How Prejudice and Bias works

One of the things that always crops up in vast discussions of racism, sexism, or prejudice of most kinds is the argument that businesses would never engage in biased, bigoted actions because it would be bad for the profit margin. The recent flare up in the Geico Caveman post sparked my thinking on this, but it’s found in many areas, including in the debate surrounding Gender Bias in SF fiction markets. Magazine editors would never be biased against women because they want to sell to women says Doug Cohen. The problem with this stance, in all its forms, is that it’s short-sighted and based on an ignorance of how prejudice, bias, and bigotry work in America.Privileged people often don’t understand how prejudice works because (surprise!) they don’t experience it. Yet privileged people are usually the first to step forward and proclaim that something isn’t racist, sexist, etc. As we’ve already covered here, only those to whom the prejudice is happening can rightfully declare the prejudice to be over. They’re usually the only ones who fully understand how it works as well. Add to that, most folks who claim that “No Business Would Ever” aren’t actually in a position to know.

So let me try and school some folks on how racism/sexism/prejudice works. First of all, there’s less overt bigotry in American business than there used to be. Not very many signs that say “No Niggers or Mexicans” or Colored fountains. (Not to say that these things don’t exist at all. They do, just not as much.) However, that does not mean that racism is over. There are still plenty of companies that have discriminatory hiring and promoting practices. The glass ceiling hasn’t disappeared. To say that this doesn’t filter down to their marketing practices is to live in ignorance. Just looking at the commercials on network TV, how many feature white people only? How many feature just token people of color? When is the last time that you saw a commercial that featured all people of color that wasn’t on a specialized network (CW, BET, etc.) or during a “black show”? Some may argue that companies would be shooting themselves in the foot by being racist, and yet they advertise non-race specific products without nary a whiff of non-white people on the screen. What those companies understand that many consumers don’t is that this works. They can employ this subtle racism, wherein they cater to the privileged and ignore the not-privileged, and not suffer financially for it. People of color will still buy the products.

Why? There are lots of reasons. The main one being that many people of color just don’t notice. After all, our culture is a white one. It is centered around the most privileged in our society, the white male. It’s ingrained into us from childhood that whiteness is normal and maleness is better. So why should we question that there are no brown people on the TV? After all, we are inconsequential.

Those of us who do notice these things have little recourse. Because every time we dare to speak about it in public, there are plenty of people around to tell us that we’re being stupid, or oversensitive, or playing the race card, or seeing racism where it doesn’t exist. All of this from people who’ve most likely never had to consider if something is racist or not. They don’t see it, therefore, it doesn’t exist.

Which is the next component: the training of white people who, while not malicious or overtly prejudiced themselves, aren’t taught to notice their own privilege or to notice prejudice when it doesn’t present itself at Hitlerian levels. This training is mostly taken up by the media, who hold up the pillars of privilege while giving all consumers the tools to ignore the effects of such. Like the Geico commercials that poke fun at people who are “too sensitive” to legitimate grievances. Or 24 hour news channels whose anchors can’t say the names Sharpton or Jackson without making a face or spitting to the side. Or even popular entertainment, which is the biggest culprit. Sitcoms set in NYC with nary a brown face, even in the background. Or shows where any brown people are there to uplift the white protagonist or are just a step above minstrel shows. Grown women portrayed as large children, over-emotional harridans, meddling mothers, or sexless career drones. Not every show on TV is like this. Not every network engages in this base stupidity. But if I were to take a count right now, this crap would be in a comfortable majority.

It seems like there aren’t too many network execs that worry about “shooting themselves in the foot” when it comes to green lighting a show with no people of color whatsoever. Sure, they want lots of viewers so they can sell advertising slots. But which demographic do advertisers care about? Males. White. 18 – 40 years old. If a show skews too female (and it’s not on Lifetime) or, god forbid, too black (if it’s not on the CW or BET), how long will it last?

This applies to other corners of the media as well. Radio, music, book publishing, and magazines. In the gender bias discussion, I acknowledged that the bias most people were aware of was probably unconscious. After all, most people are not aware of their own biases. Particularly white men. They don’t need to be aware of biases because they aren’t affected by them. But even if Shawna McCarthy or Gordon van Gelder were consciously biased and have made editorial decisions based on a desire to draw more male readers without regard to female readers, (or readers of color of either gender) what would the results be? For decades the magazines and, to some extent, the big publishing houses, have catered to the white, male fan and it’s earned them a lot of money. Why should they change?

