The Silence of Our Friends

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Buh buh buh but...Fighting Racism Is Too Hard & Won't Make Me Popular!

Kai has a post up about one of the latest racist blunders, this time it's Rosie O'Donnell. She thinks this is a funny imitation of Chinese people, "ching chong ching chong". Are you laughing? Me neither. (By the way Kai, we all *heart* you, get used to the permanent blush.)

Kai links to Yolanda over at The Primary Contradiction and she says:
Asian Americans have said for years that anti-Asian racism seems to be beneath the notice of the general American discourse on race. While I agree with this general assessment, for me there are deeper questions about the blackout in O’Donnell coverage—-or to put it more accurately—-the lack of pretend outrage from good white liberal commentators over her remarks.

If you don't already know where the title of my blog comes from:
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. - Martin Luther King Jr

—-the lack of pretend outrage from good white liberal commentators over her remarks. Hmmm, yes. How many times have I heard people say it isn't the gaffes that are so infuriating. It's the reaction, which is either lacking, or worse, excusing racism and telling us anti-racists to get over it and stop being so sensitive...not from right-wing bigots, but from our so called allies on the left.

And then jenn at reappropriate has a progression of blog comments and Rosie O'Donnells response to them. Read the progression, and tell me it doesn't remind you of FDL during blackface Joe, or Amanda during burqagate. You know, the non-apology apology without quite understanding what you are apologizing for, talk of intent vs. what really happened, then you get enough ignorant racists just like you telling you, "Hey racism is cool! Nuthin' wrong with it at all!" so that you can dismiss those "whiny complainers" and um, "debunk" the charges.

From a recent discussion, BlackAmazon says:
"If I was some equivacating bean counter I'd say the tip on THIS issue is that sexism will get a rise out of folks faster than race."

Yup, yup. Quite a few were up in arms over sexism at FDL, including POC. But for far too many fighting privilege is only about themselves. They expect us to have their back, but when we are the ones being slammed, it's - put on the blinders and get out the earplugs quick! Pretend you don't notice because otherwise you might have to do or say something about it. It's really unpleasant when it's "your friend" who is pulling this crap or an A-lister who might delink you. So hard to choose between loyalty to your racist friend or someone you're trying to impress vs doing what's right.

I bet Martin Luther King Jr. had something to say about this too...
Cowardice asks the question - is it safe? Expediency asks the question - is it politic? Vanity asks the question - is it popular? But conscience asks the question - is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular; but one must take it because it is right.

Very similar to what Yolanda said in the second paragraph, on the FDL Racism/Sexism Round-Up I said:
it's A-ok to hate Asians over at FDL and sadly, not many are willing to come to their defense. I assume it has to do with the fact that most Americans are so ignorant about Asian people, cultures, and histories, that it's almost like ridiculing them is like ridiculing fictional or cartoon people. Now that I think of it, much of racism is this way.

Nope, not much in it for you, this hard work of anti-racism. You're not a POC, don't personally know any Asians, or Native Americans, or Blacks, etc. So why cause trouble? Why stand up for the powerless when you can hang with the powerful instead?

Thank you for our true friends, the ones who wouldn't entertain thoughts like this. The ones who see our common humanity. The ones who won't take the easy way and who do fight racism when they see it. But I also wish I didn't have to thank you. I wish this reaction was common and ordinary. I wish the cowardly way wasn't business as usual in America.

56 comment(s):

Well, somehow I am not surprised that Rosie doesn't "get" it. But then, I never "got" Rosie.

Wasn't she the one who was supposedly (back when she was still in the closet) over Tom Cruise? I mean, really...

And those comments from Rosie were something else.

The Hollywood star-system has often been likened to the British nobility/royalty custom. Both groups largely made up of those who are immature, pampered, out of touch and badly educated. And from Rosie to Michael Richards to Jane Hamsher, they all seem to be trying to one-up Prince Harry. Or Paris Hilton, for that matter...

By Anonymous sunrunner, at 12/12/2006 8:12 PM  

The sad thing is, Rosie was supposed to be liberal. Like, almost scandalously so, IIRC.

But we already know that that's no guarantee of racial sensitivity. Although I can't imagine *anyone* at FDL doing "ching chong ching chong" schtick, not even Mr. Japan-Is-An-Anticreative-Hivemind. (Of course, I could be wrong; I never could have imagined anyone posting a blackface picture either...)

By Blogger Eli, at 12/12/2006 8:23 PM  

whoa that mlk quote is sick

By Anonymous Nezua Limon Xolagrafik-Jonez, at 12/12/2006 8:51 PM  

Nezua Limon Xolagrafik-Jonez...
Hey, who is this masked man? ;)

And like Sunrunner I never *got* Rosie either. I've never seen her in any program that I can recall, well, I don't like the format of the talk shows, period.

I've haven't seen Oprah's show either, but I don't have the same visceral aversion to her that I do to Rosie.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/12/2006 9:03 PM  

Now that I think of it, I remember watching Oprah when she was a newcaster on local TV in Baltimore when I was a kid. I think that's where she got her start.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/12/2006 9:14 PM  

Thank yoU!

Thank you kindly. I seriously red the FDL threads of doom and was more shocked at teh Japan digs than the sexism.

HE called NAncy pelosi a cunt or someoddness warfare

Screw the continent entire of nippon

* people whistle away*

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 12/12/2006 10:11 PM  

Since discovering the universe of blogs radiating out of comments at Tom Watson’s Antifeminism on the Left III post, I’ve added many to my daily rounds. Being a woman, I am acutely sensitive to sexist language and behavior, but perhaps only moderately sensitive to racism and homophobism. I have been really impressed with the intelligence, incisiveness, courage and honesty of y’all’s writing compared to the “A” list political pragmatist blogs I had frequented exclusively heretofore.

