable, no experience out of reach [and no racism unless intended]

          Please believe me when I say I mean no disrespect to you when I say this - the fact you look out for those you care about is honorable. But the insidiousness and evil of racism is the fact it is "an overarching system of power."

          I don't consider myself a racist either, but I know I am and have said/felt/thought racist thoughts over the years, some of which I've been called on (and not always gently). Instead of anger and denial, when I recognize or am forced to recognize my "inner racist," I feel shame and regret - and, finally, grateful for a chance to learn.

  •  Thankss NL for contributing to this conversation (13+ / 0-)

    imho the most difficult racists to confront are those who believe they are not....

    there's a long way to go

  •  Well, if they prefer open racism (4+ / 0-)

    Then they must be lovin' the teabaggers.  Hope they get a bellyfull, because I know I have.

    Repubs - the people in power are not secretly plotting against you. They don't need to. They already beat you in public. (Bill Maher)

    by Sychotic1 on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:23:23 AM PDT

  •  I notice this (10+ / 0-)

    in GLBT/straight dialogues, because in those, I have the minority perspective.  I try to educate myself about the different perspectives regarding race as well, but I agree that it is not something that I may ever be able to fully comprehend.

    Marriage is one of the "basic civil rights of man" Loving v. Virginia

    by KentuckyKat on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:27:15 AM PDT

  •  I want to add something... (10+ / 0-)

    I'm slow to call "racism" on a lot of things mostly because I think it's a serious charge and should be treated that way. It hurts to be the victim of racism, but it's also not pleasant to be called a racist when you were not acting out a prejudice.

    Another reason many liberals (of all colors) are slow to see racism in this country and our discourse is because we think better of people. We WANT things to be better. We expect them to be better.

    So, there's a couple of things I wanted to toss in.

    Wee-wee'd up, fired up, ready to go!

    by droogie6655321 on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:28:24 AM PDT

  •  A beautiful, well written and presented piece (8+ / 0-)

    as always, NL.  Very insightful and thought provoking.  And no, as much as any of us wish to think we know what another has gone through in any difficult experience unless we are them we do not know.  And that can be applied to any situation.  I can relate to people with whom I have had similar experiences, and I can also feel great caring and compassion for experiences that I have not personally had, but I cannot feel exactly what another has felt.  

    Having been sexually abused as a child, I can certainly feel some great comity with those who have had that awful experience. . .but where I was emotionally and psychologically during that experience may be vastly different from my sister or brother who had such an experience.

    We are each of us individuals and have our own perspectives of everything.  None of us see anything exactly alike.

    It would be grand if we could all be openly loving and aware as we reach out to understand each other and move on from this ridiculous and harmful concept of "them" or "THE OTHER."  It has played a very derisive and damaging role in societal constructs for thousands upon thousands of years.  I continue to hold out hope that we will all grow up someday and become beings of true concern and open-heartedness towards all others.

    Hugs
    Shirl

    *the blogger formerly known as shirlstars

    by Shirl In Idaho on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:30:42 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for this diary. (15+ / 0-)

    Clearly, openly-expressed racism is horrific.  But this diary is excellent at providing glimpses into the veiled and unacknowledged racism that rests upon a foundation of unexamined white privilege.

    Grateful to you for extending this discussion in a useful way.

    "Never say you know the last word about any human heart, except maybe Max Baucus." - Henry James, with apologies.

    by RadioGirl on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:31:02 AM PDT

    •  Seconded! (9+ / 0-)

      Grateful to you for extending this discussion in a useful way.

      Because, heaven knows, not all the diaries on this topic of late have done that.  This one is a breath of fresh air.

      •  I have been deeply appreciating the diaries (11+ / 0-)

        that call moderate, liberal, and progressive white people to account for our (often unacknowledged) racism and acceptance of white privilege.

        So often, progressives and liberals just want to  imagine that racism is only the province of the wingnuts.

        Not so at all.  

        "Never say you know the last word about any human heart, except maybe Max Baucus." - Henry James, with apologies.

        by RadioGirl on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:38:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  We may need a different terminology (5+ / 0-)

          In the group of these diaries that discuss "white privilege" and "micro-racism" and so forth, the implication is that all whites are racist whether they know it or not. Even if they do nothing racist, they are subconsciously still guilty of the fault.

