Stuff White People Say

July 23, 2009

Misrepresenting President Obama

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 12:18 am

“Obama tells black America: ‘Your destiny is in your hands’…No Excuses”

This sentence above was the emphasis of main-stream media of Obama’s recent speech for the 100th anniversary of the NAACP.

You can read the entire speech here: Link

The media presents to its white audience what the white audience wants to hear. That Black people use racism as an excuse.

It is in this alleged ‘post-racial’ America where white people display for everybody who can see what Obama was talking about in January 2008: Americas empathy deficit

Maybe if white folks marched because they had come to understand that their freedom too was at stake in the impending battle, the wall would begin to sway. And if enough Americans were awakened to the injustice; if they joined together, North and South, rich and poor, Christian and Jew, then perhaps that wall would come tumbling down, and justice would flow like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Unity is the great need of the hour – the great need of this hour. Not because it sounds pleasant or because it makes us feel good, but because it’s the only way we can overcome the essential deficit that exists in this country.

I’m not talking about a budget deficit. I’m not talking about a trade deficit. I’m not talking about a deficit of good ideas or new plans.

I’m talking about a moral deficit. I’m talking about an empathy deficit. I’m taking about an inability to recognize ourselves in one another; to understand that we are our brother’s keeper; we are our sister’s keeper; that, in the words of Dr. King, we are all tied together in a single garment of destiny.

We have an empathy deficit when we’re still sending our children down corridors of shame – schools in the forgotten corners of America where the color of your skin still affects the content of your education.

We have a deficit when CEOs are making more in ten minutes than some workers make in ten months; when families lose their homes so that lenders make a profit; when mothers can’t afford a doctor when their children get sick.

We have a deficit in this country when there is Scooter Libby justice for some and Jena justice for others; when our children see nooses hanging from a schoolyard tree today, in the present, in the twenty-first century.

We have a deficit when homeless veterans sleep on the streets of our cities; when innocents are slaughtered in the deserts of Darfur; when young Americans serve tour after tour of duty in a war that should’ve never been authorized and never been waged.
So we have a deficit to close. We have walls – barriers to justice and equality – that must come down. And to do this, we know that unity is the great need of this hour.

and here are some parts of the NAACP speech which the main-stream media left out or treated it more like a side-note:

“What we celebrate tonight is not simply the journey the NAACP has traveled, but the journey that we, as Americans, have traveled over the past 100 years.

It’s a journey that takes us back to a time before most of us were born, long before the Voting Rights Act, and the Civil Rights Act, Brown v. Board of Education; back to an America just a generation past slavery. It was a time when Jim Crow was a way of life; when lynchings were all too common; when race riots were shaking cities across a segregated land.
They also knew that here, in America, change would have to come from the people. It would come from people protesting lynchings, rallying against violence, all those women who decided to walk instead of taking the bus, even though they were tired after a long day of doing somebody else’s laundry, looking after somebody else’s children. It would come from men and women of every age and faith, and every race and region — taking Greyhounds on Freedom Rides; sitting down at Greensboro lunch counters; registering voters in rural Mississippi, knowing they would be harassed, knowing they would be beaten, knowing that some of them might never return.
And so the question is, where do we direct our efforts? What steps do we take to overcome these barriers? How do we move forward in the next 100 years?
The first thing we need to do is make real the words of the NAACP charter and eradicate prejudice, bigotry, and discrimination among citizens of the United States. I understand there may be a temptation among some to think that discrimination is no longer a problem in 2009. And I believe that overall, there probably has never been less discrimination in America than there is today. I think we can say that.

But make no mistake: The pain of discrimination is still felt in America.
But we also know that prejudice and discrimination — at least the most blatant types of prejudice and discrimination — are not even the steepest barriers to opportunity today. The most difficult barriers include structural inequalities that our nation’s legacy of discrimination has left behind; inequalities still plaguing too many communities and too often the object of national neglect.
There are overcrowded classrooms, and crumbling schools, and corridors of shame in America filled with poor children — not just black children, brown and white children as well.

The state of our schools is not an African American problem; it is an American problem. Because if black and brown children cannot compete, then America cannot compete.
And that’s what the NAACP is all about. The NAACP was not founded in search of a handout. The NAACP was not founded in search of favors. The NAACP was founded on a firm notion of justice; to cash the promissory note of America that says all of our children, all God’s children, deserve a fair chance in the race of life.
It’s a simple dream, and yet one that all too often has been denied — and is still being denied to so many Americans. It’s a painful thing, seeing that dream denied. I remember visiting a Chicago school in a rough neighborhood when I was a community organizer, and some of the children gathered ’round me. And I remember thinking how remarkable it was that all of these children seemed so full of hope, despite being born into poverty, despite being delivered, in some cases, into addiction, despite all the obstacles they were already facing — you could see that spark in their eyes. They were the equal of children anywhere.