The only reason to change is because something changes in the consumer base. For magazines, the readership is changing. There are more women interested in reading SF than there were 20 years ago. There are more women writing. There are more men with wider interests than the narrow offerings of Golden Age SF. There are more people of color consuming spec fic. That’s when you start to see some outrage, some discussion, some outing of biases, unconscious or not, and calls for change. That doesn’t mean the magazines change right away. After all, they have done well so far. What the readers are starting to point out is that change has to happen, or they will go somewhere else.

Even with all this you still get people who claim there could not possibly be this problem. Why? Not only because they can’t see beyond their own prejudice but because they think things are fine the way they are. They don’t want to change. They are happy and comfortable. It doesn’t matter if other people are or not.

Lucky for the genre, those people are about to be squished like little bugs under the collective heel of enlightened people.

This is what needs to happen on a massive scale for things to change on a wider front. It won’t be until a vocal majority of people decry racism in all its forms that something will be done about it. We’ve been lulled into a false belief that, because of the Civil Rights Movement, there’s nothing more to do. We’ve been told that it’s all okay because we have BET and businesses would be stupid to continue with racist practices. Meanwhile, executives laugh all the way to the bank, profiting off ignorance and apathy.

Racism, sexism, bias, prejudice, and bigotry work when people in power are smart about the implementation. As long as it’s subtle, quiet, and only truly discussed amongst people who are secure in their power, everyone else is left to either suffer from it or argue about when and where it actually exists. For me, the discussion about whether prejudice exists is over. I know it, I see it, I experience it. The discussion isn’t even about in what way it exists. For me it’s about how we can eliminate it.

Which level of the discussion are you having?

43 Responses

  1. This is probably the best thing about prejudice and bias I’ve ever read. The thing people tend to forget is that when you’re blind to privilege, you’re fricking blind to privilege. So, of course you’d never put people of color in your ads. It would never occur to you.

    Sadly, all I ever seem to have is the discussion over whether prejudice actually exists.

  2. Great post.

  3. Beautiful!

    Sub to Timmi for this year’s wiscon essay collection?

  4. Wow. I was just posting on LJ about how overt racism is not required to keep qualified candidates out of good jobs – because once the overt racism stops, you still have a group of people who aren’t being taught the same career building skills or getting the same tips as their white counterparts. These more subtle, insidious hurdles add up over the years.

    And people comfort themselves with, “Well, I guess no women/WOC/POC want this job.” Are you sure they even know it exists?

    Your example is much more eloquent. When I was in film school I was told repeatedly, “The audience only wants to see white men. It’s too bad, but that’s what the numbers say and numbers don’t lie.” No, they don’t – but interpretations of what numbers mean vary. Yes, people will go see white men in movies if that’s all there is in the genre they like. That doesn’t mean we prefer them. Even worse when the roles that go to people other than white men are generally less well-drawn. If you offer someone yummy oranges or worm-infested apples, their selection of oranges does not indicate a true preference of oranges to apples. No matter how much you tell yourself it does.

    That’s how we keep getting steered. Our choices are pre-made for us, but presented as OPTIONS with much fanfare, to make us think we’ve participated in the choice and are getting what we (apparently) want. Like my mom always quips sarcastically about cable, “Oh, good. 150 channels of ‘nothing on’ instead of 13.” ;)

  5. For me, the discussion about whether prejudice exists is over. I know it, I see it, I experience it. The discussion isn’t even about in what way it exists. For me it’s about how we can eliminate it.

    I heart you so much. I get so discouraged seeing posts on racism continually being bogged down by people commenting on how racism doesn’t exist/isn’t as important as [insert ism here]/exists but only if you’re burning crosses on lawns/how they are discriminated against because they have freckles!

    Some days I want to ask people if I can have a passport to their magical fantasy land, since where they’re living is very clearly not my world.

