The Silence of Our Friends

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bewildered Part IV

Yeah, yeah, I'll eventually come up with a more original title for my posts, but these all have a thread running through them that connects them. Besides, I am bewildered that racism isn't evident to more people.

In the last post I was mulling over a post that Nezua wrote about the language of racism. Not the racial slurs, but the way nice people have these little nuggets of racism stuck in their unconsciousness and try to explain it away or minimize it as much as possible. Also how POC are highly aware of racist memes, coded language, and certain dynamics that replay themselves throughout our lives. We have to be. We would be stupid if we ignored situations that could be dangerous to our well-being.

Sylvia points out one of those dynamics. When white people have iffy ideas about racism they have a tendency to seek out at least one POC who will agree with that idea. "My black friend says it's ok." It's really common, because it's not hard to find a POC who has absorbed and internalized racism during his or her lifetime, or who is conflicted about backing up a friend vs wading into a difficult discussion about racism and all it's nuances, and people being people, sometimes we just disagree. POC aren't a monolith who all believe the same thing.

Glenn takes time out of his busy schedule to lay the smackdown on Sylvia. Sylvia went and proved him right! By being OVERSENSITIVE she hurt his feelings and now he wants to take his ball and go home. If she had been a Goodgirl she would have 1) given him the benefit of the doubt and 2) give him credit for good intentions and only the best motives.

Kai notices something interesting:
1. When it comes to white folks talking about POC, Greenwald thinks POC should loosen up their demands on white folks. He says racial dialogue is hindered by "unwritten rules" imposed on white folks by POC, thus characterizing being educated about respectful language as an unfair and arbitrary imposition on white folks.

2. When it comes to POC talking about white folks, the rules shift toward increased sensitivity and an (I believe unconscious) assertion of actual unwritten rules ("assume pure intent", "assume race-neutral interpretation", "don't imply I said or did anything racist"). And if a POC says something hurtful to a white person (say, his racial motives were "clear"), based on the POC's lived experience observing the patterns of racial dynamics, this explains why we're not making more social progress.

Pretty neat.
Yes, it's ok for white people to be insensitive to POC. But POC must be sensitive and respectful to white people. I think I've heard this one before...
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.
Just to be sure we are clear on this, truth machine drops by to state
...awareness of racism and bigotry is luxury for progressive whites; it's a necessity for POC, as the society they live in imposes it upon them constantly. Most whites actively maintain their ignorance of this through selective filtering and denial of facts that acknowledging would force them to face some of their unearned privilege and advantage...

I dropped in via Greenwald's link, and probably won't be back...

This is your blog, and it's a focus for you -- you will stay, as will your regulars, but neither Greenwald nor I are regulars. And, as I said, dwelling on this subject is a necessity for you, while it's a luxury for us. Hopefully it will some day no longer be a necessity for anyone.

Ok, this time I'm really gone.


Did you catch that? "Sorry racism is a problem for ya. It ain't for me. Ta-ta!"

67 comment(s):

I had an experience once that I think put me in the situation you are describing Donna. If you can bear with me for a moment, I'd like to lay it out and hear any reactions people have.

I am a member of a professional association and a few years ago was in a leadership position. The association had a committee that was working on cultural competence in our work and I needed to put forth a name of someone to chair the committee.

I suggested a Latino man with whom I had several conversations about the topic and thought would do a good job of chairing the committee.

When I suggested him, a black man in the group expressed his disappointment that we always needed to nominate a POC to chair these kinds of efforts. He thought we needed to be open to the idea that white people should be capable of taking on these issues.

At first I was really angry. I had a little "pity me" party thinking that if I had nominated a white person I would have been even more seriously criticized.

Then, after a while, I appreciated this man's honesty and his point of view. I still don't know what the "right" answer would have been. All I know is that it is important that we talk about these kinds of things and learn from them.

By Blogger NLinStPaul, at 3/07/2007 8:47 AM  

Reading that comment thread still makes my stomach hurt. I can't explain it, but I think the ridiculousness of it, combined with my instinctual response of "omg i stopped intelligent conversation," floored me completely. Kai's conceptualization of what happened is apt.

I attempted to frame it in terms of white priv, 'cause that's what frames racial dialogue as a luxury and a privilege, not a birthmark or a pervasive life narrative.

By Blogger Sylvia, at 3/07/2007 10:21 AM  

My take is that there are two things going on there nlinstpaul. First, you are right, some would have criticized you if you suggested a white person. The dynamic behind that is, "Sure, the white people think we're too dumb to lead, and think they can solve all our problems for us without our input." The other one is that you will give to a POC, set him off in a corner and forget him and any of his work or recommendations for the association. "See! We believe in diversity. We got our token (or group of tokens) right over there. They have no power and we don't listen to them, but hey, we're making some kind of effort." Like I explained over at Everybody Comes from Somewhere, we know that there are alot of white people who are nice to us but still harbor feelings that we are inferior. I think that black man was saying that, that a white person has to be leader or the majority of whites will not take the committee seriously.

Makes you feel like you can't win, doesn't it? It makes us feel the same way.

The way to make the situation work is to put a POC in the leadership position, like you were doing. Tell the black man that you think that whites are capable of tackling these issues and should be committee members, but that the direction should be POC who know how to best serve their communities. Also, make sure that this is a committee that will be taken seriously and not just window dressing. You'd have to look into your association leadership and their motives for putting together the committee, if it's just for window dressing you should tell them it's not a good idea and will only engender hard feelings on the part of POC. There has to be a real effort to help POC achieve their goals, not just use them for your own goals and make yourself feel "progressive".

Sylvia, I have a follow up coming with the post at your place. Although did you see what you linked to here? That cracked me up!

By Blogger Donna, at 3/07/2007 11:33 AM  

I couldn't read that thread. Nezua's site is stunning to look at, but I can't handle the small green font in the comments.

I think that as human beings, we all have moments in which we are inconsiderate of others. Sometimes it is because we feel we have a right to more than another (like the customer who didn't think she should wait her turn or those of us who have gotten attached to our white privilege), but I think that we are always straying into dicey territory when we diss the humanity (the feelings) of another, regardless of how unpalatable we find those feelings to be.

Now, I have pretty good eyes--but since I have just reached an age in which I need reading glasses to read small print labels (though I can still read most books), I am not yet in the habit of keeping them close at hand. But if I were a person who is visually impaired--I would be locked out of taking part in that conversation (in my case, I have gotten around to going back with my lost reading glasses), would it be appropriate for me to accuse Nezua some kind of "ism" regarding people with disabilities? Or would it be more constructive to acknowlege that since he is not disabled, he is unlikely to always be able to think from within the perspective of a person with visual disabilities, while at the same time pointing out that he might want to re-think his choice of font size and color because there are a lot of people who would like to have an equal access to the dialogue on his site.

In other words, is there something "wrong" with Nezua as a human being because he is so into designing his lovely site that he didn't think about the needs of the visually impaired? I would never make such an accusation, but I don't have any problem saying that his site isn't all that user friendly to anyone who has trouble reading small type.

I am just saying that as a white person who has tried very hard to take issues around race, class and gender very seriously, there are times when I do/say boneheaded things in spite of all my efforts to be conscious. And it really does hurt when the worst of possible motives are read into those situations.

I was once working once in a retail store in a predominantly african american neighborhood (I have had a lot of low wage jobs in my day). It was a very very busy day, and an African American woman wanted my help NOW while I was already in the midst of trying to help 3 other customers, two of whom where white. I sort of ignored her at first but she was insistant and I lost my cool and snapped her that she would have to wait until I was finished with the other customers.

The next day I was hauled into the manager's office (who was black) and was informed that a customer had complained about me, that not only was I rude (and admittedly, my tone was frazzled & irritable) but that I was a racist. I was willing to own the rude part, but not the racist part. Nevertheless I was subjected to an patronizing lecture on how important it is to treat POC customers with dignity etc. It was incredibly humiliating. And I was hurt and pissed.

I did at the time understand how this young woman could jump to that conclusion, given that she has very likely been treated dismissively in retail situations because she is black (or followed around since it is assumed that she might be shoplifting, which does happen all the time). I would've been ok with acknowleging that to my manager. But it was not ok for him to assume that I was short with her because she was black becuase she said so (this went into my review record btw--and it impacted my next request for a raise). It was not ok for him to label my momentary lapse as racism (& btw--she was rude in her attempt to jump the line wrt to the other customers).

I guess my point is that the thing which bothers me more than anything else about these situations is the assumption that any of us really has the ability to get inside another person's head and assign internal motives to another. I don't know what Glenn Greenwald said in order to get this whole thing going, and I would not be surprised if he said something that revealed a blind spot on his part, but it does not follow that just because he was "insensitive" he has no feelings.

WRT to the FDL debacle, the thing that bothered me most was not so much the fact that that the behavior on the part of some of the posters was clueless wrt to race because their blind spots are quite rampant, but the fact that they personally attacked those who tried to point things out to them in a reasonable manner, and did so in a manner that was explicitly racist & sexist(Liza, mind your betters). And refused to step back and listen to reason. Had they been willing to learn from their mistakes (and by the looks of things over there lately, it seems like they might've learned a couple of lessons since it seems they have become much more careful, even though they are not admitting it) I wouldn't have been as angry and as hard as I was on them.

I personally am not offended when a POC calls me on my cluelessness (and I am blessed to have friends who can and do) but I can be very hurt when I am accused of not caring, when I do--even when my behavior seems uncaring (again, would it be accurate to say that Nezua doesn't care about those with visual dissabilities?) Which can and does happen.

[btw--my daughter is a POC, and she is always designing web sites and business cards with teeny tiny print because she went to art school. I have tried to point out that the point of words is for people to read them, but she thinks I am an old out of touch fuddy duddy (ageism? lol) and "don't get it" so I don't want Nezua to think I am picking on him in particular in this regard, but it is a pet peeve of mine and many other people my age!]

By Anonymous sunrunner, at 3/07/2007 1:03 PM  

Donna, I just wanted to say that I'm really enjoying this series (since you double dog dare your linkers to leave a comment or two). And not just because Sylvia linked to the lesbian koala story!

By Anonymous petitpoussin, at 3/07/2007 2:40 PM  

Sunrunner, hi.

" But if I were a person who is visually impaired--I would be locked out of taking part in that conversation (in my case, I have gotten around to going back with my lost reading glasses) [...]

