White Feminists: It’s Time to Put Up Or Shut Up on Race

Listen up, white feminists.

We have a problem.  I’m including myself because none of us are immune from this problem.  We all fuck up.  And you can say “fucking up is natural,” and that’s true, but it’s time for us to start identifying our fuck ups, and not just learning from them, but acknowledging the hurt they cause other people.

We need to acknowledge that we cannot know what it’s like to be an oppressed racial minority.  Cannot.  The end.  Period.  We don’t know because we’re queer, because we’re disabled, because we’re Jewish, because we were the nerdy kid in school.  These things may have hurt us severely, but we need to stop playing Oppression Olympics and acknowledge that when we’re talking about race we Do.  Not.  Know.  No more metaphors.

We need to accept that when a person of color tells us we’ve fucked up, the answer is not to get defensive.  When we get that instinct to say “geez, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it that way at all,” it’s time to stop right now.  It doesn’t matter how you meant it.  It really doesn’t.  Someone doesn’t have to have racism in their heart to do something racist.  And doing something racist doesn’t make you an evil person who can never do good again, should never be an activist, should run off and hide in a hole somewhere.  It means you did something hurtful, you made a big mistake, and you need to own that mistake.  You need to say “I’m sorry.”  Full stop.  I’m sorry.  And if the person who called you out is generous enough to take time to explain what you did wrong, you need to have a seat and listen.

I’ve fucked this up plenty of times in my own life.  I’ve used social justice as a shield, to show how liberal and progressive I am.  I couldn’t possibly be a racist, right?

It doesn’t matter.  It really doesn’t matter, because all of us who couldn’t possibly be racist are doing racist things, and we need to cut it out.

We need to acknowledge that being a POC is not the only identity someone has.  POC disagree with each other, and there’s not always one big Anti-Racist Answer.  Maybe that’s hard to sort through.  Well, life is hard.  It’s not our job, as white people, to show up with “the answer.”  Again, have a seat.

We need to acknowledge that a WOC balances the identities of “woman” and “of color,” along with many other identities.  It is never okay to tell someone to set aside race while we focus on gender or feminism for a while.  Gender is informed by race.  Feminism had better fucking include anti-racism or this ship is sunk, let’s all go home.  By the way, this isn’t always blatant and obvious.  It happens when a POC raises what seems like a minor point in the language of a document, and a white leader in the group says you know, we’re really voting on the main resolution right now.  It happens when a group of mostly white feminists suggests that one of their POC members be in charge of “dealing” with a race issue.  Don’t tolerate this bullshit.

We need to acknowledge that any movement must address the needs of its most marginalized members, or any cries of elitism are absolutely true.  We need to go beyond token efforts to include POC, working class people, disabled people, immigrants, and others in our feminist movements, and when we bring marginalized voices to the table, we need to listen.  We need to accept that maybe the thing we’ve been fighting for our whole lives isn’t as important as another thing that is hurting someone else.  We need to pay attention to books written by marginalized people that aren’t part of the “canon,” and listen to their priorities.  We need to focus on prison reform, on violence against transgender sex workers of color, on what’s happening in immigration detention facilities, on the continued genocide against indigenous people in the US and all over the world.

I believe that feminism is viable, and will kick some serious ass if we stop being idiots about race and other issues.  I’m launching QueerFeminism.com at the start of 2012 to focus on how to rescue this movement and redefine feminism as “radical opposition to patriarchy,” a definition that explicitly incorporates the horrors of racism and colonization.  I hope some of you will join me in that effort.

In the meantime, if you do nothing else today, white feminists, read this article by Flavia Dzodan: My Feminism Will Be Intersectional or It Will Be Bullshit.

 

About Avory

Avory Faucette is a queer feminist activist, writer, and public speaker. Zie graduated from the University of Iowa with a JD in 2009, focusing on international human rights and gender/sexuality issues in the law. Hir current work focuses on queer identity, policy, and marginalized identities under the queer umbrella. As a genderqueer person, zie comments frequently on non-binary identity, transgender and genderqueer issues, and media coverage of these populations. Zie also speaks at colleges, universities, and events on transgender and queer issues and conducts trainings on related topics.

Posted on December 2, 2011, in activism, feminism, movement building, privilege, race and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 187 Comments.

  1. Yes. I agree.

    While I think it’s important to be aggressively affirmative and coherent regarding race and other crucial feminist issues, I think there are some rather major issues that I think could be better or more thoroughly addressed here. In short:

    – It sort of seems from this piece that you assume that claims of racism and critical racial analysis is something that PoC need to do. While I wouldn’t advocate that white people make a habit of speaking for PoC, white folks *do* need to think critically about race, do need to speak frankly about race (with each other, etc.). This doesn’t mean that they’ll always be right, but just as the analysis gender *had* to move beyond the analysis of groups’ analysis of their own particular gendered experience (primarily Women in the history of feminism,) critical race theory must be about more than the analysis of an individual or any class of individuals experience. I think the theory is largely there, and has been for 10+ years, but it’s really hard to propagate this into activism and rhetoric.

    – Identity politics (I like your use of “Oppression Olympics”) are not without utility, but I don’t need to reiterate the critique of identity-driven politics. At the same time, rejecting the importance of identity and experience in criticism and activism is dangerous and has the effective of “whitewashing” PoC in queer/feminist communities. In short both of these options suck, and saying “lets pay more attention to identity,” and “lets pay less attention to identity,” will never solve this problem. I’m not sure what will, but perhaps we need to focus on coming up with a new, third option, or a new way of theorizing oppression/privilege/power that doesn’t recapitulate this problem because until we do, we have an energy black hole that will keep everyone who engages this issue from all (either?) side(s) from getting anything done.

    Finally, I think we need to develop ways of living in a feminist way/queer way/anti-racist way and doing activist work in this space that acknowledges that time/energy/resources (emotional and material) are limited for individuals so that people feel enabled to do activist work in their worlds and lives. While the two points above are largely theoretical and strategic, this point is more pragmatic: in effect I’m saying that we need project management tools and support for activism. I’m not sure what that looks like…

    • Thank you for these thoughts.

      I was focusing mostly here on some white feminists’ tendency to either de-emphasize race or to talk over POC on the subject of race. I absolutely agree that white folks need to think critically about race, and to get more comfortable talking about race, whether with each other or with POC. We need to get more used to considering race as a matter of course. Of course, there is the question of how we connect talking about it and activism, and this is where we have to think about the tough questions you’re raising–how much is activism about identity? How do we acknowledge limited resources and support activism given peoples’ realities?

      I’m glad you’re bringing these points up, because I’m very concerned about the practical side of activism, and I would LOVE to see more resources, ways for people to commit limited resources, etc. As for the identity piece, that’s a really hard one to work out. On the one hand, I believe that we always have to recognize the authenticity of personal stories and understand that many people don’t have a choice about whether the personal is political. Of course, the whole idea of “privilege” is that privilege in a certain area allows you not to have to think about that part of yourself. It’s impossible for black people not to think about blackness (and how non-black people react to blackness), same for Latino/a people, same for any non-white race. (Or any minority race, I should say, ymmv depending on where you live.) I’ll have to think more on this, but I appreciate your bringing it up.

  2. Thank you for this…question though, when has feminism NOT been radical opposition to patriarchy?

    • I think it always has been, but the definition that’s usually cited is “the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.” That’s not a bad idea, but it’s incomplete. Radical opposition to patriarchy includes those who are neither women nor men (like myself) in the analysis. It also takes into account issues that harm men, like strict gender roles. I think of patriarchy as being a big, overarching system that causes a lot of fucked up things–that includes inequality of women, but also a lot of other things, including racism. It’s this whole system of dominance that skews values, harms people, and causes inequality on so many levels. So what I’m suggesting is pulling back from simple sexism or gender inequality and looking at the bigger picture and how these problems intersect.

  3. I feel as a white feminist gender rebel working class lesbian womyn person, The Conversation needs to be about privilege white privilege about our privilege as white people and how we contribute to up holding the institutions of oppression willingly, silently and unknowingly. Workshopping and theory are useless unless practiced.As a white person it is my responsibility to understand what it means to be part the race that works actively and knowingly toward protecting it self at the expense of other! It is my legacy as a white person regardless of how hard i work to understand and dismantle the patriarchy! And talking to white people about this legacy is were we as white people need to work! In that conversation is everyone else We keep out colonize, oppress and hate on through our silence! By not challanging each other.How we spend our money and where it is invested and our unwillingness to talk about what it means to be white!
    Blessings
    goddessboi
    http://www.butchculture.com

    • I like that you brought up our responsibility to understand that the white race actively and knowingly works towards protecting itself at the expense of other races. I think a lot of people want to shy away from the idea that there is active oppression going on today, but it’s important to always remember that those of us who live in the US are sitting on occupied land. Our nation has a history of violence, slavery, genocide, and other horrors. So while individual people may not have responsibility for the sins of our ancestors, we do have the responsibility to acknowledge the severity of those harms and the legitimate pain and anger of those whose ancestors were harmed by our ancestors, and who continue to be harmed by the oppressive systems that remained. We also have an obligation to talk about, and fix, these systemic problems.

      I have so much to say on this, but here’s another relevant post that might interest you (and thank you for taking the time to read and comment!): http://radicallyqueer.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/review-feminism-for-real/

  4. hopefilleddreamer

    This is great and I think that even though it is hard and slow to move forward while taking time to consider stories from others it is even worse if we fall into actions that completely disregard entire groups of people for the betterment of one person (or group). Living a life that supports look at others as human beings and not just labels (Native, queer, old, Christian, etc) empowers everyone. Thank you for writing and sharing this!

  5. Thank you, just thank you.

  6. I read this and then I look at the blogroll filled white blogs of white feminists who totally need to rent a clue, read this piece but they probably won’t and white feminists will continue to hide behind posts like this instead of being specific and start calling out some the sacred cows who suffocate e-feminism with their inability to understand the concept of intersectionality (I haven’t come across a single white feminist who can. sorry. y’all can’t do it.) or shut the fuck up once in awhile.

    Every couple of months some white feminist writes a letter like this. perhaps when names are named this will finally become a far more productive exercise.

    • You’re absolutely right. I need to pay more attention to who’s saying what so that I CAN hold folks accountable for their racist statements, and it’s on me that I don’t have a great grasp on who that is. I realize that there has been some fail specifically at Feministing and Feministe, and I’ve struggled with whether to keep those two blogs on my blogroll. Generally, it’s tough for me to know how to address the issue of group blogs that have some really great contributors and some really lousy ones. But you’re right–I need to be more direct in confronting folks who screw up if I’m going to talk in generalities like this. I also recognize that white feminists standing around talking about race isn’t productive if we’re not doing anything about it. I’m not sure whether it’s a better idea to simply be silent and let actions speak, though my hope is that at least some white feminists will listen to a post like this when their racism doesn’t allow them to understand the validity of posts written by POC–and if the argument starts to sink in, maybe they’ll realize what’s seriously fucking wrong with that. This may not be the answer, but I appreciate your challenge, and I appreciate your taking the time to leave feedback here. I’ll be thinking about how I can do better.

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you! As a WOC whose activism and scholarship is primarily in intersectionality (for all of its evolving meaning) I find that the older I get the more weary I’ve become. It has become increasingly hard to deal with the “hurt” feelings of some of my closest friends when pointing out what (for me) is the obvious racisms (and other forms of isms ablism comes to mind) that remain at the core of some of our most esteemed institutions/practices/theories. And while I do not wish to be the archetypal black woman from the movies, it is hard having meaningful relationships with white feminist when I know that if I critique or fail to identify with one of their sacred cows, favorite movies, or latest fads, that I risk severing my relationship with them forever and thereby isolating myself more.

