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Please sign and share this petition to let Cibu International and Ratner Companies (Hair Cuttery, Bubbles, et al.) know that their offensive product names (ESPECIALLY “Miso Knotty”) should be changed immediately! Thank you.
Since Tuesday, most of my social media feeds have been full of laments claiming the end is nigh, God’s judgment is on its way. Thanks to this election, America will no longer be the hope of the world. Leaving aside that I believe there’s only one ultimate hope of the world, Jesus, I have to say I’ve been disappointed, near-distraught by the distress of my people over the President’s re-election.
Kate reminded me Tuesday (and Wednesday) of Psalm 146 and it’s command to put not our trust in princes. Yet my brothers and sisters in the white evangelical community are in literal mourning over this election. Yesterday I even heard a DJ on the local Christian radio station consoling her audience, saying “God wasn’t surprised by these results. He’s still on the throne.” (which, for those unfamiliar with our ways, is how we usually comfort those shocked by horrible tragedies. I first heard this comment after 9/11 for instance.)
What we’re missing in our grief over here is the large numbers of people of color who wanted President Obama to win:
Obama’s share of each of those blocs was overwhelming: 93 percent of African-Americans, 71 percent of Latinos, 73 percent of Asians, 55 percent of the ladies, and 60 percent of the kids. New York Magazine
There were lots of white Christians, too, voting for Obama, but in our white evangelical communities (78 percent voting for Romney), we’re completely ignorant of the fact that Christians of color went to the polls and made a different (not immoral, different) choice.
To me, this doesn’t say that we as a Church have an ideological divide to overcome. We have a racial one. And the longer we white Christians (evangelical, Catholic, and everywhere all over/in between) claim our political choices are the only ones Christ would approve of, the bigger that gap between us and people of color becomes.
So, I have family visiting. I wouldn’t recommend watching election returns* with your very knee-jerk conservative-libertarian family members, or discussing immigration with them, unless the liquor at your house is plentiful. I’ve been getting through the week with wine and chocolate, but every night I ask myself why I’ve got nothing harder around.
At some point I may write a longer postmortem about this visit, but for now I just wanted to put it out there that my family (who I don’t see very often, due to geography) is/has become way more openly, unapologetically racist in recent years than I remember from childhood, and it’s been freaking me out all week. How racist are they, you ask? Well, someone used the term “wetback” in a ha-ha/nostalgic sort of manner, whilst advocating for self-deportation of “people who know they’re illegal” and ranting about how “it USED to be a PRIVILEGE to be an American citizen.” I mean. This is just a sample of the madness I’ve been dealing with this week. It’s the tip of the crazy iceberg.
And the thing is, I really can’t debate things like that rationally. Logic goes out the window. As soon as my husband or I point out an Actual Fact, someone comes back with “well why don’t we just OPEN THE BORDERS and LET ALL THE MURDERERS VOTE!”
So, given that there’s no chance to challenge any of these opinions using calm, factual discussion, and really no chance of changing people’s minds…I guess I’m looking for other advice on how to deal with my family and their comments. Especially when this stuff begins to happen, as it inevitably will, in front of my two kids. Because having children raises the stakes quite a bit, and my family filters NOTHING. We just kind of let it all hang out. It’s kind of a point of pride.
And if you advocate limiting or cutting off contact due to crazy unapologetic racism, I’d like to hear about that too. In all seriousness. I don’t know if that is on the table for me, right now, with these particular family members, but I find myself wondering more and more if it’s ever justified. Have you done it yourself? Would you? Under what conditions? How bad does it have to be before you say, you know what, my kids just can’t be around THIS?
* It’s not being talked/written about as much as I would like, but: President Obama won 73% of the Asian vote in 2012. I’m basically going to be talking about this from now until the end of time. I want it on my tombstone — you all are my witnesses.
You have to watch this clip of Melissa Harris-Perry sounding off on poverty in America. Passionate and full of truth:
Check out the full segment on MSNBC.
