Stuff White People Say

July 21, 2008

“believe others consider them trustworthy”

believe others consider them trustworthy

On his blog Macon writes: stuff white people do: believe others consider them trustworthy

He posts a picture of a white guy with a shaved head, looking like a recent victim of a beating with a broken nose, a swollen eye etc.
There is a tatoo around his neck, an eagle holding the swastika (the German Reichsadler during the Nazi era).

Macon writes, referring to the picture:
“I don’t imagine the man in this mug shot looks trustworthy to you. If you were to meet him on the street, or in a bar, what features or characteristics make him untrustworthy? His tattoos? His broken nose? The desolate look in his eyes?

How about the fact that he’s white?

If you’re a white person, you’re unlikely to list his whiteness as one of the characteristics that would keep you from trusting him. You might cite the “white power” sympathies suggested by his tattooed swastika, but not the simple fact of his whiteness itself.” see below: comment 1

He also writes:
“Unlike a lot of non-white people, most white folks think that the world sees them as trustworthy, reliable, and honest, unless they do something to prove themselves otherwise.” see below: comment 2

“White people can dress in a variety of ways or wear a variety of adornments or tattoos that will lower the level of trust other people are likely to place in them.” see below: comment 3

comment 1
It is curious that Macon wants to prove with the picture of a Neo-Nazi/white supremacist, that “the simple fact of his whiteness itself” is not an issue. Being a white supremacist also indicates (and also mentiones already with the name) somebody’s whiteness.
In this case it isn’t possible to separate race from appearance.

comment 2
Simplifying social reality with statements like this are always problematic.
In a broader context Macon is referring to (or wants to refer to) white privilege, which isn’t a question of being trustworthy but a question of white ‘race solidarity’: Who looks like me is like me. It’s also othering: Who looks not like me is not like me.

comment 3
With saying that “White people can dress in a variety of ways or wear a variety of adornments or tattoos that will lower the level of trust other people are likely to place in them” he admits, that something like automatic trust also doesn’t exist among white people.

His statement rises the following questions:

– What kind of trust is he talking about?
– How must he/she look like to be ‘automatically trustworthy’?
– In which situation?
– To what level?
– Gender? (He also lumps all whites together in a ‘genderless’ group.)

It becomes clear, that while individual whites may consider themselves as trustworthy, something like ‘automatic trust’ granted to whites by other whites doesn’t exist.
Remember your own childhood and what did your parents tell you? ‘Be careful with people you don’t know, don’t go with them, this can be dangerous.’
So you learn a certain distrust towards strangers and this is just normal human behavior.
I am sure, that parents didn’t tell their white children: “If a person is white you can immediately trust him/her”.

But they probably did tell their white children about certain stereotypes of the alleged “other”: dangerous, thiefs etc.
This negative stereotyping of ‘others’ teaches whites [together with positive stereotyping of ‘us’] to reject people who look different and to prefer people who look like them. But again, this doesn’t tell anything about trust and the different levels of trust.

His simplyfied [eurocentric white male] point of view leads him to this conclusion:
“Now that’s a strange thing to say, isn’t it? Most of the people reading this blog believe that it’s racist and unfair to mistrust a black person, simply because he or she is black. And I agree. But as I’ll try to show here, in most cases it’s actually realistic, not racist, for a black person to withhold trust from a white person. This is because black people tend to know more about white people than white people do about black people. And what they tend to know is that white people who haven’t untrained themselves can be annoying, and even dangerous.”

In his entire post he fails to make clear of what kind of trust he is talking. But he makes clear what white people think:
“What white people should learn, and somehow tell each other, is that when people of color they don’t know seem guarded, standoffish, or even rude, it may be because they don’t trust you. And it’s up to you to show that you can be trusted. Which can take time.”

he also says:

“If Peggy McIntosh or another white person were to interact with a new black person, they may not realize that while their skin color is often an asset, in this situation it may be counting against them. At least initially, until they prove themselves atypical. For many non-white people, white individuals need to prove that they’re not going to enact an array of common white tendencies before they can be trusted. This can take time.”

