Stuff White People Say

July 20, 2008

“So can I keep my hip-white-boy status? Pleeze?”

Maybe white people will get more used to blackness, and to markers of it–things like black music, and black gestures, and black words and phrases and names. Today is a day to be especially hopeful, and these are among the things I’m hoping for.

Some white Americans love black culture, or what they think is black culture (especially corporate hip hop). But very few white Americans love to see black culture in their political leaders. Here’s hoping that the ascendancy of Barack Obama will expand the confines of the traditional white male model for leadership, and that Hillary Clinton has expanded it in terms of gender as well.

Finally, here’s one more especially black moment, performed by Barack Obama. And here’s one more hope–that we see more such moments, and that they make white America love him even more, as he helps them get used to blackness.

(from get used to blackness at Stuff White People Do)

(emphasis mine; this has also been partially covered in an earlier post)

Nquest (who is not white) responded:

The problem I [have] with your expressed thoughts here is how Black culture is reduced and treated in such a superficial manner. For some reason, the things that always seem most remarkable are to our White brothers and sisters (you and the Reagan Democrat/conservative) are things like Black music and mannerisms.

[…]

My point is this: it’s insulting to talk about African-Americans as if the only thing you feel that’s meaningful or, in this case, remarkable about them are what I call superficial (in a relative sense) – e.g. “black music, and black gestures, and black words and phrases.”

I know ‘White’ music, etc. isn’t the first thing I think about when I think about European cultural contributions to overall American culture. In fact, I don’t think anyone reduces European culture including the European culture cherished and practiced by so-called White Americans to European/White music and art.

One of the first things that would come up in such a conversation would be the “thoughts and beliefs” about government, the Puritan ethic, individualism, etc.

I, for one, think African-Americans have made a tremendous contribution to democracy as we know it and have even more contributions to make in terms of democratic ideals, etc.

What’s disturbing to me is how people apparently find it too hard to “get used to” viewing African-Americans as complete and equal in terms of their humanity which includes recognizing “blackness” beyond such superficial thoughts about it.

Reducing “blackness” down to mere cultural aesthetics, simply, does not acknowledge the full humanity of African-Americans as human beings with important thoughts and beliefs.

Macon D responded:

Nquest, your disappointment doesn’t surprise me, since it seems that everything on this blog strikes you as a disappointment.

As I would think any regular reader of this blog could see, a long, long list of African American intellectuals inform my perspective. Of course I hope also that Americans will see in Obama’s example a shining example of brilliant (if compromised) intellectual prowess, and I’ve said so before.

I know you don’t like Obama, but do you as an African American feel anything at all positive about the historic firsts he’s achieved so far? If so, how would express that feeling?

(emphasis mine)

What does mentioning the “long, long list of African American intellectuals” he has read have to do with reducing “black culture” to its superficial and commodifiable properties in his post? What does mentioning Obama’s intelligence have to do with anything? Macon D isn’t responding to Nquest’s criticisms. He’s getting defensive and trying to prove that he is “not racist” by listing black intellectuals he is acquainted with and pointing out that he thinks Obama is smart.

Later on, Macon D continues “responding” to Nquest:

My point is this: it’s insulting to talk about African-Americans as if the only thing you feel that’s meaningful or, in this case, remarkable about them are what I call superficial (in a relative sense) – e.g. “black music, and black gestures, and black words and phrases.”

I don’t talk about them as if that’s the only thing that’s meaningful or remarkable about them. As you know, I spend a lot of time talking about the difficulties they face in dealing with oblivious white folks, and I also credit a lot of African American observers with acute insight into the ways of white folks. Just because I do one post on Obama’s blackness in these other terms shouldn’t overshadow all those other posts.

Wow. Nquest is criticizing his post “get used to blackness” for reducing blackness and/or “black culture” to superficiality, yet Macon D is getting all defensive because he feels he is being personally attacked and being called a racist. Instead of dealing with the actual criticism, he talks about all the good things he has done in his blog to uplift black people and how he doesn’t characterize blackness superficially in other, unrelated posts.

Just Me (who is not white) also responded to Macon D’s post:

On a personal level, I would prefer having white people maintain […] their current perceptions re people of color, rather than having an Obama, or any other ‘compromised’ black person (shuckin’ and jivin’) giving white people an occasional minstrel show doing “daps” and “high-fives” in public that are thought to be race specific in order to “make white America love him even more, as he helps them get used to blackness.”

Macon D responds to Just Me:

Shucking and jiving to make white Americans love him more? That’s not what the post says. Is “acting white” and being button-down, tight-assed, “acceptably black” 100% of the time better? I’m hoping for increased white acceptance of things coded as black that genuinely emerge from common black experience, not increased acceptance of Obama because he “shucks and jives” in stereotypical ways that please whites because they’re stereotypical. There’s a difference.

