The Silence of Our Friends

Friday, October 19, 2007

Bitter Laughter

Why can't they see that this is the same thing they do to us? Over at Feministe: OMG Teh Hysterical Feminists Again!

From the first paragraph,
It’s a classic example of how concepts like rationality and logic become gendered, with men automatically assumed to be exercising them when they’re challenging women, and women automatically assumed to be bypassing them when we challenge men or widely-held assumptions.
Hmmm, I've seen and heard something similar before. Maybe you have too, let's try a little exercise for those who don't know what I am talking about and change a few words here and there.
It’s a classic example of how concepts like rationality and logic become racialized, with middle class white feminists automatically assumed to be exercising them when they’re challenging women of color, and women of color automatically assumed to be bypassing them when we challenge middle class white feminists or widely-held assumptions.


...Now, despite my series of posts picking on him, Matt is actually not an asshole, and I really don’t think he put up that post to stick it to feminists...he seems to think that we’re saying something we’re not...he’s misinterpreting what we’re saying about it...benefit of the doubt...
It's the same with the flamewars regarding race, unless it's a continuation of the same bad behaviors over and over on the part of the white liberal blogger. Otherwise what makes the white liberal blogger and/or commenters assholes is the reaction, which follows a pattern parallel to male privilege vs feminism flamewars.

Here’s what I think is really interesting: When feminists responded to Matt’s post, the self-appointed Logical White Men stepped in and started to put us in our place. For example, the third comment over at Matt’s place:

What’s this? A man using logic and facts to qualify the assertions of Jessica Valenti! Get ready for a world of libtardsphere circle-jerk disavowals.
This reminds me of the thread at Pandagon about Amanda Marcotte's King Kong Book cover. Check how quick the Logical White People step in and put the POC and anti-racists in their place.

There were many exasperating comments made but this one in particular was a punch to the gut for me:
zuzu
August 22, 2007 at 11:55 pm

Hello! Welcome to The Furor Over Jessica’s Book Cover, Part II!

A/k/a, You Can’t Please Everyone, Part the MCVIIth.
The furor over Jessica's book cover was mainly from WOC bloggers, Zuzu apparently thinks we had no substantive issues with the cover, there's just no pleasing us. It doesn't occur to her that maybe, just maybe, if these middle class white feminists would stop using racist book covers we wouldn't be complaining.

“There’s a small group of self-identified liberal bloggers who are young-ish, male, white, and horribly offended by “identity politics.” They’re pretty well supported by a handful of the Big Liberal Bloggers. A few of them link here all the time in order to demonstrate what a deep disservice feminism and anti-racism and queer rights are doing to the Democratic party and to good white male liberals. I’m sure they’re decent enough guys, but it’s irritating, and so I usually ignore them. But they’re just so over-the-top on this one, I can’t resist.”
Problem here is that this makes it seem like only white liberal men are offended by "identity politics", in fact, most of the feminists are too, unless we are talking about their particular identity and their particular politics. Civil rights and basic human rights are serious business when it affects white liberal women, not so much for the rest of us.

I’ve been at the point where I’ve said, “Gosh, they say they want me to cover [whatever issue] and then when I do they rail me for it. What do they want from me?”


We want the same thing you want from the men. How would you feel if a male blogger wrote a book and it was titled, "Liberal Bloggers: The Definitive Guide to Progressive Politics on the Internet" and had a picture of a group of all men, or maybe just one white mans six pack abs representing all liberal bloggers on the cover? What if it was all about what men think and want but a few pages said, "In the past politics and society ignored women, especially the old dudes, but us younger guys are concerned and stuff. Women are fucking oppressed! They have it bad and are like victims, I shit you not." And had maybe a handful of quotes from liberal women and feminists, no analysis, just comments saying things like, "That Susan B Anthony was awesome!" I wonder if the white middle class feminists would feel "included" in this book, that it's about them and for them. I wonder if his effort would be good enough to get a pass and no criticism, because how is he supposed to write a book integrating women, he's not a woman!? It would be easy for that imaginary man to integrate women into his book and if he didn't then he should call it -The definitive guide to liberal MEN on the internet-. Not only would he include a chapter about issues of particular interest to women, in other chapters, say on economics, he would be sure to mention how certain policies impact women differently then men and listen to and interview women and quote them in the book. He would also be sure the book was inviting to women, that they felt he was speaking to them, instead of having a section where he tells his male readers to gather round while they talk about women and women's problems.

Or how would you feel if male centered blogs introduced a female co-blogger or two, or had female guest bloggers, but over time you saw that these female bloggers weren't comfortable posting about feminist issues or other woman centered issues and stuck to mostly male centered posts or general interest. The few times these women did write on the topic of feminism there was either no interest, or a firestorm of criticism with the woman and the few female commenters getting little or no support from the male blog owner/male co-bloggers? Wouldn't you wonder if the male blogger only brought in the female blogger as cover for any charges of sexism? He'd be supportive if he actually cared about women and their perspectives, he'd encourage discussion by commenting on her threads, he'd at least understand what she is talking about, and he would certainly smack down the sexism and misogyny in the comments.

This is the way that I and many other WOC see the white middle class feminist blogosphere. These women do not see us as women too, we are a subsidiary group, an auxiliary to the "real" women with real important concerns. It isn't important enough to them to actually read our words and understand them. They bring in a WOC or two but don't take them very seriously, offer little support or enthusiasm for what they write if it pertains to concerns particular to their situation as a WOC, or if they write about race relations they allow all kinds of trolls to overrun the conversation and disrespect the WOC blogger in favor of those "widely held assumptions" about race. Widely held assumptions/status quo/conventional wisdom; this is white supremacy and white privilege as much as it is male privilege or homophobia or classism or ableism or colonialism or a whole host of isms that allow people to view others as inferior.

You know you hate it when these men you disagree with go to their corner licking their wounds, more determined than ever to ignore you and feminism. They can't talk about it without misunderstanding and you getting pissed off, so they won't talk about it at all. How childish. And yet, you do the exact same thing with us. You know that you want those men to have the courage to come back, to listen, to question, restate, make mistakes...and care enough to really learn so that they can talk about these things in an intelligent way. Those cowards are worried you will bite their heads off for saying the wrong thing, but, the ones who actually care and engage, funny thing, they rarely get their heads bitten off. Women have the patience to explain to the ones who really want to know and but are harsh with the fools who swoop in for a one off slam against feminism. If you cared enough about us to read our blogs and see the interactions, you would see the exact same thing, but instead you do that swooping in thing and wonder why we keep getting pissed off at you.

BlackAmazon wrote a post entitled, "Don't include me". I doubt if these white feminist bloggers read it, or if they did, they didn't understand what she meant. She was not speaking about herself alone, she was speaking for all women of color. Don't include us if you are only doing it to make yourself look progressive, to use us as cover against charges of white privilege/racism. You know that men say, "But I link to one or two women in my extensive blogroll!" or "But I had that (short, no analysis, did not encourage discussion in any way) post about xyz feminist issue!" as cover to pretend that they give a shit. Don't you want to tell those men to stuff it, you see through the ruse, and you think, don't include me bud just to use me. You middle class white feminist do the exact same thing to us. We see it when you have your WOC co-bloggers who are strangely silent on race issues, or your WOC guest bloggers and you are all but completely absent in the comments with maybe a, "Good post!" in there. Why is it a good post, what moved you, or are you so clueless that you aren't sure what they are saying because you aren't really reading. Just making things look good so that you can call yourself progressive.

I have a prediction about how things will eventually go with that thread at Feministe. Some and perhaps all of the men being criticized will act conciliatory and may even apologize. But they will be resentful and hold that grudge, they don't really mean it. They are pissed that a woman or group of women showed them up and will look for an opening to pull this same bullshit again. I know this because it's what the middle class white feminists do to us. They don't mean their apologies either, it's just to get us to shut up for the time being while they regroup and work on their memes about how we're just jealous, or they debunked what we said when no such thing happened. Although in this circumstance, the definition of debunking is, all us privileged people got together and decided to ignore and redefine what those feminists/WOC/etc said.

I just posted about the post itself, go read the comments and you might want to read the comments at the liberal men's sites too. If you are astute you will see a multitude of parallels between the bullshit POC get from white liberals there too.

87 comment(s):

Hi Donna,

I appreciate your comments. And I'm very sorry my comment hurt you. I was challenged about that comment here and responded here.

The comment was vague, and short, and looking at it now, I can see how you would interpret it the way you did. However, that was not my intent; obviously, I didn't make it clear that I was trying to comment on the dynamics of the shitstorm itself, rather than on the validity of anyone's complaints. The lack of clarity is entirely my fault.

FWIW, I thought Amanda was wrong, and handled the criticism badly, which just fueled the shitstorm. There were a lot of people who weren't being heard, people who were talking past each other, people who were getting frustrated, and people who were taking the opportunity to air grievances that had nothing to do with the book cover. And it's those in the last group who were never going to be satisfied, and to whom I was referring with the second part of the comment.

But again, I see where my comment would be hurtful to you, and I apologize.

By Blogger zuzu, at 10/20/2007 11:09 AM  

Yes, yes, yes, and YES Donna.

By Blogger kactus, at 10/20/2007 11:50 AM  

I'm not sure that I agree with everything here. Maybe there are some areas where my white privilege is getting in the way.

But I definitely do see (if not "understand") where you are coming from. I do think that there are some white, middle-class feminist bloggers who deserve a bit more credit than this (and I don't necessarily think that I'm one of them). But, I also realize that there are a hell of a lot who don't -- especially so after reading this.

I guess that what I'm trying to say is that you've given me a lot of food for thought, and thanks for that. This would be post that I would like to refer other white, middle-class feminists to, if I wasn't aware of the shit-storm that you would have to deal with as a result. I would in fact really like to write a post on this. I do understand the good reasons why you might not want that, though -- since this is a post about the bad, racist things that go down when talking about race issues on white, middle-class run blogs -- and so I won't without your blessing.

But again, this is a very good post and definitely an important one.

By Anonymous Cara, at 10/20/2007 1:11 PM  

Donna fo r the win.

And this is directly to you zuzu and possibly a bit to feministe at large but if I am gonna come to black to blogging and be useful , I need to be direct

I read both of the things you linked to and your comments as you asked

and once again the point you seem to be stressing is that i didn't but I couldn't win so I went for the snarky response.

Which means rather than addressing or even being reasonably considerate of the people WHO HAD GOOD POINTS . You took a shot across the bow.

That's not clarity mistake thats a conscious choice putting POC voices secondary.

Even in NAnettes post rather than address her points you one try to affirm your reactions and actions as understandable and valid AND imply that she's trying to insinuate something rather than addressing her points.

TIme and time again the priority of these discussions is not to address our concern or even truly engage them but to make sure we UNDERSTAND or truly get you.

While at the same time the entire dynamic of implying we don't is a matter of english semantics rather than a considered application of observing ( or being the target) of these not only incomplete but actively hurtful actions. But at this point so many of use have give n up it probably doesnt matter anymore

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 10/20/2007 1:43 PM  

Also Cara who do you think deserves more credit than this?

And on what criteria are you basing it

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 10/20/2007 1:57 PM  

Quite honestly, BlackAmazon, I'm not entirely sure what my criteria is. Maybe it's the difference between malice/apathy and sincerity. But really, I keep thinking about it and cannot come up with a good answer.

I guess that my thoughts are roughly this: firstly, I do not think that most white feminist bloggers are opposed to identity politics that do not include ourselves. These feminists certainly do exist, and in great numbers, but I find them much more frequently in comments than in posts themselves. Comment moderation is another issue that I have rather complex thoughts on, but for the most part, attacks on women of color do come from the comments. I rarely see anything but support for identity politics for all oppressed groups from bloggers themselves. That doesn't mean that white feminist bloggers delve into these issues nearly enough, because they don't. But I do think that there is a clear difference between not talking about identity politics as frequently as you should and being offended by them, as Donna suggests here. Lack of enthusiasm and hostility are both bad in this case, but also distinct. Maybe that doesn't seem like a huge difference, because either way your issues are being ignored. But I point it out because I think that the "lack of enthusiasm" group can potentially wake up from it.

As for main white feminist blogs that have one or two WOC bloggers, yet those bloggers still don't talk about race issues, this definitely does exist. But it's not universal. Pam Spaulding from Pandagon (and of course her own blog), I think, is one such example. I also think that while Samhita at feministing doesn't blog very often -- and I wish that she would, because I love her posts -- she does tend to blog heavily about race issues when she does write.

I think that "a bit more credit" was the wrong phrasing, because it reflects the "where's my cookie?" mentality and that's not what I intended. You don't actually get "credit" for doing the right thing. I mean that that though there is an undeniable problem and pretty much every white feminist blog is a part of it, they don't all fit into this mold so easily, and some are more advanced than others.

