Log in

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010, 09:42 am
neo_prodigy: How NOT To Have a Discussion On Racism

And this is what happens when white folks think they've achieved Speshul White Person status:

The following email exchange transpired between Thursday and yesterday. The SWP in question is a casual friend I met through mutual friends and I've known for years. So this isn't like some random crazy internet person I've never interacted with. On my blog I often speak out on institutional oppression and I use it to teach and educate and raise awareness of prevalent issues.  From time to time, readers and friends will come to me with questions on race/orientation, and I'm always happy to answer their questions and have a meaningful and respectful dialogue.

For the most part, the experiences have been positive.

However with cases like this.......................

SWP: Hey, Denny. I just woke from a dream that, for once, kept me thinking: analyzing and re-analyzing how things played out in the dream. Considering it touched on 'race', and this has been a frequent topic for you of late, I was hoping you might offer your input.

Imagine yourself walking into a boutique for whatever reason--sells women's clothing. A pair of attractive black women apparently manage and/or are at least are employed there. A portion of the shop has a nice seating area, complete with couch, coffee table, et cetera. Casually, you notice a magazine on the coffee table. On the cover is a view of an Abrams tank as if looking down toward it from a small tower. The tank has a colorful flag, akin to many African designs attached to it, and a handful of black soldiers on it. Across the top of the magazine the title reads "Black Brigade".

Opening the magazine, you discover it's a magazine about current members of the military who are black. Apparently, each month features different black soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines: their photos and their stories. Therein you also find classifieds, advertisements for race related groups in the military, and some rudimentary means of networking for readers. There is nothing that speaks of 'Black Power'. All articles are well-written and if they touch on racial experiences, they do so without acrimony and with an eye toward advice that helps its readers avoid the same kind of encounters.

It is, in short, a magazine about black people in the military, written by black people, for black people. It celebrates the contributions and successes of black people within the military without being preachy or divisive, and offers insightful articles about life in the military as a black person (be they male or female).

In general: if you walked into this boutique and came across this magazine, what would be your knee-jerk reaction? If such a title existed, and I'm sure there might be a small circulation magazine of the same sort (albeit without the same title), what kind of thoughts or response to its presence/existence (assuming you never knew of it, before) might you have?

Now at this point, I already knew something was off but I couldn't figure out what he was angling for. But seeing as he was a friend and asking me for advice, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. Here was my reply.

N-P: Hmmm. Speaking only for myself here, I guess my first knee-jerk reaction would be intrigue. I'm always happy to support minority media that does it right. I would at least read to see what the magazine was about and what people's experiences are. I probably wouldn't agree with every word written, but I'm always open to read about different experiences and different perspectives. My grandfather and uncle served in the military (and [my best friend]is in the army now) so I'm aware of some of the challenges that minorities (be they black men or gay white men) face. But I'd at least read and see what would they would have to say.

SWP: Okay. The reason I ask is partially because of the flip-side... what if the boutique you walked into was manned by a pair of attractive white women, the magazine cover photo featured a blue and white flag with white soldiers, and was entitled "White Brigade". Otherwise, exact same scenario.

A magazine about current members of the military who are white. Apparently, each month features different white soldiers, sailors, airmen, or marines: their photos and their stories. Therein you also find classifieds, advertisements for race related groups in the military, and some rudimentary means of networking for readers. There is nothing that speaks of 'White Power'. All articles are well-written and if they touch on racial experiences, they do so without acrimony and with an eye toward advice that helps its readers avoid the same kind of encounters.

It is, in short, a magazine about white people in the military, written by white people, for white people. It celebrates the contributions and successes of white people within the military without being preachy or divisive, and offers insightful articles about life in the military as a white person (be they male or female).

Again: knee-jerk reaction? If such a title existed, and I'm sure there might be a small circulation magazine of the same sort (albeit without the same title), what kind of thoughts or response to its presence/existence might you have (assuming you never knew of it, before, or had any prior knowledge of a possible equivalent for other races)?

N-P: That I would still be curious about but I would be looking at suspiciously. Because whites are coming from a place of power and privilege and unlike blacks and POCs who are writing about their experiences in a society that persecutes them and treats them as second class citizens, whites would essentially be celebrating an institution which let's be honest has been formed at the expense of minorities. If racism was completely eradicated or never existed, that would be another story. But just as Pro-Southerners, white supremacist are all about white power (at the expense of minorities), I would find the magazine problematic to say the least because we aren't on the same footing.