This, of course, is based on Macon D’s assumption that for black people, the fist-bump is always the “preferred method of contact”, even in professional settings and when greeting a white person; and that black people feel “repressed” because they can’t fist-bump in all situations, including in professional settings and when greeting a white person.

Just Me responds to Macon D:

Let me ask you this. When African-Americans are employed in corporate America, or elected to the congress, or appointed to the Supreme Court, or Chairman, or appointed Ambassador, or whatever.. Do black people in these vocations practice behaviors that are outside of the business, political and professional cultural decorum? No! And if they did they would be relegated to a lesser position, or simply dismissed in less than a nanosecond.

(I don’t call this “acting white.” I refer to it as simply behaving professionally.)

White folks have been “borrowing” our stuff since.. antiquity.
If you desire to see white people borrow/accept/use more of the favorable aspects of “black” social/cultural behaviors, i.e. high-fives, daps, or whatever, I’m okay with that…but as other folks here have pointed out, there’s so much more meaningful and deeper elements in the black cultural experience than just those mundane and superficial things.

At this point, Macon D no longer “responds” to these commenters with respect to reducing “blackness” and “black culture” to its superficial aspects in his post. He also doesn’t change his post, because he does not understand that it is still problematic and that he didn’t address the criticisms.

Does Macon D think that a white person greeting a black person with a fist-bump—because he is black—makes the black person feel more comfortable, that it the white person would appear “warmer” and “friendlier” to the black person? Does he think that this will help the black person more easily “relate” to the white person?

Here is Macon D’s response to one of my comments in the same post, some time after I revealed that I was “Asian”:

Gosh, Restructure, you’re one mean ol’ hope-dasher. ~_^

Ugh. Does he think that by using a Japanese smiley, he is using my “preferred method” of communication, and that it strengthens the line of communication between us? Note that Macon D has never used a Japanese smiley anywhere else on his blog or blog comments. Is a “coincidence” that he used it only once, and only towards the commenter that he knew as Asian?

I’m not even Japanese.

It’s like he associates Asians with what white people think of when they think of Asians, i.e., a superficial stereotype of “Asian culture”.

No, Macon D. Celebrating non-white music, gestures, mannerisms, dance, food, and events does not make you a hip white boy*.

It just makes you very white.


* Context: In the comments of the same post, Anonymous said:

Not “bap”….DAP!

And we thought you was a hip whiteboy!

Macon D responded:

Not “bap”….DAP!

Oops–a typo, thanks for pointing that out, anonymous, thanks to you, I corrected it. I did get it right several other times in the post. (So can I keep my hip-white-boy status? Pleeze?)

I know that this will be defended as a “joke”, but Macon D doesn’t realize the irony that it’s half-joke, half-serious.

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24 Comments »

  1. More decontextualized absurdity–this blog has already become, what’s that old expression? A kangaroo court?

    I said on another thread that I’d stay out of this “alternative space,” but it’s difficult not to when my writings are being eviscerated, and then the bloody internal pieces are being gloated over like this by the eviscerators. You cobble these pieces together and then use them to speculate about what macon “must have been” or “probably was” thinking, and then you wonder why I get defensive? Anyone does when they and their work are treated like this–wake up.

    R, I acknowledged in the comments thread that “get used to blackness” is a problematic post, written in an overly optimistic state of mind. You could quote those acknowledgments here as well, beginning with the second comment in the comments thread there. But I realize that your predetermined goal while writing this post forestalls a fair, objective presentation of the object of your criticism. Such disappointing work from a mind like yours.

    Does Macon D think that a white person greeting a black person with a fist-bump—because he is black—makes the black person feel more comfortable, that it the white person would appear “warmer” and “friendlier” to the black person? Does he think that this will help the black person more easily “relate” to the white person?

    No, he doesn’t. Why would you make this leap in logic? Where on my blog do I recommend this sort of behavior for white people interacting with non-white people, that they try to imitate the non-white person’s supposed cultural characteristics? I posted a video somewhere that obviously satirizes exactly that kind of white behavior, which is absurd, embarrassing behavior that any fairminded reader of my blog would know that I wouldn’t recommend.

    Y’all don’t give me any credit at all for a sense of humor either, do you? I know I’m not “hip,” and I don’t make any serious claims that I am.

    So I guess you’ll keep finding all the presumptuous, supposed irony you want in yet more irresponsibly decontextualized snippets from my writings. Have fun, but I hope if others stop by this blog, they’ll remember that I sometimes write to have fun too.

    Right, I haven’t changed the post, but I did acknowledge in the comments what you don’t acknowledge here–that it was written in the glow of Obama’s victory, and that the post is indeed problematic.

    So now y’all think I should change posts? Nquest wrote on my blog that I shouldn’t, that I should leave such posts as evidence of my mistakes. As evidence, it seems, that my ostensibly anti-racist writings are actually, irredeemably, quite the opposite.

