End the Frame-war on Racism

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If you ask most white people to define racism they’ll say it is racially based prejudice.

If you ask most people of color to define racism they would tell you that racism is hegemonic systemic white supremacy based on a formula of prejudice+ power.

So who’s right?

Drum-roll please….I’m about to give a brilliant definitive answer…

Both! Neither! It doesn’t matter!

Wait…where are you going? Stick around and let me explain.

First of all, English is a flexible language, and if enough people use a certain word in a certain way–that becomes a legitimate usage of the word!

For example: If enough people use the word literally to mean figuratively–boom! it literally means figuratively–and not in a figurative way.

I would argue that despite either conscious definition, most people use racism fairly fluidly between both definitions, with people “getting” which meaning is implied through context clues. There’s an excellent episode of Blackish (Season 1 Episode 10) that illustrates this nicely. (If you haven’t watched Blackish I highly recommend it!)

But regardless…or irregardless…my point is, that now that we know that both usages of the word are, we can stop frame battling over them, move past the argument of whether or not “black people can be racist.”

Since there is no Black Hegemonic Systematic Oppression, the important conversation is not whether the word racism includes white systemic hegemonic oppression, but what are we–all of us–going to do to make this world a fairer, freer egalitarian society with equality, liberty and justice for all?

What are we going to do to stop cops from killing unarmed kids? Or at least prosecute and jail them if they do? What are we doing to make our schoolrooms and our board rooms representational of the beautiful diversity of this country? What are we doing to acknowledge or privileges and challenge our prejudices?

White people: when you hear a POC say “Black people can’t be racist” just…let it slide. Even if you prefer the first definition–now you know the second one–replace racist with white supremacist in your head and see if you still want to argue  the point. I know, I know, I grind my teeth every time my 12 year old daughter says she “literally died” but you know what, it’s not a battle I can win, or that’s even worth fighting.

If you want to be part of the solution, and not part of the problem, you will accept this second understanding of the word racism, and move on to more constructive conversation.

POC: if you really want to argue with a WP who has just described being beaten up every day at their minority-majority school while being called whitey, latte and snow-bunny that that wasn’t racism–I mean, be my guest–but dismissing peoples lived experiences as just being mean or just prejudice is unlikely to win them over to your side or do much besides give you a headache or a smug feeling of being right.

Post Script: I explained all this to my Girlfriend: Her reaction: “But the first definition is right! It’s in the dictionary!”

Me:

kitty_rage_quit_table_flip_by_shadethenighthunter-d6qs9le

 

Getting Though

A black friend on twitter has asked for help trying to “get through” to his white friend, who has expressed a number of troubling ideas that display blind white privilege at best, outright racism at worst.

After a number of people told him to she was a lazy racist who would never be a real friend, he still was looking for answers.

“What do you think I could say to make her understand? ” He asks.

This post is my response, since I couldn’t fit my thoughts into tweets:

First of all: there may not be anything that you can say to make her understand, understanding requires an open mind, and unless your friend is committed to opening her mind, it may not be possible for her to understand.

Your friend is actively engaging people of different races, and doesn’t understand why everything has to be “all about race.” Now I can’t think of a POC who would not like for everything to stop being all about race. Unfortunately, white people won’t let them. POC have responded by creating their own spaces where instead of being marginalized, their voices are honored and privileged.

Based on what I saw, your friend is one of the statistically few white people who has gone beyond the ubiquitous “black friend” and actually entered POC spaces. Once inside POC spaces she realized that within POC spaces, POC voices are privileged. Not only that, but that some POC made assumptions about her based on her race and may have been pretty mean about it. She has discovered what it feels like (within the narrow confines of POC dominated spaces) to be the minority, to feel silenced, denigrated, and (somewhat) oppressed.

Being the only white person in a POC space is an opportunity. An opportunity to learn what it actually feels like to not have your voice privileged, and sometimes an opportunity to see what it feels like to be on the other side of racial animosity. (Prejudice against the people oppressing you seems like a pretty natural reaction to me) But it’s just a shadow, a pale reflection of the white supremacy that POC face every day.