Hello, hello. Lots of stuff has been going on that I’ve obviously not been blogging about. Two things this week have gotten my dander up; one of them even led to a very interesting, genuinely productive, 52-comment long Facebook discussion. It’s this news release about a new study from Tufts University researchers about how racism is perceived by black and white study participants:
Whites believe that they have replaced blacks as the primary victims of racial discrimination in contemporary America, according to a new study from researchers at Tufts University’s School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School. The findings, say the authors, show that America has not achieved the “post-racial” society that some predicted in the wake of Barack Obama’s election.
Both whites and blacks agree that anti-black racism has decreased over the last 60 years, according to the study. However, whites believe that anti-white racism has increased and is now a bigger problem than anti-black racism.
“It’s a pretty surprising finding when you think of the wide range of disparities that still exist in society, most of which show black Americans with worse outcomes than whites in areas such as income, home ownership, health and employment,” said Tufts Associate Professor of Psychology Samuel Sommers, Ph.D., co-author of “Whites See Racism as a Zero-sum Game that They Are Now Losing,” which appears in the May 2011 issue of the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science.
Not shocking at all that the white people surveyed felt this way. Still very frustrating, of course. But I was glad that the ensuring discussion I had with friends ended up being about racism and white people’s lack of understanding about it, and not so-called “reverse racism.” As one of my (white) friends said, “I think ‘not understanding racism’ is definitely the culprit — not so much just because of privilege and how it exempts you from certain experiences, but because ‘limited access to certain experiences’ or anything to do with privilege is NOT the definition of racism that most (white) people have been taught. In school and media, racism is basically synonymous with prejudice or discrimination, and most of the kid-aimed stuff is on the level of ‘racist people think other people are not real human beings,’ or ‘racist people think looking different is bad,’ or ‘racist people think you can treat people differently for a given reason,’ and this kind of stuff, which truly most people of our time have been educated to (at least consciously) reject. And prejudice is obviously something that everyone experiences to one degree or another. Then this understanding can persist because most white people don’t discuss the experience of racism (!!! how MORtifying!) with POC. And it takes a while to learn to see.”
This led to many spin-off discussions, one of them related to how race is discussed (or NOT discussed) with children and youth in the classroom — and at home. I think for many parents, the assumption is that schools are “safe spaces” where racism and prejudice will not be an issue; or, if it is, will be perpetrated not by “good kids” but by kids who may already be seen as “lost causes” — just as those adults perceived as “genuine racists” are thought to be rare and irredeemable.
There is also the belief that if well-intentioned parents don’t “raise their child to be a racist” (who does that, anyway?), then their mostly unspoken good intentions will somehow outweigh all of the other negative and prejudiced influences young people are subject to. As if it’s about them and their family and what’s “in their hearts,” as opposed to reality and what is actually said and done.
We talk a good game about how evolved we are, but we still aren’t giving our kids the basic tools they need to be in a school (or any other) environment and deal with these issues. Schools aren’t “safe spaces” — not for a lot of kids — and they never have been. Schools are exactly the places where most people of color first experience racism and/or prejudice. As soon as we’re old enough to begin noticing, society conditions and teaches us to be hugely insensitive to and ignorant of the experiences of ANYONE not exactly like us — this is the default we’re all subject to.
Related to white privilege as default and how it reaches our children, today I came across this blog post by Linda Sue Park (Newbery Award-winning author of A Single Shard and other novels as well as children’s books; see our kids’ reading list!), bringing my attention to NPR’s “100 Best-Ever Young Adult Novels.” Linda wrote:
The initial nominations were made by NPR listeners/readers. 1200 titles were proffered. A panel of judges narrowed the list to 235, and it was once again listeners/readers who voted for that top 100.
Anybody see a potential problem here?