    Thus, I am all for incorporating white supremacy into conversations about patriarchy, I just don’t want to be doing it all alone, like the song says “baby it’s cold outside.” Reading your post reminds me of something that I am constantly telling my class both patriarchy and white supremacy are systems of domination in which we all participate to some degree or another, they both have “pay-offs” some individuals or groups get more than others, some people work harder, conform more, some people are born closer to the centers of privilege and therefore don’t have to work as hard or think as much about how these systems work on their behalf. Others are born further from the center and therefore have to make more concessions, work harder a get less of a pay-off. However, make no mistake, we are part of these systems (patriarchy and white supremacy) and part of the power of sites like these and the potential power of feminism (when it’s not silencing a good majority of its sisters) is unmasking these systems.

    So like I said, thank you. This is good work,

    • And thank you for sharing your experiences!

      I like the image you’re creating here of patriarchy & white supremacy as systems where some people are located near the center, others further out. That’s a good visualization trick to explain it. One of the challenges I have with trying to talk about systemic problems is that I want to throw my hands up and just shout “it’s everywhere! Can’t you see it?” But of course, that’s not very effective in a practical sense.

      One thing I think is so hurtful, and so hard to combat, is the tone argument white people tend to use without even realizing it. I’ve noticed that a lot of what I hear white friends use, particularly with black women, is less the direct argument that concerns about race are invalid, but more of a “why are you so angry about it?” I imagine that being close to the privilege center there is what makes it hard to see what’s so wrong with that question–if you don’t see the everyday impact of racism, then anger seems misplaced rather than clearly justified.

      I’m trying to think, in a practical sense, how to help friends see this tone problem.

  8. I am so thankful that someone outside of the POC thought to post about this topic. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Growing up in the States with immigrant parents and within an ethnic microcosm– and believe me, it was MICRO– was difficult at times. My family hails from a small nation with a population of 20,000– so there were times where I had to PROVE our motherland existed.

    Add to that the fact that we’ve remained on the less-stable end of the socio-economic spectrum throughout my life AND I identify as a queer female.

    Truth be told, it sucked and there’s no amount of money that could ever convince me to re-live my adolescent years.

    I cannot separate the different facets that make me who I am, nor would I want to– I am an anomaly and I am quite proud of the person I’ve become today. But it has been difficult and painful at times.

    You cannot imagine how thrilled I was to read: ” It is never okay to tell someone to set aside race while we focus on gender or feminism for a while. Gender is informed by race,” when I clicked on the link from Twitter.

    I feel vindicated and affirmed.

    I am proud and optimistic that someone outside of my own experiences can see that they “cannot know what it’s like to be an oppressed racial minority.”

    We share many injustices, but we can never know someone else’s pain because we simply cannot fill their shoes. I will never know the feeling of being discriminated against for being Muslim or Jewish, just as a majority of you cannot know what it’s like to be a Palauan-American.

    It’s not a bad thing. But it is a beautiful thing that someone can say so.

  9. I liked this article but I think it’s important that everyone stops being racist, not just white people. I’m Hispanic and plenty of my friends (especially the black ones) rag on white people all the time, even when our white friends are present.
    I think the major difference between white people and minorities is that when you tell a white person that they are saying/doing something racist they generally stop it immediately and feel guilty (sometimes for way to long), but if you do the same to a person of color they have an attitude and claim that white people deserve it. The double standards are killing me here.

    • “Ragging on white people” is not racist. Don’t get it twisted. And the rest of your post is entirely too fatuous to even parse.

      • Wait what–how is ragging on anyone for any racial reason not racist?

      • “‘Ragging on white people’ is not racist.” Girl you must be TRIPPING your ovaries off! “Ragging” on ANY race, creed, religious sect, sexual orientation, sex, etc. is an act of discrimination no matter how you slice it. If you think you have the right to do this because you are a PoC, you’re dead wrong and only fanning the fires of hate. Hate is the enemy here not white people, Musims, the republicans, the Tamils, the impoverished, or who ever you choose you blame. As the wise and brave Mahatma Gandhi once said:

        “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

    • “Usually the black racist has been produced by the white racist. In most cases where you see it, it is the reaction to white racism, and if you analyze it closely, it’s not really black racism… If we react to white racism with a violent reaction, to me that’s not black racism. If you come to put a rope around my neck and I hang you for it, to me that’s not racism. Yours is racism, but my reaction has nothing to do with racism…” –Malcolm X

    • Racism as talked about here involves a certain amount of institutional or cultural power, Layla. Those who are without power cannot be racist to those with power. The Malcolm X quote Chungyen Chang posted notes that responses to racism are sometimes called racist in turn; this, however, hides the problem of wide power disparities under a veneer of equality.

    • Ah yes, you can always count on some Latinos to defend white privilege, be completely oblivious to history and reality and to bitch about some “taking it too far.”

      The double standards exist because that’s history is full of double standards. White supremacy has been the ideology upon which American and even Latin American societies were founded on and under which people of color have always had to live under. Whereas black/brown/yellow supremacy has never existed on an institutional level and large numbers of whites have never been subjected to it.

      THAT’S why it’s not the same thing.

      • It’s not the same thing, but “ragging on” someone for being white (or Latino) doesn’t solve or prove anything, all it does it continue the cycle.

      • Institutional racism does exist. I think only ignorant folks would deny that. However, there is a difference between going after the specific people who oppressed others, and going after everyone belonging to the same race as them. The former is justified, the latter just makes the problem worse.

        If judging someone based on their race is wrong for white people to do, it’s wrong for everyone to do. It is a moral injustice to assume something negative of an entire race of people because of what some, or even most, of them did. Period.

        There is more powerful racism against noncaucasians. But I reject the notion that the only racism that matters is institutional. It’s a huge problem, but reacting by tarring all whites with the same brush is WILDLY unfair. This backlash is unjustified and, believe it or not, it’s hurtful. It’s like when people react against very thin models in the fashion industry by saying that it’s gross, unattractive, ugly and so on, and that “real” women have curves. Instead of saying how unsightly they find it to be, they should be encouraging people to be healthy at whatever size, or saying that beauty come in all shapes and sizes. It may sound cliche, but it’s true.

        Nobody is best. Nobody has a right to judge anyone based on the color of their skin. And making excuses for ANYONE to do so is wrong and keeps the cycle going.

        • This is the damn truth ^.

          There is a certain entitlement that many people perceived as minorities, particularly people perceived to be black feel vis a vis making hostile generalizations. Based on what they know and their perceptions of institutionalized racism, this seems reasonable to them; however, and I notice radicals forgetting this almost invariably, most of the people you approach with this mindset do not have the same context to make your action seem reasonable.

          And because people perceived to be white are the ones in power, the ones with connections that more often know how to survive the system, its not only worth it, but essential to be attentive to the information gap. The mainstream media doesn’t talk about this kind of thing so how do you expect most people to know what you know, though they have different experiences?(not You sam, anyone who keeps the cycle going)

          Re: Snarkys Machine,
          what if I told you that eating pigs is cruel and YOU’re destroying the environment and a murderer? Would you be very likely to say “oh, well I never thought of that, sorry about that”?

          I know you don’t think its your duty to inform “white people” about what they are doing, but if they aren’t informed somehow things will stay the same, or get worse, given how much credibility you lose for yourself, and others, with such polarizing statements.

          You may have guessed by my use of ‘perceived’ that I don’t believe anyone is Black or White, and I believe that identity is at the root of virtually all our problems and identity based politics is inherently doomed to fail.

          Here is my article addressing complacency with regard to racism and identity and its consequences: http://geologuey.wordpress.com/2011/01/02/we-are-not-victims-of-racism-we-are-victims-of-identity/

          I’d be curious to see what people who think “we are” comes from our sexuality or skin color have to say that overrides the negative consequences I bring up in this and other articles on the same site.

          cheers
          p.s. I’m perceived as black so I’m fully aware that race has palpable and enduring consequences. However, I think you can acknowledge a legacy of racism without pretending that race, in its popular conception, is real.

          Also, props to the original poster for starting the discussion, a lot of great responses.

      • Wow, what?

        “Ah yes, you can always count on some Latinos to defend white privilege, be completely oblivious to history and reality and to bitch about some “taking it too far.””

        Why is this specifically about Latinos (which, btw, encompasses many different identities and cultures and nationalities)? Why isn’t it not instead about how many POC, in general, still view the world in a colonized framework that fails to address the roots of inequality today? How in the world is this sort of calling-out at all productive?

        “White supremacy has been the ideology upon which American and even Latin American societies were founded on and under which people of color have always had to live under. Whereas black/brown/yellow supremacy has never existed on an institutional level and large numbers of whites have never been subjected to it.”

        Please educate yourself. This reasoning is completely full of holes.

    • Layla, the fact that you self-identify as ‘Hispanic’ indicates to me at least one of two things: you need to decolonize your mind, and/or you are in fact white. Saying that ragging on white people is racist is like saying ragging on straight people is heterophobic.

  10. great piece! thought you might also enjoy or appreciate this one below on decolonial feminism:

    http://www.decolonialtranslation.com/english/white-women-and-the-priviledge-of-solidarity.html

    • Oh, that’s great! I love it when someone uses the “solidarity with [Western country] women!” tactic because it is such a farce that so many people in the US still think that we’re the “best” country, that we have the most rights, when in fact we’re the country that never signs the human rights treaties, that has so many problems. This country could definitely use a big shot of humility as a precursor to doing something about our ongoing colonial outlook.

  11. Thanks so much for this. I totally agree.

  12. I agree with everything you said except one minor correction. Jews ARE an oppressed minority and have been for thousands of years. They were slaves in Egypt and Babylon. They were oppressed in Russia and Europe and America and were burned in ovens in Germany. I suppose they aren’t “People of color” the way that term is used and perhaps what is meant is also that POC can’t know what it’s like to be oppressed for being gay (Unless they are). Otherwise though the piece is spot on.

    • In 2011, white Jews are *not* an “oppressed racial minority.” I don’t think the writer ever denies a history of oppression of Jewish people, nor does the writer deny that Jews have been “racialized” (considered inferior, nonwhites) in particular contexts (e.g. Hitler’s Germany).

      As a white Jewish person, I have encountered many other white Jewish American folks who claim they’re “not white, [they're] Jewish!” even though, as white people, we constantly receive the benefits of whiteness in this society, from not being racially profiled while driving to being able to access the wealth that our families have been able to accumulate through land ownership, while people of color were being “redlined” and not granted access to higher education, etc. etc. for many years.

      No, *white* Jews are *not* people of color.

    • True, Jews have experienced some awful things throughout history, and even sometimes today are marginalized in certain settings. “Whiteness” and privilege are tricky because they are not static. Very few people are 100% privileged (white/male/able bodied/middle aged/educated/etc.). Today, in the US, Jews experience many of the same privileges as white Christians (when applying for jobs, within the educational system, while interacting with police, etc.). Many people use the fact that they are marginalized in one way as an excuse, saying that they are incapable of marginalizing any other groups. For example, I have personally seen certain Jewish folks express ideas that are exclusive and harmful to people who identify as black (just like I have seen many white non-Jews do the same thing).

    • I wouldn’t argue that Jews aren’t an oppressed minority–I did indeed mean that one group can’t know what it’s like to be oppressed for a different reason that doesn’t apply to them. So Jewish people certainly experience oppression, my point is just that analogy isn’t helpful–a white Jewish person in the US, for example, wouldn’t be able to say “I totally get what it’s like for a black person in the US.” Which I think you’d agree with, I just could’ve worded it more clearly! My intent wasn’t to say that race is necessarily a greater thing than other oppressions, or more valid, but just that all oppressions are different and you can’t compare.

  13. You frame this article in an interesting way considering this is a piece that seems to be calling for the de-centering of whiteness.

  14. Second wave feminism made it abundantly clear decades ago that it was the province of the white, heterosexual, middle and upper classes.

    You write: “It is never okay to tell someone to set aside race while we focus on gender or feminism for a while.”

    It’s never OK to ask anyone to set aside any part of her identity to focus on something that doesn’t consider her as a whole.

  15. Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you.

    (I just had an argument about race with a white feminist last night. So frustrating. It’s great to see this.)

