Stuff White People Say

October 31, 2008

“We don’t intend to be racist”

Filed under: Stuff White People Do — nquest2xl @ 12:50 pm

Talking about the way Whites try to dismiss or deny allegations that certain racialized behavior or practices are racist, Macon D said:

“…they don’t intend to be racist, and therefore, they’re not.

Never mind any actual effects of their actions.”

Funny how that works.

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October 30, 2008

“Racism exists…”

Filed under: Uncategorized — nquest2xl @ 2:07 pm

Straight from the Lip Service Express:

“…there is racism in America. We all know that, because we can’t stop working against it.”

That’s Senator John McCain’s answer on Larry King Live last night to the question of whether he sees “race as any factor” in the presidential race.  McCain went on to say that he is “totally convinced that 99 and 44/100 percent of the American people are going to make a decision on who is best to lead this country.”

99.44%

99.44%.  Well, at least he acknowledge that there’s more than a mere 1/2 percent of racism.  At least that’s better than the typical 99.9% claim people usually make when they’re in the 99% neighborhood.  But beside the obvious question of what the hell are we “working against” when there’s not even a full 1% of racism involved and beside the compelling question of what the hell has McCain actually “worked against” when he himself is practically speechless when asked what specifically he’s done to improve the lives of African-Americans (he was like “duh, duh… uhhhh” then inserted the customary bold-faced lie):

Beside all that (going old school on ya):  where is the beef??

It’s quite popular for even people who deny racism is involved or the cause of specific situation X, Y or Z to admit that “racism exists.”  It’s real easy to say it does.  Lip service is free and easy that way.  The hard part is getting people who use (read: manipulate/abuse) that phrase to actually say where racism does, in fact, exists.

More to the point, I know from my experience with people who caveat what often is their denial of a specific charge of racism as factor, cause or motivator by saying “racism exists” that a lot of people are McCainin’: they’re trying to dismiss racism as a significant (f)actor or otherwise diminish it to a size or proportion that says it, racism, is functionally irrelevant, without power, influence or any kind of obstacle.

So, yes, I wonder what Sen. McCain is referring to when he says, in the present-still-an-issue-tense, that racism is something “we can’t stop working against it.”

Of course, he’s not the only one with percentage issues.  Senator Obama rightly drew criticism for his odd calculation that the civil rights generation and its hard fought struggles and hard earned accomplishments “took us 90% of the way” to the “Promise Land” of equality or what-have-you.  Some speculated that Obama was suggesting that electing him president would settle the other 10%.  Amazingly to me, some people apparently think that way: that electing a Black president Obama is a crowning achievement in the civil rights struggle and even the completion or fulfillment of Dr. King’s dream.

Obviously I disagree though I don’t begrudge or question the gravity of the historical moment and all the emotions involved when it comes to the sense of pride and affirmation African-Americans feel in this historic election year.  My thing, though, is the incredible lack of sight or eyes on the prize, if you will — i.e. the huge disconnect over what this is all about.

So I’m at the point of wanting to know:

  1. Are we talking about the same thing when we say “racism exists” and what do you mean when you talk about it?
  2. How can any racism be seen as insignificant?
  3. Why would we be content to allow even a “tiny” bit of racism to exist?

To help you understand where I’m coming from, I like the analogy of life as an obstacle course.  That’s for everybody because for most/all of us, life ain’t that easy to navigate.  Some type of effort is involved somewhere along the line.  Again, for most/all of us.

But not all obstacle courses are alike.  Some have more curves.  Some have more hills and barriers.  If not then we would all be born into the same socio-economic strata, have the same immediate, right-there-in-our-community access to all the jobs and resources needed…  But we know that’s not true.  We also know that history alone has not place us in the same situation.  There was never a clean slate or “even playing field” established post-civil rights.  Let’s be honest about that.

And that’s what I’d like to have: an honest discussion.  No lip service allowed.

October 28, 2008

“20 years… A preacher of hate…” – The Rev. Wright thread

Filed under: Uncategorized — nquest2xl @ 2:46 am

This is basically an open thread to discuss the characterizations of Rev. Jeremiah Wright as a “preacher of hate”, a “racist” and any other of the things he’s been called.  I open the thread because, frankly, I disagree with most, perhaps all of the allegations against Rev. Wright that characterize him in that vain.

And now that I think about it, JWBE’s new thread spotlights the irony of it all:

There are some or many white people saying that racism will become less with every generation and I wonder what they believe how much time they will have to “change their attitudes”. Whether they believe that racism is just a bad habit the victims can patiently sit out.

