Racism 101 – The Makeup Class

photo by Lauriel

Editors Note: This piece is a follow-up to another piece written by the same author. Read it, and the comments referenced here, by clicking this link.

by Ahjamu Umi

Although there were several very well thought-out and comprehensive responses to the Racism 101 article, the majority of replies indicate a clear failing grade for the Occupy movement and its supporters around the questions of White supremacy and racism (and its functional existence in American society). Unfortunately, this shouldn’t surprise anyone well-versed in the subject matter. In fact, a wonderful person commented to me that I displayed a very mature perspective regarding the responses. I laughed and then explained to this person that many of those replies contained so much naked and unashamed racism and ignorance that all I need do is point out those contradictions as an educational tool for those serious about learning how racism works. In fact, I should offer a disclaimer I neglected in the first article.

When I write about racism, I’m writing about it from a standpoint of truth and justice. I’m not the least bit concerned whether the truth hurts some of you. I think it’s time to share the pain anyway. For example, one of the critics arrogantly stated that it was my responsibility to appeal to White people on the question of racism. To that I say you are forty years too late, and you must have completely missed the Black Power movement. So, I’ll go into this again from a different perspective.

Since none of the critics could offer a comprehensive argument disproving my definition of racism as an institutional process of systematized discrimination against people of color, I’ll ask this question. After reading the responses and being somewhat amused by the rampant White paternalism dripping within them, why do so many White people have the need and/or desire to defend White supremacy? When people of color attack racism, why do so many of you immediately jump up like pit bulls and defend the racist institutions within America? I don’t understand it because I also recognize that America is an equally sexist society, but I not only feel no need to defend male supremacy, I’m an outspoken critic and organizer against it.

Of course, in order to be an outspoken critic of sexism, I have to, as many of the correct responders indicated, acknowledge my privileged position as a male, in this sexist society. No problem. I freely acknowledge this privilege because my primary desire is to see sexism, like racism, completely eliminated. So since I practice what I preach, I ask all of you so-called progressive people out there, if you really want to build a unified movement against all forms of oppression like you claim you do, why don’t you start by siding with oppressed people and not the White supremacist power structure? You do that by looking at the claims people like me make against racism and then deconstructing that system of oppression. When you do so, you will find that the capitalist system operates under an extremely complex class apparatus, but on every level you look, you will see “middle class” Black people discriminated against more systematically than “middle class” White people. You will see house-less Black people discriminated against more systematically than house-less White people. You will see working class Black women discriminated against more systematically than working class White women. You will understand this science and not permit yourself to be used by the 1% to make stupid arguments like “middle class” Black people are better off than house-less White people. You will learn to study the massive and unquestionable data out there that demonstrates that the same resume, given to a Black man and White man, produces many more job offers for the White man every time. You will learn to analyze data scientifically this way instead of emotionally. This will prevent you from making boneheaded statements, such as calling me a racist because I didn’t prove or disprove some obscure point you are making, while you are clearly unable to substantiate why or how I could even be racist as you claim.

It’s time for us to grow up. It’s time for us to stop being cowardly and selfish. It’s time for us to be accountable to the people in our communities. If you aren’t willing to do that, than you can’t be confused as to why we could and would never organize with you because everything you demonstrate illustrates to us how replacing the current 1% changes things only for you. In fact, if you won’t change, you can count on us doing everything in our power to prevent you from succeeding since your victory only maintains the status quo of oppression for us.

Honestly, I don’t believe this is really going to be a problem for much longer because there are plenty of us who are ready and willing to work with those who are serious about addressing racism in this society. We know there are plenty of you who are serious. We praise you and we welcome a working relationship with you just as we revolutionary-minded men know women welcome us as allies. As for those of you who are determined to parade around as progressives when you are really just promoting White supremacy, you should know you may be fooling yourself. You may be fooling other White people who don’t know better. You may even be fooling some confused people of color, but you aren’t fooling the mass majority of us. We know that in spite of whatever you say (because you seem to be willing to say any and everything to protect your White privilege), we know that you know that you can take us wherever you came from and we will do as well, if not better, than you do. By the same token, in spite of your arrogance, we know, and we know you know, that we can take you where we came from, and you wouldn’t last 25 minutes. This is only so because of the racism we speak of that you so vehemently deny. So, stop wasting valuable time and space. Get serious, and let’s get to work.

