A white person needs to listen to the personal experiences of people of colour.
Why? I’m not being facetious–I’m wondering just why you think a white person needs to do so. What is a white person to do with what they hear when they do so? Anything? Or should she simply listen, as if to let the person of color vent?
I assume (and I hope not fallaciously) that you mean the “personal experiences” here that a POC has have to do with her racial membership–other kinds of personal experience seem irrelevant here. If the POC’s reported personal experiences have to do with race, then what is the white person to do with that knowledge about non-white experiences with race? What is a good way for the white person to learn from it?
(by Macon D in Common White Fallacies when Dealing with People of Colour comments at Restructure!)
Dear Macon D:
You have it completely wrong. You are not the benevolent counsellor for people of colour. You are not the great summarizer or the translator for people of colour.
You are the oppressor.
When I ask you to listen to me, I am not asking you to help me convince “those other white people” who are oppressing me. When I ask you to listen to me, I am asking you to take seriously my criticisms of you instead of ignoring them and ignoring your other critics. Listening and learning means changing yourself and changing your beliefs and changing your behaviour. Learning means realizing that you have made a mistake.
You are not Emerson’s* heroic genius who must ignore his critics and stomp his own path to achieve legendary greatness. You are not being kept down and held back from reaching your full antiracist potential by the white woman, the black man, and the asian woman. Stop thinking that you are the white saviour, and accept that you are the white oppressor.
In the comments of your blog Stuff White People Do, I already posted a link to The helplessness of white people, which is about how people of colour do not have a responsibility to teach white people about racism. Yet, later on, in the comments of Common White Fallacies when Dealing with People of Colour, you said to me, “help me learn from you”. Did you miss the link, did you forget, or did you just ignore it? This is why it looks like you are incapable of learning. I then gave you a link to a Racism 101 page and pointed to item #13, telling you again that I am not responsible for educating you as a person of colour.
Your reply was the following:
Right, you certainly don’t “have” to be nice to me, or explain anything to me–I just meant that I’d find communication with you easier to conduct if you’d tell me what you mean, instead of suggesting it with guiding questions.
Of course I don’t expect you or other PoC to do anti-racism work, nor to help me with mine. […]
Yet just today, in “Then how am I supposed to generalize the racial experiences of people of color?”, you said this to Nquest:
I’ll take what you say about not asking PoC for guidelines and weigh it against what Tim Wise and Restructure have said about the responsibility that a white person doing anti-racist work has for being “accountable” to PoC and PoC perspectives. Turning to non-white people for advice, guidance, etc. seems like one way of being accountable to them and their perspectives.
Do you have some kind of learning disability or memory impairment? Why aren’t you listening to me? It looks like you pick and choose what people of colour and Tim Wise have said, selecting words that you believe supports your agenda, and ignoring words that contradict your agenda.
No, accountability does not mean you going to people of colour and asking for help. Accountability means when people of colour come to you and point out your racism, you take it seriously instead of perceiving it as a personal attack and then ignoring them because they are getting in the way of what you want to do.
You even think this blog is a personal attack on your character, as you made this comment in “Then how am I supposed to generalize the racial experiences of people of color?”:
And I’m not trying to avoid criticism. I’m here, ain’t I, at this blog that’s all about criticizing mine? (which is certainly an honor, by the way–what’s that they say about imitation, sincerity, and flattery?)
Inflated ego, much? If somebody calls you racist, don’t just assume it’s ad hominem (a personal attack). If somebody makes a blog in response to your popular blog, it does not mean that you “must be doing something right”.
In the comments of the same post—which is about how you asked for guidelines on how you could go about making generalizations about the racial experiences of people of color—Nquest, jwbe, and I all told you specifically not to make generalizations about people of colour. Unsurprisingly, you decided that we were curbing your genius and you made your own decision:
No, I’m not going to stop using generalizations about PoC in my writings–I’ll oontinue using them in the limited, responsible sense that I’ve discussed elsewhere, and that they use about their groups as well.
Wow. So you didn’t know how to make generalizations about people of colour responsibly (which is why you asked for help on how to do so), but because our answer to “how” was “don’t”, you then decided that you will do it anyway, and that you know how.
If you don’t know how to do something, and doing it wrong might hurt people, don’t do it.
But you don’t listen.
Then again, we’re just “venting”, right? Our words are just hot air.**
It seems like you’re trying to pin something on me–that I contradict myself? So I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes. Consistency, I’m quite tempted to say, is the hobgoblin of little minds.
(Macon D in ask for suggestions comments at Stuff White People Do)
So you’re basically saying that you should not be bound by logical consistency or accountability for your words. You can contradict yourself, but nobody can fault you for that, because you see it as a positive trait?
So is antiracism for you a merely a mode of self-expression, and what you write is valid to you just because you feel it?
No Restructure, I’m not saying that. It was late at night, and memories of Emerson and Whitman rose up in me. […]
(Macon D in ask for suggestions comments at Stuff White People Do)
Sample of Emerson’s Self-Reliance:
To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men,–that is genius. Speak your latent conviction, and it shall be the universal sense; for the inmost in due time becomes the outmost,–and our first thought is rendered back to us by the trumpets of the Last Judgment. Familiar as the voice of the mind is to each, the highest merit we ascribe to Moses, Plato, and Milton is that they set at naught books and traditions, and spoke not what men, but what they thought. A man should learn to detect and watch that gleam of light which flashes across his mind from within, more than the lustre of the firmament of bards and sages. Yet he dismisses without notice his thought, because it is his. In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty. Great works of art have no more affecting lesson for US than this. They teach us to abide by our spontaneous impression with good-humored inflexibility then most when the whole Cry of voices is on the other side. Else, to-morrow a stranger will say with masterly good sense precisely what we have thought and felt all the time, and we shall be forced to take with shame our own opinion from another.
Excerpt from Whitman’s Song of Myself:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
** This is sarcasm, by the way.