At least one question arises:
– what is ‘atypical white’?

both statements by Macon reveal a lot of white problematic projection and curious expectations about the non-white ‘other’.
I commented somewhere on his blog:

“Subliminal expectations of whites, how the “black or non-white other” has to act toward them: Assimilation into a white society, giving up their own identity, which means also giving up their own reality.
Subliminal expectations of whites: Non-whites have to be kind to them because whites consider themselves as kind to them.
It’s white privilege to intrude and to interfere in non-white people’s lives and the subliminal expectation of whites is to be considered as friend, somebody who will be welcomed immediately when s/he meets somebody non-white. Just because they are white.”

He didn’t mention once that white actions and behavior could be the true reason for non-white ‘mistrust’. He also rises the issue of whites and their belief to have the right to be treated always friendly and nice by POC, not realizing or making an race-issue out of it, when whites treat them ‘not nice’.

Because of othering, whites feel much more offended by non-whites than by whites. They can also much more remember negative treatment by non-whites and tend to forget the uncountable times where other whites called them names or mistreated them. Othering people also leads to an immediate generalization of the negative actions of an individual Person of Color to all People of Color.

Whites believe, that they have to be always welcomed and out of a white supremacist attitude they demand and insist, that non-whites have to be grateful, respectful, open to whites without a right of privacy, demanding automatic and unquestioned trust. Non-white people aren’t allowed according a white supremacist mind-set to be “guarded, standoffish, or even rude”. Confining non-white people, what kind of normal human behavior they are ‘allowed’ to show in social interactions and what not.

Therefore, the next time a Person of Color is “guarded, standoffish, or even rude” to you [white people in general], start with exploring your own behavior and attitudes. And sometimes non-white people also just have a bad day, yes imagine that.


  1. You can also use the blockquote tag for formatting:

    Comment by Restructure! — July 21, 2008 @ 10:48 pm | Reply

  2. this is the hint that my post looks chaotic 😉

    I will try to change this.

    Comment by jwbe — July 21, 2008 @ 11:07 pm | Reply

  3. I mentioned that I inappropriately asked a mixed person “what are you?” instead of “what is your ethnic background?” which is still none of my business. I was trying to make “small talk” and “break the ice” by saying random things that came to my mind, but it backfired because I really *should* think about what I am saying and what I am thinking in all situations. Anyway, even from our first meeting, after what I said, the person had a right to add me to the idiot list. I don’t even think the issue of trust applies to strangers, because you don’t just trust strangers for no reason; trust needs to be earned. (Then again, I live in a large city, so I’m suspicious of all strangers.)

    Anyway, my own racial insensitivity, or rather lack of respect, came from the assumption that I had a right to ask about her racial makeup just because she was mixed. People in the oppressor group (which I was in that situation) often think that they are being “nice” and then wonder why the oppressed person gives them a dirty look. (I realized how stupid it sounded after, but some really clueless people might not see anything wrong with asking someone’s ethnicity … especially since people do that to me … )

    Comment by Restructure! — July 22, 2008 @ 4:25 am | Reply

  4. Ugh, Macon D is censoring some of my comments in his blog. I asked him if he felt I was doing the “what you are” conversation instead of the “what you did” conversation, but apparently he feels that’s a personal question that he does not intend to answer.

    I really, really, really don’t want to deal with Macon D anymore at this point, but he does nothing to correct/amend his problematic posts that tons of white people are reading, and thinking that it is progressive. White liberal racism will win again, because the type of people who read his blog and find/feel nothing at all wrong would probably also feel attacked.

    But I bet he will dismiss this blog, because only four of us have expressed the sentiment that his blog is systemically problematic, while he has many more fans, i.e., Appeal to Belief instead of taking the criticisms seriously.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 22, 2008 @ 4:59 am | Reply

  5. I hope that isn’t what happens (speaking of the above comment by Restructure).

    Comment by LLB — July 22, 2008 @ 5:35 am | Reply

  6. Restructure, if he were to allow your post to go through then he would be confronted with his very conscious tactic to try to make arguments that have always been about “what he did” — and particularly “what he did” in specific instances as opposed to his overall blog/’work’ — about “what he is.”