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  26 comments for “Racism 101 – The Makeup Class

  1. StJason
    February 9, 2012 at 8:58 PM

    This is one point where I disagree with you, Mr. Umi. I think that most people, Occupiers especially, don’t consciously know what they are doing. It’s not that they are making snap evaluations, they simply are going with what they grew up knowing and not even realizing what it really says.

    Keep speaking truth, Mr. Umi.

  2. Chris
    February 10, 2012 at 9:34 AM

    In your first article, you indicted Occupy as a racist movement (using a controversial contemporary definition of racism that makes it totally okay for non-whites to hate or discriminate against whites) without any kind of substantive explanation of what makes Occupy racist – in short, you insulted and attacked all Occupiers for no apparent reason. Here in your second article, instead of supporting or elaborating on your first article, you accuse your critics of defending white supremacy, consciously disregard the effects of class privilege, and finish by claiming that white people are inferior.

    Charming.

    There are unquestionably people who have something new, insightful, or useful to say on the subject of institutional racism and the Occupy movement, so it’s a pity that we got you instead. The Portland Occupier should be ashamed that they published these articles – though I can imagine that they did so because they were afraid you’d call them racist if they didn’t.

    • rothstei
      February 10, 2012 at 10:36 AM

      Over 400 years of racism inherent in a political, economic, and social system is “for no apparent reason”? Actually, that is the apparent reason. It is just not apparent to everyone.

      The key to understanding this author’s point–I believe–is to stop being “insulted” for five seconds, and actually think about it for a minute. People of color are insulted every day of their lives. Sometimes directly, other times indirectly. When they are looked at suspiciously by police, by bank managers, by store owners, or just by people on the bus, it is an insult. But the minute a person of color says something about it, it’s “oh wow, stop insulting and attacking me!”

      It’s time to stop being offended, and to actually start talking about this. As merely one of the Editorial Group for The Occupier, I can tell you that my personal reason for backing the publication of this piece is in the hopes we could do that. We need people to remind everyone that yes, racism is a problem. Still. Yes, anyone and everyone can be part of racism. If we take offense, and retreat back to our safe beds where no one ever says anything mean about us, then we’re never going to solve this problem.

      • February 10, 2012 at 10:49 AM

        Awesome. Thanks, Adam.

    • StJason
      February 10, 2012 at 10:53 PM

      Let’s use the handicapped example again. Let’s say that instead of racist, Umi called use Enablist. That we don’t do enough to reach out to the blind, that we are overwhelmingly sight-based.

      …would you come back with “…using a controversial contemporary definition of enablism that makes it totally okay for non-sighted to hate or discriminate against the sighted…”?

      This is what is meant by racism.

      • Chris
        February 12, 2012 at 1:48 AM

        Apples and oranges.

        AFAIK, blind people don’t generally accuse sighted people of oppressing them, and they don’t get together in groups and talk about how horrible sighted people are. They haven’t taken an “-ism” that’s defined in terms of hate and prejudice that could apply equally to both blind and sighted people, and then redefined it as something that’s only bad when sighted people do it.

        If you want an accurate analog, try sexism – and yes, I would say much the same thing in that case.

        • rothstei
          February 12, 2012 at 3:13 AM

          So, blind people don’t feel prejudiced against (which sounds highly inaccurate to me) so racism and sexism don’t exist? Good argument.

  3. Chris
    February 10, 2012 at 11:41 AM

    “Over 400 years of racism inherent in a political, economic, and social system is “for no apparent reason”?”

    Yes, absolutely! 400 years of racism is not a reason to attack people not responsible for it – let alone people who participate in and support a movement that attempts to be inclusive and seeks political, social and economic change that would disproportionately benefit marginalized and oppressed people if it were to succeed. The author neglected to provide even a single instance of racism within Occupy to support his claim that Occupy is a racist movement.

    There is no “key” to understanding the author’s point, because the author has made no point, except that institutional racism exists, he hates Whitey, and he’s willing to lash out at anyone in order to let it be known. But in what alternate universe is hurling empty insults and accusations at undeserving strangers a means to opening a productive dialogue? Why on Earth would I want to talk to this man when he offers so much hostility and so little substance?

    You should be apologizing for these articles, not defending them. If you want to start a meaningful conversation about race issues, begin with an author who knows how to have one.

    • Chris
      February 10, 2012 at 11:43 AM

      D’oh – this was meant to be a reply to rothstei.