    Or does The Dark Circle of Three not speak with a voice that as unified as it seems to be?

    M wrote: Gosh, Restructure, you’re one mean ol’ hope-dasher. ~_^

    R wrote (with what has become a characteristic presumptuousness): Ugh. Does he think that by using a Japanese smiley, he is using my “preferred method” of communication, and that it strengthens the line of communication between us?

    Ugh. I assume that question is rhetorical, but I’ll answer it anyway–no, he doesn’t. And what a stupid-ass thought that would be. I had no idea that was a “Japanese smiley.” I’d just seen it in an email from a white co-worker, and thought it was a nicely unusual emoticon for indicating a wink. (I try to avoid the usual hackneyed modes of expression, including such groaners as “lol!” and so on.) Thanks for letting me know it comes across as Asian, but I don’t appreciate your letting me know in such a nasty, presumptuous way.

    Has it ever occurred to you to ask for clarification of what a white person “says” about such things before you leap to condemn it, and then him? Or is that the kind of “benefit of the doubt” that you’re only willing to extend to non-white people (like, say, how forgiving you’ve been online of Nquest’s repeated screw-ups with your name, versus how on my blog, you leaped to condemn my one screw-up with Latoya Peterson’s name)?

    Okay, there’s some more amnmo for you, some more words by Macon. There must be a sentence or two in there somewhere that you can lift out and hold up as a naively–or is it pridefully?–“white” thing to say.

    Oh, one more thing to say–there might be a good point or two for me to learn from in this post, but it’s obscured by these absurdities I’ve pointed out, and by others. They make it too hard to take any of your critiques seriously.

    Comment by macon d — July 20, 2008 @ 10:25 pm | Reply

  2. Macon D,

    Right, I haven’t changed the post, but I did acknowledge in the comments what you don’t acknowledge here–that it was written in the glow of Obama’s victory, and that the post is indeed problematic.

    But the criticisms about characterizing black culture as its superficial characteristics are a separate issue from over-optimism about Obama’s potential presidency.

    No, he doesn’t. Why would you make this leap in logic? Where on my blog do I recommend this sort of behavior for white people interacting with non-white people, that they try to imitate the non-white person’s supposed cultural characteristics? I posted a video somewhere that obviously satirizes exactly that kind of white behavior, which is absurd, embarrassing behavior that any fairminded reader of my blog would know that I wouldn’t recommend.

    You suggested in “shake hands our way” that when a white man and an African American man are meeting each other, the African American man is forced to use a greeting that is not his “preferred method of contact”. You are suggesting that for equality to occur, the AA man must be given the opportunity to use the fist bump.

    So now y’all think I should change posts? Nquest wrote on my blog that I shouldn’t, that I should leave such posts as evidence of my mistakes. As evidence, it seems, that my ostensibly anti-racist writings are actually, irredeemably, quite the opposite.

    I think you should use the strikeout and have an addendum, but not erase evidence of your mistake so that the comments no longer make sense.

    Or does The Dark Circle of Three not speak with a voice that as unified as it seems to be?

    This is just your perception of a “tag team” ganging up on you.

    Ugh. I assume that question is rhetorical, but I’ll answer it anyway–no, he doesn’t. And what a stupid-ass thought that would be. I had no idea that was a “Japanese smiley.” I’d just seen it in an email from a white co-worker, and thought it was a nicely unusual emoticon for indicating a wink. (I try to avoid the usual hackneyed modes of expression, including such groaners as “lol!” and so on.) Thanks for letting me know it comes across as Asian, but I don’t appreciate your letting me know in such a nasty, presumptuous way.

    So you haven’t come across this emoticon – ;) – as a wink?

    Has it ever occurred to you to ask for clarification of what a white person “says” about such things before you leap to condemn it, and then him? Or is that the kind of “benefit of the doubt” that you’re only willing to extend to non-white people (like, say, how forgiving you’ve been online of Nquest’s repeated screw-ups with your name, versus how on my blog, you leaped to condemn my one screw-up with Latoya Peterson’s name)?

    Ah, so this explains why you didn’t do anything to rebut caspie’s assertions. It’s because you suspected that they were true.

    I condemned Nquest twice about my gender. I corrected you once about the Latoya screw-up, I think.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 20, 2008 @ 10:49 pm | Reply

  3. More decontextualized absurdity–this blog has already become, what’s that old expression? A kangaroo court?

    How is it decontextualized now? I’ve added the context of the term as a footnote.

    This blog isn’t about “you”. The posts that mention you are really about you re-enacting what white people say.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 20, 2008 @ 10:53 pm | Reply

  4. “^_~” doesn’t just “come across as Asian”. It *is* Japanese in origin, and it’s pretty mainstream in American internet culture.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emoticon#Eastern_style

    I find it hard to believe that you do not know this, but then again, you do not know basic Internet etiquette like that you are supposed to Google a word you don’t know before asking for help. so maybe you are new.