What appeals to me most is that your (and you know who you are) worldview is relentlessly logical and consistent; that you have taken care of the log in your own eye before attacking the right for theirs. You don’t find yourselves in the position of having to defend the indefensible by blurting out unthinking crap. And y’all are capable of admitting mistakes (and we all make them) or blind spots without getting into a pissy huff about it. And you don’t put up with bullshit and excuses and glossings over. That is a wonderful thing.

And you have changed me. Before, my reaction to stories about the racist stylings of Mel Gibson, George Allen, Michael Richards, Rosie O’Donnell, et al, would be, “What an ignorant idiot, they just fucked their career.” Now, I think, “that is so condescending and wrong.” I commented early in the FDL whore/cunt kerfluffle (as did Tom Watson) that it was stupid because it put them in an untenable political position when it’s time to call the right on their atrocities. But you have brought me around to the position that before it’s STUPID, it’s WRONG. Your words are getting through.

Thank you.

By Anonymous op99, at 12/12/2006 10:12 PM  

Before, my reaction to stories about the racist stylings of Mel Gibson, George Allen, Michael Richards, Rosie O’Donnell, et al, would be, “What an ignorant idiot, they just fucked their career.” Now, I think, “that is so condescending and wrong.”

But they're still ignorant idiots, right?

By Blogger Eli, at 12/12/2006 11:38 PM  

The way I see Rosie is that she is playing some sort of New Yorker stereotype - in-your-face, loud, say whatever comes to mind without thinking about how rude or stupid it might sound. So maybe we really aren't getting her humor since she is playing a female Archie Bunker and ching chong certainly fits with that.

I never saw her talk show, mostly seen her on others' talk shows, and rarely watch the view. It's kind of boring to me. I might catch a little bit flipping through channels but that's it. The only thing I did see Rosie in that I really liked was A League of Their Own.

Sunrunner, I have to agree that hollywood doesn't tend to encourage deep thinkers, although a few are anyway, Paul Newman comes to mind.

Eli, I think Rosie is over the top liberal but that doesn't mean she understands privilege with the exception that it means those in the majority as in 'straight' cisgendered may hate her and try to marginalize her. The hate and marginalization of POC and how it works may still elude her the way it does TRex.

Jenny, if you want a good laugh search out Nezua's posts on his own site for "Ask Nezua" or check Jesus' General. He had a couple of posts there on the 8th.

BlackAmazon, I feel just as thankful for your brilliant and insightful (inciteful) posts.

For those of you new to BlackAmazon, don't let the occasional spelling error throw you. She is a dyslexic genius.

op99, It's surprisingly hard to make the connection between one type of oppression and another. Especially when you have privilege in one area and are oppressed in another. That's why I have a hard time sometimes understanding how American exceptionalism impacts foreigners. America is a very powerful nation and I have privilege just by being American because of that, even though I feel like a small cog in a huge American society. Privilege is the things we take forgranted and don't think about, so it's disorienting to have someone else point it out.

The example that comes to mind is one of those Save The Children commercials. I forget where I read this but someone was complaining about that bald bearded white guy because he put down the home the people were living in, right in front of them. To us it would be a shack built of garbage, but to them it was the hard work of scrounging enough materials to make a shelter. They are doing their very best to protect their family, and yet this man acts like it's nothing and looks down on them and thier efforts, sort of like saying they're animals and should have bought a nice condo or something. Anyway, my point being, I didn't see a problem with his comments when I saw that appeal, it had to be pointed out to me that I take things like decent shelter forgranted. What is difficult for that family, scrounging those few materials for a home, is easy for me and in fact it is easy for me to do better than that, but near impossible for them.

By Blogger Donna, at 12/13/2006 10:23 AM  

You know the world is upside-down when you find yourself enjoying and agreeing with a Michelle Malkin video rant. That's by far the most disturbing thing for me so far in this entire controversy.

By Blogger Kai, at 12/13/2006 3:17 PM  

Good Lord, Kai. I don't think I can bear to watch. Who does she want to put in detention camps now?

By Blogger Eli, at 12/13/2006 4:33 PM  

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Such phenomenal ignorance, bubble wrapped in white supremacy, and topped off with indignant privilege.

Those feministe gals and guy just spend wayyyy too much time poking holes thru the walls of the gated community, dontcha know.

Oh, who am I talking about? See if you can guess ;).

By Blogger Nanette, at 12/13/2006 5:02 PM  

Rosie proclaimed her absolute love for Dubya after 9/11. Other stuff too... she was part of the "I'm so scared I've lost my freaking mind" brigade, that would have agreed to anything Bush said or did... and did, pretty much.

Sure she hates him now, but still.

The entire "you just don't get humor" thing... or, more likely, "you just don't get my superior, abstract thinking, manifestly impressive, easily grasped by all the in-crowd humor" is such a crock, and a poor excuse. But... it's a widely accepted one.

I've noticed in a number of the things happening lately - the burka incident, the Michael Richards thing, Mel Gibson thing etc, people saying things to the effect of "if only it had been funny, it would have been okay".

I may be a prude, but I just can't get into the idea that racism or sexism is just fine, as long as it's cloaked with a laugh.