SWP: Well, see, that's where I'm troubled. In my dream, the magazine was "White Brigade". While I hadn't noticed it, a person of color did and made some outspoken remarks about the magazine (not having read it, merely looking at the cover). I also, not having read it, instantly looked at the magazine in askance and sympathized with the individual who felt offended. Yet, in my waking still-dream state, it occurred to me that although I instantly felt "White Brigade" was dubious by its very nature, I wouldn't feel the same had it been "Black Brigade". I've seen and read similar magazines devoted to people of color, and never really thought much about it--they were almost a matter of course in my past experience. Yet, when faced with an identical reverse situation, I wasn't as receptive... and it occurred to me that might be a form of racism. True... the establishment in the United States, on the whole, favors the white majority in many ways... but what fault would either magazine have except being exclusionary, and if that is a fault for one, then why not the other? It appears that in my mind, at least, all things being equal... I don't treat each equally. And this troubled me, because of its inherent feeling of 'wrongness'. If I'm receptive to "Black Brigade", then why shouldn't I be equally receptive to "White Brigade"?

N-P: Not attempting play Professor X and read your mind, perhaps it troubled you because maybe you were coming at it from the mindset that blacks and whites are on equal footing. If that were the case then yeah I'd agree but when one groups has power and privilege and another doesn't, that's why we're more sympathetic to the minority group. Maybe that's why you were sympathetic with the black magazine and not the white one.

It goes back to the discussion I had on Queer Fail regarding minority awards:


"When it comes to the issue of minority awards (be it POC, women, LGBT, etc.), many don't understand why they're still a necessity in this day and age. I would know, at one point I used to be one of them.

As a proud double minority, I don't want any handouts or advantages. I fight for equality because I want to succeed or fail by my own merits not because of my gender, race, orientation, etc. I'm confident that my abilities and skills can hold their own against others. Years ago, awards geared towards minorities used to disturb me because part of me felt it was reverse discrimination or I was being given special treatment because of my skin color when we're struggling for equality. It wasn't that I was outright against them, but a part of me felt guilty. A lot of it stems back to the fact that I don't like using my orientation or race as an excuse when I'm being discriminated against, even though it's clearly obvious. It's a painful thing to be reminded that the world hates you for simply being who you are.

But a friend of mine (who interestingly enough is white) laid down some fundamental truth.

In an ideal world, yes, minority awards/organizations would be reverse discrimination and in an ideal world there would be no need for them. But we don't live in an ideal world. POCs (and in this case LGBTs) are not on equal footing and we are still the minority. We're severely underrepresented in mainstream media . We are still treated as second class citizens and institutional oppression is in full force. Sure, we must continue to work towards a world where we don't need separate minority awards but the reality is that we're a long way away from making said world a reality and as such those awards, communities and other minority resources are still a necessity."

The Black magazine is still a necessity for many minorities who are still under the heel of institutional oppression.

If that makes any sense.

SWP: I'm fully aware blacks and whites aren't on an equal footing, however, I also do not feel it would be correct for me to discriminate, mentally or otherwise, against a magazine about white people (of whatever flavor/pursuit) if I do not also do so with regard to minority magazines. Even though I might perceive the fictional existence of "White Brigade" as a kind of aggrandizement, the dream experience still left a sour tang in my mouth. But since we're discussing the "institution", I wanted to get a feel for your views. In one of your earlier replies you said, "an institution which let's be honest has been formed at the expense of minorities." I was hoping you'd clarify that for me. I'm not ignorant of history, so no need to play the teacher, but the sentence carries a lot of possibilities and I was hoping to ferret out your particular meaning.

N-P: "I'm fully aware blacks and whites aren't on an equal footing, however, I also do not feel it would be correct for me to discriminate, mentally or otherwise, against a magazine about white people (of whatever flavor/pursuit) if I do not also do so with regard to minority magazines."

Yeah but you asked me my opinion on this and that's my view on the matter and that's what I shared.

In regards to institutional oppression, besides the obvious being slavery, blacks and other minorities were denied the same opportunities afforded to whites who were able to go to college, get funding for their own businesses and build and a social and economic structure for them by them. The most minorities could hope for were menial jobs with meager pay, if we were lucky. Atlanta is an anomaly because it's one of the few places where blacks were able to go to college, create their own businesses and create economic opportunities in their communities. This is why Atlanta is one of the few places where you'll find a multitude of prosperous blacks because they were afforded opportunities that minorities weren't afforded in most areas, and to some degree still aren't. That's just one aspect of institutional oppression.

We won't even touch on Tuskegee or a host of other issues. Oppression does come at someone's expense and this country has built its prosperity on the backs of others.

SWP: My thoughts on history and institutional oppression:

I can only speak from what I know/have experienced/have learned through others.

Of history, I understand no race made it out of the evolution of the United States unscathed. More than half of all white emigrants to this nation did so under the auspice of indentured servitude, were often treated as poorly as slaves, and unlike slaves, didn't have what little "ostensible" protections the law could provide (however rarely slavery treatment laws were actually enforced)--practices which continued unabated well into the 20th century.