In other words, is there something "wrong" with Nezua as a human being because he is so into designing his lovely site that he didn't think about the needs of the visually impaired?"


Because I do not see this as a valid analogy (for a couple reasons), I have a hard time engaging the thought much further.

Firstly, you see, my sidewalk ramps are built in! That is, you can solve the problem of "non-access" by using your own keyboard controls (Ctrl and + keys) which will increase your own font size. You can increase the contrast knob on your screen to differentiate better the green from the tan of the page. Or, you can copy and paste any text into a blank text document for more control. So you are not excluded from the conversation.

Re: "[A] lot of people who would like to have an equal access to the dialogue on his site."

Well, aside from the action I mentioned above, there are also browsers that restyle any page you are looking at (Firefox with Web Developer plugin, for one). So if people wanted to be a regular part, they could simply use one of these methods, so that they didn't have to do too much copying-and-pasting sweating. I don't see my design as any bar to inclusion among those who are so "visually handicapped" as you outline. Perhaps you mean "technologically handicapped"? In which case it is up to each person to know their own keyboard, no? I don't see that as a function of my running/designing a site.

"...would it be appropriate for me to accuse Nezua some kind of "ism" regarding people with disabilities?"

Well, you'd have to include me of an ism that excludes myself...because I am included on the visual disability thing!

But even overlooking the logical flaws of the premise you've offered me, and to speak to the root of your example, if someone accused me of being "ablist" with my site design, I would think about it, as I have, and I would engage them in conversation. As I am. I would not flip out and run away, nor accuse them of oppressing my design choices for bringing it up.

Interestingly, you are positing Greenwald's place in the metaphor (or the WHITEPROGRESSIVE's position) as the person with the handicap who is being excluded? It seems to again, lean toward an idea that somehow, the person with privilege should be the one catered to. Which was the thrust of the argument taken up by "Truthmachine," in the end.

As we see here, too:

there are times when I do/say boneheaded things in spite of all my efforts to be conscious. And it really does hurt when the worst of possible motives are read into those situations.

Again, this plea for the tender feelings of the White Sympathizer. But you know, I have to say that I think it's too bad if it hurts White people to have stuff assumed about them from time to time! Maybe it could lead to empathy. Knowing how that feels on the Regular. I mean think about what you are saying, here. You are asking people of color to be extra careful when thinking on the intentions of those who benefit from the Dominant Culture's racism? To give the benefit of the doubt? So that White folx's feelings don't get hurt by our assuming the worst? I don't know where this assumption comes in that after all that has been done against People of Color through time, that real communication on these issues is going to "not hurt" those of us (in all ways, after all, I reap male privilege) who benefit and have benefitted from that hurt caused over time. I think we should begin—I think especially White people must begin, if they really care—with the idea that their feelings are going to get hurt!

That being said, one really does have to read the entire thread before wading too deeply into answering it. Later, you sum up,

"I guess my point is that the thing which bothers me more than anything else about these situations is the assumption that any of us really has the ability to get inside another person's head and assign internal motives to another."

I agree. We all draw conclusions, we're all going to step too far in making assumptions. But that's what conversation is for. But for conversation to work, all members must be willing to stick around and see the conversation through, without assuming a royal or special position of being exempt from caring due to station. As truthmachine did, when he came around in that same thread to "speak up for" Glenn and "Their" position.

Glenn has written me, so the conversation may yet continue. We'll see.

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 3/07/2007 5:03 PM  

I've been reading these, Donna, I'm sort of overwhelmed just at the moment.

By Blogger Veronica, at 3/07/2007 6:06 PM  

When white people have iffy ideas about racism they have a tendency to seek out at least one POC who will agree with that idea. "My black friend says it's ok."

I immediately flashed on the FDL blackface fiasco, when I-wish-I-could-remember-who explained that all their black friends totally understood what the blackface image meant and weren't offended at all.

Which meant, I suppose, that anyone who *did* claim to be offended by it was obviously lying... for some reason.


As for sunrunner's argument about Nezua's blog design, *Nez* may know of all these alternative options to make his blog more readable, but that doesn't necessarily mean that sunrunner or other readers do - the ramps only help when people know they're there (obviously a bit of an absurd analogy, unless we're talking about people who are wheelchair-bound *and* visually impaired).

In any case, I don't think proving discrimination against the visually impaired was actually what sun was trying to do - it was just a convenient f'rinstance using materials conveniently at hand.

On the other hand, in a sense it's kind of a demonstration of sun's point, because sun feels discriminated against (tongue-in-cheekily, and for illustrative purposes) even though that's not really the case, because sun doesn't have all the pieces of the puzzle, in this case all the nifty technological options and workarounds that Nez knows about and sun doesn't (or didn't think of - I'm fairly techno-savvy and vaguely aware of such options in theory, but they never actually occur to me). Completely different frames of reference.

The recurring theme is that you just can't assume that other people know what's in your head and heart, so there's a real good chance that your words and deeds are not going to look the same way to other people as they do to you. So sometimes you will give offense through carelessness or thoughtlessness (or just being an asshole), and sometimes just by plain old misunderstanding or bad luck.

The interesting part is what happens next; does the offended party stew silently, or do they speak up? And does the offending party respond to the speaking up by humbly inviting dialogue or defensively rejecting it? The character of the speaking up can probably affect this - it's human nature that most people respond to full-frontal attacks with full-frontal attacks of their own, and the conversation often becomes unsalvageable.

By Anonymous Eli, at 3/08/2007 12:41 AM  

Donna, thanks for your response to the situation I described. For what its worth, I think you really nailed it.

I work in the human service arena in a metropolitan area where one of our biggest barriers to dealing with these issues is the Scandanavian "Minnesota nice" way of handling conflict. I often hear POC say they would much prefer the directness of overt racism to the eggshells they feel they must walk on in this community.

One of the ways this seems to play out in my particular profession is that most leaders try to out-do each other in how open and progressive they are. I usually get frusterated with this because you absolutely can't have the hard discussions. That's too dangerous for every one so they shut you down. Everyone just tries to prove that they have "arrived" in their state of consciousness.

What you all have helped me realize is how this makes POC nervous. Because they know that at any moment they could be betrayed, but won't be able to say so because everyone is so "enlightened."

By Blogger NLinStPaul, at 3/08/2007 8:42 AM  

I was once working once in a retail store in a predominantly african american neighborhood (I have had a lot of low wage jobs in my day).

First, I want to point something out to you. You explain that the people you were encountering were African American and have to explain that by saying you worked a low-wage job. This reminds me of one of my friends who said to me, very confidentially, "Don't you think this mall is kind of ghetto?" And I blinked at her, confused, because it was a brand new, shiny mall with lots of stores and people in an affluent suburb of a major city, and so I answered in the negative and said I thought it was a very nice mall. What she MEANT was that there were lots of non-white people around. *commence eye rolling now*

In other words, just because the skin tone tends toward a darker brown than you doesn't mean it's low-income. Hel, most of the employees of my company are darker skinned than I am, and ALL of them make more than I do, often twice as much.

The next day I was hauled into the manager's office (who was black) and was informed that a customer had complained about me, that not only was I rude (and admittedly, my tone was frazzled & irritable) but that I was a racist. I was willing to own the rude part, but not the racist part. Nevertheless I was subjected to an patronizing lecture on how important it is to treat POC customers with dignity etc. It was incredibly humiliating. And I was hurt and pissed.

Yup, you had a sucky day when someone accused you of something you don't think is true, and that hurts. I've got a few of those, too; insult names in high school about my skin color, being kicked off of a lunch table because I was too pale - it sucks.

Note the smallness of the numbers, though. I have ONE or TWO incidents. You probably have ONE or TWO incidents. I'm not sure there's a dark skinned USian who isn't in the double digits of incidents by the time they're twenty, and the triple digits by the time they're elderly.

Why not take the shame and humiliation you felt and instead of blaming others, realize how hard it must be for them to feel shamed and humiliated by something which you consider mildly rude. It's all about perspective. At the very least, asking someone for kudos because you once felt like they often feel is more then MILDLY rude.

You're asking for the benefit of the doubt. Why not try giving it, too, even when you don't get it back?

By Blogger Deoridhe, at 3/08/2007 8:49 AM  

dioridhe:

I have to wonder if your comment about my comment about working in a retail in a predominantly African American neighborhood says more about your assumptions than mine (particularly since you are making statements about me, rather than asking in an exploratory manner). But just in case you don't know this, retail, regardless of the neighborhood is always low wage. I have worked in low wage jobs in which I serve mostly well heeled white people and made less than I made in that store. So no, it was not a poor black neighborhood per se, but basically middle class (health food store, btw, and given the prices in that store, there weren’t a lot of people at my income level shopping there--of any race).

If you read what I wrote, I think that it is clear that I understood the context/experience behind customer's accusation, because I acknowledged that she had dealt with plenty of situations in real life in which she had been treated in a racist matter. And I was able to see how it opened up pain for her.

No, my complaint was directed at my African American manager, who did not witness the exchange and should've known better, since I had been working there for some months at that point (in fact, he had praised my patience with difficult “regulars” in the past) – he heard the woman call me a racist bitch (which she did) and that was all it took.

As I said, I was willing to acknowlege that I had not handled the situation as well as could've/should've (we all have our bad days), even though the woman was a genuine pain in the ass customer (who come in all shapes and sizes and colors and ages and income levels); that is I was willing to take responsibility for the way in which I genuinely fucked up (its the lot of the retail worker to be nice to assholes no matter what) but it was completely humiliating for this man to ascribe motives for my shortness with this customer (I told her to wait her turn with a hard voice and a hard look) which were simply not true (because I am certain I have treated rich pain in the ass white customers just as "badly" at times), and then to be subjected to a frankly abusive lecture on class and race and privilege by a man who had a lot of power over me in that situation. All I was in that exchange was "you white folks."

So just to be clear. It was not the customer's accusation which was humiliating and painful, it was that the manager's.

But you make a few more assumptions which are really off-base. As I mentioned, I have worked a lot of low wage jobs and being treated in a demeaning manner tends to go with the territory, so I have been put down a whole lot more than one or two times. Also, I was bullied relentlessly–both physically and verbally as a kid in my first 5 years of school (I was a shy nerd and my mother dressed me funny, and I had a bad habit of bursting into tears, which always makes those situations worse) in a very small town; and I am not talking about the occasional taunt, so there again you are making assumptions about another human being which are not helpful or appropriate.

