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?

Things You Need To Understand #7

That which does not affect you, you often do not see or understand

In other words, if you are White, 99% of the time Racism doesn’t affect you. Therefore, you may not see nor understand Racism when it happens.

If you are a Man, 99% of the time Sexism doesn’t affect you. Therefore, you may not grok Sexist behavior when it occurs nor will you always see Sexism when it is plain to others.

This goes for any -ist or -ism or -phobia you can think of. This goes for you, even if you’re a minority, when it concerns people who are not like you.

What does not affect you personally often will not impact on your consciousness unless you’ve trained yourself to see and understand.

Therefore, the next time you feel yourself declaring something “not racist” or “not sexist” or “not offensive”, think about whether you feel that way because you’re not the one on the receiving end of racist, sexist, or offensive behavior/words/actions/images.

My final thoughts on Language

Note: I’m off meditating in the woods until April 30th. This post was written beforehand and set to go live in my absence. Feel free to comment and discuss as you normally would. Just be aware that I can’t take part until I come home.

By the time this post goes live we’ll be a week or more away from the whole Don Imus thing. I’m sure people are talking about something else now. The Virginia Tech shooting or the war or something stupid a politician said/did.

I did not comment on the issue back when it was new and fresh and happening. And I don’t plan on saying anything about it now. Not directly. The only thing I have to offer is the words of others:

“Have you ever noticed how all composite pictures of wanted criminals resemble Jesse Jackson?” – Rush Limbaugh, host of a radio program syndicated on nearly 600 radio stations nationwide

“Many, many, many of the poor in New Orleans are in that condition. They weren’t going to leave no matter what you did. They were drug-addicted. They weren’t going to get turned off from their source. They were thugs, whatever.” – Bill O’Reilly, host of a radio program syndicated on over 400 radio stations nationwide

“A woman not only who was distasteful physically, but is distasteful mentally. […] This hag, this hack, this brisket maker has the audacity to say that we should be having a dialogue with the Hitler of our time — coming from that hag who happens to be Jewish is a triple disgrace.” – Michael Savage (on former Secretary of State Madeline Albright), host of a radio program syndicated on 400 radio stations nationwide

“She looks like a ghetto slut. It’s just — it’s hideous. No, it’s not braided. It just flies away from her head in every conceivable direction. It looks like an explosion in a Brillo pad factory. It’s just hideous.” – Neil Boortz (on U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney), host of a radio program syndicated on over 300 radio stations nationwide

“I didn’t think I could hate [Hurricane Katrina] victims faster than the 9/11 victims.” – Glenn Beck, host of a CNN Headline News television program and a radio program syndicated on over 250 radio stations nationwide

from 5 Statements Made by Radio Personalities Who Have Not Been Fired on East Village Idiot.

Don’t grok me? How about this:

…the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority.

from Politics and the English Language, George Orwell

Language is Power. What are you going to do with it?

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Link Roundup and Open Thread

My folder of links to share with you all is getting rather full. I guess that means it’s time for a link roundup. It’s a little long, so I put it under a jump.
Continue reading

Why am I Angry? This is why I’m angry mutherfuckers!

Alleged Former Abu Ghraib Guard Discussed Gang Rape in Video

From the Transcript:

(Bold type denotes off-camera voice of one of two other men present

**** indicates an edit in the tape.)

Get this on tape man. Say it again. Say again what happened.

Say what?

You know, like what was going on? What was it like being a guard there?

A guard at Abu Ghraib?

Yeah. That place, man, it’s fuckin’ world famous now.

I don’t know what to say. Nothin’ special. It’s better than being a fucking bullet sponge.

Know any of those guys who got busted, you know, for torturing those inmates?

They got fucked, man. You know, just cuz someone let the pictures get out.

****I mean, compared to what we were doing every day? Teasing a couple of hajjis? Give me a fucking break. You know, what’s the big deal about making a haji walk around like a dog and bark?

What was the most fun things?

The most fun thing, umm….definitely the women.

***….girl, she was probably like 15 years old. Yeah, she was hot dude. The body on that girl, yeah, really tight. You know, hadn’t been touched yet. She was fucking prime. So….

***

One of the guys started pimping her out for 50 bucks a shot. I think at the end of the day, you know, he’d made like 500 bucks before she hung herself.

Really?

Yeah.

She hung herself? How’s come she hung herself?

