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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15 Responses

  1. (deep sigh—) How does one begin to comment on this? How does one communicate on such a tender topic? The problem perhaps, is, that the moderate librals, don’t beleive they are racist… certainly, no ultra conservitive will cop to it… This subeversive, and secretive racisim you blog on, I am all too familiure with.
    I have been assalted by it my entire life… What’s worse, is I hail from small town Northern Utah… I too am of African decent, only my mother, chose to attempt to keep this fact secret, my entire life… she failed. I don’t look black,(unless you’re really paying attention), and this has enabled me to gather much “inside information”, on the workings of racism… I have studied not only those with “Red Necks”, from Utah, but from many states through out the south… One thing I know, 6 Miller GD’s, and the carefullness of language disapears… I used to feel rage at the words and thought processess… but now, after much growth, I feel only pitty, for those who are able to live, without making headway toward understanding… No white person can ever understand the plight of Black Americans… but one must try to get real… anger, does nothing more than force deffenses to come up, and there fore honsety to be suspended… Black or White… anger is wrong.

    One thing I know, is that a racist is not Born… They are not bred…
    They are created. They are perpetuated… But not inherently filled with hate… Corina Corina, is a film that addresses this issue well… but it still, sad. We both know Film alone, is no solution…

    I also know, that, racism is a two way street. I don’t beleive in the term “Reverse Discrimination”. It’s simple and true, that Blacks who hate whites are equally wrong.

    We’ve had much more to overcome, we have had to fight harder… Many mistakes have been made. But, those who are truly consumed with anger, will truley be consumed… fodder for the machine.

    To be angry, is to be unworthy… Our fight is a righteous one… but to be filled with hate is most unrighteous… we must “…Love our enemies”… I don’t think those are just pat little words… That is the bottom line.

    Love.

    If we come from there… Our quest will be aided from on High…

    If we hate. We are children of the father of hate.

    Balance… is required…for Righteous Anger.

    La Vie Boheme

  2. “Now that we’ve found love what are we gonna do with it?”

  3. Looking back to the above comment, I think I’d better expand:

    Sorry if this looks blithe, it was because I’m sad that the job of explaining is never-ending, what about the next level?

  4. Well….whites create crimes too, However, blacks and especially those who have blamed the system and pass and current generations of white people from holding them back may create crimes. I don’t think your boss is trying to come off as a racist as much as he is calling it the way he sees it. To your boss and perhaps those other employees who you work with, they see those blacks as making excuses. What is stopping you from succeeding, they say. Me?

    Blacks are not victims, and yes, I believe racism is a reality, not just for blacks, but for other minorities as well.

    I don’t think Martin Luther King would want ablacks to blame, but to start doing something about it, looking to oneself first! Stop listening to the wrong messages that are out there to keep you futher down. The reality check for you was probably that the truth was spoken to your face and not behind your back or on the sly.
    By the way what’s proper? Funny!!!
    You mean you are a professional who knows how to conduct herself, correct?

  5. Let Me Say This . . .
    Are you trying not to make any sense on purpose?

    But I quite like your typo error: “ablack” reminds me of Rastafari phrases like “overstanding” and “downpression”

    eg: “I have to say I was taken ablack”

    —————————————————————————

    Where are you Angry Black Woman?

  6. You depress me with your constant jibber jabber — all whites are racist. Its fuuny anything I or any other white seem to say can be considered racist. The fact that you are sensitive about race is proving that you live in a world controled by skin color – assuming anyone with white skin is a racist. Wrong. You are the one keeping the racial tensions alive. Cut the ” everyone is picking on me” crap and grow up.

  7. Absorbant- your name is quite perculiar? Well, this is what I was saying. Blacks are not victims anymore. Yep, I said, anymore.Be glad that someone is upfront with you about race. Blacks have opportunities to succeed no different than any other racial group. Yes, whites are at an advantage. Nevertheless, it has been proven that blacks can acheive great success without feeling victimized all the time. The depressed feeling of ABW is because of her thoughts and only her thoughts.

    Attitude matters. Right thinking matters.