Which is the point I was trying to make.

Nezua--if I can't read the signs that point to the back door wheel chair ramp, I guess I am on my own. So be it. I also want to clarify that in no manner did I use that analogy to say that Greenwald is handicapped. You completely missed my point, which is that I have yet to meet a human being who isn't at times thoughtless, clueless or plain old uninterested in the impact their actions have on others (assholery) and that it would be ridiculous for me to accuse you of ageism simply because my aging eyes cannot read the font on your beautiful site without going through all kinds of hoops that I did not know about or think about. Or to take it personally, which I don’t.

To be clear, I am not saying that my “tender feelings” are any more tender than anyone elses. But they are tender and they are mine. And if I can’t relate to my own pain, then there is no chance that I can empathize with those of others. That is, I am saying that the tender feelings of ALL human beings need to be considered, so-called “white sympathizer” or not. And when any human being ascribes motives to another, objectification is set in motion.

As for how choose to consider (or not) the feelings of other people, I would only say that we all have a long way to go in that department.

I was subjected to an enormous amount of abuse as a child, both within my home and without. I do not say this to try to garner sympathy (in fact I am well aware that by revealing this I could open myself up to some more ridicule) but rather to point out that my pain in that regard does not give me the right to turn around and use it as an excuse not to care about other people, just because other people didn’t care about me.

As a white person, I do not expect to be catered to. I know that many/most white people do, unconsciously and/or unconsciously. But I do expect to be treated with respect and courtesy, as a human being, that’s all.

That said, I agree that real communication does hurt, and that kind of hurt can be necessary and unavoidable. But there is a big difference between the pain that emerges from looking within and seeing things about oneself that one does not like (as has happened when POC friends have lovingly and angrily called me out on particular behaviors/assumptions) and the pain which one feels when one is made into an object of derision. The first is growing pains, the 2nd is just abusive.

By Anonymous sunrunner, at 3/08/2007 10:24 AM  

sunrunner, hi.

Nezua--if I can't read the signs that point to the back door wheel chair ramp, I guess I am on my own. So be it.

well, firstly, i pointed that out because it is a false analogy. not to say "too bad youre on your own." but really, my point was also you are not "locked out"!!!! come on people. there is a difference to being excluded from dialogue due to not knowing how to use your computer vs. the ways in which we generally intend when we say certain classes or types of people are "excluded" from "access." after all, does the wheelchair-bound person expect each restaurant manager to come out and teach them how to use their own wheelchair? i mean if we are going to use analogies, they ought to apply logically, is all.

I also want to clarify that in no manner did I use that analogy to say that Greenwald is handicapped.

Well, not on purpose. But all examples and jokes and analogies come to mind for a reason. I won't tresspass on the area of "what you actually intend," so I will not talk of your intentions. But the example, as it stands certainly does place the "WHITEPROGRESSIVE" in this example as the person being discrminated against.

i must disagree that i "completely missed [your] point." i did address your point:

... to speak to the root of your example, if someone accused me of being "ablist" with my site design, I would think about it, as I have, and I would engage them in conversation. As I am. I would not flip out and run away, nor accuse them of oppressing my design choices for bringing it up.

So, that was me addressing your point! And that was me addressing the incident with Glenn, which was what Donna's post was about.

And on your new point:

That said, I agree that real communication does hurt, and that kind of hurt can be necessary and unavoidable. But there is a big difference between the pain that emerges from looking within and seeing things about oneself that one does not like (as has happened when POC friends have lovingly and angrily called me out on particular behaviors/assumptions) and the pain which one feels when one is made into an object of derision.

I'm just not sure how I should sum this up. Are you saying that Brown people suffer unfairly through their lives from being made objects of derision at the hands of the dominant culture? Or is this sympathy to apply to White people making efforts at speaking about their racism? Who is making whom an "object of derision" in Donna's post, or related links? If you are speaking of something specific there, I will look at it and think on that. But as far as what is included in this post?

Bottom line: growth hurts. Those of us who hate losing power in a new dynamic will rail and squirm in many ways to avoid losing that power. Even when we don't see it. That also applies to people like me (male) who have to deal with seeing women as they should be seen. Scary, hurty stuff. TOO BAD for those of us interested in working against a long, painful status quo that harms others. Whether its big pain or little pain in our bellies, it can NOT hurt more than the people we are working to understand and ally ourselves with who have truly suffered.

I don't mean to be antagonistic. I don't know you as a person, and I would hate to be mean or unfair to anyone. I am doing my best to speak on your words and thoughts used in defending those words—not you as a person (whom I don't know!)

But I truly see your line of reasoning as (perhaps unconsciously) trying to put the onus back on PoC to worry over White®s feelings on discussing these issues, just as was attempted in the comment thread to my Speech Rules post. And I feel that is a defensive move to retain privilege.

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 3/08/2007 2:14 PM  

Sunrunner:

As I mentioned, I have worked a lot of low wage jobs and being treated in a demeaning manner tends to go with the territory, so I have been put down a whole lot more than one or two times.

Based on your race or racial issues, specifically? Or based on you working retail/not fitting in/etc...? See, I differentiated between the two because the topic is RACE not school-sucks-ass-for-just-about-everyone.

I find it curious that you make a huge deal about me "missing the point" by commenting on your combining African American with low wage job and then ignore my final point, which is about giving out the benefit of the doubt to others, especially if you wish to receive it, and not holding up one example of your actions being interpreted as racist as a reason why every other person from now to forevermore should not read "the worst of possible motives" into your actions.

Give people the benefit of the doubt; they don't know about your self sacrifice and struggle, so why don't you read the best possible motives into their actions? For example, instead of looking back on your ex-boss's actions and thinking s/he was trying to humiliate you, consider that s/he just wanted to cover all of his/her bases and clarify the position of the company due to company regulations, or something of that sort.

By Blogger Deoridhe, at 3/08/2007 2:31 PM  

I need more time! Shoot, instead of checking here first today, I decided to surf a little and see what I have missed in the last couple of days and I missed my chance to speak to this because I gotta pick up the kids from school soon. Of course, I will be back later tonight, but I want to say stuff now!

In the short time that I do have I want to help sunrunner solve her problem. If you have firefox you don't even need the webdeveloper plug in. Click in this order tools>options>content at the bottom you can choose your default font and size, I suggest a serif font, for some reason having those little hangy thingys makes it easier to read. Also nearby there is a button that says "colors" click on that and keep your text black and your background white, be sure to check the box for "use system colors", and uncheck the box for "allow pages to choose their own colors..." You'll be able to read Nezua's page in only black and white, no background even. There is also ways of doing this with internet explorer, but everyone should have firefox! Also, a quick fix instead of memorizing keyboard shortcuts is clicking on view>text size>increase do it a couple times if the first increase isn't enough.

In internet explorer that would be view>text size>larger (or largest). Also, tools>internet options at the bottom change the colors and fonts by clicking the buttons and making the changes, but then here is the important part, make sure to click the button that says accessibility and click all the check boxes for "ignore colors" "ignore font styles" "ignore font sizes" and your choices will override the web page ones. You can also make your own style sheet that will take precedence over any web site's.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/08/2007 3:16 PM  

*blushes completely*

First off, Cocomment kinda sucks when it comes to commenting on blogger; I had no clue people spoke this much since my last response.

Secondly, petitpoussin just told me I injected lesbian koalas into a discussion of white privilege and debate on race. *wince*

Thirdly, my Blogging Against Sexism day post puts the koala story into more perspective.

So I just thought I'd make those clarifications now...so people don't think I've lost my motherfucking mind...

By Blogger Sylvia, at 3/08/2007 9:19 PM  

Sunrunner, I agree with you that we may be unconcious of causing offense or discomfort for other people in all kinds of situations, racist or not. It would be nice if we could give the benefit of the doubt all the time, but we find that we can't when we come across the same situation over and over again, like the one with Glenn. Mind, I'm not saying he is a terrible person, I am saying he is an American who has been socialized to think these ways regarding people of color. The idea that POC are oversensitive without even considering that white people are instead insensitive is the one at hand. Glenn smoothly jumped to this conclusion, wants the benefit of the doubt and understanding for his position and feelings, but made no attempt to find out where Sylvia was coming from. The black woman gets no benefit of the doubt or understanding for her position or feelings. The same goes for Nezua, he got a pat on the head for having some thought provoking things to say, excuses, and then a speedy exit. The thought provoking thing that Nezua had to say is that Glenn was using passive language to put the blame on "unwritten rules" and it is understood that POC and allies are acting like the PC police causing racial discord, instead of putting the responsibility on the speaker to consider his or her words. The speaker being white people of course.

In each example the concept breaks down to:
1. white people are trying to be nice to you and sometimes failing.
2. POC are being mean and complaining or pointing out white people's failings and making them feel bad.
3. It's up to POC to get over it, stop being so sensitive, don't hurt white people's feelings. Then we can all get along.
4. (This one is sometimes added other times simply understood) White people will stop being nice to you if you don't do number 3 they have the "luxury" or option to deal with it or not.

It is that last one that tells you that you are talking to a racist. They are telling you, "You are not equal, I am in the drivers seat. Be grateful to me for the favor of even talking to you or I walk away."

It is true that time and time again if we don't let white people friendly to us get away with racist frames, words, actions, etc, they just walk away and it does hurt. I know you aren't one of these types. You keep coming back. You are really interested in understanding from all sides and seeing if we can work it through to a good conclusion.

It's all very basic power dynamics. The powerful expect all the consideration and the responsibility is entirely on the powerless to make nice. We're saying that those who are real friends wouldn't pull these power plays on us and would take their share of responsibility for giving us the benefit of the doubt, giving us some consideration for circumstances that make what has happened offensive, thinking about what they are thinking and doing and how it affects us instead of relying on their good intentions, and taking the time to find out how we can deal with each other as equals instead of continuing the power inequality so that they can feel comfortable.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/08/2007 10:52 PM  

thinking about what they are thinking and doing and how it affects us instead of relying on their good intentions

oops, I meant - thinking about what they are SAYING and doing and how it affects us instead of relying on their good intentions.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/08/2007 10:59 PM  

OT.. Donna don't know if you listened to Amy Goodman on Thursday but it was good, thought you might be interested.

http://tinyurl.com/27wyz

If I screwed up on the linky, just go over to my place :The Women Soldiers

By Blogger HopeSpringsATurtle, at 3/09/2007 12:50 AM  

I was thinking about this last night, and I think one of the issues from the non-POC side is that often there is a framing that being tolerant/nice/etc... is being done FOR POC.