I don’t know. She wasn’t happy.

You didn’t get shit from the CO, did you?

Uh-uh, not until those fucking pictures came out. After then the biggest rule was no fucking cameras.

The full transcript is here, the video and commentary is here, the audio of me screaming expletitives would be here if I weren’t too fucking pissed off to bother.

I swear to god, if someone pulls out some bullshit about “a few bad apples” in relation to this, I will whip out my machete. Are there sufficient words to express my anger at this point? No, no there are not.

The Blog Police

The Blog PoliceI’m one of the Blog Police, apparently. Violet, in the final nyea-nyea comment on The Difference Between Racism and Sexism surmises that all the people coming over to disagree with her must just be friends of Shannon and all have a history of going around teh Internets and (wrongly) accusing people of racism. We’re like some kind of horrible Blog Police, she says, and therefore none of the very excellent points we raised have to be addressed. And, yeah, comments are still off.

Let’s set aside the fact that I didn’t know Shannon from a pixel on my screen until I came across that discussion. Let’s also set aside the silliness about folks going around randomly throwing accusations of racism wherever they might stick. Let’s instead focus on the new agency that Violet created in her own mind: the Blog Police. Just like the Torchwood Institute, we were born due to the fear and ignorance of a well-meaning white woman. Just like Torchwood, we fight the great menace: Aliens Racism.

I even made us a badge. I couldn’t stop myself.

I like being part of an elite force. Who will we arrest next? Let’s wait and see…

P.S. Feel fee to steal the image. Hell, feel free to make a better version.

P.P.S. The migration from blogger is now over and all went well.

Sexism, Racism, Dogs.

Is my beloved Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, a sexist? Is he about to make me angry? Say it ain’t so!

I took a weird set of turns getting here, so follow closely.

NY Times Mark Derr writes an opinion piece about Milan and his dog/owner training practices.

Mr. Millan builds his philosophy from a simplistic conception of the dog’s “natural” pack, controlled by a dominant alpha animal (usually male). In his scheme, that leader is the human, which leads to the conclusion that all behavior problems in dogs derive from the failure of the owner or owners to dominate.

Mr. Millan’s quick fix might make for good television and might even produce lasting results in some cases. But it flies in the face of what professional animal behaviorists — either trained and certified veterinarians or ethologists — have learned about normal and abnormal behavior in dogs.

The piece is mostly about this struggle between those who advocate ‘punitive training’ and ‘reward-based training’. But on the first page we learn something very important about Mr. Milan:

Women are the worst offenders in his world. In one of the outtakes included in the four-DVD set of the first season of “Dog Whisperer,” Mr. Millan explains that a woman is “the only species that is wired different from the rest.” And a “woman always applies affection before discipline,” he says. “Man applies discipline then affection, so we’re more psychological than emotional. All animals follow dominant leaders; they don’t follow lovable leaders.”

Um.

Mr. Derr’s reponse: “Mr. Millan’s sexism is laughable; his ethology is outdated.”

Um.

Salon’s Broadsheet had a bit to say about the piece:

Nasty, and a weird assertion from a guy whose acknowledged hero is Oprah Winfrey. (Back in 2005, Salon’s Heather Havrilesky wrote a great piece about her interview/dog-training session with Millan, in which he credited Winfrey and actress Jada Pinkett with helping him to succeed. He also offered a softer, if still essentialist, explanation of his views on gender: “What I learned when I came to America is, third-world country men do not fulfill women … A woman requires affection, a woman requires emotion, a woman requires you to say, ‘You’re so beautiful and you’re so great.’”)

Um.

I honestly don’t know what to feel about this one. On one hand, I thnk Cesar is really great. I could watch Dog Whisperer for hours on end. I see people on the street with yappy, excited dogs and I just want to poke them hard and go “SHH!” and watch how they back down.

On the other hand, those quotes really do make him seem sexist. True, they are taken out of context and if someone called Mr. Milan to the carpet, he might be able to say something that will make it all seem okay. But… what?

I found ths whole thing via this post: The difference between sexism and racism

Imagine if the host of a popular TV show on dog training had made the following remarks:

“Black people are the only species that is wired different from the rest. They always apply affection before discipline. White people apply discipline then affection, so we’re more psychological than emotional. All animals follow dominant leaders; they don’t follow lovable leaders.”

