The Silence of Our Friends

Friday, March 16, 2007

White Allies; The Good, The Bad, And The Fugly

Recent discussions here and at several other blogs have centered on how to be anti-racist and more on race and racism, understanding when things go wrong, whether we feel comfortable or discomfort discussing these subjects in mixed company, or even if we can ever really understand each other. Each of these discussions are so very different, and yet so much sameness. What I like best is that each of these posts is written by a white blogger. Each of these people understand that people of color can't be the only anti-racists, that this is something we do together, and that white people must be involved in teaching and learning.

In Bewildered Part II, I mentioned the pain of finding out that someone I thought of as a friend was only being my friend as a favor. In the comments of the first Bewildered post BlackAmazon can't get past the gall of white women saying they expect special commendations for loving their black husbands and mixed race children. There should be no special recognition for doing what should be normal, loving your partner and children no matter what their race! Expectations of unconditional love, gratitude, and undying loyalty no questions asked, are how you might feel about a dog you have rescued from the pound; not a real friend or ally.

Nezua says it too:
I did everything I could to be respectful, to speak the Queen's English in the most careful and splendiferous of ways, to tame my wild, Brown™ friends who had no patience for the bullshit and saw right through it, to keep the room civil. And you know what? It didn't matter. The WHITEPROGRESSIVES came to my joint, spit their shit and split. And I was actually hurt. Can you imagine? Naive Nezua. But he learns quickly.

Like a battered wife who swears to la chota that she had it coming, me and dear Sylvia were still fretting as if we did something wrong. Greenwald's message included the amazing implication that social progress on these issues was not moving forward because of us OVERSENSITIVES. Even more egregious and bold is the implication that WHITE people are doing The Brown™ a favor by comin' round and entering discussions. And that if we don't toe the line, where will we be then? When they decide they just don't feel like engaging it?


And Sylvia too:
After writing that comment, I felt really badly about pointing out that dynamic. Not even how I did it, just that I did it at all. And I thought about the impact it would have on discussion. I felt really upset because I recognized the chance that Greenwald would not engage Nez’s points, and he would not care to find out if I would stick around for the discussion so he’d feel…well…”safe.”

And Greenwald hasn’t returned yet. In the meantime, I questioned what I had done, exactly. Had I called this man a racist? And I did start feeling upset, so I tried to enter again and apologize for the haste. I tried to contribute carefully worded examples in the discussion, I apologized like crazy, and I felt like shit for quite a while. It was hard to try again. I felt butthurt.

POC must be appropriately grateful, respectful, and admiring. White allies can say whatever they want and shouldn't be called on it if it's ignorant and racist. They mean well.

Ok, not you. I don't mean MY white friends. You're the good ones! LOL So I am giving you your anti-racist assignment for this week. You should read all the posts that I linked to and the comments, but if you are pressed for time, at least make time for those last two by Nezua: The Skin of My Soul (Intermission) and Sylvia: White Privilege and the (Knee-Jerk) Woman of Color. I wanted to reach right through the monitor and hug the stuffin' outta both of them!

And if you finish your assignment I have a reward for you. You must view some "reverse racism" and be properly outraged! Or if I have trained you correctly you will laugh your butt off. Either way, here are a couple of great movie clips from YouTube. First at AradhanaD's place: Just Because... then at Amp's place: Nice White Lady to the Rescue.

10 comment(s):

after getting attacked on my latest post at jesus' general (which is crossposted here on my blog), my feelings are a bit in that regrouping phase that happens after you cross a White Line® and feel the personal attacks/hate fly at you, so that's gonna color my feelings here—but sometimes i really understand why no matter how hard you try, the lines from Corky Gonzales' Yo Soy Joaquín will always make so much sense:

I withdraw to the safety within the circle of life - MY OWN PEOPLE

and by my own people, i now interpret that in the sense of those of us who understand that this nation is run by white (male) supremacist, imperialist, american exceptionalist notions and all that necessarily follows those facts...it is so hard after a while, banging your head into the wall. it seems there are these core paradigms of thought that are so hard to engage, overcome. you are talking about allies, and that just means "others who care" and so that is worth effort. but sometimes the effort hurts, or the misunderstanding comes in a very personal and harsh way and you just feel there is no way to mesh thinking.

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 3/18/2007 5:13 PM  

(clears throat to get attention for my special moment)

Since I've already read BOTH The Skin of My Soul (Intermission) and White Privilege and the (Knee-Jerk) Woman of Color, may I please have an extra reward? You know, since I deserve it. ;)

By Anonymous spotted elephant, at 3/18/2007 6:55 PM  

Donna:

I was going to post this at Jesus General; I decided to send it here as you were kind enough to provide the link.

Please read to the end before you start to burn (I'm saying that because I know where I go when I see something that gets my juices stirring). When we touch on issues of race in this country, it's like sticking our fingers in light sockets to find out that we have so much baggage to carry around--because we refuse to let go. I know this, because I'm a rageaholic.

I don't have your experience and can't. I don't have any notion what it's like to be seen as a threat, an enemy or just fresh meat by a whole crowd of "others", just because of the color of my skin.

I do know what it's like to be an emotionally and sexually abused child. I know what it feels like to eat the pain--and to have to deny it's happening because a.) nobody would believe me b.) it's my fault and c.)worse things can happen if I tell. That abuse, and the shame that it caused, fuel a rage that burns white hot in me--all day, every day--no matter how much I try to just let it go. It's made me do and say things which are despicable. My rage was instilled and nurtured by a member of my own family--not some impersonal, no matter how hateful, mob. I have had to learn(and it took many, many years) that forgiveness of others is necessary for my recovery, not theirs. And, having done the forgiveness thing, I'm still enraged? so, I must have more work to do.