    I crossed it out now, because I didn’t account for the possibility that people on the Internet could be unaware of Japanese smilies after using them, so the conclusion is unwarranted.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 20, 2008 @ 11:31 pm | Reply

  5. Macon, this is sad. “So now y’all think I should change posts?” You act like you’re punch drunk or just “irredeemably”, tragically non-antiracist White. Like, even after I told you “this blog” is not Nquest and Nquest is not “this blog”, you still have no interest in dealing with me, with us as individuals.

    You act like you couldn’t do it on your blog when you claimed you “knew” I wanted you to change or remove in total your “express amazement” thread when, if anything, that’s the kind of feedback you got from Restructure (someone whose name I never confused, though I did refer to her as male even after she corrected me).

    And, you know, I really must be getting soft in my old age because I don’t know how I let you slide with this bs:

    Is “acting white” and being button-down, tight-assed, “acceptably black” 100% of the time better?

    Apparently, when you feel attacked, you get so defensive you some of the stupidest bullsh*t… Saying stuff like that has you putting yourself in a category that’s passed mere “condemnation.” I’m just letting you know: there’s some stuff you done heard that you shouldn’t repeat, let alone us as some kind of snappy comeback.

    Comment by nquest2xl — July 20, 2008 @ 11:43 pm | Reply

  6. So you haven’t come across this emoticon – 😉 – as a wink?

    Yeah, about a thousand times, which as I explained, is why I don’t like to use it. It’s boring.

    Oh come now, nquest, when 99% of the comments here are by the three of you, writing in concert about the pitfalls stepped into by macon, you know you’ve formed a gleefully united trio. And thanks for more descriptions of my “bs,” that’s always helpful. And at the same time, “sad.”

    Restructure, I didn’t ask you to explain a word for me–I asked what you meant by a sentence of yours.

    Condemned and corrected are interesting choices of words in your descriptions of how you wrote about reactions to name screw-ups by me and nq. Seems to me that you merely “corrected” him, two or three times, and the more lengthy lecture you gave me was much closer to condemnation. Can you point me to the comments by you where you “condemned” his screw-up? I’m really curious to read how you phrased your condemnation.

    Comment by macon d — July 21, 2008 @ 12:03 am | Reply

  7. Macon D,

    The only thing that we have in common is that we think your blog is more than a little bit problematic, and that we “know each other” from the comments of your blog. jw was the one who was going to make a new blog, I thought of a name and snatched the subdomain “just in case”, and then I invited her as an author. I also wanted to invite Nquest, but he doesn’t seem to want to be an author.

    99% of the comments are not by the three of us. Many are from you.

    How was that sentence hard to understand?

    Sorry, you’re right. I “corrected” Nquest twice, and I “expressed amazement” that you called Latoya Peterson “Latoya Jackson”. I find the latter incident offensive to the extreme.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 21, 2008 @ 12:25 am | Reply

  8. No wonder why you can’t ever logically defend the bullsh*t you say…

    “when 99% of the comments here are by the three of you, writing in concert”

    Quote a comment here that was “written in concert” here, Macon. Better yet, explain why you couldn’t get sh*t straight in your mind before this blog ever existed. Oh, come now Macon… you might like to play dumb and illiterate but you can read:

    You act like you couldn’t do it [view “the three of us” as individuals] on your blog when you claimed you “knew” I wanted you to change or remove in total your “express amazement” thread when, if anything, that’s the kind of feedback you got from Restructure

    And thanks for more descriptions of my “bs,” that’s always helpful.

    And it’s always accurate. Precision like accuracy especially coming from someone like you who loves to complain about things you like to frame as me, e.g., acting like I know what’s going on inside your head. So, prior to there being any such supposed “gleefully united trio” (again, this blog wasn’t formed), you had both the power and privilege to read my mind by just ascribing to me whatever it is you thought or heard from one of the other “three amigos” before the “three amigos” were formed.

    Interesting….

    Interesting how you have the uncanny ability to make arguments that self destruct. And, really, you had the nerve to complain about Restructure talking about how you act like a kid (or something to that effect). Like a kid, you always complain about what people are doing to you (you feel besieged) but just like you have reciprocation problems when it comes to answering questions, you just can’t return the favor when it comes to being honest and not mischaracterizing what other people say:

    Nquest wrote on my blog that I shouldn’t, that I should leave such posts as evidence of my mistakes. As evidence, it seems, that my ostensibly anti-racist writings are actually, irredeemably, quite the opposite.

    Poor, poor Macon. His little feelings are so hurt that he feels like his has to LIE for attention; to call attention to how he’s hurting because he really wants to redeem himself even while, at the same time, trying to maintain that he never said anything that needs redeeming. Instead, Macon characterized the criticism of his contested notion about Blacks withholding trust from Whites because Blacks PRE-JUDGE Whites as probably/possibly racist as, how did he say, “a difference of opinion.”

