Things You Need To Understand #9 – You Don’t Get A Cookie

When a person or group does something to address the biases and imbalances in our culture, whether it be on a grand scale, in their own sphere of influence, or in themselves, this is a good thing. But doing so isn’t cause for celebration, congratulations, or a party. Why? Because it’s basic human decency. And people shouldn’t be over-praised for doing something they should have been doing in the first place. That leads to them doing the right thing for the wrong reasons — personal or professional accolades. i.e.: Cookies.

This is not to say that people won’t notice when you’re being basically decent. Sadly, in our society, those who do the right thing as regards bias, prejudice, sexism, racism, etc. stand out because so many others around them aren’t doing the right thing. Still and all, your goal should not be to call attention to yourself but to the injustice that you’re now fighting against.

Does that mean you can’t make apologies and state your new intentions? No. But it does mean that you should be prepared for people to not fully care until you start doing instead of talking about doing. Is it going to be uncomfortable for you for a while? Yes. Will you just have to suck it up, because anti-racist and anti-sexist work is more important than your hurt at not being given a cookie? Yes.

100 Responses

  1. I have a story to tell. Call it an addendum.

    Last year, after yet another round of the Great Gender in Science Fiction Debate, a certain online magazine published an issue with all female contributors. When the issue went live, I remember taking note of it. I remember hearing others do so. I know people read the issue. And also some folks reviewed the stories. then we all went on with our lives.

    Later on I heard through the grapevine that the people behind the magazine (not the authors, but the editor, publisher, etc) were very upset that no one had made a big deal about their all-female issue. “We did what you all wanted!” they were reported to have cried out. “How come no one is giving us a cookie??”

    Well, because you’re sitting there asking for one.

    I’d already suspected the motives of the magazine because of things I’ve heard about their editor, but didn’t want to put a damper on the issue itself because, hey, all women! It’s a good thing. Also I’m friends with some of the contributors. But expecting the genre to fall at your feet to thank you or raise you up as a paragon of awesomeness is just icky. You don’t get a cookie for making an effort once.

    I told you that story to tell you this one.

    Now there’s another magazine putting out an all-female issue. Except this time I don’t get the feeling it’s being done for cookies. maybe because I know the editor. Or maybe because he’s on these here internets making all kinds of sense.

    One of the other excellent reasons not to give out cookies, as it were, is that those who really deserve them don’t need them.

  2. YES!!!! A thousand YES’ to this post. How hard is it for one to do the right.thing. and stop there? Why do we have to bow down to their feets and lick ‘em (in that not-so-fun way) because they didn’t make some ignorant, ‘ist move?!?! Just do the right thing.

    In other words – don’t tell me that you know that X is ‘wrong’ and you’re not going to do it – JUST DO IT!! I don’t need your PSA because….newsflash….I am already there living it.

    No cookies unless I offer them, eh.

  3. Hi, somewhat new reader delurking here…

    I just wanted to say that this post rings so true to me. I think a lot of people perform these token acts of “kindness” or “generosity” and think their work is done. They have done their good deed for the day, as it were, and then sit back waiting for someone to notice.

    What’s important to understand is the work is never done. There is always more to do.

    I still have to check myself sometimes when I feel compelled to pat myself on the back for doing something good. Thanks for writing this!

  4. Let me first say that I agree with you on most points and absolutely understand that this is coming from the feminist Seal Press debacle.

    However, here is something to consider. Too many people don’t know what “it’s the right thing to do” means. Their parents sure aren’t teaching them.

    It’s a me me me society where very few people do things without questioning first, “What’s in it for me?” It’s not right, but it is the way it is. It’s sad to see how little regard there is for our fellow human beings in any capacity. It’s all about what’s best for me and me only. I think some people today would sell their mothers for a buck.

    Here’s where the cookie comes in. I think the only way we are going to get the selfish generation to notice that others exist and to actually fight with them is to “give a cookie.” For the individual ONLY, not for political, professional, or material gain by doing something they should be doing anyway. I’m not talking about heap the praise on kind of cookie, but clearly the personal warm fuzzies a person SHOULD get from helping another human being because it’s the right thing to do is not there. When I say cookie, I mean that the person should get some kind of positive reinforcement for their first-time effort so that they keep doing it, and all the while, they should be learning what the right, decent human thing to do is. One cookie, that’s it. The rest has to come from inside.

    Likewise, after they get the cookie and don’t continue doing the right thing, they can be ridiculed. Societal pressure can be a powerful behavior modifier.

    I wish it weren’t this way, and I wish that society put more of an emphasis on the whole instead of the individual, but the old argument of “because it’s the right thing to do” doesn’t apply now when the 2008 definition means “the right thing to do is whatever is best for me.”

  5. Does that mean you can’t make apologies and state your new intentions? No. But it does mean that you should be prepared for people to not fully care until you start doing instead of talking about doing.

    I look on apologies of this sort as a step, as in the old saying about “a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” Which is true, but if you take a single step and then sit there congratulating yourself on having taken a step and waiting for cookies, you’ll never complete the journey. So, take the next step already. Cookies may be provided at the end of the journey except that, in this case, there is no end. At least, right now I can’t even imagine a world without racism or sexism-it’s so deeply embedded.

  6. I wish we still had the concept of conditional acceptance around. As in, “Okay, I conditionally accept your apology based on your future actions. If you continue on your merry way with no changes, then I know you were insincere and I will no longer accept that first apology.”

    IOW, not a cookie, but (as Jessica said) an acknowledgment that the first step has been taken, even though that first step needs to be followed by many more.

  7. Sorry, I just realized that Dianne was also saying the same thing as far as the acknowledgment-without-cookie idea.

  8. we give our kids m &m’s to go to the potty- and so it starts. i have no idea when culture changed and shifted to an ‘instant gratification’ thing- but it did. i still don’t think you do folks any service by perpetuating the m &m’s. life doesn’t work that way- and imo- it’s time for some adults to start acting like adults- and grow the hell up. seriously. there are hard times here and lots of hard times coming- if folks in this country don’t start growing up and working together as human beings- not based on race or gender or sexual orientation- lots of people are going to die. there are already basic necessity shortages coming home here to america- and i realize that this comment is slightly askew of the topic- but it goes hand in hand to a certain extent.

    my point being- no, you don’t get a cookie or an accolade for simply being a decent human being. it shouldn’t be necessary- and as was already said- the folks who simply do- don’t ask for them.

  9. But if you don’t give people cookies, then what will they nibble on during those times they ain’t earning s**t and need reassurances that they aren’t Typical White People? :(

  10. I look forward to the day when my privilege doesn’t make me desperately want a cookie for not acting like many other white people.
    It’s totally white privilege that I can walk away from the blogosphere and never think about race or racism again. And maybe you don’t care if you “lose” me as an ally in particular, but in general, losing allies sucks.
    But I DO NOT *deserve* a cookie for becoming a less-bad person.

    I agree with the angry black woman. No person deserves a cookie for the stuff out there today. I suspect that the rest of you are posting “but there should be some acknowledgement” possibly because you are afraid of losing allies who don’t get enough praise for being “different” from the other white people. That’s what it feels like. I could be wrong, so correct me if I am.

  11. Betmo, I agree with you absolutely. There shouldn’t HAVE to be cookies.

    However, I think a different approach is necessary to reach out to those adults who never will learn to grow up or act decently. Because a whole lot of them are looking at those who make that first step toward being decent and seeing no reward, other than being a decent human being, and thinking “Why bother if I don’t get anything?” They may need that initial praise or compliment (as I’m referring to as cookies) to see that they feel good doing what they do, so they will continue to do it because doing the decent thing feels good and is contagious.