My personal framing, however, is that the current social system is unjust, so when I am tolerant of people being suspicious of my motivations it's because I recognize they have the right to be based on the unjustness of the system. What I do isn't for other people, it's for myself and my own sense of justice. No amount of mistreatment by individuals, then, can cause me to rethink my position, because my position isn't dependant on people liking me or people feeling better or making me feel better, it's dependant on me acting in a manner I think is just given the current circumstances.

Anyway, I've probably blathered on enough, but it was a rather startling revelation about framing that I had, and I thought some of you might be interested.

By Blogger Deoridhe, at 3/09/2007 9:11 AM  

Donna wrote: 4. (This one is sometimes added other times simply understood) White people will stop being nice to you if you don't do number 3 they have the "luxury" or option to deal with it or not.

It is that last one that tells you that you are talking to a racist. They are telling you, "You are not equal, I am in the drivers seat. Be grateful to me for the favor of even talking to you or I walk away."

I JUST can't make that one fit for myself, Donna. Even though I know for sure I HAVE "walked away" and more than once, it sure wasn't because the POC wasn't "grateful enough" to me for wanting to get to know them.

For me it was always a case of simply not knowing what the heck else I could DO about it, when the POC walked away from ME, and I didn't understand why at all. You can't dialogue with someones back. no matter how much you want to. So how then, can I learn anything about how it is for them, so I CAN see what it is I am saying that is offensive, (but I may not even know it, because of my own socialization as a white?( Even after spending years looking hard at my own imbedded racism and rooting out as much as I can as I go along.

Being labled a "racist" is a very painful thing to me, ** and I know the degree of pain this causes me can't hold even a the tinyest candle to the pain POC have always endured over race issues. I also not asking for any special "empathy" from POC because of the pain this causes me: I can handle my own pain and am quite aware a lot of life entails feeling pain: growth almost always does!

All I yearn for, is what I am finding here: POC of color who won't turn their back on me or judge me too harshly for not getting this thing perfect yet. Its not the easiest thing for me either, to undo a whole freaking lifetime of imbedded socialization and racism, but I am working on it!

All I yearn for is what I am finding here: POC who won't turn away from my "impefect and unfinished state of being", who won't immediately judge and label me if I screw up, (as I certainly will,) and WILL stay and and be willing to talk with me, yet, and listen to me too, as I struggle too!

This is hard for all of us in different ways and to ifferent degrees, and I just can't see where it serves anyone very well to go TOO far into the "who hurts worse" lane, because that just seems to so often turn into an off ramp to any further discussions..

I am so glad to find this place!

By Blogger scribe, at 3/09/2007 10:53 AM  

sunrunner, boy can I relate to the visual issues. I have firefox and use the ctrl + or - constantly - make stuff bigger on one site, then go to the next one and everything is HUGE, so I make it smaller again. It's pretty much second nature now, as it's an easy keyboard shortcut. Sites with black or very dark backgrounds, tho, I just avoid completely, until there are keyboard shortcuts for that too (unless there already are and I just don't know about them!).

Regarding the incident with your manager... of course, I don't know how long ago this was, and don't know any more of the situation than what you've presented here, but one thing does occur to me. Well, a couple of things.

One, you say that the store was in a predominately Black neighborhood and that you were a low wage retail worker. Which means that, even when you moved on (and retail workers tend to do that, as their prospects increase), the manager would likely still be there at that store for a time to come, and so found it made more business sense to keep the customer happy and not risk getting a reputation (deserved or not) as someone who puts his (white) employees above his customers. Or something like that... not very admirable, but I can see it happening.

The second thing I can see happening even more tho. This "benefit of the doubt" thing... we (non whites) don't get that much, as you no doubt know. When complaining about racism or what we perceive as racist actions or speech, or discrimination, historically (if anyone even listened at all), it was more likely to be dismissed as "well, you probably misunderstood them". Or, "Oh, I know that person, they are very nice, and they wouldn't do anything like that" or "I'm sure they didn't mean it like it sounded, they probably meant this" or, of course, "You are being too sensitive, people can't do *anything* without you people saying something!". And so on, including "pat, pat I'll take care of it" to the face, then "wink, nod, eye roll" in the background to the person being complained about.

So, it's not at all unlikely that this manager, in light of this history of dismissal of concerns, decided that it was better to err on the side of listening and believing the complaint, or perception and acting accordingly - without a wink and a nod, making it painful for you, for sure... especially as you know what happened and your intentions and so on.

Then again, maybe he was just a self-righteous jerk... difficult to tell at this distance.

By Blogger Nanette, at 3/09/2007 12:29 PM  

scribe, I'm describing a common dynamic, but it isn't universal. Because it is common to us we may jump to the conclusion that it is happening again though, and I want you and anyone else interested in hearing our side of it to be aware of it. Sometimes there isn't anything you can do but walk away, and in your case your friend walked away from you because the situation was heated or too hurtful to talk about immediately.

If after one of these incidents the white person came back later and said to me either literally or figuratively, "I'm interested in you. It's important to me to understand what went wrong. I hope you feel the same way." How could I turn that down? That's what you did. You did it right. If you had done the number 4, you wouldn't have bothered going back to talk to her. You would have thought she was making a mountain out of a molehill and said it isn't worth your time to find out why she got upset.

Short version. It's so common for us to be dismissed we expect it and might automatically think that is what you are doing. We like when you pleasantly surprise us and come back to work things out.

One other thing, some people have been so damaged by racism that they are unwilling to make any effort anymore. There isn't very much you can do about this because they are thinking along the lines of, I am going to hurt you first before you get the chance to hurt me. If you keep going back, they will keep hurting you. Actually this could be anyone abused for a long period of time, not just through racism. It's hard to trust when all you have ever known is that certain people hurt you.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/09/2007 1:25 PM  

Eli, I think you are talking about giving everyone the benefit of the doubt and aren't understanding that racism happens so often for us that we can't. If 9 times out of ten people are doing or saying something because of stereotypes or prejudices they have learned, you pretty much know what is going to happen and why, and it's sad that the 10th person is different and should have been given the benefit of the doubt.

It's because you are coming from the opposite direction. Probably 9 times out of 10 the POC you meet treats you ok, so when you come across the one who has a problem you are willing to give him or her the benefit of the doubt.

By the way, I'm not saying that 9 out of 10 white people treat me badly. I am only saying that this is true within a certain frameworks or situations. Like the example scribe gave. She really didn't see her black friend sitting there, but from the POC point of view, if she was sitting there for 10 minutes with her hand raised and watched as scribe picked one white person after another as soon as possible, she is going to come to the conclusion that she is probably being ignored because she is black instead of giving the benefit of the doubt. And nine times out of ten she would be right.

You're asking alot for us to believe that most people are non-racist when we know better. That's what telling us to give the white person the benefit of the doubt is asking us to do.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/09/2007 2:26 PM  

Sylvia, it would have been more fun if you had somehow found a way to tie in lesbian koalas to this discussion. LOL

I understood how that happened since I've done it before myself. If you have several windows open and are multi-tasking sometimes you can confuse one thing you are doing with another.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/09/2007 2:40 PM  

Donna, the outcome of my situation looks pretty good at this point. I didn't attempt to seek her out after that one interaction, but have run into her casually a few time since, and our short interactions seem just as friendly as they were before that incident: I see no sign of the "frostiness" I saw right after that. So it looks like this time I won't have to lose someone I like because of all of this, and that feels really good to me. I sure did appreciate your feedback when you stopped in at ECFS.

Your last paragraph touched me in that this is exactly what has happened to me at other periods in my life when I was in some situations where I was very much the minority race. Not too many white people get the chance to experience for themselves what it feels like: I consider myself fortunate to have had three periods in my life as the minority race, so I really "felt" some of what you are all saying.Talk about eye opening experiences! But in two of those three situations, I ended up feeling more accepted that I ever have in my own culture. The third was just plain awful! (Two out of three isn't bad, however!)

By Anonymous scribe, at 3/09/2007 2:50 PM  

deoridhe, It's sort of the way I think of affirmative action. Things have been so unfair and negative stereotypes are so intractable that it makes affirmative action necessary. White people can easily see how AA is "unfair" because giving someone an advantage because of race, ethnicity etc is as unfair as excluding them for the same reasons. But these people don't understand racism or white privilege which means that POC are at a disadvantage if nothing is done because the automatic assumption is that the white person is smarter and more competent. Affirmative action levels the playing field by giving the POC a chance to prove he or she is just as smart and competent.

Your post made me think that you are practicing a form of affirmative action in your head. You understand that POC are dealing with an unjust system and are willing to see that it plays a part in their interactions with you. It's your personal way of leveling the playing field.

Hope Springs a Turtle, I just finished reading that article. So many parts just flabbergasting! It's unimaginable that in this day and age women soldiers have more to fear from their fellow soldiers than from Iraqi insurgents. Dying from dehydration because you are too afraid to drink because you might be raped going to the bathroom??? It's amazing that Iraq is "Indian territory" or at least amazing that they would be honest enough to admit it. Native people will always be the enemy at least as long as we fight back and continue to survive.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/09/2007 3:32 PM  

I just want to say thanks to everyone. It's one of those times when I feel like we're making progress and those times just don't happen often enough. Even the disagreements feel like people are trying to understand each other.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/09/2007 3:59 PM  

Donna, it wasn't really that I was asking for anyone to give me specificallythe benefit of the doubt - just pointing out that we're *all* operating within our own frames of reference where things appear very very different from inside our heads than they appear from the outside (kinda like how your voice always sounds a lot worse when you hear it on tape...).

I know that I have never been "The Other" in my entire life, and you have probably never been anything but - that's a pretty huge difference in experience. Disconnects and misunderstandings and offenses are unfortunately all but inevitable (not trying to say that racism is something that just happens without being anyone's fault; just saying that there are a lot of things I'm oblivious about, but don't want to be). But conversations like this help everyone understand each other's reference frames better - and their own.

