Stuff White People Say

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%.  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.


  1. It seems that for every two steps forward we make with promoting social justice, we take 1 1/2 steps back. After the post-Civil War era, following a few token Black politicians and general gains, Blacks were still slaves except on paper. After the Civil Rights era, we got rid of “colored only” restrooms for good, but we went back to being just as segregated as we were before if not more so, and Blacks continue to live in deepening poverty and violence from both their neighbors and the police. After the first (White) women’s rights era peaking around 1920s, women went back “to their place” until the 1970s, and there are continuing backlashes today. And with gay people, it seems we’ve only been taking just plain half-steps forward…

    I’ll take a crack at the first question:

    If you ask the average White American, “racism” = making racist jokes (without “irony”), joining the Skinheads, hanging someone in effigy, using racial slurs such as the N****r, C***k/G**k, Sp*k, etc, waving the Confederate flag, addressing Black men as “boy,” and other “shocking” things most of us liberal Whites don’t do. (Although you might still get out of the charges of racism by saying “But I didn’t mean to be racist!”) Quite menacingly, “racism” in the mind of the average White also frequently means “making a big deal” about race and racism, which can mean anything from talking about white privilege to simply pointing out the race of an individual you’re referring to (you’re supposed to say “the person in the blue shirt” not “the Black/Asian/Hispanic/South Asian/etc. person,” and if you must refer to race, you have to say it quietly), because it’s “race doesn’t exist” and “MLK wanted a colorblind society” and all that jazz. This leads to a rather disturbing act that most White people wouldn’t consider racist: referring to a person who points out White privilege or expresses anger with White society as “the REAL racist (if they’re of color speaking about Whites),” “angry,” “divisive,” etc.

    So, most White people are going to have a very narrow definition of racism that, of course, excludes themselves. The above was more or less my definition for a long time. I don’t think I was inclined to call people who talked about racism in mainstream society racists or divisive, but when other people did that I thought they were being whiny, ignorant, insensitive, and entitled, not racist per se.

    I can’t even take a crack at the second and third questions. Why would we condone “a tiny bit” of racism? I can understand why we think there’s only “a tiny bit,” but not why we think we can ignore it. Maybe racism can be considered “insignificant” if we assume that since the average white person is not racist, the average non-white person will not face much racism.

    Comment by space — October 30, 2008 @ 4:43 pm | Reply

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

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

    are these questions to all of us?

    Comment by jwbe — October 30, 2008 @ 9:32 pm | Reply

  3. Yes, anyone who has an answer, insight or thoughts.

    Comment by nquest2xl — October 30, 2008 @ 10:13 pm | Reply

  4. Are we talking about the same thing when we say “racism exists” and what do you mean when you talk about it?

    Racism is the feeling of entitlement of European/Eurocentric nations to be the civilized world via culture and religion and development with the attitude that we have the right to judge other people/nations based on our own experience and definitions with the result that we believe we have the right or even the duty to dominate in the “best interest” of PoC. Racism is the ‘successor’ of the Eurocentric ‘religion’ of division and violence and Christianity is fundamental to this. Christianity is a religion of war, hate and fanatism, using “God” as excuse for white people’s “mission”. On it’s way Eurocentrism and what Eurocentrics call “progress” – our “progress” is only the perfection of the destruction of all life. Extermination is Europe’s second name. Regardless which form of life will cross our way, we will destroy it.
    I also think that Eurocentrics inability with dealing with [their own] death as a natural law of life is part of keeping racism alive. By destroying others Eurocentrics think they will survive.
    Racism keeps whites and Eurocentrism on the top also within a global system, securing us [as nations] a living standard of convenience and wealth as well as access to all resources on planet earth. I assume Eurocentrics are the only ones on earth, who dig also their own grave [by destruction of the only place humans have to live on] and celebrate this as progress and success.
    The function of racism is to prevent PoC to empower themselves and to gain a political position equal to whites. With a global coalition of PoC against white supremacy, white supremacy would fall within a single day I think. Because of this white supremacy is so eager to divide the world. We inflict internal conflicts and wars deliberately to remain in power. The function of racism is also the attempt to convince PoC that our whiteness and Eurocentrism is ‘best’, robbing PoC of their own identy to support the efforts of white supremacy.

    How can any racism be seen as insignificant?

    I think that it is also Eurocentrics attitude that the feeling of other people [regardless race] are unimportant. As long as the “I” doesn’t feel uncomfortable, the “you” doesn’t have a right to exist. The connection of “we” is not there.

    Why would we be content to allow even a “tiny” bit of racism to exist?

    The ‘tiny’ bit of racism allows Eurocentrism to continue, to make the rules how the world ‘has to run’. The ‘tiny’ bit of racism makes a fundamental revolution of Eurocentrism impossible as well as the collective unity of all races to disempower the top-elite.

    Comment by jwbe — October 31, 2008 @ 11:31 am | Reply

  5. I’m going through your blog and reading post and wanted to answer this one.

    Are we talking about the same thing when we say “racism exists” and what do you mean when you talk about it?

    I don’t know if we are talking about the same thing but, in the US, racism to me is the oppression, belittlement, violence or any other kind of putting down of someone who isn’t White. It can be a racist joke or as overt as outright violence. It can be someone who doesn’t even think they are racist but still groups race together and makes remarks about the race as a whole.

    How can any racism be seen as insignificant? Some people don’t care or don’t even attempt to think about others. There are a lot of selfish people. As long as they are doing good, they don’t care about anyone else.

    Why would we be content to allow even a “tiny” bit of racism to exist? Again, because the people who “have” usually don’t care what happens to others as long as they are content. I know my boss is this way. It can be racism, classism, or sexism. Sometimes all three together but as long as you have the privilege and don’t care to change or to think about others, all of those will exist.

    I know that as a White person I’m generally not confronted with the day to day aspects of racism. I’ve only had one Black person tell me that she knows she has to work twice as hard as a White person to get ahead. She’s also the only person who has told me about being ignored in stores because of her skin color. Because Whites don’t face that or can’t understand it, we tend to not see racism when it’s there.

    Comment by Melissa — November 12, 2008 @ 4:06 pm | Reply

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