  16. I agree with most of this post, but I feel obligated to add my two cents.

    I understand that racism is atrocious, and I do see a lot of areas for ALL human rights groups to be more inclusive and considerate. But I think you’re playing the “Oppression Olympics” yourself when you say that racism is the worst, or that people can’t understand the oppression or discrimination because they’re white. I think, in order to be fair, we should accept that ALL the “isms” hurt like h*ll, and we will never know which is truly the worst. We wouldn’t even be able to have a discussion about it unless there were large amounts of people with all the “isms” arguing which bothered them the most. I think saying that any hurt more than any others is just another divide. The ultimate goal is inclusivity, isn’t it? The pain from any of the “isms” can be soul crushing, and while action taken against certain groups hasn’t been exactly the same in any case, we need to accept that, in the here and now, we can’t know how much someone feels marginalized until we walk in their shoes.

    • Exactly. If one were to believe the screaming from PoC about racism, it is the most prevalent “ism” there is. And that’s just wrong.

      Without a doubt, there is more discrimination against: fat people, ugly people, and stupid people. Where are the screams in their defense? Definitely ugly and stupid people are no more to blame for their position than PoC are for the color of their skin. Many fat people, too, are that way from no fault of their own.

      Who among you would choose to be fat, ugly, or stupid rather than a particular color?

      • Please stop speaking immediately.

        • LOL, idiots like you are what’s wrong with the world. You can’t shut up truth just because it doesn’t support your agenda. I’ll quit speaking the day I die. Why don’t you add to the conversation? State how what I’ve said is wrong, if you can. If you can’t, then it is you who should quit talking.

          • oh you white guy, you are an amazing portrait of racism, sexism, fatphobia, ableism and i wouldn’t be surprise to learn you are other things too.
            Wow, you white straight guy hiding behind dictionaries and percentages written by white straight able-bodied people, you are the perfect example of why the world is oppressive and f*cked-up: you think your word is better and worthier than anyone else and you occupy the spaces that question the “Truth” written by people like you.
            You are not welcome here.
            How come that if you are so smart you don’t understand this?
            (just in case, this is not a question I want you to answer back, you are already talking way too much and polluting this intelligent blog, as Lady Mayhem said, just stop talking now)

        • Sorry remove the “amen” since I can’t delete it now. regardless of whether you agree with Ron Lewis or not, he makes a good point: add to the conversation rather than demanding someone to be silent.

    • Talking like this is a way of shutting down conversations about race. I have heard many people use the idea of “this is not an Oppression Olympics” to disenfranchise people of color, minimize their opinions and dismiss topics relevant to people of color. Not talking about race is exclusive. No one is saying that one form of oppression is worse than another. But EVERYONE IS CAPABLE OF OPPRESSING OTHER PEOPLE. As a white, queer, woman, I am oppressed in many ways, but I have to constantly check myself to make sure that I being inclusive by validating and listening to the very real problems of race in our society. “INCLUSIVITY” MEANS MAKING SURE THAT EVERYONE’S VOICES ARE CONSIDERED, not that we should ignore the voices of the marginalized. So I agree, we should be talking about how to be inclusive (the author mentioned some excellent ways) because white feminists have had a bad history of not being inclusive of people of color.

    • Sam you are spot on.

  17. Soooo, where is the companion piece to this? The one asking people of color to not imagine racism under every rock?

    Racism requires intent. One cannot accidentally be a racist. You might accidentally say or do something that could be perceived as racist, but that doesn’t make it a racist act or statement, DESPITE WHAT THE PERSON PERCEIVING IT BELIEVES.

    We need to turn those binoculars around to look at people without a narrow focus on racism. If that’s all you look for, that’s all you’ll see. The story of the blind men feeling an elephant comes to mind. http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&ved=0CDEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fen.wikipedia.org%2Fwiki%2FBlind_men_and_an_elephant&ei=aEreToL_HPGpsALHueTMBg&usg=AFQjCNENB0CvwIJxaim0Kb96MVqTtqzXUw

    As a percentage of their total populations, which race is most racist? In a quick search, I found no definitive study (is there a racist reason for that?). But as a white man with a black stepfather who’s dated black women, I can tell you there is a whole helluva lot of racists among people of color.

    Yet, I’m not hypersensitive when PoC say something that I could perceive to be racist.

    I believe the facts are that very few people are racists (as defined). I believe a whole lot of people, however, believe there are more racists than there actually are, and I believe that there are a lot of people exploiting fear of racism for financial and political gain.

    • Ron, there is a difference between racism and racial discrimination. The latter is, obviously, more overt and intended to be hurtful, while the former is not. Racism, to me, is expecting anything from someone (other than gentically proved things, like a proclivity toward certain diseases etc) based purely on the color of their skin, whether positive or negative. There is also the fact that many comments may fly under the radar of someone who has not experienced being a part of whatever group is being talked about. A pretty good example of that is my being bisexual. Since most people don’t even give it a second thought, and it’s not loudly fought against like racism or homophobia, many people say things that are VERY insensitive, and often untrue. But they’ll never know until someone calls them on it. My earlier comment that you replied to was not meant to downplay the hurt caused by racism, or claim it’s not very common, but to say that we cannot decide which marginalized group feels the impact the most.

      Racism is real. And it’s a big deal. It’s not a bunch of whiners, or people over reacting.

      I will grant however, that there is racism on both sides. And as is often the case with any oppressed group, they can sometimes villify their assumed opressors. We see this with some(not all, just some) nonwhite races hating/mocking etc white people, women and men, lgbt and straight people and so on. We will never get away from any of the “isms” if we have people on both sides refusing to see the other as anything other than guilty. The way to achieve true equality is not by turning the prejudice around, and nor is it by downplaying the struggles of any group.

      • You are correct, Sam. Racism is real. And on both sides, as you say. It is not JUST a bunch of whiners/overreacters, but certainly there is a bunch of whining and overreacting, and that’s what I felt needed to be stated as well. SYK, your definition of racism is too limited. Per most dictionaries, it includes the element of superiority and justification of discrimination that you attribute only to “racial discrimination.”

        And, both of those definitions necessarily require intent. A comment that “flies under the radar” in one person’s opinion doesn’t make a racist statement. Only the intent of the speaker can make it so. To then accuse or label a speaker, who lacks that intent, a racist is as least as, if not more, ugly. And doing so has become sooo commonplace by PoC as to be nauseating. I have to believe that most of these libelers know this (if not by the technical definition, then in their hearts) and do so not out of mistaken assumption but with malicious intent and/or personal motivations of financial gain or political agenda.

        I would really like to see an academic study examining the percentage of racists among whites, blacks, and Hispanics. I wouldn’t be surprised by the results, but I think many people would be.

        I am obsessed with truth. Obviously, there are many truths. I hear the huge majority of white Americans accepting the truth that there are some racists among them. I don’t hear a majority of PoC accepting that truth of their numbers. Instead, I hear excuses made and justifications given. One person in this thread used an ugly excuse describing a white person coming with a noose, when we know such acts have always been rare, to justify by implication any racism directed at white people.

        Finally, I would repeat the gist of a comment made in another reply above: of all the discrimination faced by Americans, the attention given to racial discrimination is wholly disproportionate to the extent it exists versus other forms. I cited the discrimination faced by fat, ugly, and stupid people. Perhaps, that against left-handed people and gays should be ranked above racial discrimination as well.

        Why haven’t those groups organized as have PoC to make their voices heard? One factor is that the hatred directed to them is even too much to allow them to acknowledge their conditions, preferring, as a way to assuage their self-esteem, to believe the subjective nature of those classifications means they are not included in their numbers. But, I also suspect that they are not as well organized because it would not lead to the financial or political gains for the leaders of such a movement as it has benefited the leaders of racial organizations.

    • Racism requires intent?

      No it doesn’t. Racism is a system of domination based on the notion of white supremacy. Like other systems of domination you can live under it and contribute to it without being conscious of it. It is systemic and thus part of everyday life and practices. Please read the works of Joe Feagin and Eduardo Bonilla-Silva on this issue.

      • Wow, what a racist thing to say, lol. There is nothing in the definition of racism that singles out the white race. I don’t need to read some books by people with agendas to know this; it can be found in any dictionary. I’ve pasted those definitions elsewhere in this thread. Do I need to go find a dozen more dictionaries?

        • But for the record, my context referred to statements as racism, not to the concept of racism.

        • yes, trust the dictionary just like you trust everything else you read written by white people. You know what I trust? I trust the fact that when the dictionary conspirators defined the “word” racism, they weren’t actually aware of what racism actually is/does/how it exists.

          Racism is why you exist.

    • I feel sorry for the Black women you’ve dated.

    • That is absolutely not true. Race is insidious and permeates many aspects of white culture. It is not a matter of intention. Racism is not a good person / bad person dichotomy. Even “good” well-intentioned people can do things that are racially exclusive and harmful. Being “good” takes constant work and self awareness, it is not a natural state of being. Please, please watch this excellent video from Jay Smooth:

      • Racism or being a racist does require intent. I’ll repeat again the example: calling someone “a lousy black person” can be racist, if the speaker intends it to be, but it doesn’t have to be – the target of that allegation could be black and could be infested with lice, in which case, it’s simply a true statement.

        Yes, that’s a simplistic example, but you seem to need one to understand. Too many times, white people are called racist when they have no intent to be racist at all — their accuser simply construes their statement in a racist way when It could just as logically be construed in a non-racist way.

    • ron, you just really don’t want to listen.

  18. Um, Chandra Talpade Mohanty said a lot of this stuff in 1988. Very articulately.

    • Totally agreed. I’ve read some of her stuff, but don’t have the citation in my head.

      I my general thought in my above response was “yeah, yeah, this is totally right, but I’m kind of angry that (white) feminism hasn’t really got much to show for itself in the last 15-20 years.” It seems like we’re making the argument for intersectionality again and again and while it “might be time to put up,” it’s been time for the last 20 years, and look where that got us.

      • not sure what you wanted, but today, more women are employed than men and more women earn undergrad and graduate degrees, which bodes well for the future – just to name a couple of things.

        Perhaps, you are like many idealists who only view the world through a self-absorbed prism of your own lifetime, when in fact, change is generationally incremental. You can either waste a lifetime trying to push a boulder uphill, or you can break it into rocks, carry a few yourself and know that others are coming behind you.

        Don’t mean this as criticism :), just the truth.

        • Perhaps that’s true, and really mostly validates some of the early theories of change propagated by “the second wave,” and “liberal feminism.” That’s an interesting line of thought, but it doesn’t mean that this is the only way to change the world, or that small incremental changes will propagate without continued activism and effort.

          To digress for a moment, if we accept that a majority of the labor hours (however qualified) in the world/US are performed by women (however constituted,) and that women are paid less than men both in a gross per-hour ( hours worked * wage for that time ) and adjusted for seniority/field (i.e. “pink collar”) discrepancies, I at least am left with a particularly troubling view of the economy.

          Having said that, this employment statistic is largely orthogonal to the topic that I was initially commenting on, and I think distracting to the topic of the issue at hand. I’m trying to think about the state of the “feminist discourse” and the development of a more contemporary and advanced feminist theory that might account for and guide praxis and address gender as presently constituted.

  19. This is truly important. A great piece.

  20. I agree! But i also think this applies the other way around…try to be as open as you were when you first learned what you are sharing now…
    there are minorities that are racist, and 2 wrongs dont make a right. Those that are racist assume they “know” what Im thinking based on the color of my skin, think they “know” how I feel, and overall “know” me based on the color that they see…and many times make sure that i know they hate me based on the color of my skin because of the privilege i have. I think this issue should be address and not ignored, because it is when we ignore issues like this when hate crimes get performed. My brother got beat up almost everyday at his school because he was the “white boy”, and they made him “pay for what his people did to them in the past”. They threatened to kill him many times. I have also experienced people yelling at me and threatening me because I am a “white stupid ignorant ass bitch”. Was and is this well deserved? No, and we shouldn’t support it.
    This doesn’t mean that criticizing the existing current oppressive system that privileges white people inst important, because IT IS! And we need to talk about this, spread awareness, and continue writing blogs like you are. I appreciate what you have posted greatly! But please with your intelligence offer different perspectives that promote equal rights. Thanks for taking the time to hear me out.

