The Silence of Our Friends

Saturday, May 05, 2007

White POC & Other Ruminations On Self Serving Asshats

As I said in my last post, I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts into a single coherent blog post. I've been thinking about several things and I don't know where to start, what is the priority? So I am just going to follow my thoughts where ever they might lead.

I've noticed that online recently many POC writers in general and WOC writers specifically are becoming demoralized and aren't as motivated as they once were. Many of us have or are taking a break, sometimes it's to get things done in the real world, but I also think there is a component of things happening on the internet that we have to absorb and make decisions for ourselves about. It's like we have to re-evaluate what our purpose is.

I'm probably going to misinterpret him, but I don't think he will mind, and he will correct me if I am wrong anyway. Once upon a time, Nezua asked me why I was so involved in the flamewars and online drama. At the time it puzzled me and I explained that it was just the place I found myself in growing and understanding things. I think he already knew I was spinning my wheels and was trying to give me a push forward, but I needed time to discover it for myself. He has a relevant quote in the comments here.
I think we have to accept that until we fight for human rights equally applied to all, we can't expect anything to get better, and we dont really have the right to single only ourselves out for rights. Seems simple. Like you, I am not interested in fighting for the status quo that props up one privileged class and type, but am for giving all people the power and autonomy and respect and chances that we all feel we should have.
BlackAmazon writes a related post too, Truth Telling. I can't pull out the one good quote because I would end up just reposting the entire thing. Nezua's post is all good too (read it), but that one quote was a powerful punch I wanted for this post, BA's entire post is a powerful series of asskicking.

My mistake was thinking that white liberals who blog and especially white feminists were ignorant about the way society and culture affect people of color, if you explained it, then they would be more supportive of our ideas and causes. It took me awhile to see that unity and solidarity were only for their ideas and causes and that for the most part it is all about them. This is what both Nezua and BA are talking about in their posts and how they are rejecting those who are users for only their own goals. I'm not so dense that I didn't figure out long ago that this is true for a few, but I didn't want to see the bigger picture and how true it is for many.

This takes many forms but one of the hardest for us to work against is our white POC brothers and sisters. Sounds like an oxymoron, and I am a bit leery about bringing this up, I remember the Michael Steele campaign and how blacks were accused of hurling oreos at him (they didn't) but it was used to take the spotlight off of Steele and his anti-black agenda. Many black bloggers understand this because they face a backlash when they raise the house negro vs the field negro dichotomy. We are accused of being racist ourselves when we don't accept everyone with brown skin, including those who are harmful to us collectively and are as self-serving as many white people. But there are POC who will tell white people what they want to hear in order to get ahead, and there are POC who have been socialized and acculturated to believe in the all-American racist stereotypes. I know some personally. Is it really that hard to believe that a Native American who was raised in a white middle class neighborhood might absorb racist stereotypes about his/her people as well as other POC? That person might believe that the reason they got ahead was because of hard work, and not see that better schools in their middle class neighborhood helped, or that money and their parents white connections helped, and that person thinks white and acts white and is seen as "safe". This is the unfortunate person we hear about when white people want to contradict our truths with their "NDN, black, asian, latino etc friend" who thinks that racism isn't a problem and that we're just making a mountain out of a molehill. That person has faced racism, especially if they are clearly "different" looking, but might attribute it to those lazy drunken welfare/casino injuns over there who make a bad example and ruin it for the rest of "us" and make white people think "they're all like that". It's also what we are talking about when white people tell us "Not you. You're one of the good ones." They mean we are assimilated and they notice we are white POC, or as Archie Bunker says, "You're a credit to your race." A white POC will think this is a compliment, instead of seeing it as an extention of racism. On my own reservation, I can point out the lazy drunken welfare/casino NDN, they really are there, BUT I can also point out the MANY families who work hard at their jobs or at school, who are trying to raise their children to be honorable and have good values, and give them the best life they are able, those who don't drink at all, those who drink occasionally to celebrate, those who are great cooks, those who are wonderful friends and you can count on in a pinch, etc etc etc. In other words, most of us are "one of the good ones"! It's only a compliment when you believe the racist stereotypes, and when you accept the compliment you reinforce the racist stereotypes. When you accept the compliment you're basically saying, yes I am better than those people over there without acknowledging or knowing they are exactly like you, they are good people too.