Obviously it's more important that I understand yours (as well as more challenging, because I'm not culturally marinating in it), because I'm not the one on the short end of the stick, so I'm really not looking to start a pity-the-poor-misunderstood-white-guy party.

A lot of the time I end up cringing at the realization that I'm probably not as enlightened as I thought (which isn't really all that much), but I'm working on it.

(NOTE: Anything stupid and/or incoherent in this comment is *entirely* due to my typing it on a cellphone, and not at all due to me being a tremendous asshat.)

By Anonymous Eli, at 3/09/2007 5:13 PM  

"This is your blog, and it's a focus for you -- you will stay, as will your regulars, but neither Greenwald nor I are regulars. And, as I said, dwelling on this subject is a necessity for you, while it's a luxury for us. Hopefully it will some day no longer be a necessity for anyone."
OK, WTF? So the message is "well, I know this is important to you, but I don't really care. I don't have to worry about it, so I'm not going to. Perhaps some day this problem will magically solve itself, but in the meantime why should I bother to think about it"? Charming.
The privilege in that comment is so thick I'm amazed he was able to wade his way through to the "post" button.

Also, on sunrunner's point...listen, I'm a white girl, and even I'm not buying that. Here's the thing. If a POC occasionaly gets angry with me because they have interpreted my behaviour as racist even when I did not intend it that way this is not a great cosmic injustice. Rather than getting all pissy about it and asking them to be more sensitive to my feelings, there are plenty of other ways I could react. I could stop for a moment and ask myself if my behavior actually was racist, even if it was on an unconscious level. I could actually attempt to put down the damn privilege for long enough to think about the other person's feelings and why they might be making that assumption. I could own the fact that maybe in those situations the onus is on me to modify my behavior to avoid giving offense, rather than expecting the rest of the world to accomodate me. In other words, I could look at things from a broader perspective and realise that A. not everything is about me, B. other people have feelings too, C. they are under no obligation to cater more to my feelings than I do to theirs, D. getting yelled at is not the end of the world and E. in the great scheme of things, one white girl/guy getting yelled at isn't even close to what most POC deal with every single day of their lives.

By Blogger Cassandra Says, at 3/10/2007 1:23 AM  

Also, there's something getting left out about the retail manager incident. Companies can be sued for discrimination. Most companies would rather avoid this. As the manager, if an employee was been accused of racism it was his job to give that employee a lecture. I have been in charge of handling HR in a low-wage environment with lots of employees when accusations were made, and such accusations cannot be brushed off. If the accusation is made the conversation has to happen. This is standard corporate ass-covering. Some managers handle these conversations better than others, but if you think that that manager had the option of giving you the benefit of the doubt in terms of assuming that the accusation was untrue you are mistaken. Most companies have policies that make it quite clear that some kind of conversation has to happen.

By Blogger Cassandra Says, at 3/10/2007 1:31 AM  

I really do hear the meta-point that is being made here, in fact, I did not have to read this post or the comments here in order to get it. I guess what I am trying to do is move away from an either/or paradigm into a both/and. That is, where it is possible. I am not a relativist. And one thing that does strike me is that no where in any of this, is the important difference that context can make.

The situation with the customer and the manager happened about 10 years ago. (Note to Cassandra: it was a black-owned store, in a largely African-American neighborhood, w/about a 2/3s black customer base–not much likelihood that a customer could get much traction in a potential race-discrimination lawsuit because a white worker used a hard tone of voice with a black customer) He was just out of college (I have no college degree) and in fact he did move on and is now in the upper echelons (last I knew) of management at a Whole Foods store, making a whole lot more $$ than I ever have. He was also a good 15 years younger than me, so I can give him a break on that score. I moved on to a slightly better low wage job.

As I think back on the conversation, I remember that when he hauled me into the office and told me that the woman had called me a racist bitch, my immediate reaction was not defensiveness–rather, it was sadness & regret. I knew in my bones that I had not done anything all that awful, so I had the space to feel where she was coming from, and at the time I did understand how my behavior could evoke her response. It changed when the manager launched into his diatribe in which it seemed like every other sentence began with “you white people.” After sitting through it, with my back up against the wall, I did consider going to his boss (the owner, a black man who was quite a bit older and more moderate in temperament) to complain, but I decided not to. And one of the reasons I didn’t was because I was afraid that it would “prove” his point that I was racist. (ie the exercising white privilege landmine) A couple months later, I had an employee review and was not given the raise that I really needed & certainly deserved mainly because there was a thing in my file that I was “rude” (not racist) to customers (remember, before this incident, he had praised me for my patience with difficult ones & I was never at any other time reprimanded for being rude to a customer. Not the mention the number of times I saw fellow black employees being rude to all kinds of customers. All the more ridiculous since this is a city in which people are not known for courtesy.) Perhaps he was making sure that he was looking out for the store’s reputation in the community, but that does not change the fact that basically, the guy was a young asshole. I suspect that if he had been in charge of hiring (his boss the owner hired me), he wouldn’t have.

I should say, that before anyone jumps down my throat that this ok because it happens in a reverse sort of way to POC all the time, my answer to that is that I am well aware that it does, and my attitude is that it should NEVER happen to anyone. Period.

I want do want to say that I hear you loud and clear on the indisputable fact that POC don’t get much in the way of the benefit of the doubt when you try to push back against implicit or tacit white racism. I really get it: Nice does not necessarily equal Not Racist. I have seen it plenty with my own eyes (any “sensitive” person can & should, if they are really willing to look). And not to be defensive or anything, but I do make it a point, whenever I am witness to this kind of thing to either speak up or make some other gesture of solidarity. I don’t see this as “niceness” on my part, but rather essential to my own sense of humanity–that is, whenever the soul of another human being is crushed in some way, then something of my own is lost. Think what you will about that, but that really is my frame of reference. Fallible though it is.

And it is this human fallibility that I was really trying to address with all this. If we can’t look at it, and accept it to some degree within our each individual selves, then we will never be able to work with and through it in another human being. And the context of the relationship/conversation determines whether or not this can happen. I was in a situation with my manager in which the power dynamic was not equal in that particular context. On a meta-level, I can see and sympathize with his rage at “you white people.” But on a human level, if I am going to take the stance that “othering” and abusive behavior is wrong, then I have to push back, even when it is perpetrated by a person who has themselves been “othered.” As I work with myself, my goal is to try to learn how to do this without doing it without resorting to a counter-attack of othering.

I think Donna expressed what I am trying to say pretty well in the early days of her blog:

The one thing I have to say to POC is to beware of assuming that a white person who questions you isn't serious about understanding your stance. Because we are dismissed, demeaned, ignored, maligned, lied to, and lied about on a fairly regular basis it is easy to jump to that conclusion; but so much better to give clear and honest answers with as little sarcasm and animosity until you are certain what the other person's motives are. First because we need as many allies as we can find, if someone has an open mind give him/her a chance. Second because it will appear to be like the person in my example who snarls at his friend for no apparent reason, without people knowing about the broken leg. In other words, if you are dealing with a racist idiot, lead him into the discussion to reveal that before you kick his ass; or you will look like you are unreasonable, hysterical, and lashing out unprovoked to others who were willing to listen and learn...we need as many allies as we can find.

We all need allies. And we need to learn to be better allies, each and every one of us. If POC don’t want allies, then I am happy to respect that. But if so, then we really do have to learn to engage each other as equals, which means that we have to learn to not only listen to each other but not to speak for each other. Because I can think of no more complete way of “othering” another human being than to silence them--which is what I think Nanette is talking about when she describes what happens to POC when they attempt to complain about racist speech or discrimination. Once again, I want to emphasize that I am not drawing an equivelency here, rather that at some point, we all, have to move beyond models of silencing and othering, for the sake of all of us.

[And btw Cassandra. I went over and read around a bit at your blog, and after reading this, well, jeese louise, I just gotta ask haven’t you ever heard of the deep north of England? Or is it that I am not giving you the benefit of the doubt and misconstruing your words?]

By Anonymous sunrunner, at 3/10/2007 9:45 AM  

Donna, you rock.

I have a plea for us white folk. How about the next time someone accuses us of being a racist, we examine our behavior, not our person?

Something we have said or done has triggered a response. What was that behavior? How could we behave differently?

I don't consider myself a racist. I do know that I'm not perfect. Sometimes I'm going to do something ignorant and rude. Of course I am. I've been taught racism all my life.

I've made huge racially-insensitive mistakes in the past without ever intending to do so. I was lucky that I had people willing to point it out so I wouldn't repeat the behavior.

I want to give an example that is off the wall, but gets to my attitude about being called racist.

When I was in high school I saw a shirt that I thought was really cute. I bought it and wore it to school. People laughed and pointed. I felt proud. It wasn't until I went to work that night that somebody explained the shirt to me. I thought it was about loving nature. It had a beautiful picture of a wild animal and one phrase: "Be kind to nature: kiss a beaver."

I was mortified to discover "beaver" meant "vagina". Embarrassed, too. But I am grateful to the person who helped me overcome my ignorance.

By Anonymous Ravenmn, at 3/10/2007 10:14 AM  

sunrunner, first I want to clarify... I don't think it's so much a silencing as it is a ... dismissal, I guess.

Me: "This is racist (sexist, homophobic, whatever, this thing said or written by this person."

Reply: "Oh no, I know that person personally! They are a good friend, and I just know they would never think/say/do this thing.

Ergo, you are mistaken."

It's not a silencing, exactly it's a... something else.

Other than that, I am sort of just like the name of this series of threads... bewildered!

It seems to me (and I could be very wrong here) that you are possibly somewhat viewing Nezua's original post (responding to Greenwald's post) - and the resulting comments - as an attack of sorts on him. Maybe nitpicking at an ally?

I say this - and again, I could be wrong - because that is the only way I can fit your story of the manager and that incident, (which seems completely unrelated, to me), as well as some of your other commentary, in with Donna's post and the thread.

If this is the case, first I want to say that when I read Nezua's post (when he first wrote it) my initial reaction was what a HUGE favor he was doing Greenwald... not only by taking him at his word, that he prefers having things out in the open, but also taking the time to do an in depth analysis of some of the speech codes that Greenwald probably didn't even realize he was using.

I say "probably" because, had I read the piece at his (Glenn's) site, I would have noticed at least some of the code wording and just thought - okay, he's writing about race for a White audience, thus the deliberate use (after all, the guy makes his living as a communicator) of the little "pat, pat, pat, you're okay, we're okay, it's okay!" stuff. And then I would have moved on to something else, likely not commenting in the thread or anything.