    • rothstei
      February 10, 2012 at 1:59 PM

      Feel free to submit an article, if you think you are knowledgeable about racism. However, you don’t seem to be approaching this with the urge to make a productive dialogue either, as you are far too concerned about perceived insults. A demand that someone claiming the systemic nature of racism “prove it” with specific instances speaks pretty loudly in and of itself.

      I won’t be apologizing for anything that this site publishes.

  4. Kendall
    February 10, 2012 at 12:34 PM

    Thank you, Ahjamu Umi. You have asked a question, and I’m willing to try to answer. You ask, “why do so many White people have the need and/or desire to defend White supremacy? When people of color attack racism, why do so many of you immediately jump up like pit bulls and defend the racist institutions within America?”

    I cannot speak for all white people, nor all pit bulls. I can say that I am a white woman working to eradicate the toxic system of racism that the whole world has been poisoned by, racism that is the very air I breathe, racism that includes my own privilege that follows me everywhere I go. It appears to me that some white people defend white supremacy, not because they don’t get what racism is, but because they perceive it as a system of advantage for themselves; and they defend racist institutions because they fear they might lose something if the systems are threatened or begin to collapse.

    I think they are wrong. I think every one of us loses when we support a system that was set into place in the time of colonization and slavery, is based on greed, and served the very few, for a very short time. I believe that the SYSTEM of advantage based on the perception of race–like many of our institutionalized systems–is BROKEN. It isn’t serving anybody, not even highly-privileged white men. We all lose–every day–when we are divided from each other by our own prejudice, when our children are poisoned by racism, when some of our children are followed by detectives when they enter stores and others are treated with respect they have not earned, when some are denied education/jobs/housing/access and others get what they have not earned. This twisted, toxic system makes us all sick. It serves no one. Racism weakens us all. There is nothing to gain in rating oppressions. Sexism, classism, ableism, and racism work together inextricably as broken systems. I want to work for the collapse of white supremacy because it is a system built on ignorance and injustice; a system that divides us from each other, that stops us from working together for change that will benefit all of us. Working together to eradicate racism just makes sense. Step one in working to eradicate racism is to see that it exists, to acknowledge that it is part of the environment in which we work together, to acknowledge that we have all grown up in a racist system, and to agree that each of us has work to do inside ourselves and in every group we belong to, in order to change that. I am proud to stand with the people in Occupy who agree that we are all living in a toxic racist system and we want to do all we can to change that.

    Kendall

    • StJason
      February 10, 2012 at 11:09 PM

      I don’t think it’s even that concious Kendall. I honestly think that most privelledged (and there are degrees) don’t even realize what they are doing. I think they are doing what is percieved as normal, and when they get called on it, they are forced to reconcile with their own self-image. I think the number of people who actively think that ‘my race is better then that race’ is quite small. I honestly doubt that when people do something racist, they even think of it in that terms, finding other justifications. “I didn’t hire him because the other guy was more qualified.” or “Yeah, that guy looks sketchy, going to switch to the other side of the street…”. Nobody likes to think they are racist. And there have been some studies recently that show that things like race-awareness happen at a very low, preconcious level.

      That said, the one thing that neuroscientists have found is that the human brain is amazing in it’s ability to change… at all ages. Just like we can learn to go potty in a toilet, or to not stuff ourselves with candy, or to get up early enough to get to work… so to can we learn what we are doing, and act to change that.

  5. Ahjamu
    February 10, 2012 at 7:14 PM

    First, thank you Adam, Trudy, Jamie, and others who understand this issue. Your comments are appreciated and shared with many – believe me. As for this person Chris, your arrogance is so obvious all I can do is laugh at it. You proudly claim I didn’t provide one example of racism within Occupy. All you have to do is read your own response because you provide clear proof of everything I wrote about. Your arrogance is amazing, but you also apparently lack comprehensive skills so I’ll say it again. I’m not someone outside of Occupy looking in with a judgmental telescope. I belong to the Peace & Safety team, Spending Committee, and the Occupy the Dream working group so I have plenty of experience within Occupy and I have walked this earth for almost 50 years so like most Black people who have lived this long and done as much as I’ve done, we’ve learned how to detect racism with fine precision. With posers like you around we have to know how to do that. So, I could go on and one about the subtle aspects of racism within Occupy because Occupy is simply a microcosm of the greater society which is racist to the core, but the point is (which you miss because of the intense resentment and anger you apparently have against Black people and other people of color) that I work within Occupy so it’s absolutely stupid to claim I “hate Whitey.” On the other hand, without even knowing you (thank God!), I can already say that I would bet you probably can’t count 5 Black people who would say they trust you, respect you, and would consider you a solid person. Now, before you attack decent people like Adam, and certainly before you bring your childlike analysis to question my experiences, think about that for a minute you have the ability, which based on what you’ve shown so far, is highly doubtful.