Your friend can leave POC spaces, and return to the white dominated spaces that take up the majority of the country. She can easily find white silos where she can speak as frankly and with as much racism as she likes.

Meanwhile, while your voice may be privileged in POC circles, but as soon as you step into the rest of White Supremacist America, it is not.

I would encourage your friend to take these feelings of silencing and racial persecution, and multiply them: multiply them by ten, by a hundred, by a million. Imagine the experiences she has had expanded beyond words and hurt feelings to include poverty, violence, death,  or the threat of all three.

By gaining entrance to POC spaces, with the concurrent mixture of welcome and antipathy, your friend has a wonderful opportunity–an opportunity for empathy. But only if she can use her imagination, opens her mind, and get over herself.

 

I Married a White Woman

White hands with wedding rings.

Well not really married…who can afford to lose free health insurance and food stamps by getting married? Committed to, living with, what have you.

Although I have been open to dating all races, for years I lowkey thought I’d end up with a black woman. But when I found myself falling hard for a kind, smart soft white butch. She gets my jokes, she puts up with my faults, and she pays most of my bills. (Nothing + nothing equals nothing, ok?)

I tried to tell myself she’s not “white-white.” her Guayanese co-worker calls her “one of those hood-ass white girls.” She was one of the only white girls in her school growing up, her 20+ year best friend and her ex and her son are all black. But her outlook…it’s still very white.

The first worrying moment was fairly soon after we moved in together: we were trying to choose a movie, and for whatever reason I was feeling the black cinema offerings (out of the admittedly crappy selection on Netflix). She confronted me afterwards, referring especially to a movie I lingered over about drug dealers in the Hood.

“I’m white. I don’t relate to the hood” She told me angrily. “It’s not my experience!”

I was flabbergasted. First of all–she basically did grow up in the hood, if not the drug dealing part. (Although her sister sure is an addict) And second of all–it’s the point of a movie to bring you into things outside of your experience. I’ve never been to South Africa, but I was able to enjoy White Wedding I’ve also never been to space, or the distant past, but I was able to get into Star Wars.

Then recently she asked “who’s Floetry”

Increduous Face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Followed a few days later: “Who’s Nina Simone?”

Really Incredulous Look

“Do you even hang out with older black people?” I asked.

Her: “No why would I?”

Me: (why wouldn’t you?) “Let me learn you something!”

So I made her watch What Happened Miss Simone

Ok, so our shared black media experience starts when we fell in love with Hip Hop in ’92. I could get used to that.

But then I made the mistake of talking to her about Sandra Bland.

Photo Of Sandra Bland

Now, it took me a day or two to even click on a link to find out what happened to Sandra Bland. She was just so beautiful, I couldn’t bear to think of her life ending pointlessly in a Texas Jail cell. When I look at her I see someone I would have wanted as a friend. I see my aunt. I see my cousins. I see a vibrant intelligent soul. I see one more victim of the horrible scourge of white supremacy that gives police near impunity to kill black people and get away with it.

I was so depressed after reading the details of her arrest and death that I could barely get out of bed. Barely made it to physical therapy.

Despite my melatonin deficiency, this video sums up how the news and my Facebook/twitter feeds have had me feeling lately.

So I made the mistake of talking to my Boo about Sandra Bland. She agreed that Sandra’s death was wrong and the fault of the cops. But apparently HER facebook feed was full of different stories from mine. HER feed promised “incontrovertible” “video evidence” that Sandra took her own life.

I still haven’t read one article that backs this claim, but the most striking thing from our conversation was this: she’s not angry. She doesn’t feel the deep, abiding anger in her bones. Just this overwhelming violent angry rage and sorrow as black person after black person gets modern-day lynched for the most imaginary of offense.

When I asked: “What if this was your son?” She asked:”Why did you have to take it there?”

Because she doesn’t look at Sandra, Treyvon, Tamir, and see her son. Even though the cops sure as hell will one day. She sees all these incidents as wrong, but ultimately as single incidents.