[I'm really not sure if I've expressed myself clearly, here . . .]

By Anonymous Cara, at 10/20/2007 2:32 PM  

cara, this is the first you're reading about this but if you want to learn a lot more, read what donna's posted for the past year on this same subject. she started this blog, aptly named the silence of our friends, because of this kept happening among white progressive and white feminist bloggers.

By Blogger donna darko, at 10/20/2007 4:29 PM  

Donna Darko, thanks, but I've actually been following this blog for several months, now. Ever since the FFF debate blew-up.

Though I imagine that if I'm giving off the impression of this being my first time reading about it, I probably do in fact have a lot to learn. I still only consider myself a student ally at this point, as I was already aware that I do in fact have a lot to learn, but apparently it's more than I thought ;)

By Blogger Cara, at 10/20/2007 4:43 PM  

Also, I'm not launching into or planning to launch into some kind of impassioned display of white feminist bloggers. I don't think that they deserve it, and I do in fact include myself in that. I do apologize if it came off that way at all. I was merely trying to point out the difference between those who genuinely don't give a shit and those who are making a sincere effort to be an ally and cover more WOC issues. A sincere effort is not enough, though, which is why I'm not letting myself off of the hook, either.

By Anonymous Cara, at 10/20/2007 4:52 PM  

Mostly lurker on this blog unlurking for this:

OH, WAIT: I wrote the comment below before reading the rest of the comments and I want first to thank Blackamazon for what she wrote and quote it here first before what I wrote, because I totally totally agree with her. Blackamazon wrote:

That's not clarity mistake thats a conscious choice putting POC voices secondary.

Even in NAnettes post rather than address her points you one try to affirm your reactions and actions as understandable and valid AND imply that she's trying to insinuate something rather than addressing her points.

TIme and time again the priority of these discussions is not to address our concern or even truly engage them but to make sure we UNDERSTAND or truly get you.

While at the same time the entire dynamic of implying we don't is a matter of english semantics rather than a considered application of observing ( or being the target) of these not only incomplete but actively hurtful actions. But at this point so many of use have give n up it probably doesnt matter anymore


So now this is what I wrote before reading what Blackamazon posted:

zuzu wrote:
I appreciate your comments. And I'm very sorry my comment hurt you. I was challenged about that comment here and responded here.

The comment was vague, and short, and looking at it now, I can see how you would interpret it the way you did. However, that was not my intent; obviously, I didn't make it clear that I was trying to comment on the dynamics of the shitstorm itself, rather than on the validity of anyone's complaints. The lack of clarity is entirely my fault.


ARGH!

And in the response to the being called out, zuzu's response that she linked in her comment included this gem: Yes, they were few, short, and vague, and you are reading a lot into them.

Ok. I have seen this kind of response over and over and over (online and offline) and I am sorry but it's such a mindfucking tactic from oppressors, and Donna I'm sorry if I am making trouble here but ARGH!

(deep breath)

Zuzu is redefining the problem and redirecting attention away from her own participation in the dynamics of white feminist racism.

In zuzu's redirection, it's not about the actual practice of racism by white women and its actual impact on women of color from the perspective of women of color. No. In her redirection, it's all just a matter of misunderstanding and misinterpretation.

In this distorted world, the important thing is what zuzu intended rather than what she did, and the real problem is not her practicing racism, it's lack of understanding or lack of clarity.

The comment here on Donna's piece shies away from making it explicitly the fault of people who called out the racism, but she's more explicit in her response over there. There she says "you're reading a lot into them." Here she oh so graciously and benevolently claims responsibility -- but not for practicing white feminist racism. No. Just for "lack of clarity."

So zuzu takes this opportunity to focus attention on her "intent" -- a self-referential tactic placing the oppressor's inner world and perception at the center -- and takes control of defining what the problem is.

So now from zuzu's comment the problem is not the practice of racism by white women targeting women of color.

It is not her actual actions and how they fit into and perpetuate the dynamics and practice of white feminist racism. No, it is a decontextualized self-referential focus on lack of clarity based on what zuzu claims she INTENDED.

And the neat thing about that is that if that's the focus, the only person who is the expert and the one who gets the last word in defining and analyzing what is going on is zuzu. Because no one else knows her "intent." All other people have to go on is what she does. But that's not relevant in the world she is pushing in this comment here.

This is a classic oppressor mindfuck tactic, in my opinion.

A real apology doesn't attempt to redefine the problem. A real apology is genuine and real and not this comment-sandwich here of supposed apology on the outside with mindfucking and redirection and attempted control of the terms as the juicy center.

At least, that's what I see here, right or wrong.

PS I have only skimmed Cara's comments but I think I see the same kind of tactic there, focusing on her intention and whether she is expressing herself clearly -- because that is a better place for a white person to continue practicing racism than focus on the actual truth of what is going on.

By Anonymous michelle, at 10/20/2007 4:53 PM  

cara, think about epistemic privilege. white liberal males should defer to what feminists are saying on those threads. it's infuriating these white liberal males prioritize their ignorance over feminists. you're kinda doing the same thing here. it goes back further than fff. it's so many little events adding up. it is better now. back in 2006, there was something horrible every week so progressives got better at race. read from sept 2006 on.

By Blogger donna darko, at 10/20/2007 6:09 PM  

Cara, I'm not going to pick on you because I think this is a tactic that white feminist bloggers take in general. Michelle's outlined it awesomely, but it always seems that white feminist bloggers take an eggshells approach with women of color. And I think that approach expresses more about their intent and their motivations than what they say about how they operate. You're speaking from a position of fear that the women of color will tell you you're wrong, and to ameliorate that reaction you're apologizing and explaining your intent.

The point is women of color want to have a conversation with white feminist bloggers, but because white feminists do not want to evaluate how to grapple with racist memes in their modes of understanding, women of color are left to struggle with underhanded attacks at their credibility, gratuitous self-effacement, and very superficial handling of topics that are important to them. The actions speak more to the problem than the collective intent of all white feminists.

There's a difference between disagreement with women of color out of a substantive, well-thought-out, engaging and informed critique and disagreement from some amorphous discomfort stemming more from a threat to white privilege. Women of color -- we (as I am a woman of color) -- get more of the latter than the former. When we do get the former, it feels like a damned miracle.

By Blogger M, at 10/20/2007 6:15 PM  

I agree with you, M. You're right; I am walking on eggshells.

So let me try to be as frank as possible while explaining why. I think that you're wrong about the reason, that I'm afraid of being told that I'm wrong. Of course I don't like to be wrong, but I do write a blog. If I couldn't handle being told that I'm wrong, I would have crumpled into a tiny, sad little mess a long time ago.

Is it a fear of being called racist? Partially, probably. But I also accept the idea that "to be white is to be racist." It sucks, but I've come to terms with it and am trying to minimize that racism as much as possible. I don't have a problem with having my privilege pointed out and examining it, but no, I don't exactly want to be called a bigot. Who does?

I don't think that's it, either, though. What I am -- at least consciously -- afraid of is that if I don't choose my words very, very carefully, something privileged is going to pop out. And I'm afraid that when that something privileged pops out, I will be attacked and conversation will be effectively shut down.

As someone who genuinely does want to be an ally, that's scary. Which is why I usually don't comment and only read, which is of course very valuable in itself. I don't want the conversation to be shut down and be a permanent subject of scorn and attacks because I fucked up.

I really don't think that I'm alone in that. At all. I could be wrong, because it's true that us white feminists don't talk openly about it all that much. Maybe the fear of being called racist is stronger among others. Maybe its stronger for me than I realize. But yeah, we're afraid to take part in the conversation. Some don't want to. And some do want to but don't know how.

I don't expect to be treated with kid gloves. In fact, if I say something offensive, I want to know that. Please, tell me. I want the chance to apologize and learn from that. But I also don't want to be ripped a new asshole because I actually care about an issue affecting women of color. I'm not saying that's always what happens. But a lot of the time, it does. And both sides, in my opinion, share at least part of the blame in that. I understand that you're frustrated, and I imagine that I would be, too. I wouldn't try to take the from you. But it does scare us. And it's not WOC's job to fix it. But there it is.

---

Donna Darko, I understand that FFF was the result of a long battle coming to a head. I was merely using that as a reference point. But I will go back and read.

By Anonymous Cara, at 10/20/2007 6:39 PM  

cara--you do realize that it's a stereotype that woc are these big bad meanies who mindlessly rip white girls new assholes for no reason (or for very innocent and/or simple/honest mistakes), don't you?

I have yet to see any woman of color who has been involved in any of the blowups that have been referenced on this blog or in this particular blogging community become a mindless jackass that hammers poor white women just because she could. There have been a LOT of angry and hurt feelings, there have been a LOT of hurtful things said, but *none* of it has come after a single instance of Random White Woman saying something "the wrong way" and Mean Horrible Woman of Color decided she needed to suffer for her ignorance.

I think it's a bit disingenuous to say that you are worried about being beaten up by woc even as you engage in civil conversations with woc. it reduces woc you are conversing with to scary frightening stereotypes that are rarely productive.

By Blogger brownfemi, at 10/20/2007 6:52 PM  

I don't think that's it, either, though. What I am -- at least consciously -- afraid of is that if I don't choose my words very, very carefully, something privileged is going to pop out. And I'm afraid that when that something privileged pops out, I will be attacked and conversation will be effectively shut down.


Except that implies a spectre of irrationality that in none of the occassions we are hurt by has actually happened.

" A lot of teh times it does" according to who?

What tends to happen in my view is that it is decided to not be a big deal by one side of the conversation who immediately opts up cause we will not agree.

I have been accused of being a liar and calling people liars by linking to their own archives. I have women tell me point blank they have no intention of reading me or engaging me but they are trying and be SHOCKED I TELL YOU SHOCKED when I am not charitable to them.

And yes asking us to sit and consider intentions is bboth patently unfair and implies a level of maidservanting that has long left uncomfortable and is now insulting. Because when your getting eviscerated for BEING YOURSELF you don't really care if its fear or actually disinterest if your left without support.

And the it does scare us. Scare you of what? What no one has elucidated to me is what there is to be afraid of.

And caring about a women of color issue and wanting to be an ally are two seperate things form wanting to be caring about Women of COlor.

Far to often the reasoning seems to be " Well we treated them like how we wanted to be treated"

Except no. It's about treating every specific woman the way SHE wants to be treated and frankly there is little blame sharing in that.

ESPECIALLY on the blogosphere women of color have extended themselves and put themselves in downright hostile environments seemingly solely to try and be open only to be discounted.

And point blank we're not operating from the same positions of influence power or safety. There is a reason so many women of color bloggers blog pseudonymously.

These attitudes having developed out of a desire to GET or be offended by anyone. They are often self protective and come form specific and long standing histories. And it's constantly treated as if this is up for debate but as DOnna points out when it happens to feminists form MEN its STONE COLD HARD FACTS. That is their issue alone to deal with., but when its WOC suddenly its a "Criticism" or a problem of clarity or shared blame.

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 10/20/2007 6:59 PM  

and you know, frankly, i'm kind of irritated by the whole, if I ever ever make a mistake, they will hate me forever and ever and therefore, I'm never ever going to try mentality.

the way you *learn* is to make mistakes. do you think that any of us woc have never said shit that they still wince at and cringe in horror and embarrassment at? My god, I just said something that I am cringing at within the last week. Joking around, I told a friend of mine to get away from my wallet. Well, the friend of mine is a recovering addict and was so hurt that I said something like that because she's worked so hard to recover herself and the trust she lost with her friends (from stealing, for fucks sake).
but because we have a working relationship with each other, where we depend on each other for protection, growth, happiness and relief, we worked through my major fuck up.

That's what relationships ARE. they are fucking up, figuring things out, working through the painful stuff, *reflection* and *introspection*.

Refusing to participate in any of that stuff means that you are refusing to be in a relationship with women of color--and that effectively repositions and recreates racist structures of power.

By Blogger brownfemi, at 10/20/2007 7:10 PM  

PIggybacking off you, BFP--

OVERSENSITIVES: A nasty, predatorial, unhappy, grudgeholding breed of human. They do not have a pink skin base (usually some shade of Brown Not That There's Anything Wrong With That), and this makes the OVERSENSITIVE very touchy and angry, and well—oversensitive. It distorts their vision and makes them see things in words and conversations that aren't really there. We know those things the OVERSENSITIVE "sees" aren't really in the conversations and words because WHITEPROGRESSIVES say so. OVERSENSITIVES are to be avoided entirely, and if they get too loud, you can put them back in their place (at the bottom rung of the list, as you see) by using fancy English or anger, or White Magik Attax such as the "I Put A Brown Man Through School" defense. Keep using this type of White Magik on the OVERSENSITIVE and before you know it, they will simply start frothing and becoming very angry and primitive-like, thus revealing their true nature, as the WHITEPROGRESSIVE suspected all along.