    • No. There is no such thing as White or reverse racism. White people are not systematically oppressed by PoC. Yes, discrimination against White people exists. But discrimination is NOT the same thing as racism. Discrimination is part of racism, but racism is far more pervasive than that. It’s embodied in the very systems of our society, from who advertising markets to to what we teach in our schools to how we select individuals from jobs. All of these systems and more are racist because they were (for the most part) created and are predominantly run by White people with the White perspective. Not even necessarily intentionally, but just by virtue of being a system created by the dominant group: White people who only think in their White perspective. PoC are not considered by those who create and run these systems because they do not have their minds open to the PoC perspective — intentionally or unintentionally. Either way, the results are the same: systems oppress people of color because they were not created with their perspective in mind; it was not even considered in the creation of these systems. Advertisers say, “How can we market this product to people?” but what they are really saying is, “How can we market this product to White people?” Those who create the curriculum for schools think, “What do people need to know?” but what they are really thinking is, “What do white people need to know?” Without even realizing it, oftentimes, and not even because they are necessarily bad people, but because they are White and have the privilege of being the dominant group and only think in terms of that dominant group because that is the only perspective they have. Meanwhile PoC have this White perspective shoved down their throats at every turn thanks to the systems created by White people, and then they have their own perspectives too, the ones that only they as PoC understand, because their perspectives are not entrenched in society. PoC understand Whiteness and White people and White culture, but we do not understand PoC. PoC are expected to work within these systems in which they were not even considered. THAT is racism. Someone calling you a white stupid ignorant ass bitch is not.

      • Wrong. Go to any part of the world where white people represent a small percentage of the population, and PoC will discriminate against them.

        • I stopped reading your comments some time ago, but this one was short and stupid and easy to hit, so I thought I’d take it.

          When white people experience “discrimination” it isn’t racism. There are countless reasons why PoC in all parts of the world, even those where white people are less, would resent and not want to be super nice to white people.

          When a person of colour doesn’t reassure you that they like you, it doesn’t mean that they are discriminating against you. It’s sort of like if you were to be accused of being homophobic because you won’t let the poor oppressed gays fuck you in the ass.

          I imagine you probably are homophobic, but if you are gay and don’t want to fuck a woman, it’s sort of the same thing. It doesn’t make you a woman-hater just because you dont want to be around them in certain spaces.

  21. I do agree I can do something racist by accident, and that when I hurt someone, my intent is much less relevant than the harm I’ve caused. And anyone who has known someone who is full of legitimately good intentions but who consistently does nasty things (even in the name of good intent) knows that intent does not make up who someone is or define the results of what they do. There are, I am sure, virulent racists who have barely a nasty thought about other races.

    HOWEVER. “I am sorry, that was not my intent” is a fine and legitimate apology for a one time offense, as long as you make it clear you are not blaming the other party for misunderstanding you. If this were a repeated offense, I agree, an abject and simple apology would be best. But I don’t think doing something wrong (once) means that people surrender their basic human need to be understood.

    I like gender feminism, I really do, but I really do not think defining it as radical opposition to the patriarchy when most people (ESPECIALLY people IN the patriarchy) can’t identify what it IS. People can grasp a human rights struggle. People can grasp a struggle to define racism and sexism by actions and results rather than the contents of people’s hearts, and arguments for why that’s important.

    I get that it feels good to go on the offensive and attack the patriarchy, but the patriarchy’s gonna ignore you, not because it’s powerful, but it’s because THEY WILL NOT KNOW YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT THEM. When you do bother to specify who, if you are attacking instead of trying to persuade, you’ll change squat because you’ve failed to educate ’cause you’re too busy shouting yourself hoarse. You’re pretty much set on preaching to a choir with things that have already be said in a style it was said in 30 years ago, and it wasn’t particularly persuasive or inclusive then either. So, what do you bring to the table, again? How do you add to the struggle? Maybe save your bandwidth money when you have something to add to the movement.

    • Wrong. You can’t accidentally say something racist. You can unintentionally say something that others perceive as racist, but that does not make it racist or you a racist. Intent is a necessary element of racism. Look it up in the dictionary.

      By making this statement, you are inadvertently supporting those who look to turn your empathy for past survivors of racism into personal guilt, of which you should have none, so that they can use that to promote an agenda for their personal or political gain.

      You needn’t apologize or necessarily change your speech. Simply acknowledge their mistaken presumption of your intent, state that it wasn’t your intent, and, if you were at fault for poor word choice, apologize for the weakness of your vocabulary, but not for being racist. More often than not, it was not your vocabulary, it was your accuser’s hypersensitivity that led to the mistaken presumption. Feel sorry for them, don’t feel guilty yourself.

      Of course, if racist thoughts were behind your words, even subconsciously, then you were wrong. But many times that is not the case; it is only angry myopic idiots looking to punish anyone they can out of their own frustrations in life.

      • well, if you’re going off of a strict definition of racism from a webster’s, then it makes sense that your reasoning around racism is going to be this flat. the way you characterize racism could be called the “perpetrator” model, where racism only exists in moments of intentional and premeditated action. but it simply doesn’t work like that.

        you would probably say that because lynchings are not an extremely common thing today that racism has been overcome. but structural racism is not so easy to see and requires actual effort (and the inclination) to trace its mechanisms. if you are inclined to only disown racism if it takes the shape of a hate crime right in front of you, then that speaks to your general comfort and complicity within a system that does in fact hurt people, whether or not you believe it.

        i wouldn’t presume to know what your experiences have been, but i have seen it happen quite often that a white person will express similar sentiments (resistance and defensiveness) when they’ve only just run up against concepts of privilege. they think of racism as this gigantic, stigmatic entity that completely defines you as a person. and while there are, for sure, obvious practicing racists, there are also people uncritically functioning within racists systems. the anger with which you lash out at poc for talking about racism already disqualifies your critiques as biased toward upholding a system that countless people know exists.

        acknowledging your own racism is the easy part. i’m mixed race white/non-white, and while i’ve thought about these issues for as long as i can remember, it was still a big deal when i first acknowledged to myself that i was racist. if only for the fact that i have been discursively produced within a racist society, i am racist. the hard part now, the part that lasts my whole life, is the constant sabotaging and dismantling of the mechanisms that retain and reproduce racism. the systems that enact racism in specific moments in the specific lives of specific individuals. you say that people should stop looking for racism everywhere, but if you were willing to listen, actually listen, to anyone (that is, anyone who doesn’t agree with you or who’s not also white) you might find that you should actually stop willingly ignoring racism everywhere.

        • I compliment you, Joe, for a reasoned response compared to the knee-jerk reactions of others here.

          You: “the way you characterize racism…”

          Me: I wasn’t trying to characterize racism in any way. It is what it is. But, it’s not what it’s not as well. Someone making a comment without racist intent that can only be seen as racist through subjective assessment has not exhibited racism. As I stated elsewhere here, calling someone a “lousy black person” is not racism without the intent if, in fact the person is black and is infested by lice. Sure, that person can perceive it to be racism, but they’d be wrong. And, yes, words and their definitions mean a lot to me.

          You: “you would probably say that because lynchings…”
          Me: No, I wouldn’t. In fact, I would not say racism has been overcome based on any argument, because it hasn’t. I see it in whites, blacks, and Hispanics frequently.

          You: “if you are inclined to only disown racism…”
          Me: But I’m not. However, I’d ask you to define this “system” to which you refer, as I did another person here. Surely, for example, you don’t refer to the system of affirmative action. Do you believe that system hurts people?

          You: “i wouldn’t presume to know what your experiences have been…”
          Me: I’ll help you. White male with a white mother, white father, 4 white siblings, a black stepfather, and 2 mixed-race sibllngs. I’ve dated white, black, Hispanic, and Native American women. I owner financed some land to a black couple on essentially a handshake. Did marry a white woman and have two children. I’ve seen and heard racism from whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans. I’ve seen government “systems” favor PoC. I’ve seen corporations favor both PoC, women, and white males. I’ve seen more, by number, white people discriminate against PoC than the opposite, but from a non-scientific assessment, I’ve seen a significant percentage of blacks discriminate against whites.

          You: “i have seen it happen quite often that a white person will…(resistance and defensiveness)…”
          Me: please, point out any resistance and defensiveness on my part.

          You: “there are also people uncritically functioning within racists systems…”
          Me: Just as there are people making a profitable living and advancing political agendas unrelated to racism by falsely accusing others of racism.

          You: “the anger with which you lash out at poc for talking about racism…”
          Me: Again, please point out any angry words from me, or any criticism of PoC for talking about racism.

          I, too, have thought about these issues for as long as i can remember and have never thought of myself as racist.

          I believe that racism is not and cannot be solved by governments. It must be solved at the personal level. And that, sadly, happens only slowly, from one generation to the next. My grandfather was racist, my father somewhat, me not, but sheltered somewhat, my children not at all and not sheltered. In this regard, I believe blacks are behind whites in overcoming their racist beliefs. As discrimination against them has abated, instead of accepting the past and moving forward, many feel empowered to act on the racism they’ve always felt, and seek vengeance for what has happened not so much to them, but to their parents, grandparents, etc.

          I don’t believe the answer lies in government-sanctioned reverse discrimination, or reparations paid by people who had no part in prior discrimination to people who did not suffer discrimination to the extent justifying reparations.

          You: “but if you were willing to listen, actually listen, to anyone (that is, anyone who doesn’t agree with you or who’s not also white) you might find that you should actually stop willingly ignoring racism everywhere.”
          Me: I’m here, talking to you and others less thoughtful here. What more do you require in order to stop insulting me?

  22. Ok… white feminist struggling to make it through law school right now. Tried having this conversation with a group of students who’d committed to doing anti-oppression work on campus. Let’s just say it did not go well. And I chose my words very, very carefully.

    Any advice you have on how to make it through the next year and a half will be greatly appreciated…

  23. @tychoish: “I’m not sure what will, but perhaps we need to focus on coming up with a new, third option, or a new way of theorizing oppression/privilege/power that doesn’t recapitulate this problem because until we do, we have an energy black hole that will keep everyone who engages this issue from all (either?) side(s) from getting anything done.”

    agreed, i am working on a new way of doing this right now. my master’s thesis is proposing that the narrative around race is obfuscating the real issue…..while race is a critical issue, in my opinion it is not THE issue but a symptom of the larger issue. this does not mean we cannot or should not talk about race, only that it needs to be anchored in a larger narrative about power and control and the abuse of power and control–an intersectional oppression theoretical frame does not detract from each experience of it, but, rather, analyzes the source of it and how it manifests in regard to of color communities, women, differences in bodiedness, socioeconomic status, etc….any form of oppression must be regarded as part and parcel of a larger systemic issue….racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, specism, etc etc are expressions of that thing and when we focus solely on racism, sexism, homophobia, classim, specism, ableism, etc we reify these acts of oppression from the symptoms they are to causes. any solutions will be ineffective in the long run and short term.

    • As someone else pointed out, non-western women were making the argument that oppression is systemic and requires an intersectional analysis in the late 1980s. They’re just as right now as they were then.

      Communists have long made the argument that gender/sexuality/racial/etc. oppression are methods of maintaining the power of the ruling class, and that specific oppressions are merely ways of dividing the interests and spirits of the proletariat. That’s still true, but being a communist is only marginally easier today than it was 60 or 70 years ago.

      But then, perhaps I expect too much from the main body of the leftist theoretical and political machine.

  24. I liked this and think it’s valuable! But I couldn’t help thinking about all the womyn of colour who have written similar posts over and over and over again, and whose words won’t get as much recognition as this post will. Made me wonder how you came to these ideas, and whose ideas have shaped your consciousness and why you decided not to acknowledge them in guiding your learning/unlearning process… things to think about for your blog.

    • Agreed.

      I’m also a little troubled by the spate of comments that “thanked” the author for writing the post, particularly from PoC. I’m not sure if that is fraught or not, but it did give me pause.

  25. No, Ron. Racism does not require intent. It only requires the power of impact. People of color can be bigots or prejudice, but because they do not have an entire SYSTEM at their disposal to punish white people simply for being white…no, the people you are talking about are not racists, but perhaps bigots or prejudiced individuals. I’m sure you can google critical race theory since you managed to find the elephant story.

