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View Diary: The subtle racism of friends and allies (106 comments)

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  •  I Could Have Phrased That Better (6+ / 0-)

    If I called myself a non-racist but literally everyone who talked to me walked away thinking, "That guy is a racist," that would be a different story, and I'm sure those people are out there.

    But from what I know about my reputation, that isn't it.  I strive to treat everyone the same.  When I'm being a dick, I'm being a dick to everybody.  When I'm being nice, I'm being nice to everybody.  When I'm being indifferent... I'm guessing you get the idea.

    Intent is ALL that matters.  Period.  Anyone who gets offended by something OTHER than what was intended, that is THEIR problem, not anybody elses.  Now if someone tells me, "That word / phrase / etc really upsets me and I wish you wouldn't use it," or, "I think what you said was hurtful because of ______" obviously I'm human and if they are someone I care about I can decide not to say that anymore.  But that's just me looking out for someone I care about and avoiding one of their hangups.  It isn't me realizing I was actually racist / sexist / whatever and fixing it, because I'm not any of those things.

    Free Beer, Hot Wings, Eric Zane, Producer Joe, and Steve For President. OK Not Steve, but he can be chauffer or something.

    by TooFolkGR on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:28:34 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  It was phrased fine. (0+ / 0-)

      Your meaning was readily apparent.  To the extent one is concerned about a misreading that leads to effects, they reproduce the error you note in your comment.

      We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

      by burrow owl on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:35:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well I Know Most of my Phrasing is in Absolutes (0+ / 0-)

        But obviously I'm not saying, "If I say GET OUT OF THE WAY N*******" it's cool because I'm not a racist.  There are words, phrases, and ideas that ARE racist, where there's only one way to intend them.  And I wasn't saying I should have a free pass on those because I'm not a racist.

        That's also why I added the second bit about if someone tells me I'm upsetting or hurting them, I'm not going to be an obstinant dick about it if it's someone I care about.  But I just don't think of it as, "This is me correcting my racism."  

        Free Beer, Hot Wings, Eric Zane, Producer Joe, and Steve For President. OK Not Steve, but he can be chauffer or something.

        by TooFolkGR on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:41:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'd apply the situation (7+ / 0-)

      Donna described to what you're saying. If the woman in question was able to listen to what was being said and expand her understanding about the issues of unemployment on a reservation, I think folks could overlook her intent because it comes out of ignorance.

      That's why I think her final statement is the one that exposed her racism much more than her lack of understanding about a particular issue.

      Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

      by NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:36:33 AM PDT

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      •  What I see is lack of empathy. (10+ / 0-)

        The white person couldn't and wouldn't put herself mentally on a reservation, jobless and hungry.

        Empathy is the fatal blow to many prejudices.

        Wee-wee'd up, fired up, ready to go!

        by droogie6655321 on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:41:29 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Completely Agree (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kj in missouri

          And a lack of empathy (in my opinion) doesn't become racism or one of its constructs simply because the person you're not empathizing with isn't white.  I have a white friend who hasn't had a job in three years.  I think he's a lazy, shiftless moocher.  I'm sure there ARE challenges in his life and legitimate reasons he's got for why he isn't working, but I can't help thinking that those challenges can't be THAT significant.

          Would I suddenly be a racist if I felt the EXACT same way about him and he were black?

          I think this is part of the construct that can support societal racism but there's also a risk of backlash when you tell someone, "See because you don't understand, that's racism."  I don't think it gets us closer to fixing the problem.

          Free Beer, Hot Wings, Eric Zane, Producer Joe, and Steve For President. OK Not Steve, but he can be chauffer or something.

          by TooFolkGR on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:44:39 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I see what you're saying. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            kj in missouri, miss SPED

            No, you would not be a racist if you noticed that a black man who is a lazy mooch is, in fact, a lazy mooch. You judged him on the kind of person he is.

            Wee-wee'd up, fired up, ready to go!

            by droogie6655321 on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:46:16 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  . (0+ / 0-)

            interesting example and one to think on.   our judgments of 'others' in these times, especially the unemployed, require (of me, anyway) self-scrutiny.

            right now, i'm employed.  but which panhandlers i chose to hand $$ to everyday (or chose not to hand $$) is entirely based on what i think their "story" is.  and since i have no way of knowing what the stories are, i'm making them up based on judgment, image, eyes.

            "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

            by kj in missouri on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 06:08:09 PM PDT

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        •  I actually disagree.. (4+ / 0-)

          It was those last lines about white people not needing to listen and how she expected gratitude for doing so that were the content of the racism. She was seeing things in an superior/inferior way. And that was what was so painful to Donna...because she thought they were friends.  

          Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is important that you do it. - Mahatma Gandhi

          by NLinStPaul on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:56:02 AM PDT

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        •  If she could imagine herself on the reservation (0+ / 0-)

          and that reservation had available jobs, then she'd be empathetic and within reason to be a scold.  So the issue isn't empathy, per se, but a factual misunderstanding about employment on the reservation.

          We are building a team that is continuously being built. - Sarah Palin

          by burrow owl on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:00:53 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Except the factual misunderstanding exists (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NLinStPaul

            because of her lack of empathy.  Had she been making an effort to understand, she'd have listened to the facts when they were provided her rather than terming them "excuses".  

            "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

            by gustynpip on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:14:56 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Disagree with idea that the issue is (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NLinStPaul, amazinggrace

            "a factual misunderstanding about employment on the reservation."

            I think the issue is that the woman revealed herself to be operating from a deep belief in a framework of inferiority/superiority.  

            When that is operating, facts alone are never enough to change the relationship.  

            "Never say you know the last word about any human heart, except maybe Max Baucus." - Henry James, with apologies.

            by RadioGirl on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:21:42 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  well said. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NLinStPaul, etbnc

          Empathy is the fatal blow to many prejudices.

          a 'there but the grace go i.'

          "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

          by kj in missouri on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 06:03:07 PM PDT

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    •  Words as signals of intent (6+ / 0-)

      I've been thinking a lot lately about the ways that words signal intent, the ways we interpret those signals, and the ways we respond.

      I suspect some readers may interpret a couple of your word signals differently than you might intend (even in clarifying) but I think this begins to explore an interesting area.

      Thanks for bringing some attention to the idea of words as signals of intent.

      Cheers

      •  I Think You're Absolutely Right (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        kj in missouri, NLinStPaul

        When I hear words that would typically upset me, I always talk to the speaker/writer about it.  What I most often find is that I'm picking up on something they weren't trying to telegraph, or whatever.  Until I know for sure, I don't feel like there's any point in me being angry or hurt.

        Free Beer, Hot Wings, Eric Zane, Producer Joe, and Steve For President. OK Not Steve, but he can be chauffer or something.

        by TooFolkGR on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 10:46:05 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  But often words trigger emotions that people (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          kj in missouri, NLinStPaul, TooFolkGR

          have a difficult time getting past to do the intellectual, calm discussion that would help.  They feel and often don't understand why they feel it.  The listener can no more delve into their pshycosis to either fully understand or explain anymore than can the speaker.

          You said above that intent is all that matters.  It might be all that matters to you, but I think in life, you're going to find that intent is often the least important thing.  You also say, however, that when someone you care about has let you know that you using a certain word or phrase offends them, you will not use it to avoid hurting them.  And I guess that's where the difference is.  You're willing to listen and change your behavior, and therefore your intent and your delivery both become nonoffensive.  

          "If you trust you are not critical; if you are critical you do not trust" by our own Dauphin

          by gustynpip on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 11:21:28 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  ohhhh (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        etbnc

        any idea framed like this:  "words as signals of intent" are going to draw me in like... well like a moth to a flame, might as well get all clichie about it.   ;-)    

        i revere words, so i truly dig that phrase/idea/intent/signal, etbnc.   thanks.  :-)

        "From single strands of light we build our webs." ~kj

        by kj in missouri on Tue Sep 15, 2009 at 06:20:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I respectfully disagree (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NLinStPaul, QES

      with almost all of this:

      Intent is ALL that matters.  Period.  Anyone who gets offended by something OTHER than what was intended, that is THEIR problem, not anybody elses.  Now if someone tells me, "That word / phrase / etc really upsets me and I wish you wouldn't use it," or, "I think what you said was hurtful because of ____" obviously I'm human and if they are someone I care about I can decide not to say that anymore.  But that's just me looking out for someone I care about and avoiding one of their hangups.  It isn't me realizing I was actually racist / sexist / whatever and fixing it, because I'm not any of those things.

      Your white [male] privilege necessarily informs your intent, inspite of how you want to perceive yourself. For me, that's the most important point of this diary -

      The voice of [white] privilege thinks no seat is unavailable, no land unconquerable, no food untasteable, no right deniable, no experience out of reach [and no racism unless intended]

      Please believe me when I say I mean no disrespect to you when I say this - the fact you look out for those you care about is honorable. But the insidiousness and evil of racism is the fact it is "an overarching system of power."

      I don't consider myself a racist either, but I know I am and have said/felt/thought racist thoughts over the years, some of which I've been called on (and not always gently). Instead of anger and denial, when I recognize or am forced to recognize my "inner racist," I feel shame and regret - and, finally, grateful for a chance to learn.

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