I listen to NPR. I love it. It’s on permalock on my car radio. And I would wager that its demographic is: educated, middle-class or wealthier…and *mostly white.*
I have tremendous respect for the panel that narrowed the list; I have worked with some of them personally. But if NPR had been serious about that ‘very best’ label — as opposed to ‘very best if you’re white, educated, and middle-class’ — it should have attempted a vital corrective by selecting a panel that included at least one person of color.
People get tetchy about this. Of course white gatekeepers are capable of recognizing quality work by people of color–it happens ‘all the time’.
BUT NOT OFTEN ENOUGH.
When we reflect on this question, our focus as a culture is almost always on the ‘creators’–grants and awards and media coverage for authors and illustrators of color. These efforts are essential and laudable.
But to me, what gets almost completely ignored is the absolute necessity of people of color in the gatekeeping roles. The editors & publishers. Reviewers, critics, commentators. Academics. Booksellers. Librarians. Um, panelists. We will NEVER achieve the diversity we seek in books for teens and younger readers until the gatekeepers themselves reflect that diversity.
To have more people of color in these roles would result in a paradigm shift: Not simply more books by and about people of color, but better and more diverse books for everyone.
Park also linked to another blog post by Shaker Laurie, a teacher in Minnesota, who sums it up perfectly:
As a teacher of reading and English in schools with large populations of students of color, young adult fiction about characters of color is high on my radar. Many of my students don’t see themselves as readers when they walk into my classroom. Reader identity and engagement are a huge component of the work we do as we address student reading problems, and when students are handed books full of characters that are unlike them racially, culturally, and socio-economically, the chasm between their picture of themselves and their idea of books and who books are for only widens…
Such an exclusive list isn’t just problematic for teens of color; when white teens are told that the ‘good’ books are all about white people, it normalizes the white experience and bolsters white privilege. For me, growing up in a community that was 99% white, reading was one of the first ways I was able to interact with narratives of people of color. Books lay a foundation on which kids can reflect on social justice and understand that the lives, conflicts, and struggles of people of color are important—that people of color are equal actors in the world. Yes, kids want to read about themselves, and that is important, but it is also critical for kids living with privilege to read about people living without those privileges, not just for some requisite ‘exposure to diversity,’ but because, if we want them to be committed to changing the world, they have to understand it needs to change.
I realize I do go on about the lack diversity in literature, especially young adult fiction, and Linda’s point about “gatekeepers” is an important one. Of course, you might say — and you’d be right — there are bigger fish to fry when it comes to racist influences on our children and in our society. But it’s a maddening phenomenon because it is one more thing teaching and contributing to and normalizing a white-centric view of the world — even imaginary worlds. Kids and teens in the real world deserve something a whole lot better.
As best I can remember, it started in high school. Being told I don’t exist, or at least that my understanding of myself either wasn’t possible or wasn’t allowed. The form looked something like this:
RACE (choose one)
- Caucasian (non-Hispanic)
- African American
- Asian American/Pacific Islander
- Native American
I sat in my desk, puzzled. I had no idea what I was supposed to check. I approached the teacher and asked him what he thought I was supposed to check. He advised me to pick whichever option seemed right to me. The other kids in my predominantly white class didn’t seem to be having this problem. They were already filling out other sections of the form. I returned to my desk, still puzzled. I am white, I thought, looking at my absurdly pasty skin. But I am hispanic, I argued with myself. OK, but I’m not Latino, I countered. Yes, but the form means Hispanic and/or Latino. I cannot check “non-Hispanic,” that definitely wouldn’t be true. I checked “Hispanic/Latino.” I would not deny that dimension of my identity.
Obviously there were other problems with this form. There was, for example, no multiracial option to speak of. But the problem for me was that it confused race and ethnicity, requiring me to choose between being white or being hispanic. The form told me that I don’t exist, or at least that my understanding of myself either wasn’t possible or wasn’t allowed.