  6. Amen on all counts. And especially amen to BetaCandy — this kind of thinking (re: film) makes me absolutely white-eyed with fury. *I* don’t want to see only white men. I *have* skipped movies and TV shows if they tracked “too white” to me, because they have nothing to do with my reality. I just moved to NYC; I’m black, nowhere near wealthy, and I live in a black-and-Asian neighborhood where navigating cross-cultural issues is a part of my daily life; what am I going to identify with more? “Friends” or “Sex in the City”? NEITHER.

  7. ABW, thanks so much for this post! I’ve been reading your blog for a while and really love the way you put the issues out there. I’ve been doing anti-racism education (paid and unpaid :) ) for years and have pointed many to your site for greater understanding. You rock!

  8. Thank you for this article. It’s great.

  9. This is so awesome, would you consider putting it under your “required reading” headings?

  10. Okay, I’m blind to being a person of privilege (white, male, 40, yea I hit all the bases).

    So what do I do about this? I truly believe that I want to work with, and hire, people who are excellent regardless of ‘what’ they are. Do we have to have long meaningful conversations (yeck) about race and etc or can I make the best hiring choices I can, demand excellence and hope it all works out for the best?

    I bring this up because my fun-job (as opposed to the day-job) might take off any month (or year) now and we’ll have to fast and nimble to compete. We gotta be good and people have to be the cream of the crop. I want my biz to succeed, I truly do.

    This kind of stuff bothers me – that I might make a ‘bad’ choice simply by being what I am.

  11. It’s interesting (and somewhat telling) that you feel you may have to make a choice between having a diverse workforce/discussing racial tolerance and having “the cream of the crop”, and “making the best hiring choices”… why do you feel that it has to be one or the other? And I hope that you acknowledge that seeing “long meaningful conversations (about race)” as something icky may create an uncomfortable environment for minorities that may be “the cream of the crop”… if all of your employees aren’t as colorblind as you imply that you are, and something foul occurs, a “long meaningful conversation about race” may be in order (at the least). If you’re not interested in having it, you may do a great disservice to your minority employees. I’m a black college student, and one of my fears is that a racial incident in the workplace may occur, and I won’t be believed or taken seriously because “everybody’s fine, this is 2007, and racism is merely the invention of minorities’ active imaginations, now”. One thing that I’d suggest is that you cast a “wide net”, which will be necessary if you really want the best people, anyway. You don’t have to augment your qualifications, you just may have to make use of more cutting-edge channels to find employees. Many successful and competitive companies have diverse workforces, and those can be used as models for your own. Your question is vaguely worded, so I can’t appropriately address it here, but fortunately, I CAN direct you to someone who answers questions just like yours all of the time!

    http://www.diversityinc.com/public/department105.cfm

  12. I had a conversation with my neighbor the other day –

    Neighbor: “My daughter was working as a teacher, but they put her in this really awful school.” (implying she was thinking of quitting teaching)

    Me: “What was bad about it?”

    Neighbor: “Oh, it’s a terrible school. I’m not prejudiced or anything, but it’s full of black kids.”

    Me (with my 12 year old standing next to me, whose best friend since kindergarten is black): …

    At this point I’m wondering if it’s worth it to say anything. She’s my next door neighbor and we just moved here.

    Neighbor (uncomfortable) — “It really is a bad neighborhood, the kids are stabbing the teachers and everything.”

    (neighbor walks off)

    Me (to son) — “You know it’s not right to talk like that.”

    Son (laughs) — “I don’t change my perceptions by what people say.”

    I feel bad for Malik (his friend), who will have to deal with this crap this over and over for the rest of his life.

  13. It’s interesting (and somewhat telling) that you feel you may have to make a choice between having a diverse workforce/discussing racial tolerance and having “the cream of the crop”, and “making the best hiring choices”… why do you feel that it has to be one or the other?

    I don’t think that this is so.

    I’m not comfortable talking about racial issues – but I’m not comfortable talking about a whole lotta stuff that isn’t contained within the narrow definition of work.

    Hey – it’s taken me years to learn the art of small talk.

    And I hope that you acknowledge that seeing “long meaningful conversations (about race)” as something icky may create an uncomfortable environment for minorities that may be “the cream of the crop”… if all of your employees aren’t as colorblind as you imply that you are, and something foul occurs, a “long meaningful conversation about race” may be in order (at the least).

    I see your point of view.

    I’m seeing it like this; long drawn out conversations (or really the entire process represented by them) are a cost of attracting and keeping talented people.