Somehow, even if we were to grant that Rev. Wright is a “racist” (without proof, of course; because those who make those claims can never make the case for it), I doubt those who insist on saying it would be okay with the idea that there will be fewer Rev. Wright’s with each passing generation and, consequently, “things are better now” on the Black “racism” front so people should stop acting like we haven’t made progress…

October 27, 2008

“Where does the hate come from?”

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 10:42 pm

“Where does the hate come from”

The quotation is from the movie “Mississippi burning” and it is also a question many of my generation in Germany asked their grand parents or parents. My generation which had to deal with the fact that many of the adults around us participated actively or passively in the nightmare called “German history”. Those adults who should be our teachers, role-models, teaching us their own history. “Never again” and nobody could or can answer the question: How?
How to stop the masses when they start following a “Führer”.
Also the Iraq war and the propaganda before it demonstrated, that it is not possible. The important question is how to resist or fight against a people running amok? My answer to this question: I don’t know. Propaganda is more convincing than truth. Mob mentality is more powerful than to say “No”.

“Imagine there is war and nobody joins” was our slogan when I was young. Yes imagine presidents without soldiers for their wars. Wishful thinking because people seem to have short memories.
Right-wing extremism is on the rise in entire Europe again, people believing again the lies of politicians and their propaganda with simple pseudo-solutions.

There are some or many white people saying that racism will become less with every generation and I wonder what they believe how much time they will have to “change their attitudes”. Whether they believe that racism is just a bad habit the victims can patiently sit out.

Germans already proved 70 years ago, that knowing people doesn’t prevent them from sending them to the gas chambers, when they themselves feel threatend. Jewish friends where betrayed. The American slavery system proved centuries ago, that knowing or living sometimes quite closely ‘together’ doesn’t prevent people from dehumanizing and killing other people.

So why are we still today praying that racism is built on ignorance or not knowing somebody else’s culture? Why do we believe the illusion that diversity training, multicultural events or anything like this will give us the most necessary tool necessary: To openly resist destructive forces.

And this is what concerns me most with all those self-proclaimed white “anti-racists” who censor their critics and start whining when the wind blows a little bit into their naive face – what will they do when the storm hits hard? Whose side are they on?

When will the masses of whites finally take anti-racism seriously? That there is no room for white paternalism and people who want to “help” PoC, that there is no room for confused egos who are looking for cookies and a thank you and don’t know the definition of ‘ally’ or justice and equality.
Anti-racism is for me also building a strong democracy with equal rights to all people with justice for all to create the necessary and powerful foundation against fascist propaganda and this would perhaps create presidents without soldiers for their wars, real ones or imagined ones towards the alleged “other”. Truly liberated people who are no longer afraid to think on their own and to openly say “No”.

October 26, 2008

“Freedom of Speech”

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 8:11 pm

Freedom of speech is a democratic right and is also an important right. But speech and words can always become tools to undermine democracy.
Germany prohibits certain symbols, Holocaust denial violates German laws and sites like Stormfront wouldn’t be possible on German servers. Something like “Jews should be thankful for the Holocaust” (like Limbaugh’s “Blacks should be thankful for slavery”) would end a German’s TV-carrier forever I think.
America is somehow the contrast with freedom of speech very or most important.
The interesting observation I made is the difference how some or many Americans deal with criticism compared to Germans, best visible on messageboards. Predominantly white messageboards are so quick to censor and ban non-mainstream thoughts that it becomes clear, that this “freedom of speech” is somehow an empty phrase. On German political boards people are in most cases only banned if they threaten members or violate German hate-speech laws (in Germany the owner of a message board is responsible for the content).
Nowhere is my free speech so restricted than on American “liberal” message boards or blogs. It’s a tragic irony that quite often those who defend freedom of speech for themselves can’t endure the freedom of speech of somebody else.

But of what worth is the basic democratic right of freedom of speech when it can be used as a tool to destroy democracy? How much censorship via laws is necessary to protect basic human rights for all?

October 24, 2008

“There is no Whiteness without Blackness”

Filed under: Stuff White People Do — nquest2xl @ 6:12 am

“Whiteness exists in a relational context with other races…” – Macon D

Such is his argument or, rather, his rationale for his curious approach to Whiteness.  It’s a rationale because Macon refers to that theor-riod notion (theory behaving and employed like a mindless factoid) to justify his problematic attempts to use things about Black people (e.g. racial complaints, real or imagined-by-Macon) “in the hopes that some white people would wake the hell up and stop” doing things that offend Black people.