The thing that makes me angry is that the bad parts of my reservation I have seen mirrored in white communities. Some youth do abuse alcohol and drugs, then they grow up and get responsible and raise families. A few never do and become alcoholics or drug addicts, just like the white person's grandpa or aunt that no one talks about. Some will engage in criminal behavior, break into houses or businesses, shoplift, drink and drive, etc. This is a very few young people and they grow out of it too. White people hide or ignore these exact same problems in their communities. The 19 yr old NDN who gets drunk on the weekend is a degenerate, but their own teen rolling in at 3am with beer on his breath? Kids will be kids is the public view, the private one is fear if they are drinking and driving or abusing it to the point of other dangerous behaviors or blackouts...which is the same way Native American parents feel about their kids.

Back to white POC, I think it's easy to see the conservative POC this way, but there are also liberal POC like this. Many of the most linked to and accepted POC in the liberal blogosphere are like this, the same goes for those POC who blog on mostly white blogs. There are exceptions, Steve Gilliard comes to mind. I think he is popular because he has a variety of viewpoints about issues that white people are interested in. He hasn't changed his writing to agree with white people, but he also does not concentrate his posts on mostly racial issues. That alone does make him "safer". Also Wampum, I don't think it will hurt MBW or EBW's feelings to say that alot of their popularity comes from the Koufax Awards. They have both mentioned it already themselves, that their readers spike during the awards, but only the usual suspects are commenting on their meatier threads.

I won't name names, because I am not interested in starting a new flame war. But these white POC bloggers tend to not write about racial issues but say things like, I am glad I can talk about anything, and not race, because my readers are colorblind. Psst, the only reason your readers are colorblind is because you do not talk about race. Or their racial posts boil down to, "Oh my, racism is bad and a problem, what do you (white folks) think?" And then bails from the conversation, does not give any direction or insight, because the white POC has none. They actually sound the same as clueless white liberals who want to start a discussion about race to make themselves sound like they care, but they haven't done the research, read and/or commented on POC blogs, or have actual relationships with POC in the real world, to know anything because they don't really care. These white POC don't care either, they got theirs and that's all that matters. But they know that their white fans are expecting something and have to throw them a shallow, cursory, post about race that makes everyone feel good and enlightened.

A real life example, one of these white POC interviewed a WOC writer who does write about race, and did something that would be expected of a racist white interviewer; ignored the real life circumstances to fit the WOC blogger into a racist stereotype. She was portrayed as a poor single mother (she's not) and her academic credentials were downplayed while inventing or playing up the pitiful needs-to-be-saved aspects. It's the white POC bloggers way of putting distance between themselves and other POC and telling the white readers, "I'm more like you. I'm one of the good ones. She's a stereotype, you can feel sorry for her but don't have to take her too seriously." That's the biggest problem I have with these white POC, their overwhelming need to undercut "the competition", to hide their own ignorance and internalized racism. The WOC blogger is still angry and feels betrayed about this, she does not want knowledge of this interview and the misinformation in it spread. So I will not say anymore about it except to say, it happened. If she decides to come forward and say more, I'll be there to support her, but that's up to her.

A more recent and disturbing trend is that as these white POC's profile is raised they feel pressure to write more on race, but because they know nothing, they have been stealing content from POC blogs and rewriting it to make it appear that it is their own research and words. You could excuse it and think that maybe these writers just coincidentally happened to pick the same subject matter if it happened only once, maybe even twice, but this has happened several times. It's also happening with a handful of white writers who want to appear plugged into the POC community. I personally would out these frauds and plagarists immediately if it was purely up to me, but there are a few problems with that. The ones they are stealing from are absolutely against online drama and flamewars, it's a distraction to the work they want to do, the information they want to disseminate, and the other goals they have for their blogs. They know that the frauds will fight tooth and nail and send their minions out to harrass them, and come up with their semantic battles and excuses, and that nothing real and important will get done while everyone is choosing sides. I hope at the very least this post will be taken as a warning that the thieves are on notice, we see what they are doing and they had better start giving credit where it is due. How hard is it to link to someone who inspires you or to quote them directly and ask your readers to go over and read and comment on those blogs? It's what I do with these same POC bloggers. I don't need to steal from them because I'm not here to impress racist white people with pretend knowledge. I write what I know and send people over to read other blogs when I don't.

I don't have a stat counter, so I am only guessing, but I would estimate that probably half my readers are POC and half are white. Not all white people don't give a damn, but considering how large the blogosphere is, it's a handful who are interested enough to read and comment on POC blogs which discuss racial issues. I've had discussions with other POC bloggers about how to raise our profile and the only answer we have come up with is to forget our own concerns and issues and talk about the things white people are interested in. Most of us can't and won't do that. All of us do have other things that we are interested in and concerned about and we do write about those larger issues, but race is too important to exclude, and it's too important to lie about or make palatable for white people to the point of being meaningless and comfortable.