    Thanks for the article. Might I suggest http://www.derailingfordummies.com/ to some of you?

    • yeah, actually, that’s what i was trying to say, haha. spot on and totally to the point, blueintheface.

    • From Wikipedia: Racism is the BELIEF that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination.

      From Dictionary.com: a BELIEF or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, USUALLY INVOLVING THE IDEA that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

      From Merriam Webster: a BELIEF that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

      Absent the BELIEF, there can be no racism. Thus, anyone can be a racist, not just whites, but making a statement without racist beliefs and without intending racism cannot be racism.

      For example, one could call another a “lousy black person,” but without racist intent — maybe the person is black, and maybe s/he is infested by lice — it is not a racist statement.

      I understand that this might be above your ability to grasp. You’ll just have to trust me and those other sources.

    • and please, define this “system” you describe. Or do I need to paste dictionary definitions again? The only system I know of that can enforce behavior under our legal system is the state and federal governments. And if anything, those systems punish white people (affirmative action et al) in words and practice.

  26. Thank you, Avory! As a WOC and someone who conducts social justice education, this was quite refreshing to hear from a white woman. And those of you who are posting about “racism on both sides,” and POC also being racist, please look up the definition of racism. A good place to start is the new book, Is Everyone Really Equal? by Sensoy & DiAngelo: http://store.tcpress.com/080775269X.shtml

    Peace, Strength, & Courage to All!

  27. So if I understand correctly, as I white woman, I’m not “supposed” to experience racism.
    Maybe a dose of “real world” Borderland weirdness is needed here.

    If I go for a hike on Federal land at a popular recreation area and get chased for a mile by a Border Patrol helicopter, is that racist, sexist, hikerist…or is the pilot just a butthead?

    If I try to vote on election day and bring all six pieces of ID that are specified as “legitimate” by Arizona law (driver’s license, passport, utility bill, voter registration card, etc.) and I am still refused a ballot because I “might be illegal”, is that racist, partyist…or is the pollworker just on a power trip?

    I had a substitute teaching assignment at a high school where nearly all the students spoke Spanish at home. Most had at least some command of English. At the end of the day, I was criticized by the principal (a Hispanic woman and native Spanish speaker) for not speaking Spanish in class. I politely told her that I only spoke English, and this was specified in my substitute profile, so I was probably a poor choice as a sub for that school, although I’d had no difficulty communicating with the students. She insisted that I “should” be able to speak Spanish because I was “obviously Hispanic” because of my looks and my name. Was that racist, or was she just covering up her failure to be more specific when ordering a sub?

    Incidentally (and it SHOULD be “incidental”, as in “not important”), I have brown hair, brown eyes, and a first name that is now associated with Hispanic women (though it wasn’t always that way). I was born in the U.S. and both parents are WASPs. I don’t “look white” and never have. And where I live, I’m “marginalized” for a variety of reasons, including chronic illness, religion, being an educated woman, sewing my own clothes, growing a bunch of native plants in my yard, and sharing my house with a lot of cats.

    So…WHAT COLOR AM I, and am I “allowed” to “experience racism”?

    If I dye my hair blonde and change my name to Kristin, will these things still happen to me? Would it mean that I was a racist?

    ROFLMAO.
    Be careful not to take yourselves too seriously. Coyote is watching, and she is equally at home in any color skin.

    • Thank you for this post IronWing. Loved it!

    • no, you aren’t & i definitely don’t understand why you’d want to…

      the reason why is not because anyone’s denying you anything that comes along with racism like the coveted systemic destruction of your culture. you clearly have no idea what actual racism is. racism is more than how individual people treat you though its definitely that too; racism is a structure, a political one, a social one & one that is present in every institution in this country because racism is a building block this country was founded upon. racism is what has more black men imprisoned today in the prison industrial complex, that is legally deprived rights (like voting) they are supposed to be as entitled to as you as citizens of this country (& who often end up there for being charged 2-3 times more severely than their white counterparts for the same crimes) than there were enslaved at the time of the civil war , racism is having less chance of getting a call back from your resume if you have a “black” name than if you are a white person with a criminal history. so no, as a white woman who can identify herself as being of wasp descent, you aren’t “allowed” to experience racism.

      so sorry you feel excluded from the particular brand of human cruelty & intolerance called racism but you ARE allowed to experience prejudice, bias, ignorance, stupidity, hate & many other negative elements of humanity that people of color have to live with in addition to racism. enjoy!

  28. wow ron lewis, i´m not sure where to begin with this. you, and only you of the respondents, seem to be incredibly invested in the idea that the behaviors of american-europeans, also colloquially known as white people, at large aren´t as racist as other communities feel that behavior to be. whenever i see someone who simply will not give on this point it alerts me to something far more substantial underneath the water: you´re a white person who´s tired of feeling guilty about being white. that sucks. i´m really tired of people believing that because i´m a brown person who´s been to college, is world traveled and can speak multiple languages that i´m the fucking einstein of my people when really i´m just a human being who has been well taken care of. i think that you´re missing something incredibly simple about this equation though: no one else can make you feel guilty for anything, so if you´re feeling guilty about it it means that your own consciousness is making you aware of some things about yourself that you´re not comfortable with. period.

    there seems to be a generally accepted concept in the minds of american-europeans that what they think, feel, believe is important and fundamentally relevant in every space they enter; its not. its like being a untrained husband walking into a room full of doula´s while his wife is giving birth so he can offer his two-cents on the process. its inappropriate and quite often truly nothing more than an unhelpful distraction. right now, in this space, i feel that you are that husband. right now as an individual you are engaging in a process i personally, and know many people- white and of color- find incredibly problematic, hurtful and just plain annoying because its so unfailingly white of you. you have entered a space where people are talking about the specific pain of a specific set of circumstances, ie: that of being marginalized in a space you were told you could exist freely, and an especially beautiful and powerful one because avory has made herself vulnerable in an attempt to address a larger ill the vast majority of people are not willing to accept any accountability for. you have entered that space and chosen to emphatically state your own personal opinion, which happens to inherently negate the conversation that´s being had. this is exactly the behavior i mentioned earlier.

    but i do thank you for exemplifying the true issue: most of the people that do this have no idea how hurtful it is to others because they´re never had UNINTENTIONAL racism thrown at them. when american-europeans experience hateful interactions with others based on their skin or ethnic heritage its intentional on the other persons part, they KNOW the reaction they are having to you is because you are white. this is not the case the other way around. the vast majority of white americans don´t realize this because their life experience (whatever it is) is normalized and racism against non-european-americans is so pervasive that white privilege is simply seen as normal and not inherently malevolent. you´re right that intent is important, but come the f*ck on. your understanding of racism, as you have showcased it here, is incredibly simplistic and completely ignores the reality of institutionalized racism, the quotidian social racism that we ALL participate in and are largely unaware of and eschews any true knowledge of human development. eg: when little kids hurt another little kid they´re not intending to hurt them. when little joseph slaps kendrick in the face because kendrick has a train joseph wants, he´s not trying to cause kendrick pain, what he´s trying to do is get the train. the key point here is that kendrick still gets slapped in the face no matter what, depending on who saw the scene he might also loose the train, and if we follow your advice joseph learns that its okay to slap people to get what he wants as long as he doesn´t intend to actually hurt them.

    wait, when did this turn into an episode of maury? when you excused abusive dynamics and said they were okay because of intent. (#1 first defense for perpetrators of domestic violence: i didn´t mean it!) you need never have said that you were white. the road to hell is paved with good intentions, ron, and i´ve had entirely too many well intentioned european-americans intend to compliment me by telling me i´m not like other brown/black people. think about that for all of 2 seconds, is that really a compliment? no, its not. its a double edged sword of intent. in the same moment they intend to build me up as an individual, what they ACTUALLY succeed in doing was tear down my family, my history, my culture, and leaving as the only positives (in their perspective) the things that aren´t of color. i´d much rather just be told ¨you know, i think the place and people you come from aren´t sh*t, but you´ve managed to do alright for yourself, kudos!¨ so that all psychological factors are presented to be held accountable.

    • Thank you for this answer, much more intelligent and deep that the stupid, ignorant , self-protective and racist comments that provoked it.

    • Wow, analogmojo, why am I not surprised that you and not only you among the respondents here twist my words into something you’re capable or arguing against. Please, quote anything I’ve said that indicates that I have the “idea that the behaviors of…white people, at large aren´t as racist as other communities feel that behavior to be.”

      I do believe that white people, overall, aren’t as racist as some PoC claim them to be, but as I stated somewhere on here, I think many of those PoC know that to be true and only exaggerate to promote a personal agenda.

      You: “whenever i see someone who simply will not give on this point…”
      Me: Per the above, you are making up the point and have no way to judge my actions regarding it. But, no, sorry to disappoint you, but I feel no guild for being white. Can’t even remember the last time I thought of myself as white.

      You: “i´m really tired of people believing…that i´m the fucking einstein of my people.”
      Me: Cool, this ought to make you happy then: I don’t.

      You: “no one else can make you feel guilty for anything..”
      Me: Untrue, and really quite silly. If you have a small child, give it to me and I guarantee to return it to you feeling guilty in one year.

      You: “there seems to be a generally accepted concept…”
      Me: Sorry you feel that way. Psychotropic drugs may help.

      You: “you have entered that space and chosen to emphatically state your own personal opinion, which happens to inherently negate the conversation that´s being had.”
      Me: I entered this space asking a simple question: Where is the companion article describing the pain felt by others? Everything since this has been in response to the comments of others. Are you suggesting that I ignore these people?

      You: “most of the people that do this have no idea how hurtful it is to others because they´re never had UNINTENTIONAL racism thrown at them.”
      Me: I expect many of the people you refer to have no idea how hurtful it is to be called a racist based only on their skin or ethnic heritage. We know its intentional on the other person’s part; they KNOW the reaction they are causing us is because we are white.

      You: “this is not the case the other way around. the vast majority of white americans don´t realize this because their life experience.”
      Me: Have you no doubt, world traveler, that if I moved to a land where whites were a small minority that I wouldn’t face the same discrimination? Do you doubt that it would actually be much worse, since our government has instituted laws restricting discrimination?

      You: “your understanding of racism, blah, blah…”
      Me: please point out examples of “institutional racism,” so that I understand what you mean. Do you refer to things like affirmative action? Or, would the example of my mother being taken from me at age 4 because she dared to have a child with a black man be better?

      • Here are some examples of institutional racism. I’ll focus on the criminal justice system, because it’s the system with which I’m the most familiar. The Sentencing Project (www.thesentencingproject.com) is one of many places where you can learn about racial disparities in arrests, incarceration, sentencing, etc.

        Some highlights from the report “Racial Disparity in Sentencing: a Review of the Literature”:
        – Young black and Latino males tend to be sentenced more severely than comparably situated white males;
        – Black defendants who victimize whites tend to receive more severe sentences than both blacks who victimize other blacks (especially acquaintances), and whites who victimize whites.
        – Latinos and blacks tend to be sentenced more harshly than whites for lower-level crimes such as drug crimes and property crimes;

        Institutional racism means institutions (justice system, schools, police, housing, employment, health care, etc. etc.) (let me muster up non-theoretical, academic words…) screw shit up for POC way more than white people. People in communities of color are unfairly targeted by laws, policies, and learned behavior by power brokers (e.g. judges who sentence unfairly) and gatekeepers (e.g. social workers who, PERHAPS UNWITTINGLY, are more likely to, say, take children away from African American parents than their white counterparts…

        “A comprehensive federal study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
        revealed that African American children are more likely to be placed in foster care, even when they have the same characteristics and problem sets as Caucasian children. Another study found that hospitals were more likely to evaluate minority children for physical abuse, whereas in white children it would be overlooked. Toddlers with accidental injuries were five times more likely to be evaluated for child abuse, and over three times more likely to be reported to child protective services, if they were African American.” (Schollmeier, Race Disparity and Child Protection)

        In this case, racism means POWER. The power to deny someone access to dignity or material needs. The power to take children away from their family or to lock someone up.

