Stuff White People Say

July 30, 2008

“We want to talk about racism, but how can we do that without people of color there?”

Filed under: Uncategorized — nquest2xl @ 5:17 am

The title comes from something Macon D posted from Damali Ayo’s “White Noise” list that apparently is part of her book “How To Rent A Negro.” I’ll be honest, the first thing I thought about when I read the line was Macon’s own peculiar idea that White anti-racists, e.g., “should not discuss whiteness in isolation from other races.” (paraphrase)

What disturbs me is, somehow, Whiteness is not something to be considered on its own merits, so to speak.

I thought about that, too. Upon further reflection, I thought about the idea of racial “othering” that JWBE emphasizes. I go further to reflect on something James Baldwin said:

“[White people] are, in effect, still trapped in a history which they do not understand; and until they understand it, they cannot be released from it. They have had to believe for so many years, and for innumerable reasons, that black men are inferior to white men. Many of them, indeed, know better, but, as you will discover, people find it very difficult to act on what they know. To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger. In this case, the danger, in the minds of most white Americans, is the loss of identity. Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shinning and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is our of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one’s sense of one’s own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man’s world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar: and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations…”

Of course, it’s been said that Whiteness has always been defined by what it is not — blackness — and White identity or Whiteness was created as a contrast to whatever black was. People also tend to view racism as an issue for Black people, e.g., because they are targets of it. So it only seems natural to talk about Black people while dealing with Whiteness, right? I mean, there is no Whiteness without Blackness, right?

Then I ran into this video of an interview where Baldwin poses a critical and unavoidable question:

At approximately the 5:23 mark, Baldwin asks White America to question:

“why was it necessary to have a n*gger in the first place?”

Baldwin reasons that the very creation of the “n*gger” indicates that there was a need for the “n*gger” and that White America has to find out why. Baldwin said then that the future of the country depends on how White America answers that question. I’ve yet to hear it raised. (Instead, we have all this foolishness from Whites who feel cheated because Blacks supposedly can say the word when they can’t.)

I submit that Baldwin’s question is one way for Whites to approach examining Whiteness with a direct focus on Whiteness without the kind of dependency the title line implies and the apparent crutch and built-in focus shift inherent in what seems to be Macon’s idea of “the best way to understand whiteness”, relationally and comparatively to non-whites, as evidence by his problematic practice.

Obviously, given Ayo’s observations, Macon is not alone.


July 28, 2008

“I am a victim, too”

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 11:55 pm

When the talk is about race and racism, many whites have problems to focus on the topic: Racism, white supremacy as a system. Instead, they want to tell that they themselves were victims of some form of discrimination.
The favorite is “reverse racism”. And not even realizing the different power-dynamics and that racism always includes the power of a system behind.
When whites attack PoC, it’s reduced to “individual incidents” and in addition, non-white victims often have to fight for their rights, to get heard. Main-stream media often tries to blame the victim himself, “something must have provoked the attack” etc.

The situation changes when the victim is white and the perpetrators are PoC. Then there is a national outcry, it becomes a “they are attacking us”, like it was for example the case in Germany, when there have been 3 or 4 incidents were “foreigners” attacked Germans. One attack was video-typed by security cameras installed in the metro area. One picture was picked out and published. Showing the attacker hitting the head of his victim, who was already lying on the ground. The sub-title of this picture was: “You can be the next”.

This “you can be the next” makes the fear of whites visible. The fear of revenge, when we as a collective are no longer in power. It is beyond our Eurocentric imagination, that another world could be possible. Our own history of conquering as well as European wars, our history with aggression as the only possible answer as we may believe – how would the world look like today without this European history? Is our history particularly European or would this be the history of mankind? The Mongol Empire, the Ottoman Empire – ambitions to expand and to conquer, is this human behavior?
But other societies, peaceful societies, demonstrate the other possible side of human behavior, living peacefully together and in balance with nature.

Attacks against whites remind us, that we are vulnerable like anybody else. And it is our fear that others will do to us what we did to them.
Will we ever be able to leave our fear behind?
Will we ever be able to feel that we are all one?

“Where are you from?”

Filed under: Satire — Restructure! @ 2:50 am
Tags: , , , ,

White people are worried about being perceived as racist and xenophobic, so they try to make friends of colour to make themselves appear cosmopolitan and a “good white person”. Although white people insist that they are racially “color blind” when accused of racism, when meeting new people of colour, the first thing that white people are interested in is racial categorization. After they find out the ethnicity of their new “friend” of colour, they can then tell other white people about how ethnically diverse their group of friends are and that race doesn’t matter to them.