    It’s a cost of business that is worth doing in order to succeed and ace out the competition. It’s a lot like having a good lawyer, a competent accountant or an IT team that knows what it’s doing.

    I’m a black college student, and one of my fears is that a racial incident in the workplace may occur, and I won’t be believed or taken seriously because “everybody’s fine, this is 2007, and racism is merely the invention of minorities’ active imaginations, now”.

    What is your major? Want to work for a scrappy company that wants to change the world?

  14. somehow i missed that geico post. i’m glad you wrote about it. you know they’re making a sitcom based on those commercials? those commercials bother me because the joke seems to be that the cavemen are overreacting. which of course, if there were cavemen in real life, they wouldn’t be. and since there aren’t cavemen in real life, the joke is that ‘people’ overreact, which of course means that people of color and other people who are generally misrepresented in media are overreacting when they complain about being misrepresnted.

  15. Brian, when Nora comes back from her vacation, I will point her toward your comment. She works on exactly this kind of thing and will be ale to answer you better than I.

  16. Thank you so much for this post. It’s brilliant, clear, easy-to-understand, and absolutely spot-on.

  17. Brian, when Nora comes back from her vacation, I will point her toward your comment.

    Thank you. My first post was perhaps not very clear – it was more a ramble than a well thought out question. Y’all are welcome to contact me by email if you’d like.

  18. This is great! I just came across your site tonight and love it. Will probably recommend it to my college students the next time I teach. Also happy to see others who like Segrest’s Memoir of a Race Traitor, once of my favorite books (and really great to teach).

  19. I want to send this to people that I have to deal with in real life so maybe they will get it. Except I don’t think they will get it we’ll have to discuss it anyway and then I’ll have to despise them a little bit more.

    Thanks for the post and keep plugging away. We are out here listening.

  20. This is great.

    Really, really great.

  21. WoW! Thank you for putting things into perspective.

  22. [...] How Prejudice and Bias works from The Angry Black Woman by the angry black woman [...]

  23. Great post. Thank you!

  24. Actually, the Geico joke is that the cavemen have a legitimate complaint, and everyone else is being insensitive to their frustrations.

    It is saying that we dismiss racism too easily, and is actually on the caveman’s side. I would have thought someone of any culture other than white male landowner would have known that.

  25. ABW, I’ll tell you how Prejudice and Bias works, from the top down.

    When Jr. and his administration refused to help the Katrina victims, he didn’t have to be reminded that the majority of them were Black; he knew. That knowledge was a benchmark for how much support would be sent to that area to help in recovery efforts. When Laura Bush stumbled with the pronunciation of the word KATRINA, it confirmed how much they cared.

    That said, corporations and businesses of all sort follow suit; without even having to create a “level of the discussion.” They can simply ignore the issues like the president does.

  26. Good Posts all! But since everyone is clearly agreeing with everyone and singing cumbaya, let me take a different tack. The fundamental flaw in your thinking is that companies (public or private) are in any way obligated to create shows or products that appeal to people outside of who they have identied as their core customer base. Sure it would be smart and savvy. Knowing this, why lament the fact that there is not enough “brown” on TV, movies, etc and that somehow this is on purpose. They are a business creating a product just like on the store shelves; you don’t like, you don’t buy it. As a white male, I don’t find the product on BET to my liking, so I simply turn the channel, no muss no fuss, I move on to something I like (and where are the white people in BET)?. BET makes no pretense of caring about my viewership. Nor harm no foul, I get it. As a business person, I’m neither forced, nor obligated to create a product, nor hire a person that does not fit my companiy’s business plan. While I absolutely agree that racism exists, forcing a surface level compliance to some ideal does not create the meaningful deep change I beleive the AA community is striving for. Why would this issue not spawn new companies that cater to all. Why not take that forgotten market share and show the “racist” companies what they left on the table. These are questions that I ponder. It’s really hard and actually quite disengenuous to even be having a discussion like this when AA children are openly taught to hate and be suspicious of the white man , when black comedians can openly make fun of white people with no recourse, and when other minorities have flourished in this same culture. In an attempt to intellectualize the definition of racism, you’ve lost the spirit of what needs to happen. You’ve become complicit in perpetuating racism in my opinion. It pains me to see so many people waiting around for white America to legitamize them, you really don’t need that! I really think you’ve got it wrong, the majority of white america is not racist and wants the AA community to stop the rhetoric, kick out the leaders that instutionalize victimization so AAs can stand up, prosper and be part of things….but we keep waiting and waiting and waiting and are constantly told every few years that there is a new reason why this will not happen. Don’t force people to cater to you and then not take advantage of it. It lacks conviction. its not that we are not aware of our privledge, we understand that, but we are growing weary. Ok, now all can call me racist…I know its coming. Good discussion though. I’m sure some can tolerate a different perspective.

