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View Diary: BARRIERS & BRIDGES: On Being Called a Racist (280 comments)

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  •  Hmm . . . that's rather interesting (4+ / 0-)

    You are not from a "vaguely racist background" because you've been able to collaborate well and be comfortable around people of color, some of who asked you to write about it? Those don't seem mutually exclusive to me.

    But please don't confuse me: I don't think you are from a "vaguely racist background". What's interesting to me is that you've been able to come to your own independent conclusion as a white person that you are not. That is the point that I'm trying to make. Each of us has to exercise our own independent judgment and we cannot abdicate our responsibility to do so by shifting that responsibility to people of color who supposedly have special knowledge of these things.

    But you know this, and I'd just like for you to acknowledge that you do, because I think that is the only basis on which we can effectively move forward in these discussions, at least in my opinion.

    •  Oh, I get it. (8+ / 0-)

      What you're saying is that what is important is that you yourself know that the racist remark--subconscious or not--you just said isn't racist, and it doesn't matter what a person of color says or how s/he interprets your remark. To do that would be to "shift the responsibility to people of color who supposedly have special knowledge of these things."  Ack.

      Do you see that this is a basis of the problem in communicating between races?  For example, as a white-looking woman, these discussions have taught me to be more aware of my subconscious "white privilege" remarks--and I have been an anti-racist since I was a kid.  I'm of Native American decent, so the idea of me saying something racist is abhorrent--but I realize that without intention, I've probably hurt someone along the way.  

      To take a stance that we can't let the black or brown folk determine what we say is racist is insensitive.

      Sarah Palin: All pistol and no squint.

      by CanyonWren on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 08:13:31 AM PDT

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    •  Well, there are so many elements there to unpack (9+ / 0-)

      1. I see racism from a European perspective. I hold it as responsible for most the catastrophic conflicts of the 20th Century, from my grandfather who fled the Armenian genocide, through the Holocaust, all the way to Bosnia, where I have many friends. So no: my anti-racism hasn't been determined by a few people on this blog.

      2. There are various reasons, outlined in my diary, why I would have had a water tight legal case against this author had he chosen to name me. But because I was only identifiable to a few amongst who none would have believed this accusation, the case failed. That's a pretty hard legal test of 'vaguely racist background'. In common parlance, that would have meant I had racists in my family, who expressed clear cut racist views, or joined the NF. In legal terms, we all know what the accusation meant and how it could be refuted.

      3. If, however, you're now shifting the ground from a case of libel with damages to a more general argument that the whole system is racist... then yes, WE ALL have a vaguely racist background. But then, in terms of the legal case, why didn't the author acknowledge his own racism?  There's the rub....

      If we all belong to basically racist societies and are embued by some of that background, then the only way is to break from those conscious and unconscious assumptions. Why I feel comfortable discussing this is not because  I don't have any racism - please check the diary - but because I know I do and don't feel defensive.

      It's like the Socratean idea of wisdom - it's knowing that you don't know. The best form of anti-racism I can imagine is knowing that you probably are, and trying to work against it.

      "It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us." Walter Benjamin. More sane debate on the Moose

      by Brit on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 08:15:22 AM PDT

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      •  That's sort of where I get off the train (7+ / 0-)

        I think it's bullcrap and a cop-out to say that "we are all racist" to some extent. Yes, I suppose if you have this really expansive view of racism that includes ever errant thought about someone of a different background than yourself, then yes, of course we're all "racist". But that's a strawman, imagining some utopia where people have no group identity whatsoever, everyone seeing everyone else as exactly the same as them. That has never occurred anywhere on Earth and it never will.

        But racism in its actual definition, the one used by 98% of the general public and the one found in most standard dictionaries, is a belief system based on the idea that human beings are more or less worthy based on their genetic heritage, or whatever other immutable characteristic somebody wants to focus on. That is not the same thing as occasionally inadvertently buying into a cultural stereotype, or being ignorant of or misunderstanding a particular part of history, or being cognizant of someone's phenotypical characteristics.

        And that definition of racism is not subscribed to by the vast majority of people here at Daily Kos, and that is the definition that people are actually responding to when "the accusation" is tossed around.

        •  Then you've completed my argument for me (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          gramofsam1, Chitown Kev
          racism in its actual definition, the one used by 98% of the general public and the one found in most standard dictionaries, is a belief system based on the idea that human beings are more or less worthy based on their genetic heritage, or whatever other immutable characteristic somebody wants to focus on.

          In that sense, I am perfectly comfortable that I don't have a racist background, as per your original question

          "It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us." Walter Benjamin. More sane debate on the Moose

          by Brit on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 08:49:40 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Exactly (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Chitown Kev

            but my real question is how do you know this? I submit that you know it because it's true, not because Denise told you so.