  6. Chris
    February 11, 2012 at 4:29 PM

    “You proudly claim I didn’t provide one example of racism within Occupy.”

    A claim which you do not dispute, apparently.

    “So, I could go on and one about the subtle aspects of racism within Occupy”

    And if you had, your first article might have some merit.

    “the intense resentment and anger you apparently have against Black people and other people of color”

    Yawn. Yet another example of “anyone who disagrees with me is a racist”. Good lord, that one is PLAYED OUT. I’m not even worried that someone might read that and think ill of me because you have no credibility.

    “I work within Occupy so it’s absolutely stupid to claim I “hate Whitey.””

    You work within Occupy – a group that you consider so egregiously racist that you think you don’t even have to explain how, and to which you’ve promised the full opposition of POC unless they do what you want – whatever that is, since you haven’t said.

    Yeah, I don’t see any resentment at all.

  7. February 11, 2012 at 10:51 PM

    From the earlier article by Ahjamu, Chris and Tom Klein asked (using a quote from the article), when and where does Occupy [Portland] “inflict institutionalized discrimination against people of color…?” ….I believe this is an excellent question, and I believe that the answer is this: in meetings, when actions are being planned, when issues of inclusion are mentioned on Facebook or elsewhere in online forums…etc.

    But, to white people, this is not usually even perceptible. It is not, as Jason said, even “conscious.” We don’t experience having “done anything wrong,” so, “what are these complainers talking about? What is this PC bullshit? What victims they see themselves to be!”

    But in fact, something did happen. In fact, we did do something.

    I don’t know about other white people, but my understandings of discrimination, inequality, privilege, and my own place in the world have evolved over time. I used to see only an “incident” level to racism. To me, that’s the level of the potential “fauz pas” that puts fear and guilt in the heart of the white liberal: “did someone use the N-word?” “Did I slip and call her Oriental, instead of Asian?” “Did I tell a joke that reflected a stupid stereotype?”

    Chris, I am guessing that when you ask Ahjamu for examples, you may be asking on this “incident level”—

    But the level where I think stereotyping operates in Occupy (and therefore a de facto discrimination), is on what I would call a “pattern” level–that is, the outlines of the way we move through the world, each of us differently. If I’m white, my “personal bubble” is going to be a lot different than that of a person of color. If I’m a woman, it’s different than that of a man. (Try asking a guy if he’d prefer to be a woman, or a white person if they’d prefer to be black. Sometimes this helps us transcend the bubble, if only momentarily…)

    For the most part, most white people have almost no real interactions with people of color. So, lack of contact IS our experience of race. Given that, it’s going to be easy for me to project that what I feel is what others feel. Or that what I think should be talked about in a meeting is what everyone probably wants to talk about. Or how I see issues and priorities, is going to be a helpful view for someone else….and so we automatically dominate a conversation, based on these three somewhat invisible (yet ubiquitous) assumptions about “reality.”

    While I do have the daily burden of constantly having to disprove limiting female stereotypes, I don’t have and can’t even quite fathom the daily burden of disproving racial stereotypes. But at least I do know that I view the world through a filter, and that mine is not the only one. That’s a start. It’s enough to help me remember to ask questions, to draw people out, to step back and let other people’s leadership flow in. When I go to work sessions of Western States Center, for example, which is marvelously diverse, I just shut the eff up, and see what I can learn. After all, everywhere else I go, we white people have already taken the floor…

    Does Occupy as a movement take “the pattern level” into consideration? Do those who dominate without knowing it, want to know it? And once they know it, do they want to label others (whether they are people of color, women, differently abled, etc.), “complainers” and “whiners” or “haters,” or do they want to step back, listen, and learn?

    • Chris
      February 12, 2012 at 1:33 AM

      Trudy, any example that demonstrates how Occupy is racist would have sufficed, regardless of what “level” it occurred at. None have been provided.