She sees these incidents as a white person, a white woman.

I married a white woman.

Let’s Lose Caucasian

Lithograph of 8 variations of "Caucasions"

Dead sexy!

I cringe inside every time someone calls me Caucasian.

Why?

First of all, because it implies heritage in the Caucacus Mountain area, and although my ancestors were a bunch of wandering bastards, to my knowledge none of them lived in that vicinity….

But more importantly, because of the man who coined the word. Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, a German scientist and classical anthropologist. He was influential among racial theorists of his time for dividing people into five different races:

He named white people Causasians because:

I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus, both because its neighborhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men, I mean the Georgian; and because all physiological reasons converge to this, that in that region, if anywhere, it seems we ought with the greatest probability to place the autochthones (birth place) of mankind.[6]

Was he smoking crack? Ok, crack wasn’t invented then, he was probably hitting the laudanum a little too hard!

Anyways, Blumenbach was a major influence on Hitler and US segregationists.

I can’t hear the word Caucasian without linking it to it’s legacy of bigotry and hatred.

I don’t get mad when people call me that, because most people don’t know any better, but I hope we can all educate ourselves and do better!

Let’s lose Caucasian!

You Do Not Get A Laminated Ghetto Pass*

"Thugged out" white chick holding up some kinda medicie

Don't Be this Chick!

Some of you may have read My 10 Rules For White People Who Hang Out With Black People This young thing has broken rule #5, which is a soft rule, you can push that one and slide by, but she really stepped in it by breaking rules #1 and #2:

V-NASTY! FEMALE RAPPER FROM EAST OAKLAND! FOLLOW ME NOW..!! -VNASTY is out! R.I.P LIL NARIO , KERRY , CELL . FREEA ALL MY NIGGAS . IM THE FUCKIN GREATEST !

I really have nothing else to say about this…

SMH

*Thanks to my Man @SonnyBlowdro for calling her out w/this phrase:-)

8 Things Black Women Get Away With That White Women Can’t

So, two months ago Madame Noir published the article: White Women Do It, Too: 8 Things Black Women Can’t Get Away With Doing by LaShaun Williams. This article suavly bypasses such topics as the wage gap, promotions, or, god-forbid–running for President–in favor of covering such crucial issues as “being a slut,” “getting a nose job” and frowning. (Yes, my moody-coworker to the contrary, apparently black women must always smile!)

And, being the up-to-the-moment media-savvy bitch that I am, here is my timely response. Don’t take it too seriously. This is satire people!

8 Things Black Women Get Away With That White Women Can’t

1. Wearing a Fucked-Up Wig in Public

Baby in a Wig looking goofy

Now I wish that more black women liked their natural hair as much as I do, but one can’t help admire the millions of different creative ways that they have found to get their hair “did.” So that being said, why do otherwise impeccably dressed women come into work with a fucked-up wig? I’m not just talking about a lace-front. I’m talking about sticking out everywhere, all messed-up, held back in a sloppy-ass pony-tail using a rubber band fucked-up!

Now, if I go to work and my pony-tail’s messy, at least I can say that I can’t see the back of my head. But what’s their excuse? I mean, they can take that shit off!

 

2. Having a Big Butt

A Huge Green Butt

Why Didn't the Video Chicks Look Like This?

Oh, my, god. Becky, look at her butt.
It is so big. *scoff* She looks like,
one of those rap guys’ girlfriends.
But, you know, who understands those rap guys? *scoff*
They only talk to her, because,
she looks like a total prostitute, ‘kay?
I mean, her butt, is just so big.
I can’t believe it’s just so round, it’s like,
out there, I mean – gross. Look!
She’s just so … black!

Need I say more?

3. Working as a security guard.

Angry Afro Lady

Now don’t get me wrong, but I’m sure that there are some great black female security guards, but when you walk into, say, a place of Higher Education (not that I’m naming any prestigious local Universities, cough, cough) and most of the professors are white, the cooking and cleaning staff is all Hispanic and the security guards are all black–and some of them are so young and skinny they look like they could be knocked over by a feather–you kinda get the sense that some typecasting is going on there.

