I have had a couple of people take some exception to the central thesis of this morning’s post, specifically the idea that white people by definition cannot experience racism:
white people are far less likely (some would say it is definitionally impossible) to experience racism than are PoC. It seems preposterous to assume that you, a person with no experience in the topic under discussion, would be in a position to lecture someone about that topic.
I want to take a careful look at the above quoted claim, and then attempt to respond to the criticisms in a satisfactory matter.
The easiest way for me to weasel out of the problem is to point out that I specifically use the words “some would say”, passing the burden of a response off to those “some”. I’m sure my critics wouldn’t find such a response particularly satisfactory, and neither do I. However, I do wish to clarify that there are some worthwhile definitions of racism that do not necessarily preclude the possibility of anti-white racism, which includes the one I have previously provided on this site. That definition – racism as the ascribing of group traits to an individual – would not exclude the possibility of white people being on the receiving end. There are lots of examples of white people being assumed to behave/believe a certain way based on their race, sometimes even with violent results.
In my zeal to make my point, I failed to account for these kinds of experiences, and that is a failure on my part. I apologize for that.
It is an interesting thing to observe that whenever I hear the term “real racist”, as in “maybe you’re the real racist here!”, it’s coming from the mouth of a white person. I have never heard a person of colour use this phrase either to a white person, let alone another PoC. I say “let alone” because maybe, just maybe, PoC trust each other to have a pretty accurate working definition of what racism is. Or maybe I’m reading too much into too little.
At either rate, the reason I find this little observation so fascinating is as follows: white people are far less likely (some would say it is definitionally impossible || EDIT: I have been asked to clarify this point, which I have done in a companion post) to experience racism than are PoC. It seems preposterous to assume that you, a person with no experience in the topic under discussion, would be in a position to lecture someone about that topic. It’s textbook ‘splaining. You’d have to have less than a spoonful of self-awareness to fail to see that.
It’s the “oh yeah, well if evolution is true why are there still monkeys?” of racial entitlement and ignorance. … Continue Reading
I am no great hand at satire. The screenplay I posted this morning was a sort of broad-spectrum attack on a bunch of different pet peeves of mine, but I’m not sure how much of that came across. So I’m writing this guide to explain the joke. If you’d rather not have it ruined for you that way, by all means skip this post. … Continue Reading
The social media world has been buzzing about Macklemore’s ‘Best Rap’ Grammy award and his subsequent self-aggrandizing behaviour immediately in its wake. The responses to criticisms of Macklemore – his win and his behaviour – have been impressive in their banal obviousness. Cries of ‘reverse racism’, the ever-popular refrain went up, Amanda Palmer said something stupid, and the edifice of colour-blind white supremacy trundled on, unfazed by the agonized screams of the PoC crushed in its wake.
With this in mind, I decided to lend my considerable writing talents to the creation of a film that finally, at long last, speaks to the suffering that white folks have to go through in our post-racial hellscape. I present a few choice scenes from a movie I tentatively call ‘Up Off The Mat’
(Setting: Harlem, New York City, daytime. Camera fades in on front steps of 28th Precinct HQ of NYPD. Music by Elvis Presley plays. MACK ELMORE jogs up front steps to door, gym bag over one shoulder, wearing t-shirt and track pants. Scene shifts to inside, ELMORE walks through police HQ. Most officers (like 80-90%) are black or Latino. They mostly ignore him as he heads toward LIEUTENANT WHITE’s office. Music fades as ELMORE knocks on WHITE’s door.)
CHIEF WHITE: (Looks up from papers) Come in!
MACK ELMORE: (Enters office) Sir?
WHITE: You must be the new guy. What was it? (fumbles with papers, searching for name) Edmore?
It is one of those sad and yet iron-clad laws of the internet that if you talk about race long enough, someone will accuse you of being a “race baiter” or “race hustler”. And because the people who say this aren’t terribly creative, you will also soon thereafter be accused of worshipping/fellating Al Sharpton, as though he is the only black person on the planet who discusses race. Perhaps more likely is that he’s the only black person on the planet they can name who isn’t an athlete or artist of some kind. So it goes.
When I have had this lazy accusation thrown my way, I have adopted the practice of asking my interlocutor to actually define what a “race baiter” is, as though I hadn’t heard the phrase before. Most of the time, unused as they are to having to actually think about the things they’re saying, the person will bluster their way through a series of insults and unimaginative aspersions before either quitting, or giving some form of the following definition:
Race-baiter (n.) – a person who inserts racial content into a discussion where race is not relevant for the purposes of winning the argument based on sympathy rather than the merits of their position.