    So, once again? Why did you, why would you offer to revise or ask for revision suggestions from me when you claim you have support for your theory? It just doesn’t make sense Macon and trying to make specific criticism of your f-ck ups in specific thread-thoughts of your about all your “ostensibly anti-racist writings” isn’t going to work either. Whatever you think about your other “ostensibly anti-racist writings” or about your “ostensibly anti-racist writings” overall doesn’t and won’t excuse your major f-ck ups in the specific ones you’ve been taken to task for.

    And this is what I wrote on your blog, my little lying friend:

    “…to answer your question [What good would that do (not to change the post)?], it will do a lot of good for you to have not changed a word [in your thread-post] because there would always be a record of your mistake. You could mark your growth from that point… That’s just for starters.”

    Hmmm . . . Mark your growth vs. irredeemable.

    The LIES have to stop, Macon.

    Comment by nquest2xl — July 21, 2008 @ 12:44 am | Reply

  9. I just thought about something that take this back even further… Long and short, around the time of the University of Michigan affirmative action case, a group of posters from the right-wing website/forum ProtestWarrior.com “invaded” AfricanAmerica.org where I posted at. Debate ensued on both boards with several incidents where the ProtestWarriors posted/used racially provocative pictures or avatars including Confederate Flag motifs, klansmen, etc.

    On their board, a ProtestWarrior posted a Jim Crow cartoon that apparently came from the Jim Crow Museum website in a thread that accused an AfricanAmerica.org member of “speaking hate.” Anyway… the racist cartoon had an African character holding a spear with exaggerated features and captions on things in the background like a straw hut which was labeled African architecture, a worm for African cuisine and, I believe, an arrow that pointed to nothing, just open space, to stand for African philosophers.

    One of the ProtestWarriors said it was “stating the obvious.”

    Comment by nquest2xl — July 21, 2008 @ 4:47 am | Reply

  10. Okay, there’s some more amnmo for you, some more words by Macon. There must be a sentence or two in there somewhere that you can lift out and hold up as a naively–or is it pridefully?–”white” thing to say.

    It’s typically white to emphasize the superficial aspects of non-white cultures and imply that the celebration of these superficial cultural aspects are inherently progressive. It’s typically white to list reasons why you’re ‘progressive’ instead of dealing directly with the criticism. It’s also typically white to think that when others are criticizing your racism, they are evaluating you with a binary grading scheme that has two values, ‘good’ or ‘bad’. (For example, pointing out that you are no longer optimistic about Obama is irrelevant, because that was only one problem with your post. You are taking it personally. When we are discussing the racism in your post, you think it is an evaluation of your blog post in terms of ‘good post’ or ‘bad post’. It’s not about you. It’s about the dangerous memes you are spreading among the white folk, but you are too prideful to consider the possibility that the problem we have with you is not a personal problem, but a political problem. You are more concerned with preserving what you have written and appearing anti-racist to white folks who look up to you, than seriously worrying about your own racism. You ignore your critics and believe that they are just “venting”.)

    Comment by Restructure! — July 22, 2008 @ 12:30 am | Reply

  11. Something strange is going on. Macon D updated get used to blackness and also refuse to listen to black anger. I haven’t checked other posts.

    I was going to write my next post on Restructure! about “get used to blackness”, but I guess I can’t do that now, because he appears to understand. I don’t think he really understood the criticisms of “refuse to listen to black anger” even after he updated it, so that’s why I blogged about that one.

    All I know is that both those posts were updated sometime between October 20, 2008 and Nov 1, 2008. I wonder if my critical posts at Restructure! had something to do with it. If it’s because of that, then that’s sad, because he didn’t take our criticisms seriously when we left comments as guests on his blog. If it’s because of that, then it’s like he acts only when his own identity and image are threatened. If it’s because of that, then we’ve learned that trying to convince white people with sugar coated criticisms to protect their feelings doesn’t work; you have to take off the kid gloves and not be afraid of destroying their goodwill. (I’ll have to give him some credit for not removing my blog from his blogroll. I thought that if I went that far, I would be removed and excommunicated or something.)

    Comment by Restructure! — November 6, 2008 @ 1:08 pm | Reply

  12. A quick glance at “refuse to listen to black anger” doesn’t show how Macon changed anything regarding the things I criticized. I’d have to look it over more thoroughly but it appears the most he did was add the disclaimer. I don’t know if any of the content of either post were changed.