My Welsh (apparently indistinguishable from Irish) paternal immigrant grandfather and his father before him were paid in coal mine scrip. It is solely by the dubious fortune that my grandfather contracted black lung that he escaped what was practical worklife-long servitude, because he was no longer useful to the coal mining company. Practices which were only ended in the 1950s, and whose similar conditions are now known by other terms such as "sweatshops" and "sexual slavery".

The economy and "nation" that slave labor specifically built were very effectively destroyed by the Union and imperfectly rebuilt by the carpetbaggers that followed on the Union Army's heels. A "nation" that doesn't exist, today, except in feverish dreams. A South that never fully recovered from that war: economically or socially. A South whose residents feel the sharp edge of racial tension and divide far more keenly than elsewhere because of a multitude of factors, but most importantly, simply due to proximity to one another. A portion of our country which is far and away not the ideal for racial understanding, which might more easily be found in the more egalitarian states of the Northeast and Northwest. Atlanta may be seen as a place where black persons have been allowed to thrive, but it doesn't compare to places that never had state or local laws preventing them from doing so in the first place.

More pointedly, if any race has rights to the "we've suffered more than you" stick, Native Americans have far greater claim to that stick over any experiences either of our ancestors shared. The benefits of lives both you and I enjoy are gifts borne of the suffering of generations of Native Americans before us. Is it regretful? More than could possibly be imagined, then multiplied by infinity. Are you or I going to give up what very little place in life we've been able to carve out for ourselves and those we love so we no longer feel some disconnected sense of guilt that we benefit from a life wholly dependent upon the forced sacrifices that were made by them? Something neither of us even did? Probably not.

However, these are things to remember (because they are important), not live in day-to-day (like some do). Because we don't live in that world, anymore. Ours is very different. Institutional oppression, these days, is primarily economic. Yes, of course there are individuals who game the system (government, employment, whatever) in ways that are to the detriment of others -- whatever flavor of prejudice they may find favor in. However, no amount of institutionalizing (in)equality to achieve equality will resolve something that only time will -- because it's what is between a person's ears that matter, not what some text on a piece of paper says. We have LOTS of laws that govern discrimination, but when either you or I walk into a room, the first things people notice about us is our sex and our color, and what is between their ears will dictate how things will play out far more than any set of laws will. Unfair Laws in the past simply gave people an easy excuse for bigotry -- something people come by quite naturally and needs no excuse to manifest.

Moreover, the "institution" as we know it today might better be defined as having been built at the expense of the lower class -- regardless of race. If anything, if it weren't for the fact the poor are in the majority, "poor" should have its own minority status for all the voice within our institution a poor person has. It is an unfortunate consequence continued discrimination beyond the Civil War against minorities (or even nationalities) effectively put a ceiling on how high either could climb economically, without extraordinary circumstances, and therefore, much like the physical servitude that preceded what has become economic slavery, a disproportionately high percentage of such persons (per capita) exist on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.

Quite frankly, the "institution" and our varied experiences with it (be it government, commercial, or otherwise) is near wholly governed by what kind of money you possess. The multitude of crooks who control things, wherever you are/whatever color they are themselves, don't care about anyone's race as much as they do the color of your money. White, Black, Hispanic, Asian, whatever... it only matters if you do or don't have the dough. While it most certainly exists, and anyone with a mind to see it can/will, "prejudice" remains the purview of the small and petty. In the meantime, so long as racial/national/whatever groups continue to bicker amongst themselves, the wealthiest/most crooked persons get to continue doing whatever they wish to because the focus isn't on them.

You're quite right that institutional oppression does come at someone's expense and that this country has built its prosperity on the backs of others, but the meat on that stick is no one race or nationality gets to claim it, alone, and no one is excluded, either.

The "institution" has evolved and continues to do so. Are there steps still required? Absolutely. But fundamentally, our "institution" is our economy, and until our socio-economic model is changed to enable anyone to become educated if they desire, do for themselves, and be able to maintain a modicum of living conditions (health, food, and shelter)... we're going to continue seeing what we see, today.

I hope and pray to see the day come that things change for the better for everyone, but I honestly don't expect that I will.

Just my thoughts.


Oh but wait, there's more. It gets better. Keep reading.


N-P: We're going to have agree to disagree.

What the immigrants experienced coming to this country was tragic but it does not even begin to compare to the 400+ years of bullshit that blacks suffered and continue to suffer. And as bad as shit was for them, at least they were allowed to acclimate into this society under the construct of "well at least they're all white."

You have two different dynamics at play and while the Irish, for instance, went through some serious bullshit, you can't compare their struggle to blacks. That's called Oppression Olympics. You can't even compare the struggles of other POCs.