What I would not have done is sat down, opened up my writing program and then, assuming innocent intent and giving the benefit of the doubt, spent time writing about not only what was said, but what was heard. And why it was heard and breaking down this and that thing. And continuing on with the analysis in the comments.

Again, a huge favor, in my opinion.

That Greenwald initially commented but then dropped out at the first hint of not perfectly phrased and sufficiently respectful (in his view, I guess) push back on his intent or motives does not reflect well on him, or his initial motives. (One can't blame him for that other commenter tho, of course, who was dripping privilege all over the place.)

Anyway, I believe that might be one reason why so many are having trouble understanding your point with the story of the manager... not that it's not being understood, exactly, it's more that um... in the context of the conversation, it can be viewed as more of a defense of... something. Maybe that "good intent" should matter more, and thus should been more in evidence in the Greenwald conversation or something. Dunno!

I have lost my train of thought, as well as my point, but anyway.

By Blogger Nanette, at 3/10/2007 8:50 PM  

ravenm "I have a plea for us white folk. How about the next time someone accuses us of being a racist, we examine our behavior, not our person?

Something we have said or done has triggered a response. What was that behavior? How could we behave differently?"

Thanks for saying what I was trying to say far more clearly and succinctly.

And Donna does indeed rock.

By Blogger Cassandra Says, at 3/11/2007 12:20 AM  

I'm really uncomfortable with this whole benefit of the doubt thing. In the Hmong post I found an example where Hmong people were talking about what happens when there is a dispute out in the field. In every example the white person is given the benefit of the doubt and the Hmong person is assumed to be lying. Now maybe there are a bunch of Hmong hunters out there who the DNR sided with, but I sincerely doubt it. I'd be willing to bet that it has NEVER happened.

When I heard the Chai Vang story, the Hmong hunter who shot six white hunters, the first thing I thought of was that Japanese exchange student who was killed going to a Halloween party. It was down south, Florida, I think. He was with a white friend from school and they got the house address wrong for a Halloween party. The homeowner saw the Japanese kid approaching and thought he looked threatening, shot and killed him. The jury gave him the benefit of the doubt because we all know those Japanese people look dangerous. Yes, he is free to murder anyone approaching his property who he decides looks scary, and POC are scary people.

Meanwhile Chai Vang said that the white hunting group used racial slurs and shot at him first. I believe him. I don't think they were aiming for him, probably shot over his head or into the ground. I think these rednecks (yes, we have them up north too) thought they would have a little fun at the expense of a POC and it went tragically wrong. The Hmong man didn't get the "joke" and felt threatened instead and fought back. But no benefit of the doubt was given to the Hmong man at all. Most white people didn't believe a word he said. They thought the whites were a pleasant bunch who politely tried to explain property and land rights to a dangerous and ignorant POC. Because we all know that POC get murderously violent at the drop of a hat.

Nezua already gave Glenn the benefit of the doubt. His post was just that. He thought that maybe Glenn actually did want a discussion on race and gave it to him. He probably knew, like the rest of us, that Glenn was really just making white people feel better about their racism, it's not their fault that they can't negotiate these hidden tripwires. Now, Nezua, and the rest of us POC, are supposed to give Glenn more benefit of the doubt. When does this end?

So that quote where I said lead the racist into a discussion to prove that they are indeed racist. It's happened already. Glenn took that opportunity to ignore and dismiss most of what Nezua wrote, and attack Sylvia for making an observation about a common dynamic.

White people keep wanting more benefit of the doubt. Even when a white person uses racial slurs like Rosie O'Donnell with the "ching chong" or Richards alluding to lynching and using "nigger" that isn't proof enough for many of them. Because they are "nice" people, and made a mistake, or are under pressure, or excuse after excuse after excuse... Even when they kill one of us, well gotta give the white guy the benefit of the doubt, POC are scary!

When does the benefit of the doubt end? When do we get some of that benefit of the doubt?

By Blogger Donna, at 3/11/2007 12:25 PM  

Sunrunner, I want to emphasize that my post wasn't directed at you. After I posted it, I worried about that and now I just want to say clearly that I see your frustration and applaud your willingness to learn.

Belle has talked about this before: how most times when we white women get called out on our racism, we think "but I'm not wearing a white hood and burning crosses!"

We tend to automatically assume we are being called the worst possible form of human life. As allies, we need to get beyond that first reaction. Greenwald isn't willing to do that. Truthmachine isn't even close.

It is going to happen. We ARE going to immediately think, "But, I'm not....." Let's find a good method for dealing with that reaction.

BTW, Plain(s) Feminist is speaking to the "what can white people do" topic on her blog. The thread is here.

wv: bldvbnut

What kind of nut is blogger calling me?

By Blogger Ravenmn, at 3/11/2007 2:46 PM  

Well, the other thing is--I took sunrunner to be saying, possibly--

well, let -me- put it this way. For sure I think GG is employing a double standard there. And yes, it's good to call him on it (Kai, Sylvia). I think that that is the sort of thing that does happen quite a bit.

But in general, this made me raise my eyebrows a bit:

Again, this plea for the tender feelings of the White Sympathizer. But you know, I have to say that I think it's too bad if it hurts White people to have stuff assumed about them from time to time! Maybe it could lead to empathy. Knowing how that feels on the Regular.

...in response to sunrunner.

Mostly, and not wanting to put SR or anyone on the spot, but I do want to highlight this:

lso, I was bullied relentlessly–both physically and verbally as a kid in my first 5 years of school (I was a shy nerd and my mother dressed me funny, and I had a bad habit of bursting into tears, which always makes those situations worse) in a very small town; and I am not talking about the occasional taunt

...was subjected to an enormous amount of abuse as a child, both within my home and without. I do not say this to try to garner sympathy (in fact I am well aware that by revealing this I could open myself up to some more ridicule) but rather to point out that my pain in that regard does not give me the right to turn around and use it as an excuse not to care about other people, just because other people didn’t care about me.

As a white person, I do not expect to be catered to. I know that many/most white people do, unconsciously and/or unconsciously. But I do expect to be treated with respect and courtesy, as a human being, that’s all.


There's something there that I think actually is present a -lot-, even if most people don't articulate it as such. Namely: there's a lot of pain out there that does not break down into any particular sociopolitical category. And sometimes, I do think, in this sort of discussion, what happens is that--well, the personal -is- political, absotively. And we're talking about large structural things as well as individual experiences.

At the same time, we -are- talking about very raw squishy emotional shit, here.

And...

What was I going to say.

Well, per the "benefit of the doubt" thing;

I suppose ideally would be if we could each of us go into each encounter with each individual (for the first time at least) as though it were a blank slate. All parties innocent until proven guilty.

I think GG has used up his slack wrt this particular issue at least, here.

But, I think what sunrunner is saying is something else, which maybe got lost among the other stuff about retail experiences and handicapped analogies and so on;

it's something I've been struggling to articulate for a while.

Namely:

Sometimes people, just in general, okay, don't act defensively to someone's anger just because they're defending their privilege.

They might -also- be highly sensitized to displays of anger. Particularly when it's unloaded in their direction.

Structural oppression can do that to you, sure. So can familial or intimate abuse.

I'm not giving any prescriptions here, just making an observation.

In general, I do think that people ought to be able to take what they dish out. That goes for the Greenwaldesque calls for "getting ugly (race-related, or whatever else sociopolitical) stuff out on the table," and it also goes for interpersonal behavior. Don't like the heat, etc. etc.

But I do have a bit more sympathy for people who are, for whatever reason, more gentle-dispositioned, and...

well, anyway, I agree with this:

whenever the soul of another human being is crushed in some way, then something of my own is lost. Think what you will about that, but that really is my frame of reference. Fallible though it is.

And it is this human fallibility that I was really trying to address with all this. If we can’t look at it, and accept it to some degree within our each individual selves, then we will never be able to work with and through it in another human being. And the context of the relationship/conversation determines whether or not this can happen.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 4:03 PM  

iow, i don't actually think that the problem with a lot of would-be allies is that -they aren't sensitive enough.- Which doesn't mean walking on eggshells around -them- is the way to go (which is pretty much what GG seems to be asking for, actually, whilst disguising it as 'I'm sick of walking on eggshells around POC');

but, just speaking for myself here, any sentiment that boils down to,

"Well, GOOD! I'm GLAD you're hurting! Now you know how it feels to be me!"

...sort of makes me cringe, for my own rather personal reasons.

I know where that comes from; I indulge in it myself. I just don't know how -helpful- it is. At minimum, I wouldn't codify that sort of sentiment into "how to win friends and influence people," because, honestly? That's not what that's about. That's about venting one's own shit, and sometimes it's necessary. But, as a political strategy? imho: most of the time, it doesn't work.

Particularly when you -are- talking about people who were already rather sensitive. (There are some occasions where I do think that the Clue Sledgehammer was maybe the best choice after all, usually when one is actually "speaking truth to power"). And no, I am not just or even particularly talking about white/POC here.

To wit:

While no one here was making any argument this level of draconian or plain ol' boneheaded, i am reminded of the arguments happening over at IBTP not so long ago:

basically, some of the commenters were arguing about whether and to what degree rape of men actually happened. Whether it was worth -calling- it rape (yeah, it got really, really stupid), whether men are naturally equipped to deal with the trauma of it better, whether it happens statistically often enough for women to concern themselves with;

and, indeed, at one point, someone did say, words to the effect of (really quite close to this):

"Well, GOOD. Maybe if more men get raped, they'd finally have some empathy for women, and it (rape of women) would stop."

Which, count the ways in which this is jaw-droppingly wrong. Yeah, rape happens to men. No, it isn't any "easier" for them. But most of all--dear god, what on earth leads people to the idea that hurting someone the way you've been hurt will cause them to, FINALLY, empathize with you? (Even putting aside the gross generalization going on there).

Because, well, that there is a last-ditch resort attempt to find empathy, and frankly, all too often, -it doesn't work.-

It's not pain -alone- that gets people to feel empathy. And as a matter of fact, it's the people who are most damaged who cause the most damage.

Just in general, here's what I think:

It's okay to be selfish. Really. If you (general you) are in a place where you just don't give a damn about -those people- right now, then that's how you feel. So it goes. Arguing with that won't work.