By Blogger Nanette, at 12/13/2006 5:11 PM  

File this under the "True Colors" (pun intentional) catagory:

I think people are getting racism and just making stupid mistakes way too often. I hardly think Rosie is next in line to run the Klu Klux Klan. I think people need to give her a friggin break, it’s not like she called anyone the n-word or anything. I’ve heard a lot of people pretend to do Chinese the way she did, not being serious but just being silly, as I think she did. I’ve heard people try and speak German as if all Germans are angry and barbaric, but they aren’t and it’s a very misunderstood language, but you don’t see a bunch of people getting irate over it. I’ve seen my German boyfriend laugh when a friend of mine did it in front of him. Once people start focusing on the real issues about racism we can actually get stuff done instead of worry about petty incidents like this one.
Not only that, but I don’t give a shit, Rosie is a million times better than Elizabeth Hasselbitch.
(bold added)

--link to not-jane hamsher

By Anonymous sunrunner, at 12/13/2006 5:58 PM  

LOL sunrunner... too much, eh?

omg, to post this I have to write a word verification almost bigger than my comment!

By Blogger Nanette, at 12/13/2006 8:58 PM  

TRex and Lindsay are twins separated at birth. Good lord, can't either of them just shut up when it comes to bigotry? It's no longer foot-in-mouth, they have it rammed down their throats up to the thigh by now.

By Blogger Donna, at 12/13/2006 9:21 PM  

Oh, phew. Apparently catty-ism is still OK. ;)

By Anonymous op99, at 12/13/2006 9:33 PM  

Please tell me that no-one is actually suggesting that "ching chong ching chong" was so sophisticated and witty that it went over our poor simpleminded heads...

(I don't need to point out that most Germans are WASPs, right?)

By Blogger Eli, at 12/13/2006 9:51 PM  

Oh, phew. Apparently catty-ism is still OK. ;)

What would life be without it? ;)

Donna, for sure. Complete brick walls.

I found this statement pretty telling:

I love this blog, but I think some of you are so willing to ravage anyone that puts a single toe out of line. That’s hypocrisy if anything is. Sometimes I read this blog thinking it is the most unbiased I’ve ever seen, and then I see posts like this and I have to rethink that.

How does standing up to racism/sexism not only in your opponents, but also in your friends, make them not "unbiased"? Or rather, who is it they are being presumed to be biased against?

Me, I think feministe is one of the very few fairly major feminist blogs that seem to have no problem at all breaking the white wall of silence, and I'm afraid that is beginning to be resented by some.

Alas, a Blog is another, but he's already been pretty consistently in the doghouse for one reason or another.

By Blogger Nanette, at 12/13/2006 10:04 PM  

"ching chong ching chong"

Eli, for real, I can't think of one sentient person who would find that remotely funny. Where is the consciousness? Honestly, how ridiculous!

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/13/2006 10:21 PM  

Jenny, if you want a good laugh search out Nezua's posts on his own site for "Ask Nezua"

Donna, thanks for the tip. That was absolutely hysterical... see, I knew there was something special about that Masked Man.

"The Unapologetic Mexican... Where Manifest Destiny Goes to Die"

Question: How do I get rid of the Mexicans?

It all depends. If you mean the Mexicans you invited over for the holidays, then keeping a few things in mind will help you insure that they run far, far away from your domicile.


By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/13/2006 10:32 PM  

Er, I just realized if someone came here for the first time and read my last two comments they might find them a tad, incongruous. ;)

Oh well.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/13/2006 10:34 PM  

I haven't seen the video of either O'Donnell or Malkin, it was bad enough reading what they had to say. But on the Malkin one Kai linked to, did you see that at the end of her 'joke' The View producers threw in a gong? So it's not just Rosie.

I wonder what Lindsay means by that too Nanette. Does she think unbiased means taking only one side, instead of sticking to your principals and giving credit where it's due no matter what side or laying blame no matter what side. I guess then Fox News really is unbiased according to Lindsay's definition.

Was that last remark catty? Just in case it wasn't...

I wonder if Lindsay engages her brain before she sets her fingers flying over her keyboard?

Now that was catty.

By Blogger Donna, at 12/14/2006 12:06 AM  

Oh and Jenny, you just have to see Nezua in action over at Jesus General:
Ask Nezua: El General de Jesús Home Version.

By Blogger Donna, at 12/14/2006 12:12 AM  

Nanette you lined that because you want me to go to jail don't you ;-)

WHy don't you pick on pAt RObertson?


Oh my god.

You want catty. HEre's catty

SHould a large convention happen. ANd me and she are in the same room.

My goal is to make her cry.

and then laugh about it.

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 12/14/2006 12:52 AM  

My goal is to make her cry.

and then laugh about it.

You would be videotaping this, of course.

By Blogger Eli, at 12/14/2006 12:58 AM  

Back to comparing talk show hosts... I really don't think you can beat Ellen Degeneres for pure generosity of spirit.

I'm not usually home during the day, but when I am, I watch her.

There's a lot of silliness on her show, but I've never seen any mean-spiritedness... perhaps because she doesn't take herself too seriously.

By Blogger Karen M, at 12/14/2006 11:15 PM  


Ellen used to do some really adorable "man on the street" interviews when she was first coming up. Can't remember where I saw them, but it was in this *pixie* spirit of fun; not a *gotcha* Candid Camera or Borat/Ali-G style of entrapment (which has always made me squirm) making the other person feel foolish to get a laugh.

Just flat-out funny stuff. She was so cute! Funny can be achieved without the mean-spirited undercurrent... Jerry Seinfeld managed to do that too, in his stand-up.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/15/2006 12:02 AM  

Funny can be achieved without the mean-spirited undercurrent...

But... But that's not *edgy*!

By Blogger Eli, at 12/15/2006 7:27 AM  

Stuff like that is why i avoid so many of the big name 'leftist' bloggers- their inability to deal with race, while demanding props for their courageous "progresiveness"...

By Blogger delux, at 12/15/2006 5:37 PM  

I wonder how many Asian Americans protest with outrage when African Americans, Native Americans, and Chicanos are oppressed on the daily?

I really need to bite my tongue.