This definition will never get old.

By Blogger M, at 10/20/2007 7:15 PM  

Okay, BFP. Reading your comments, I can see why and how that was offensive. I apologize.

I don't want to get caught up in "intent," since that has already been thoroughly criticized. But I do feel that the point I was trying to make was an important one, so I hope that I'll be forgiven for trying again.

Firstly, I was not trying to reduce anyone to stereotypes. Clearly I did, and I'm sorry. But it's not just WOC. I see white feminists regularly strike down not only male trolls, but men who genuinely seem to have an interest in feminism and who are trying to say the right thing but get it wrong. I see well-meaning guys get torn to shreds and have in some cases defended them. The blogosphere can be mean, all around. That is in fact what I mean, even though it is obviously not what I said.

I do think that this is a good demonstration, though, of why white feminists are afraid of frankness. Not because I think that you're being mean to me. I don't. But because the first time I try, it doesn't go very well and fucked up precisely like I anticipated I might. It makes you want to go back to walking on eggshells because knowing that you've fucked up really sucks.

And no, I don't see WOC mindlessly hammering white feminists. But I do see threads on race get very heated and I don't want to be the cause of one of those. Just like I don't go around feminist blogs bringing up the subject of women changing their last names, because I know from experience that there is a decent chance of all hell breaking loose.

As for I think it's a bit disingenuous to say that you are worried about being beaten up by woc even as you engage in civil conversations with woc. the point is that up until this point, the civil conversation was at least partially made possible by my walking on eggshells. I am not afraid of talking to WOC when I'm sure that I'm not going to piss anyone off, but when I'm not, I am afraid of offending someone (as I have just done).

So no, I'm not trying to say "please be nice to me, the poor white girl." I'm saying that knowing you've offended someone sucks no matter what you do. I'm saying knowing you've offended someone AND being treated harshly sucks even more. And I think that I expressed last time that I don't expect you to fix it. It's my deal to work out.

Again, I am sorry.

By Anonymous Cara, at 10/20/2007 7:23 PM  

In the time that I was writing that, I see that other comments expressing similar sentiments were left. I have read them and I'm not ignoring them, but I don't know what else to say that I didn't say in the last comment or what else to say at all, really, except for an apology.

By Anonymous Cara, at 10/20/2007 7:28 PM  

Okay. We're offended. You're sorry. We get it.

The thing is it doesn't look like you're trying to engage with why we're offended. We're not asking you to speak for everyone, and we're not asking you to defend yourself. You mentioned this snippet in your reply to me:

I don't expect to be treated with kid gloves. In fact, if I say something offensive, I want to know that. Please, tell me. I want the chance to apologize and learn from that. But I also don't want to be ripped a new asshole because I actually care about an issue affecting women of color. I'm not saying that's always what happens. But a lot of the time, it does. And both sides, in my opinion, share at least part of the blame in that. I understand that you're frustrated, and I imagine that I would be, too. I wouldn't try to take the from you. But it does scare us. And it's not WOC's job to fix it. But there it is.

So suck up all that apology shit and let's talk about what you feel your job is. One job I can ask you to quit is the self-effacement because my job and BFP's job and BlackAmazon's job and no other WOC's job is to stop moving forward and trying to mend bridges to deal with every person who is sad about offending people. BFP already hit on that point; this is painful.

But conditioning the continuance of a conversation on our absorption of your deeply felt apologies and your sadness doesn't get to this problem. It puts us in the same superficial conversation of chronically hurt feelings and no change in how we talk to each other.

By Blogger M, at 10/20/2007 7:36 PM  

So how, exactly, should we continue it? You said that we can talk about what I think my job is. In what sense? As a white woman? As a feminist? As someone who wants to be an ally? As all of the above?

I don't really know how to continue the conversation. Or what my job is. I do know that I have a lot to think about. But I honestly don't know where to go from here, though I would like to.

By Anonymous Cara, at 10/20/2007 7:47 PM  

Yes, as all of the above.

A critical problem with WOC interaction with white middle-class feminism (and many other marginalized groups) is the fact that we can't bring our entire personhood into the conversation and expect to make any headway. We find ourselves having to ignore some aspect of who we are to agree with everyone else.

And perhaps you're experiencing that now speaking with women of color in a WOC-dominated space -- you're fragmenting yourself so that you can fit into the conversation in some way without feeling upset about its direction in analyzing something that's inextricably a part of who you are.

So that's something we need to talk about -- how to create a more inclusive and respectful feminism that speaks to all aspects of women (and others) as people. And that process starts with you. Not necessarily in a conversation with us, but it starts with you.

By Blogger M, at 10/20/2007 8:03 PM  

Well, I know that part of my job is listening to WOC and not stopping the conversation. I know that my job is to examine my own privilege, which though it really sucks right now, I am doing. I know that I need to speak up in cases of racism, to further educate myself of WOC issues and to be willing to speak up about them.

But since we're having the conversation, I am interested in what those of you who are reading would like, respect and appreciate in a white feminist ally. I think that's an important discussion to have. If we're going to try to mend the gap, we need to know what we expect from each other.

And I'm not sure if I'm feeling the compartmentalization that you're talking about, M, but I am feeling a sense of isolation. And maybe that's a valuable learning experience.

I might not get back to this thread tonight, but I will definitely check back and respond in the morning.

By Anonymous Cara, at 10/20/2007 8:34 PM  

Thank you.

Lately I think I've been pulling an Ilyka -- realized that I've gradually abandoned the major feminist blogs in favour of WOC, in part because mainstream indifference/racism has become so blatantly obvious.

The Marcotte book cover debacle was what really hammered it home for me. The feminist bloggers I looked up to and read constantly -- dismissing and misrepresenting the objections of WOC for no damn good reason except, well, racism.

in short: :(

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/20/2007 8:42 PM  

cara--i appreciate that it's difficult to talk about things that you aren't sure about. I also realize that race brings up a lot of feelings particularly in U.S. citizens that are very uncomfortable and hard to deal with. but the thing is, there's been multiple white people before you who have grappled through these questions and ideas. there's multiple white feminists who many of us in the woc blogging community respect and admire even if we disagree with them, even harshly some times. And there's multiple white feminists who I consider to be true radical allies--they put their money where there mouth is and they back up their words with actions.

the problem comes when people link and engage primarily with white centered feminist blogs that have no interest in anti-racism work rather than engaging primarily with white centered blogs that people in the woc blogging community openly consider allies. For example, if a white feminist blogger is interested in anti-racist work, why does she spend most of her time linking to and interacting with posts from feministing rather than rachel's tavern? Or changeseeker? Or ilyka damen? Or Kactus? Or sly civilian or vegan kid or red jenny or any of the multitudes of committed anti-racist feminist bloggers?

I haven't always been the greatest when it comes to interacting with issues from the disabled community. I was called out myself by a disabled blogger. and it sucked. I was also called out by a trans person who has been nothing but the most amazing ally ever and who i consider a good friend--that sucked too. but oh well. I'm still alive. just like you are.

blue, from the gimp parade asked one time why able bodied bloggers never question or challenge themselves when it comes to disability. she wondered why nobody ever talks about what scares them or what makes them nervous or why they can understand the mentality it would be better to be dead than "like that". i think the same thing can be asked of white people about racism--why do they never think that this is *their* issue too? and in fact, will go to some lengths to keep discussions of racism from happening while they are in the room?

What is it about 'being wrong' that is so horrible to white people? What is it about facing the wrath of people of color that is so threatening and horrible? What is it about interacting with ideas that come from women of color or people of color that is so intimidating, when we've been doing it for centuries?

By Anonymous bfp, at 10/20/2007 8:50 PM  

rachel's tavern? Or changeseeker? Or ilyka damen? Or Kactus? Or sly civilian or vegan kid or red jenny or any of the multitudes of committed anti-racist feminist bloggers?

Thats what often perplexes me about that argument ? It's not as if there arent many both explicity anti-racist

and other white bloggers who AREN"T EVEN EXPLICITLY anti racist who freely participate and are friendly with POC bloggers

so this analysis of us as randomly eviscerating white girls comes form where?

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 10/20/2007 9:47 PM  

cara, the dominant groups shut down conversations.

think of the feministe thread. matt yglesias and the young liberal white males "won," didn't they. feminists weren't worth talking to. they don't read feminist blogs or they don't read feminist blogs enough to know feminist bloggers talk about abortion day in and day out and from 100 different directions. feminists are "hysterical" and hostile. they shut down that conversation not feminists.

that's how frustrating it is for woc. feminists don't read woc blogs or they don't read them enough to understand we understand race better than they do. this dismissiveness happens all the time the same as what happened on that "hysteria" thread. feminists are scary and not worth talking to. who loses in the end? feminists.

what should these young liberal white men do? shut up and listen. defer to feminists' knowledge about abortion. did they do that? no, they did the exact opposite and went on their merry, ignorant way.

this is what happens constantly with white feminists and women of color feminists. what should white feminists do? shut up and listen. defer to women of color feminists about race. just say, sorry, you're right. then shut up and listen. and defer to woc on race.

if they have a problem with this, they should just think of every time white male progressives shut down conversations about feminist issues. it's gotten better but as you can see, matt yglesias and younger liberal white males are still clueless.

By Blogger donna darko, at 10/20/2007 10:19 PM  

rachel's tavern? Or changeseeker? Or ilyka damen? Or Kactus? Or sly civilian or vegan kid or red jenny or any of the multitudes of committed anti-racist feminist bloggers?

I can't speak for those other bloggers, but for me becoming anti-racist mostly was something I was compelled to do, because I saw and recognized and hated that racism in myself. I still see it and I still fight it and yes, I'm like bfp says, I still have cringe-inducing moments. I had one last night, and if I was still blogging I'd probably have blogged about it.

I came to a place in my life, through circumstance mostly, where I was often the only white person in the room, in the store, in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the house. And I couldn't go about my life not interacting with people because I had some white fear of offending--I had to get over myself and learn when to shut up and when to speak. And I learned to listen, to others and to myself.

And I also saw early on that racism is a slippery slope, that it's too fucking easy to let thought become either action or complacency.

Eh, don't want to make this about me cuz it's not, but maybe a little perspective on one person's journey to this place.

By Blogger kactus, at 10/20/2007 10:42 PM  

feminist bloggers know what they're talking about wrt abortion. you know this, feminist bloggers know this. woc bloggers know what they're talking about wrt race. many of us even study it.

think about how little these young liberal white male bloggers knew about feminist bloggers and abortion every time there are conversations about woc bloggers and race. think about what they should have done (shut up, listen, defer to feminists and their knowledge about abortion) and do the same wrt woc bloggers.

By Blogger donna darko, at 10/20/2007 10:51 PM  

bfp said: That's what relationships ARE. they are fucking up, figuring things out, working through the painful stuff, *reflection* and *introspection*.

Refusing to participate in any of that stuff means that you are refusing to be in a relationship with women of color--and that effectively repositions and recreates racist structures of power.


bfp, speaking as a white person myself, IMO there's a severe conflict of practice and worldview between relationships as you are describing them (eg the energy you bring to your blog that I love so much) -- and the core habitual deep-rooted image-projection, dominance games and control mechanisms of the white cultural self in interaction with other beings.

I'm thinking along these lines here: http://www.africawithin.com/ani/excerpt_chap6.htm

And also: I worry somewhat about putting that link there. Maybe I'm too hardcore on this, or allowing my own specific focus and concerns too much space in how I am participating. That is really seriously possible here.

I do not identify as a "white anti-racist ally" or variation on that term. And, after many years of incorrectly seeing only the connections, I am seeing now that I don't really know the contours of intersection and disconnection between 1. where I myself am at in relation to this white/European cultural system's deep persistent lies and aggressive pushes for perceptual domination (which I viscerally feel/perceive as violence and desecration in my body and soul and heart), and 2. struggles against racism/system of white domination that are about the whole system.

By Anonymous michelle, at 10/21/2007 1:37 AM  

I'm new to reading feminist blogs and unfamiliar with the ongoing fights between WOC and white feminist, all I see at the moment is a woman trying her best to explain her point of view and apologizing and the rest instead of acknowledging her good intentions is complaining. With so much baggage from the past you're certainly not going to achieve anything.

Also, "shut up, listen, defer to feminists/WOC and their knowledge about XXX", simply does not seem conducive to an open conversation with anybody. You might be completely right, but in order to get your point across you will still have to take into account the other person's limited experience. This is going to sound a bit trite, but if you want someone to understand you, you have to understand them first, their personal (limited) experience and explain it in a way that they with their limited experience are able to understand. You have to work with what you have, not an idealized version of how people are supposed to be. If everybody was so openminded and receptive to changes, there would be no need for feminists. Women, regardless of race, would have the same rights as men and men would willingly share their power. We get told to walk in someone else's shoes before judging them and we all know how difficult this can be. It must be even worse if someone else complains all the time that you are not successful at doing it.