    Comment by Nquest — November 6, 2008 @ 2:05 pm | Reply

  13. Of course, I insisted on Macon not going back and changing his posts. So the disclaimers make sense in that regard.

    Comment by Nquest — November 6, 2008 @ 2:07 pm | Reply

  14. The first thing in general I think, it doesn’t make much sense to rewrite an article. One can write a new article refering to the old one also to see one’s progress, if there is progress. There is nothing wrong with opening one’s horizon and changing points of view because of that.
    The second thing is: What did he change?

    for example, this is still in:

    Finally, here’s one more especially black moment, performed by Barack Obama. And here’s one more hope–that we see more such moments, and that they make white America love him even more, as he helps them get used to blackness.

    there can be some reasons for his strange posts: He is so confused that all is too late or he has very bad writing skills and doesn’t know how to express himself in his language. In both cases he should just quit writing.

    also still in in the other post

    They may not realize it (middle-class ones, especially), but white people often insist that such discussions be conducted in their way. Their calm, rational way,

    This “get used to Blackness” (already this thought) is problematic in itself. This thought is a product of Macon’s thinking. Macon believes that now with Obama white people can get used to “Blackness”, whatever he means with that.

    Comment by jwbe — November 6, 2008 @ 8:29 pm | Reply

  15. From my interpretation, Macon D completely recanted the post “get used to blackness”, and the post is there for archival purposes. I think this is appropriate, as the whole post is made of fail.

    He still doesn’t get why “refuse to listen to black anger” is messed up, and even after I criticized it on my main blog, there are still serious problems that I didn’t have space to address, but which are in the critical comments of the “refuse to listen to black anger” post. That’s how problematic that post is. It’s wrong in so many ways.

    Comment by Restructure! — November 7, 2008 @ 1:24 am | Reply

  16. Nquest, one change is

    Their calm, rational way, that is, and not another group or culture’s more emotionally engaged way. (And guess who’s automatically at an advantage in calm, rational discussions?)

    to

    Their calm, rational way, that is, and if they’re talking to someone raised to discuss “hot topics” in an more emotionally engaged way, they not that way. (And guess who’s automatically at an advantage in calm, rational discussions, if they’ve been raised to discuss controversial issues in a calm, rational way?)

    Comment by Restructure! — November 7, 2008 @ 1:28 am | Reply

  17. I made a copy of “refuse to listen to black anger” when I found out he was editing posts. (I wanted to make sure my memory was correct, and as a backup in case somebody thinks we made it up.) Here is a version from Oct 20, 2008:

    Because black people have long had to study white people if they want to be safe and successful, and because white people rarely have to study black people if they want to be safe and successful, whites have a harder time understanding blacks than blacks have understanding whites.

    White people also usually have a hard time realizing that black people don’t see the world the same ways that they do, so white people often get confused, dismissive, or frustrated when black people insist that they experience the world differently, and therefore see it differently.

    When black people also insist that a historical legacy of mistreatment at the hands of whites also has a lingering effect on how they see the world, things get so far beyond the range of white ways of seeing the world that they usually change the subject, or throw their hands up and turn away, or even leave the room.

    As they do so, over these and other racial disagreements, these white people often say something like, “If you’re going to get emotional, then I can’t discuss this with you.” For white people, anger is a dangerous force that blows out the light of reason. They may not realize it (middle-class ones, especially), but white people often insist that discussions be conducted in their way, and not in someone else’s way. Their calm, rational way, that is, and not another group or culture’s more emotionally engaged way. (And guess who’s automatically at an advantage in calm, rational discussions?)

    So white people can get confused or fed up in discussions about things that make black people angry, which is understandable, really, when you realize that whites have been trained to think that the way they see the world is pretty much the normal way–the way everyone else does, unless there’s something wrong with them. Unless they’re “biased,” or “subjective,” something that being white supposedly doesn’t do to a person, and something that being black supposedly does do to a person.

    This unconscious presumption of white objectivity is also why white people who talk about racial issues get a lot more attention and credit from white listeners than people of color who say the same damn thing. This is the kind of blindly applied double standard that also happens with supposedly objective male speakers or discussants and supposedly subjective female speakers or discussants.

    So because whites tend to be wrapped up this way–in their supposedly objective, ironically racialized perspective–one of the things that they never seem to get is collective black anger. This common white obstinacy became openly apparent when Barack Obama’s pastor, Reverend Wright, expressed anger at America, and made an emotional call to God to damn America unless it started treating black people better.

    Reverend Wright later said things that struck nearly everyone as so outlandish that Obama finally had to repudiate both the words and the man. The supposedly important connection between Wright and Obama is old news by now (not that white people are going to let Wright and his words go away), but many white people still wonder—if Wright said things like that in church, then why did Obama attend that church for twenty years? I think it’s probably because in that church, Obama cut Reverend Wright some slack.

    I think that if Obama was in church on that particular day, he and the other people there would’ve understood that Wright wasn’t actually asking God to damn America. Instead, one of a black reverend’s functions in such moments, in many black churches, where people aren’t so pent up and repressed that they’ve pretty much separated their emotional life from their religious life (if they have a religious life)–in those kinds of moments, what Wright was doing was helping his congregation vent some of its anger.