When a white person tries to make friends with an Asian person, the most important thing is “what kind of Asian” this person is. “What kind of Asian” does not mean whether this person is mean or friendly, whether this person is superficial or philosophical, or what this person’s likes and dislikes are. “What kind of Asian” specifically means where the Asian is supposedly “from”. This is of prime importance for the white person, because the white person’s purpose when making friends with a person of colour is to diversify his racial portfolio of friends, which may protect him from future accusations of racism.

When a white person asks an Asian stranger, “Where are you from?” the Asian person may be delighted to tell the white person about her native country, if the Asian person happens to be actually from another country. This boosts the white person’s self-esteem, and the white person pats himself on the back for having a successful social interaction with a non-white person. This positive feedback leads the white person to conclude that asking an Asian person, “Where are you from?” is a successful social strategy that makes any Asian person feel good.

When a white person asks an Asian stranger, “Where are you from?”, sometimes the Asian person stiffens and replies coldly, “San Francisco” or “Toronto”. The white person feels that this answer is inappropriate and the Asian person is being evasive, because telling other white people that he has a friend from the same city he lives in will not raise his white-person status.

The white person feels that he knows the Asian person’s past better than the Asian person herself, and that the Asian person must be lying or being coy, so the white person then says to the Asian person, “No, where are you really from?” When the Asian person gives the same reply, the white person feels that the Asian person is being aloof and withholding trust from him for no apparent reason.

Unsatisfied with the answer and convinced that the Asian is being tricky, the white person changes his strategy. “Where were you born?” he asks. When the Asian person gives the same answer again, the white person feels that he is being made fun of and that the Asian person is unfriendly. Because previous experiences with asking “Asians” where they are “from” were successful, the white person cannot figure out what he did that was wrong.

Unable to make sense of the incident, the white person concludes that this Asian’s unusual distrust of him signals a cultural divide between the East and the West within this Asian person’s psyche.

July 27, 2008

“What is a white anti-racist?”

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 5:57 pm
Tags: , ,

Restructure said:
“I think the average white person, even maybe the average white antiracist, doesn’t care if their thinking is deformed and their picture of the world is distorted. This deformed and distorted reality has worked for the average white person for such a long time that it’s considered a valid perception, and that the view that argues that the white view is deformed/distorted is “just another point of view”.”

*Workshop Definition*
“White Supremacy is an historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and
oppression of continents, nations, and peoples of color by white peoples
and nations of the European continent, for the purpose of maintaining and
defending a system of wealth, power, and privilege.
I. What does it mean to say it is a system?
The most common mistake people make when they talk about racism is
to think it is a collection of prejudices and individual acts of
discrimination. They do not see that it is a system, a web of
interlocking, reinforcing institutions: economic, military, legal,
educational, religious, and cultural. As a system, racism affects every
aspect of life in a country.”

The question: Can somebody white with a deformed and distorted reality be anti-racist? I think, no.

“It’s a matter of life or death for non-white people…”

Filed under: Uncategorized — nquest2xl @ 1:17 am

Like the idea of “examining Whiteness“, it’s thoughts like these, in the type of context they often appear in, that show evidence of an old paradigm. The idea begs the question:

What do White anti-racists feel is at stake for them and for Whites, generally, when it comes to trying to understand race, Whiteness, White Privilege and how things work and impact people, particularly White people, in a system of WHITE SUPREMACY?

Put another way: what is it a matter of for White anti-racist?

Is it an “intellectual exercise” as LLB confessed about his previous approach…? Is it just another topic, another cause or issue like any other issue? Or is it, is all the talk about being anti-racist, all the rhetoric about trying to counteract WHITE SUPREMACY, is it for some so-called White anti-racists, consciously or not-so-consciously, intentionally or damn-near-instinctively, a defense mechanism as Barbara Karens speculates?

“…we white anti-racists will fight to feel and present [ourselves] like “good white people” as if we are fighting for our very lives. Because culturally, we are… We will give this up if and only if this inhumane Euro-white cultural/structural/spiritual system dies or gets destroyed…”

July 26, 2008

“I’m examining Whiteness…”

Filed under: Stuff White People Do — nquest2xl @ 8:18 pm

… when their approach to Whiteness, etc. hardly breaks from the traditional-conventional mode of White liberal non-racist thinking. (I said that purposely: non-racist as opposed to anti-racist.)