By Blogger projektleiterin, at 10/21/2007 7:06 AM  

I should add, a lot of guys seem to be brickheads and a waste of time. I'm always glad if someone else does the job of trying to communicate with them and see their point of view. :D

By Blogger projektleiterin, at 10/21/2007 8:21 AM  

I'm new to reading feminist blogs and unfamiliar with the ongoing fights between WOC and white feminist, all I see at the moment is a woman trying her best to explain her point of view and apologizing and the rest instead of acknowledging her good intentions is complaining. With so much baggage from the past you're certainly not going to achieve anything.

Well, projektleiterin, I actually disagree. Though I think that it's a good thing to acknowledge good intentions and when someone is trying their best, I don't think that good intentions give anyone a free pass. How, exactly, am I supposed to learn if everyone is busy saying "well, she's trying her best so I guess we'll just leave it alone." I don't think that's productive for anybody.

Also, "shut up, listen, defer to feminists/WOC and their knowledge about XXX", simply does not seem conducive to an open conversation with anybody. You might be completely right, but in order to get your point across you will still have to take into account the other person's limited experience.

I think that you are misunderstanding the difference between an open conversation and a tug of war contest between two groups of people who say "no, I'm right." This is, in fact, what generally happens in white feminist/woc feminist exchanges. And yeah, in almost all situations, the white feminists are wrong. Just like, as has been pointed out, when male liberals try to pretend that they know more than feminists about their own issues, they end up looking like jackasses.

That doesn't mean that white feminists don't want male liberals talking about these issues. We do, and there are several pro-feminist men out there writing about feminist issues. The point is that these men know enough about feminism and feminist issues before opening their mouths. And what they don't know, they either work out through conversation or by accepting that the more experienced feminists, the ones who have actually lived their lives as women, know better.

What instead happened in the feministe/yglesias situation was that the men automatically assumed that the women didn't know what they were talking about, because it didn't fit into their understanding of the world. And as Donna pointed out in her post, this is in fact what happens a lot of the time when white feminists try to talk to woc feminists.

I should add, a lot of guys seem to be brickheads and a waste of time. I'm always glad if someone else does the job of trying to communicate with them and see their point of view.

Well, yeah. But people also get frustrated, and with good reason. The fifteenth time I have to explain to a male-commenter on my blog what we mean by "rape culture" and trying to convince him that it exists, it gets annoying and I am more prone to lose my temper than I was the first time around. Because you start thinking this is easy stuff, why the hell don't they get this? I imagine that the women here responding to me have been through this exact same conversation many, many, many times before. As the "brickhead" in this situation, I do realize that they're going to get annoyed and frustrated and that they probably have very good reasons.

By Anonymous Cara, at 10/21/2007 9:15 AM  

I'm sorry if it seems that I wrote this post then ditched the conversation, because I did! lol I wrote this Friday and then Saturday morning I headed down to Connecticut to see my new niece, who is the most perfect baby EVAR! I'm still in CT and since I have been trying to read these comments been interrupted 6 times by various family members. It's wonderful being with those family members, but not conducive to blogging or commenting!

By Blogger Donna, at 10/21/2007 10:47 AM  

projektleiterin said...

I'm new to reading feminist blogs and unfamiliar with the ongoing fights between WOC and white feminist, all I see at the moment is a woman trying her best to explain her point of view and apologizing and the rest instead of acknowledging her good intentions is complaining.

Wow. That's impressive. You admit you are new and ignorant, but you feel comfortable analyzing this discussion and coming to a conclusion about what us occurring here.

Thank you for a stunningly obvious display of privilege.

Cara, you and I are white. We do not spend our everyday lives confronting racist assholes.

Given that, we absolutely must be willing to accept some pain ourselves. We will screw up and piss people off. Racism trains us to do that. The least we can do is offer a WOC the respect she shows us when she tells us we fucked up. WOC anger is not something to fear, it something to honor.

WOC could just let us go along our merry way being ignorant and rude. They choose not to. They offer us a chance to learn and overcome our racist training.

They see it and we don't. We need to be able to hear it no matter what form it comes in.

By Blogger Ravenmn, at 10/21/2007 11:55 AM  

Cara, back to your initial comment about your fears and concerns (and Ravenm, I feel like you're picking up on it in focus on white people's "pain" here) --

Why would your concern with exercising white privilege -- practicing racism -- be whether or not you end up being attacked or hurt? Why isn't your concern that YOU will hurt women of color with your actions? Why isn't that the focus? Seriously, where is the focus here? Who is most human?

My thinking on it right now is -- there are all these different reality-creation-type "stories" that white people put forward and act from. Some of them have overt racism as normal practice, some have subtle or covert racism as normal practice, some even claim ally-ness with the assertion that it is different.

But the persistent thing underlying *all* of these stories that I have seen is: who is writing the script and assuming that they have the right to do it. And that relates to who is explicitly or implicitly in the starring role, who is most real most human etc etc ... and who is just an object that exists in relation to the ones claiming the right to set the terms.

So it is persistently about the white people's feelings inside, intentions, sense of what is going on, fear of disruption, demand for comfort, heroic-ness, etc etc etc.

These white stories don't actually ever challenge the underlying part, which is about the role that white people have in all of these stories as the ones setting the terms, the ones who are most human, most important, most central, the ones who everyone else is an object in relation to.

So there is a pattern of white women (and Cara I feel it is totally a pattern, not specific to you but you participate) being more concerned with this stereotyped fear of being "attacked" for practicing racism than concerned with the actual pain and damage you might directly cause to women of color by practicing racism in the first place.

By Anonymous michelle, at 10/21/2007 2:19 PM  

Ok, Cara, defend yourself alone. I should have known better than to comment on anything here given how wacko the communication between WOC and white feminists has appeared to me. If I was a guy, I would be appalled by this kind of self-righteousness, touchiness and wallowing in victimhood that some people here display. This resembles a private club with exclusive entry for members only where anybody who is not well informed enough gets dissed for his lack of interest and is prevented from entering, at the same time you are complaining why nobody wants to enter. Ladies, if you want to change anybody, you should refrain from giving stroppy answers to people who might be on your side.

And ravenmn, as a WOC I'd like to tell you that I find your public display of self-castigation disingenuous and useless to abolish racism. I'd rather not have someone like you on my side when it comes to dealing with racist issues.

By Blogger projektleiterin, at 10/21/2007 4:20 PM  

your public display of self-castigation

This is a total misinterpretation. Saying I don't mind feeling discomfort if it means I learn something worthwhile is NOT self-castigation. My personal discomfort is not going to be my focus and it should not be anyone's.

"If I was a guy, I would be appalled ..."

I don't understand this. Why would your response change if you were a man?

Cara, discussing white discomfort when issues of racism come up is not an accident. It's something we've been taught to do whenever we are confronted, We've learned our lesson so well that we don't even notice what it does to the discussion. Look at the links Donna provided and you'll find this method used by white people every single time.

It isn't helpful. It doesn't get us anywhere.

Let's choose to set our discomfort aside and try something different this time.

By Blogger Ravenmn, at 10/21/2007 5:42 PM  

Stroppy answers?
begs DOnna's pardon

LEts see you come in here uninformed uneducated and lecture us on how to speak to people.

You Have NO idea none and instead of asking us questions or educating yourself you then insult us .

As someone who is bragging about being a project leader this not just ridiculous but disrespectful.

And Some people ? Wann say our names or just be a jackass some more ?

You'd NEVER in you LIFE , enter another academic or personal discussion with that level of hubris and expect no one to correct you

but somehow its quite alright ona WOC space for you to be a lecturing assinine ninny ?

What it SEEMS like to you has little to do with reality and could be easily clarified by some research or common intellectual decency.

But you know our motives , except for you r self righteous guesses being completely wrong . We're not trying to " change " anyone but protect our lives and rights

And frankly if this is how you behave you status as a woman of color is kind of non relevant

Oh and the condescending psuedo Brit " ladies" as a corrective tool?

IS both transparent and trite

Care to try again?

And let me save you some of that research you insist on not doing while pontificating form mount I KNOW BEST

I'm BLackamazon . I don't care. Stroppy is one of the milder things you can call me and don't let the doorkob hit you on the way out

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 10/21/2007 6:45 PM  

Ladies, if you want to change anybody, you should refrain from giving stroppy answers to people who might be on your side.

And when I hit this line, that's when I fully confirmed you weren't to be taken seriously.

By Blogger M, at 10/21/2007 9:26 PM  

projektleiterin, that's fine, because I don't feel that I need to be defended. Not because I don't feel that I've done anything wrong on this thread -- we've covered, at length, that I have -- but because I don't think that the things I've done wrong deserve to be defended. I am actually here to try to have a real conversation, not fight. And defending prejudice, no matter how well intentioned the statements including that prejudice were, is not going to get us anywhere.

Michelle, rereading my comment I see that you are right. I did talk about my fears of being attacked and not about my fears of hurting anyone. This does, actually surprise me, because I do have that fear. But the comment is there, and I clearly left that out. I don't have an explanation or excuse for that. I do imagine that it was unconscious privilege/prejudice slipping out.

And yes, I do agree that this is a part of a greater narrative -- the idea that white feelings are somehow more important and fragile. It's something that I find to be incredibly disgusting, the type of thing that I criticize in Republicans constantly, and so it's really disturbing to find it in myself. But I thank you for pointing it out, because I'd rather know that continue perpetuating it unaware.

Ravenm, I agree with everything you say. Pain will be a part of this on both sides, and so it needs to be part on the side of whites. And you're absolutely right that we need to put that aside and not get hung up on discussing it.

I'm not there yet, and I don't know how long it will take me to get there. Probably longer than you'd like, but hopefully not very long. After this conversation, I see that it's something that I need to work on, I am working on it and I think that being aware of it has been a good start.

By Anonymous Cara, at 10/21/2007 9:44 PM  

Zuzu, what you don't understand is that what you call airing grievances that have nothing to do with the shitstorm sometimes really do have to do with the shitstorm, it's a continuation of the same pain. This is one of the things that bothered me and continues to bother me about the FFF shitstorm. People are saying that WOC and some of the others critical of the book were taking swipes at Jessica as a stand in for something else, the larger feminist movement or problems they have had with Feministing or Jessica in the past. But I raised the issues we have had with Jessica/Feministing/the larger feminist movement in order to explain how FFF is an extention of that, it's all one and the same. You can't really expect someone who is disrespectful of WOC herself and on her site to write a respectful book inclusive/integrating WOC, can you?

That is the dynamics I saw and that is why I could easily interpret what you said the way I did. I may have missed it, but for the most part I saw people respectfully raising the issue of King Kong being racist imagery and only getting irate when they were dismissed out of hand, instead of anyone particularly out to get Amanda or ruin her happiness over the book.

Anyway, I think that BA has made the best point of all. When you have one or two being trolls and five or ten with valid points, it's better to ignore the trolls and address the valid points. Changing focus to the trolls is dismissive too. It's also a strategy we are far too used to, for example that is what happened during the Clinton lunch. Every white liberal blogger who posted about that lunch had lots to say about the troll who hates boobs, but very few would touch the issues POC were raising about the whiteness of the guest list. Kudos to Feministe for being one of those few.

By Blogger Donna, at 10/21/2007 11:34 PM  

Cara, my take is that in that comment, you made a true statement of your primary concern and fear and attention.

That is: The way I see it, what "slipped out" in that comment was the truth of how you feel/felt it. What's wrong is not that you wrote it, but what was/is underneath that made it a true statement for you.

So I'm glad you aren't trying to backtrack and do damage control.

That comment doesn't provide an optimal appearance/image of you, of course. But IMO (and seriously this is just how I feel the world, not some statement about how to be a white ally, because I don't know) -- IMO it *is* better to have the ugly/disturbing truth of that situation visible, than to have it hidden or explained away as something it isn't.

By Anonymous michelle, at 10/21/2007 11:45 PM  

Cara, there are some white feminist bloggers who are better than others on issues of race. I and other POC wouldn't have them on the sidebar otherwise, and you'll notice that Feministe is there, The Curvature should be there too, but I haven't updated in months. I do see you commenting on WOC blogs and know that you are interested in learning and doing more. That doesn't mean that these blogs or bloggers are perfect, it means that they keep talking, keep trying, don't go to the corner and lick their wounds and say, forget it! I'm not talking to those mean oversensitive WOC again!