Hispanic is not a race. Hispanic people come in all human colors. The t-shirt I acquired at a hispanic multicultural festival in college, however simplistic, attempted to illustrate this: a black person, a yellow person, a white person, and a red person leaping into a bowl with the caption “Diverse ingredients make the best salsa.” We are descended from peoples of many nations and cultures from every populated continent. Many of us are multiracial.
Some of us are white. In 2010, the majority of American hispanics (53%) identified themselves as white to the U.S. Census Bureau (see Table 2 here). I am a white hispanic woman, even when forms don’t allow it. I’ve got the knapsack to prove it. But despite the high profiles of people such as Cameron Diaz, Martin Sheen, and Alexis Bledel, it seems that a lot of Americans still haven’t caught on. They think of “hispanic” as a race, a race that excludes us from being white and receiving white privilege.
So the denial of my existence continues. Almost a month after Trayvon Martin was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, I started seeing claims here and there that the media had “invented” the concept of a “white hispanic.”
“He’s only a ‘white Hispanic’,” said Bernard Goldberg, “because they need the word ‘white’ to further the storyline, which is ‘white, probably racist vigilante shoots unarmed black kid.’”
“The media then created a special rubric ‘white Hispanic,’” wrote Victor Davis Hanson, “when its narrative of white-on-black crime was endangered by new information that Mr. Zimmerman had a Latino mother, although it normally does not use such terminology for others of mixed ancestry — Barack Obama himself being a good example.”
A Real Clear Politics headline explicitly shouted, “The Media’s Latest Invention: ‘White Hispanic.’”
At least some of the sources of this narrative got the timeline right, as Hanson did, even if they got many other things wrong. Others, such as Goldberg, didn’t even seem to get the timeline correct. Here’s what really happened, chronologically speaking:
Looking at the chronology, it’s clear that the media didn’t add “white” to “hispanic” in order to fabricate a “white-on-black crime” story. George Zimmerman was already identified by police as a white man who shot an unarmed black teenager, and reporters later modified Zimmerman’s race with his ethnicity to accommodate his father’s elaboration.
Comments like Hanson’s frustrated me in more than one way. “White hispanic” is not some novel invention of the media. It’s me. Being hispanic doesn’t mean I’m not white and don’t receive white privilege. For the love of God, quit telling me I don’t exist!
But I am also pissed off that Hanson, among others, adopted Robert Zimmerman’s flawed reasoning. The shooter’s father has suggested that hispanics cannot participate in white privilege, are somehow immune to the prevailing racial prejudices of our culture, and cannot act on those prejudices in ways detrimental to people of color. In reality, however, we can and we often do. Because I do exist, I know this from personal experience, and I have something to say. Those of us who are white are often the recipients of white privilege, whether we want it or not, even if some of us contend with other prejudices and discrimination against us on the basis of ethnicity. Everyone imbibes the prevailing racial prejudices and stereotypes of our culture, even if we harbor other racial prejudices, even if we dislike and resist the prevailing prejudices, even if we have family members and friends mitigating their influence on our thinking and acting. Kenneth and Mamie Clark’s “doll tests” illustrated that even black people can internalize anti-black prejudices to their own detriment. Hispanic people like me and George Zimmerman are not any more immune.