I'd like to revisit this in other contexts and tie it all up, especially regarding the posts by Nezua and BlackAmazon. I'll see if I can't do it in the next day or two and not draw it out book length next time. LOL

13 comment(s):

donna, you stick with your style, because everytime you are done thinking and come out writing, you really bring some good palabra. serious, this kicks ass. ties into so much...stuff i'm thinking on, stuff i've been seeing, stuff i didn't think of until you wrote it. just really good stuff. i look forward to further thoughts, or the comment thread that is sure to follow. a good conversation that needs to keep rolling.

amazingly...and not so surprisingly, it ties right in with something i began thinking this morning and was trying to figure out how to write tomorrow. right on time, hermana. thanks for the post.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/05/2007 7:35 PM  

my first time commenting here, and i've only been a recent reader... but i have enjoyed this post as well as several of your others. please continue.

that said, i am a white women, and although i've considered myself less racist than a large portion of our country, it wasn't until i became more aware of the word "privilege" did i discover another layer to our social onion.

these layers can't be pulled back with diluted and superficial conversations.

By Blogger Sassywho, at 5/05/2007 8:18 PM  

for me, donna, I think the hardest thing is knowing that nobody cares just because--you have to get really fucking angry before people will go, ooh, maybe I need to post something on my own blog about this. a while back, when i was going through a really bad depression, I realized at that point and time, I just didn't have the energy to fight with these people any more.It was on that post about the bedford raids where right away, people got on my case about, "you don't have to be like that". I just didn't have the heart or the energy to fight with them. it's like, when there's a space where they could really help--where they could help and not position us all the eternal victim--they just can't do it. They won't pay attention if you're not angry, but if you're angry, then they'd rather fight with you than do anything about what's going on (BA also had this with her sophia c. feminism thing). It's exhausting.

By Blogger brownfemipower, at 5/05/2007 8:49 PM  

I'm so glad to see you back, Donna, and as usual posting with a vengeance and with heart.

Much, much, much to think about in this post.

I'm with nez on this, to stick with what matters, not to worry about the whole profile business. Anyway, I appreciate you a lot, and I know I'm not alone.

that said, off to do some more thinking, and probably to link to this post.

By Blogger Hahni, at 5/06/2007 1:17 AM  

*hands you a legal book about contracts*

Now, you wonderful woman who makes sense 110% of the time, if you could write a few posts about what you read in there, I'll be set for next week... ;)

Seriously, you have raised a lot of excellent points in this post, and I'm kind of glad your mind was scattered as you wrote it because all of them needed to be made together. You know? Sometimes life works out that way.

By Blogger Sylvia, at 5/06/2007 1:10 PM  

A more recent and disturbing trend is that as these white POC ... have been stealing content from POC blogs and rewriting it to make it appear that it is their own research and words. You could excuse it and think that maybe these writers just coincidentally happened to pick the same subject matter if it happened only once, maybe even twice, but this has happened several times.

You know, I had a feeling that was going on. I have never said a thing and brushed it off as coincidence, but something inside said something different. I am glad to know I am not the only one who saw it. The rewriting is the part that makes it difficult to say ahhh, caught ya.

As for the whole white POC concept of absorbing racist stereotypes because of the their upbringing you bring up. I see it almost everyday and it is more troubling when you see it among family members.

Glad to see you back.

By Blogger XicanoPwr, at 5/06/2007 8:13 PM  

One of the reasons I'm having such a difficult time doing the Koufaxes this year is that I'm just so damn angry and disgusted with the blogosphere as a whole (clearly not the BoCs, and our few real allies, but the overall state) that I really don't feel like celebrating it. Maybe I'll get over it, but I just can't at the moment. So I guess I'll just live with being unpopular without the Sandies.

Great piece.

By Blogger MB, at 5/08/2007 2:31 AM  


Relatively new reader, first time commenting. For what it's worth, I'm a white guy trying to gain as much exposure to a wide variety of social justice issues from a steady, diverse diet of blogs. Without blogs, and especially POC/WOC ones, I would be missing out on a whole lot of exposure to issues, ideas and insights that I might not see on a daily basis (but desperately wish I did). I've learned a tremendous amount from your blog and from other POC/WOC blogs - which has helped me to make connections that I otherwise likely would have missed, leading me to reexamine, reconsider and reevaluate - on a daily basis - how I live my life, interact with others and raise my daughter.