He would probably be fired, don’t you think?

it’s still basically okay to announce in public that women are an inferior “species” who are more emotional than men.

That is, of course, Cesar’s statement but with ‘black people’ inserted for women. The poster’s thesis is that sexism is more acceptable than racism in our society. Only 46 reponses so far, but it’s a flamewar already. For good reason. Comparing oppressions never reflects well on anyone, but the white privilege and white women’s syndrome involved in making statements like this is so big we may not be able to fit in a room with this person.

Commenter Shannon nails it:

Maybe you need to pay a little more attention to racism. Really, check the priv. Sexism is ignored in society, but racism is too. Just because you’re a white woman and don’t have to deal with it doesn’t mean you gotta go with the annoying ass “but people of color have it better than us” crap. If you need help, I have some books and news articles you can read.

She’s getting piled on over there and Blackamazon asks that some peeps provide some backup. I’m heading over to do such right now.

The discussion I would like to have here: Is what Cesar said sexist, or merely an observation? Is it okay to say women are diffrent from men without implying that women are less than men? How do we interpet his use of the word ‘species’?

Also, could he have gotten away with making the same remarks about black people? He is a minority, after all. Would he have made such observations along race or culture lines? Most of the people who appear on Dog Whisperer are white, so he could easily say “white people are the only ones who apply affection first, black people know better.” But would he be fired for it?

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ETA: Looks like Alas picked up on this one, too. Surprise! We’re in agreement.

Son of ETA: The comments on the difference between sexism and racism post have been turned off because the OP is afraid of honest debate and being told what a wanker she is. However, Blackamazon gives a detailed analysis of the commentary that did occur and why it shows that white privilege is alive and well, even amongst ‘historians’.

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Last week I took my life into my own hands, got on a plane, and went all the way to California to attend the World Science Fiction Convention, known to those in the know as WorldCon. I’ve mentioned before that I’m an SF/F fan and that I’m a writer, so this shouldn’t shock most of you. WC is one of the biggest gatherings of SF fans of the year with about 6,000 attendees. Not only will you find scores of folks dressed up as their favorite characters/species/machines, but you’ll also find great writers such as Ray Bradbury mixing it up with up-and-coming and midlist writers.

You won’t find too many black people, though.

This isn’t a post all about the lack of black people at SF cons, though. There are a lot of reasons for this phenomenon and the biggest one isn’t racism, really. Many black fans just don’t want to go to cons like this. The culture doesn’t appeal to them. However, as more and more black folks get involved in fandom, writing SF, and being on SF shows, more black people show up at conventions.

I found myself taking note of the # of minority faces I saw and was pleased that it was significantly more than the last time I was at WorldCon, three years ago. I know there was at least program item dealing with the topic of “Where are all the black fans?” They were probably all at that panel. I stayed in the Dealer’s Room, myself, as I was there to sell a magazine (Farthing Magazine, specifically. Go buy an issue).

WorldCon isn’t as conscious of this issue as WisCon, and I don’t know that it’s necessary for it to be. WorldCon is more about trying to throw the net as wide as possible. Writers, readers, media fans, gamers, everyone is invited. With most other cons, the draw is a little more selective. Gamers mostly, readers mostly, media fans mostly, etc. I think getting more black people involved with those cons is the key to diversifying fandom.

Several significant things (in my eyes) happened this year.

First: for the third year in a row a good friend of mine won the Campbell Award for Best New Writer. The highly esteemed John Scalzi was the recipient this year, and he truly deserves it. Scalzi’s blog is good reading, and most of the recent posts are about WorldCon and the award. Go see his tiara.

(sidenote: I’ve started to notice the number of minority writers and, more importantly, books with significant minority characters on award lists. There aren’t many (a cursory look tells me this year there were none with the dubious exception of “Spin”). And people wonder why we need the Carl Brandon Awards…)

Second: At this same award ceremony Harlan Ellison (a writer of ill-repute) grabbed Connie Willis’ (a writer of stunning wonderfulness) breast as a joke. It was not his greatest moment. Connie herself has apparently said that she knows how to handle Harlan, and I don’t doubt her. She’s known him for a long time. It hasn’t stopped people condemning him, though. Rightly so. PNH says it best:

the basic message of Ellison’s tit-grab is this: “Remember, you may think you have standing, status, and normal, everyday adult dignity, but we can take it back at any time. If you are female, you’ll never be safe. You can be the political leader of the most powerful country in Europe. You can be the most honored female writer in modern science fiction. We can still demean you, if we feel like it, and at random intervals, just to keep you in line, we will.”