And I remember the principal of the school telling me that soon that sparkle would begin to dim, that things would begin to change; that soon, the laughter in their eyes would begin to fade; that soon, something would shut off inside, as it sunk in — because kids are smarter than we give them credit for — as it sunk in that their hopes would not come to pass — not because they weren’t smart enough, not because they weren’t talented enough, not because of anything about them inherently, but because, by accident of birth, they had not received a fair chance in life.”


But all what white America has to tell Black America via media is: ‘Your destiny is in your hands’…No Excuses”
Empathy deficit indeed…


July 21, 2009

Getting radicalized, slow and painful

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 9:19 pm

by Robert Jensen

[Rob Shetterly, the artist who created the Americans Who Tell the Truth website (, asked some of the people he painted to respond to this query: “Everywhere I go, kids and adults want to know how you got started. What was the defining moment that triggered your dedication to fighting for justice or peace, or the environment?” Below are my thoughts.]

My transition to political radicalism — going to the root of problems, recognizing that dramatic and fundamental change in the way society is organized is necessary if there is to be a decent human future — involved a lot of pain, in two different ways.

The first concerned the process of coming to know about the pain of the world. I had never been a naïve person who thought the world was a happy place, but like many people who have privilege (in my case, being white, male, a U.S. citizen, and economically secure, though never wealthy) I was able to remain ignorant of the depth of the routine suffering in the world. I was able to ignore how white supremacy, patriarchy, U.S. imperialism, and a predatory capitalist economic system routinely destroy the bodies and spirits of millions of people around the world. When I made a conscious choice to stop ignoring those realities — in my case, when I returned to a university for graduate education with the time to read and study — the process of coming to know about that pain was wrenching. But I found myself wanting to know more.

Why would someone with privilege press to know more about the pain of the world when that knowledge creates tension and emotional turmoil? In my case, coming to understand that the world’s pain is the product of profoundly unjust social systems helped me understand a different kind of personal pain I had been struggling with. Most of my life I had felt like a bit of a freak, like someone out of step with the culture around him. There’s nothing dramatically wrong with me physically or psychologically, but I always struggled to fit in. I had always had a lingering sense that I didn’t want what others around me seemed to want. Because of my privilege, the world offered me a lot, and I am grateful for much of what I have — work I have usually enjoyed, an adequate income, relative safety. But I could never figure out how to be normal — how to kick back with the guys; how to get excited about sports, television, or the latest hit music; how to care about what kind of car I drove. In many ways I had it made, on the surface, but that sense of being out of step always dragged me down.

The best way to deal with our individual struggles is to put them in a larger context. That means both understanding the forces that shape our world as well as placing our problems in perspective. Becoming radicalized politically allowed me to see that I was suffering because I didn’t want to fit into a world shaped by unjust systems; the problem wasn’t my values and desires but the pathology of those systems. That didn’t solve all my personal problems, but it sure helped. Radical politics also helped me understand more clearly how others were suffering much more than I; it shook me out of my self-absorption. Both realizations led me to want to continue the search for more knowledge and understanding about how this all worked, and to commit as much time and energy as I had to movements for social justice.

The paradox is that since I have immersed myself in the pain of the world, I have been able to find new joy. I still understand that the world is not a happy place, and to be truly alive we must face what my friend Jim Koplin calls the “sense of profound grief” that comes with looking honestly at the world. As the writer Wendell Berry has put it, we live on “the human estate of grief and joy” [The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture, 3rd ed. (San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996), p. 106]. Grief is inevitable, and it is only through an honest embrace of the grief that real joy is possible. The conventional world tries to sell us many pleasures, but it offers us little joy. That’s because the conventional world is also trying to sell us many ways to numb our pain, which keeps us from that grief. So long as we are out of touch with the grief, we are unable to feel the joy. We are left only with the desperate search for pleasure and a panicked scramble to avoid pain.

This process has, for me, been slow and gradual — there have been no epiphanies. I don’t believe in epiphanies, and I don’t trust people who claim to have epiphanies. I don’t think the deep understanding of the world that we strive for can come in a single moment. It comes from the long and painful struggle, with the world and with ourselves. Insight doesn’t magically descend upon us. We have to work for it, and that always takes time.