Because the last Asian American I had an exchange with thought my black husband's head should be on a stick becuase lily white feminists were not loving folks enough.

By Blogger ChasingMoksha, at 12/18/2006 1:47 AM  

That makes no sense whatsoever! What does white feminists have to do with your husband and why does he have to pay for their behavior? I think you met a lunatic, and that has nothing to do with his or her race.

Black people are definitely at the bottom rung of the race ladder in America, and it isn't just white people who are racist against them. So it doesn't surprise me if you come across an Asian who is racist against blacks, I've come across Native Americans who are racist against blacks. You can't judge an entire group of people by their Archie Bunkers though.

I have to remind myself that all I can do is be the best person I can be. That means standing up to something that is unfair even when you're standing up with a person/group that you've found doesn't stand with you alot of the time. Maybe if enough of us do it then others will take the hint and learn from our example.

I'm feeling cynical though. Thinking about race in America is so discouraging. Because the thought that ran through my head after writing that last paragraph isn't that people with privilege will take the hint, they'll just take and take and take, because they are entitled and see nothing wrong with taking and no giving. Still, I can't make anyone else be a decent human being, I can only do what I can do to be a decent human being myself.

By Blogger Donna, at 12/18/2006 2:31 AM  

chasingmoksha, white supremacy is designed to turn people of color against one another. Your bitter anecdotal comment is in line with this objective.

All my life I've dealt with "ching chong" racism from blacks, but that has never made me less vigilant about fighting against all forms of racism. All my life I've dealt with racism from women, but that has never discouraged me from cultivating a pro-feminist worldview.

This is crazy-talk: most Blacks don't agitate against anti-Asian racism, so I'll be racist against Blacks. How asinine and compliant with the designs of the ruling class.

Are you aware of the historical alliances between Asians and Blacks that were formed during America's colonial days (escaped slaves and indentured servants)? Are you aware of the Yellow Peril activist groups that formed in order to support the Black Panthers? Are you aware of the currently burgeoning intellectual movement of Asian American anti-racist progressives? Are you aware that some of the biggest heroes in that movement are Asian American women who married African American men and were in the middle of the Civil Rights struggle?

No. And you don't care. All you need know is that you've met Asians who imbibed white supremacy from their oppressors. Will do. Cool runnings.

By Blogger Kai, at 12/18/2006 11:48 AM  

Hehe, I forgot to note the final irony: "moksha" is an Asian word for liberation (Sanskrit). I don't know what kind of moksha this person is chasing; she actually uses an Asian word in her handle while holding anti-Asian views. That's precious.

By Blogger Kai, at 12/18/2006 11:54 AM  

Because the last Asian American I had an exchange with thought my black husband's head should be on a stick becuase lily white feminists were not loving folks enough.

I really don't understand this concept... "So and so person of this ethnicity was mean/racist/violent etc to me, so I think (or at least wonder if) all of them are like that". That just doesn't make any sense at all.

I thought, for balance, of adding "or was kind/helpful/really great, etc, so I think all are like that" or whatever to that list, but then I realized that that would not be correct because rarely does it seem to work that way around in people's minds.

Anyway, how inane is that sort of thinking?

Moksha, I sort of remember that incident, and that there was a bit of a blowup between you and whoever the other person was. Why do you feel a need, though, to take that blow up with that one person and use it as an excuse to make racist statements about other people of Asian ethnicities? I think you really need to do a check on your white privilege here.

I wonder how many Asian Americans protest with outrage when African Americans, Native Americans, and Chicanos are oppressed on the daily?

This statement, especially, could only have been made out of profound ignorance and self centeredness. Or, to again put it gently, it's racist tripe.

While I couldn't begin to give a count of "how many" of anyone has stated anything, just a peek at various blogs run by those of different Asian ancestries would provide a quick answer to the central question... who is standing up for whom. Not the least of which is Kai, who has been at the forefront of much of the anti racist writings in recent months regarding the various issues that have come to light on leftish blogs, quite a bit of it having to do with racism against blacks, but also others including Asians. Click some of the Asian oriented blogs on his blogroll and you'll often find the same sort of thing.

Not everyone realizes that we are all in this together, and that all our futures are wrapped up in one another, but certainly any number of people do and more and more are catching on (again), even after so many efforts to keep communities at odds with one another.

By Blogger Nanette, at 12/18/2006 3:57 PM  

She was only one example. I did not think people would assume that I am so limited to use one example to form my opinion. Not did I say my opinion is written in stone. However, the TRUTH of the matter is, I’m not feeling any need to support Asian-Americans when I do not feel like they could give a flying fig less about anyone else right now. In other words, I will not actively oppress Asian Americans, however, I’m not putting my energies there.

When Asians are stereotyped by whites as being the better in Math and Science, (and yes, this is a stereotyped played out again and again. I personally was in a Linguistic class with a Chinese American who would not let anyone forget that she was the smartest because math was superior to literature) do they say, “Hey step back, by making a hierarchy it is oppressing the people, i.e. blacks, that are listed lower on the hierarchy.” No, they bask in white approval. No problem with YT until they are reminded that they are not considered equal to whites (by whites) then the hand for solidarity is out

So forgive me if I am not jumping on that bandwagon right now.

Oh and this guy gets a pass with Rosie O Donnell, I guess.

By Blogger ChasingMoksha, at 12/18/2006 5:17 PM  

Whether you are working from one example or a hundred, it's still racist tripe.

By basing your views of an entire... well, I can't even say an entire ethnicity because within the term "Asian" rests a veritable mosaic of ancestries... but by taking your experience with whichever "Asians" you have in mind and using that to, basically, dismiss the individuality, the personal and political work, and the beliefs of all others who fall under that term, you are being racist.