It’s not okay. It’s not funny. It wasn’t a blow against bourgeois pieties or political correctness. It was just pathetic and nasty and sad and most of us didn’t want to watch it.

Yes.

I wasn’t at the awards (I detest awards shows and ceremonies, therefore…) and thus only have second-hand disgust to go on. But, at this point, I feel that Harlan has moved from tolerated elder to dirty old man. Perhaps he needs to swing back the other way a bit.

Third: (and this was the highlight of the con for me) During the awards I was hanging in the bar with my friends and came across my one-time teacher, writer Kathleen Goonan. She was sitting next to a black woman with awesome hair that I’d seen trying on a very heavy chainmail dress earlier. I can’t remember what Kathy said to me when introducing us, but somehow the name Pam came out and my brain immediately lit up.

“Wait, are you Pam Noles?” I asked.
“Yes!” she answered.
“OMG! I’m [whichever name I said.. I have so many]!” I screamed.
“OMG! You’re the Angry Black Woman!” she screamed back.
We then did the girl thing with the bouncing and the screaming for about five minutes.

I’ve been dying to meet Pam for a long time – ever since her excellent essay about SciFi’s Earthsea. I thought she might be the type to come to conventions, but expected to find her at WisCon or ReaderCon or something. But here she was at WorldCon (counting black people, ha!).

I was also psyched that she knew who I was! That’s the first time someone’s recognized me as ABW. Made me feel good inside. Of course, she told me I had to start blogging again. That made me all happy, too. I love Pam’s blog and I think everyone should read it.

Unfortunately I only got to spend a few hours with Pam since she was only at the con for one day. But, I must say, she reminds me so much of my favorite cousins that I would swear we’re related somehow. I like that woman a lot.

All in all, it was an okay weekend. Seeing my friends who I only ever see at conventions was really nice. Seeing my friends win awards is extra wonderful. Surrounding myself with people I care for and who care for me is good therapy. But when I take a step outside of my comfortable envelope and look at the con at large, I feel very lonely. I am singular, outstanding, and easy to spot. Not because of my writing, or even my personality, but because of my skin. And that’s a very uneasy realization to have.

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Always Blogging Against Racism

International Blog Against Racism week is coming to a close. I bet you all thought I was going to let this one slip by, didn’t you? I almost did. I feel the same way about IBAR week as LJ user misia does:

I am fundamentally leery of “Verb against Noun $thingy” sorts of schemes. All too often an excuse to give lip service to Noun for a little while so that when one feels guilty later one can assuage said guilt by pointing to it and say “Oh, but you see, I participated in Verb Against Noun $Thingy, so I’m one of the Good Guys,” as well as an object illustration of preaching to the choir.

That whole entry is great and should be read. Because she goes on to say:

…in this case I’ll make an exception in order to bring you this quick and dirty list of ways I have learned — through many years of effort, trial, error, travel, living in neighborhoods in which I was in the minority, activism, being an anthropologist’s daughter, being part of a multicultural/multiracial extended family, and mostly, paying attention to what works and what doesn’t — that have enabled me to be better at interacting with fellow human beings of all races/ethnicities/colors/etc. in sane, helpful, enjoyable, mutually beneficial ways.

At any rate, this particular blogger blogs against racism every week. Or, at least, every week I post. It seems strange for me to have a BAR post yet equally strange for me not to acknowledge IBARW.

I’ve decided to make a contribution in the form of an anecdote. A story from my life.

Several years ago I worked for a small IT company that had four employees, including myself. I worked with three white men of varying Euro-backgrounds all between the ages of 35 and 55. At least one of these men was born into substantial financial privilege and none of them ever suffered economic hardship as far as I was able to glean from our conversations. They were each college-educated, informed, affable men. And they were all of them racist.

Not to say that they were your KKK cross-burning types. In fact, they considered themselves progressive and inclusive. They often used my employment as proof that they had nothing against black people. After all, if they were prejudiced, would they have hired me?

Would they?

Of course they would have. Despite my angry blackness, I am often considered one of the ‘safe’ black people moderate whites feel pretty comfortable with. I ‘talk white’ (i.e. proper) and I’m light-skinned and I don’t generally give off a vibe of overt ‘blackness’. White people rarely have a problem with me at first because they don’t associate me with ‘radical’ blackness.