      But I am suspicious of vague claims of “pattern-level” racism, and I will explain why with an example. A few months back, someone alleged somewhere that as whites, and particularly white men, are the dominant members of our society, and acclimated to taking a leadership role, they therefore dominated GAs and other organizational meetings regardless of their intent to do so. Women and minorities said that they felt uncomfortable speaking up because it’s not normally their place to do so.

      So measures were taken to bring those non-white, non-male voices forward. Progressive stacking was used to prioritize people in those groups to ensure they were not silenced or ignored. Affinity groups formed to support them. But ultimately, no one can compel nonwhites and non-males to speak. No one can MAKE them feel comfortable. They must be the ones who ultimately take the initiative to speak and participate.

      Is the mere fact that they’re uncomfortable speaking (regardless of any attempts made to empower them) a form of racism, then? It may well be a symptom of racism, the result of an unequal society, but to say that Occupy is racist because some people feel uncomfortable is absurd. Eventually those marginalized people have to own the responsibility of filling an equal role.

      Occupy has generally tried, as far as it knows how, to be inclusive, specifically calling for support and participation from non-white and non-male people. It has focused on issues like poverty (which disproportionately affects POC) and foreclosures (which disproportionately affect POC) – and despite this, people still call it racist, and pretend that it’s just a bunch of middle class white people looking out for themselves and no one else – a claim with no basis that I can see.

      If anyone has a problem with the way they’re perceived, treated, or represented in Occupy (or indeed anywhere), the onus is on them to communicate their grievances – not by hurling vague accusations and insults and waiting for everyone else to guess why they’re doing it, but by making concrete statements that are actionable or that help us to understand each other better. What I so often see instead is people who deliberately exclude themselves from participation, citing racism as the reason, or who mindlessly attack whites using institutional racism in mainstream society as their justification.

      Frankly, I don’t want to learn from the author. I don’t want a dialogue with him. I don’t want to help him. I don’t really care if he’s been treated unfairly. I’m sure he would describe my attitude as one that perpetuates and defends white supremacy. But to me, it really has nothing to do with culture or skin color or privilege, and everything to do with the fact that I think he’s a hateful asshole with nothing useful to say.

      • rothstei
        February 12, 2012 at 3:09 AM

        I would describe your attitude as one that perpetuates white supremacy. You are in the position where it doesn’t hurt you at all to do nothing, and so you are quite comfortable to do nothing. Congratulations. You’ve defined white privilege.

      • February 12, 2012 at 10:35 PM

        Chris, i meant to put my other reply directly to you…not sure how to do this. 🙂

  8. February 12, 2012 at 9:51 PM

    Chris- I agree with you on one point. I don’t want a dialogue with you either. In fact its too bad so many people have spent so much time and energy here giving you so much feedback. It’s a waste of time because you know everything already. You know so much about me. What a coward. You can’t insult me. I’ve been insulted by far better. I don’t want or need credibility from people like you because I have plenty of credibility with people who matter. People of all races and backgrounds. The best advice I can give you is to take Adam’s suggestion and put your pen where your mouth is because you will definitely be seeing my perspectives again. Not just here, but also at my book signings ( one this Saturday) where many people will be including many of the decent folks from the White community so I hope my presence continues to irritate you because doing so to people like you is not a bad thing in my book 🙂

    • Chris
      February 13, 2012 at 3:40 AM

      Do you think no one will notice your bad writing if you flap your broken wing long enough?

  9. February 12, 2012 at 10:31 PM

    Chris, I appreciate the specificity of your reply. I think I get what is the root of your frustration a bit better than before.

    You mentioned you’d like to have seen me give an example of how Occupy is “racist,” rather than talk about “patterns.” I am hesitant to name names and specific situations, here. I’m fine doing that in direct dialogue with people.

