Okay, first of all: wow. I have written more than 700 posts on this blog, and I have never seen a response like I had on Monday afternoon. At the time of writing, my post about my objection to anti-black racism being used to deflect the “Shroedinger’s Rapist” argument has elicited 330 comments, and received nearly 20,000 hits. I’ve been quickly outed from my quiet little obscure hideaway at the middle-bottom of the FTB frontpage, and have been placed in front of many fresh pairs of eyes.
Second of all: there is apparently a need for some clarification. I was trying to make two separate points in that piece, and there seem to be a number of people who simply did not pick up on them. The first point is that connecting Shroedinger’s Rapist to anti-black racism fails to address the central question of whether or not we want women to feel more comfortable in freethinking circles; if we do, then we need to make some changes. Men being aware of how their (our) seemingly-benign behaviour may be seen as threatening is one specific change we can make.
The second point is that linking the argument to anti-black racism ignores many of the experiences of black folks who are constantly making similar adjustments to make white folks feel more comfortable. Failing to recognize this fact only highlights the ignorance of the speaker, and it is not particularly pleasant to have my story used in the service of an argument I despise by a person who will never experience it.
There were a number of other comments and misconceptions that I will attempt to clear up in this post.
“I never thought about it this way before. You changed my mind/you made me think.”
Awesome. This is why I write. I didn’t expect such a strong emotional reaction, but I never know which of my posts (did I mention there are more than 700?) is going to resonate with people.
“Doesn’t making accommodations like this perpetrate racism/This behaviour doesn’t fight racism.”
There were a few people who said this, and I’d like to offer all of them the most sincere and heartfelt “fuck you” that I can muster. Without wanting to go all “Jerry Springer” on you, you don’t know me and you don’t know my life. What you do know is that I spend hours of my day-to-day life examining, digesting, and instructing about race and race issues. You know this because you are reading this on my blog where I do this week after week after week. If you really want to throw down over who does what to fight racism, then let’s abso-fucking-lutely go.
Not everything I say and do has to fight racism. If I started an anti-racist lecture every time I spooked an old lady or caught a funny glare while waiting for the bus, I’d never get anything else done. The fact that I spend the amount of time that I do devoted to counteracting racism is a bonus – fixing racism is not the job of those against whom racist acts are perpetrated. These behaviours are me trying to survive. I’m sorry they’re not enough for you (no I’m really not and you can go fuck yourself).
Hoookay… next one
“(Everything Mallorie Nasrallah said)”
Yeah… yeah. So Mallorie showed up and said some things. She and I subsequently spoke face-to-face (via the internet). I did my level best to explain to her why people reacted to her letter the way they (we) did, which dovetails with her comments. I have no idea how successful I was in that task, and only time will tell (considering how much time we spent on general vs. universal statements, I’m not that optimistic). Perhaps it should suffice to say that I understand her position a lot better (and the things that are behind it), and while I still think she’s wrong, I at least know why, and what she is trying to say.
“I have to do those kinds of things too, so I understand”
“I have to do those kinds of things too, so you’re wrong”
I fully recognize that these behaviours, or the wish to avoid eliciting fear from strangers, is not unique to black people. I’m also quite aware that, as black folks go, I’m not exactly what Fox News viewers are afraid of. However, at the same time, I recognize the existence of anti-black prejudice. Do I know for sure that everyone that looks at me fearfully does so because of my race? Nope. But I would be a fool to pretend that anti-black racism doesn’t exist in everyone’s minds, and that my race has nothing to do with any negative reaction others might have to me. I do not attribute everything to my race, and I explicitly did not do so in my post.
“It’s only polite to do this kind of stuff!”
It is indeed polite. My objection is to the word ‘just’. I am not trying to reduce fear in others solely in order to be polite. I am doing it, in part at least, to be able to function in society. To be able to walk down a street, to be able to go to work, to be perceived as being on the same team. Part of it is tact. Part of it is necessity. It’s much harder to function in a world where everyone’s wary of you. It’s much more preferable to do whatever it takes to reduce the fear to near-zero.
“Statistics! Black criminals vs. white rapists!”
While this debate is very interesting (to people in the comments section, at least), it is entirely ancillary to the point of the post. Whether you are more likely to be molested by a white man than robbed by a black one does not speak either to the fact that women have identified a pattern of behaviours as problematic, or that using anti-black racism is an ignorant red herring. I am content to let others have this fight – I wouldn’t care either way.
“You’re just lying to white people!”
Yes, someone said this. I don’t know why. I just thought it was funny and deserved more attention. Dear white people of the world: I sincerely apologize for pretending to be slightly less skilled at walking than I actually am.
“There’s wrong on both sides of the argument”
If you don’t understand the privilege argument, then yes it would appear that there is wrong on both sides of the “don’t act like a rapist”/”don’t treat me like a rapist” dichotomy. Even if there were (and I am not convinced that is the case), that is an equivalence so false, it should be a character on Real Housewives of Logical Fallacies. I will devote an entire post to this… sometime.
“I don’t think that black people should have to do this kind of stuff”
Me either. This post was descriptive of what I do, not prescriptive of what others should.
“This story is sad”
Yeah. I didn’t realize until I wrote it all out, but it’s pretty sad. I wish we lived in a very different world where I didn’t have to worry about this, and I didn’t have to broadcast “I’m safe” signals all the time. But we don’t live in that world; we live in this one. So I do what I can to fight the battles I think I can win, and discuss the issues surrounding the ones I can’t.
Thanks for reading, and I hope those of you who are new will stick around.
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