    And yes, black people still do have a lot to feel angry about, and no, they won’t just bury or try to forget that anger like white people wish they would. Sometimes they let it out, which is probably healthy, and sometimes when they do so, they say things they wouldn’t say at other times.

    White people often forgive their own friends or family members for saying things in anger that they wouldn’t say otherwise. Why can’t they do the same for black people?

    I think they can’t because it is “black anger,” which as I wrote above, white people don’t understand, and sometimes don’t want to face up to. But white people also find it difficult to overlook black anger in a collective sense because white anger, when it’s expressed, is more contained, more localized.

    White people don’t have a collective sense of themselves as a group as much as black people do (thanks largely to whites grouping blacks together for several centuries now, in order to treat them accordingly). So while white people get angry at work, or on the road, or in their homes or during a baseball game, they rarely get angry together as a racial group. That’s because white solidarity has been atomized into supposedly non-white individuality. And also, after all, what do whites really have to get angry together over, as a racial group?

    Again, black people understand white people better than the other way around, and one of the things they usually know is what I’m basically saying here–that whites don’t understand collective black anger. White people don’t understand the causes that justify it, so they don’t understand most of what gets said, nor the ways in which it gets said. Nor do they understand its occasionally cathartic, venting function, and thus that not everything that gets said is necessarily meant to be taken literally.

    UPDATE: In a post entitled “The Privilege of Politeness” at Angry Black Woman, Naamen Gobert Tilahun says some of things I was trying to say here better than I did.

    Comment by Restructure! — November 7, 2008 @ 1:32 am | Reply

  18. Restructure, I copied “refuse to listen to black anger” sometime ago, well before October, FYI. Regarding post #16, I’d need your help (if not Macon’s) to understand how that “change” is something other than a distinction without a difference.

    I simply don’t know what changed but the length of the sentences. And that’s the thing with Macon… the “changes” he makes are, ironically, little more than “semantics.” It seems like his response is, “well, they didn’t like it when I used this “hot” button term; maybe it will be okay if I just softened the language” — i.e. the meaning stays the same but it sounds nicer.

    That was what I observed after the debate broke out on “refuse to listen to black anger.” In that thread, Macon tried to disavow any ownership of the things he wrote about Rev. Wright — the apparent, prevailing sentiment and reaction to Wright — as he basically said he wrote what other people felt about Rev. Wright (himself not included as if to conveniently say “not it”) even after he tried to persuade me to agree with the sentiment.

    This is what I took issue with in the thread and it has not been changed/altered:

    ________________________________________________________________________

    So because whites tend to be wrapped up this way–in their supposedly objective, ironically racialized perspective–one of the things that they never seem to get is collective black anger. This common white obstinacy became openly apparent when Barack Obama’s pastor, Reverend Wright, expressed anger at America, and made an emotional call to God to damn America unless it started treating black people better.

    Reverend Wright later said things that struck nearly everyone as so outlandish that Obama finally had to repudiate both the words and the man. The supposedly important connection between Wright and Obama is old news by now (not that white people are going to let Wright and his words go away), but many white people still wonder—if Wright said things like that in church, then why did Obama attend that church for twenty years? I think it’s probably because in that church, Obama cut Reverend Wright some slack.
    ________________________________________________________________________

    Macon’s semantically acceptable language (acceptable in his mind, apparently) and his reaction to me questioning his language (“Rev. Wright later said this… ***so outlandish***”) immediately made me suspect that Macon considered Rev. Wright statements to be “racist” against Whites as a number of Whites openly stated. At that time, I wasn’t aware of a previous thread of Macon’s in which he actually said Rev. Wright’s statements were “racist” but changed language to “racially charged” when an anonymous poster questioned him.

    Like the sentences you put in post #16… I don’t know what the difference is between “racist” and “racially charged” especially when Macon never provided a definition and never added to the context of the post containing the term. The only thing he did was substitute “racially charged” (it sounds nicer?) with “racist” as if the sentence(s) and paragraph(s) surrounding and including the one containing the term support anything other than the word he originally used.

    I guess “racially charged” could be used in a way to suggest a polarizing statement that may not in itself be “racist” but I’m at a loss for what kind of “racially charged” statements that have been made in public over the last few years/decades that would be dismissed as merely “racially charged” and so not “racist” at the same time.

    Comment by Nquest — November 7, 2008 @ 4:15 am | Reply

  19. what are “signifiers of his racial status”?

    Comment by jwbe — November 7, 2008 @ 8:21 am | Reply

  20. Nquest,

    Re: post #16, it seems to obfuscate rather than clarify. It doesn’t clear up anything at all. You could read it as “People who are more Westernized and trained in white culture discuss hot topics more rationally than people who are lower class or who are more culturally non-white.” This would still racist and assuming that non-white cultures are less civilized.

