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.

 

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!

It’s the Black Kids

A brown-skinned kid and a blond, blue eyed kid smile from behind a lap top

A very nice micro-dreadlocked older woman held her umbrella for my daughter to huddle under at Pride. We got talking.

“So where do you live?” She asked me.

“I live in XXXX” (neighborhood with a reputation for rich people/Jews/rich Jewish people.) “With my parents.”

“Oh, I live in the Boston.” She responded. “But my daughter’s in the Metco program, and she goes to school in YYYY” (Neighborhood with a reputation for even richer people, WASPS, and rich WASPS) “Do you have any METCO kids in your school?” She asked my daughter.

“She does,” I replied as my daughter gazed at her in befuddlement. “But I’m not sure which ones are in the Metco program.”

“It’s the black kids!” She responded. Clearly, I was a little slow in her estimation.

No kidding!” I replied with more bite than I intended. “But there are black kids who live in XXXX. So I’m not sure which kids are in the Metco Program.

“Oh.” Clearly, this had never occurred to her.

Not Normal

For kids of different colors. Slogan "It doesn't Matter if you are black, etc.. or normal"

This is a response to Putting the white into multiculturalism

I hate when people say they are colorblind. You do too see color, quit lying! It’s a damn shame that many people would rather make things homogenized than celebrate the diversity of the human experience.

I personally love being in spaces with people from a multiplicity of backgrounds. I feel like when people see all kinds of different people around them they become more humble, more open, and more likely to be receptive to each others experiences.

I am going to admit to feeling a little-bit of that hurt feeling of exclusion when I hear the term POC or WOC, because it is a word that does exclude me. It makes me feel like I must be colorless, blank, clear. But I try to just acknowledge that feeling and move on, because I know how important those terms are–as well as my exclusion from them–to people who need to feel proud of their identity and heritage.

I think it’s a damn shame that white people tend to be so ignorant of our heritage(s). If they did a little research, they might learn that most of Europe was once a collection of Pagan tribes living off the land–until they were brutally enslaved and stripped of their culture by the Romans. Thousands of years of religious and cultural oppression can twist people badly. (Serfdom, enforced Christianity, Witch Trials, etc…)

Those with Irish heritage, in particular, might learn how Saint Patrick “drove the snakes into the sea”. (Thousands of pagans committed suicide rather than convert to Christianity.) How marriage was illegal without the lord’s sanction, leading to the tradition of “jumping the broom,” a tradition that they shared with their fellow black slaves: after the Potato Famine (which would not have been a famine if the British weren’t shipping all of the edible food overseas) forced many into debt-slavery in the New World.

Understanding that my heritage included such abuse helped me deal with my feelings of white guilt. Seeing slavery and institutionalized racism from the context of a (mentally) enslaved people perpetuating their own oppression, I could compare it to a child abuse victim duplicating their own abuse.

Still NOT OKAY. But maybe something that can be understood and healed.

I hope.