The only reason I am picking on Feministe is because I read there, there are some white feminist sites that are so dreadful I don't ever read there unless someone else that I do read links to them for some reason. That post was the perfect example of the parallels between the things feminists contend with from clueless men full of their male privilege and we WOC contend with from white feminists, not that we get that in particular from Feministe or the bloggers there. That also isn't to say that we don't, there are problems, and there can be push back from clueless commenters full of their white privilege, but it isn't a hostile environment either. Piny and Zuzu won't let that happen, both are very quick to put a stop to privileged b.s.

So if you are reading this as an indictment of all white feminists, well it is and it isn't. Racism and other oppressions and learning to view others as subordinate, deficient, unequal, less than human are pervasive in our world. We are all going to act on this conditioning whether it is deliberate or inadvertent. But there are degrees of awareness, degrees of acting out, and most importantly what is done afterwards, from denials and disrespect, to acknowledgment and learning.

One last thing, I want you to post about this. I want white feminists interested in talking about it, here, at their own sites, anywhere. I'm not interested in a fight, but I'm not afraid of one either. Sometimes I think the only way to avoid one is to remain silent, and I'm not about to do that. All we can do is ignore the trolls and hopeless cases and try our best to have a productive discussion with everyone else.

By Blogger Donna, at 10/22/2007 12:20 AM  

BlackAmazon said: but if I am gonna come to black to blogging and be useful...

*Donna jumping up and down in excitement!*

BA, I miss your writing soooooo bad! You're the best teacher I ever had. I know I have said it before and I will be saying it again, but you help me to clarify my own thoughts and make me think of new things that wouldn't have occurred to me without your posts, emails, and inspiration.

By Blogger Donna, at 10/22/2007 12:30 AM  

Cara, I only used the word offended to mimic the original post about white males being offended by identity politics. So don't get too hung up on that word, since I agree that it's imprecise and what you are describing is closer to what I am thinking. Some are indifferent and some are outright hostile, but it is the rare white liberal blogger who is openly supportive of the idea of human rights for everyone! There are always some who are less important, who can wait, etc. It really doesn't matter if it is indifference or hostility since the outcome is the same.

Also, you may be assuming someone is sincere without a fuller picture of some of the things we have seen and experienced. George W Bush likes to be seen pictured with black people, especially children, some could think he sincerely cares about them, but do you? We are pretty adept at spotting the liberals pulling a GWB. You're probably not good at it yet.

By Blogger Donna, at 10/22/2007 12:58 AM  

Kactus! It's so good to see you here. I hope you and Ashanti are all settled in Titletown and enjoying your new home.

It's getting too late at night for me to get to the rest of the comments, but I'll be back tomorrow! A big thank you to everyone who took the time to leave their thoughts and begin this discussion.

By Blogger Donna, at 10/22/2007 1:02 AM  

Thanks Donna :)

Ashanti and I move to Green Bay next week. I'm getting pretty nervous but still determined that this is the course our lives should be taking.

But does it have to be in a town obsessed with football?

By Blogger kactus, at 10/22/2007 3:19 AM  

"As someone who is bragging about being a project leader this not just ridiculous but disrespectful."
I remember being on this blog saying something that ticked off this guy who thought that all Asian women were shit and should be catering to Asian men's need. His comment was similar to yours, he called my choice of user name pompous and added a couple of other insults . He didn't get himself informed about they reasons why I chose this name, because he prefered to jump to conclusions, just like you. Given that you criticize me for not informing myself enough it's kind of hypocritical. He is a man and he so dislikes Asian women, but guess what, you both seem to have quite a lot in common.

Anyway, have fun, I'm out of here. This is not the kind of feminist talk I want to participate in.

By Blogger projektleiterin, at 10/22/2007 5:05 AM  

Please don't conflagrations my dislike for smug self entitled lecturing for disliking Asian women

The fact your a self entitled pontificating twiirp doesn't extend to both a continent and gender.

And BYE NOW

By Blogger Blackamazon, at 10/22/2007 10:26 AM  

projektleiterin, do you always swagger like a belligerent drunk into rooms full of strangers who are engaged in longstanding discussions, projektile vomit on the walls and carpet, then storm out pretending to Know Things? Hehe, that's really odd behavior.

What an asshat. Kinda woke me up this morning, though, like overhearing racist shock jocks on the radio, get the blood pumping through the limbs, so I guess it's all good. ;-)

Hi Donna! :-)

Blackamazon, if you're coming back to blogging, I offer to sharpen your machete. I have a good stone, and there's lots of tangled overgrowth to hack away and sugarcane to harvest. ;-)

By Blogger Kai, at 10/22/2007 11:02 AM  

Some are indifferent and some are outright hostile, but it is the rare white liberal blogger who is openly supportive of the idea of human rights for everyone! There are always some who are less important, who can wait, etc. It really doesn't matter if it is indifference or hostility since the outcome is the same.

Exactly. This is the problem in a nutshell, and it ties into what BFP references about allowing fear of causing offense to monopolize the direction of the discussion. I hope my previous comments didn't read as discounting concerns -- they are important if the discussion gives rise to it -- but in this larger pursuit of believing in human rights for everyone, we have to be willing to slip up and to explore the mechanisms behind those slip-ups if we want to work together cohesively. It's a part of solidarity and sisterhood.

By Blogger M, at 10/22/2007 11:11 AM  

Donna D, good to see you here!

Michelle, Here's how I see intent...let's say two people are passing on a staircase, one bumps into the other and that other falls down the stairs getting bruised and busted up in the process. Intent does count for something, I know I would prefer to think that the one person didn't deliberately push the other, that it was accidental and there was no intent to injure. At the same time, there is an injured person at the bottom of the stairs whether it was meant or not! This is where I have a problem with intent, in these cases why does it always seem that the person comes barreling down the stairs to scream in the other persons face, "BUT I DIDN'T MEAN IT! WHY WON'T YOU LET IT GO!" ya know, instead of like, trying to right the wrong. Their pain at having their intent questioned is more important than the injured person. It also is a bit of a clue when this carelessness gets repeated, instead of the person learning to watch where she's going there are multiple busted up bodies at the bottom of the stairs. If you have time check out that thread about Amanda's ape book cover and you'll see what I mean. The fact that it is racist doesn't matter, only intent matters.

By Blogger Donna, at 10/22/2007 11:04 PM  

I so need to catch up on my blog reading. I didn't realize you were back posting again, Donna! I followed a link here from bfp's. And BA is coming back too, and M at Kai's and woohoo! And hi Michelle, I was hoping I'd run into you around the blogs somewhere.

Anyway, about your post, I was thinking the same thing when reading that at feministe! I've noticed that sort of thing before, though, not directly related to this issue... many times, all you need to do is change the characters and many people, even those heavily involved in one issue, fail to recognize that it's almost the same exact thing once there is a different cast of characters.

As an aside, I think this is why the rhetoric of the right wing is so successful at sometimes sucking in even those who are sort of lefty. Like on the immigration issue, or marriage equality, so on.

Anyway, I think that BA has made the best point of all. When you have one or two being trolls and five or ten with valid points, it's better to ignore the trolls and address the valid points.

I think, among the many things that really made me angry about the reaction to criticism from woc and others of FFF, that this was the thing that infuriated me the most. That Jessica looked at a thread filled with poc, some with very substantive critiques (others not so much), and all she took away from it - and which she then used to not only justify not engaging the actual criticisms, but also used in articles and interviews to characterize the criticisms - were the words of one white woman who posted on the thread - "patriarchal whore". grrr.

This, of course, is not special to her tho... it's an increasingly common tactic - in addition to the "you're being too harsh", "you're not using the right words to speak to me", "you have to understand them first", "jealous joy killers" and all the other delaying, distracting tactics, not to mention the always fun "poc have the power now and are the real oppressors!".

Sigh.

By Blogger Nanette, at 10/22/2007 11:26 PM  

M, that comment at 5:15 should be a blog post of it's own!

By Blogger Donna, at 10/22/2007 11:31 PM  

People are saying that WOC and some of the others critical of the book were taking swipes at Jessica as a stand in for something else, the larger feminist movement or problems they have had with Feministing or Jessica in the past.

That's another thing that's really been striking me lately - in addition to "people are racist but they give kids candy, love their families, mow the lawn and give to charity, so they are still 'good people'" - which is the stuff people need to say to themselves, I guess, in order to live with their racist/sexist/homophobic friends, family and neighbors and so on - but is also that thing. The "I have to remember, it's not about me. It's part of the structure of racism".

Huh? Of course it's about you. It may not be *only* about you, but if someone is addressing you, telling you they have issues with you or your behaviour or some sort of dumb thing you did, then it's absolutely about you.

I'm beginning to think this whole "structural, endemic, everyone is raised with it racism" thing is more being used to not tear down the structure but to justify participation within it.

By Blogger Nanette, at 10/22/2007 11:38 PM  

Cara, BFP said it better than I could, even if it appears we are ripping someone a new one, look again. I find that a mild rebuke or correction is taken as a strident attack quite often! These conversations would never go off the rails if the person who screwed up for once would just say, "Oops, messed up, sorry about that. Let me try again..." and especially if the other white folks left that alone, instead of coming in and telling the first white person, don't apologize! There is where it goes off the rails.

By Blogger Donna, at 10/22/2007 11:42 PM  

Cara, it might help if you read these comments as if it's to someone else named Cara. You're getting some good insights from many different bloggers here, but I have a feeling that because you are feeling the discomfort of having the finger pointed in your direction that you will have a hard time seeing it and processing it. It's difficult to be objective when you are the object of scrutiny. But I can assure you that no one here is angry with you and things are not heated. We only want you to understand what we are saying.

By Blogger Donna, at 10/23/2007 12:04 AM  

donna, these things are so repetitive. it's extraordinary.

By Blogger donna darko, at 10/23/2007 12:43 AM  

Nanette wrote:

"I'm beginning to think this whole "structural, endemic, everyone is raised with it racism" thing is more being used to not tear down the structure but to justify participation within it."

Oh, that does happen. I hear it a lot: "that's the way I was raised" is a common excuse. I can think of plenty of things I did when I was growing up that I choose not to do now. So why is this one thing inevitable and unchangeable?

By Blogger Ravenmn, at 10/23/2007 2:51 PM  

Hi Donna, thanks for what you wrote about intent. It makes a lot of sense to me.

I can't remember the last time I personally had an interaction where intent came up as a focus where the other person didn't get into that ugly pattern you are describing in the second piece. I've taken to seeing it as a cultural tactic. (in my life specifically, that kind of focus on intent always seems to come from other white people and not from the people of color I know).

In my feeling of it, the act of saying something like "I didn't intend/mean that" means nothing real without action to, as you say, right the wrong. In fact, as I think about it, to me the action focused on responding to what is actually happening and righting the wrong is what says honestly "I didn't intend that." That's what tells me about the person's intent, whatever they do or don't say about it.

So I guess I would feel that anyone who claims that they didn't intend to do something but then does not act to acknowledge and right the situation is functionally lying. And then to persist and continue the carelessness over and over and over as you wrote about -- at that point whatever the person reports about their inner reality means nothing to me because their claims and their actions don't match up.

Which reminds me of what Nanette wrote (hi Nanette! I'm so glad to cross paths with you again! And in such a better and saner blog space!) anyway, Nanette's comment: Huh? Of course it's about you. It may not be *only* about you, but if someone is addressing you, telling you they have issues with you or your behaviour or some sort of dumb thing you did, then it's absolutely about you.

I'm beginning to think this whole "structural, endemic, everyone is raised with it racism" thing is more being used to not tear down the structure but to justify participation within it.


I feel like that does function in practice to justify participation. And I'm thinking that maybe it implicitly removes the focus on action to right the wrong when it is brought up. Like "I do these things and I can't help myself" or something. Or "I do these things but can't be held responsible/accountable in terms of my actions." Or something along those lines

Which seems to me to set up a situation in which the person/people can do whatever they want, not act to right the wrongs, but keep claiming they don't intend to cause harm, not act in line with that claimed intent, and keep being upset when people don't focus on their inner hopes and intents rather than the actions.

PS Donna I read a big chunk of that thread and it made my stomach hurt. I see what you mean.

By Anonymous michelle, at 10/23/2007 3:32 PM  

I will write a more considered response after I get to read this whole comment thread but I wanted to say two things in case it takes me a little while to do the aforementioned:

One, to me what's important about this post is that enough middle class white feminist bloggers have behaved disrespectfully and hurtfully to women of color bloggers that woc bloggers should no longer need to qualify statements like "middle class white feminists" with a sensitive-to-potential-middle-class-white-feminist-readers "some middle class white feminists..." And I don't say this with snarky anger towards any mcwf's, I say it with love towards women of color bloggers who deserve and should long have had the loyalty of all women and men, including and especially mcsf's.