As the singer/songwriter Eliza Gilkyson (who also happens to be my partner) has put it, “Those are lost who/try to cross through/the sorrow fields too easily” [“He Waits for Me,” from the CD “Beautiful World,” Red House Records, 2008]. To expand on her metaphor, we cross those fields not in search of a utopia somewhere ahead. Our life is that journey across those fields, facing the grief and celebrating the joy along the way.

“White racial frame”

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 11:46 am

This is an answer to Joe from Racismreview, I post it here because it is “off-topic” there and also quite long.


I made two observations when it comes to white anti-racism in the Usa: it is obsessed with ‘the other’ and uses an American perspective only. I can be wrong with these observations, but this is the picture I got throughout the years.
Your post ‘Racism in the USA – and in the other USA, there is a Freudian typo: “Professor Jansen talks about living between two racial cultures and compares the USA to the USA” (it should read compares the USA to South Africa I guess). It ends with the question: “Sounds like the other USA?”

Marimba Ani is very thouroughly examining European thought and behavior.

in the comment section on RR you wrote to me:
Jwbe, I prefer to accent just how racialized this broad frame is…..It certainly has Eurocentric elements.

and some posts later:
Yes, I have used Yurugu numerous times in my sociological theory seminars, and regularly cite the book. She makes very important points about the character of the Western philosophical approach to the world.

The “white racial frame” is part of Eurocentrism, not reverse like you state.

All started in Europe. There was a culture of ‘othering’ already before race was ‘invented’. Starting in Europe Europeans conquered the world and regardless where they went, there patterns have always been the same: Conquering, killing indigenous people, enslavement or committing genocide, imposing European cultural norms including religion etc.

Acting as if the world belongs to them (Europeans) and nobody else.

Also within Europe itself it was about wars, conquering each other, oppression of ‘othered’ groups. [Inquisition, witch hunts etc.]

For me my approach is: what is it with us Europeans? I don’t know of any larger European group that came peacefully and integrated into the already existing non-European culture.

And what is it today that in every country where whites still dominate, the patterns of denial and attitudes towards PoC are exactly the same. There is no difference, regardless if you talk to white mainstream in Germany, Britain, France, Italy, Australia, South Africa, US and so on.

The Holocaust demonstrates, that those who define themselves as superior, can quite easily use their ‘cultural knowledge’ to display their genocidal attitudes towards any group.
Wherever Europeans went, they took their culture – Eurocentrism – with them. Their point of view, their individualism, their inability to respect the alleged other and so on.

Marimba Ani: “Hypocrisy as a way of life”, and with this she hits the nail on the head.

Racism is ‘only’ one part of a deadly system without an own emotional center, I call this soul (but not in a religious context).
It is my conviction that whites won’t be part of the solution to end white supremacy as long as they resist to search for their own soul and this is not collectively possible as long as Eurocentrism dictates our being and how we relate to the world and how we approach ourselves.

We are trying to Europeanize the rest of the globe entirely. We were able to infect the world. And it is not ‘only’ how we Europeans regardless where on earth relate to PoC within our individual nations in the always same ‘othering’ ways, but also how we relate to nations we consider as ‘the other’ = non-European. And it is about how we ‘whites’ relate to each other and how we view the world. How we treat humans as well as nature and even the the universe, this mind-set that all is ours (Europeans), that we have to “explore” all and to dominate all.

Whites regardless where feel immediately discriminated against when they are not always in the center of attention or not always in the dominant position, they feel threaten in their very existence when PoC insist in their basic human rights. We whites create together, internationally, new ‘races’, Muslims. The ‘other’. Back then it was Jews.

Our culture ‘enables’ us to include into ‘whiteness’ and exclude from ‘whiteness’. On another board somebody once posted a picture of Anne Frank with the question: what makes her non-white. It was not her skin-color.

But Europeans created the ‘opposite’ to themselves: African people. Black. This alleged opposite can never be included as *us* in the European mind-set, this leads to a post Nquest wrote:
“Baldwin asks White America to question:

“why was it necessary to have a n*gger in the first place?”

Baldwin reasons that the very creation of the “n*gger” indicates that there was a need for the “n*gger” and that White America has to find out why. Baldwin said then that the future of the country depends on how White America answers that question.”

And this is not just the question to white America but to all whites worldwide. And yes indeed, why do we need an alleged opposite to us to define ourselves?
Earlier I published some thoughts about this

The ‘white racial frame’ and your suggestion of ‘counter framing’ again needs ‘the other’ to define whites. That’s the problem I see and it is also not searching for who we are as Europeans.