    Comment by nquest2xl — July 22, 2008 @ 5:55 am | Reply

  7. LLB, if you’re talking about Macon censoring (i.e. not posting) people’s post then that is what is happening whenever Macon chooses for whatever reasons he chooses as arbitrary and misleading as they might be.

    There’s an entry here on the topic:
    “I’m rejecting the comment you submitted for publication approval”

    I don’t blame Macon for censoring certain comments. I can respect his desire to avoid the personal jabs or comments that would turn things personal, to whatever degree, than purely topical even if that’s a very selfish decision on his part as a way from him to duck those jabs which would require him to be honest about something he did personally and keep talk centered around what he did or is doing which is not necessarily topical…

    Comment by nquest2xl — July 22, 2008 @ 6:14 am | Reply

  8. Oh, now he indicates in the comment section that I had tried to submit a comment. No, I will not email him. I’m done.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 22, 2008 @ 12:48 pm | Reply

  9. Nquest,

    I also think he’s interpreting “what you did” criticisms as “what you are”. This why when I was criticizing the celebration of the superficial aspects of non-white cultures, his defense was that he already stated that the blog post was problematic because he was overoptimistic about Obama. When you criticized this in the comment section of that post, he also thought it was about “what he is” and listed reasons why he is progressive to combat the notion that he is superficial.

    Jay Smooth’s point is great, but does this work in real life? If you tell a typical white person, “That’s racist,” or even “That movie is racist,” (which is a movie that they like), they will go to such lengths to defend themselves and make points about how the movie creators are not racists themselves. People generally think that “racist” is a category of people and not something systemic in society.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 22, 2008 @ 1:18 pm | Reply

  10. Yeah, I think Jay Smooth’s point only works in terms of keeping a conversation going vs. shutting it down promptly after the “what you are” accusation flies. It’s been my experience that people will do what Macon did: try to turn “what you did’s” into “what you are’s.” So, no. Jay Smooth’s idea doesn’t really work in real life the way the video seems to suggest.

    That aside, you made an excellent point about Macon’s naked, off-topic “what I am/have changed” defense-distraction.

    Comment by Nquest — July 22, 2008 @ 1:35 pm | Reply

  11. Do you think that the average white in such a situation will even truly listening, if you say: That sounds racist or You are racist.
    They only hear the word racist and then it’s over in most cases.
    And also, you even don’t have to use the word racist itself and nonetheless they feel as if you called them racist.

    Comment by jwbe — July 22, 2008 @ 2:14 pm | Reply

  12. But I bet he will dismiss this blog, because only four of us have expressed the sentiment that his blog is systemically problematic, while he has many more fans

    and this is really a problem, self-rewarding behavior. He considers himself as ‘more progressive’ than the average white American, he wrote this somewhere. Being ‘more progressive’ is already enough for him.
    And the filter works perfectly: Praise or fans are right and are his confirmation, this gives him the position of an ‘educator’, so above others.
    Though shalt not challenge…

    and to make it public that he censors is a quite f*cked up tactic, but an advantage for him to appeal to the sympathy of his white readers who will try to protect him just to protect him.

    Comment by jwbe — July 22, 2008 @ 2:45 pm | Reply

  13. This should not be used as a litmus test, as each claim he makes on his blog should be evaluated separately on its own merits, but isn’t it strange that lots of white people find his blog ‘excellent’ and say they ‘agree with everything’ he says? I thought the antiracism process was supposed to be painful (especially for whites learning about white privilege), not a confirmation of your pre-existing beliefs.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 23, 2008 @ 4:35 am | Reply

  14. […] items came in and clarified it for me. The first was a rather simply comment by Restructure (here): …isn’t it strange that lots of white people find his blog ‘excellent’ and say they […]

    Pingback by the laughing linden branch » White and Anti-Racist — July 26, 2008 @ 3:13 am | Reply

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