    Yes, that was a typo. (ablack)

  8. I’m going to address all of the comments, so this is going to get long. Bear with me.

    j.d.davis: It must be very strange to know you’re of African descent but look white enough to pass. You must hear all kinds of things that would set my blood boiling. I agree that hatred doesn’t solve anything, but I cannot get behind the concept of Love Your Enemies. I’m not Christian, I’m not even Buddhist, I don’t turn the other cheek and I don’t have compassion for nasty people. I recognize that this is a failing in my self. On the other hand, I also recognize that this is a useful tool in our country’s current situation. There should always be compassionate people ready to feel pity and love for those who are wrongheaded, but you also need those of us willing to smack those wrongheaded people around if need people. Some people on respond to (and respect) anger and the kind of strength that implies. Some people will only respond to compassion and the strength THAT implies. So, you’re right, we do need a balance.

    I have a sneaking suspicion that Anonymous is someone I know. Not someone I like, mind you….

    So, as to the first anon post by “let me say this…” I must say that I have rarely seen a more patriarchal comment than that one right there. “Blacks aren’t victims” “Look to oneself first” “Stop being all black and gloomy and lift yourself up!” Yes, indeed, that’s the way to solve all race problems. No one has ever though of that before…

    Now look, I am the last person in the world to sit around and blame the white man for all of my problems. Personal responsibility is paramount, in my book. Many problems people have they create for themselves. But I’m also not going to minimize the major impact environment has on ones ability to overcome problems. If you’re well off, have a support network, have a society that values and wants to lift you up, yeah, it’s really easy to get ahead in life. If you’re situation is the exact opposite of that (as it is for many minorities) then, no, it will not be easy for you to just look on the bright side of life and make everything okay. I, fortunately, was raised by parents who were financially stable and have a large support network of family an friends. Even if I were to lose every penny I had tomorrow, I would not be on the street. I would not have to turn to crime to survive. That’s not true for everyone and, by not recognizing that, you show yourself to be too privileged to have a decent conversation on this subject.

    As to your second comment: Shut the fuck up. You are hiding behind an anonymous tag whereas absorbent is not. You haven’t given a name, a website, even a hint of who you are. So don’t come on my blog and abuse my guests. Because I will roundly abuse you. Firstly by pointing out that no one on this thread has said that all whites are racist except for you. Oh, poor little white man/woman (I suspect you’re a man. Hell, I suspect you’re G, but that’s not the point) are we hurting your feelings by saying bad things about the whites? Too damn bad. The fact is that many white people ARE racist on some level and that racism has become systemic in our society. It didn’t disappear with the Civil Rights Act or Brown v. Board of Education or even the 80s. It’s still here. Black people have to live with that, you whites can fucking ignore it. So, no, you don’t get to tell people to ‘get over it’ and that we’re ‘not victims’ because you aren’t the arbiter of that. You’re just a coward.

    I am not depressed (though I don’t know where you got that from… is it because I’m not perky? You like a perky woman, don’t you?). You’re right that attitude is important. My attitude is one of defiance. I will not let people like you tell me ho to feel, how to act, or how to be. You don’t like my attitude? Go somewhere else. This is my playground. And until you get a backbone and sign your name to your posts, it will just be considered white noise to me.

    To everyone else…. I’m back.

  9. Angry Black Woman, I feel the same way about these white cowards who hide behind their white privilidged world and claim Blacks have no right to complain. As it has been said over and over and over again, whites will never know what Blacks go through in this world. Maybe if their white asses went around as a Black person for a day they would see what many of us speak of. We don’t talk about racism and say that the white man is at fault for nothing. Whites have set up amerikkka to benifit them, not minorities. They claim we are inferior, lazy, and not worth giving opportunities too. But they also claim if we work hard, we can have what they have too. The shit is just not that easy. I can go to school, make stellar grades, be highly intelligent, and yet get turned down for many things based off of being Black. It’s called discrimination. It happens to a lot of Blacks. It doesn’t happen all the time though. But it is whites we have to turn to for jobs, and if whitey doesn’t like our black asses for whatever reason we won’t be hired. If they don’t like Blacks integrating their schools, they will cut desegregation programs like they did here in St. Louis. If you go to a white realtor, often times they will steer Blacks away from neighborhoods whites live in. That is unless you are not threatening to them, and you have outstanding credit which is also not enough sometimes. I could go on and on about this crap, but I won’t. Those type of scenarios do exist. Sometimes it isn’t based on race, and sometimes it is. I don’t blame whitey for everything wrong in the Black communities. I just would like to see them acknowledge that they do benefit from white priviledge, systematic racism,and institutionalized racism. Also to realize that racism is of their doing not minorities. How can the oppressed benefit or gain anything from their oppressors when the oppressed have no power? The majority in amerikkka are whites, and they benefit from racism only. Not anyone else, just them. Until whites realize this, they will continue to live in their own stupid little world as if it is a utopia. Most of them can’t face reality, and they also could care less about what affect Blacks and other minorities. Again, whites can be victims of bigotry and racism from minorities, but never racism. Minorities hold no power, so to say a Black, Asian, Latino, etc person is racist is an invalid statement. But if you were to say a minority was prejudiced against whites, that would be valid. Racism equals power and money, both of which many minorities do now have to the full extent of whites.