I really don't have any other description for that. It's something I've dealt with all my life, so even if the characters in the drama are changed, it's the same script.

And to answer this question:

do they say, “Hey step back, by making a hierarchy it is oppressing the people, i.e. blacks, that are listed lower on the hierarchy.”

Yes. Well, not the nebulous, faceless and generalized "they"... but individuals I have seen have definitely addressed that issue (including Kai), recognizing not only the harm that stereotype does to various Asians, but also that it's a method of attempting to divide and conquer.

By Blogger Nanette, at 12/18/2006 6:19 PM  

Nanette, I appreciate the way you have responded to me. As I have said, I do not think what I think is okay, however, I do feel it.

I expressed my opinion. That made me a perfect candidate to be schooled. Instead some used it as a chance to attack my name, to attack me. At least I kept my illgotten opinions in the general.

It as if no one wants allies.

I'm sure my request to be talked to like a human will be dismissed as my whiteness expecting people to cater to me.

I'm done here. I need to go learn what my name means.

By Blogger ChasingMoksha, at 12/18/2006 6:27 PM  

Instead some used it as a chance to attack my name\

I am not sure I would classify that as an attack, but you've got to admit it is pretty ironic that you would harbor anti-Asian feelings while having a handle that is an Asian word. Might be a word in other languages too, I don't know.

As I have said, I do not think what I think is okay, however, I do feel it.

And I can understand that, sort of. Me, I've always felt that racism was a choice, but it's entirely possible that it is not, in some instances. At least you can see that it's not okay, though, and I imagine that is a good start.

I realize that I have been very lucky in my life experience, growing up surrounded by people of many different ethnicities (still can't quite figure out how my mom managed that, but she did), which allows me to first view people as individuals and then to, if certain individuals behave in poor behavior, to ascribe that behavior to that person (or those persons) alone, and not to everyone within a particular group.

That sort of opportunity is actually open to anyone at any age, of course, it's just a matter of taking advantage of it.

I think probably some of the initial reaction to your statements was due to being startled, as this is mostly an anti-racist site, and one of the main go-to persons on writing about and deconstructing racism and in anti racism work that is familiar to at least our little group is Kai, who is Chinese American. So, it's kinda weird when you know that one of the first out of the gate to condemn anti-Black and other racism (as well as sexism, etc) is an Asian man, to have someone pop up with the "and you never hear them say this or that" stuff.

It as if no one wants allies.

I don't understand this statement, actually. It's possible that you thought your original post would be viewed as more of a cry for understanding and intervention than as a baldly stated racist opinion... if so, it sort of missed the mark. Being allies in anti-racism and working for human rights, human dignity, social justice and so on does not, in my mind, entail letting words like that stand unchallenged.

This is not my site, but we do do a lot of talking about race, allies, and surrounding issues including working through privilege (I consider that I have western privilege, if not white privilege) and so on, and I personally wouldn't be adverse to your joining in and working thru your issues with us.

Mind you, the first thing I'd suggest you do is read thru some of the material on these issues at ... Kai's site. :)

By Blogger Nanette, at 12/18/2006 7:10 PM  

whoops. I mean

By Blogger Nanette, at 12/18/2006 8:54 PM  

I've been thinking this over all day. I do feel like I let Kai and other Asian-Americans down with my response last night. The only thing I can say in my defense is that it was very late and it majorly confused me. I did need a night and day to mull it over.

Moksha, Kai didn't attack you, but he feels bitter because he has been doing the hard work of fighting racism for a long time and you just erased all that. The good he does as an Asian man doesn't matter because you came across a different Asian man who was ignorant and hurtful. That is so unfair.

It's also part of racism. It's like we are always being watched for any mistake we make, and the group pays for the bad behavior of a one or a few bad apples. I could point out Ted Bundy or Jeffrey Dahmer and say, "See I told you all those white people are serial killers!" and people would call me an idiot. But if a black person is snippy with a white person, that white person will go back to his friends and say, "Those n*****s are all assholes. This guy said xyz to me today." and his friends would probably agree. Or a indian goes out and whoops it up one night...see they're all drunks. People have those stereotypes in their heads and are laying in wait for confirmation. So we have to be perfect, which is impossible. In every case it's wrong to take an individuals actions, missteps, or assholery and attribute it to a race/ethnicity/etc he belongs to.

Beside you are holding Asians to a higher standard than others. Think about it, here in America especially, people are self-centered. They generally do not stand up against oppression unless they are the ones being oppressed. I really wish that everyone or at least a majority would confront oppression where ever they see it, but I don't see it happening often.

What I am thinking of is all the racist incidents over the last several months. How many white people did you see jumping in to denounce it? I saw alot more making excuses and brushing it off or ignoring it and hoping it goes away. Does this mean I should write off all white people? Nope, because there are good white people out there, like you and Bitch|Lab and Belle, etc etc etc...

As a general rule, I don't see alot of blacks in everyday life jumping in to side with Asians, or Native Americans, or Jewish people, etc when something racist is said or done regarding them either. Like I said, alot of it has to do with our ME ME ME! society. People think to themselves, it doesn't involve me, so why look for trouble; and they move on and ignore it. Of course, there are black people who are very aware of racism and fight it where they see it no matter who the target is, but you certainly can't say all of them or even most of them do. So is it ok for me to ignore issues involving blacks since some won't stand in solidarity with me over Native American logos and names in sports?

Unfortunately there are few of us who are truly anti-racist. Many who are non-racist but take that backseat view, they won't make it a habit of being racist themselves, but won't do anything about racism they view in others. I hope you rethink that, Moksha. We need less passiveness and indifference, and more active anti-racists.