Take, for instance, Macon’s rationalization for not, to use his problematic framing, “looking at Whiteness in isolation to blackness.” (paraphrase) Macon tried to rationalize his lack of focus on Whiteness which was evident in his “trust” threads.

Instead of ever asking what is it about WHITENESS and White people that make them assume they are automatically trustworthy and focusing his examination around the elements of White culture and White identity that lead to those assumptions/beliefs.

Macon chose to take the focus off the underlying issues with the Whiteness programming that produces this curious and still largely unexamined idea of White-as-trustworthy (unexamined by Macon) AND, instead,
kept the issue on a superficial level reporting to Whites, as problematic as it was, that PoC supposedly don’t trust them because they are White and probably/possibly racist.

Simply, after all that, there is still no light, much less heat, on the subject of Whiteness and what is it about Whiteness and White people that promotes this idea of White-as-trustworthy. It should also be noted that Macon never specified what kind of trust he was talking about, let alone what, if any, trust any human being should/would extend to “new” people of any group…

So, the Whiteness of it all, remains largely untouched. No consideration or discussion on:

Why do White people think that? Why is it important for White people to think that? Why would White people think that? Why would White people be surprised when PoC don’t just up and trust them and honor their Whiteness card?, etc., etc., etc.

Those type of questions seem fundamental.  I would think any and every examination of Whiteness on whatever topic would start with asking questions like that — i.e. a whole host of Whiteness-centered questions that ask “WHY?”

“I am white”

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 1:13 pm
Tags: ,

White Americans know which box to check and also white Germans would know it, despite the fact that they use coded language. White Germans consider themselves as “Germans” and all other as “non-Germans” or as “foreigners”. “Foreigners” is the code word in Germany for non-white people, it never refers to white immigrants. White people consider themselves as norm. In Eurocentric countries the evolution of mankind can only be symbolized by white men.
This came to my mind when I once found this picture:

It’s making fun out of the modern people, regardless race or gender, in industrialized countries who spend a lot of time on their computers.

While whiteness may not be visible on a conscious level, on an unconscious level it is. We learn at school, be it history, biology, math, physics, chemistry etc., that whiteness is the norm. White heroes, white role models. We tell our wars in another way than wars of “others”. We consider white immigrants as ‘expatriats’ who are courages to leave their former life behind to start a new life in a foreign country but call in Europe for example African immigrants, who take many risks to reach Europe on often deadly journeys, “illegal” and build a ‘Fortress Europe’. They aren’t considered as courages but as threat. A threat to the white status quo, even if whiteness itself is never explicitly mentioned. It’s just called ‘our culture’, ‘our way of life’ or ‘Leitkultur’ (leading culture) and every white German knows that it is about him/her.

Actually feeling one’s own whiteness is probably a process. When I was in America about 20 years ago there was one situation where I felt deeply confused by white behavior. We (my sister and I) were in a small shop, the customers were of different races. It was getting dark outside and we realized an alarmed atmosphere, people were suddenly leaving the shop. My first thought was that a fire broke out. I looked around and realized that only some people left, but not all. So the reason couldn’t be a fire and we both couldn’t figure out the reason until we realized that there were now only Black people in the shop.

We left about 15 minutes later and went outside, looking for a taxi. Outside the shop was a larger group of young Black people, they looked at us with surprise and we realized that we are now somehow “at the wrong place at the wrong time”, that whites aren’t common there when it was night.
Because we were looking for a taxi, we went through the group, directly heading into a dead-end street. So we had to go back, walked through the group again and they started laughing.
This was the moment were I felt white like a light-bulb, and where I realized my race as a marker, that made me visible at this moment.
And I wondered if this white flight were infectious if I actually lived in America. Whether this feeling of “being at the wrong place”, just because I am in the minority for a moment, would also influence my own life if I just could watch this white flight often enough. Would there be a point where I just start running with them?

I recall a story by a white German who was in New York where her son lived for some months. She told me that they were in a theater which was in a Black community and that they had to run after the performence ended, because it was night then and the area perceived as dangerous. Dangerous only because it was a Black area.
I imagined a group of white people running through a Black community out of fear.

This being said, I started feeling my “whiteness” on another level. It is present now wherever I go. I realize white people as white as well as I realize their assumed “race solidarity” with me.

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