    This is why we as Black people need to focus on solving our own problems. Whitey isn’t going to make all our problems go away. The white man and his woman isn’t going to save us from our plight of being minorities in amerikkka. If we want to see more Black owned businesses, then WE need to build them. Want better schools? We need to build them together! Tired of eating that shit they put in our neighborhoods that keeps us fat and obese? WE need to open our own health food stores, and educate our own about many things. That’s how we have to do it. But before any of this can happen. We as Black people have to acknowledge that we are so fucked up in many ways, and we need to change. Once that is done, then we have to first educate before we communicate about why we are the way we are. Which boils down to reading every damn book you can on our history. I don’t give a damn if you don’t like reading, it’s fundamental and it can teach us so many things to better our future. A lost people can’t communicate with each other if they don’t know who they are or what they stand for. It’s that simple. But damn it’s so easier said than done, but I believe it can be done. Maybe not today, in the next month, or a year from now, but it can be done. That’s about all I have to say. Peace and keep up the good work! I love the blog! =]

  10. I do not know any of you and would not juge you by the color of your skin. I llok very white but have many different races in my family trre. I have run into racist of all colors. You can not assume a indiviual is racist by the color of thier skin but by their actions. The word racism to me means the belief that race pre-ditermine the caracter of any indiviual. Can’t we all just be human? We all have faults and qualities.

  11. wedz you sound preety racist to me

  12. Racism – Prejudice – Stereotypes

    Three different things

    First, lets define Racism:

    Racism is a belief or ideology that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially to distinguish it either superior or inferior to another race or races. It is also the prejudice directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.

    We are products of our enviornment. Beliefs and Ideologys are learned, not inherent. Racists are racist because of their enviornment and education. Some racists are blantant, some are very clever at masking their beliefs by never verbalizing or displaying it. These are the most dangerous.

    Racism is a disease of the soul. Identifying it should be an organized process, not an opinion. False accusations of racism are harmful and are often counter-productive.

    Racism seems to be the catch all phrase for any race identification situation.

    There are two other things humans inheriently do, that are often mis labeled as racism. They are human nature and not njecessarily evil. The first is prejudice.

    Prejudice

    In its original usage, the word prejudice referred to a prejudgment, or an evaluation or decision made before the facts of a case could be properly determined and weighed. This usage was subsequently broadened to include any unreasonable attitude that is unusually resistant to rational influence.

    To me, the second half of the definition is racism. The first half, is human nature and we all do it.

    Is a 18 yr old boys car insurance more expensive than a girl of the same age? Yes. Is it individually fair? No, but statistically it is true.

    If I get dropped off in Compton at 2 am, Im going to be a bit on edge and thats prejudice. If I dropped a black person off in one of these East Texas towns, they would be prejudice.

    As long as we dont let our prejudices morph into racism, they are not dangerous. Many people deny that they hold prejudices. You must admit that you do, identify, evaluate and verify them. If they are valid, keep them in check so they do not become racist.

    The last human nature often confused with racism is stereotyping.

    Stereotyping

    We all consciously or subconsciously stereotype. Everyone. Stereotypes exist for a reason and they should not be confused with racism.

    If I say, hes born and raised in Texas, I bet he says “Yall”. Probably correct.

    The stereotypes of NASCAR fans are right on, trust me.

    But, you must know that stereotyping is dealing with averages. There will always be exceptions to the stereotype.

    It is usually best to keep sterotypes internalized. Often, if you air the stereotype, no matter how accurate, someone will get offended. Also know that the stereotype is not a diseased racist, just a human.

    It is easy to confuse these 3 things. It is impossible to know someones heart truly.

    The sum of their actions should be the yardstick of their character, not one misspeak. And that is universal.

  13. Don’t worry, Mr. Burley.

    The men in the white coats will be with you shortly.

  14. Mike, I suggest you take a look at the “Monday Debate” category before you go on about this any further.

  15. […] annual such week, and let’s hope it continues until racism is, well, gone. I participated last year and that post is still worth reading. I noted then that it seems kind of weird to participate in […]

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