    My bliog will be up soon: The Common Sense Cracka

    We’ll get very deep into issues like this and balance the discussion, get real on stats, and seek to show both sides of the issues. There is clearly an absence of white voices on this issue and I beleive the AA community could certainly benefit from that.

    Peace and Thanks

    Common Sense Cracka

  27. @Michael:

    “It’s really hard and actually quite disengenuous to even be having a discussion like this when AA children are openly taught to hate and be suspicious of the white man”

    Can you cite some sources? I’ve not seen this in the schools I’ve volunteered at nor in the homes of any of my Black friends.

    “when black comedians can openly make fun of white people with no recourse”

    So? I don’t think we need to be so sensitive that we can’t be made fun of.

    “and when other minorities have flourished in this same culture”

    1) Who says other minorities are flourishing? Not to mention that there are other minorities here who aren’t flourishing here (the Hmong, for one).

    2) Other minorities haven’t been enslaved and mistreated for 400 years. Blacks weren’t even given the semblance of equality under the law until the 1960′s. Multi-generational trauma isn’t something you just snap your fingers and erase.

    “In an attempt to intellectualize the definition of racism, you’ve lost the spirit of what needs to happen. You’ve become complicit in perpetuating racism in my opinion.”

    I’m not clear on what you mean here.

    “It pains me to see so many people waiting around for white America to legitamize them, you really don’t need that!”

    I agree in theory — Blacks do not need whites to legitimize them. Life is more complicated than that. People who have been told they are ugly, dirty, and stupid for generations by people who are seen by society as beautiful, clean, and intelligent might just like it if someone valued them.

    “the majority of white america is not racist and wants the AA community to stop the rhetoric, kick out the leaders that instutionalize victimization so AAs can stand up, prosper and be part of things….but we keep waiting and waiting and waiting and are constantly told every few years that there is a new reason why this will not happen. Don’t force people to cater to you and then not take advantage of it.”

    One thing I’ve found from learning about racism is that most of white America IS racist. They are blind to their privilege, take their ‘normal’, ‘default’ whiteness for granted, and seldom think about what it means to be in the minority, if at all. And I include myself in that.

    No one is forcing anyone to cater to them. I happen to disagree with some of the tacks taken by AA’s from the POV of what would best appeal to white Americans, but it is not for me to tell someone else what is validating to them. That’s disrespectful.

    And please don’t generalize what ‘we’ think or are waiting for. I don’t care to be lumped.

    The Common Sense Cracka? Wow, that’s just … words fail me.

  28. Michael, it’s funny how you can only point at BET and say you don’t like the product. Let me help you there is CW, also. Do you see there’s not alot of channels that show PoC. When I watch TV I’m bombarded with anything but color.

    I know I’m just commenting on one thing you said but it’s been something that has got on my nerves for a long time. Why is it when there is talk of not enough minorities represented on TV, BET is always brought up? Like since we have it we should be satisfied. And I’ll tell you why there aren’t alot of white people on there, all you have to do is turn to one of the major networks and you will see shows with all white casts or a few minorities sprinkled in to make it more “realistic.”

    Sometimes, I feel as if we don’t exist when I watch some shows. As if there are white people who just want to erase PoC. All white is alright in their world.

    I’m sorry if I got off point here but the BET comment I’ve heard and read one too many times and I just had to say something about. And the funny part is I don’t really care for BET. It seems to be about money, easy women, and cars. Hardly anything of substance.

    Well, that’s my two cents and my opinion.

  29. Almost all groups of recent immigrants are doing well. In my personal experience, regardless of race, blacks of Caribbean (mine) and African descent perform better in school than all other racial groups including whites.