And while I don't have my own blog, usually lurk rather than comment (though Iā€™m working on it!), and of course speak only for myself, you can be sure that this stuff is sinking in. Please keep doing what you're doing ā€“ especially writing about whatever issues are in your heart ā€“ and know that it does make a difference.

By Blogger mm, at 5/08/2007 9:38 AM  

MB, i feel you. don't sweat it. i suggest if that's what you decided to just make an official announcement that the Koufaxes are off. so nobody is hanging. i don't mind if they dont happen. i'll still be reading your abramoff scoops, weird french politics stuff, and sporadic beauty walks through desert or coast pics anyway. Wampum is a must. :)


donna, you are right. the demoralization has so much to do with realizing that what i (or you) think is the answer to myriad problems and intertwined behind so many is but a "pet issue" to someone else who (sadly) has more voice and reach (for now). and that it is all about the status quo being returned. it's good enough for so many people, that's the problem. just getting bush out and returning to a regular american life is good enough. and for so many of us, it is not. that is the crux. that conflict in view. we want bigger change. we feel bigger change that has to do with these insights so many of which center around a White Male Supremacy of standard and thought or a colonizing view on the rest of the world...but if we approach that elsewhere it's like "OH YOU HATE WHITE MALES" or "YOU WANT TO FOIST YOUR PET ISSUES ON THE WORLD" or "YOU ARE ARROGANT" or "YOU ARE WHINING FOR LINKS" or "YOU HATE AMERICA" and get through another conversation you hope teaches a little and enjoins more "allies" but ends up being a battle where the hate bubbles over and you end up feeling stupid and brown and everything basically they hope to make you feel. lately it can feel like...."okay...what am i doing here? am i reinforcing my friends, is that enough? am i doing any good for this cause? is this satisfying to me? is it a waste of my time?"

sure, i may have implied you stop spinning your wheels, but that's not my call. thats why i didnt say it. because you are right. you do just what you need to until you don't anymore. some lessons come hard, the value deeply ingrained by the time we are done learning them.

like the long post i just did where i linked here...kai may have felt i was spinning my wheels with "white outreach," but i felt i needed to write it. we have to try, say what we have to say. i may learn from it what kai (or anyone) feels they know already, but they know it for themselves. the idea is i need to know for myself. after all, our lives, eyes, and paths are not the same, although they meet. you need to know for yourself. i trust the process. too, kai's words to me and mine to you about flame wars are part of that process as well and so it all moves as it ought to.

the conversation rolls on, the learning rolls on. always, i am grateful to come back to these blogs where we dispense with the top five layers of membrane and go right to the heart and the meat of the matter. if nothing else, they empower me, and so i know that i am grateful for everyone's work out here in these smaller but truer environs.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/08/2007 10:35 AM  

Great post Donna.

I've noticed the demoralization in POC and WOC bloggers too. I know how hard it is to carry this torch, but we need you guys, o please don't give up.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 5/09/2007 9:01 AM  

yeah, what they all said.

i think...well, there are a few distinct if interrelated issues here. one, the business where some people may be skimming for content without linking? i am thinking: maybe time to directly confront some of them on that, en masse? just my first thought.

as for the rest of it, raising profile:

well, look, the one advantage of the Internet is that in theory, you can cut out the middleperson. as we've all been saying for a while now: maybe don't even focus on the A-list, or even the B-list (whatever that is). even "preaching to the choir" can be a good thing in itself--strengthens solidarity, works as a "think tank"--but in any case I really don't think that's what you're doing. people read. the results may not be immediately obvious. but that doesn't mean they aren't there.

...I think of it, I guess, as planting seeds. my own approach is perhaps a bit more scattershot than others; i go wide, perhaps to the disadvantage of "deep" for any one passion...

but, y'know, per reaching people: there's a -reason- my blogroll is as long as it is. well several actually, one being i'm sort of compulsive that way, but another is that online at least (offline, tends to be a different story, tho' i'm working on it), my theory's been sort of, "well, if Mohammed won't come to the mountain."

when in doubt or in a rut, i link-surf. often find new people. some come around and stick around, or vice versa.

i don't need a middleperson.

no, i don't have the numbers of a Kos or even a Pandagon, and probably never will do;

otoh, well? this is gonna sound however it sounds, but:

there's some validity to "quality, not quantity" as well.

just notin'.

By Blogger belledame222, at 5/10/2007 8:43 PM  

Oh boy, I have been a bad hostess! I read these comments and thought I had responded, but now rereading and nothing from me??? Ok, the meds must be causing brain damage! That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Thanks to everyone who stopped by and left comments. I love you all! I especially like seeing new people stop by and comment. The regulars feels like speaking to the choir, and all of us need to grow our audiences and get the word out.