    I don’t think this should be the approach for all, but it may crack those tough nuts that the traditional “you should do the decent thing” conversations are lost on. And it’s definitely not for professional or organizational gain. This is highly individualized.

  12. Geek, of course you nor I deserve a cookie or praise or any of the above for what we do. We already know that it’s the decent thing to do. It’s not aimed at those who are already trying to be allies. They’ve taken the steps.

    My suggestion was simply targeting a group of people who have no clue what decency means. The incentive (instead of cookie) is just to get them to take the first step. I suspect that once they do, they will continue without need for an incentive. It’s only for the first step; they are on their own for the rest of the steps.

  13. Jessica M., I don’t see why we should start with the “tough nuts” instead of the people who can say, “Huh. You’re right. I *do* have an obligation to my fellow human beings.” And I am quite frankly tired of additional care-taking and positive-reinforcement onus falling on the parties who are already forced to take on the greatest burdens.

  14. Flies, honey, vinegar. But as Bill Murray once said, who wants flies?

    The best solution for whites from my vantage point is to get involved in local activism. Expecting emotional support from the blogosphere is like expecting roses to grow out of your ears. You might or might not get special cookies, but you won’t need them if you feel like part of a community.

  15. And by “expecting emotional support from the blogosphere” I’m not singling out the WOC blogosphere, or the white feminist blogosphere, or any other blogosphere. Blogs are a cold and fickle medium, and your blog buddies don’t know you like your face to face buddies do.

    Besides, there’s the whole problem of security problems posed by cookies. I mean, I used to set my browser not to accept them at all!

  16. Micole, good point. And I don’t suggest the praise come specifically from PoC.

    I do think that there are people out there who could very well be allies but don’t know that they should be allies. My suggestion targets those who are hopefuls. The praise is a one-time offer from other allies.

    Besides, this is a reward-based society. You go to work and do a good job so that you will earn a good paycheck or promotion. Some people need an initial incentive to be a good person.

    Like recycling. My community gave a one-time credit on our association fees for getting into the habit of recycling. I’d been thinking about it, but I’d put it off. It was a good thing to do, but I’ll do it when I have the time. But once I started it stuck for me, because I learned why it was so important and it felt good to do it. Others stopped. Reward did not work. Now they are getting fined and are recycling (or not). The reward worked for me because I took the chance to learn why it was important and stuck with it.

    That’s how I see it.

  17. This was a good reminder for me to look closely at the motivations for my actions.

  18. *just being clear that I was indulging in some sarcasm*

  19. Jessica, I see what you mean.
    I have argued stupid things about race and my lack of racism (I have lots of white privilege I still don’t see), been pointed out, and been acknowledged when I fixed myself, and I’m sure it will happen again, and it feels really really nice to have my (for me) big change in outlook acknowledged and all.

    I think it is unfortunately probably … necessary… to give cookies to the tough nuts, or else they’ll take their white privilege and walk away with their fingers in their ears, since they can afford to.
    But it Sucks!

  20. I think part of the reason people want cookies for eschewing racist, sexist, homophobic, and ableist points of view (i.e. being a decent human being) is that it really is hard work to be on your guard from that sort of thing all the time. It takes energy, and time, and it causes friction with other people, and so we want something to make it a little better. Cookies do that.

    What people with privilege fail to understand is that those people who are discriminated against and oppressed and are otherwise treated like shit because of some facet of their being? Yeah, those people deal with racist, sexist, ableist, and homophobic viewpoints all the fucking time. It sucks away their energy and their sanity and it takes away their voices.

    They don’t ask for cookies; no one would give them cookies even if they begged.

  21. I do think that there are people out there who could very well be allies but don’t know that they should be allies. My suggestion targets those who are hopefuls. The praise is a one-time offer from other allies.

    I see this point. And no one who genuinely wants to start the journey toward being an ally and promoting anti-racism should expect to get cookies.

    I also think, though, that there are so many people blinded by privilege, people that don’t have the first clue where to start or where to go. Or people that are committed to the cause and are just starting to wrap their heads around the enormity of the issue…

    And it couldn’t hurt for these people to receive some encouragement from other allies. Maybe that’s just the optimist in me, though.

  22. Hell no, no cookies. If you can’t be a decent human being because it’s the right thing, no amount of cookies will change that. It is all superficial, phony, based on reward and likely to become a means of extortion. If white people want to share their cookies with other white people, fine. But people of color don’t owe ya’ll jack so stop begging for us to give YOU anything!

  23. Too true.

    You can’t force someone to be a good person. There is simply no way to do so.

    If that person can’t see the need to be decent to others, by themselves, and must count on others for cookies to BE decent…well…they aren’t worth the air they breath.

    And I truly believe those type of people are more harmful to the cause because of the energy and resourses wasted on them.

    Why is it so hard to be nice? To think? To care?

    Honestly.

  24. the problem with the whole cookie issue is that while some people do actually get the accolades, many white allys are ignored, criticised, and not welcome in
    white cirlces anymore, and also not welcome anywhere else.

  25. Cookies? There are cookies? News to me.The most I’ve ever gotten for doing what I thought was “right” was shit.

  26. “the problem with the whole cookie issue is that while some people do actually get the accolades, many white allys are ignored, criticised, and not welcome in
    white cirlces anymore, and also not welcome anywhere else.”

    Fighting racism: It’s a thankless job, but it necessary to better society as a whole.

  27. As betmo said, in our culture we learn to associate “doing good” with getting rewards from a really early age. Author Daniel Handler, a.k.a Lemony Snicket said something about this, when he was interviewed about “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” He said that in a lot of children’s books the characters are rewarded for doing the right thing. But you should *really* do the right thing just because it’s right, so that’s part of why he wrote the books the way he did. He’s Jewish, and he thought the do-the-right-thing-without-a-cookie was part of Jewish culture.

    Holy crap, this is rambly. And why can’t I find the interview? Damn.

    When I was in junior high groups of us had to make up short morality plays; ours was about copying homework. In our play, the cheaters got 100% while the honest student got a much lower grade. (It happens. It doesn’t make it any less right). But our teacher didn’t like our play, because the cheaters should’ve been “punished” by the lower grade or something.

  28. ABW, I’m a bit new to the site, been lurking for awhile, I find myself agreeing with a lot of these posts, saying yes! yes! of course! right-exactly!…This instance is no different. I totally-completely-agree. People shouldn’t get cookies for doing the right thing. People should just do the right thing.

    This post made me think: one thing that is really infuriating is that there are no negative consequences for people who do the wrong thing (like: privileged people taking advantage of others and oppressing entire groups of the population for their own advantage) and the fact that these people are then rewarded (money, fame, fortune, etc.) for this bad behavior is an immense problem. Because white people benefit from racism, and men benefit from sexism, and straight people benefit from homophobia, and fully abled people benefit from ablism and….and….and…. and then people refuse to take the blinders off and recognize their own privilege. *sigh* How can this bad behavior be changed, on the scale that it needs to be changed, when this bad behavior is always rewarded?

    I don’t have the answers, I’m just venting about how f-ed it is that people get cookies for oppressing others. It’s the bad shit that gets rewarded. Totally f-ed. That sort of behavior should never be rewarded, it just needs to stop.
    People should just do the right thing, and doing the right thing should be motivation in and of itself.
    ( Sorry for the rant. )

  29. Just chiming in to say that I agree…no cookies! If the only reason (or the primary, or even just the first) reason you get into being a good person is so that you can get cookies…don’t expect much out of me!

    I think what frustrates me more about the whole cookie thing is that its never enough for allies to get the cookies. They want you to sit down and enjoy them with them. Like: “See look what a great ally I am. So-and-so even gave me a cookie. Aren’t I wonderful?”

    You have to reinforce the cookie getting so they know its real or something.