        Look, it should be enough for you to just *listen* to the people of color who are sharing their experiences on this blog. I offer these examples so that you may be inspired to do some of your own research, beyond looking at a dictionary, on what people experience. There’s a big world on this here internet. Also, I recommend watching “The Color of Fear.”

        Thanks.

        • Hmm, now I understand what you mean by “institutional.” It doesn’t have anything to do with institutions, you simply refer to people working in institutions. In each instance you describe, the act you assume is racism is, in fact, an act by a person (or some of all of the people in a jury).

          I thought you were going to cite something about the institution itself — racism mandated by HHS or the courts. You’ve simply cited individual, personal examples of what could be racism.

          But, to make that assumption without facts in every case is stretching it. Yes, the overwhelming numbers is a strong indicator — of either two things: racism or very bad behavior by the “victims.” I expect there is a significant percentage of the latter in those numbers.

          Some people could look at that and assume those “oppressors,” who are the ones in our society who see criminals and abusive parents on a daily basis, day after day, make their decisions based on their experiences. You see racism instead. Again, I expect both play a part.

          But it doesn’t matter. What it demonstrates is that racism can’t be eliminated by government rules and laws, it has to be won at the personal level — no one can force another person to like you. As a culture, PoC have traits that justify whites disliking them. Perhaps, if they looked in the mirror first, progress would be swifter.

          For example, I would not that people from India and Japan are also not white and don’t seem to suffer the injustices as frequently as blacks and Hispanics. Ask yourself why?

          • “As a culture, PoC have traits that justify whites disliking them. Perhaps, if they looked in the mirror first, progress would be swifter.”

            Let me get this straight. You’re not “intending” to be racist so, by some kind of magic, this isn’t racist? You don’t understand what racism is. What are these traits? Skin color? Culture? Are they universal? Or are they painted-on traits perpetuated by the system and the media? What is justification? What is your definition of just, of justice? Who are these “whites” who “dislike” (OPPRESS) these people of color? White people like you (RACISTS)? What is this mirror? A window to whiteness? An example of “correct” culture based only on it’s power, position and prominence?
            What is progress to you?
            I fear your progress.

    • thanks, analogmojo. this is such a thoughtful and well-argued response. while the subject may not appreciate it or hear what you’re saying, lots of us do.

      probably there should be some sort of anti-troll wigit that just automatically deletes comments by someone who posts more than 3 times. probably we should all stop getting sucked into the easy arguments with people who don’t even understand the basis of the discussion. but they’re so frustrating! and you responded admirably.

      also, that’s a very excellent prosimian you have in your profile pic. and capitalization is boring.

      • I recommend that you not apply for a debate scholarship at the local community college lest you be terribly disappointed. And if you find capitalization boring, I can only imagine how you found her atrocious grammar.

  29. Hi Avory!
    Thank you for writing this piece and thanks to all the people for commenting on it and pushing the conversation always further.
    I would like to translate this article into Spanish as well as to see it translated into French by a friend.
    Is that ok for you? Or/And does anyone knows of articles about anti-racism and white-supremacy in Spanish or/and French?
    Thanks to all.

  30. @ ron lewis: what difference does it makes? how is the utterance of racism different from the concept of racism? and please hashtag if you reply to me specifically.

    • Sorry, I don’t know how to hashtag.

      The comment of mine to which you refer was about the context of my prior statements. The author, I forget who it was, questioned my statement linking racism to intent. But my statement wasn’t about racism as a concept, which does not require intent; it was about statements by someone that were alleged to be racism. Lacking that intent, a person’s statement can’t be racism. I’ve cited this example a couple of times: calling someone “a lousy black person” can be racism, but doesn’t have to be, depending on whether the speaker intends it to be so. If the target is black and is infested with lice, it is a true statement and not a racist one.

      • hey ron! I found a really simple explanation for you. it doesn’t even require reading any books!

        courtesy of yo is this racist . com:

        http://yoisthisracist.com/post/13553287347/as-a-white-person-can-i-ever-argue-that-something-is

        Anonymous asked: as a white person, can I ever argue that something is not racist, if my minority friend says it is racist? The thing in question is a book where the bad guys are black (all in the same family, they kidnap a rich guy, then hijinx). She says racist, I say not, she says I am too white to know. Am I?
        ——–
        Yo, even though I guess there’s a chance you could be correct on the merits of an argument like this (though your specific example doesn’t start you from the strongest rhetorical position),
        here’s one thing you should realize: there’s zero upside in being a White person arguing that something is not racist.
        It looks terrible, you start to pull out all kinds of bullshit crypto-racist shit that you might not necessarily even believe, and honestly, how does it even hurt you at all if someone thinks something is racist and you disagree? I mean, at the end of the day, you’re still White, right?
        :D

        • That’s just stupid. According to this idiot, as a white person, if any person calls me a racist, for any reason or no reason, I should just shut up and take it, because I’m white.

          Please understand: that will never happen.

  31. Bemvidos a la Own Zone

    A true Einstein of their race would capitalize their sentences.

  32. Wow, this article and all the responses have really lit a fire in my mind. I am certainly no expert on any race/gender issues, but I feel I have a unique viewpoint, and am eager to learn more and hear what others have to say.
    First of all, a question. I am curious, it has been said a number of times throughout the responses to this article (and indeed in the article itself) that a white woman can never understand the experience of a non white woman. I am wondering, in what sense? I am assuming this statement refers to something more subtle than the fact that as human beings we can never fully understand what it is like to be anyone else. We can never really know the other as anything more than a representation in our minds.
    I feel that this is not a satisfactory answer though, and not what people are getting at.
    So what is it that is forever beyond my understanding as a white woman?
    As much as you warn not to draw a parallel between gender and race, I find I must.
    As a parallel, I will make the statement: a man can never understand what it is to be a woman, and vice versa.
    It seems logical enough at first, but as soon as I take that statement and apply it to my life, it starts to fall to pieces.
    I’m sure that most readers of this blog would agree that there is no clear line between male and female. I have friends who have undergone gender reassignment, others who do not identify with either gender…so where do they fit in to that statement?

    Similarly, I am white, yes, one look at me and it is apparent. However, I think that were someone to make assumptions about me and my life based on my skin colour these assumptions would not describe who I actually am.

    I grew up a minority, which is rare as a white Canadian. I feel that because of this I CAN in fact understand a lot of what it is like to be an “official” minority, because for the first 18 years of my life I WAS a minority. This is not to say I understand entirely the experience of someone who is not of western european heritage. I do not have to face the systemic and institutionalized discrimination that other people may be faced with, however I think that on a deep level, on the level of my heart and soul, I understand a great deal of the suffering that comes along with being the “other”.
    I am anticipating the response that even though I happened to live in a town where there were few other white people, I still grew up in a world where western European culture dominates, and so wasn’t really a minority, or oppressed.
    To that I would respond:
    Tell that to the little girl who was tormented every day of her elementary school career, . Tell her as she cries and wipes the spit off her face.
    Tell her that as she is kicked and pushed to the ground, called names, racist slurs.
    Tell her that because she is white the hurt she feels is worth less, that it isn’t really racism because it is a backlash, a response to the racism that her forefathers perpetrated.

    I can say that none of that matters AT ALL when you are a friendless child, lying (in vain) about your heritage to try and be accepted.

    I remember looking at my skin colour when I was a little girl, and hating it, hating myself. I would lie out in the sun praying for it to become browner so I could be normal. No child should ever have to feel that way. No one should hate who they are.

    I didn’t realize what the rest of my country was like, that this was an abnormal experience. I grew up without a TV, or radio. For me my whole world was the small First Nations town I called home, and try as I might I could never fit in.

    If you have read this far you may have picked up on the fact that I still have a lot of baggage leftover from my childhood. I am so hurt, on behalf of that sad sad little girl I once was, to hear some people believe because my skin colour is the same as the people who did so much wrong to the indigenous people that I grew up with, my suffering doesn’t count.
    I am emotionally scarred from my childhood.
    I don’t belong anywhere.
    I have no people.
    I don’t FEEL white, because most white people don’t understand my experience of being a minority. On the other hand there are people that say that simply because my skin is white I can’t understand the experiences of a minority.
    Tell me, where do I fit in this neat little world where we have whites on one side of an invisible line, and non-whites on the other?
    What I have learned from the unique experience of my youth is:
    It is SO important it to NOT generalize about people.
    NEVER!
    Whatever the race or the culture you simply cannot know who someone is or what they have lived through by what you see when you look at them. Prejudice lives in us all, and we project it onto everyone we see. It is our duty to try and let go of this prejudice and see people for who they actually are.
    I feel that, as much as this article is striving to move forward, in classifying people as either “POC” or “white” it is in a way doing the opposite. I don’t think it does enough to heal the wounds we all bear from living in a divided world.
    You simply cannot classify people by the colour of their skin, or their genitalia or body type or income etc.
    Racism/sexism/speciesism and a plethora of other isms are all real, and exist in all of us. If we can only acknowledge that, and be ever vigilant, and strive to move beyond them we will be that much closer to unity among beings.
    Any input anyone has would be most welcome, as I really want to know what others think about what I have to say. I really hope it has not offended, as my intent is to share my story, not to try and tell other peoples stories for them.
    So please, after reading this, tell me, where do I, and people with similar experiences fit in to the world you have described in your blog?

    • Pika, I enjoyed reading your post although it was quite sad at moments. Great contribution. I wish Avory would add her 2 cents to comments like these.

  33. What??? I dislike being told to put up or shut up because of my race.Don’t friggen judge me by the color of my skin. How would this article fare if it said”” Brown Feminists Put up or shut up on race”” because of words like”” viva la raza””? Or any other racial statements from any color? No one knows how it feels to be another color or another oppressed minority Do you think white people are not also oppressed minorities? Beep wrong! “” Fucking up is natural”” who says? Maybe to you.I don’t think so. I don’t know how it feels to be black, brown yellow or red. Do they know how it feels to be in the same circumatances and be white? NO! Racial slurs run rampant in all races. If Feminsts are going to put up or shut up about race, perhaps you should be all inclusive vs targeting “”any”” race . Racism is ugly. If we were all green we would be fighting over which shade of green was better.

  34. Thank you for including specific examples of racism that isn’t blatant. That seems to be what I encounter/observe most often and it’s hard to pin point.

  35. “We need to stop playing Oppression Olympics.”

    Indeed. And that includes “Gee, your oppression is huge and hairy and humongous and totally unlike anything I have ever known”

  36. god you people generalize, put down, demonize, belittle, dehumanize, etc each other (and i assume many other people); maybe there’s something else here more to focus on for equality….

  37. As a first time reader, I found this article fairly interesting, but reading these comments, there are a few common threads I seem to be picking up on.

    The first is a general hostility towards whites, even ones that are trying to learn from reading these posts. I guess that’s something I didn’t realize needed to be a staple of the push towards equality. You would think encouraging interest from whites and asking them about their thoughts might serve to include and educate them, bringing them closer to an acceptance of systemic racism and helping to end it. Instead there seems to be this retaliation, and white is used as a derogatory connotation. How is this better? Justifying this reaction, as a poster already has, is just a rationalization of looking to injure someone.

    “Ragging on whites isn’t racism.” Well, I guess making another human being feel bad and out of place due to their skin color isn’t important to you. That might not make you a racist, but it makes you a cruel person.

    The second is the almost nonsensical way many of you posters try to stifle discussion of viewpoints you disagree with, even when it’s being phrased as politely as possible. Congratulations, in an arena where you are the majority like-minded individual, you’ve taken on the exact same traits of the white oppressors. It seems like human beings are pretty similar – when given the chance, they’ll exert dominance over the minority. I hoped that as POC, especially WOC, some of you would recognize this trend and stop it, but it doesn’t seem like that matters.

    So while the article was well written, these posters are pretty shameful. I doubt any of you will listen, but I suppose I can try to make my voice heard.