That’s all well and good but such a project-aim becomes problematic when:

  1. Macon fails completely fabricates, exaggerates or overhypes the racial complaints of Black people or
  2. the racial complaints Black make either aren’t necessary to make the “wake up and stop” case to Whites and happen to be used as a guilt-trip bludgeon against Whites to highlight behaviors that are, perhaps, subconscious which merely require exposure to show the problems with the behaviors.

Of course, the theories which examine race as a social construct suggest that the concept of the White race here in America for example — where various White ethnic groups from Europe eventually forged an identity they never had — was established based on what or, more precisely, who they were not.  That’s the “relational context” Macon spoke of but the question is: how is that factoid relevant to how you approach Whiteness?

Frankly, I don’t think that it is.

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October 20, 2008

“A promise and a way of life”*

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 11:13 am

Nquest once said that whites should be clear about the reason(s) why they combat racism. I will try to give my personal answer to this question:

There is a word which is on my personal list of ‘the most hated word’ and this is the term “assimilate”. It means to give up ones own personal self to become conform and therefore accepted. Not for what somebody is, but for what somebody seems to be. When Macon on his blog assumes that all children will accept this deformation of their soul without resistance, calling my personal experience ‘preternatural’, he is exactly doing what whites are so quick to do: Denying somebody else’s own self.
To put a long story short, I didn’t accept this deformation of my soul and already as a young child I went on resistance against this what I called back then ‘society’.

Therefore it was the logical consequence that I connected with people who thought similar like me, that I read books who where critical about European history and that I read books written by PoC who are those most affected by European history. This was a worldview I could understand and where I felt understood.
A worldview against a system, white supremacy, where racism is not just a “bad habit” or “bad attitude” which can be ‘untrained’, but where racism and othering is involved in a culture which is trying to destroy or to dominate all what is different. The lies they tell that there should be inferior people, just to defend their own white madness, to justify their countless wars and cruelties. Not realizing that some of ‘their own’ people can just be stunned by their coldness. Not realizing that this culture’s confining hypocritical norms just take the air away to breathe.

The assumptions they make that somebody who looks like them must have the same attitude, that everybody is able and willing to disconnect oneself so deeply from oneself and life that he or she is able to ‘hate’, just because. Not questioning the sickness of a system which ‘gave to them’ other human beings where they think they can spit on and make fun out of them, who they can discriminate against and then they believe, they are the better ones.
Racism also translates into how whites interact with white people and also this is sometimes nothing else than just exhausting. It is not just that such people assume, if they are blatant racists, that somebody who looks like them doesn’t have a problem with hearing the N-word or wants to listen to ethnic ‘jokes’, it is also, that such people try to dominate other people who are different (mind-set or race) or want to tell others what would be in their best interest, that they believe they can tell somebody else which life somebody had to live. Their lack of self-reflection and the power-games they start when they realize that not everybody shares their worldview are annoying.

Racism cannot be understood without looking at the whole picture, white supremacy and Eurocentrism, the system created to become wealthy as a nation, living on the pillars of the poverty and exploitation of the majority of the world. Whiteness accepts the starving of countless people “somewhere” on earth to live white decadent lives, whiteness accepts wars and nuclear weapons as necessity because European culture is unable to live in peace and to build bridges. Whiteness accepts the poverty within their own wealthy nations, disconnecting from all who are not conform, talking about “white trash”, “welfare queens” or “parasites” and accepts the deconstruction of our only living space – earth. All in the name of money and power.
Racism is not just having stereotypes, it is feeling comfortable in a white society like this.
Racism, subtle or not, is a mind-set which impacts the entire worldview and how one is able to see reality. It includes taking individual success, success defined according Eurocentric norms, more important than the well-being of communities. Eurocentrism reflects in many of so-called (white) anti-racist work, which continues with othering people to justify their violence. Eurocentrism reflects in any “anti-racist” work which talks about integration and works with the same power structure, white males on the top.
The attempts to appeal to the “good side” within whites entirely dismisses the true nature of Eurocentrism and white supremacy, which is a power-construct that doesn’t depend on hearts and souls. “Good hearts” are not enough to deal with white power structures which quickly turn also against white people who are dissidents. There is no room for illusions of doing “good work” while trying to work against a deadly system which has infected the entire world and kills on a daily basis, including whites, who feel so safe.

* (A promise and a way of life by Becky Thompson)

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