Also, being put on a pedastal might sound good, but it has it's downside too. How do you think it feels to an Asian person who isn't a genius at math, who is just average? I've brought this up regarding Native Americans. Everyone thinks we are spiritual and above it all, but the only ones who are like that are the hokey hucksters making a buck at tourist traps. We let down alot of white people because we aren't like that, we are just regular modern day people living in houses and driving cars instead of wise men and women in teepees with horses.

By Blogger Donna, at 12/18/2006 9:34 PM  

Thanks, Nanette, for your usual grace and wisdom.

Chasingmoksha, I admit that I came back at you pretty hard, I don't know if I went too far (that's really for Donna to say). But most anti-racists would have a big problem with what you've said and how you've said it. I mean, you're sitting here talking crazy trash about Asians in the third person as if we don't really exist, we're just this dirty stereotype in your head. This usually isn't the behavior of someone who wants to be schooled; it's usually an invitation to get righteously stomped. So I took the bait.

However, if Nanette knows you and is engaging you, you must be cool, so I'm gonna step back and re-engage you on a de-escalated basis.

You say that "At least I kept my illgotten opinions in the general." But you see, that's precisely the problem: you made sweeping racist generalizations, but to my mind those were direct accusations against me, because I'm included in the group you spat on. That's certainly a far more personal "attack" than noting the irony that someone with an Asian word in her handle harbors anti-Asian "feelings".

When you think of Asians, you emotively associate that mean racist lady and that obnoxious student and other examples that support your stereotype, in the same manner that white racists, when think of, say, blacks, think of the black criminal and the black crackhead rather than the abundant counter-examples. Yes, there are black criminals and crackheads; and yes, there are mean obnoxious selfish racist Asians; but expanding those observations into a blanket judgment and condemnation against an entire race of individuals (like, a group that constitutes 60% of the world's human population) is shallow, lazy, and racist, period. If that's going to be your intellectual approach, I'm afraid I really don't want you as an ally.

If you want to find out what Asian Americans are doing about anti-Black and anti-Native racism, I'm afraid you'll first have to take the time to get to know some of us. And that's not gonna happen when you can only talk about us in the third person. Consider this an open invitation, if you're seriously interested in learning the views of an actual Asian progressive.

One way or another, I harbor no ill feelings. We all have much to learn from one another.


By Blogger Kai, at 12/18/2006 9:41 PM  

Donna wrote:
"So is it ok for me to ignore issues involving blacks since some won't stand in solidarity with me over Native American logos and names in sports?"

I think there's a cautious converse to this as well, however. Many racists use the fact that some African-Americans have no problem promoting American Indian mascots and stereotypes as justification that those same mascots and stereotypes are not in fact racist, offensive and demeaning to us.

My allies cut across racial/ethnic boundaries - but I will never view Oliver Willis or Markos Moulitas as racial allies. (NB, I really don't have major issues with Kos - I just view him more Greek than Latino, and thus, not an identifying BoC.) And I will admit that I feel that racism against non-AA people of color is usually more palatable in our society, but I certainly don't blame AAs for that. But, as I've said before, the dominant culture only seems to be able to "deal with" one racial relationship at a time, and AA issues then seem to suck up 98% of the oxygen in the room. But perhaps we non-AA people of color just need to do a better job of adding more more oxygen to the discussion, rather than stealing it from our well-deserving brethren.

By Anonymous MB, at 12/19/2006 1:08 AM  

Donna, you didn't let me or Asian Americans down. You did fine. It's not your job to write extensive in-depth deconstructions of every inane thing that gets said. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. Plus, your last comment and my last near-simultaneous comment made many similar points, so we're clearly on the same wavelength here.

I must say, though, that I have no idea where ChasingMoksha is going with all this. I mean, in this latest episode, I didn't encounter any Asian Americans raising a fuss about other people of color not coming to our defense. We were focusing on using O'Donnell's racist "joke" as an anti-racist teaching opportunity, not the fact that African Americans or any other communities of color weren't condemning it strongly enough. And if there's a point to be made on this, it's that white supremacy tends to turns discourse on racism into a black-white thing. I certainly don't blame blacks for this. This issue just seems like a bizarre fabrication that's more about what's inside someone's head than what's happening in the world.

Anyway, so it goes. Moving right along.

By Blogger Kai, at 12/19/2006 3:17 AM  

However, if Nanette knows you and is engaging you, you must be cool,

Well, I don't exactly know her, but I've seen her name around at B|L's and bfp's and stuff so I knew she wasn't just some out of the blue troll, or anything, even if her actual comments were unacceptable.

Many racists use the fact that some African-Americans have no problem promoting American Indian mascots and stereotypes as justification that those same mascots and stereotypes are not in fact racist, offensive and demeaning to us.

MB, yep... and not only on issues of race but also bigotry against gays ("Even Black Person says it's not a civil rights issue!) and so on.

Not that people making these statements are much interested in anti-racism or anti-other bigotries in the first place (if you ask me), because by pointing to Black Person(s) says to justify their own bigotry they are just once again removing the individuality from people - a racist act in itself.

And if there's a point to be made on this, it's that white supremacy tends to turns discourse on racism into a black-white thing.

It's comfortable, familiar ground and also provides an excellent excuse not to address other forms of racism, as well as not completely address anti-black racism and other related issues. As long as people can point to blacks as being at the bottom of the heap, and the promises of the civil rights movement not fully realized, they feel they can legitimately be excused from addressing other problems.

I don't think you let anyone down either, Donna. Excellent points in both comments.

I must say, though, that I have no idea where ChasingMoksha is going with all this.

Well, in part of it it looks like she is saying that she doesn't quite understand how being anti-racist works (at least, in my definition of it).