    • This goes back to what Avory mentioned on a reply higher up about tone. I agree with you that ragging on someone because they are white may be cruel in many instances, but it is not racist. The point is racism. Everything else is derailing. And yes PoC can seem harsh or hostile but it’s frequently because we feel exasperated after having the exact same discussion over and over and over, seeing little to no progress from the other side, and then being blamed for our tone. The words and tone used by white commenters may not seem hostile to you, but dismissing or minimizing racism feels very hostile to my being no matter how you phrase it.

  38. As in most liberal rants, the author needs to get a grip on his/her own issues before telling the world how to live. jmho

  39. Love it! thank you; hopefuly this will also remind me (as an AA woman) to stop dismissing WW just b/c they are not WOC. It works both ways, but I think your essay was wonderful!

  40. i think studying privilege is important but also I believe the healing won’t be all that academic in the end. people largely hold on to there privilege because there are rewords, comforts and gains to be made from it. sometimes the movement is no better. we make the oppression you carry come with rewords, comforts and gains on the condition you stay oppressed, identities that can’t be changed (black,queer,women etc.) seem to have the most say about what kinds of rewords, comforts and gains they should get and are not questioned often similar to the old model of white men traditional hold. i been beat the shit out of just for being black but “i don’t wake up thinking how oppressed i am” im a free man if only in between the times i run into my oppressors. not the other way around

  41. Also, can you elaborate on what you mean by this: “Gender is informed by race.”

  42. This is good! Really good! I only disagree on two points.

    I disagree when you write “It doesn’t matter how you meant [an
    accidentally racist comment].” The lack of intent doesn’t make it all
    okay, but there’s a huge difference between racism born from ignorance
    and racism born from hate.

    (Note: Racism is still wrong, no matter the reason. Not defending racism, that would be stupid.)

    And I don’t like defining feminism as “radical opposition to
    patriarchy”. I think definitions should always be for something, not
    against something. It makes a more positive argument and more easily
    lends itself to non-violent protest. Plus it sets up an Us versus Them
    approach, which I will always reject in a social justice context,
    regardless of the issue.

    I think intersectionality is going to be my next area of study!
    –Victor

  43. As much as I agree with all your points Avory, as I am a white liberal female, I can’t help but to intergect some of my own thoughts on the issues of race and gender. I grew up in an abnormally liberial family for my generation, and I myself feel that it is possible to become a person who does no offensive action based on gender or race. I don’t see blacks as blacks or whites as whites or females as females. We are all PEOPLE and should all be treated as such. I do think that we should though be judged on our actions towards others and ourself. What I mean specifically in this context is that if you want to be outspoken you better have something important and meaningful to say, than waste your own breath repeating and whinning about how you should be treated as a minority and that you deserve special privledges because of your self labeled differences. YOU are no different then anyone else on this planet, yes you may not have as much money or as great of an education as the next person, but it is possible to make something of yourself without throwing say ‘white males-over 30-6 feet tall’ under the bus. All I’m saying is the only way we can fix the issues that plague our planet is to accept that we are different (black, american, LBGT, etc.) and the same (humans), and move on, teach our children to not hate the ‘man’ because at the rate at which minority groups are going…the future generations will be continue to be racist towards just another minority group.

    • I agree with this post. Just because one is white does NOT mean that one cannot understand what it’s like to be discriminated against. It’s like you’re saying that people couldn’t possibly feel Empathy for one another.

  44. While I agree wholeheartedly with your message, I do have some issues;

    “We need to acknowledge that we cannot know what it’s like to be an oppressed racial minority. Cannot. The end. Period. We don’t know because we’re queer, because we’re disabled, because we’re Jewish, because we were the nerdy kid in school.”

    That is 100% accurate. However, equating queerness, disability, and religion to being the nerdy kid in school is shortsighted and alienating at best. One could easily say that opressed racial minorities don’t know what it’s like being an oppressed sexual minority. Being the nerdy kid in school is kind of a temporary state, not necessarily an inescapable aspect of ones self. I hope this satirical.

    “We need to accept that maybe the thing we’ve been fighting for our whole lives isn’t as important as another thing that is hurting someone else.”

    I don’t see how this is different from playing the Oppression Olympics. All types of oppression are pervasive of society and damaging to the oppressed in different ways. What unites them is the fact that they hurt people, and what we as activists need to be united by is our desire to end it. All of it. This means incorporating the voices of the most marginalized, and learning from them.

    If someone is fighting against a form of oppression that has hurt them, don’t diminish them by saying that another issue is more important. People need to be fighting against hegemonic oppression on all fronts, not arguing with each other over who is hurt by it more.

    • One could easily say that opressed racial minorities don’t know what it’s like being an oppressed sexual minority.

      One could say that, but one would be wrong. There is such a thing as an LGBTQ person of color, you know.

  45. I like what you are saying, and I completely agree, and in the interest of adding to the important conversation you have started, I want to point out one spot in your post where you might have a blinder: “when we bring marginalized voices to the table.” Part of the problem is white feminists (and white people in general) still own the table (literally, and figuratively, in our language, our thoughts, and in the way we progressive liberal whites turn people’s lives into issues and causes to be “dealt with,” as you astutely point out in the sentence: “It happens when a group of mostly white feminists suggests that one of their POC members be in charge of “dealing” with a race issue.”) We need to turn the table over, and take a seat at it in solidarity when we’re brought to it.

  46. Dear Avory, awesome article. I have been thinking about it a lot since I read it yesterday. I’ve been thinking a lot about how it applied doubly (or perhaps on a logarithmic scale?) to white male feminists.

    I started thinking a lot about how it ties into my conception of what the Occupy movement can and should be: people coming together privilege takes a seat to equality. In some ways it’s a page from the book of socialist movements of the past (except without institutionalization), every effort should be made to give POC, WOC, queers and others the floor. Dudes, bros and 1% can also be part of the conversation, but perhaps not in the manner of the flame wars above (self-righteousness should seriously get left at home for a few goddamn minutes). With every bit of self-righteousness, their welcome decreases. Everyone just has to realize they cannot speak objectively for anyone else.

    It often seems there is always some group willing to take the lead on solving problems, making decisions for other people. In capitalism, it’s CEOs and board members. In Marxist-Leninism, it’s “the party” (in one form or another). There’s always a group of experts out there willing to handle “white man’s burden” and solve the hard problems that society faces. Engineers can solve any problem, right? The idea is that experts are always smarter than the untrained, but I think that self-righteousness helps put up blinders for people. Unintended consequences result. I talk about this a little more in my blog: http://wp.me/prasc-1y

    I hope this ties in as much as I think it does.

  47. I’m a white feminist, and I can’t believe this still needs to be said.
    Sigh.
    But keep saying it.

  48. Exactly what is “Ron’ contributing to this debate..nothin! Ron is only interested in defending his (asserted) right to ‘be racist’…….

    In the words of Maya Angelou in her message to ‘person of white colour’,
    ” You cannot JUST walk over the sandunes of my Herstory and call me Sister”

    I agree with all that you say Avory, the womons movement (sans men) needs to address the racist issues you so neatly pointed out.

  49. There is plenty of history/herstory for white people to educate themselves on being white and the legacy that comes with that..If you look at the social ,political and economics of this country it is clear who influence policies and up holds the institutions of oppression in this country , government and communities through our silence and self protection.I’ve seen it heard it confronted it and have been marginalized with in white community and not just around race but also class. They prefer silence ” “Do not rock the boat” “”don’t want to offend our funding sources” Workshops great action to hard and when confronted about this, sends a peaceful white liberal be them gay or straight into a Must you pop my pleasant white bubble self protecting rant. I don’t mean all white people but am so surprised in my 20 years of trying to figure stuff out how silence and denial are so alive and well in white liberal so called progressive community be them straight or gay. If you are white and have no clue what white privilege is then chances are you are a perpetrator of oppression be it knowingly or un knowingly.
    goddessboi
    http://www.butchculture.com

  50. A comment by someone much smarter than I am:

    This is just the latest salvo in the attacks on straw feminists and straw feminism. If there are avowed “feminists” — who really are feminists — who are saying or doing racist things, by all means call those out specifically and address them specifically with specifics and details and facts. But this article doesn’t do that. It claims a giant group of people are not doing… something. Or are doing… something. And there is a something that they should be doing, but aren’t. How do we know? She doesn’t say. Because it’s just so much easier to imagine some amorphous group of white women are doing something bad. How do we know that? Because the backlash against feminism has been barking about this for 30 years. Read the comments to that article: 2nd wave feminists were all racists. We can dismiss everything they said and did because of that. Who would want to do that? Yes, the patriarchy loves when women set each other up and knock each other down. This writer says in the first few lines: “we need to stop playing Oppression Olympics” and then sets up a scenario where that very thing is being supported. If racism is happening, by all means call it out. In the meantime, stop beating up on straw feminists.

    These points have been made a thousand times and in far better, smarter ways by women who are and aren’t white. She could simply have linked to those much smarter explanations, then gotten on with the work that she’s saying everyone else should be doing. Instead she throwing down a gauntlet to an imaginary set of white feminists, who, in her vaunted opinion, are doing feminism wrong. Yet the writer is a white feminist and instead of actually addressing race in the way she thinks other feminists should be addressing it, she’s making this grandstanding statement about other white feminists not doing enough. If you’ve got a great idea, let’s hear it. Whining about other women not doing enough is not the same as actually doing something. She hopes to get credibility on the issue without taking any of the risk or putting in any of the work. And pretending that there are a bunch of terrible white feminists out there who don’t care about race is exactly like all the other derailing tactics that say that women are focusing on the wrong things. She wants to talk about race, fine, talk about race. That isn’t any more or less than her opinion of what is important. She has only her very limited experience to draw on, yet globalizes it into a criticism of all white feminists. Instead of making things up (setting them up) so you can criticize them (knock them down), how about just getting some work done?

  51. I really love this article, thank you! I try very hard to be aware of my privilege as a white feminist while at the same time continually contesting that privilege. But it’s easy to slip back into old habits–ones that we begin internalizing very young. As white feminists, it’s easy to forget to hold our tongues and let those who have been oppressed due to race, in addition to gender, speak. It’s easy to forget that white women are complicit in racism today, specifically indirect or inferential racism, by merely participating in our racist Western society. So, please, let’s try to shut-up or put up harder! I know I want to.

    thefeministajournals.blogspot.com

  52. I greatly enjoyed reading this post, however i had a few differences of opinion that I would like to share.

    I have a difficult time understanding your claim that you “cannot know that it’s like to be a racial minority” simply because you’re not a member of that minority group. This statement is problematic for many reasons. It supports the notion that being a minority is akin to receiving an all access pass to understanding oppression. Implicitly These are the kinds of statements that are used to justify the use of POC as representatives and intermediaries for their respective backgrounds. This is very false. Simply because someone is of color doesn’t mean that they have any advantage in understanding oppression. Additionally, not being a POC doesn’t mean that you’re efforts to understand oppression is any less valuable. This is the kind of discourse that discourages well intentioned attempts to understand race from the perspective of POC. It seems that the problem you are describing comes from situations a slightly different situation. I have seen situations where white feminists ignore the kinds of oppression that uniquely affect POC. These situations culminate from a fear that the feminist movement will be hijacked by a racial movement, not from an attempt to understand oppression through their own experiences. It seems that you are describing a situation in which white feminists have said “I’m Jewish” or “I was the nerdy kid” as a way of claiming that they already completely understand oppression. Though this is problematic, I feel that it comes from that earlier problem I described, where the feminist movement excludes attempts to combat racism for fear that the movement will no longer be centered around women alone.

    I agree that saying something or doing something racist doesn’t mean that you are a racist. I think we all need to remember that racism is purposefully constructed and that oppression permeates every level of our society. A unique learning opportunity is created whenever something racist is done or said. I feel that your emphasis on the apology overshadows this fact. Simply apologizing for something racist doesn’t mean that anything has been learned from the situation. The problem isn’t that people do and say racist things without apologizing. The problem is that the voices of POC are silenced in these situations and that there exists no space to challenge racism. In addition to taking a seat and listening to what was done wrong, I think it is important for feminists to create a safe space where ALL issues of oppression ( race, class, etc…) can be tackled. I think it is also important to not treat POC as a homogenized group that are the only people able to tackle race.