          My concern is that the concept of racism becomes so diluted in this framework that the term loses all meaning. We see a David Duke, or a Joe Wilson, it's pretty easy to apply the label, we see the Teabaggers clearly identify themselves as overt racists.

          And that's easy to see. But the white who makes a conscious effort to be inclusive is, by "walking on eggshells," equivalently racist? It may be that the quality of being "racially sensitive" is the operative term, and not "racist" per se.

          Our terminology is too clumsy to capture some of this nuance.

          Every day's another chance to stick it to The Man. - dls.

          by The Raven on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:49:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I really agree with what you're saying (6+ / 0-)

            about the limits of our language. Actually, when I started writing this it was going to be about the different ways that we interpret the words "racism" and "racist" and how that leads to alot of our misunderstandings.

            But alas...this is what came out.

            Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

            by NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:59:37 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Interesting. I'm going to think about this. (5+ / 0-)

            I'm not sure I agree with all you say, but you raise some useful points that I will ponder.

            I do have a reaction to one sentence in your comment:

            Even if they do nothing racist, they are subconsciously still guilty of the fault.

            Well, yes, in a way, although as a white person, I think of this as "we" instead of "they."  

            But more to the point, I think of it as "we are still responsible for the consequences and costs of our tacit acceptance of white privilege – which, despite our best intentions, still translates into complicity in the maintenance of white supremacy."

            I have participated in and co-led anti-racism forums for white people, and particularly striking to me is the almost overwhelming desire on the part of most whites to defend against responsibility.

            This is most often expressed - in my experience - as "I'm not guilty for what was done..." and an almost desperate need to not be lumped in with the worst actions of the most virulent racists.

            But guilt isn't really the issue.

            Responsibility for tacit acceptance of white privilege, and how that reinforces white supremacy, is the issue.

            Taking responsibility is, for me, empowering – and this is what I experience people of color asking of white people.  

            Guilt is useless to us all; it only breeds defensiveness and denial.  

            "Never say you know the last word about any human heart, except maybe Max Baucus." - Henry James, with apologies.

            by RadioGirl on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:07:56 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  Me too. (5+ / 0-)

          There have been a few really good ones (this one among them).  Unfortunately, there was one yesterday that made me want to rip out my own eyeballs.

  •  It's impossible for any "white" person... (9+ / 0-)

    to understand racism in America. I can appreciate, at least intellectually, what the diarist is saying even if I question if it is necessarily so among such a diverse group as "people of color".

    I can say this: If you are liberal minded on race, it is far more comfortable to be amongst other liberals. My experience growing up as a "liberal" in a racist home in the South is that refuge is almost impossible to find. The whites hate you, everybody else distrusts you.

    "...this nation is more than the sum of its parts ..." Barack Obama-18 March,2008

    by Inventor on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:32:37 AM PDT

    •  Some might agree with you, some might not (11+ / 0-)

      Tim Wise seems to get a lot of credit for 'understanding', and he's white.

      You can learn things without experiencing them firsthand - you just have to be taught about them.

      I can't experience conditions on Mars, but I can be taught about them and 'understand' them.

      Right now, though, there's virtually no real teaching being done, and public school curricula censor most anything that would lead to even a fuzzy understanding.

      Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

      by Ezekial 23 20 on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:35:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  I share your experience (3+ / 0-)

      about being so uncomfortable being a liberal in a racist home in the south. That's why, after I re-located up north - I was so surprised to hear African Americans talk about missing the south. It wasn't just that one friend I referred to in the diary. I hear it all the time.

      All I can say is that I begin to understand that my experience of the racism in the south is different than many of my African American friends...and try to learn what I can about that.

      Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:47:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  NLinStPaul, thanks for another thoughtful diary. (7+ / 0-)

    I wish I could stay for more conversation.

    Thanks for contributing your perspective.

    Cheers

  •  Thoughtful and thought provoking diary (6+ / 0-)
    N, thank you.

    Not all racism is perpetrated by folks who look like they raided a January white sale.  The worst kind, the most dangerous kind is the one that blind-sides you (1) because it's so subtle you have to de-construct it completely to recognize it and (2) it may come from a completely unexpected source.

    One of my law school buddies and I were chatting several months ago.  He had been having trouble finding the right job for him.  I suggested he may want to cast his net a little wider than the Loop.  He protested that he didn't own a car and I suggested public transportation.