            •  I've known this since I was 10 (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              gramofsam1, CanyonWren, Chitown Kev

              When you get into vicious fights as a teenager because white punks are calling your kid brother 'c**n', 's*mbo, junglebunny etc.... you soon know who's side you're on.

              Indeed, actually before that, even when I was six or seven, before my kid brother came along, other children thought I was Indian. Bullies called me 'Jewboy Jukes'.

              I didn't need to be told by Denise. And I'd find your submission somewhat crass and provocative: except I don't care. I just know it to be untrue.

              "It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us." Walter Benjamin. More sane debate on the Moose

              by Brit on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 09:31:31 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  My apologies if you took it that way (4+ / 0-)

                My whole point is beautifully encapsulated in our very last sentence:

                I just know it to be untrue.

                YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES! YES!

                Exhibit A of you, a white person, exercising your own independent judgment as to whether or not you are in fact a racist. Because you "know" it to be so. It's not subjective, it's not dependent on someone else's interpretation. It is as true as the Earth is round. And all of us as human beings have a responsibility to assert and defend our own version of the truth as well.

                •  I know it to be untrue (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Chitown Kev, evergreen2

                  ...thanks to verifiable events, and empirical proof, even if that was to myself. Rather different from some gestalt annunciation of faith methinks.

                  "It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us." Walter Benjamin. More sane debate on the Moose

                  by Brit on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 10:11:35 AM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Again (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Nada Lemming, Chitown Kev

                    Exactly my point. the "gestalt annunciation of faith" would be the person claiming otherwise without evidence, but based on some essential intuitive knowledge gained from the very fact of one's racial identity. You on the other hand, have established a "verifiable" fact based on "empirical proof". That to me is where the crux of this discussion lies. Whether or not it's in fact possible for a white person to establish "even if to themselves" the verifiable empirical fact of whether or not they are a racist, or alternatively, is this something that can only be determined subjectively by a person of color.

                    •  Now we're into intersubjectivity... (3+ / 0-)

                      ...or even a semi theological debate whether I needs Thou in order to know anything. Interesting topic though, and I see your point. However, beyond the horizon of self reflection there is also a horizon of events. Racism isn't really just a state of mind: it's a series of actions and concrete events.

                      "It is only for the sake of those without hope that hope is given to us." Walter Benjamin. More sane debate on the Moose

                      by Brit on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 10:49:18 AM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

                      •  Paging Martin Buber? (2+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        Brit, Chitown Kev

                        Free associating over here. Work's going very well, let me tell you. It's aggravating, brick-wall research day for me, oh joy...

                      •  Well, not exactly (1+ / 0-)
                        Recommended by:
                        ZhenRen

                        The dictionary/common usage definition is in fact "a state of mind". It's usually defined as "a belief that . . . ". Yes, you can also find definitions that continue with "a system based upon the belief that . . . " but that's really a tautology. It all goes back to a belief, i.e. a state of mind.

                        The "actions and concrete events" are manifestations of that state of mind. I do think you make a good point in your diary that oftentimes the two are confused -- somebody is saying that a given statement is racially insensitive, and then it's taken to mean that the speaker is a racist. I think it's useful to avoid that kind of unnecessary conflict.

                        But in either case, my only point is that there has to be some degree of objectivity introduced into the picture, and that nobody has an exclusive right to determine what the objective truth is. I think that would hold true whether we're talking about a particular terminology, or the speaker/user his or herself.

      •  We all belong to racialist societies (5+ / 0-)

        (well, most of us anyway) we use race as a definer like we use gender as a definer. That doesn't automatically make us racist, we don't have to think that one race excels beyond another just because we acknowledge race.

        There are huge differences between racialism and racism and I bless the day I figured that out. I used to believe that the mere noticing of differing races was racist, it's not. There has to be an assumption made on the basis of race for it to turn to racism.

        The only person I ever met who came close to "color blindness" is mr.uintas. He was raised in Panama during the 50s and 60s and tho' he was a Zonian he was a bad, rebellious, little surfer boy who spend more time in Panama City than in the Zone.

        His friends were of Haitian, Indian, African, Jamaican, French, German, American, all of Central American, descent. He flows through people of other races like water flows in a river, it's home to him and where he is the most comfortable. He may be of German/Welsh heritage buy his roots are in a very multi-racial culture.

        Most of the rest of haven't been raised like that, we tend to pack up in our little neighborhoods of like minded people who look like us and from that isolation comes assumptions and from that comes racism.

        When my white sis married a black man and my niece married a Mexican and our children and families joined I got a taste of what it is like to shop while black, or have someone assume you can't speak English. Racialism vs Racism, I knows it.

        "But much to my surprise when I opened my eyes I was the victim of the great compromise." John Prine

        by high uintas on Mon Sep 19, 2011 at 09:51:02 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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