    I think I agree that it’s not all that helpful to say, “Occupy is Racist,” IF that implies that it is MORE racist than anything else. I definitely don’t think it is MORE racist. In fact, I think there is conscious sentiment within Occupy to to tackle all these issues…

    Thank you for acknowledging the pattern (“men being acclimated to taking a leadership role, therefore dominated GA’s”). You said that once the “white men” take corrective measures (stacking, affinity groups, etc., women and people of color should then step up. But, after decades of conditioning, on either side, change is not all that automatic. If you have not been conditioned to be submissive, it must be close to impossible to grasp the power of submissive conditioning. If I HAVE been conditioned to submissiveness, it is difficult for me to grasp why men can’t just “come off it,” and ask questions and be curious about others’ views…

    So there is a tendency for men to say “just do what I do! just speak up! Look, I made space for you (in my venue…)” but I think that when you say this, you are being “autobiographical.” You are responding from your *own* experience base. You are not “in their moccasins.” (and I want to admit: I equally, am not easily in yours).

    so, when you wrote, “”If anyone has a problem with the way they’re perceived, treated, or represented in Occupy…the onus is on them to…take the initiative to speak and participate”… I say yes to this, but with the qualifiers that I’ve described above. The other part of that onus is for those who are privileged in the wider society to also invite that communication, continuously. I DO think we can create safety for each other. I also think that we barely know how to do it. There are a lot more sophisticated ways to get at this than *stacking*…

    I DON’T think that Occupy is “just a bunch of middle class white people looking out for themselves and no one else…” I think Occupy is filled with sincere people who really want to make change, and is struggling to see past it’s blind spots…

    We have a lot of work to do. And of course we would. When we each are born, white or brown, we inherit a legacy of colonial domination and racist supremacy. It is a lot to undo. If we’re white, we’re born into “belonging,” in ways that people of color simply are not. If we’re white, we can’t just expect people of color to elbow their way into “our” space. We need to work together to create an all new space. To do that, I hope we can get off of each other’s backs a bit, breathe, and take it slowly, replace blaming with patience and with the understanding that this takes time.

    • Chris
      February 13, 2012 at 3:39 AM

      “You said that once the “white men” take corrective measures (stacking, affinity groups, etc., women and people of color should then step up. But, after decades of conditioning, on either side, change is not all that automatic.”

      And at what point do you stop laying your woes at the feet of anyone with more privilege than you, and take responsibility for yourself? As I said before, white men can create space, not compel speech. Initiative is taken, not given; the confidence to speak can only be developed by speaking (and this is just as true for white men as it is for anyone).

      “it is difficult for me to grasp why men can’t just “come off it,” and ask questions and be curious about others’ views…”

      Well, because it’s wholly impractical for men to interrogate non-males (and whites non-whites, and so forth) to ensure that their ideas are ferreted out no matter how reticent they are?

      “So there is a tendency for men to say “just do what I do! just speak up! Look, I made space for you (in my venue…)””

      Sorry, no. I never thought of GA or any other Occupy speaking venue as a white or male-owned space that we were “allowing” others to use, and as far as I know no other white or male person did either (though of course I can’t be 100% sure). That’s your feeling or perception; own it.

      “If we’re white, we’re born into “belonging,” in ways that people of color simply are not.”

      I would caution you to remember that there are many forms of privilege, and not all of them are automatically granted to white men. It does suck to be female or a POC in American society. But it also sucks to be poor, or gay, or fat, or ugly, or shy, or mentally ill.

  10. February 13, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    “It does suck to be female or a POC in American society. But it also sucks to be poor, or gay, or fat, or ugly, or shy, or mentally ill.”

    I couldn’t agree more.

    regarding your comment about never seeing the GA as a male dominated space that was “allowing” others in: there is a difference between “intent” and “effect.” I’m certain no one “intends” this. Since when, in any of this, are we talking about “conscious” stuff?

    I don’t know about others you’ve encountered in Occupy, but I know that i, for one, am not “laying my woes at your feet.” I’m describing a SYSTEM. Occupy is a system in microcosm. None of this is personal (at least from me) in any way.

    and as you can (i hope) see, I certainly go beyond a focus on “woes.”

    I see us as “all in the same boat,” with different weights and strengths and capacities, not all of these about quantity. we can pull together, or we can keep “comparing oppressions.” The latter, to me, is absolutely ridiculous. I see men as imprisoned by their privilege and enhanced ability to “own” a space (inadvertantly) as women are imprisoned by their wanting to have more feminine patterns of discourse have equal play (listening, drawing people out, acknowledging the points of others before you make your own…etc.).

    i get it that you feel you’ve “tried,” yet there is still “whining.” This impatience and blaming is part of the problem. it’s not about being a white male. no individual is to blame. we are trying to change a system that naturally provides more status and belonging to some than to others.

    your (apparent) anger and defensiveness, as if this were individual, perplexes me.