    (btw I love the cookie metaphor)

  30. Forgive me as I am relatively new to all of this– but why do so many WOC continue to engage this man? He clearly doesn’t get it. He will probably NEVER get it– I have only really been aware of him for a few weeks and I am ALREADY sick to death of his “white-knight come to save the fragile white ladies from the barbaric POC” routine. It seems like anytime one of us dare call out one of these rucas on their racism, there he is– sword drawn– defending the lilly white honor of the damsel in distress. (Who, by the way, are always plenty strong when it comes to cutting us down– but never, ever hardy enought to endure the stings that come with valid criticism). Does this man carry a beeper? Who sends up the bat signal that brings this clown running?

    If we ignore him– will he go away?

  31. You’re absolutely right, and you put it in a wonderful way with a lot of necessary balance. The one thing I could suggest here is that some white people, first making the effort to do the right thing, want the reinforcement that we’re doing it properly and/or well. But once that’s settled, ultimately the validation should come from ourselves, from the new sense of peace that we DO feel over doing the right thing, from the change we feel it makes to our own lives and the lives of others. There’s nothing wrong with feeling that, IMO, but if we expect it from the outside rather than our own personal sense of accomplishment then it’s easy to doubt one’s motives.

    Author Daniel Handler, a.k.a Lemony Snicket said something about this, when he was interviewed about “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” He said that in a lot of children’s books the characters are rewarded for doing the right thing. But you should *really* do the right thing just because it’s right, so that’s part of why he wrote the books the way he did.

    I love Daniel Handler more and more every time he picks up a pen or opens his mouth. XD

  32. Eloquent as always, ABW. Thanks for this post.

  33. Site bug:

    When I follow the “Things You Need To Understand” link from the leftmost column on the page, I can see all the relevant entries.

    When I follow the “Things You Need To Understand” link from the tags of this or other entries, Nos. 6 and 7 don’t appear.

  34. Sin Vergüenza–THANK YOU for saying it. I actually used to read Hugo’s blog back in the day, and now I only read when someone I respect links to him. And then I get pissed off again and kick myself for giving him the hits.

    Boo hoo fucking hoo, Hugo’s feeling bad about being a bigoted asshole. Cry me a bloody river. He’s not even one of those ‘hopefuls.’ Nothing that any WOC has said has ‘touched him deeply,’ but Jill has managed to, even though she’s said nothing that WOC haven’t been saying forever and a day. (Nothing against Jill here at all.)

    Sorry that my first comment here has been so negative, ABW. You rock and this post is right on.

  35. Amen, Aaminah! We owe people without color NOTHING!!!

    It’s sick that they feel that they need to get our praise, like centuries of oppression from them is going be wiped out cause they stood up once for racism.

    Give me a break.

  36. “the problem with the whole cookie issue is that while some people do actually get the accolades, many white allys are ignored, criticised, and not welcome in
    white cirlces anymore, and also not welcome anywhere else.”

    Kathy, really, so freakin’ what. How do you think the rest of us feel all the time? Life is hard, racism/classism/ableism etc. suck and it takes work to fix them. Stop making it all about you/white people and what ya’ll need. Ya’ll been offering absolutely nothing and ignoring us for centuries and you still want to ask us to give you cookies and to not ignore you? Please.

    I do not expect cookies from my disabled friends when I say or do something that is right for them. They don’t owe me anything. I have the privilege of an able-body and I need to recognize that, own that, and then WORK to be sensitive towards those who don’t have it and to ensure that their needs are met. Not to bitch about the inconvenience of being kept waiting on the bus while the lift is being lowered to let a wheelchair on or whatever. It’s not about me.

    First and foremost: the selfishness has got to stop. It’s not about me, and it’s not about you. Community is a multi-faceted thing and it is never ever about one person or one group. Making the world better cannot be about our own selfish desires. Less freakin’ whining from privileged folks, already!

  37. I think Kim said it the way I meant it. Some people don’t know what the “right” thing is. Reinforcement seems more appropriate than giving someone a cookie or praise.

    But also, anyone who simply waits around for a pat on the head before continuing on is just being ridiculous. The only way to learn is to do.

  38. An interesting thing to me about cookies is that it seems to pop up more often in white/POC interactions than it does in interactions between other groups. For instance, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a straight ally want cookies from gay people. It seems like most straight allies have gay friends or support the gay community out of basic human decency, and the cookie thing just isn’t as much of an issue. Obviously, I only have personal experience with one small corner of the world, so maybe cookie-begging is more universal than I think it is. Either way, there’s no Nice White Lady equivalent for other ‘isms (if there is, it’s not as widely propagated), and I think that’s just evidence of the culturally entrenched desire white people have to feel powerful over POCs. It’s really fucking depressing.

  39. “I’d already suspected the motives of the magazine because of things I’ve heard about their editor, but didn’t want to put a damper on the issue itself because, hey, all women! It’s a good thing. Also I’m friends with some of the contributors. But expecting the genre to fall at your feet to thank you or raise you up as a paragon of awesomeness is just icky. You don’t get a cookie for making an effort once. ”

    To be fair, I talked to that editor for a while about the issue, and he said that they actually buy a significant number of women all the time, and he showed me numbers to back it up. So I do congratulate him for that.

  40. Thank You ABW. I’m so tired of people expecting a pat on the back and someone to hold their hand through the scary feelings of isolation that come with standing up for what’s right. That’s a part of the freaking job.

  41. Either way, there’s no Nice White Lady equivalent for other ‘isms (if there is, it’s not as widely propagated), and I think that’s just evidence of the culturally entrenched desire white people have to feel powerful over POCs. It’s really fucking depressing.

    No, I think Hugo is pretty well demonstrating the White Knight syndrome for male “allies” of feminists, and speaking as a white feminist, I would be perfectly happy to do without his “help.” I’m not sure whether it’s funnier/more enraging that he thinks he’s “civil” or that he thinks he’s “charming.” Given his history, I think he’s hopeless and shunning’s the only appropriate response.

    Re: the larger issue, white antiracist allies and male feminists do not have to be handed extra cookies. The world will hand them/us cookies anyway. Anyone who is serious about doing the work longterm also has to investigate ways to discourage the cookie-giving and the offered pedestals/pulpits and redirect attention back to the poc/women doing most of the significant work.

    Which I’m not saying as, Oh, look at poor me, I must fight off the soul-corrupting effects of privilege! I’m saying as, I think the concern for the tender feelings of the privileged is generally overrated.

  42. The thing about cookies is that they’re a clear sign that you actually got it right. A better society? Not going to happen all on its own. And sometimes it’s not clear that our actions will help create a better society (by better, I mean one in which everyone has equal access to choice and as much scope for choice as possible.) So we sometimes hear when we really screw things up, and, if we’re at all sincere in our desires to make things better, we feel bad, and try to learn from our mistakes, and do better in future. But sometimes we want to know what we did that didn’t suck, so that we can keep doing it.

    Case in point: I have a student with a learning exceptionality. My college and she have worked out some accommodations that will help her in the classroom, which is great. I try really hard to use a bunch of different teaching strategies to accommodate different learning styles, but I know that my teaching style is biased towards my own learning styles. It would help if htere were some way for me to tell that a given strategy really works for this (or any other) student, before the student’s assessment tells me that no, actually, it didn’t work for her.

    The cookie is when she sends me an e-mail and says something like “That activity we did last week really worked well for me. Thanks.” So I know that more activities like that will help this student, and any other student whose learning style is like hers.

    Is it her job to tell me how to teach students with her particular learning needs? No. Absolutely not. She’s got enough to deal with. And if she doesn’t e-mail me, when I’ve made a particular effort to try a technique that I think will work for her, I’m not hurt or angry—I evaluate how that technique seemed to go for the class as a whole, and I look at how well students’ assessments show me they understood the material we covered, and I either use the activity again, or I get rid of it and use a different one.