And, it has always mattered and always will matter, BA, when you don't give up and when you do. You do not stop being missed when you are silent and your words do not stop reverberating when you are here.

By Anonymous Joan Kelly, at 10/23/2007 4:47 PM  

cara said:

"But I also don't want to be ripped a new asshole because I actually care about an issue affecting women of color. I'm not saying that's always what happens. But a lot of the time, it does. And both sides, in my opinion, share at least part of the blame in that."

I have never seen anyone attack a white feminist commenter or blogger for caring about "issues that affect women of color." Ever. And I have been pretty obsessively reading and commenting at almost exclusively woc and radical woc blogs since this past Memorial Day weekend.

If what you meant to say is that sometimes white feminists are attacked by women of color because they tried to join a conversation about or posted their own entry at their own blogs about "issues affecting women of color," and did so in a way that fumbled, or outright aggravated people - I still have not seen that either.

What I have seen is exactly what Donna describes in this post.

But to the issue of you being afraid - I am a seasoned blowhard in these parts, and I am a middle class white feminist. Radical feminist even. And I have been blowing hard regularly at all these blogs I love. And I have not cornered the market on any kind of right way of saying things at all. And no one has ever attacked me. Well, except one white blogger, but what the hell. And probably I provoked it. Point being, the worst that's ever happened to me has been anyone *not* responding when I comment. And that is only "bad" because I like attention and whatnot. It's not factually bad or painful.

BA said:

"I'm BLackamazon . I don't care. Stroppy is one of the milder things you can call me and don't let the doorkob hit you on the way out"

Seriously cannot tolerate how much I fucking love you right now, as it's making my heart push on my ribs and I think might break one.

Okay just finished reading the thread. I feel like erasing the part above where I talk about never having been attacked, because several people here have spoken so well about why that fear is part of the problem. However, because it is factual (that I have never been attacked) and because that stereotype really fucking aggravates me (not directing the f-word at you, here, Cara, just saying over the long haul it is a sore spot for me), I want to let it stand.

And wow with the crazy drive-by commenter.

If anyone really is ever clueless as to why I fawn over the people I do and am in love with the people I am in love with and grateful for their voices and their blogs - this thread is exhibit motherfucking A.

By Anonymous Joan Kelly, at 10/23/2007 6:37 PM  

Very good post and good discussion, excellent comments. I don't read a lot of what I guess are called the major feminist blogs much. It's hard to relate to what is written on most of them most of the time. There's so much that impacts the lives of women that is missed on them. Too much.


I came to a place in my life, through circumstance mostly, where I was often the only white person in the room, in the store, in the workplace, in the neighborhood, in the house. And I couldn't go about my life not interacting with people because I had some white fear of offending--I had to get over myself and learn when to shut up and when to speak. And I learned to listen, to others and to myself.

And I also saw early on that racism is a slippery slope, that it's too fucking easy to let thought become either action or complacency.


My experience is similar to yours, kactus so I understand a little bit. I wouldn't change it for anything, am grateful for the people who've been in my life but it does push you to examine yourself in ways that society itself doesn't because a big part of White privilege is not having to think about anyone else but myself and my race. That's a good thing to push yourself but our defensive mechanisms against serious examination of our own ingrained faults is very strong. Much stronger and more entrenched than we know until we really look. But like kactus said, we still need to get over ourselves and get with it.

Listening is critical. And I'm one of those still struggling with the "but..." cringe moments though they're much less.

I wasn't very enlightened, not one of those Whites who came out of the womb "enlightened"(and I don't trust those who say they have) and I still work hard at it and stumble(as my last "cringe" moment was yesterday) and the sad, hard thing about it is that the lessons I've learned have exacted costs on other people around me which is horribly unfair to them because it's part of White privilege to assume that others feelings are for you to trample as a "learning experience". It's is a different "cringe factor" than is the more brief "cringe factor" that comes up when you're battling with your own defensive mechanisms which come from White privilege.

So while I embrace the lessons I've learned, it's bittersweet at best.

But it's probably the most important work I think I've done in my life. I do have a hard time understanding the pissing contests among many Whites including self-identified feminists about who is less racist than thou at so many of conversations among White feminists and racism. Because part of learning about your behavior and trying to change it including in relationships is as people have said here, making mistakes and I hear mostly more than a few of these people talking about how great they are and not about their mistakes even while they are still clearly making them while at the same time attacking women of color bloggers over it in large part to avoid dealing with their own inability to address their complicity in a White Supremacist system.

I'm catching up on my reading too and it's great to see you back blogging, Donna. And BA, I hope you start blogging soon and I'm very thankful that brownfemipower is. I hope Shleezebub blogs again too and others.

By Blogger Five Before Midnight, at 10/23/2007 8:40 PM  

This thread has reminded me of something I learned in an anti-racism training many years ago. One teacher talked about the level of comfort that is required for a person to speak their own truth.

For people of color, it was necessary to be in a group that was majority POC before it became comfortable to express an honest opinion about racism.

For white people, blithering on about ourselves was possible even when we were a tiny minority of the group.

This was made abundantly clear to me two weeks later when I attended a Take Back the Night workshop about self-defense for women. After 45 minutes of training, demonstrations and interactive learning, the floor was opened to questions.

Lo and behold, the first question was asked by the lone white male who attended the workshop.

But that was many years ago. I'm wondering if things are different now.

By Blogger Ravenmn, at 10/24/2007 11:22 PM  

why oh why

oh why oh

Do I only find this gem NOW...today...when I have finally unearthed myself from work and go surfing...

Oh WHY...I so want to be a part of the conversation.

But, let me guess --
someone stereotypes all WOC into a category and says that when we talk it's either
1) too loud
2) attacking

I'm sure.

Is it Earth Day again?

It's all recycled again.

By Blogger Sudy, at 10/25/2007 5:22 PM  

I am a lurker only, but I have been surprised by the degree to which white feminist bloggers fail to see the parallel that Donna so clearly describes here.

It's my sense that the Feministe crew has been somewhat more open to self-reflection, and some of the comments here suggest that that is your impression as well.

I have been lurking in the white feminist blogosphere for about two years, and have more recently made my way to WOC and ally blogs. Thanks for the thread, I look forward to learning more.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/29/2007 6:43 PM  

I also am new to this site, because I am new to Rachel's Tavern, and I am trying to find more WOC blogs, anti-racist blogs, and blogs where pp want to talk about problems of poverty and class inequality. So I am thrilled to see the names of other blogs in this comment thread and will definitely be visiting the blogs of the commenters here, and in this blogroll, as I surf around this site.

One think that comes across to me in this exchange and in my own blogosphere experience is how racially polarized our worlds are (no news flash there). Though this is true in concrete life too, I find the efforts to share perspectives and conversation and learn from one another is much easier than in the blogosphere. I find the blogosphere to be a really really tough place to emerge as more than just 1-dimensional versions of ourselves. (This is of course tempered by finding sites where we can be part of an on-going discussion) This virtual world is so anonymous and so easily cruel. I'm speaking generally here, the way I've seen commenters on mainstream sites like Ezra Klein just get into hostility and name calling. Pandagon - Amanda's posts in particular - is a bastion of that. Bloggers and commenters alike, at least at the sites I go to, are pretty quick to shut down or denigrate discussions.

Anyway, I'm excited to be here. Thanks. PS: Donna, if there was any H'ween in your CT visit, I hope you saw your niece all costumed out (although perhaps she's an infant, now that I think about it...) My boyfriend just sent me a photo of his 4 month old nephew dressed as a chili pepper while I was typing this and it was the cutest thing ever.

By Anonymous Redstar, at 10/31/2007 11:57 PM  

Redstar, I disagree with you that this is somehow about internet communication. Maybe it's just a matter of focus, of what we each see as center and not-center.

To me these dynamics on the blogs map very very close to dynamics of white feminist racism that I personally have seen for the last couple of decades. I myself personally understand these blog struggles as part of a much larger pattern that has deep roots in offline reality.

And the history goes way past my own experiences. The way I understand the history, women of color have been calling out white feminist racism in the US pretty much since white feminism emerged here. And white feminists have been treating women of color as objects for all this time whil claiming to be about equality or justice or whatever for "women."

If non-blogging real life situations were the key, seems to me that white feminists would have learned a long time ago not to practice this racist violence against women of color. But that has not happened. Instead -- from what I have seen and what I understand of the longer history, it's basically the same-old same-old over and over and over again, new improved mutated versions of the same damn shit, over and over and over.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/01/2007 3:59 AM  

I didn't say it's exclusively about the blogosphere, I said the anonymous quality of the blogosphere makes communication more difficult and treacherous. I also used examples from websites that appear to be ones that would come under fire for having a lack of racial (or class) awareness, so maybe it's not a relevant comparison. But my experience is that it's difficult enough having mutually trusting, equitable x-race/class/gender conversations in person, and I think the b'phere exacerbates those potentials for mis-communications.

I recently read this book by white, lesbian sociologist Monica McDermott called Working Class White, which I didn't find particularly good. She worked for a year as a convenience store clerk in Atl and Boston, observing and participating in working-class white-black interactions, esp. paying attn to how pp talked about race, in all-white or predominately-black, or all-female (and occasionally majority-lesbian) settings. What she showed, as most of us know, and commenters have already addressed here, is that a racist social structure is inherently unstable, because it's illogical and enacted in relatively idiosyncratic ways at an individual level. I.e., our beliefs, actions and values are shaped by the overall structure, but how we enact those beliefs in one-on-one interactions is often unpredictable and pp often can't account for - nor explain, nor take ownership of - their beliefs, statements, etc. (Unless they're grappling consciously with anti-racism or anti-oppression, which was not apparent in her fieldwork analysis. The reason I didn't like this book was because I thought she could have made a lot more of this point about instability and contradiction, whereas she came to other conclusions that I can't remember because they seemed weakly supported...her study site in Boston is where I am originally from, so I was particularly curious to see if she "got it").

Anyway, I'm just mentioning this book because it seems to me that it takes building mutually-respectful relationships to mitigate this unstable and hostile and oppressive structure in which we're all operating, and I just think that's more of a struggle on the web, though it's certainly not impossible.

By Anonymous Redstar, at 11/01/2007 10:34 AM  

Redstar: I'm trying to pin down why your comments are rubbing me kind of wrong. Some of it is what I wrote above.

But to try to get into it deeper:

I don't think the obstacles here are about communication and mis-communication.

I think the the obstacle here (in the case of white feminists and women of color) is racism.

I feel like when you name it as about communication and mis-communication, you are changing the subject in a subtle but powerful way.

You wrote: that a racist social structure is inherently unstable, because it's illogical and enacted in relatively idiosyncratic ways at an individual level. I.e., our beliefs, actions and values are shaped by the overall structure, but how we enact those beliefs in one-on-one interactions is often unpredictable and pp often can't account for - nor explain, nor take ownership of - their beliefs, statements, etc.

IMO the white/European cultural system is set up so we don't have to be accountable for our actions, nor for the disconnect between what we say and what we do. It's not unstable from that perspective (nor is it unstable from my actual experience and what I know of the actual real history and current existence and persistence).

I feel that we are living in a dominant culture that is inherently hypocritical and that situations of in-person relationship building can certainly become or be abusive, and that this dynamic of abuse may be overt or more often may be subtle. I feel like white women are absolutely capable of being abusive in these situations.

I feel like naming it as a communication/mis-communication issue rather than racism opens up a whole range of evasive and subtly racist rhetoric and actions for white feminists to use to get out of taking real responsibility for our actions.

There is a tactic I have seen in this culture that is about changing the subject just enough to shift the terms, but not so much that it is obviously untrue (giving a sort of word-based "plausible deniability" that can make the tactic really hard to pin down).

I feel like you are doing this in these comments.

It bothers me pretty deeply. That's just me -- again, I am not speaking for anyone else at all, in this discussion or elsewhere. And, I am not speaking as a "white anti-racist ally." Just speaking from this sinking feeling in my gut reading what you wrote.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/01/2007 3:27 PM  

I don't consider them binary forces. I agree we're all operating within a racist social structure, that absolutely lets white pp off the hook for their behavior, in part because they have rationalized their own dominant position as natural and earned (I just noticed that I didn't use "we" but "they", which would be part of an unconscious distancing of myself, a white person, from accountability for this structure. Caught in the act!). I actually take that social structure as a given. Within it, there's certainly room for lesser or greater opportunity to communicate with one another.

I was trying to make a comparative, additional point, not narrow the topic of conversation to one of mis-communication exclusively. Though this is McDermott's point - that there is an unconcious element to our actions, and extraordinary room for misinterpretation on both sides (e.g., "you're a racist"; "no, you're too sensitive", etc.), given the binary degree of polarization and segregation within our white racist structure that prevents us from really knowing one another (whether or not by "choice").