I have, of course, translated the various responses I’ve received over the years into intelligible English for your sake. … Continue Reading
Horror films are a wonderful source of escapism, where we can feel the thrill of terror in the relative safety of our living rooms or a crowded movie theatre. One of the all-time classics within the horror genre is the zombie movie: hordes of shuffling, shambling atrocities hell-bent on devouring the flesh of the still-living. One of the iconic images of any good zombie movie is the panic-stricken victim of a zombie bite who is slowly turning from human into monster, as all morality and reason drains from their body while their comrades feverishly debate whether or not to put their erstwhile friend out of hir ‘misery’ courtesy of a well-timed shotgun blast to the face.
Right now, as you read this, some well-intentioned white kid on the internet is posting a link to this video. In it, the actor Morgan Freeman states that the way to solve racism is to stop talking about it. Specifically, Freeman says that if the host stops seeing him (Freeman) as “a black man”, then he will stop seeing the host as “a white man” and they can presumably just be man-friends and hold hands under a double rainbow or something. Needless to say, I am far from impressed by both the content and the ubiquity of this clip, as it serves more to confirm the “I don’t need to do anything” impulses of white people who haven’t given much thought to the matter beforehand.
For my part, I much prefer John Legend’s response to a very similar question. And I think there’s something to be gleaned from the age difference between Messrs Freeman and Legend. The former is a man who came up in a world where the consequences of anti-black racism were dramatically self-evident: vicious racist slurs coming out of the mouths of police officers and judges, blatantly and unashamedly racist laws and policies, frequent acts of race-motivated physical violence with a blind eye turned toward it by an indifferent society*. The latter is a man who came up in the world of ‘polite’ racism and “post-racial” politicking, where the fashion is to find an endless string of euphemisms to disguise racist attitudes and behaviours that, minus the drama, haven’t changed much.
Mohamed Salim is a number of things. He’s a man, he’s an American, he’s a war veteran, he’s a cab driver, he’s a son, possibly a brother or a father or a husband. Presumably he has other identities that are grounded in his personal interests: maybe gamer or Trekkie or brony or lacrosse team captain or whatever.
When two bombs went off at the Boston Marathon finish line, the simmering xenophobia and racism that lies just beneath America’s veneer of tolerance and enlightenment roared to the surface. The New York Post, a rag long known for its total abdication of journalistic ethics, posted an innuendo-laced front page inviting the dangerous speculation of every red-blooded God-fearing citizen with a gun in one hand and a poor grasp of demography in the other.
Last night CNN correspondent John King took to Twitter to offer more context on how he ended up reporting that a suspect, described as a “dark-skinned man” had been arrested in connection with the Boston Marathon bombing. CNN ran with King’s “exclusive news” of the “dark-skinned” suspect for an hour until they announced their report turned out to be false.
“Source of that description was a senior government official. And I asked, are you sure? But I’m responsible,” King tweeted on Thursday evening. “What I am not is racist.”
King offered his explanation only after the NAACP, Al Sharpton, and the National Association of Black Journalists called him out for his inflammatory reporting.
In a climate when exactly nobody knew anything, people who weren’t particularly concerned about facts had honed in on a conclusion that was so obviously true that it didn’t warrant investigation: that the bombs were detonated by dark-skinned foreign Muslims who hate America because of its freedoms. It fit quite neatly into the prevailing narrative of jealous Muslims sitting in their caves, cursing the fact that America stands as a stark rebuke of liberty to their ideology of restrictive megalomania. … Continue Reading
I was with a few friends watching an episode of a show called Just For Laughs: Gags. It’s something similar to ‘Candid Camera’, where random passers-by are placed in comical situations, caught on hidden camera. The humour of the show is watching people try to react appropriately to an implausible situation: a man’s car is ‘stolen’ after he has asked someone to watch it for him; a woman dressed as a lion tamer runs in fear past some unsuspecting person, pursued closely by a confederate dressed in a lion costume. The payoff of the show comes at the end of each segment, when the unwitting participant is shown the cameras, and everyone has a good laugh.
The recent episode I was watching presented a pair of men dressed as police officers with a WANTED poster of a thief dressed as a clown. They approach the unwitting ‘target’, who has just agreed to hold a garbage bag for a confederate as they go into a store. The police open the bag, find clown garb (including a big red nose and a rainbow wig) inside, and begin interrogating the ‘target’, dressing hir in the attire and remarking on the resemblance. Ignoring the ‘targets’ protestations of innocence, the faux police produce handcuffs and announce that the person is under arrest.
Of course, the police then point out the hidden cameras, and the ‘accused’ people share a relieved laugh with the actors. I turned to one of my friends and remarked “notice how they didn’t show any of the black people laughing”. She shot me a wry smile as we reflected on the fact that being stopped by the police and threatened with arrest for a crime you haven’t committed is no laughing matter when you live in a community where the colour of your skin makes you suspect. Indeed, I would imagine that if I had been one of the ‘targets’ on the show, this kind of thing would be very much at the front of my mind: … Continue Reading