But what -also- doesn't work is the idea that in fact this, "You know what? FUCK YOU" is a really good stopping place. Or constitutes activism in itself (which has been my problem with IBTP and some other places).

Sometimes, people get stuck because, frankly, it feels kind of good, in the stuck place. Sweet sweet vindication; at long last. Give that up? Go back to pleasing everyone -but- myself? HELL NO! FUCK YOU!

...shrug. and on it goes.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 4:20 PM  

that got confusing.

just speaking for myself here:

I own my own anger and schadenfreude, okay. If I rejoice or simply don't give much of a shit about the suffering of someone who's caused me damage, even attack them myself, I'm not gonna beat myself up about it. But, neither am I going to let myself believe that that suffering is -for that other person's own good.- It's about ME.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 4:22 PM  

D. getting yelled at is not the end of the world

Well, maybe more so for some people than others, you know.

I mean, one could say about -any- one small incident: it's not the end of the world.

The question is, what's it triggering?

The reason we're all trying to become more aware of why a particular racial slur (for example) is a problem isn't because that word or phrase divorced from context is an event equivalent, to, I don't know, being denied job after job after job, being beaten up, and so on. It's because you -can't- separate it from context, that it represents to the person on the other end all those other thousand and one small and large cuts that preceded it. It's...there's a literary term for it, I forget what. Synecdoche? some goddam thing.

but the point is: maybe for some people, getting yelled at -does- feel like the end of the world. And maybe there isn't an easily identifiable shorthand for why that would be so, any of the discrete categories we use to shape our understanding as progressives or what you will;

but that doesn't mean there isn't a context or history there either.

And no, no one can be expected to automatically know everyone's story, to put everyone else before themselves; that way madness lies;

but if someone is -telling- you, look, this is why yelling -does feel really really awful *to me,* no, NOT because I'm white, because of this and that and the other thing;"

well, it is possible to acknowledge that that person's feelings are valid, at least, without simultaneously undercutting the hurt of the -other- people in the room.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 5:37 PM  

all that said, i would like to now go on record saying that in addition to all that, i think truthmachine, without knowing anything further about him, is a putz.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 5:39 PM  

ravenmn, I didn't think your comments were directed at sunrunner. I also like to think she has thick skin and can get to the heart of the comments. But I don't like having anyone here feel like they are being "piled on" and hope that sunrunner knows that. I wonder if the point she was trying to make got misunderstood. I think it was something like, if you know someone pretty well, and they have proven that for the most part they aren't an asshat, giving them the benefit of the doubt might be a good idea. Like her boss, he knew her, knew she didn't give black customers a hard time, knew that almost all the time she was good with difficult customers. That was one of those times when she should have gotten the benefit of the doubt. Maybe not so much if she was new and the manager didn't know what kind of person she was, but he did. Even if company policy stated that when there is a complaint of racism that he has to read the employee the riot act and make a note in their file, he could have explained that to her beforehand.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/11/2007 5:43 PM  

...and that I agree with nanette here:

f this is the case, first I want to say that when I read Nezua's post (when he first wrote it) my initial reaction was what a HUGE favor he was doing Greenwald... not only by taking him at his word, that he prefers having things out in the open, but also taking the time to do an in depth analysis of some of the speech codes that Greenwald probably didn't even realize he was using.

and I deliberately didn't talk about the retail incident because I thought other people had covered everything else I might've said.

well, and class, in that anecdote, is clearly intersecting with racial tensions, but not synonymous with it.

there's also possibly gender there, too.

and it's also perfectly possible that yep, that manager was a bigoted putz taking advantage of what power he had. ditto the co-worker.

none of it really says much about Greenwald's behavior, though, i gotta say.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 5:48 PM  

Geez Belle, I think I just said the same thing you said a couple posts before me! I should have read all the posts before commenting and simply said, "What Belle said!" LOL

wv: muljoi makes me think of killjoy! I'm still trying to think what kind of nut blogger thinks ravenmn is. Bold Vibe Nut! It's bold something nut anyway.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/11/2007 5:52 PM  

I don't think you are addressing that to me, although I did say that instead of POC being oversensitive, maybe some whites are insensitive. I figure since I wasn't actually telling them to feel my pain that you probably didn't mean that.

What you are talking about sounds like the thing I woke up thinking about. I was thinking that I am so happy that I have met so many POC online because they know what I know and feel what I feel. (I live in a mostly white middle class neighborhood.) Then I felt guilty for thinking it, because part of it is knowing and feeling pain and I don't wish that on anyone.

Um, that post at plain(s)feminist. I got mad. I hope I didn't rant and rave so bad that it shuts conversation down. Sheesh, Sylvia, do I sound like you over at Nezua's? I hate this. We can't get mad. We can't get mad. We can't get mad. Must have patience at all times. Must have patience at all times. Must have patience at all times.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/11/2007 6:00 PM  

Ooops, that last comment was to you Belle. You were talking about sensitivity and could have meant me, but I don't think so. Just asking for a little clarification.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/11/2007 6:02 PM  

Donna: no, no, definitely wasn't addressing you. Wasn't addressing any one person in particular actually, just took a few bits and bobs from the thread and some stuff that'd been brewing and ran with it.

and yes, definitely -some- people are insensitive;

or, well, put it this way. Most people are sensitive; the question is, are they capable of being sensitive to anyone but their own sweet selves.

I mean, GG was being plenty -sensitive- there;

I just dunno how -empathic- he was being.

Whereas you, for instance, Donna, are being both, here.

There's nothing wrong with "sensitive." There -is- something wrong with "Your suffering is not that big a deal; now, back to ME..."

it does make it worse when My tragedy is, in fact, by most peoples' standards as far as they can tell, a hangnail; but ultimately I actually don't think it matters much. I've seen a lot of people who have (that I am aware of) genuine, legitimate, terrible, chronic pain, personal and political. Some are mensches; some are flawed but struggling to be decent human beings; and some are just plain hateful.

And you know what? With that last bunch, it doesn't -matter- to me if it's -not their fault- that they're the way they are; can't or won't reciprocate, the point is: they don't. And therefore: they are energy sinks. Vampires.

This may or may not be a separate phenomenon from people who appear to be rampant smug entitlement/privilege monsters. I -think- sometimes it is, but sometimes, maybe not as much as you'd think. Humans: complicated.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 6:13 PM  

We can't get mad. We can't get mad. We can't get mad. Must have patience at all times. Must have patience at all times. Must have patience at all times

Well, you know--as far as -I'm- concerned: get mad! hell yes. Sometimes it's necessary.

I'm just curious, now: who else feels this way, and where do you think it comes from? Do you always feel this way, or just when it comes to this sort of "sensitive" discussion?

Anger, or rather peoples' relationship to it, is complicated, I think, and so is power. Which was maybe also sunrunner's point.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 6:15 PM  

uh, "empathetic," that is. not empathic. i keep getting those mixed up...

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 6:18 PM  

belledame222, i hear what you are saying. people who say "too bad you're hurting" turn you off big time. i understand. but i don't want you to to take it too far without remembering the context.

it is the attitude in general i mean to address, not the person. as you can see, i turn that around on myself, too. it's not just like it's me me me!

your thread goes a few places and i'd like to think you're not implying i am one of these creatures, these soulless "energy sinks" as you list at the end of it. i mean to speak to the point in general of "hey, i'm trying to be a good ally. think of my feelings." as you can see from my link above (and to use an example that may make my point clearer) i do not think women should take it easy on my feelings while i work out shedding thinking that goes with male privilege. i think that my male privilege has already privileged me. it would be nice, but...that's not the point. so why am i asking you to consider me further when we bump up against my progress? this is what i was reacting to. because i hear it over and over and over again. "but it's tough on my feelings." yes, i hear you. it's hard. but perhaps that is not the first pain to consider in that particular effort. just maybe.

i hope it is clear that it is an attitude i have about attitudes of the privileged; not an attitude of My Pain Is the Only Pain.

thanks.

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 3/11/2007 10:03 PM  

nezua: oh, christ, no, I didn't mean you or anyone else here per "energy sink." forgive. i went a-tangenting. and yes, I'm aware of the context.

I guess what I'm trying to say is--well *one* of the things I'm trying to say is--there's feeling bad as an ally, which is indeed the context of this discussion, this thread;

and then there's also other stuff sometimes.

anyway sr's talking about a past context of bullying and abuse was what started me off, because those are subjects that interest me in general.

i don't, to be clear, again, think anyone here is being bullying or abusive. or an energy sink. if i did, i'd say something directly.

...I suppose:

it's one thing to say, butbutbut what about the poor white people/men/name your would-be ally, they/we are trying -so hard.-

it's another, i think? to try to talk about the other tender spots we might have, especially when they/we name and claim them, some of which can be chalked up to the luminous "aha!" of, this is what it is like to be a person of ___ experience;

and some which maybe don't even have a name at all.

shrug. I'm not putting this very well, I don't think.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 10:12 PM  

i do not think women should take it easy on my feelings while i work out shedding thinking that goes with male privilege. i think that my male privilege has already privileged me. it would be nice, but...that's not the point. so why am i asking you to consider me further when we bump up against my progress?

For me, personally? It would depend on the context, really. It...yeah.

I don't know. I think that definitely I have been in feminist discussions that have been shall we say less than useful in that regard. Yeah, What About The Men? can be annoying? but, there are times when the guy might be actually trying to amplify, not so much counter; or making what to me is a legit critique of someone's too-sweeping generalizations. and it can be equally annoying when people knee-jerk pounce on the hapless doof . It feels like a ritual, sometimes, that.

...yeah. The more I go on, honestly, the less jazzed I am about using terms like "male privilege;" it...sometimes feels like a too-easy shorthand, and if it's -not- a fairly sophisticated-level discussion already, chances are excellent that Joe Schmo from Kokomo is gonna come in with, "well, I don't -feel- privileged;"

and inevitably people jump his shit for Not Reading The Instructions;

but...

eh, I dunno. Ultimately it really depends what your goal is, yanno? And how you feel, and where (general) -you want- to put -your- energy.