    Nothing doing. "An hour-long commute?", he snorted.  I reminded him that my commute was an hour and a half on public transportation and his response was,

    "Well, that's okay . . . for you."

    It took me several minutes to figure out that what he was telling me was that he was so vastly superior to me that any suggestion that he use his precious time and well-educated brain associating with something as pedestrian as a commuter train was beyond consideration.  But as an A/A it was perfectly acceptable for me to have a viciously long commute to my low-paying government job - after all, that's all I was good for.

    Man, did that hurt.    

    Our promises are made in proportion to our hopes, but kept in proportion to our fears.-LaRouchefoucauld

    by luvsathoroughbred on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:12:19 AM PDT

  •  Is the link to Zuky's site working? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NLinStPaul, RadioGirl, amazinggrace

    I've been trying to get a copy of that essay for a long time now, but I always get "Problem loading page" when I go there.  I really value that essay; Nightprowlkitty signaled me to that site a while back.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:36:23 AM PDT

  •  Many of the things you're saying here (7+ / 0-)

    are very uncomfortable for even whites who are disgusted by the racist excesses of some, but they need to be said. Whites need to confront their internal racism with much fearlessness, because it's ugly and guilt-making and very hard to acknowledge.

    That's why again I'd call for national workshops on racism so that people of color can tell their stories over and over again to whites across the political spectrum. It would take a lot of courage on both sides.

    And there should be not just discussion but serious
    emotional work done on racism; that is, we should look at our anger and fear and arrogance that keeps our racism in place.

    Great diary, because it's uncomfortable to read.

    But this is something else we need to look at: People can still be wonderful human beings at bottom; they can be community volunteers; good brothers or sisters or husbands or wives or fathers or mothers; they can be the noblest of souls but still carry racism within them. Both should be remembered.

    I've learned to say in groups that "yes, I'm racist"
    (from my urban white Italian upbringing) but I'm committed to really look at it as fearlessly as I can
    and at the same time, while I might never been finished working on my racism, to declare that I'm an ally to people of color in their quest to be fully free.

    Again, great diary. We need more of these here.

  •  Thanks NL...great diary (9+ / 0-)

    This is a very real thing. I've been in an interracial marriage for 18+ years and while we went in eyes wide open, every day is a learning experience for my husband, and for me too but moreso for him, especially as he has experienced being the father of a bi-racial son.

    The things that he takes for granted without a second thought are different realities for his own son; his flesh and blood, and that's been the most enlightening to him. But now I'm getting off topic.

    Back to your points,this is spot on:

    Instead she said that what I have to do is consider it...fearlessly and honestly.

    All I ask is that when I as a black woman in America say there might me some racism there, it not be dismissed by white people out of hand. Unfortunately, we see some of that done here.

    Birthers and Deathers and Town Hallers...oh my! Where's a flying monkey when you need one?

    by Vita Brevis on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:58:08 AM PDT

  •  If Daily Kos never accomplishes another thing... (5+ / 0-)

    it will have done well if it can say, "We opened wide the door to the examination of racism. We did it boldly because the time had come...again, in our lifetimes."

    Then away out in the woods I heard that kind of a sound that a ghost makes when it wants to tell about something that's on its mind and can't make itself understood, and so can't rest easy in its grave, and has to go about that way every night grieving.

    ~Mark Twain
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

    Thank you, NLinStPaul, for a sensitive and well spoken piece. It has not escaped my notice the number of diaries recently on the subject.

    Today we have a Black President who stands head and shoulders above his predecessors in character and integrity.

    What we thought was true, (that this country was "ready" for a Black President"), was not.

    And here we bloody well are, yet again.

    May God have mercy on us all.

  •  Second Diary today (4+ / 0-)

    Where I want to add something join in the discussion whatever, but you in your diary and Teacherken in his have said it.

    Very will done.

    Fox is America's Radio Rwanda.

    by Adept2u on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 12:45:08 PM PDT

  •  Nice discussion (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kj in missouri, NLinStPaul

    It is a thought provoking piece that challenges the comfort of many I'm sure.

    Sorry I couldn't be around for the discussion, but it looks pretty good.

    •  Funny thought I have... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      kj in missouri, paul2port

      as much as its great to wind up on the rec list and have lots more people read your diary - there are often much more reasonable and thoughtful discussions in the diaries that don't get there.

      Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 02:29:24 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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