When people raise the issue of Zimmerman being a “white Hispanic,” to me that does not erase the fact that an African American male was targeted and killed. You could be a Latino or white or Asian and still wrongly target an African American male. That’s the issue that we’re looking at…. Whether you’re a black or white Latino, indigenous or mestizo, once you step into the U.S., you begin to get racialized by the way the U.S. defines whiteness because of the way in which the country operates. Even a white Latino at some point gets racialized in the United States, some also get privileges because of the way they look. There is a dominant race framework that everyone is fitting into, that society is defining. That’s the world that we live in. I have a son who has a black mother and a Latino father. And culturally he may be raised with the traditions of Louisiana, Costa Rica and Mexico, but at the end of the day, he’s not gonna be judged by those cultural traditions, he’s going to be judged by what he looks like. (Alberto Retana)
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged african american, culture, denial, derailment, ethnicity, George Zimmerman, internalized racism, intersectionality, latino/hispanic, prejudice, race, racialization, racism, Sanford, stereotypes, Trayvon Martin, violence, white hispanic, white privilege, whiteness | Leave a Comment »
Almost ten years ago, I was a new teacher in a mostly-white, private Christian school. Most of my courses were American literature, but in my youth and zeal, I decided to take on a number of electives. One of the new courses I taught was Speech and Debate. It had been but a year since 9-11 and many of my students wanted to give speeches on issues related to terrorism or war. Knowing this, I decided to have them read an essay that pertained to racial profiling, hoping to round out their understanding of current events. The essay was written by an Arab man, but it was written in the 1980′s at the height of American hijacking fears. All of my students wrestled with the author’s point-of-view, struggling to balance their limited sound-bite-fed knowledge of national security issues against his account of being profiled, an obvious act of injustice. The kids were starting to break down some of their preconceptions about race and privilege and were genuinely open to confronting the derailments that traditionally held them captive in conversations about race.
I was excited and wanted to see more of this. In one of my English courses, I had students read an essay written by a black man on the same topic. He spoke of having to cross the street to avoid walking directly behind a white woman. But, unlike my debate students, these students immediately balked at the author’s account. They called him “paranoid” and insisted that he was making too much of things. One of my students, one of the only black members of his class, turned around and addressed his white classmates. He told them about how his mom encouraged him not to wear hats or hooded jackets in a store. He had been educated to keep a low profile and to maintain a respectful tone in the face of authority figures who would not do him the same courtesy. My students listened and empathized, but there were several who remained skeptical that racial profiling was a persistent problem in America, or even an injustice at all.
When Trayvon Martin was killed, I thought about those two classroom situations. Like many of us, I had a visceral response to the news. The anti-racist in me felt helpless and hopeless in the days that followed. Tope’s post on the subject slayed me. As did Jim Vance’s honest and heartfelt editorial commentary on “The Talk” on our local news. I was reminded of my student’s courage in informing his white peers and I began to hope that perhaps we had arrived at a moment where white folks could “get it” when it came to racial profiling, gun violence, or being a perpetual target.
Call it slacktivism if you will, but I started posting everything I could find on the subject on Facebook. I deliberately chose articles that were well-researched or editorials that provided a clear, truthful, but winsome perspective, hoping that my white friends would join the call for justice in Trayvon’s killing. I even sought out faith-based commentary from a pastor, thinking that would appeal to my white Christian friends who remain ignorant of their privilege. A few friends at church told me that the things I was posting “made me think.” I got a couple compliments from unexpected people about the articles I’d posted. Still, I was doubtful that these ideas were taking root. In the anti-racist fight, even in my own prejudiced heart and mind, it’s often one step forward, two steps back.
It’s been a couple months now, and most of the talk on this topic has slowed in my Facebook news feed. Occasionally, a friend will post something as the case against George Zimmerman moves forward, but there is no longer a frantic flurry of commentary on the case as there was in those early weeks. Just recently, I began to see a new conversation on these topics emerge among some of my friends. Unfortunately, the discussion about race, injustice, vigilantism, etc. has been derailed by two common white complaints:
1) White people are killed and no one makes this big a fuss about it.
I saw this sentiment expressed in conjunction with a blog post about the shooting death of UNC student Eve Carson. The blogger writes:
Was she profiled? You bet she was. Eve was profiled as a Rich, Blue -Eyed, Blond Haired, White Girl. Were there protests, marches and outraged politicians speaking out for her? Did Barack call her family? Why is it about race only if the victim is black? Why aren’t we outraged when ANY kid is murdered? As a nation, have we been silenced by a politically correct whip? Lets’ be outraged about all murders, all racism, every injustice.