Theoretically, all these "binary" inequality structures (anti-black racism by whites, capitalist oppression, sexism) contain inherent contradictions that de-stabilize the system and allow room for pushback by the oppressed group. I would argue that mis-understanding creates space for clarification and anti-oppression activism (though perhaps not a great space). I accept and agree with your point that the larger and fundamental issue here is about racism. I just have an intellectual problem with stopping at the structural level, and typically end up bringing in interaction, agency, communication (in case you couldn't tell by my rather academic response here, I'm a grad student, and standing in the library after reading towards my qualifying exams on urban inequality and cultural and political conflict; forgive me if I'm getting too abstract).

To be less abstract, I have a personal difficulty with conversations about inequality structures such as racism that colors my perspective on this. As a white woman of urban poor roots whose family fits every uncritical academic description of the black inner-city poor, the underclass, etc. (did I mention I'm a grad student in urban studies?), I find that my identity as I define it is personally, professionally and publicly contested just about daily. I move through life with some pretty intense cognitive dissonance, and not a small chip on my shoulder. I'm always looking for greater room to communicate my identity to others, and to grapple with what my social position, privilege and power is as a white woman who orbits b/w very low-income, working and upper-middle class worlds pretty regularly (being blood-related to all three).

I hope I haven't gone too far in sharing my personal history (feeling vulnerable here), nor made it too much about me, which is probably due to multiple factors, incl. skin color (and that I'm an only child prone to intense introspection). I'm enjoying our dialogue quite a lot, actually, and have been checking the site all day to check for your reply.

By Anonymous Redstar, at 11/01/2007 5:34 PM  

PS: Your phrase "really hard to pin down" is resonating with me. I agree with this totally, that part of the problem with uncovering racist or sexist acts (my felt experience being stronger with the latter) is this difficultly in identifying WTF just happened that left me/someone else feeling totally denigrated or dismissed. Did he really just say that to me? Do they realize that they run this dept. in such a way that my perspective or contributions are discounted? That it's set up so I can't participate fully? How can they not see this? Bastards. etc.

So you're right. Perhaps if I was part of more threads like this more often, I would see the blogosphere as a place where straightforward, on-point conversation about racism, class, sexism and privilege can occur (I obviously also am pretty resistant to de-linking race, gender and class from one another).

By Anonymous Redstar, at 11/01/2007 5:49 PM  

Hey Redstar,

You got the hard to pin down part? Damn I'm going to cry (a white woman is crying! everyone run get a tissue for me!). That's one of those things I don't expect to make sense to other people.

You wrote: PS: Your phrase "really hard to pin down" is resonating with me. I agree with this totally, that part of the problem with uncovering racist or sexist acts (my felt experience being stronger with the latter) is this difficultly in identifying WTF just happened that left me/someone else feeling totally [michelle's note: ?what better word? check the origin of the word you used] and dismissed. Did he really just say that to me? Do they realize that they run this dept. in such a way that my perspective or contributions are discounted? That it's set up so I can't participate fully? How can they not see this? Bastards. etc.

These struggles about reality -- the WTF just happened, the way that "truth" isn't about what happened but about who can manipulate better and has the system power to push their version of reality, the power dynamics of that -- these struggles get to me hard.

These struggles are core for me, these struggles are the place that I can't turn away even if I want to. More so than areas where I am recognizably in the oppressed group like gender and sexual orientation. I feel those as abusive dynamics, as about pushing a reality based on the power the system grants rather than accountability to what is actually going on. I feel those dynamics as part of a cultural system of power dynamics and horror, and I have seen white women use them as much as white men.

I agree we're all operating within a racist social structure, that absolutely lets white pp off the hook for their behavior, in part because they have rationalized their own dominant position as natural and earned (I just noticed that I didn't use "we" but "they", which would be part of an unconscious distancing of myself, a white person, from accountability for this structure. Caught in the act!). I actually take that social structure as a given. Within it, there's certainly room for lesser or greater opportunity to communicate with one another.

The way I have seen it go, communication/interaction is as likely to be a site of further abuse and racism as it is to be a site for opposition to the system. Even in person, even when it is ostensibly about getting to know each other. Like: communicate on whose terms and with whose perception at the center? What are the underlying power dynamics of that communication? What are the standards for what/who is considered real and who has to "prove" that their perception/experience is relevant? etc.

...and extraordinary room for misinterpretation on both sides (e.g., "you're a racist"; "no, you're too sensitive", etc.), given the binary degree of polarization and segregation within our white racist structure that prevents us from really knowing one another (whether or not by "choice").

In my view, the cultural dynamics of white supremacy can totally dovetail with that piece about "room for misinterpretation on both sides" because -- it gives white feminists an out from actual accountability, gives us the opportunity to focus attention away from our actual actions and their effects on women of color, and onto how women of color don't really understand us, our intentions or the real specific issues in that specific case (that last because one of the ways that battle over reality can go is "yes there is racism and I will agree in the abstract that I/white women can act racist, but let me tell you how what I just did wasn't racist").

So that attention to misunderstanding on both sides can function like a wedge to keep up the pressure of the white women's privilege in operation -- our white system-supported "right" to define reality when there is a clash between white women's perspective and the perspective of women of color.

I move through life with some pretty intense cognitive dissonance, and not a small chip on my shoulder. I'm always looking for greater room to communicate my identity to others, and to grapple with what my social position, privilege and power is as a white woman who orbits b/w very low-income, working and upper-middle class worlds pretty regularly (being blood-related to all three).

I really wish I could respond to this because I am really in favor of/supportive of white academics not speaking from abstract places (that's a whole other discussion I guess) -- but I don't have a good sense of what this actually means in your actual practice and experience.

Like, communicate your identity to which others? Are you trying to have room to communicate your identity to people of color or white people or both, to class-privileged people, poor people, very low income people, all, some?

What are the power dynamics in these struggles of yours to have space to communicate your identity and to grapple with your social position? That's what I don't get, exactly, and so am having a hard time understanding what this means/looks like in actual practice.

I also want to say this: I am aware as I am writing all these comments -- and I mean not only these with Redstar but also my comments in the rest of the thread -- I am aware that what gets to me hardest is specific to me and may not be particularly useful in discussions about racism. There are intersections between what draws my attention, and actual anti-racist struggle -- but there are also disconnections.

And I really seriously hope and trust that if any of the women of color reading this perceive what I am doing as in any way not useful, painful, diversionary, too much, inappropriate or whatever -- you will say so if you feel it worth the energy to say.

Because I feel that I am walking a really seriously fine line here in all of this and my own perception of what is relevant to this actual discussion and what isn't is very likely off-kilter.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/01/2007 11:33 PM  

Hi Michelle,

I appreciate your reaching out to other readers (are any still with us?) as we talk at the bottom of the thread. I've been thinking about how it seems like just the 2 of us over the last 36 hours.

I'm flagging on being able to hold up my end of the conversation on this Friday afternoon, in part because of a late night with my boyfriend's family yesterday and in part because it feels like we have so much to talk about, and a comment thread isn't the easiest place for that.

I will say that my education (and I've had a fucking lot of it, by now) has oriented around questions of race, class, gender, identity, protest, activism, (economic) development, and inequality in part because I have felt like a "category-blurrer" (I have to thank Prof. Zero for that one) most of my life, and have been using my education as a means to shore up my understanding of myself as an outsider. That is, to find some way to interpret my feelings of not fitting in (e.g., oh, so this is a sociological concept known as marginalization, that sounds about right...oh, so here is some data on female-headed households and urban inequality, yep, looks like my people...) and put them to use in the world - by that I mean trying to find friends and colleagues who also feel like they are outsiders in whatever system(s) they're in.

You write: "Are you trying to have room to communicate your identity to people of color or white people or both, to class-privileged people, poor people, very low income people, all, some? What are the power dynamics in these struggles of yours to have space to communicate your identity and to grapple with your social position?"

To this I would answer, I am trying to control how others define me as much as I can, given we use markers like skin color, gender, educational or occupational position, etc. to categorize and stereotype others, consciously and unconsciously. My life, as most of ours are, is much more nuanced and complex than the assumption that I am a white, liberal elite would indicate based on my skin color and educational status. Furthermore, I have spent a significant portion of my intellectual and professional life as one of the only white or Christian people (Brandeis grad) in the room, in the social or working group, etc. So I'm well aware of that sensation of entering a room and having others assign to your being the collective identity they think/expect you to represent, putting you not in a neutral position in your interactions, but set back into some pre-conceived place that you have to first communicate your way out of so others can get to know you as you think you are. I would say this is my experience across a range of individuals/groups, because it depends on the situational context, and I move through very diverse contexts in terms of race and class pretty regularly. Generally speaking, my academic life has been shaped most strongly by scholars of color and progressive, Marxist whites.

I'm well aware of my advantage based on my skin color, and the more I learn experientially and intellectually, the more I'm trying to be honest with myself and in my interactions about that advantage, and not take advantage of it! This, as you most likely know, requires a vigilance to things like whose "reality" are we dealing with, etc. that's exhausting and not automatic...I'm not sure what else to add at the moment...I feel like I'm constantly making mental notes to myself about those "cringe" moments as others above mentioned, and behavior modifications to not in the future automatically enter into interactions either competitively or with the tunnel vision of my own views and desires...

...it's Friday, hope you are out having more fun than reading my ramblings must be!

By Anonymous Redstar, at 11/02/2007 6:30 PM  

Redstar, thanks for writing this paragraph specifically:

You wrote: PS: Your phrase "really hard to pin down" is resonating with me. I agree with this totally, that part of the problem with uncovering racist or sexist acts (my felt experience being stronger with the latter) is this difficultly in identifying WTF just happened that left me/someone else feeling totally [michelle's note: ?what better word? check the origin of the word you used] and dismissed. Did he really just say that to me? Do they realize that they run this dept. in such a way that my perspective or contributions are discounted? That it's set up so I can't participate fully? How can they not see this? Bastards. etc.

I've spent most of my writing energy elsewhere, but I really wanted to acknowledge this, because it is so familiar to me as a woman, a lesbian, and as a trans woman.

By Anonymous Lisa Harney, at 11/02/2007 9:11 PM  

Hi Redstar,

Thanks so much or expanding on what you meant! That helps me understand much better, I think.

You wrote: To this I would answer, I am trying to control how others define me as much as I can, given we use markers like skin color, gender, educational or occupational position, etc. to categorize and stereotype others, consciously and unconsciously.

In my view the intersection of that attempted control and any *areas where you have societal/cultural privilege* is scary. To me this is about where you stand in the power dynamics in relation to the people whose perception you are trying to control.

So for example you wrote: Furthermore, I have spent a significant portion of my intellectual and professional life as one of the only white or Christian people (Brandeis grad) in the room, in the social or working group, etc. So I'm well aware of that sensation of entering a room and having others assign to your being the collective identity they think/expect you to represent, putting you not in a neutral position in your interactions, but set back into some pre-conceived place that you have to first communicate your way out of so others can get to know you as you think you are.

I have a triple reaction to this, the same reaction from several different angles.

As a white Jew, reading a white Christian say this makes me shiver. Because there may be reasons why there is a healthy form of reality-acknowlegement and survival in not seeing you as neutral to start with. Because you in fact *are* part of a collective of people who have and do hurt my people and that is part of the truth of your privilege in relation to me/us (though of course we can be oppressors too, as white/European people, eg the state of Israel. But that doesn't erase white Christian anti-Semitism at all).

And because me initially seeing you as neutral given the reality of white Christians and anti-Semitism just isn't telling the truth of the situation between us.

Then I have a reaction from another angle -- from the part of me that I described a little bit in the previous comment -- and is also a reaction of shiver/fear. It is scary to me to consider the dynamics of someone putting energy into trying to control how others with less societal power perceive her, so that instead of letting those people make their own jugements about your actions, you push them to see you as you think you are.

And my third reaction, specifically as a white person, one white person to another -- again a shiver and a sinking feeling in my stomach. In a white supremacist system, white person attempting to control how people of color see/define us is an exercise of white supremacy/racism. Whatever else it may also be, whatever the reasons, IMO the dynamic functions to perpetuate racism.

Seems to me that you're sensitive to the dynamics of communication as control/domination, your paragraph that Lisa highlights -- to me it blares out that you are sensitive to how that flows. You're sensitive to at least some of how that can play out as part of overall systems of domination. Sensitive to the dynamics of communication-mindfuck re: reality as part of how systems of domination can operate.