The Asian experience is not the same as the Latino experience which is different from the Native American experience which is different from the Black experience. Not saying one struggle is more important than another, all are equally legitimate, but there are too many different dynamics at play.

And being part Native American, I'm more than aware of the struggles that Native Americans have endured in this country and how they've been fucked over. And while there are parallels to being gay and black, you can't even compare those because one is a visible minority and the other isn't, and that creates a whole slew of different dynamics.

"Are you or I going to give up what very little place in life we've been able to carve out for ourselves and those we love so we no longer feel some disconnected sense of guilt that we benefit from a life wholly dependent upon the forced sacrifices that were made by them? Something neither of us even did? Probably not." Actually I feel no guilt over this seeing as this was my people. But I will do is honor their memory and continue to speak out on institutional oppression and take actions in real life. "However, these are things to remember (because they are important), not live in day-to-day (like some do)."

Says you. When I'm no longer being followed by cops when I stop in the gas station near my job, then I don't have to live in it day to day. And no, it is about race. Economics do play a factor, but let's not kid ourselves, putting minorities in their place has been the motivations of legions upon legions of bigoted white folks in power. Because they fear us. Minorities have heard all of these arguments before. These arguments are so dead on arrival that we've made Bingo cards out of them.

Institutional oppression is a huge reality and the bitch of it is that it's just as much apart of our identity as our race, gender or orientation. We're experts on this history because we've suffered it many a day. And you can read all the books you can, but until you've actually been a POC, you'll never truly understand. We speak out on these issues not because we're waiting for a handout or just whining but because shit still hasn't changed and we're still demanding it so people can understand that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. The reason why shit hasn't really changed is because people use any excuse to hem haw out of taking a look at themselves. "It wasn't about the black, it was about economics. White immigrants suffered so we know ALL about slavery and Jim Crowe. Native Americans have casinos now so that more than makes up for them losing their land."

Until society takes an honest look at their fuckups, acknowledge it and make a good-faith based effort to make right moving forward, nothing is ever gonna change.

And to be honest with you, it seems like you've already have a strong opinion about this. So why are you asking me to share my perspective. Were you wanting my point of view and my interpretations of experiences so you can at least ponder on a different perspective (even if you don't completely agree), or are you using this as an opportunity to lecture me?


And just where the hell are you white folks going? I wish you would click the back button. You better sitcho ass back down and keep reading. If I gotta suffer, so do every last one of you.

SWP: I don't think we fully disagree. And frankly, up until now, I don't think I've been the one doing the lecturing.

My point on history is that black people cannot lay claim to suffering, alone, as your statements seem to imply. Everyone suffered. To announce and preach about a history of suffering and then turn around and say no one else can make their own statements because it starts some kind of Oppression Olympics is self-centered and myopic. It says to me that you can bitch and moan all you want, but you don't want to hear anyone else make a meep about it, because "you've suffered more". Anyone who makes those kinds of statements STARTS the Oppression Olympics -- they simply refuse to listen to other contenders, and they're going to win the race they started themselves, because they're racing by themselves.

You were never a slave. I have never been an indentured coal miner. It's ALL historical. And BOTH of us are about as much Native American as the next black or white guy (which is to say, WE'RE NOT -- my MORE THAN ONE-QUARTER Native American blood not withstanding). Otherwise, that level of reasoning would allow [white girlfriend] to claim she's black because her ancestors were Melungeon. Which, as both you and I well know, would be a crock of shit. If you don't feel guilt for what happened to the Native Americans, you might want to reanalyze yourself and where you are compared to them -- as part of a relatively well-off black family in Nashville, and not living in poverty on a reserve.

Do those histories matter, and have they somehow had an impact on our lives? Sure. We wouldn't exist, otherwise. If the at some point in the 900s some Irish gits decided not to relocate to the western shores of Scotland, I wouldn't exist, either, but does that have any bearing on my life, NOW? Does the fact the Campbell Clan stole my ancient Clan lands out from under my family have any bearing on what I do, TODAY? No.

Why? Because for all intents and purposes, everything we've discussed is history. What matters is what happens today, and HOW those histories have lead up to this point.

I'm aware of prejudice. I grew up in Memphis, and let me tell you, racism is a exceedingly polite way of putting what happens there on a daily basis. You have cops follow you. I've had guns brandished at me. It happens. Does it happen to you more often? Abso-fucking-lutely. Does the color of your skin set you apart and make you a target for the greater prejudice in a majority state that is not your own? You betcha. Will you be denied employment over it? Yep. Will you lack for the means to compete equally in a commercial environment. Oh yeah. And so on, ad infinitum.

Are minorities (specifically black persons, in relation to this conversation) the sole proprietors of oppression? Are whites somehow incapable of losing jobs, being harassed, refused service, etc, based upon the color of their skin? Hell, no, on both accounts. Yet, even though it will happen to MOST people at some point, and no one is so stupid they cannot think of what it would be like to happen to them on a daily basis like it does for most black people, the concept someone who isn't black cannot understand what black people are going through exists, and is also self-centered and myopic.