I believe that being anti-racist, pro human rights, human dignity, civil rights, social justice, so on cannot work effectively if it's based on some sort of 'tit for tat' system. "You stand with me if/and I'll stand with you" sort of thing. Either the stand is worth taking or it is not - if it's the ideals of a just world that you are standing for.

The sort of attitude displayed in Moksha's first paragraph reminds me of the right wingers and their "But there are not enough Muslims prostrating themselves before us, beating their breasts in mea culpas, parading their children around to show that they are not animals, and speaking loudly enough to apologize for something they had absolutely nothing to do with."

As for the rest, I think she is hinting that by assuming her racist comments about Asians applied to you and responding to that point, even though you do anti-racist work and all that, that you are owning patriarchal stereotypes (or the equivalent).

I think, again, the white privilege peeks through in that passage and view, for sure... also one place, I think, that "sexism is like racism" thinking breaks down.

It seems, sometimes, very difficult for people who have been seen and judged as individuals throughout their lives to understand that, for people of color, the white patriarchal expressions of "All so and so's of this particular group are this." and "Oh, I didn't mean you, you're one of the 'good' ones." are equally offensives statements.

By Blogger Nanette, at 12/19/2006 9:29 AM  

It is discouraging to have to think of racism in terms of degrees. (I put sexism into another category altogether, but that's a different discussion.)

I've always been sick at heart that cultural/color difference is a cause for discrimination and cruelty. Interest in the other? Absolutely. Everyone has something fantastic to contribute, in their way, and we could learn so much if we could absorb these differences.

Hey, who would've ever imagined this country would be capable of such ignorant bloodlust to the point we'd sit back and let our government torture, murder and displace the *other* simply because they have brown skin, just like those *bad men* who flew planes into our towers.

Did it matter that our chosen target for this massacre was not the culprit? Well, I guess not. So there you have the racism and stupidity and vengeance of the American people, pretty much played out on a grand scale before the eyes of the world.

Ack, I could go on and on, but basically humanity continues to make me sick and more and more I think the only thing I can handle is my *mini* world. Be kind to the human beings around me. Honestly I don't think mankind has learned very much and I don't know how anything is ever going to change. Here we are in the 21st Century and we are still barbarians and brutes. It's time for an awakening.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/19/2006 1:27 PM  

Oh, and you can look no further than *Jose Padilla* to see what we are as a nation.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/19/2006 1:37 PM  

The thread that wouldn't die.

MB said:

Many racists use the fact that some African-Americans have no problem promoting American Indian mascots and stereotypes as justification that those same mascots and stereotypes are not in fact racist, offensive and demeaning to us.

There were many examples of this general phenomenon in the A-List lefty blog kerfluffles that led me to this site in the first place. For example:

"I couldn't possibly be a misogynist, I write on a female-owned blog."

"My partner is Japanese-American, and he thought xyz was funny." (Nice sample size.)

It is very distressing to me when that sort of right wing "logic" comes out of supposedly progressive blogs.

By Anonymous op99, at 12/19/2006 4:53 PM  

I'm not sure where Moksha is going with this either. I think the original post expresses frustration and disappointment with people you expect to be your allies when they really aren't. It's much the same way many POC feel towards some white feminists who understand their own oppression but can not make the connection between that and imperialism during the burka saga.

This is where I was going with the idea of a ladder of oppression. I know that even as I am oppressed for being Native American instead of white, I also have privilege in comparison to a black person(; or as a Christian compared to a Muslim; or as a heterosexual compared to a gay person). It's like white men have a hierarchy of who is lower than them; and at the next level both white men and women have a hierachy of those next in line; and then at the next level white men & women, and Asians, Native Americans, and Latinos have a hierarchy of who is lower than them; and last all Americans have a hierarchy of who in the world are lower than them. And we haven't even fit in the world religions/atheism or class into that ladder yet. Multiple layers of oppression and bigotry.

I think that people have to recognize their position in the hierarchy, not buy into it, but simply see that it is built into our society. You can not check your privilege if you do not even recognize you have it. If you can't check your privilege then you can't find solidarity with anyone else outside your group.

Recognizing the hierarchy too late:
First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
- Pastor Martin Niemöller

I also find that some people recognize the hierarchy and want to raise their own position on the ladder but don't really care if they leave others behind. Some of the worst bigots are those who were not considered white at one time. Irish, Italian, Greek, Jewish, Catholic...anyone not a WASP. They made it into the white entitlement club and now it's their turn to keep the riff raff out, even though they were the riff raff not so long ago.

Moksha said something that leads me to believe this might be where she is going with this. The Asian woman who bought into the smart stereotype to keep others below her. When people buy into stereotypes, both good and bad ones, it is a tool to keep them in their place. They are still the different "other". It's a reason to pity that woman not hate her. After all the point to the Asians are smarter than us stereotype is for us to hate them, envy them, and fear that they will steal all our high paying jobs here, or that their nations will outstrip the best nation in the world, the US of A! It worked like a charm too, and neither Moksha or the Asian student recognized their positions in that dance.

I feel like the white hierarchy throws us a bone to make us feel better about ourselves, even as we are lesser than them, we help them keep those lower on the ladder down. That's why "you're a credit to your race" is not a compliment.

I always find that there is a downside to compliments that have to do with race/ethnicity/gender/etc. It's like my husband telling me he's all thumbs when it comes to sorting laundry, and accidently putting bleach in with colors. Gosh, I'm so much smarter than him. Which is why I am the only one who can handle doing the laundry....must be women's work, eh?

By Blogger Donna, at 12/20/2006 1:37 AM  


I think you've put it very nicely, as usual. I've said this before but I'll repeat it for the record in this thread: model minority = house slave. If there are Asians who "bask in white approval" because of the laughable lie that we're better at math than others (please, does anyone believe this stupidity? if you do, please stop!), I see that as a function of white supremacy, not as evidence that Asians generally exhibit certain ugly personality traits.