    I think I kept tripping over the rational/emotional distinction he made between white and non-white styles of discussion that I didn’t fully process what came after. That’s pretty fucked up. He thinks that Rev. Wright was “venting his anger” instead of saying something that was true. So messed up. It’s so white of him to dismiss what people of colour are saying and then rationalize that he is “listening” by then thinking of people of colour as “venting”. To Macon D, Rev. Wright is reacting in anger about those other white people who are bad and racist. Macon D doesn’t seem to realize that the fact that he dislikes what Rev. Wright said so much is an indication of his own white identity he is trying to protect.

    I usually don’t participate in Rev. Wright debates, because I normally don’t understand what the fuss is about, since I’m not American. Why do white people say that his sermons are “racist”? Is it because he talks about racism?

    Comment by Restructure! — November 7, 2008 @ 1:57 pm | Reply

  21. By “things that struck nearly everyone as so outlandish”, what is Macon D referring to?

    Comment by Restructure! — November 7, 2008 @ 1:58 pm | Reply

  22. Why do white people say that his sermons are “racist”? Is it because he talks about racism?

    You’d have to ask the people making the accusations but you’re on the right track. Macon and Whites generally took offense to Wright suggesting that the U.S. GOVERNMENT intentionally introduced HIV/AIDS in the Black community. It’s a convenient strawman (i.e. Wright’s weakest or most suspect argument, perhaps) and about the only thing that comes close to a legit complaint.

    What I’ve found, however, is this revealing calculus where Whites equate White America with the U.S. Gov’t — i.e. GOVERNMENT = WHITE. That is, because Wright suggested the government was responsible for AIDS, then Wright was making a “racist” statement about White Americans.

    Then there’s the statements he made about the U.S. being run/controlled by “rich White people.” From what I can tell, Wright = racist for saying “White.” No one actually disputed Wright in terms of who runs/controls the U.S. I blame the mentality that has way too many Whites arguing that Whites are discriminated and, therefore, disadvantaged by affirmative action (with no sense of irony given how White women have always been a “protected” group along with White male veterans, the disabled and the aged also benefit and undoubtedly makes Whites the biggest recipients). I guess the feel the best way to keep White privilege/advantage is to pull the reverse-victim card.

    Highlighting how Whites, White males in particular, still hold and never loss the overwhelming majority and overly disproportionate number of the positions of power and influences politically and economically in the U.S. ruins the victim party some value so much as a subject (and policy) changer.

    Re: your question in post #21… Obfuscate is exactly what Macon did when it came to that and he did a very poor job of it. Again, Macon tried to say he wasn’t one of those people who felt what Rev. Wright said was “so outlandish” even as he, oddly (as I noted), attempted to get me to agree with “everyone” even as he tried to maintain he was not one of them. He further obfuscated and tried to avoid the point/criticism by figuring his usual semantic gymnastics would diffuse my direct questioning of his chosen phraseology as he claimed that by “so outlandish” he meant “highly unconventional” and “strikingly unfamiliar” (practically quoting, verbatim, the dictionary definition for “outlandish”).

    Re: “venting anger”… That part of Macon’s essay comes across as particularly paternalistic. His threads which dealt with the issue of ‘Whites assuming POC consider Whites trustworthy’ is instructive. It shows how he can accept ostensibly racist or negative behavior from Blacks/POC apparently because White folks deserve it, should expect or have no reason to complain.

    Comment by Nquest — November 7, 2008 @ 7:04 pm | Reply

  23. >Macon and Whites generally took offense to Wright suggesting that the U.S. GOVERNMENT intentionally introduced HIV/AIDS in the Black community. It’s a convenient strawman (i.e. Wright’s weakest or most suspect argument, perhaps) and about the only thing that comes close to a legit complaint.

    Perhaps this is different to Germany, I don’t know. When Aids was “discovered”, there were immediately rumors about Aids not being a natural disease but man-made. Either as a biological weapon (cold war back then) or from the pharma industry.
    Accusing a government of doing something may be offending, but given Americas history with Eugenics etc, and European history with “medical testing” in general, who can seriously blame anybody who comes up with this thought?

    I think that the hysterical reactions to Rev. Wrights sermon and Macon’s reaction to it indicates, that such whites remain in certain privileged circles and only know their own.

    Comment by jwbe — November 7, 2008 @ 8:10 pm | Reply

  24. […] but in an answer on swps Macon writes: Where on my blog do I recommend this sort of behavior for white people interacting with non-white people, that they try to imitate the non-white person’s supposed cultural characteristics? I posted a video somewhere that obviously satirizes exactly that kind of white behavior, which is absurd, embarrassing behavior that any fairminded reader of my blog would know that I wouldn’t recommend. https://stuffwhitepeoplesay.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/so-can-i-keep-my-hip-white-boy-status-pleeze/#co… […]

    Pingback by “Listen to People of Color” « Stuff White People Say — November 20, 2008 @ 9:35 pm | Reply


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