Let’s just ignore the mistaken timeline for a minute (Obama took office in 2009 and Eve was killed in March 2008) and focus on the thrust of this post. Eve Carson’s murder garnered national attention. Her killers were brought to justice. At no point has there been any implication that race was a motivating factor in her killing. In fact, her assailants claim they planned to rob her but killed her when she got a good look at them.
Anyone who watches daytime television can tell you that the media and our politicians make a huge fuss about it when a white person is murdered. Even more so if the person is young, female, and attractive by society’s measures. (In that case, the victim is likely to become the center of a Lifetime channel biopic.)
In fact, I’ve rarely seen an Amber alert for a child of color. That’s why organizations like the Black & Missing Foundation even exist: to publicize missing and endangered persons of color because most of the time, the media won’t do it. There is a racial disparity in the way criminals and victims are portrayed in the media.
Eve Carson’s case got the attention of morning shows and talk shows far beyond the scope of local news coverage. Her campus and her town rallied and held vigils. Her killers were apprehended and convicted. There really is no fair comparison to be made between that case and Trayvon’s. If anything, Eve’s story illustrates by contrast how little we collectively care about a murder like Trayvon’s.
That leads me to the other derailment I’ve seen floating around on social networks:
2) White people are now the target of violence because of the case. We are threatened and should be afraid of retaliation.
Richard Land, prominent spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Convention made me glad I’ve left that assembly when he said recently on his radio show of black leaders, “They need the Travyon Martins to continue perpetuating their central myth: America is a racist and an evil nation. For them it’s always Selma Alabama circa 1965.” Land offered a pseudo-apology for his comments in a public letter written to the current SBC president:
Richard Land, who leads the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, wrote to SBC president Bryant Wright to express his “deep regret for any hurt or misunderstanding” his comments may have caused.
“It grieves me to hear that any comments of mine have to any degree set back the cause of racial reconciliation in Southern Baptist or American life,” Land wrote, according to a letter released by Baptist Press, the denomination’s official news agency.
This, as the convention prepares to elect a new president, likely Rev. Fred Luter, who would be the first African-American president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Fearful white folks first point to the New Black Panthers’ offer of a bounty for the capture or death of George Zimmerman as evidence that whites are collectively in danger. (The New Black Panther Party is unaffiliated with the Black Panthers). They will mention Spike Lee’s attempt to tweet Zimmerman’s address. Lee apologized for the tweet, having inadvertently tweeted the wrong address, and legally settled the matter with the affected family.
I saw this derailment employed alongside the story of a white Orlando man who was severely beaten by a group of young black men. The family of the victim claims that Matthew Owens was beaten as part of a retaliation for Trayvon Martin’s death. Police investigating the crime reported that the dispute between Owens and his chief assailant has been ongoing, and while racial slurs are hurled by both sides, the beating was in no way related to the Trayvon Martin case.
This derailment is one of many historically used to create fear in white people. Time and again in our history, we have learned about the threat that black men pose. This derailment says, for black folks to see justice, white people will have to pay: reparations, loss of status, even loss of life. As white folks, we cannot acknowledge the wrong in Trayvon’s case, much less right it, because to do so endangers us all.
It also diverts the attention from what was clearly a race-based crime onto other crimes in which white people are the victims. We’re more comfortable with that narrative than we are with a story that allows us to see ourselves in a man holding a gun to a young boy’s head.
As white people, we can continue spinning tales about how people of color are out to get us, coming for our stuff, eager to disrupt our way of life. Or, we can do better, we can do good, and choose to see the injustices that still exist in our country: including the one perpetrated against young Trayvon Martin. We can stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of color, confess the truth about societal structures of sin, and call for justice.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged african american, america, anti-racism, colorblindness, contrition, denial, derailment, George Zimmerman, history, prejudice, race, racism, stereotypes, Trayvon Martin, white allies, white guilt, white privilege, whiteness | 7 Comments »