    Now, it’s my job as a teacher to make sure that I teach my students in ways that work for them, sure. I don’t need praise for being a teacher who knows that this is my job, or for doing my job. I want to know when I’m doing it right so that I can keep doing it that way.

    Hmmm … so where am I going with this, in terms of being a Nice White Lady and apologies and stuff? I’m not trying to say that it’s the job of anyone to give me cookies for having the basic decency to try to be a good ally, to build a world where everyone has access to more and better choices. I guess I’m suggesting that I can see how people might appreciate cookies not as validation of their worth as allies, human beings, nice people, but as positive reinforcement. It’s not anyone’s job to hand them out, but I do value them when they come my way.

  43. Jennie, the problem I see with your scenario is that you are comparing completely different things.

    You freely say that you don’t “expect” the cookies. You don’t get pissy when you don’t get the cookies. You don’t huff and say “well screw you then, I’m not gonna bother trying to make my teaching technique relevent to you” when you don’t get the cookies. YOU are doing your job because it’s the right thing. But of course you appreciate the occassional cookie that is offered to you; it makes you feel good, it clarifies for you that what you tried is working. But you don’t expect or beg for the cookie in order to get the job done.

    What is being talked about here is a whole different breed. Where the thinking is “if you won’t give me cookies, what’s the point of me helping you?” and “if I don’t get cookies from you then I’m not going to bother”. That is why I used the term “extortion”: they can keep asking for more and more cookies and make their “help” contingent upon us paying up the cookies to them. These are people that a) need to understand that we don’t need their “help” – which implies that we can’t get by without them when we can, and b) need to recognize that we don’t owe them anything.

    You don’t teach for the cookies, you just express appreiciation when they come your way. They are the opposite. They work for the cookies, as long as it’s a “hot topic” and/or they can get something out of it for themselves. When our needs no longer serve their wants, they will throw us out again, even if they’ve already got the whole cookie factory from us.

  44. I also say, if we stop handing out the cookies, we’d know who is real and who isn’t. And we can do without the people who aren’t 100% sincere. Please believe me, they aren’t going to starve…

  45. Aaminah, that is a great point. I also think that giving out cookies stops the receiver from doing more work. They think they’ve done enough, that they fought racism (or whatever) that day and did a good job, and that’s enough. I’ve been thinking lately that it’s key to get people away from this concept of enough and start thinking of it more as an ongoing way of life.

    Micole, you’re right about White Knight male feminists. I had overlooked that, although I still don’t think it’s as extensive as the Nice White Lady phenomenon (Hollywood doesn’t regularly make movies out it, for example).

  46. Reinforcement is sometimes needed to break that ice or encourage someone to do the right thing.

    Another example: A white woman I know has had no other exposure to PoC’s other than the one time she went to Camden and was carjacked, etc. That person has now established a prejudice toward black people. Is it wrong? Of course. But her stereotype is then reinforced by TV and Hollywood and the other racist jerks she lives near. She’s a decent person otherwise, but there is that racial barrier with no incentive for her to try and break it.

    You would think she were a lost cause. But with a little bit of pushing, she could easily become an ally. She just needs an ally to “guide” her, with a bit of reinforcement that she is doing the right thing, then she gradually becomes an ally and she starts telling the racist jerks she lives near that they are being racist jerks.

    I think giving her a cookie, or reinforcement, far outweighs the small cost of the cookie. How hard is it to say to a newbie, “You’re doing the right thing?” We’ll leave it up to the WA’s.

  47. As I said, you white allies can give cookies to any other whites you feel like. Feel free. We people of color don’t owe any of you a cookie. That’s it.

    But you know what, I don’t buy the “no other exposure to PoC’s” thing anyway. Especially not if you’re going to claim this is a person who “could be” an ally. It’s not like we are rare – if she’s never had exposure it’s because she doesn’t want to be exposed, and that is not an ally in the making.

  48. I admit it, I gave Jill at Feministe a cookie.

    But then I used her (appropriated her?). I threw her into the cesspit of Pandagon as an example of someone who “gets it” and said “maybe you’ll listen to her, as she’s white”.

    Plus, I have hope for Jill. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t really tell you, but I do.

    So I figured a cookie was in order. But in general, I agree. You should do what’s right simply because it’s right, cookie or no cookie.

    Peace
    yliza

  49. Okay Aaminah, I think I hear you, and I think you’ve improved my reading comprehension of the original post, too.

    What I was reading was “cookies are bad,” which was careless reading on my part. If my student wants to let me know I’ve done something that works, then she’s going to extra effort to let me know. It benefits both of us, of course, but it’s not something I expect.

    If I do something that individual people of colour see as beneficial and those individuals express their approval, then that’s a helpful bonus that confirms that my action was a good idea. The approval of people of color is not the reason I’ve done the thing—I’ve done it because I thought it was the right thing to do. The next time I do that thing, the cookie will probably not be forthcoming, and that’s fine. I already had my cookie, I already know that something is a good thing to do, so I’m going to keep doing it, as long as it seems like the right approach to a given situation.

  50. “Another example: A white woman I know has had no other exposure to PoC’s other than the one time she went to Camden and was carjacked, etc. That person has now established a prejudice toward black people. Is it wrong? Of course. But her stereotype is then reinforced by TV and Hollywood and the other racist jerks she lives near. She’s a decent person otherwise, but there is that racial barrier with no incentive for her to try and break it.”

    If the incentive to not get over her skewed perceptions and racist attitude to just be a decent human being isn’t cookie enough, then nothing else will be either.

    Because it’s not white privilege to expect a reward for something people manage to do every day with little to no thanks. *rolls eyes*

  51. [...] I give out no cookies. Not to anyone. You don’t need me to tell you “Right on!” like a 5 year old when [...]

  52. What I do when I’m offered cookies is I turn around and give them back in the most genuine way that I can. I figure that people give what they also like to get. So if someone thanks me profusely for attending a rally then I thank them for attending and making it successful as well. It shares the fun.

  53. Kit, that’s a great idea!

  54. I am curious about how white people ask for a cookie.
    Where are some examples of this, or is it just a theory?

    I become very frustrated myself with white people who seem so darned defensive, and I feel that they do earn the title of idiot, but sometimes, white people do get it and then they are accused of wanting this cookie you speak about.
    Why offer a slap in the face to people who are really listening, and who are very eager to work on change.

    When will pandering end and kinship begin?

    just a fool.

  55. If you come from a long line of racists and you live and work among racists, and we all agree that the white world is primarily working on white privilege, where the hell do you expect this decency to materialize from? There is an assumption here that everyone is acting on the same plane of decency.

    So it’s far better to let someone who is just ignorant go and remain an eternal racist than to give them a token olive branch for reaching? An acknowledgement. One time. Five seconds of humanity so they learn lifelong decency. Even a reassuring smile will do. From any ally, black or white.

    Racism is consciously excluding a group based on hatred or misconception. Remove the misconception, offer a reassuring smile, and that person may very well be on the path to learning how their white privilege affects others.

    But let’s go ahead and throw the baby out with the bath water and assume that all those who are ignorant can never learn, or if they can, their efforts will be insincere at best. That helps no one.

  56. Jessica,

    At this point? That baby is out on my fucking lawn bawling in the early-morning chill. Self-entitled white people have had centuries to get their act together and start treating people of color with the basic human decency they don’t think to deny themselves. They know how to act like decent people: they do it all the time with their white co-workers, church members, friends, family, colleagues, etc. When people of color come into play, their conditioning tells them that it’s okay to act like assholes and stereotype us and abuse their privilege and make sweeping generalizations about our behavior or intelligence or whatever-the-fuck else. That’s not okay, and I shouldn’t have to tell them why it’s wrong.