  11. February 13, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    I wanted to attempt an answer at your question, “why do so many White people have the need and/or desire to defend White supremacy? When people of color attack racism, why do so many of you immediately jump up like pit bulls and defend the racist institutions within America?”

    One result of the civil rights movement was/is that racists are seen as bad people. And rightly so. So, many white children are conditioned to believe any racist is bad. What they have *not* been taught is that there is a difference between privlidge, racist structures, White supremicy, and the purposefully (vs. passively) racist individual. Those who jump up in pitbull defense are not hearing your points about the problem with the system and those who perpetuate it. They are, based on what they’ve been taught to believe, hearing you say “you are a bad person.” People do not like to be called bad, especially when they didn’t perform an action they consider to be bad.

    So, in order to help people who react this way, we need to help them divorce the feeling of personal attacks from reality. It is much harder to see repression when one is in the position of passive power. When what they see daily enforces who they are, it can be a real challenge to notice that what they see daily also represses who they aren’t.

    If we are to overcome racism, and any other form or Rankism we need to recognize our own weaknesses, our positions of power and weaknesses, and purposefully and thoughtfully dismantle systems that enforce unfair power structures.

  12. Chris
    February 14, 2012 at 12:58 PM

    “regarding your comment about never seeing the GA as a male dominated space that was “allowing” others in: there is a difference between “intent” and “effect.””

    You say that “the system” conditions you to treat the GA as a male space. Alright; I will accept that you feel that way. But “the system” is merely the sum of its parts, so which parts are causing this conditioning? Is it the GA process? Is it the men? Or are you the one who’s perpetuating sexism at the GA by holding on to inappropriate assumptions that limit you?

    “I don’t know about others you’ve encountered in Occupy, but I know that i, for one, am not “laying my woes at your feet.””

    Sure you are. You told me that you see the GA as a male space. But what is this to me? Why should I care? Why would you even tell me this?

    The answer is that you want something from me: maybe emotional support, maybe validation for your perspective, or maybe you want me to change my behavior.

    The framing enshrined by the women’s and civil rights movements says that there is an oppressed group and an oppressor group which has some privilege that the oppressed group lacks. The oppressed group raises grievances or makes demands that the oppressor group is obligated to respond to; those within the oppressor group who do not respond appropriately are considered unvirtuous for failing to meet their social obligations.

    So, by telling me that you see the GA as a male space, the standard framing says that you are obligating me to respond to defend my virtue; in this context, the appropriate response appears to be to attempt to change the ownership of that space. But there’s another problem here: in order to make GA non-sexist and reclaim my virtue, I have to act to change the way you perceive that space, which I can’t do, because you own your feelings and perceptions – so not only have you placed an unreasonable obligation on me, but by doing so you have harmed my social standing. The only way I can prevent that social harm now is to either exclude myself from the oppressor group: “It’s not my fault, I’m a feminist!” – or invalidate you: “There’s nothing wrong. Stop whining.”

    Now, judging from what you’ve written here, I think you probably don’t like that framing. But in the absence of another frame, which you haven’t done a very good job of providing (if I may say so), I’m going to apply the standard by default – which means that since you are in the oppressed group and I am in the oppressor group, you have harmed me. How can that not be individual? Does it really matter whether that harm is direct or the result of my association with the oppressor group?

    I’ve gotten off topic by talking about sexism, but racism works the same way. The author, presumably a POC, speaks about racism to an audience made up mostly of white people, oppressors. He(?) accuses Occupy of racism; this places an obligation upon the Occupy supporters within the oppressor group to respond or be socially harmed (harming Occupy by association). But because the author neglects to explain how Occupy is racist or propose any remedy, he places an unfulfillable obligation on white Occupiers, making his accusation an attack against which the only defenses are self-exclusion or invalidation.

    That’s not to say that his articles were good and I’m only saying otherwise because I don’t want to be called racist. They were a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing and their publication demonstrates the Occupier’s low editorial standards (as I’ve already said). But if he really wants an explanation for why people got so defensive, I have just provided one.

  13. February 14, 2012 at 10:02 PM

    Chris,
    I think the filter you have is, “someone said I’m a bad person,” as Amberlynne wisely pointed out in the post above. but in fact, no one is even talking about you, or any other individual.

    You wondered if I wanted anything from you?
    I did! Dialogue!

    We can’t have that. So, I’m done

    T.

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