    I think the issue is that scores on tests are reported as “black” so the immigration factor is hidden for the black population.

    The real question is that apparently many blacks in America are doing poorly in terms of health, income and education.

    What’s the deal? It’s NOT their skin color. After being dragged to this country as a child and traveling all over the world, I really have to blame. . . the whites.

    Their disdain, insults (just read CNN) and cruelty create a hostile environment that causes undue stress on people who have to live with here. They make clothes only to fit them (just try to find a decent pair of jeans), put whites ALL over the place and generally try to make themselves look great and insult the dark-of-hue. So childish, but they have been doing it for centuries because they have an ability to kill, subdue and torture that few groups in the world have been able to match.

    Would CNN ever publish stories like “White women More likely to Get Cancer” “Whites Big Losers in Subprime Morgage Disaster” etc? Blacks would never do that, even if they try to make us look bad we would not even consider treating another group of people that way. (well, maybe Farrakhan would, but that is weird, because he looks very white to me).

    At any rate, in spite of the nastiness of many of the whites in this god-forsaken country, blacks may be down, but we are not out. The poverty level has decreased immensely since slavery (heh heh, of course), our literacy levels are constantly increasing, and we support one another.

    I’d also like to add that everyone I have met in Asia, Africa and Latin America sympathizes with the blacks in this country. I’m sorry for us, but the racists in this country will get what they deserve. Even the “black” racists.

  30. Hello ABW,

    How can I (as a white male) help eliminate the racism, sexism, bias, prejudice, and bigotry that are so deeply ingrained in the commercial and marketing enterprise(s) of the U.S?

    Wow…I cannot possibly give this question the full answer it deserves. In fact, I may have to come back and add more as my answers develop.

    Off the cuff:

    I think one of biggest sources of enslavement for white people in the U.S. is CONVENIENCE. There comes a point where material prosperity and the availability of resources will breed weakness of the will, the heart, and the mind – a social and economic crack-cocaine if you will. One publication I read said that whites comprise only half of the U.S. population, but we still control 97% of the wealth. Further, we have to identify (and rectify) the negative ways we have been socialized and influenced negatively by our families, this society, and the media. Ironically, one of the wealthiest individuals in history (who I believe was of darker hue), King Solomon, wrote: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” More recently author James Baldwin wrote: “Those who dine at the table of privilege rarely leave voluntarily.”

    White people in the U.S. have to care and take ownership of these issues of racism, sexism, prejudice, etc.

    On a personal level, let me say that a white man like me must be very vigilant on daily basis. I must be mindful and critical of messages that are being conveyed to me. Though that I have spent nearly half of my adult life seeking to reorient my thinking on these matters, the battle is worth it.

    More to come….

    Adam

  31. Their disdain,insults, and cruelty create a hostile environment that causes undue stress on people who have to live with it here.

    Thanks for the analysis, CaribDollyGal you’ll NEVER hear anywhere else!!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for not trivializing OUR(African North American)hardships. We need to be not be just concerned about our issues here but people tend to either overemphasize/underemphasize our hardships. Also, not to take away from the success of other groups, they have more cultural resources-and pride- to draw on even though they may have had more economic/political hardships!!! I stress this because I don’t see the situations of immigrants as a joke at all!!!!!! Minorities from other nations have a degree of acceptance domestic minorities don’t-in terms of income and opportunities.Immigrants tend to have better health than native born folks until they adopt the WESTERN U.S. diet because their diet is more nutritious. Which says something about our poor health as well.Some of these bad habits was adopted in soul food.This is the case for all but particularly blackfolk. BUT to whom it may interest-not only do you ever hear about how Asians are outperforming whites, you never hear about how African Americans that go to African-centred schools outperform groups deemed more successful-i.e. whites!!!