    It’s not like these are isolated instances; it’s not like we haven’t given white people incentives before now. We have. It just doesn’t do any fucking good, and, frankly, I don’t have the energy to do it any more. Reinforcing good behavior with treats is a tool used to modify the behavior of dogs, for Christ’s sake. We should be beyond that. These are adult humans fully capable of recognizing their own privilege and general douchebaggery; that they don’t isn’t my fault.

    I mean, honestly, why should it be the burden of the oppressed class to point out instances of privilege, racism, homophobia, misogyny, ableism, etc. to the people who are creating and perpetuating those oppressions? Honestly, that’s just one more burden on us; holding hands and being kind and handing out cookies saps our energy and wastes our time, which are better used markedly improving our own lives and the lives of our communities, not coddling people with privilege.

  57. A-fuckin-men, demivierge.

    (total tangent – love your name.)

  58. Jessica writes:
    “So it’s far better to let someone who is just ignorant go and remain an eternal racist than to give them a token olive branch for reaching? An acknowledgement. One time. Five seconds of humanity so they learn lifelong decency. Even a reassuring smile will do. From any ally, black or white.”

    Who’s getting denied this? I get the stuffing hugged out of me at almost every activism event I attend. I don’t drive, and I’ve never had to call a cab after being stranded anywhere because every single person in my local activism community who knows I can’t drive goes out of their way to offer me a ride home. Most of the friends I have now come from activism circles. I don’t consider this “cookies,” and I’m sure it isn’t intended as such. I consider this making friends.

    I guess that if I tried to participate in an activism community where everybody hated my guts because I was a heterosexual white male, I’d try to find a different activism community to participate in. But I’ve never encountered that. Ever. Not in NOW; not in the NAACP; not in LGBT rights groups; not in the ACLU. The only places I’ve ever gotten the “everybody hates my guts” feeling in face-to-face groups, now that I think of it, have all been upper-classish white groups. The person who told me I had a natural sense of authority and entitlement and should avoid activism, for example, was a white yuppie. The person who told me I’m a gullible hack and can go jump in the Pearl River for all she cares was a white yuppie.

    So why does anybody need a cookie? I don’t want a cookie. I don’t deserve a cookie. I should be part of the group, not the honored guest. And when folks come in thinking they deserve a cookie, what they’re basically asking for is to be the honored guest.

  59. By the way, this may mean I’m a gullible hack with a natural sense of authority and entitlement after all, but I’m completely not thinking of the blogosphere when I read this conversation. I don’t consider the blogosphere community, in and of itself, to be a venue for activism. Occasionally it can be used to support really good activism initiatives, but getting on the blogosphere to get involved in activism is kind of like enrolling at a Catholic seminary to get laid. Except that the chances of the latter are probably much higher at some seminaries.

  60. Katie,

    Thanks on both counts.

  61. Jessica said:

    Racism is consciously excluding a group based on hatred or misconception.

    A lot of racism is unconscious, actually. Our society is set up to benefit white people, at the expense of people of color.

    I’m disabled, and individual people who say or do ableist things aren’t as much of a problem for me as the ableism that’s built into society. For instance: I’ve had teachers who said I was stupid or lazy or asked “Is that your bad arm?”, but while they sucked, they weren’t as harmful to me as the very institution of school was. I was just not built to navigate a strange place that’s not my house for 6 hours every day. That was true whether I had “good,” “nice,” “accommodating” teachers or not.

    If some random person on the street is saying or doing ableist things, I can just say “Screw you,” and then laugh about how silly they are. Living in a culture that, for instance, sees your people as an expendable burden and your killers as martyrs who did it out of “love” is much more problematic.

  62. Jessica, look at it this way:
    Say you’re just getting through your day and doing your job. What you want is simply to have other people treat you as a human being just like them. It’s pretty frustrating if a lot of them want cookies from you just for not acting like jerks. It’s annoying to deal with the jerks, but maybe it’s even more annoying to think that you have to dole out cookies to everyone who’s not acting like a jerk.

    It really is to everyone’s benefit for people not to victimize one another. It is unseemly to expect the person who is the potential victim to thank someone for not mistreating them.

    I do understand about wanting the cookie, however. I am an aggressive, contrarian person (at least sometimes), and when I make myself behave, I do sometimes pat myself on the back. That’s fine: I should encourage my own good behavior, and I should train myself to be nice even if I’m in a bad mood. But I shouldn’t expect a cookie from someone — whatever color they are — who doesn’t know how hard it is for me to be nice when I’m feeling grumpy. If I’m behaving properly, they shouldn’t even know that I’m out of sorts.

    We live in a society where racism is deeply embedded even in people who do not want to be racist. It is a good thing for me to take my own temperature, adjust my attitude if I can, and actively try to treat all other people with respect. It’s human to fail at this sometimes. It’s not reasonable for me to expect total strangers to monitor my progress (or listen to me brag about it) and offer me their heartfelt thanks.

  63. This was coming up on one of the threads at feministe, too, fwiw.

    I think part of this is, what we’re really talking about, one thing, is the “social contract.” What do you do with people who won’t live up to it. Yeah, basic decency -should- be enough, and sometimes people do get nudged back into it through appeals to empathy and logic; but, yeah, there are those people who seem to be stuck in the “reward/punishment” model, and nothing else seems to work.

    So the question is, I guess, how important to you (general you) is it that this person/people stops whatever behavior it is; and how much effort are you willing to put into, well, basically doing behaviorism with them. If you genuinely don’t give a damn, then by all means, fuck ‘em.

    But if it’s, like, realpolitik indicates that unless this person in a powerful position does x or stops doing y, it’ll have a bunch of ramifications here, here, here, here, and here, and if it does seem like a small cookie might help get this person to, if not do x, at least stop doing y, then hey, sure, here’s a Nilla wafer. you still don’t get the good stuff.

    but i mean…it’s kind of awful to think of it, like, training the dog not to piss on the rug? but sometimes…

  64. mostly, I think the real question here isn’t really so much,

    “should there be -any- difference between the way people respond to someone who does the bare minimum of ‘decent’ and to someone who doesn’t even do -that-”

    as

    “should people fall all over themselves gushing with praise when someone who damn well should’ve known better finally, grudgingly, does the bare minimum of ‘decent,’ and it’s clearly a token gesture mostly meant to cover their own ass; while, meanwhile, the people Someone has hurt keep right on hurting, with no cookies or even biscuits, really.”

    The answer to #2 is clearly, as others have said, “Hell No.” And there’s enough of it happening even as we type that yeah, I totally get why people’d just as soon stop right there. Fuck ‘em all and let Maud sort ‘em out.

    That said, for -whatever- it’s worth, in -general-, understand, (I’ve been on the cookie-doling side in other contexts, am not asking for a cookie in this one, just to be clear), I do think that okay, wrt #1, it’s often worth at least -acknowledging- that so-and-so did blahblee, finally. The “cookie” might be as small as “okay, we stop the lawsuit now.” Or, “okay, I stop calling you this particular epithet and back off somewhat for a while.” As long as the person understands that yeah, they did “x” and the result is “y,” and “y” is something they might want more of, that’s incentive for them to keep doing “x.”

    This is not to say that if they promptly start whining because it’s not ENOUGH, dammit, one shouldn’t mercilessly mock them for being a whiner and point out exactly what they do and do not -get- merely for having done “x,” and that if they want y squared they -also- have to do “z,” “a,” “b,” and…you get the idea.

    repeat as necessary.

  65. >>As I said, you white allies can give cookies to any other whites you feel like. Feel free. We people of color don’t owe any of you a cookie. That’s it.>>

    Fair enough.