BFP, I even quoted you at Nezua's, that's why I thought I had responded because what you said resonated so much that I'm quoting you! I'm a dunce.

XP, It's time to call out the theives. They have gotten a warning here and at BA's and BFP's so far that I know of. So they are on notice.

I also think that we all absorb racism and internalize it to some extent and have to be aware of it. I know also that I have on many occasions written like I am speaking only to Americans, and offended people who are posting from other countries. I've gotta shake that. That American Exceptionalism, where Americans are the only ones who matter, seeps in too.

MB, You have way too much going on in your life right now. So I can understand why that isn't exactly top priority. I also don't like the way it's become a popularity contest instead of about coming together and finding new blogs and welcoming them. Instead it's becoming an insular big boys club that is trying to keep everyone else out.

Belle, I've decided that quality not quantity is best too. But I'm still searching for more, there are quality bloggers and commenters still out there in the wilderness. I don't ever expect to be a big important blogger, and I think it would probably ruin what I have going now too. I'm having a hard time ordering my thoughts on this one because it really seems conflicted. Most of us blog because we want to make an impact, we want readers to hear us and be moved by what we say. So "popularity", links, comments, all of that counts for something. But I also like the give and take of my comments and if I was one of the "big boys" types, I couldn't handle the hundreds of comments, I'd spend all my time weeding out the racists and the trolls, with little time for much else. So a bit bigger would be nice, but huge? (GULP) No thanks.

By Blogger Donna, at 5/11/2007 11:59 PM  

I've gotten sucked in to reading the 2 blogs, one on Latina stats and this one... I'm so braindead from over-reading/googling thesis-related stuff (which has to do w/ why the Latina article came bfp all i remember, need to remember to bookmark it...).

Anyway, Donna, thank you for your article and the thoughts, connections and confirmations it brought to me while reading it. i do have to say one thing tho... be very careful not to fall into the place of wanting to lump all white people together, it's very easy to do that with any group whose "stupidity" we get sick of dealing with, especially when it seems to be endemic within that group. i am a white woman - for lack of any other possible description, as i am adopted - who grew up not being able to deal with the racist bullshit around me where I grew up... have done the best to educate myself as I've grown and have learned the following:

1) we are all inherently racist, as that is the society we live in; part of this comes from our upbringing and the other from our experiences;

2) it is a very humbling experience when you realize the level of racism you have internalized throughout your life, more humbling to admit the times it subconsciously guided your actions;

3) it is much easier to hate a group of people who annoy the ---- out of you than not to, as I was very close to being anti-Jewish after working in the apparel industry for 6 years - the level bigotry and entitlement was mind-boggling;

4) i have found that same amount of bigotry and entitlement within the population that i teach, which is urban, mostly non-white and working to poverty class;

5) i really hate entitlement in general, especially when i find any remnants of it within myself;

6) the greatest irony is that the qualities we despise the most we can usually find in ourselves;

7) a great irony was that when i found my birthmother, i found out i was of jewish descent;

8) a greater irony was that, as non-rascist as i tried to be - after dealing with it in the community where i grew up (i believed in dating the folk i wanted to date, vs. who i "should" date) - i kept finding bits and pieces of it inside of me... and therefore still do my best to be vigilant and cognizant of my own bull----;

9) an even greater irony was that, while in the midst of my anthropological biology class, i realized that all humans are apes with a much more complex ape-like social system - we have bigger and better ways of grooming ourselves, bigger and better rocks to throw at our enemies, and our men still strut around and fight over who gets to mate w/ the females

10)no matter what rules exist, there are always at least 1 exception to each of them.

liberals, in general, are a pretty gross lot of folks, too wrapped up in their own causes and brilliant solutions to the world's issues vs. the ones needing work within them and their lives - but there are these types within all ethnic and cultural groups, just as there is bigotry within all ethnic and cultural groups. And that existed long before Western Europe pale faces discovered how to put a boat together.

In your frustration, just remember that not all white people, white women, fall into those categories you mentioned. You sort of acknowleged that; it's really not about the acknowledgement, it's more about the living of it when you meet new people through your life, of the level of openness you have upon meeting them that allows them to defy all your expectations and prior definitions, and to allow to establish new norms.

many blessings and much success to you - you have quite a gift for writing and expressing your thoughts - I hope those gifts will bring you much success.

By Blogger JEN SPENCE, at 5/12/2007 9:49 PM  

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