Is there some collective effort to keep black people down? Oh, please. Read me another conspiracy theory story. By that logic I must have missed out on a memo somewhere that I should be at some 'keep the black man down' seminar. Are there secret committee meetings in Congress or over at City Hall on how to keep black people from succeeding?

Are "police" the institution? No, just like everyone else, they're just individuals with their own brands of prejudice. There aren't cop training sessions on white power. You want to know the ins and outs of the cop mindset and why black people are profiled? Go interview a handful of black officers. You're a writer. Try it.

The "institution" as we know it is blind. But the people who populate it? Not so much. Do many of them carry some kind of prejudice against other races? Oh, hell yes. We live in the South. That's a given. But that's not 'institutional oppression'. That's just plain old bigotry in the hands of someone who has some authority.

Authority breeds corruption. Prejudice compounds it.

Ask [mutual black friend] if you want. We sat and had one of many similar long discussions on exactly what I wrote about just last night. He even read the letter I was writing to you, and agreed on every point. Which must be really strange, because he's black. Does that make him ignorant of his heritage? I daresay he knows just as much, or more than you. Yes, he gets the inevitable bullshit over his race, sitting in waiting areas of companies because they assume he's some poor job-seeker or some flunky, but when they learn he's the /business owner/ that had an appointment, suddenly everything changes. It's the color of his money that matters, here, there, or elsewhere.

Yes. Prejudice exists. Yes, black people suffer FAR more from it than do whites. Is it wholly regretful? I'm not arguing that. But it isn't a conspiracy. Our "institution" has a butt-ton of laws regarding discrimination. But there will always be ass-hats in positions of authority. It's virtually a prerequisite for the positions. And they will, time and again, abuse that authority. There are a multitude of loopholes in our fundamentally flawed legal system, and discrimination is incredibly difficult for anyone to quantify to serve as proof.

Why does that shit keep happening? Because poor people don't have legal recourse. And most black people are poor... and by poor, I mean, any individual who cannot individually afford to hire capable representation. But money... money talks. You want to tackle oppression? You have to elevate the masses. Education, healthcare, right to affordable services/food/shelter -- THOSE have to be institutionalized for EVERYONE. That way some ass-hat of a bureaucrat cannot individually choose some white applicant for aid over a black applicant. Because, right now, that's what happens. It's not the institution, it's the ass-hat behind the desk who makes the decision and we've got to remove his/her ability to make those decisions. Put money in the hands of the oppressed so they can procure capable legal services? Oh, then it's on...

But would that stop prejudice? No, but it might put a dent in how it manifests. Would that stop profiling? That depends on what black people did with available education, healthcare, affordable services/food/shelter. Would it stop the appearance of 'institutionalized oppression'? It wouldn't, but it would go a long way toward preventing individual abuse, and that's the most crucial part of this equation.

You want to help black people? It's all about the money. Tackle poverty and you'll help more people than you can imagine. Wrestle with bigotry and you argue with idiots.

N-P: Back the fuck up for a second.

First of all you came to me with this bullshit crock about having a dream about black people and a black magazine. I already knew you were trying to bait something, but I kept trying to give you the benefit of the doubt. You asked for MY PERSPECTIVE on your dreams and then asked for MY PERSPECTIVE on institutional oppression. So when you ask me about my opinion on something, you don't get to bitch about me lecturing to you when I'm explaining my thoughts on the matter. You came to MY DOORSTEP, not the other way around. And you had to have known I would disagree. So you don't get to make up an excuse to lecture me on your views.

Second of all, it's becoming painfully obvious that this wasn't about you wanting to know my opinion but you're using this as an excuse to talk down to me.

No one said that immigrants suffering wasn't legitimate because it is and certainly warrants its own discussion and action. But when you use that as an excuse to shut down or dismiss someone's view on racism (a POC's no less) THAT IS OPPRESSION OLYMPICS. All discrimination and suffering is legitimate but you can't compare one to the other or use it to negate or dismiss another issue. Each suffering has too many dynamics at play. That's why you can't compare the immigration struggle to homophobia and so forth.

Next, you don't know a gawd damn thing about how well off my family is, so you're definitely out of line on that one. And speaking of family, you don't know what my racial makeup is, so you don't get to speak on that either. And by the by, I don't feel guilt because I had no part in what happened to my Native American ancestors. What I do feel is rage and sadness over what transpired.

And again I'm sorry about the bullshit you went through in Memphis, but don't think for a gawd damn second you know what's it's like to be a POC. Yeah what happened to you was fucked up (it truly was) but ain't a damn thing that's happened to you that hasn't happened to myself or legions of others so you can, so you have not achieved Speshul White Person status. So save that Miss Millie shit for the Colored Purple.