  66. Belledame222, you made my point.

    To wit: If we all lived on the same plane of decency there would be no racism. Some sects of Muslims, for example, don’t give women any recognition. To you and me that’s indecent, but to them it’s….decent. They are not on the same plane of decency.

    Throwing cookies at people who are doing it for selfish or image or financial or status reasons is not my point here. No one should waste their time on those hacks. That’s not the same thing I’m talking about.

    I’ve already said that burden lies in the person who is learning to become decent. Of course it does. But any newly learned behavior (not being racist, recognizing their own latent racism, potty training) is going to require reinforcement and I see no problem with someone offering a you-get-it smile, which I am calling a cookie. Gushing praise and a thank you, which I know some people expect, obviously not.

  67. Jessica, perhaps you could save your uninformed bigotry for your own blog. There is no such thing as “sects of Muslims… don’t give women any recognition”. There are some cultures where women are marginalized, but it has nothing to do with them being Muslim because in those cultures those who are not Muslim are the same way. Islam certainly teaches the exact opposite of marginalizing women, and pretty much all “sects” agree on that front but how it is put into practice differs. There are some cultures (not just Muslim, but for the purpose of the argument, yes, many Muslim cultures) where women have a different role than what you are accustomed to but where their recognition is there and you just don’t know anything about it. There is a difference between a differing “plane of decency” and just having different priorities and expressions of recognition of women. One of the biggest faults of white women right now is their desire to somehow save Muslim women from something they know nothing about. How about letting us save ourselves, or for that matter, recognize that we might not need saving at all.

  68. Kathy, Belldame222 and Jessica, I’m starting to understand your points. I’m all too happy to give a solidarity smile to someone who gets it, but it’s not my job to go out of my way to praise a poser for a one time gesture or for not acting like a jerk.

    Demivierge, we all know white people should be at that point, but they’re not. It’s not our fault that they’re not and it’s not our job to get them there. It’s build into their system of white privilege. I understand your frustration all the way cause I thought like you did, that they should be beyond that point. White people in general piss me off. Some are more open then others to change, but you’ll feel a lot less frustrated once you stop thinking that all white people have the same decent thinking. Some white people will always be dogs.

  69. “An interesting thing to me about cookies is that it seems to pop up more often in white/POC interactions than it does in interactions between other groups. For instance, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a straight ally want cookies from gay people. It seems like most straight allies have gay friends or support the gay community out of basic human decency, and the cookie thing just isn’t as much of an issue.”

    I would argue that sometimes it isn’t “human decency” as much as wanting cookies. I hear straight people, including my friends, who often say “I have a lot of gay/queer friends!” as a way of indicating they’re open minded. But do I see them at rallies or fighting for my rights as a queer American? No. And it pisses me off. How can you say you have “gay friends” and then not support our rights? Or do you just assume that saying that is enough to make you an ally and sound progressive?

    Personally, I don’t want to be anyone’s “GAY or QUEER friend”. I want to be their FRIEND.

  70. Aaminah, I read your response. I, too, am Muslim, and there is division within my own community about the role of women. So much so that I no longer practice with my parents. It may not be your experience as a Muslim, but it’s certainly mine.

    Recognition was the wrong word to use. Dad treats Mom humanely, that is, gives her food, shelter, love, protection, respect as the mother of his children. But she is lightyears behind what an American woman is entitled to: the right to drive, to vote, to have an opinion about the politics that will affect her, or even to know what those politics are that affect her. She must cover herself fully at all times outside the home and she can never be alone in a room with a man who is not family. She is not allowed to work outside the home. If Dad died, she would not know how to handle the finances and would be at the mercy of others within our community. No college, no books other than the Qur’an. Dad once upon a time thought it was ok to beat Mom.

    Dad thinks he’s decent, even though he refers to Mom as his property. I don’t think his perception of women is decent.

    Guilty. I want my Mom to be “saved.”

  71. Jessica, that has nothing to do with Islam. That’s your father’s culture. And frankly, I am tired of fellow Muslim women who think covering is so freakin’ terrible, not being alone in a room with unrelated men is somehow a horrible horrible thing. I LIVE as a covered woman, I don’t sit in a room alone with an unrelated man. There’s nothing wrong with that. I am an American woman, and I don’t need or want some of the things you probably think of as necessary freedoms.

    The “rules” by which your mom doesn’t drive or know how to handle finances aren’t in any way related to Islam, in any “sect”. They are because your father is controlling and he who has been taught by his culture that it’s okay to be that way. Nothing to do with him being Muslim – he’d be that way no matter what religion he is, and there are probably non-Muslims (or Muslim in name but don’t even try to live as a Muslim in any way) in your culture that are exactly the same way.

    Grow up and learn about Islam before you start making comments against it based on your own negative experiences. The fault is your father, not the religion. I didn’t say your experiences aren’t valid, I said the correlation you draw shows ignorance of Islam and perpetuates stereotypes about us. Considering that this discussion was in no way even about Muslims, it’s really sad that you felt justified to spout open bigotry.

  72. Aaminah, like I said before:
    I am Muslim, but I do not practice the same rules as my parents or those in their community. I didn’t fault Islam, I fault their community’s breakaway interpretation of Islam. I made that perfectly clear when I said there was a division within MY OWN community.

    My larger point was that everyone does not have the same idea of “decency,” the thing that everyone keeps saying all white people should have after centuries… Our ideals of being decent to other human beings differs, as evidenced by my father’s behavior versus that of another white person or even myself. White people’s senses of decency are shaped by many different factors, religion notwithstanding.

  73. I don’t want to derail the discussion this has become, but I notice that the point about “you don’t get a cookie” was made in similar language on the 25th April on a comments thread on Pandagon (“I’m Sorry”), criticising the positive reactions to Amanda M’s apology about the cartoons.

    Given the recent events that have led to at least two bloggers giving up on the internet (hopefully temporarily) because people write things that others have already been talking about and don’t credit them, shouldn’t there be a hat-tip here?

  74. “An interesting thing to me about cookies is that it seems to pop up more often in white/POC interactions than it does in interactions between other groups. For instance, I can’t even remember the last time I saw a straight ally want cookies from gay people.”

    “Self-entitled white people have had centuries to get their act together and start treating people of color with the basic human decency they don’t think to deny themselves. They know how to act like decent people: they do it all the time with their white co-workers, church members, friends, family, colleagues, etc.”

    I see this cookie-begging behavior in my students (of all races and ability levels). They want extra credit for being decent to each other or to me. If someone else leaves a paper on the floor and they pick it up? They want extra credit. If they actually brought their notebook and a pencil? They want me to praise them personally. If they studied for a test and remembered to bring their calculator? They want extra credit. They remembered to bring their glasses so they can see the board? They expect praise and extra credit. These are not elementary students. These are high school sophomores…

  75. Jessica Markson, you have an interesting way of making a point.

    I don’t always agree but I get you.

  76. Jessica, it sounds to me like we just misunderstood each other, and I am sorry. I see what you are saying now, and it was just a phrasing difference.

    Where I do respectfully disagree with you on the decency issue is this:

    Everyone knows what decency is, they just don’t think it applies to ALL PEOPLE. So, your father (and other men in his community) don’t think that decency they give each other should apply to women. Some white people are perfectly decent to each other, but don’t think it should extend to PoC. (There are of course other examples, like people who are decent to fellow Christians but not to other people of other religions, or people who are fine with people their own age but extend no respect or courtesy to youth, etc.)

    The problem isn’t a different interpretation of human decency (in my opinion), but a *conscious decision that they don’t have to be decent to everyone*. The issue is people who don’t “get” that human decency must be extended and applied to ALL HUMANS. Regardless of gender, skin color, ethnicity, language, religion, orientation, etc. – human decency applies to ALL OF US.