This control energy, when it flows from you to people who are oppressed where you are privileged -- IMO it is on the wrong side of that struggle. The way I see it, in those situations you're letting the system use you as its agent, letting it use you as part of its overall multilayered mindfuck attempt that is supposed to maintain those power dynamics of who defines reality, participating in that maintanance.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/02/2007 11:02 PM  

Because I'm still in a highlighting mood:

This control energy, when it flows from you to people who are oppressed where you are privileged -- IMO it is on the wrong side of that struggle. The way I see it, in those situations you're letting the system use you as its agent, letting it use you as part of its overall multilayered mindfuck attempt that is supposed to maintain those power dynamics of who defines reality, participating in that maintanance.

When you can see it going one way, it's so incredibly important to look for it going the other way - from you to people who are oppressed - and work against it.

By Anonymous Lisa Harney, at 11/02/2007 11:59 PM  

Lisa, I'm appreciating your highlighting mood.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/03/2007 4:11 AM  

I am a horrible slacker blogger! I must take the time to thank everyone who has commented and kept the discussions going here at the very least. Thank you everyone!

All I can say in my defense is that I simply do not have the time I used to have when I lived in WI and my life was settled into a routine. Now I have spurts of time which usually means I can read some of the email and some of the comments, but don't have much time to formulate a really good response or any new blog posts.

I would like to direct you to BlackAmazon's blog though, since she has a new post up that is indirectly related to this discussion. It's about rhetorical devices and other distractions from the real issues. What happened is that over at Racialicious there was a post about Islamofacism and the writer couldn't find Muslim blogs, or quickie answers to conservatives on the subject. Well this is the same as when the male blogger would post stupid stuff like, "Where are the women bloggers?"...if you care, you can find them. And you won't find them only discussing what you want them to discuss, or your issues, there usually aren't quickie answers. The women bloggers, or Muslim bloggers, or whoever will oddly....discuss what they want to discuss! Imagine that!

Anyway, Nadia comes in and explains this, and the blogger at Racialicious goes off on her about her....tone, of all fucking things! Sheesh, this is a black blogger telling off an Arab blogger. So we WOC/POC learn the same rhetorical devices used against us to dismiss and deflect. How many times have we been told by white people that if we weren't so angry/strident/emotional (tone) that they would be more receptive to what we are saying?

Check it out here: Dear Nadia

By Blogger Donna, at 11/03/2007 11:21 AM  

I've seen that so much. On a thread at Alas, I commented that white people should not be able to dictate how a person of color calls him on being racist, and this started an argument over how racist is a bad word to use, and how it's deliberately inflammatory, and associates the target with the absolute worst cases of racial violence.

That was really just "You need to be nicer when you call me on my privileged bullshit," which was of course privileged bullshit.

I know, I'm stating the obvious.

Of course, in my experience, "nice enough" really means "don't say anything at all. If "racist" is too harsh and you say "Okay, bigotry," then that's too harsh, because they don't mean to be bigoted. So you go for prejudice and discrimination, and that's too harsh and you're being oversensitive. I've been down this road dealing with sexists, homophobes, and transphobes. It's nothing new for me to see it when trying to highlight racism, but it never stops being frustrating.

It is why, as a white lesbian trans woman, I'm more interested in what women of color (and lesbian or queer women, or other trans women) have to say about this stuff. Many white straight feminists don't really get intersections at all, and try to frame oppression against women as the worst oppression of all, which puts me - having to deal with homosexuality, transsexualism, and womanhood at the same time - out in the cold. Many of those women even deny that I experience oppression at all.

Hope I didn't ramble too much.

Michelle, thank you. I know I just restated your point, but I don't believe your point could be stated strongly enough.

By Anonymous Lisa Harney, at 11/03/2007 11:48 PM  

How many times have we been told by white people that if we weren't so angry/strident/emotional (tone) that they would be more receptive to what we are saying?

I was just reading a discussion area for trans women in which several took pains to tell another that she was being too angry/strident/emotional in explaining to someone else in why it's wrong to ask trans women about their genitals, and that said person would be more receptive to what the one trans woman was saying if only she weren't so mean. One person said:

I don't care what personal levels of comfort and dignity any trans person has... we absolutely NEED cis allies, and these kinds of responses do nothing to forge those much needed allies. Sometimes the process of fostering allies can be unsetteling... uncomfortable... or sometimes painful, but it has to be done.

Think historically... civil rights activism benefitted from white sympathizers... gay rights benefitted HUGELY from straight activists... women had a lot of male allies when they were campaigning for voting rights (hell there were a number of powerful men at Seneca Falls).

Oppressed people NEED allies and sympathizers who are 'vanilla'... we are a tiny minority and until we successfully build political and personal allies we have a long time to go before we achieve any level of equality.


They were wrong. The questioner took the answer (which was fairly political) to heart and asked a much better question (Where do I start reading about trans people?) and got a nice reading list.

I also, in a feminist forum, explained to a woman how she was using her cisgender privilege to silence and erase trans women, and she thanked me, and expressed surprise at being on the privileged side of the equation.

I find it frustrating to see people do this kind of silencing to their own, although I'm really only conscious of it because I read descriptions of the process here, on Alas, on Rachel's Taven, on a few other POC blogs I don't even remember now, and in a few cases, I saw it immediately play out.

I also feel, when I try to be nice, all I end up doing is letting someone walk all over me and not question the privilege that allowed them to make ignorant statements in the first place - that I failed to assert my own agency or myself as a person, and I really don't care for that.

And I do not feel that my comfort and dignity need to be sacrificed to flatter those who don't understand me.

ANYway, I'm not trying to sidetrack into trans issues, but rather point out an example of this specific phenomenon, that happened to occur in a trans space.

By Anonymous Lisa Harney, at 11/04/2007 2:01 AM  

Michelle,

I hadn't really thought about my efforts at control (raise your hand if you're NOT a control freak...note my hand is still on my keyboard!) as making me an "agent" of the system, and that somehow my efforts to control my own identity were problematic depending on the specific relationship, though this obviously makes sense as I re-type it here. What I saw was me trying to exert autonomy over who I am, which I would argue is (one of) the power(s)/freedom(s) we're all seeking in the racist system in which we operate. (I.e., aren't we all trying to control how others see us? Maybe the problem is the word "control...", influence, shape....?) I also didn't see it as a zero sum situation, in which my efforts at autonomy thus reduced the other person's freedom to assess me according to their own interpretive schema; I kind of saw it as providing information....although now I'm wondering about whether this is truly an "offensive" or "defensive" position I'm taking, in contrast to my former use of the word "neutral". Honestly, I'm really going to have to think about this...

Because of the premium of privilege I possess as a white person, I'd also argue that it's my responsibility to actively communicate how I see myself in protest of this unfair advantage, i.e., to vigorously challenge what available stereotypes exist about who I am, and who we all are. No?? Am I just being a fantacist (sp??) here?

Lisa, I really appreciate your acknowledgement of the "intersections" of oppression we all face, and Donna, I appreciate your update on the exchange over at Racialious, specifically how different groups invoke different "rhetorical devices" against one another.

Michelle, as for the Brandeis context, which when I graduated was about 70% Jewish, it's a specific experience of being 1 of only 1 or 2 non-Jews in any peer group consistently for 4 years and in my alumni and friendship networks (except in my work study gigs, which were 50% or more non-Jewish, incl. persons of color). I wrote my sociology senior thesis about multiculturalism and pluralism in a minority-majority environment, i.e., Brandeis. It was based on over 40+ interviews with students, faculty and admin, Jewish and non-Jewish, plus my "participant-observation" as one of those students. There was a distinct experience of being non-Jewish at Brandeis, one of many on a campus with five formally recognized levels of Jewish faith (Orthodox, Conservative Traditional, Conservative Egalitarian, Reform, and one other that escapes me now...), three chapels (Protestant, Catholic and Jewish) that were deliberately built not to cast shadows on one another, such a strong pro-Israel sentiment that I received unsolicited anonymous interview emails from an Arab student who didn't feel comfortable identifying him/herself on campus, and other contextual phenomena that I could write about for days. The experience changed my life, for the better as far as I'm concerned, as the place where I began grappling with some of the questions we're talking about now.

I can't imagine any of you are still checking this thread at this point....

By Anonymous Redstar, at 11/06/2007 11:40 AM  

Redstar: I am reading still. I can't or won't respond substantively to what you wrote. First because the owner of this blog has clearly directed our attention elsewhere (plus posted new stuff recently). Second because, and I am not kidding and I am speaking for me and me alone here -- I'm sorry but you scare the shit out of me.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/07/2007 4:56 AM  

The blog itself is my playground to get the words I need out, well, out! lol I have comments so that my guests can pretty much say anything they want, so I don't have a problem if they want to carry forward a conversation on one of the comment threads. I'm only sorry that I can't contribute more here and more often. I also only directed you towards BA's blog since the conversation was similar, and I know BA wouldn't mind jumping in on it too.

Redstar, I wouldn't say that what you are scaring me, but some of the things you are saying are definitely problematic. For example this, "I'd also argue that it's my responsibility to actively communicate how I see myself in protest of this unfair advantage". You can't argue your way out of white privilege, and especially not with us. You think talking about it will suddenly make cops stop you for driving while white, or stop people from hiring you or giving you an apartment compared to a black/brown applicant? Will we see a sudden explosion of great POC role models on television and in movies? In books? In government representation, in the boardroom?

I think this is the difficulty that Michelle is having with the things you are saying. It's not clear what you are trying to talk yourself out of or into. If what you are saying is that you want us to know that you are aware of privilege, that is one thing, if you are trying to deny you have it, or simply want to state that, "I am not a racist", that doesn't really count for much. You have it whether you like it or not, and declaring yourself is next to useless, since you can see that those who use the word nigger (Michael Richards, Dog the Bounty Hunter) claim they aren't racist; those who make ching-chong Chinese jokes (Rosie O'Donnell) declare they aren't racist; those who 'play' with blackface etc etc etc. The actions count for much more than denials.

In this comments thread Cara got stuck on the stereotype that WOC are loud and mouthy and will jump all over you for the smallest thing. Because that is the expectation she may have assigned a tone or attitude to us that wasn't there, but I don't think she did. Her actions proved more, coming back, talking it through, etc than if she had simply said that she isn't racist.

By Blogger Donna, at 11/07/2007 8:12 AM  

Donna, thank you for your comment. I didn't know if you were feeling like the the discussion was just not useful or what, so I really appreciate the clarification!

I've been reading all the other recent posts, at BA's and here and while I don't always have something to say, I really seriously appreciate the writing and am reading intensely.

And thank you again for your comment here. I feel like you honed in on the two things I found most vivid and -- scary, but I can say also try to get a better grip and say, troubling.

The first was that exact quote you pulled out: For example this, "I'd also argue that it's my responsibility to actively communicate how I see myself in protest of this unfair advantage". to which you replied Her actions proved more, coming back, talking it through, etc than if she had simply said that she isn't racist. You can't argue your way out of white privilege, and especially not with us.

And you also wrote: ... I think this is the difficulty that Michelle is having with the things you are saying. It's not clear what you are trying to talk yourself out of or into. If what you are saying is that you want us to know that you are aware of privilege, that is one thing, if you are trying to deny you have it, or simply want to state that, "I am not a racist", that doesn't really count for much.

I agree with what you're saying, Donna, and actually I agree more reading it a second and third time.

But I feel like maybe my own personal difficulty is actually off to the side of that or something.

In my perception, Redstar is saying that she wants to "communicate" (going back to the more benign sounding word but I know what she means because I asked for more specificity and she had answered) how she sees herself.

I feel that she was very honest in her use of words in the previous post using the word control (which I really appreciate). Not only because she herself used that word, but because I see in her actions here -- what she writes and how she writes it -- some subtle evidence of a use of words to control and influence. One example is the initial use of the words communication and miscommunication and the initial positioning of those words as crucial to real relationship and thus fighting racism -- those words which sound so benign but really mean struggles over control of perception.

I feel like there are ways to act without that truly do communicate an awareness of white privilege -- and I feel that those ways are absolutely not about trying to control or influence the perception of people of color -- like, ever. I feel that when they are or become about that control/influence, they are over the line, whatever the content is of what the person is declaring. I feel like there are declarations all over the place from people apparently "saying" the right things, than nonetheless are about controlling perception rather than being real.

I feel like someone whose primary goal is to control/influence how others see her is not really in a space where awareness of white privilege is paramount.

I feel it is really possible for a white person to know all the right things to say but really be about on "communicating" an image to people of color -- controlling perception -- than acting as s/he claims. I feel that this kind of thing is what the white/European cultural system trains white people to be focused on.

So then, the second thing that I feel you honed in on is the importance of action -- action speaks.

And like you point out, it is a such a persistent pattern that white people DO racist stuff and then CLAIM to not be racist .. and how I see it is that this is insane but culturally credible in the Euro/white system of value and behavior.

By Anonymous michelle, at 11/07/2007 2:52 PM  

It is rather interesting for me to read that blog. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more soon.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1/19/2010 9:19 AM  

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