  32. This is my first visit to your site ABW and I feel honored to have found it. I don’t know where to start, I’m a bundle of confusion. I need to be set straight. I was born and raised in Denver,CO. There in my neighborhood it was predominantly black. I moved to Lancaster,CA when I was 12. This town is predominantly white. They let you know who’s running things here. But this is the thing, I wasn’t raised to be a racist(we didn’t call whites,”honky”,or “crackers”), yet we weren’t submerged into black awareness either. We weren’t black diamonds, black princesses, no mention of Malcolm,Martin,Emmett,etc. We were taught that God sees no color, that there is no division. I thought this was especially true when my stepfather abandoned 4 kids and a wife in an all white town, and a white woman and her daughter took us in. I will always be greatful. We went to their all white church. Sure there were a handful of whites that didn’t hide their disgust for blacks. But I can honestly say from a child’s point of view that the majority of them embraced my family. Yet as I grew older, I realized that there was in fact a division(even within the black community). Now I’m 33 y/o and I’m more confused than ever about where I stand. I find myself at times( and it doesn’t last long) almost hating white people. Deep in my heart I know hate is wrong but I just don’t know where I fit in, where I belong. I find myself “angry” because I watch ‘sex in the city’. This show isn’t about me, they obviously don’t care about me. But on the other hand I find myself trying to rationalize, by saying “hey it’s just a show about WOMEN living in the city”. I need some help here, some guidance, some direction, before I find myself agreeing with Prof. Kambon.

    I’m sorry for rambling, I’m just searching for something. I’m ready for all comments.
    Thank you again for your site, I will direct my sisters here.

  33. As a white woman, I don’t think there’s a problem with you hating white people as a class sometimes. It’s an annoying and problematic and oppressive world, and we all have emotions, and if frustration becomes hate toward the class that — as a class — oppresses your class, then, okay. As long as it’s a helpful way for you to frame your anger, and as long as it doesn’t become violence, and as long as you can separate your class analysis from your interaction with individuals — I say, go for it.

    As far as whether it’s “wrong” — I don’t think so, not even when analyzed from the priveleged perspective. I think people with privelege benefit from being smacked on the nose with the rolled up newspaper of someone’s non-violent, frustrated hate. People who have worked on coming to terms with their roles in the system will know what you mean and why, and the others need to start down a path that love and rainbows alone have so far failed to lure them down.

    At least, that’s how I feel sometimes as a member of an oppressed group, thinking about groups that oppress me. I like this take on a tangential piece of the issue: http://ilykadamen.blogspot.com/2007/03/occasionally-conversations-with-my-man.html

  34. I feel impelled to quote a bit of Ilyka’s awesome post:

    “I can see how some of these guys get the idea that you all hate men. Because you’re talking to the regulars, and the regulars know you don’t hate men, but some new guy reading some of this stuff, he’s going to be all, wait, what did I do? I didn’t rape anybody, I never beat up a transsexual–”

    “No, I get that,” I interrupted him. “That’s a lot like–like, I used to have the same reaction reading blogs by people of color. I’d see something like ‘white people sure suck sometimes,’ and I’d be all, ‘Hey! Wait! Not all of us! Not me!’ Even though I probably do suck as a white person sometimes–but I mean, I’d take it too personally.”

    “It’s hard not to take it personally.”

    “It’s not as hard if you move yourself out of the center of everything, though. That’s what I finally got through my thick skull. It’s not ABOUT me, always. And even if it is about me, so what? I’m not perfect. Why shouldn’t I have to take some shit once in awhile? Heaven knows I dish enough out in a day. Would it kill me to get an attitude adjustment? Would it kill me to listen to someone unlike me for five minutes?”

    “But if you aren’t the problem,” he argued, “It sucks to be treated like you’re the problem. It’s like being accused of something you didn’t do.”

    “If I’m not the problem,” I explained, “then why should I get invested in identifying with the problem? If the problem is some particular batch of white people, doing or saying shit I’d never in a million years do myself, why should I feel the need to put myself in their shoes? Just because they’re white and I’m white? That’s stupid. Like all the idiot white dudes who identify with the Duke lacrosse players–they don’t even comprehend that unless they’re just as wealthy and elite, which you know 95% of them aren’t, the fucking lacrosse players would SPIT on them. They’re ID-ing with the players, but I guarantee you the players aren’t ID-ing with them.”

    “A lot of the guys written about on feminist blogs do things I would never do.”

    “Then don’t identify with them. It’s not about you!”

  35. There are many black TV commercials & sitcoms at Prince George’s County Maryland (PG County is majority black). I think it all depends where you live.

  36. [...] able to see white as general it was because of racism – because I saw white as the Norm, because I had no trouble momentarily forgetting about the existence of people of color, because I saw people of color as the Special Case, the people that would only be on a TV show if [...]