    Which is why I just can’t see extending cookies for every little “decency” that white people deign to occassionally extend to us. To me, it would be like thanking your child profusely for doing their homework when you told them to – hey, they’re supposed to do it. Or thanking your husband profusely and giving him a treat for… I don’t know, say opening the door for you when you come home with your arms loaded down with groceries. Is this making sense? There are just some things that we are supposed to do. And one of them is treating people decent, no matter who it is. I don’t see why people should be rewarded for doing that when it’s really everyone’s duty.

    To be fair, the main reason that the whole notion of cookies for white people who do something nice bothers me is because here we are, talking about what white people need. For goodness sakes, they’ve already got the privilege, the relative ease, the safety, the opportunity, etc. We have little but we are supposed to pull out of our meagre resources to give to those who have more than enough resources of their own? They should be giving US cookies! :)

    In fact, I think I will stand on that platform, LOL: Cookies for PoC from Whites. Allies should bring the refreshments to the table! Ante up, as they say! :)

  77. British reader (sorry I didn’t get to your comment before, I just fished it from the moderation queue):

    I will admit I have not read Amanda’s post on Pandagon (I read excerpts elsewhere and got the gist), so I didn’t see the comments there. But it wouldn’t surprise me that those comments parallel what I said here because this is not a new idea. Lots of people of color respond to such apologies and posts about how sad and sorry past offenders are and how they’re going to change with, “Oh look, such and so wants a cookie!” It’s a sentiment that is expressed, both interpersonally and generally a lot. Who would I credit in that case? the PoC community? I’m sure the people who brought that up in the comments at Pandagon will tell you it wasn’t an original thought with them, just as it’s not an original thought with me. I just decided to express it.

    The “Things You Need To Understand” series is pretty much all stuff like that — sentiments that are common wisdom amongst PoC but maybe not so amongst White folk.

  78. I think I can sum up my take on this by saying, if any work you do as an ally is dependent on ego strokes, then you were never really an ally in the first place. If a bit of hostile language angrily criticizing mistakes you make has you reconsidering being an ally, you were never really an ally in the first place.

    I’m a Buddhist, so I tend to think of one person’s anger and hostility in a context of the karmic force (I don’t mean to be woo-woo, I swear) that is causing it, which is something I interact with, and is a part of me as well as them. The only thing I can think of that can dampen that is compassion. It’s not a condescending compassion, but a compassion for all people, the person who’s angry at white people, the person who created the suffering that caused that anger, and the people yet to come who will experience suffering because of the cycle.

    Aaminah’s point on decency is like what I’m saying about compassion. Choosing which group of people to be decent to is something we all do to some extent or another. And it’s only by extending that out to as many groups as we can (all of them ,eventually, but it’s hard to do) that we’ll extinguish the negatives that are created through failing to treat some groups with decency.

    Expecting special rewards for compassionate behavior is *not* compassionate behavior. Compassion is not a ticket you get for good deeds that you can collect and redeem for valuable cash prizes.

  79. This post and its comments have really made me think. I suspect I’m a bit too willing to give people credit (cookies) for something they should do out of plain decency.

    I’m going to have to put a lot of thought into this. That’s a good thing, though, isn’t it?

    Peace
    yliza

  80. Incidentally, that was not a request for a cookie >:-)

    yliza

  81. [...] You Don’t Get A Cookie Angry Black Woman has delivered another bangin’ installment of her Things You Need to Understand series. A snippet: “When a person or group does something to address the biases and imbalances in our culture, whether it be on a grand scale, in their own sphere of influence, or in themselves, this is a good thing. But doing so isn’t cause for celebration, congratulations, or a party. Why? Because it’s basic human decency. And people shouldn’t be over-praised for doing something they should have been doing in the first place.” Search the site to read them all. [...]

  82. ABW – ok, thanks. I suppose because it’s not common slang here in the UK, I thought it seemed more of a unique statement, but that makes sense!

  83. okay, i am about to do something i never do: reference the bible.

    you know the parable of the prodigal son? the son who goes off & does a lot of stupid shit, and his brother who stays home & is good, and the son comes back & the father is very happy & slaughters the fatted calf for the prodigal son … ?

    that parable — and all of its echoes throughout the bible — intuitively strike most people as unfair. and yet, when we *are* the prodigal son — the person abandoning some fucked up idea — we always want the cookie! or fatted calf. we feel we *deserve* it (even tho part of the point of the parable is that it is not deserved).

    err, maybe it’s the fever that makes it a little hard to follow. anyway all of this is to say that i loved this post & will be referring people to it.

  84. btw, i left something like this comment before, am assuming the link made it get stuck in the mod queue or something.

    just, wrt “straight people wanting cookies as queer allies,” i started a separate thread at my own spot–didn’t want to derail here, but thought it was worth a thread in its own right. so, if you’ve an interest:

    htt p://fetc hmemyaxe.blogspot.com/2008/05/tangentially.html

    (link broken)

  85. >>To me, it would be like thanking your child profusely for doing their homework when you told them to – hey, they’re supposed to do it.>>

    Right, so, not thanking profusely; but if they’d been consistently having a problem doing it, whether told or not, and now DID do it, how would you respond?

    I guess, thinking that’s a useful analogy maybe in that, y’know, if you had a kid who’s been doing poorly in school, and then -finally- brought home a report card that was good–or scratch that, even, if you WERE that kid: okay, maybe material rewards or gushing effusions of praise aren’t appropriate, especially if the difference isn’t that enormous (maybe a “C” instead of all “D’s,” say);

    on the other hand, if the response is, just, like, “You should have been doing this all along, and this still isn’t very good,” and -nothing- else, not even a simple acknowledgment of, “okay, -this- is an improvement, more of that” ime, it’s generally not an incentive for most people to keep doing it.

    or else they do keep trying to do better, but there’s this sense of anxious compulsion that I think is not conducive to what we’re after here (i.e. doing things for their own sake rather than for “strokes;”) now it’ll be more, like, “-someday- maybe I can -finally- just get it right.” truthfully i do actually see a certain amount of this in, um, certain very sort of i want to say self-flagellating people on the Left in general. problem with it is that if you scratch deep enough, sooner or later that same resentment and aggrieved sense of “WHERE IS MY COOKIE, DAMMIT!” is still there, just buried under extra levels of “DAMN, I suck.”

    iow, if it’s starting to look like the motivation is “maybe someday if I work REALLY hard I won’t suck quite so much,” it’s not good, because it’s still the person making it -all about hirself.-

    and worse, if you call hir on it, it just sets up another round of “shit, you’re right! I REALLY suck…”

    All this is, by the way, a separate question from anyone’s own anger. In other words, putting the analogy aside, no one here is anyone else’s damn parent, that’s quite right; and on the tip of, “hey, if YOU want to give a cookie, feel free, but -I’m- out of cookies and I don’t FEEL like it,” -that- feels spot-on. By all means.

    But…in a way, I guess what I’m trying to say is, “no, no cookies; ___ -should- be able to to do the right thing without any damn cookies” is maybe a slightly different thing from “-I- don’t -want- to give any cookies, it isn’t fair to ask me to keep taking care of ___ before myself, I don’t have to, and I won’t.-“

  86. and i did not intend a smilie there, ick.

  87. maybe not a cookie (gushing – ewwwww), but an acknowlegement that a novice did the right thing, or nearly the right thing, could be in order. Does silence mean that I did the right thing, or have I offended, or have I simply missed the point. Body language helps IRL. Online, silence may not be the most effective teaching tool (assuming you think it worthwhile to intervene). Non-novices, on the other hand, shouldn’t need positive feedback for ordinary things.