If you've bothered reading any of my posts for a second, you would know I'm about tackling institutional oppression, not only racism (blacks and other POCs), but misogyny, homophobia and other forms of bigotry which guess what, tends to include white people.If you've bothered reading any of my posts for a second, you would know that you are fucking up something fierce. I've shown how many examples where a woman/poc/lgbt speaks on their experiences and their views on the bigotry they suffer only to have some condescending privileged male/caucasian/heterosexual demand that they prove their suffering or police their feelings or talk down to them and tell them why their experiences aren't legit. We speak on our experiences and privileged mofos who will never know what being a minority is like thinks they get to lecture us or silence us or police.

I'll be damned if my black/Native American ass is gonna be wasting anymore time trying to convince a privileged white man why racism is a prevalent issue, anymore than I'll be trying to convince a heterosexual why homophobia is bad.

These bullshit condescending arguments about "My suffering equals yours, you don't have the right to be angry, white people aren't to blame for all of this, my immigrants were treated bad so that negates the scars of slavery, it's not about racism, it's about poverty" are nothing new. I was hearing bigoted ass white folks make these same claims when I was living in that Klan central shithole Chattanooga.

Oppression = Prejudice + Power.

That's why eradicating poverty alone would never solve oppression. Wanna know why blacks and other POCs have an uphill battle in the battle against economic inequities. Because the people in power are going to do their damndest to hinder that progress. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE RACIST. This is why black folks get turned down from bank loans or jobs and have their interest rates on new cars jacked up. There's a reason why a Princeton study showed that a black man with a diploma or college degree and no criminal priors is in the same boat as a white man with a criminal degree. There's a reason why a study in the Tennessean found that black men with the same or lesser priors receive twice the jailtime as white convicts.

People in power are going to always make sure those who they despise remain in their place out of fear, hatred, or whatever.

But you wanna know what the bitch of all of this is. If this whole discussion hadn't been orchestrated and manifested naturally, I would've felt more inclined to cut you some slack. Because as far as I'm concerned you're entitled to believe whatever you like. Yeah I would disagree strongly, but I would dismiss it as, SWP means well but he just doesn't get it, so we'll agree to disagree.

My contention isn't the fact that you whole these views, because you are entitled to your opinion, but it's how you went about all of this. You came at me under false pretenses. Because even though I knew something was off about that first fucking email, I continued to read it as a friend wanting my advice and my perspective on a matter. So for you to flip and pull this shit, it hurts.

Even though I speak out on bigotry on my blog, it's not a fun hobby or something I do casually. It's something very painful but I man up and do it because I genuinely believe that by sharing my experiences and my perspective, it'll hopefully plant seeds and cause people to think and reflect and maybe pass said seeds on to others. I get enough shit in my day to day having to prove my self-worth as a human being from racists/homophobes or legions of asshats on the internet who try to silence me the moment I share my experience on bigotry. I don't have time to be worrying about dealing with this shit from people who are supposed to be my friends and folks I care about. Because opening up about something painful with folks who are supposed to be my friends and get set up and attacked, it's like a knife in the gut. Would you have gone to one of our mutual white friends with this black dream nonsense? I mean seriously.

This whole exchange is coming across as a set up right from the jump-off, manipulative and scheming and I expect better out of you.

So let's get to the real issue. What was your real motivation for emailing me? Because it sure as hell wasn't getting my perspective on an issue. Were you hoping that I agree and co-sign on what you had to say? Did you have issues with my other posts and felt this exchange would be easier rather than opening up on my blog because others would call you out publicly. If you felt this strongly and believe all of this then why the fuck were you emailing me in the first gawd damn place? It seems as if you were looking to pick a fight/debate/discussion? You know what, fuck it, I don't even care.

At this point, seeing as I'm questioning your intent and your motivation, I'm ending this exchange. You can reply if you want to, but I won't be reading.

You've wasted enough of my gawd-damn time.


SWP did reply and I skimmed the email just to see if he was going to apologize for being a jackass. Instead he claimed that I was being angry and militant and that I was the one looking for an excuse to play the victim and couldn't have an intelligent discussion. I shook my head an went on with my day.

What the fuck am I missing here?

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)

I am so sorry.

I also want to say thank you for posting this here, and for the editorial intervention you put in the middle warning white people who were reading it not to walk away half-way through. I was just about to do just that and I see now that that would have been a further exercise of privilege.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 04:25 pm (UTC)

What the fuck am I missing here?

Why do you think you're missing anything here?

The dude wanted you to sign off on the idea that whites and blacks are on an equal footing in the US, that one has to be "the most oppressed" to have the "right" to talk about it, and that racist historical institutions like slavery have no impact on the current world.[1] When you didn't, he shifted his white privilege bingo generator from low gear to high.