July 20, 2009

“If a white man had said it…”

Filed under: Uncategorized — nquest2xl @ 5:33 am

In this past weeks confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee, Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Senator Lindsey Graham started the White (Male) Identity Politics party off right:

“If I had said anything remotely like that, my career would have been over.”


“To the argument made by Thurgood Marshall that a majority may not deprive a minority of its constitution right, the answer must be made that while this is sound in theory, in the long run it is the majority who will determine what the constitutional rights of the minority are.”

That was part of the infamous memo the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote.  Beside having a racist ring to it reminiscent of another deceased Chief Justice, Roger B. Taney — who stated that “[the black man] had no rights which the white man was bound to respect” — Rehnquist quote is unmistakable:  White people’s views, perspectives and opinions should (*my bad*) WOULD not only dictate the rights racial/ethnic minorities have but the Constitution itself, or a justice’s fidelity to the rule of law, would not determine the matter.  Now place that up against the backdrop of Rehnquist’s much alleged racism and then come up with a reasonable rationale why he was allowed to serve a life sentence as a Supreme Court judge in this country with the kind of racist history we have.  This makes me want to question the Gore v. Bush voter disenfranchisement issues all over again.

And then you have Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III and a whole line of White men who had long careers in federal government well after their clearly racially problematic statements or actions were known to the public.  Just the list of the usual suspects should be enough to put this “If White man had said…” nonsense to rest.  I mean, with White men like Strom Thurmond, Jesse Helms and even Trent Lott who left the Senate on his own accord, years after his loose-lips slip of the tongue incident. Hell, both Alito and Roberts had question marks regarding their racial views but they were not charged with subscribing to White (Male) Identity Politics.

And, seriously, a country that only in recent history did away with WHITE ONLY policies, customs and practices and still those problems, in Philadelphia at least (*sarcasm*), and to act like its women and “minorities” who are the ones into identity politics is as big a lie as Pat Buchanan citing to Civil War battles (and ignoring the recent House bill passed to acknowledge how slaves built the Capitol building) as evidence that “This has been a country built basically by white folks.”

July 18, 2009

Save Samantha Orobator

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 4:00 pm

Samantha grew up living with an aunt in Camberwell. She was arrested in Laos with 0.6 kg of heroin in August last year – an amount that exceeds the statutory minimum for the death penalty in Laos.

Although Phonthong Prison is a woman’s only prison Samantha became pregnant in December, and is due to give birth in September.

It is understood that her trial was planned for next year but on Thursday 30th April the Laotian authorities announced that it had been bought forward to next week. Samantha has still not seen a lawyer.

Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve said yesterday “It’s absolutely no coincidence that yesterday the Laotians announced that they were moving her trial up probably by a year to next week. It’s pretty shocking that they would do that, apparently to avoid her seeing a British lawyer, before she has to go to trial. The notion that no lawyer should be appointed to defend her is outrageous.”

Reprieve believe that Samantha’s life hangs in the balance. There are many reports of abuse and several deaths in Phonthong Prison, including that of a British national last year. Conditions remain harsh and the diet is dangerously inadequate and Reprieve has grave concerns for her health and that of her unborn child.

– Email Harriet Harman, Samantha’s MP, and Gordon Brown:
– Harriet Harman: / Tel: 0207 219 4218
– Gordon Brown:

Link to the facebook group

A safe space to talk about race

Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 2:50 pm

Because of the negativity of real life events as well as the negativity of many online discussion, when it comes to discussions about race, racism, white supremacy, I write this thread.

There are two forms of talking about race:

first: where whiteness and whites can dominate, regardless whether in ways of subtle racism or blatant racism. “Discussions” which become exhausting (to me at least), because the real topic can no longer be discussed. This deeply reflects real life “discussions”. With white insults, non-knowledge, denial, “I want to learn” and all else.
I have to say, for me personally such experiences can sometimes be very exhausting, emotionally. I cannot disconnect my feelings from what I have to read on discussion boards or blogs and what I have to hear in real life about or towards People of Color. It hurts, and sometimes very deeply.

second: talks about race that are honest, dominated by People of Color and with participants who know what they are talking about. Discussions which are an enrichment. Discussions where I feel ‘at home’ (in lack of a better expression) because all people are respected and nobody’s humanity is questioned. Safe spaces. Unfortunately very rare places, online as well as in real life.

Any thoughts?


Filed under: Uncategorized — jwbe @ 1:48 am

There are moments where I would like to say so much, but where I don’t find any words that could express my thoughts and feelings.

Marwa El-Sherbini , I cry for you, your family and your children.

“How many times can a man turn his head
And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

How many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?

How many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?”

(Blowing in the wind)

Next Page »

Blog at