    I am not asking for a cookie, BTW – I can mull over criticism without withdrawing from the whole enterprise.

    I can tell you from personal experience, white people don’t know where to start in talking about racism. With willing whites, there’s an embarrassment factor about F’-ing up and a worry about hurting feelings.

  88. Right, so, not thanking profusely; but if they’d been consistently having a problem doing it, whether told or not, and now DID do it, how would you respond?

    So white people in general are inherently immature and fragile children and POC are our collective parents who must give white people positive reinforcement as well as negative reinforcement or they’ll fail “school” – where school means “not screwing over POC” and failing school means “working” the “low paid” “job” that corresponds with lynching people? Or just a huge steaming pile of what the fuck drenched in butter here with anything involved with that horrible horrible metaphor

    I feel it might be prudent to just put it down (in the vetinary sense) and step away.

    The trouble I’m having with this whole “cookies = positive reinforcement” thing is that, whereas the whole “cookie” metaphor made sense in the context ABW was using it – where it’s sort of a carbon credit type thing, so that a white person who’s been X amount of anti-racist this month is then, some how, allowed to be X amount of racist without criticism or comment from POC or anyone else for that matter – I cannot quite grasp what the hell it means in the sense Belle and others are using it.

    Okay, so as my imagination has clearly failed, here’s my question for my fellow dandruff monkeys in the audience: what on earth could POC say or do, in reaction to seeing me do some work of anti-racism, that would make me a better anti-racist?

    Because the only situation in which “positive” reinforcement might some how help me in that situation is if it’s coming right before they give me some constructive criticism – and in that situation the only reason the “positive” reinforcement might be useful is that it might stop me from transforming into a monstrously defensive bleached asshole who’s all about the “where do those coons get off criticising me! Don’t they know of my epic stockpiles of we-sha-sha! How very dare they!” and similar.

    Except of course that’s not really helping so much as it’s babying those “carefully cultivated bigotries” which are half the problem in the first place of this whole thing – and placing an obligation upon POC to fucking dance around me in this carefully choreographed way lest they anger me at which point it’s then “acceptable” for me to flip shit and dump in their coffee…

    I feel that is not helping me quite as much as a good kick up the ass when (not “if”) I deserve it would be.

    Maybe some allies are just diabetic *shrugs*

  89. is it possible to turn those smilies off ABW? Because that smiley was appropos of nothing afaik.

    testing: kljh ( kjkjlk ) lkjljlk

    testing: kljh open-bracket kjkjlk close-bracket lkjljlk

  90. I’ve been thinking about this thread a lot, and I think one of the things that bothers me the most about all this is the perception by many whites, completely unfounded in my experience, that working with WOC and other POC and being aware of issues impacting WOC and other POC is so unfriendly and unwelcoming and unpleasant that white folks are really giving something up by putting their names in the fight, and therefore deserve a cookie.

    We don’t say that people deserve a cookie for giving up creationism, or listening to country music and discovering that they like it after all, or getting rid of uncomfortable shoes in favor of soft sneakers with good arch support. But there is this perception by many whites that antiracism work is excruciating Stations of the Cross stuff. I remember someone who spoke at my old Unitarian church when I was a teenager, a white who did antiracism work, who talked about how whites must make themselves uncomfortable to be integrationists and how it never gets more comfortable or more pleasant–in effect that it’s torture, but the right thing to do.

    I don’t get this, and I think it’s grounded in a white conceptualization of WOC and other POC that is itself racist. Because it isn’t torture. Not if you genuinely care about the people with whom you are trying to stand. It’s a good fight. A noble fight. A rewarding fight. And nobody should need to be bribed to do it.

    This is independent of my sense that all activism communities should be loving and welcoming, but you know, that’s not really what we’re talking about here because nobody’s discussing cookies for WOC and other POC who do work on these issues. It’s all wrapped up in the whole white Jesus idea.

  91. I think the whole thing is getting too complicated because people are looking for the reasons that they should be able to get cookies and taking offense to being told no.

    It’s really very simple: Don’t be a jerk because it’s wrong to be a jerk. If you are sincerely looking to do what’s right, you wouldn’t wonder why you aren’t getting cookies for it. Cookies wouldn’t even cross your mind.

    If you are sincerely looking to do what’s right, chances are that someone is going to thank you or smile at you or whatever.

    But if it is on your mind, wondering why no one expressed a sufficient amount of gratitude to you, then you aren’t sincere enough anyway.

    But in any case, the problem that ABW is talking about is NOT white people who try to be good allies all the time and want to know why big mean Aaminah is saying she will never share her cookies with them. No, ABW (and I) are talking about people who do stupid, mean, privileged stuff ALL THE TIME, and then on the random or strategically selected ocassion when they do something “nice” or supportive want to know why they don’t get a ton of recognition for it.

    By all means, we can be nice to real white allies, and recognize when they are trying really hard. What we should not ever be giving cookies for is those jerks who BEG for them, who make it clear that their support or “ally-ness” is contingent on the cookies, and/or that are only allies when they want something but go around acting like jerks the rest of the time.

  92. That makes sense, Aaminah.

    I think it is difficult to talk about sensitive issues on the net simply because tone of voice, body language, and so on are missing. Misunderstandings, mistakes, and disagreements can get elevated to rhetorical shouting matches.

  93. [...] As Teh Portly Dyke suggests, learn how to fuck up — and, paraphrasing Angry Black Woman, stop expecting a cookie just for acknowledging it and saying we’ll try to do [...]

  94. Metoo, Kim! Do what’s right because ir’s right.

    If us People of Privilege can’t figure out *that* much, we’re screwed and don’t deserve to be let back into America.

    However if I bring one of my famous curried chicken logs, can I please have a cookie? I really like cookies.

  95. I’m sorry I have not read all the comments, so I hope I am not repeating.

    As a middle-class white male, I know exactly what you are talking about. My own experience is somewhat opposite though–I don’t WANT a cookie, and receiving positive attention for talking critically about race/sex/class makes me very uncomfortable. I just want to share what I’ve been able to learn, and leave it at that.

    There’s this careful middle area where we have to reside. Yesterday a white female friend asked my opinion on whether or not she should lock her hair, and I tried to give her a low-key introduction to the concept of cultural appropriation. On the one hand, I felt I needed to point out that locking her hair could be perceived as disrespectful. On the other hand, I didn’t want to fall into this trap of white people bashing white people in order to prove that they are less racist.

    If ego enters into the discussion, it poisons any truth that might have otherwise been present.

  96. [...] blogging approaches should check Eugene Cho’s blog. • The Angry Black Woman sez – “Things you need to understand #9: You don’t get a cookie” • Fewer Latino Immigrants Sending Money Home: “Only 50 percent of some 18.9 million [...]

  97. [...] recognize this in my original post. Sheer white privilege on my part. No, I definitely don’t want a cookie; how about a cracker instead? Perhaps a water cracker…those are English, right? Can’t [...]

  98. [...] – You Don’t get a Cookie – when you address the privilege you receive, you don’t get a special thank you. Why? Because [...]

  99. [...] Things You Need To Understand #9 – You Don’t Get A Cookie « The Angry Black Woman "When a person or group does something to address the biases and imbalances in our culture, whether it be on a grand scale, in their own sphere of influence, or in themselves, this is a good thing. But doing so isn’t cause for celebration, congratulations, or a party. Why? Because it’s basic human decency. And people shouldn’t be over-praised for doing something they should have been doing in the first place." (tags: privilege society sexism racism allies) [...]

  100. [...] the plate of cookies you’re passing around. And, even if you did deserve those cookies, you should not be passing them around. This is because (among other reasons) white people patting other white people on the back for [...]

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