One more post about racism

April 13, 2007 at 3:50 am | Posted in Personal, Politics | 11 Comments

How about this; if you don’t believe that I am completely racism free, would you believe that it possible for somebody somewhere to be completely racism free?

My blog posts yesterday generated some interesting comments. Here are some highlights:

Commenters have offered the following links:

These ones are quite funny:

Would it surprise you to know that I’ve already learned the information provided by those links ten times over. If there ever was any racism in me it’s been beaten to death by now.

Among the comments there were some confessions including:

  • in some way, my reaction to a cultural that I don’t know/understand/live could be construed as ‘racist’.
  • I know that I have had thoughts that were absolutely terrible and I would never share them with anyone…so I couldn’t in clear conscience say that I am not a racist.
  • I recognize the racist things I have said and done in the past, and I acknowledge that racism is a part of who I am
  • My knee-jerk reaction to people of colour speaking out about their issues is to be defensive, and to be angry or jealous or dismissive.

I have a lot of sympathy for people who feel guilty about things that they have done in the past, but I did not do those things.

I have a lot of sympathy for people who feel guilty about what they do now that they think might be racist, but I don’t do those things either.

White Privelage

Even though it was part of a discussion about a specific case of active racsism, it’s possible that Rosie O’Donell was talking about white privelage when she made her statement “We all have some racism in us; that can’t be denied”.

I guess she could have said “all” forgetting that one or two people are not white.

I do not deny that white privelage exists. I explicitly acknowledge that this unfair system, which I did not ask for and do not condone, does in fact exist. I am aware of it because I have learned of it ten times over and I take action to diminish it.

BTW, if “living within the white privelage system” is the same things as saying that each and every white person “has racism within them” then the word racism has become too broad to have any real meaning.

Furthermore let me ask you, if you believe that the mere existence of a white privelage system is enough for each and every white person to have racism in them, then do you believe that non-white people also automatically have racism within them.

After all, they’re part of the system as well.


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  1. I guess she could have said “all” forgetting that one or two people are not white.

    Whooooa, dude… racism is not a one-way street!

    Yes, I believe that non-white people are just as racist as white people. The issue within North America is the balance of power and the use of racist attitudes and power structures to maintain that balance. Other countries which have a different racial balance do many of the same sorts of things but support a different “top” race. Or religion. Or whatever. People will seize upon almost any excuse to hate each other.

    It’s easy to subscribe to the guiltfest because white people have done a lot of bad shit over the past millennium or so. The Crusades, colonization, slavery… but we don’t have a monopoly on bad shit. We just happened to build the best ships and guns before anyone else did, which enabled us to put our bad shit over on them before they could do it to us. White people are not inherently evil. (Nor is anyone else, for that matter; but to hear some people speak, it sounds like we are.)

    So yes, you are part of the system, and you benefit from white-supremacist racism. And from the patriarchy, ‘cos you’re a guy. It’s not fair: you didn’t ask to be born a white male in a white-male-supreme system, and you sure as hell didn’t ask to get chewed out for it, so I can understand your anger and frustration (well, you sure sound angry and frustrated).

    The current thought on the subject is that we as white males bear a significant share of responsibility for fixing the system, since we have a disproportionate amount of power. What does this look like for you and me? Well, we’re not CEOs or bankers or anything like that, so we can educate ourselves as to just what invisible privilege means; and when we hear our friends making racist or sexist jokes, we can tell them what we think instead of laughing along.

    I get the feeling that you’re really offended by the implication that you might be even a bit racist. Don’t be. It’s human to discriminate, and it’s human to err, so to discriminate in error – which is what racism is all about – is about as human as it gets. I think you’re doing a swell job of purging your own racist attitudes, but it’s safer to acknowledge you might have missed a spot than to declare you’re utterly free from racism, neh? That way if it turns out you have missed a spot, it’s easier to fix it. And acknowledging that we’re all a little racist means acknowledging that that little bit of racism doesn’t make us bad people – it’s not a value judgement; it’s a statement about the human condition.

  2. I like what you wrote, and I would like to meet you.

    Please put on a blue velvet tuxedo with sequins (no pants) and meet me at the bus depot. (Don’t worry, you won’t be the only guy with no pants there).

  3. Would it make you feel better if we changed, “Everyone is a bit racist,” to, “Everyone needs to be wary and alert to racist thought and action,” ?

    I don’t know you that well, and I can’t see inside your head. Maybe you are completely racist free. I know I’m not, that I sometimes think racist things, and then have to trace where they are coming from. I live in a society that teaches racism down to the core, and certain thoughts become embedded and surface when I am not expecting them. I don’t like it, I fight it, I can’t ever justify it, but they are there. When they surface I try to determine why I thought that, is it really my thought, and how do I get rid of it? It is the same for sexist, sizist, and any other bigotry that I have inadvertently picked up.

  4. I like the way you worded this. It was what I was trying to get at with my post yesterday. My comment was the one about having bad thoughts and therefore not being able in clear conscience to call myself not racist.

    But – I also wouldn’t say that I *am* racist because I don’t voice these thoughts, I try to figure out where they came from, and I give myself a mental slap on the wrist for thinking such things. Then I continue to act to in a tolerant way to everyone to the best of my ability.

    My thing is – nobody is perfect, and I get wary whenever I hear *anyone* announce that they are perfect in a particular area. Perfection is an awfully hard place to maintain.

  5. Oh good, that sums up what I wanted to say much better than I would have said it. Thanks. 😀

  6. I like your writing better.

    There is a grand assumption here of the “white privilege” being applied to everyone everywhere. Does that include – say – Japan? (one assumes the readership here lives in North America I suppose – and doesn’t live in any of the “segregated regions” where “white man law” is unwelcome). (most of such regions I’ve encountered have no internet)

    I spent a long time living around and with several different first nations territories. I consider this province especially (there’s legal basis) and the whole country (less solid, but still good) first nations territory. Maybe it’s a result of that… dunno. Some of the systemic racism – on both sides – is rather scary. I’ve always done what I could to fight it within. I was usually in the minority – and usually not safe. (safety is one of those privileges people expect.)

    That lack of safety – both there and in other areas I’ve lived – is why I get so upset over this thing.

    So – after all this rambling – I’d say : What you said.

  7. I think what you wrote is spiffy cool, and we should definitely eat tomatoes together sometime.

    Wear a scarlet satin burial shroud and have a friend prop you up against the mailbox on Cambie Street between Robson and Smithe. You’ll be surrounded by cats and open tins of tuna, but don’t mind them.

  8. Discussion of white privilege generally deals with North American and European countries – specifically, countries where the majority race is Caucasian. In China, for example, there sure as heck ain’t no white privilege (as much as American corporations might like there to be).

  9. Okay, but you bring the Dettol.

  10. Sounds fair. 🙂

  11. Just checking, eh? Fair narrowing in.
    There’s no white privilege in Japan for sure – and there never will be (the US tried and failed rather dramatically).
    Poor US corporations (and most Canadian too to be honest) really don’t understand dealing with non-English cultures.

    However I’ll add that – while technically in “white man law” – a non-local person on a rez is open game for everything – especially if non-local is there without legal reason. Outside the law? All rules are gone.
    (this DOES have something to do with my sad past – but not much. I was only ever on the edge of it. Only had guns in my face or the like a couple of times. Noone I knew went through worse than being injured).

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