I know I'm missing what this guy's basis is for thinking he's achieved SWP status.

Instead he claimed that I was being angry...

Go figure.

[1] Probably more besides, but I'm not going back through it all to pick it out.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)

Oh, hella lot more. Among other things, he's claiming that Native identity works by blood quantum and blood quantum alone (which completely ignores/overlooks the sovereignty of Native nations in deciding their membership, not to mention all the other issues that go into constructing one's identity), and he's making an authenticity claim that all "real" Indians are poor and live on reservations. To which I say: he can go fuck himself. White people don't get to police the identities of non-white people.

He's also doing the thing where he's conceptualizing white privilege as "everything handed to you on a platter, not a bad thing happens to you a day in your life."

He needs a copy of Ceci n’est pas une excuse (description of privilege as an unfairly weighted game), and he really needs a copy of The Color of Wealth, which is a systematic look at one single dimension along which historical (and not so historical!) institutions continue to have impact on the current world.

Also, he needs a clue-by-four.
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 04:50 pm (UTC)

SWP's letters were truly cringe-inducing. I was trying to will him to shut up as I was reading it. And like the above commenter, I found myself tempted to avoid the rest of the post until I got to your admonition to sit the fuck down, and I realized that yeah, if you had to live it, the least I could do was give you the time to read it and think about it.

If you'd had a bingo card in front of you while reading this person's letters, you would have won the jackpot, I think. Knapsack? More like steamer trunk. I'm so sorry you had to deal with crap like that under the guise of friendship. Cheap on that person's part. Really cheap.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 04:51 pm (UTC)

thank you for this

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 04:56 pm (UTC)

Urgh. Betting anything he wanted you to agree with him so he could claim his "black friend" agrees with him next time someone calls him on his shit.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 05:18 pm (UTC)

So not taking that bet.
(Deleted comment)

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)

Yeah, why was "race" in quotes? UGH.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 06:08 pm (UTC)

It's really awful that this has happened to you.

Instead he claimed that I was being angry and militant and that I was the one looking for an excuse to play the victim and couldn't have an intelligent discussion.

This is a reminder of my privilege. When I get fed up with white folks who don't own their privilege and stop sparing words when telling them what I think, they never say that I'm "angry", "militant", or "looking for an excuse to play the victim".

Like others here I don't think you're missing anything. I think you had it right when you said he's wasted enough of your time.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 06:19 pm (UTC)

I stopped really reading his reply when he went to the indentured servitude is worse than slavery place. Because someone coming to you with that shit does not deserve the time of day and it was great of you to try to give him something more than "shut up."

He wasn't coming to you in good faith. If he were, he would have said "I've been thinking about why it is acceptable to have things like BET, but not okay to have WET. I don't really see the difference; it feels like reverse discrimination." You'd have linked him to TransGriot or otherwise schooled him and it would have been over. But he didn't choose to be straightforward, instead he tried to trip you up.

In other words, you're not the one missing anything here. He doesn't have the 101 to try to have a productive discussion on race, or even the common sense to deal with a loaded subject. That's not on you.

Wed, Jan. 27th, 2010 05:05 am (UTC)

It's funny you mention that Transgriot post because as I commented to Monica, I was in the middle of this drama when she posted that entry.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 06:52 pm (UTC)

whoa. he totally wanted to put you in your place (so to speak). he came at you with his probably brand new to him idea about oppression thinking he was about to BLOW YOUR MIND with this new revelation. i mean, how could you possibly have thought about the same thing he did? you know, since you're militant and all. he was totally trying to shut you down. he thought he had information you didn't. he thought he had something new to add to the conversation- so fucking typical.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 08:20 pm (UTC)

LOL, but really the facts are just so sad that I shouldn't be LOLing.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 07:40 pm (UTC)

Sympathy for the ordeal. Even having it safely contained in a post like this, it felt awful. I imagine it would have been worse to have authored half of it and know that the message was completely lost.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 08:19 pm (UTC)

He doesn't seem to actually be having a conversation with you; he is pulling preformed ideas/responses out of a grab bag (a grab bag made of privilege, of course).

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 08:22 pm (UTC)

What a fucking creep. I can't believe the whole "I had this dream" sneak attack bullshit.

You said so many awesome, logical, well-argued things and it was like he just saw what he wanted and waited for you to finish so he could say what he was going to say anyway.

It's so disrespectful to you as a person; you took the time and effort to respond and were willing to discuss things in an adult manner.

I'm really sorry this happened.

And I am totally bookmarking this post.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)

And White folks wonder why we keep them at arm's length, even (especially) the "good" ones.