Racism is,IMO, a terrible human trait that seems to be so ingrained in our species' psyche that it may never, truly, go away. As I've said to a whole bunch of white liberals (I am white, but more of an anarchist) over the years--Denying that we have racist tendencies is foolish. What we need to do is own our fears of "otherness" and use our great big brains and our capacity for rational thought, conferred on us by God, to learn to get past it and see our fellow beings as people, not people of any color, creed or any other sub-set.

I'm not looking to comfort you,or apologize for myself or anyone else. I think your feelings are totally valid, but that is beside the point. I notice that I am at this point drifting into vagueness, time to go. I think what I really want to say is keep the anger, but keep it as a tool to be used by you instead of giving in to it as I so often do.

By Blogger democommie, at 3/18/2007 10:54 PM  

democommie, you give us hope. You knew they would tear you a new one and it didn't stop you from speaking up. This is the part you may not understand. I am grateful to you, but I shouldn't be. It should be the normal course of events for people to speak up even when what they say isn't popular but is right. It should be natural for us to make attempts to see more than only our own POV and to give everyone a chance to have their say. They wanted to cow Nezua and make him feel bad because he doesn't see Angelina Jolie as the great white hope. They didn't want to understand his reasons why, just shut him up.

I understand what you are saying about channelling anger. What I am saying about that is that I have heard all too often that it is my place to be submissive, to be nice, to not hurt white people's feelings. They have no obligation or willingness to do the same for me. I deserve no respect, no dignity, no benefit of the doubt, no kindness. Just look at how Bruce's first instinct was to jump in and call Nezua an asshole. He can do that, but when we give back the same, we better shut up or no one will want to listen to us.

If my choices are to be submissive and tell white people only what they want to hear, or give them crap when they give me or other people of color crap, I choose the latter. If they are so wrapped up in their white supremacy and racism that it makes them walk away, so be it.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/18/2007 11:17 PM  

spotted elephant, I went to YouTube hoping to find a special treat just for you but instead I found real racism! Yeesh! It's amazing that people are proud to post that stuff to YouTube and think it's funny. One way or another I will find something special for you though. I think I'll skip the movies for now and think up something else.

By Blogger Donna, at 3/18/2007 11:20 PM  

Donna-I was just kidding! I don't want you to go to any work, and certainly don't want you to be exposed to any more racist hate. I think places like YouTube are like minefields-you have to risk a lot to find something good.

By Anonymous spotted elephant, at 3/18/2007 11:37 PM  

thank you donna. i feel sometimes like i have a fucking smile pasted to my face just trying to deal with some fo the flak i stir up. jeje. but inside i'm buggin, so its funny to read how we come across. you seem pretty calm to me!

and democommie, thanks for speakin' up out there. i agree with donna. that means something to me.

one difference with our stories is that people can look at me or hear my name or see my blog and know RIGHT away that they "dont like me" and thus this colors all their shit, and they get sneaky and pissed off. and then argue forever that race doesnt come into it. there are actually alot of differences, but i feel you on your focus on the similarity. as far as anger? i have been saying malcolm x's quote since 93 when i thought it was a Rage Against the Machine quote: anger is a gift.

for ourselves, and our drive, and our sense of perserverance at times. but that's a gift for ourselves. and love is one for others, when we can manage to find that one. but that's why i chill with donna and kai and sylvia and XP and yolanda and bfp and SO many others, bro. because i dont need to explain to them the entire real history of america. they know it. i dont have to explain to them what i am saying about jolie, because they get it. i dont have to talk about doubting myself and bowing even when i'm right...because they get it. i dont have to wonder if they know what its like to wrestle the silmy hydra of disguised race-hate, because they do. and they help me do it, too. i dont have to reach across a wall of denial and propaganda every single fucking time i want to talk about this "touchy" stuff, because they've shed it.

keep on keepin on democommie. bless your heart and your mouth and your life. seeya in the trenches.

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 3/19/2007 12:35 PM  

Donna and Nez:

I'm glad that my little rant wasn't entirely indecipherable. I have some issues with impulse control, so writing is much safer, because I can edit it to some extent. Racism is the elephant in the room here and almost everywhere else on the planet. I don't mean the public ugliness, I mean the infected marrow variety. Not always easy to see, unless you are the "other".

As I said on the JG website, earlier today, I am truly dismayed at the level of rancor that Nez's post and the subsequent comments has brought about. However, the situation is exactly as it should be. If we were all comfortable with each other's viewpoints we would be an echo chamber. I do notice that most people at the General's compound are united in their disdain for the current junta. Beyond that, it starts to get fuzzy.

I'll leave you with this. I was in a Panera Cafe in Clay, NY, yesterday when a couple came in and sat by the window. The gentleman did not look around the room even once after he sat down. His wife wore a headscarf and they appeared to be arabic muslims. They seemed to be having a pretty spirited conversation and the lady did not seem to be cowed by her husband. I was really wanting to go over and wish them a good day, but I was afraid to. I was not afraid of what others in the room might say, I was afraid I would invade their space or frighten them. This is the world we live in. Why does it have to be so hard to be human? I think this is a new poem (I write some weird/some wondrous stuff).

Namaste

Terry

By Blogger democommie, at 3/19/2007 8:26 PM  

Terry Democommie, keep writing weird and wondrous, my friend. :)

By Anonymous nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez, at 3/20/2007 1:08 AM  

I read the two posts and watched the YouTube fiascos, and I have to ask: were those three wanna-hippies idiots high? Pot does that to a person, you know. Eats holes in his brain.

Maybe privilege does that too...

By Anonymous meardaba, at 3/20/2007 8:07 AM  

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