Thus, their hiring me was not so much proof of inclusiveness as it was proof that I’m able to make white people comfortable enough to want to be around me/hire me. Even with my education, experience, and qualification, it is doubtful that my employment would have been a slam dunk if I’d arrived with my hair in dreds or a kinte cloth wrap or even with a darker shade of skin.

But, as I said, my co-workers were not closet Klansmen, they were the type of white folks that Dr. King talks about in this passage from his Letter from a Birmingham jail:

I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is… the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I remember one of the first discussions on race I had with G, the vice-president, was about why more blacks than whites were in jail. He said that this was due to more black people committing crimes and being more prone to crime. I said that it was due to a justice system tilted unfairly in deference to whites. That white people often got lesser sentences for similar and identical crimes and that whites were more often never even charged or tried for offences black people spend years in jail over. This isn’t even to mention the vast number of wrongly accused black people. No, G said, white people don’t get an unfair advantage. Maybe sometimes that happens, but not often. Not enough to matter.

Things got worse from there.

My boss told me that I should have been afraid to live in my neighborhood (Inwood, specifically) because there was a lot of gang activity there. I had not witnessed any such thing. He informed me that of course Inwood was rife with gang activity because it is a Dominican neighborhood, and all Dominican neighborhoods have terrible gang problems.

Our accountant once started a conversation with me thusly: “So, ABW, D tells me that you’re black.” Why was this a revelation? “I thought you were Puerto Rican.” D’s reaction? “No, if she were Puerto Rican she’d have 3 inch long nails and talk like this-” D proceeded to imitate his version of what a stupid Puerto Rican woman would sound like.

I’ll spare you the rest of the conversation – needless to say sexism was involved as well.

It’s situations like this that plague race relations in America today. It’s people like these that make it so hard for minorities to look upon this country as a shining example of a racism-free environment. This is the kind of thing we should be fighting against, but it is too often allowed because it isn’t on the same level as whites only water fountains and lynchings. It is a more insidious racism because it is sort of invisible. It takes place behind closed doors and between individuals, not between large groups. Not overtly.

It’s still wrong.

This is what we need to be against. This is what I’m against, what this blog is all about.

I can’t even begin to fathom the damage the time working at that company did to me because, for a long time, I didn’t even recognize this behavior for what it was. For a long time I didn’t realize that this, in one form or another, has been going on all my life and I did not see it. I was taught that this wasn’t racism. No, indeed. I was blinded by the lie white people have spun to make the progress of the past slowly erode around me. The lie they created to keep me complacent while this occurred.

No more.

I’ve decided that it’s my job to call people on this shit whenever I can. It inevitably leads to white folks whipping out the privilege shield, but I’ll batter at that, too. It has to stop, and we as human beings need to be the ones who stop it.

I’m against racism in all of its forms. How about you?

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Why I’m Angry: Abeer Qasim Hamza

People ask me why I am so angry all of the time. Putting aside the fact that I don’t spend 24/7 angry, I tell them that I have plenty of reason to feel this way. Today’s reason? This post by blogger Y. Carrington.

The short story is that a young (teenage young) Iraqi woman was gang-raped, murdered, and set on fire. By U.S. soldiers. In March of this year. Never heard this story until recently? You wouldn’t be the first.

I forgot to mention that her family was also murdered.

Why? Were they suspects, insurgents, terrorists? No. They were simply parents and sisters to a girl that U.S. soldiers perpetrated two of the top ten most heinous crimes upon.

Why did they rape the girl? Apparently because she was there and they were men.

Y. Carrington correctly points out that the root of this problem stems from something the majority of women have to put up with all the time – street harassment. The poor woman suffered this at the hands of OUR SOLDIERS for months before her last, torturous moments. Don’t tell me that one had nothing to do witht he other.

The Iraqi woman’s name? Abeer Qasim Hamza. Remember that. Remember her next time you’re on the street and some guy comments on your anatomy or his. Remember that next time you see it happen to another woman, even if she’s someone you don’t know. Remember Abeer Qasim Hamza and what happened to her because our culture teaches men that sexualizing and objectifying women is not only okay, but it’s funny, or flattering, or a great group activity. Remember Abeer Qasim Hamza when you start to wonder why I’m so angry.

This. Is. Why. I’m. Angry.

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