I think you've (specific, Nezua) been remarkably patient with Greenwald. I don't know if I would've been, in an equivalent situation. It...depends. I guess.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 10:33 PM  

...so, yeah, N, I'm reading your post on women, that you linked to;

and this kind of leapt out at me:

So it is my work, now, to continue poring over my thoughts and actions with the mental and spiritual equivalent of the electron microscope (or a warmly sterilizing ray of sun, if you aren't into scientific metaphors) to weed out the poison that lies there, poison inculcated by this White-Male-Supremacist culture of ours, poison tainting my own self. If I can remove myself as any possible agent of harm toward women, or propagator of toxic thought and talk, then I have done a lot.

...yeah, that is the kind of metaphorical talk that i am more familiar with from various feminist circles. "weed out the poison."

Personally? I get it...and I rebel. Not so much against the urge to transform, but the urge to -purify.-

Dude, I don't want you thinking of yourself as part poison, y'know; if you do, you do, but speaking only for myself, I don't need or want you, as an ally, to wear the hairshirt. I just want you to listen, be open to exchange. I'd like you to -see- my pain (among other things), I'd like you to listen to me when -I tell you what I need- to help alleviate it. I don't need you to take on the pain itself; cause you know what? We've all got our share. And shifting the psychic burden here and there doesn't really change the situation.

Yes, I hear you: you find these aspects of the culture(s) toxic, you want to not be that.

I guess what I'm saying is:

it is what it is. It developed for a reason; even as you internalized what you did for a reason. Now those reasons, those feelings, those behaviors no longer serve you. And maybe not the culture either.

So let it go.

Just...let it go.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 10:59 PM  

or, go through it, then, if that's what you need to do;

but, that's not -purging;-

that's alchemy.

nothing ever disappears completely, you know. It can only shift places...or transform.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/11/2007 11:03 PM  

well, yes. i should probably just leave this alone by now. but i want to make my thoughts clear. i may not be agreeing with everything, or i may not be understanding all you intend. but here is what i think.

i think, too that humans should consider each other. and it does depend on situations. absolutely. i cannot sum up my behavior toward humans with any sentence or ten sentences online. but i am fluid, i think. and i don't expect anyone to be perfect up in here! i think that is clear from the GG thread. i happen to like to move a little toward those who try. i mean you did read that post. i was giving benefit of the doubt more than anyone else really wanted to in that thread.

i hate to have banged up against sunrunner like this. or i hate the focus to be on her. because none of this has to be about any "sunrunner." additionally, i have no "bad feelings" just so it is understood. this by no means has been a "bad" experience or caused me to feel bad about her in any way.

in my opinion, this is what happened. sunrunner identified with GG, and thus allied herself with him, nobody lumped her in. she was not "Made to stand in" for him. She id'd with him. and none of this is to say she's BAD, just to say she id'd with his position. and felt bad for him/herself making effort (as you may?) and others "leaping" on him.

and her response was an emotional one (i feel i know a lot about these, they are almost the only type i make) that brought a few defense mechanisms into play (which is a big part of why shit got so messy) and one of them was presenting this analogy that shifted locus of the argument (which could shifted to abstract players or placeholders, one always has that option) to something unrelated yet concrete that i had to respond to. (the small font of my site). i said something earlier about this particular example placed GG/The WHITEPROGRESSIVE/Sunrunner into the spot of being the one who had to be "catered to." we could go round and round with intent, but the point is, it was a reaction that was based on genuine feeling, intelligent thoughts, but also, i feel, some defense mechanisms. and i think it is the latter that started a lot of confusing counter-reactions.

but i'm not going to continue to break her response down because i'd rather say i know how that is. and again, we all do need patience and understanding in general (i know i want those things, and i assume you and all others do) but, again: we weren't talking about a general patience to have with one another. we were talking (at least Donna's post was) about a specific interaction between myself, GG, kai, sylvia, some others. and where there was someone being made "an object of derision" as she said? and where was someone needing patience? did everyone read that GG thread? hello? :)

for her i have patience of course!!!! see? i told y'all. i feel nothing bad for her, i identify with her, even. we all go through this. so what? with Glenn? is he the one? do people really think HE needed more patience shown?

so...what are we talking about? it's all very interwoven.

and i feel you: "it depends on what your goal is" and such. my goal is certainly not to "win" on any thread, or to prove an ally is really a creep. we're all made of various nexus of privilege and oppression, and we are all in this together. i guess i can't describe properly, tho, what it was like to see this gg post and thread jump up all undead zombie and regress in awareness (as far as i'm concerned). so, perhaps i could have reacted calmer. but as long as everyone keeps earnestly trying, we'll be fine. we're not crystal. and i'm sure sunrunner and i have learned from each other.

PLUS i built features into my site that increases the font size now. :)

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 3/11/2007 11:07 PM  

not "poison," belledame? but my friend, you dont know what i've lived. and seen. nor done. nor what i want to weed out. and didn't i offer another metaphor just after that one? didn't i? why did you not see that one? the sun one?

i do appreciate what you are saying. but i am wearing no hairshirt, and i don't do this to be an "ally." i make this effort to be okay with myself as a human. has nothing to do with what you or any other person wants or approves of or thinks is just right. its a path that my own heart guides.

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 3/11/2007 11:10 PM  

i am sorry if i come across harshly here, belledame. but this:

it is what it is. It developed for a reason; even as you internalized what you did for a reason. Now those reasons, those feelings, those behaviors no longer serve you. And maybe not the culture either.

So let it go.

Just...let it go.


i have to say, it feels very arrogant to me. the whole line of thinking that so easily assumes knowledge of my situation and progress/challenges and so easily prescribes action for me. it's terribly arrogant in my opinion. so i reacted a bit. sorry about that.

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 3/11/2007 11:40 PM  

Fair enough.

I guess I want to be clear, then: when you say you're ridding yourself of the -misogynist- (sexist, what you will) poison, for that is what I saw that particular post to be about, then, as you say, that's about your own path. Which, i did say: if that's how you feel, then that's how you feel.

The reason I responded to it in that way was because you posted it, I thought, viz "male privilege" in feminist conversations. What I'm saying is, as a woman and a feminist: then, that -is- for your own sake. Not mine. Which is fine. Just to be clear.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/12/2007 1:29 AM  

and, I did see the sun one; I thought "sterilization" was sort of in line with "purification," actually.

call it a general philosophy of mine. You're right; I had no right to be prescriptive.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/12/2007 1:32 AM  

in my opinion, this is what happened. sunrunner identified with GG, and thus allied herself with him

yes, I can see that that's what set this sub-thread off.

I guess I got distracted by the way the rest of that convo unfolded, thinking that actually it looked like some other stuff was all tangled up with "I am identifying with the other white person."

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/12/2007 1:38 AM  

oh, I want to say:

when I said "the culture" there, I meant -mainstream,- i.e. white male-dom supremacist etc. culture, that you were/are trying to repudiate. I was waxing semi philosophical, or trying to, and clearly failing dismally.

But what I also think is, and this is probably way too abstract for this hour of the night:

that part of that same culture is the erm urge to pick apart, the (I keep coming back to it) idea that one can -purify-, cleanse oneself of the external taint, that that is the way to Salvation. That that is what a lot of people mean by "the personal is political." I critique myself relentlessly; I pick out all that isn't "me," all that is from the Bad External Source, until I am a better person; and that is how I better society.

it's something i see a lot of in the loosely-defined U.S. based left.

and, i often find myself wondering how useful it really is, if there isn't maybe another way.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/12/2007 1:45 AM  

it's sort of related to what I was talking about wrt this book, in this post: (and this one)


And while this is obviously different from what that book is talking about, white feminism in the U.S. and U.K., you know, I do kind of see some parallels. maybe you won't do.

but like, okay, you were talking about being -good.-

I think a lot of us on the left worry a lot about being -good-. In various senses.

And we rebel against the notion of being "good" as defined by whom we've identified to be the oppressor--in the case of the white feminists West is talking about, that would be the mens/Patriarchy;

but, as is West's thesis, that doesn't necessarily mean we've stopped trying to be someone else's idea of -good.- It just becomes, sometimes, a different someone.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/12/2007 1:52 AM  

anyway, getting back to the main point: yes, I read that thread, and yes, again, I think you've been more than patient with GG; and that other guy is a fuckwit.

By Blogger belledame222, at 3/12/2007 2:07 AM  

no, belledame, it's a point with merit. it just rode in at an inopportune moment, in my opinion. and it is late.

talk to you later. :)

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 3/12/2007 4:55 AM  

Donna -
No, you didn't shut down conversation at all. I'm really glad you posted. I agree with what you wrote. (Kind of ironically given this thread, I was trying to reach out to the same people who were pissing you off and hoping they'd "get it," so I softened my language for that purpose.)

By Blogger plain(s)feminist, at 3/12/2007 5:50 PM  

Nezua says: i do appreciate what you are saying. but i am wearing no hairshirt, and i don't do this to be an "ally." i make this effort to be okay with myself as a human. has nothing to do with what you or any other person wants or approves of or thinks is just right. its a path that my own heart guides.

This is where I ended up in regards to race, personally, and as Donna said it's sort of an internal Affirmative Action, but it's not done for the benefit of the other people but rather for my own benefit, so that I am less of a fuckhead and I hurt other people less.

I think that in order to be able to BE true allies, and not just people getting an ego boost from "helping" someone, we need to have our own, self-supported and self-consistent reasons to want the greater culture to change. As soon as we're "helping," the temptation to martyr negatively (that is, not to sacrifice the self out of true altruism but rather to sacrifice the self out of self-aggrandizment) shows up and, often it seems, takes over.

By Blogger Deoridhe, at 3/13/2007 4:20 PM  

Nezua, and everyone else actually, the way I saw it, Sunrunner did NOT read the GG thread, which is probably why she was defending white allies or sympathizers. If she had seen what happened I think she would have known that GG was already given the benefit of the doubt. That's why I think this thread got a little harsh. She was only saying that in context, if a friend makes a mistake, give 'em a chance...without realizing he got his chance and blew it. Meanwhile we are thinking she knew that and was still asking for another chance and maybe another etc.

I'm saying that if I thought that you or anyone else was wrong, I would have said that. I didn't because I didn't think GG deserved more chances and I'm not sure he would want anymore since he hasn't been back to your place since this post under discussion. The only thing that bothered me is that I feel like I'm missing something or misunderstanding something in what Sunrunner was saying. I'd like her to have the opportunity to explain more if she chooses and to be heard.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/13/2007 11:42 PM  

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