I'm not sure I fully understand the concept of a hierarchy of racism. I mean, Asians have done well in America not because of racism-lite, but because they've come here largely of their own free will with intact families and histories and cultures and immigration-policy-required formal educations. Why are we even comparing that history with people who were kidnapped, torn from their families and histories and cultures, and enslaved? Or with people who were simply living here before they suddenly got genocidally invaded? Is there a point to such comparisons?

In any case I must confess that the most urgent anti-racist struggle in my daily life is the fight to advance the rights of African Americans, because I work in NYC where a black guy can get shot 41 or 50 times by cops, or sodomized by cops in a police station with a broomstick. The historical centrality of the black democratic struggle in American society is important to me. Not that I've forgotten the Chinese Exclusion Act or the Japanese internment or my perpetual foreigner status despite having been born here. But being American, I place the African American struggle at the center of the struggle for the integrity of American humanity.

I wish I had enough exposure or education to make similar statements about American Indian history and culture. If I did, I'm sure I would consider it even more central to the American story.

Anyway, thanks again Donna. Peace, and take care.

By Blogger Kai, at 12/20/2006 4:00 AM  


being American, I place the African American struggle at the center of the struggle for the integrity of American humanity.

Not negating any of the other important points brought up in this thread, but I am with you here. Peace.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/20/2006 12:16 PM  

One of my particular pet peeves is hearing white women and Jewish folks of both genders (I am a non-practicing white Jewish woman, btw... well I practice being a woman but not the Jewish part lol) - anyway, hearing the indignant voices proclaiming they suffer equal discrimination as blacks in our society today.

This just burns me. Hey, I burned my bra in the sixties, and hey, I have tales of the Holocaust seared into my brain for eternity, but for either group to play the *equal discrimination* card in today's America is just crap.

And how any Jewish PROGRESSIVE can come out in support of Israel's warmongering and trampling of human rights is beyond me completely. It was verrrrry interesting hearing this group twist themselves into a disingenous knot trying to defend Israel in their latest rampage against the Lebanese populace. For shame.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/20/2006 1:20 PM  

OK, pulling a Belle here, but it's time for the Jews to stop playing the Holocaust card and start living in today's world. And for their enablers to stop as well. That's our only hope.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/20/2006 1:23 PM  

Kai, it's like when white people say that race is a social construct and they recognize no race but the human race. A lovely thought, and race is a social construct, but you can't wish it away. That social construct is very real to many of us and it must be recognized to be dismantled.

This is what I mean by a hierarchy. It may not have been racism lite in the beginning, but it is now. If you and I were in a crowd of a couple dozen people, with most being white, three or four latino, four or five black. I know I could tell a black person to shut up and tell everyone don't listen to him....and most people would follow my lead. A white person could easily override my objections and tell me to shut up, and that everyone should listen to what the black person has to say. This is the hierarchy I am talking about. There is a certain amount of power people have to put forward their ideas, or to shut down areas of discussion, in this example.

I think you have to recognize that there is a hierarchy and know your place within it to be able to dismantle it. I could just as easily tell everyone to shut up and listen to what that black person has to say, but people would be less inclined to listen to ME. So I would need you, and the latinos and the other blacks, and some of the whites to come together and insist that everyone listen.

If you just sit back and think gosh I wish everyone was equal and that people would listen to that guy, but oh well. That is the silence of our friends.

I disagree with you Jenny about the holocaust card. We have too many holocaust deniers and people are forgetting, it's something that shouldn't be forgotten and a lesson for the world. The Jewish people, and the people of Israel should never let us forget, but Israel should also learn a lesson from it. It appears to me that they are using many of the same tactics that the Nazis used against them and not even recognizing it.

By Blogger Donna, at 12/20/2006 2:41 PM  

I disagree with you Jenny about the holocaust card. We have too many holocaust deniers and people are forgetting, it's something that shouldn't be forgotten and a lesson for the world. The Jewish people, and the people of Israel should never let us forget, but Israel should also learn a lesson from it. It appears to me that they are using many of the same tactics that the Nazis used against them and not even recognizing it.

Donna, I was inarticulate when I stated my position. Of course, we cannot ever forget the holocaust, never. I'm speaking strictly about using the past to justify criminal acts of the present. Like you so eloquently said, "they are using the same tactics". This is what I meant by the *holocaust card* which they infer when they choose agressive action.

Never forget but do not commit crime upon crime. And btw, when I say *the Jews* I mean the Israeli State and do not, of course, mean to condemn all Jewish people.

By Anonymous Jenny from the Blog, at 12/20/2006 2:50 PM  

Very interesting discussion thread and very informative.

I had posted on Rosie's racist comments at a feminist site in the middle of a discussion about what Trump had said to her, and my posts were pretty much ignored as people just kept talking around it about how sexist Trump was and what a great feminist Rosie was.

That didn't happen on the thread addressing Richards' comments which was probably because he was a White man and thus easier to criticize than a White woman. White feminists are great at attacking White men for being racist and any and all men for being sexist, not as good at our own self-examination, unfortunately. It's easier to examine one's experiences with oppression than one's privilege and certainly one's culpability in the oppression of other people but the latter is very important.

Kai, thank you for your posts. If you're working against police misconduct(including the Sean Bell shooting) in New York City, you certainly have your work cut out for you there, but there's a lot of good organizing at the grass-roots level it appears there. Lots of organizations working together.

We've been working at that in my city which has been addressing similar issues with police.

By Anonymous Radfem, at 12/30/2006 1:43 PM  

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