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 10:00 am (UTC)

I really don't, and I'm sorry that we're so fvcked up that you have to do this.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 09:16 pm (UTC)

Oh god, so much fail. Thank you for posting this, it's made me think a lot. And another thanks for the sit the fuck down moment... A handy reminder not to feel complacent just because I can see much of SWP's epic fail.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 09:58 pm (UTC)

I don't see anything you missed. All I know is it felt GOOOOOOD when I finally got to read your smackdown, because that dude was driving me NUTS. And it was charitable of you to open up enough to show him that he'd hurt you. He didn't even deserve that.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 10:12 pm (UTC)

Well he's certainly not the only white person walking around crafting and perfecting The Argument in his head, refining it and mentally wanking to how perfect each point is, gathering examples and rhetorical fluorishes that prove that racism is not that big of a deal and white privilege is not his problem.

But damn. This is the first time I've seen this kind of ridiculously disingenuous bait. You gave him a lot of the benefit of the doubt for a long time. You didn't miss anything. I hope you got some of your own energy back when you let loose and called him on his shit.

Sun, Jan. 24th, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)

I think I threw up in my mouth a little.

What a horrible, frustrating, marginalizing conversation. I think most PoCs have had similar ones (God knows I have) -- though not necessarily ones so weirdly orchestrated. He was really trying to draw you in somewhere! I don't even get what he was fishing for.

On the one hand, I'm glad you posted, because it is a beautifully preserved example of white derailing tactics that can be hard to explain to people. Conversations like this are hard enough written down -- they completely throw me when they're happening face-to-face in real time. I love that no matter how clearly and/or patiently you explain yourself, this SWP is too busy proving himself right to listen to you. (Did he really pull the "My other black friend says...?" with you? The mind boggles.)

On the other hand, I'm all riled up with no place to go. Damn it, Denny.

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 01:47 am (UTC)

Like I said, if I have to suffer, so does everyone else. ;D
(Deleted comment)

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 09:15 am (UTC)

"Honest and respectful conversations between friends do not resemble a Trojan Horse strategy."

Words to live by!

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 01:38 am (UTC)

You're missing the part where this is just an interesting intellectual exercise for your friend, and if you have an emotional investment in it, there's something wrong with YOU, obviously. *gag*

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 01:49 am (UTC)

"Back the fuck up", indeed. The way SWP even approached the conversation with that bullshit dream to, I guess, make you have some kind of magical epiphany moment was ridiculous and condescending, and then it just kept getting worse. There's nothing to miss here, and you handled the situation well (and I'm glad you called him out on his tactics). I can't wrap my mind around this shit, and I'm sorry you had to waste your time on someone who had no intention of learning or even listening in the first place. Jesus.

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 02:32 am (UTC)

Oh wow, that's terrible. o_o I also see that he really did bait you into a discussion, and not only that, I couldn't believe he was like, "Oh, I just want your opinion." What a lie.

I've not yet commented in this community because I'm still doing a lot of reading (relatively new member), but I just was just so shocked I wanted to say something.

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 02:51 pm (UTC)

i appreciate your comments.

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 04:01 am (UTC)

But... he has a black friend AND he's MORE THAN ONE QUARTER Native American. He's, like, an honorary POC, right?


Another thank you for the warning against looking away and sorry you have to deal with this shit.

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 09:13 am (UTC)

The shorter version: Your buddy appears to be suffering from Reasonable Person Fatigue and wants absolution for reverting back to his core unreasonable person. What a disheartening conversation!

On the plus side, your blog sounds like one I'd like to read. Can you post the link, please?

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 12:15 pm (UTC)

Yeah, basically he wants to quit us darkies and want's a reasonable excuse to do so and still not look like a racist douche. I say just quit us and take the consequences (which, due to a White supremacist society, will be minimal).

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 09:25 am (UTC)

Sorry, one more comment/question: does this man happen, by any chance, to be a member of Atlanta's fetish community? I ask, because I've had very similar discussions to this with a guy from Atlanta. The kicker? He thought the fact that he sometimes wears womens boots and skirts meant his anti Islamic comments about Scandinavia meant that he surely wasn't a conservative.

It totally sounds like the same man, not to derail the original conversation or anything...

Mon, Jan. 25th, 2010 12:59 pm (UTC)

To my knowledge I don't believe he's apart of a community like that and up until a few days ago, he never expressed any kind of views like that which is what really threw me.

Of course this is LJ, white folks showing their asses seems to be a multitude.
(Deleted comment)

Tue, Jan. 26th, 2010 12:24 am (UTC)

I agree, and I occasionally do say things I apologize for every now and then, but the idea that affirming white identity and affirming PoC identity are not the same thing is extremely basic 101 stuff, and the idea that PoC face ongoing racism and are still disadvantaged is extremely basic 101 stuff.
(Deleted comment)