  37. The Geico Commercials have even a more significant slant – because the GEICO COMPANY has been caught by the Dept. of Ins. of racial profiling when it comes to their car insurance rates…no coincidence, black women are charged the most out of ALL THE CATEGORIES – no reply from Geico at all, when the news broke and the news “broke” on page 15 of the local newsrag

  38. Isn’t assigning a set of characteristics that don’t define an entire race to that race regardless of the truth of the statement… racism?

  39. I like the article and would like to explain something from a man that comes from a mixed family. I’m pale skinned but have cousins and uncles/aunts who are AA or mixed. I myself am Irish/English/Native American so I’ve been on both sides of the issue and I can tell you the number one threat to the true dream that Martin Luther King Jr invisioned is the population who are tired of hearing about it. My generation was born on the heels of the Civil Rights Movement and have forgotten some hard lessons that were learned. The visions of things that happened in Mississippi, Alabama and so forth are all that’s left leaving a misconception that racism today is only a problem in the South. It’s just not true.

    I’ve been with my family when they’ve been treated poorly because of the color of their skin. Seen my cousins cry in High School, and my Uncles and Aunt scrape by because they could not go to college when they were kids. The UNCF was in it’s infancy and this generation is the first to really benefit from it. That’s the truth.

    I’ve seen white on black, black on white, black on black(you’re not dark skinned or you’re too black), white on white, and every color on mixed.

    Put yourself in my shoes, when the white comedian of the 60s makes fun of the black man I don’t laugh. When the black comedian of present day spends 60 minutes railing on white folk I don’t laugh. It’s the same thing and it’s not funny. If I don’t laugh when one cousin is insulted why would I laugh when another is in the same way? Because he’s white he should just take it? Personally I think comedy wise everybody should be free to make fun of everybody. That way you know whose a racist and whose not. I know there are racists everywhere but you can’t point a finger when they hide behind their one woman manager or one black assistant partner.

    Culturally I agree with this article so much but I wish it could be expanded to include so much more. Maybe you should have an angry Latino woman and an angry Caucasian woman help.

  40. . Confused black woman-I will say this. Acquaint yourself with the history of blacks in this country, the African diasporas and abroad-especially Africa. Also, read history from the Afrocentric prospective. Also, read about the history of common folks-from the standpoint of class-based analysis. I will put it like this. Seek out the truth-especially the perspectives-you rarely ever hear and you will eventually find it. With that said, in terms of race issues-I judged alot of things on how they impact minorities positive or negatively as a group whether inside it or outside it-i.e. the consequences of certain practices or actions in addition to feelings.

  41. I dislike the implication that we should necessarily seek out ‘a black person’ or ‘a woman’ for a particular role. Perhaps some of this comes from the fact that I’m one of these privileged white males, and so maybe my view is skewed. Maybe it would never occur to me to have a black person in my TV spot, movie or novel.

    This is probably the kind of argument you fight against daily, but it seems to me that cultivating a truly free society will allow all people to rise on the back of their own competence, and that promoting meritocratic values will eliminate race as a factor in these discussions.

    I think I have another issue with this sort of discussion, too, and that’s the assumption that ‘black people’ exist. I really resent the idea that there’s a ‘black community’ and a ‘white community’. I find the concept abhorrent. You might say that a white patriarchy forces people to think of themselves in these terms, and maybe that’s true, but then surely the way forward is to obstinately ignore race, rather than to make a bigger issue out of it?

    I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be called out on most of the things I’ve said. Go for it, obviously.

    • Spencer,

      I haven’t approved your comment to the “How Prejudice and Bias Works” thread for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s an old thread; the conversation’s over and people have moved on. But the other is that your post really adds nothing. It’s just the stock white male privilege argument, same as the other 99 stock white male privilege arguments we’ve heard here. It’s not that it’s controversial, it’s uninteresting. Please feel free to comment on more recent threads — but I should caution you that you’re not likely to get much of a reaction unless your comments show more thought. Most likely people will just point you at the White Privilege or Colorblindness sections of the Required Readings and ignore you.

      Once you’ve made one useful comment, I’ll approve you, and you’ll be able to post without moderation thereafter provided you adhere to the site rules.

      Thanks, and have a good one,
      Nojojojo (one of the moderators)

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