4. “Acting Black”

Wonder Women "I know you didn't"

Everyone knows the worst thing that a white woman can do is “Act Black”

 

5. Scaring People By Taking Their Earrings Off

Madea Goes to Jail

Don't Make me Take My Earings Off!

When a white woman takes her earrings off, she’s probably going to bed, but when a (black-man-dressed-up-as a) black woman does it, it’s on!

6. Going Out In Public With Her Black Boyfriend/Girlfriend Without Black Women Glaring at Her

Jill Scott looking perturbed

It's Not About You, Jill!

When you do it, that’s normal, when I do it, the person I’m with is “betraying their race” or some bullshit. If someone is attracted to someone of a different race, it’s not a rejection of you! It just means they like that person!

7. Finishing Lists

Sexy sketch w/pic of a white woman

White women are much too busy getting knocked up in a sex tape while talking like babies to finish a little thing like a list!

Singled Out

Petite blond white chick

April Goldberg-Jenkins--Wait--Is she supposed to be Jewish too?

So you know after hearing that my girl Feloni’s song is featured on Single Ladies, I had to check it out! Especially when I heard Queen Latifah was the executive director!

I watched the pilot last night–and I have to say–I have some mixed feelings. My first misgiving was on the title–it sounds like a regressive version of Living Single. Sometimes I think that in the 22nd century we seem to be going backwards, rather than forwards in terms of female empowerment.

Indeed, the show is kinda like a bougie, Hollywood version of living single–actually, it’s more like Girlfriends meets The Game.

It’s a lot like Girlfriends, with Val  standing in for Joan–only in this group of friends, the light bright one is actually white–and nobody let’s her forget it. (I thought she was mixed at first–maybe because of her make-up and that fake looking hair?)

In the opening scene the main characters are comparing musicians–Marvin Gaye’s a don, the women explain, while R. Kelly’s a dog.

“Well I know you like dark chocolate!” one of the men exclaims derisively after April, the white woman voiced her opinion.

And that pretty much set the tone for how that character was treated throughout the show. Throughout the show, the other main characters threw barbs at her for being white and “getting” black men. She seemed to accept this treatment as the price for gaining entrance to the crew. Although it’s clear that they’re supposed to have been friends for a long time, that hostility simmers just below the surface.

This is not a new dynamic for the token wigger. Just look at any Tyler Perry TV show. It was particularly painful to watch in one of his plays, where the white woman was constantly the butt of the jokes, culminating in the punchline that “once you go white–your credit gets tight.” (Totally true, btw)

I just wanted to say that although I am white and most of my friends are black–they never treat me like that! My friends treat me the way that they want to be treated. Sure, race comes up in our conversations, but if anyone makes a joke about my whiteness–it’s me.

If anything, my friends are fiercely protective of me. My friend Tina is the best. She tries to school me in the ways of these black lesbians. If anything, she can be a little too much. I don’t necessarily want to hear about all my haters. I realize that she’s indignant on my behalf–but do I really need to hear about the couple laughing at my dancing and making rude remarks?

If I wasn’t aware of them, maybe it’s because I didn’t want to be.

I would never be friends with people who treated me the way the April is treated.

I realize the therapeutic release that having such a verbal punching bag offers. All the hurt and pain of struggling to make it into the upper middle class in this institutionally racist society–only to have some white woman swoop in and snag the “good black men.”

But put yourself in her shoes: she’s just a woman, a human being, who has certain attractions. If she’s drawn to black men, and the friendship of black women–that’s because, as I do–she sees something special in them.

Presumably, her friends see something special in her, too. But, if she’s supposed to be their friend, it would be nice if they would treat her that way.

It would be nice if television aimed at a black audience modeled POC actually treating their friends–all of their friends–like friends.

UPDATE: Watching the actual episodes, I’ve been pleased that this theme does not play out in the show. Guess they left all that hate in the movie:-)