    Lastly, I recognize many of your quotes from bell hook’s many writings on feminist theory. Perhaps you should more explicitly give credit to that particular author. It is important for your readers to know where the original theory came from and which theorist they should read if they would like a deeper understanding of the problems that this article discusses.

  53. Thanks for posting this. I welcome you to critique my blog if you are interested. I am going through a very similar thought process.

    http://www.torijezebelscout.com

  54. My perspective is quite different because I am not an academic and academic feminism is the specific type of feminism I need to avoid the most. There are other parts of feminism that I draw from, but most of the time, I wouldn’t define myself as a feminist because my issues around gender are a lot more complex than men and women, seeing as how I am neither. I also feel that feminism fails to recognize its racism, its roots of racism. If feminism were to become anti-racist it would need a new name and a new agenda. Most of the time, white feminists dominate and get away with racism and gender oppression such as transphobia and misogyny. How is it not misogynist when The Patriarch also oppresses males, and not just trans people, feminine men, submissive men, and there is more. The difference between Patriarchy and Racism is that racism doesn’t hurt white people. Patriarchy hurts everybody.

  55. Hi all,

    I like that this article challenges us to not be narrow minded and arrogant in our own lives – we should all live by the golden rule & be gracious to everyone. Everyone brings something to the table.

    I’m ethnically ambiguous – $20 if you can guess my heritage – and don’t feel defined by others’ reactions to my skin color. Most people find it a source of great joy to guess. ha! I’ve been called Phillipino, Iranian, South American, Mexican, Native American, Indian, Chinese, and Hawaiian. All not the case! I’m sure many folks who have had racism hurled at them, or who haven’t but do want to change the system, know eradicating racism in their own lives is the first step.

    I want to echo the sentiments that it’s important to make the distinction between racist institutions and everyone of the same skin color that has benefited from that institution. White privilege wasn’t started by white folks today. And it isn’t always perpetrated by white folks.

    The same goes for gender. I’m a proudly titled feminist. And I don’t believe in a 2 gender system, in racism, or in the shadow side of patriarchy.

    My brother is white guy. I’m a brown girl. We have the same parents & it’s impossible to tell who we are from how we look.

    I hope that being sensitive to one another’s painful experiences while encouraging each other to fire back on unfounded criticism AND never, ever let it slow you down makes the world that much bettah. Get em!

  56. Allanah Anderson

    (Though I appreciate what is being said in this essay) I do not appreciate the name ‘Person. of color’, or other reference terminology for people. It delineates a generalization that is separatist, and very strange being labeled like this. It perpetuates a ‘weird’ compartmentalization of people, that is Naming, or ‘branding’ people this way is unnecessary and an indication of racism itself.

  57. Whenever I’m too tired to explain this exact issue to someone, I tell them to go watch the South Park episode “With Apologies to Jesse Jackson”. Stan’s father uses the N word on Wheel of Fortune. Stan tries multiple times to smooth things over with his black classmate, Token. (yeah i know). Stan finally “gets it” at the end when he realizes there is no way for him to understand what it’s like.

  58. I am really sick of these “white feminist” slaps- They are general and far reaching. Not all, White Feminist act like you insist all White feminist do. Not all white feminists are the same – They come from different backgrounds, upbringings, and social status – To lump all of us as the same is disingenuous.

    No we can’t claim what it’s like the be a “woman” of color, and cannot know what it’s like to be her, and understand her struggles because they are different from our own.

    What we can do is we can help her, we can stand in solidarity with her, and we can help her with her fight.

    I really despise being talked down to and being slapped for something I don’t do –You are acting in a way that you say that you deplore – You are talking as if you are talking for all White Feminist — You aren’t – You aren’t talking for me, I don’t think you are being releasable but rather informatory and divisive. Playing the White Feminists and Woman of Color. It’s like wanting to be part of a “cool gang” and the price of admission is to put a slap down on another group, it didn’t play well in high school, and it doesn’t play well here.

    I personally don’t want to be preached to – But would like to know how you work and operate – Instead of saying what I need to do.

  59. eh, even two years ago I would have agreed with the original post without a second’s hesitation. But now we have a situation where there’s *a few* people (of every ethnicity) tromping around feminists spaces who are literally bottomless wells of insecurity. And no matter how sensitive everybody else is or how careful they are with their phrasing when discussing the harms of racism, there are *a few* folks for whom this is never enough to assuage their insecurity. (well this dynamic has probably always existed but remained hidden by the rampant examples of genuine racism within feminist spaces).

    Anyway, things have gotten a lot better within feminist spaces over the last few years, and there just doesn’t seem to be all that much what I would describe as “racism” — ie, inferioritizing Black folks or reinforcing harmful stereotypes or minimizing of actual racism. Come to find out, what these insecure folks are referring to as racism is merely an instance where they didn’t receive as much special snowflake treatment as they felt they were entitled to. Not sure where they ever got the impression that equality means being wrapped in a bubble…

    So no, if somebody is going to talk about racism within feminist spaces then unfortunately they need to provide an actual example, otherwise we could be dealing with one of these insecure or manipulative people. Again, they come in all ethnicites and are hopefully small in number but just like any other disordered individual they do an awful lot of damage. Their purpose is not to educate the ignorant to but to inspire guilt which can then only be assuaged by treating the accuser with all the mollycoddling politeness and concern which she obviously craves. Most white feminists don’t expect to be given that extreme level of sensitivity nor do they insist that the absence of that is “sexism”.

  60. This is the most blustering, obsequious, grovelling nonsense. What is all this talk of screwing up, failing, confronting? Get over your white middle class guilt and stop patronising the very people you’re claiming to advocate for. They don’t need to hear this grandstanding waffle from you.
    And the most cringe inducing thing is it’s written in the style of some honking homegirl cliche ranting on Jerry Springer. Racial minorities? One of the most loathed racial minorities you have in the US are the so called redneck white trash, a demographic universally reviled and acceptably so. The idea that marginalisation on the basis of race cuts deeper or does more harm is simply untrue. There is no hierarchy of suffering here. This kind of aggressive faux truth telling is a sham and exposes little but your own desire to ingratiate yourself with people you feel perceive you as a condescending do gooder. And they’d be right.

    • I don’t “loathe” redneck white trash, but then, maybe you are distorting the meaning of those words. “Rednecks” are just country people. The term comes from the tan they get from riding on a tractor. “White trash” are just poor white people. I think what you mean is “white bigots.”

      Racism is such an exaggerated problem in society primarily used by politicians and people with an agenda to divide and conquer, raise donations, or blackmail.

      As a percentage of their populations, minorities are more racist than white people.

      If a Top Ten list were created of the most prevalent types of discrimination, racism would be near the bottom. I would place ugly or fat people at the top. Stupid people (not ignorant) would be next. Then, those with disabilities.

      Discrimination against gays is so infrequent, based on their low percentage of the population, as to be almost non-existent,

      Sadly, none of these discriminations by people against people can be solved by enacting laws – you can’t force someone to like someone else. It only improves one generation at a time. In the case of racism, it has almost disappeared from our youngest generation.

      Unfortunately, it’s all BS. Racism will be simply be replaced by some other type of discrimination – for example, the discrimination against religious people we are starting to see.

      People will hate. You can’t stop that.

  61. Yes because minorities alone know what it is to be oppressed…Jesus.
    I would imagine you must foot pain from all the tip-toeing you do. If you truly believe all people are equal then everyone has the right to put on their big boy/girl pants and DEAL WITH IT.

  62. I dont know If you have the time but this text made me smile, especially because I have been reading this disscussion between a so called queer white feminist and a black, homosexual, crossdressing rapper and I would LOVE it if you had a saying about that because it just feels so wrong in so many levels. https://www.facebook.com/FirstUp/posts/10151678636679314?comment_id=28855829&offset=0&total_comments=6

  63. Castrated males mean nothing. Feminism is important and will continue. The false “trans” lies of penis-less males are irrelevant to feminism.

  64. What if you disagree that what you did was racist? This is why people go ‘didn’t mean it that way’ it’s a polite way of saying that someone’s offense does not matter, because honestly, it doesn’t, nobody has a right to not be offended, and someone’s offense has no bearing on the truth of the matter.

  65. I absolutely love this article! I have never identified my place within the feminist movement until this very moment, I had to take a step back and ask myself when did I write this.. absolutism at it’s rawest most honest best..fucking fabulous.. i

  66. Derek Blankenship

    How is that white privilage working out for our white brothers and sisters in South Africa now being Genocided by blacks? How is that white privilage working out for our white european brothers and sisters facing genocide in their own nations soon from the term racist if you refuse to let other races leech off your economy to produce astounding numbers of children in White nations and only white nations.You intelligent Cultural Marxists are something else , those right wing extremist are racists by wanting to preserve the white race while Liberal whites and every other race are implementing our world wide Genocide :). All you other races and Liberal whites are the true racists of this world as your forcing White Genocide worldwide. The Jews sure did pull a hell of a World wide deception in their plan for World Domination didnt they :). Came into our country and infiltrated our Government , Own the media that is spewing the race mixing agenda in all white Nations on earth. They have even been recorded as saying they planned to show Black men as superior to white men so that would allow them to mate with white women thus destroying the only enemy capable of stopping them. Then they plan to enslave the rest of mankind gg :). The liberal Jewish owned media running the United States and Europe is doing a swell job with their propaganda. It always amazes me watching the amount of racial couples on television considering the very small percentage they make up of the American population. Mind Programming at its finest , they didn’t call it television programming for nothing slaves :). I can tell you whose hands all that money is going into. I know people have been killed for trying to expose this agenda of the World elite. The far right in Europe is rising because people are becoming aware of the Liberal Agenda to Genocide Europeans world wide. This is not a Genocide through killing. They knew that they could not kill the white race off through war so they used infiltration and then propaganda.

  67. Derek Blankenship

    Oh and btw might i add before you call me a nazi , Why do you think the jews have been kicked out of every country they have went to ? I will first say that as a Christian I have always understood not to speak about the Jews because blessed is he who blesses them and cursed is he who curses them. Only problem is after looking at overwhelming evidence it clear what some Jews have planned for our world.

    “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

    ― Voltaire

    This would no doubt be the Jew and the Black race or any other race other than white. History repeats itself because the same evil satanists have been running it since the beginning. Wonders why mass immigration from Mexico hasnt been stopped :). Why muslims are allowed to move into our country while we are fighting for the Jews over seas. Mostly white men will = more white deaths. If you want to know what the Liberal media wont tell you because they are part of the system is this. They want Russia to become multicultural and allow all races to come there and Russia is the only threat other than China capable of stopping this World Agenda. This conspiracy is what famous people have been killed trying to expose. I know very well that i am posting this comment on a page full of enemies.

    If your not familiar with bible Prophecy the Antichrist is believed to Rule from Jerusalem after the whole world goes into complete Chaos.

    While we are at it why are blacks coming in to European nations and claiming racism and getting benefits in every white nation on earth just like they are in America while committing Genocide of Whites in South Africa ? They are looting the streets , raping white women , murdering white women and men and the media is staying silent. They are raping our women in America and Murdering our men in America and the Jewish owned Liberal media does not blow it out of proportion like they did the Zimmerman case who was not even white ? If the truth is racist then i stand Guilty as charged. How about you stop talking shit and taking free hand outs and fix your own countries which are 3rd world shit holes. You white liberals making me sick to my stomach and make me sad to say i am white. You’ve been brainwashed from cradle and probably will be to grave “WAKE UP”. The truth will set you free :)

  68. Thank God, some white feminists are open to self reflect and critique their own flaws as opposed to belittling us colored feminists. Like your perspective, will follow with interest this blog. In solidarity, S

  69. Bless you. As much as I rage that people of color need to stop begging politely to be treated like human beings because it would be a historical phenomenon if White people gave up their power willingly, it’s hard for me not to feel some form of solidarity with White women just on the basis that we both have a uterus. In that case finding these articles actually does mean something to me.

    signed,

    WoC

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