It Lives: The Image of Me Constructed by You

[NOTE: I got two posts today from contributors, Terence and Danielle, on this key and troubling story. I am posting both over next 12 hours. Please add your comments.]

FBI Police Chevy Tahoe“Come on boy; you know the routine. Assume the position.”

Yes, unfortunately in these here United States of America, my skin is my sin. The luck of possessing a hue associated with Africa and the ownership of a Y chromosome carries a heavy burden. The burden was front and center this week within the story of Bonnie Sweeten of Feasterville, Pennsylvania . Ms. Sweeten made a frantic phone call to 911 from Philadelphia, on May 26th from the trunk of a car where she told authorities that she and her 9 year old daughter were, after being rear ended earlier. She went on to say that after the accident, after exiting her SUV, she and her daughter were then kidnapped. The story caught national attention from NBC to Fox news. The police, the amber alert system, and the FBI all pulled their efforts together to save them damsels in distress from the “evil doorers” (Creative Commons License photo credit: JLaw45 ).

You might ask yourself, who would commit such a disreputable deed? Well it was “two Black men” of course! And of course they were driving, of all cars, “a Cadillac.”

Well today, we found out it was all a disgusting hoax. In fact, the two were bound for Disney World. After taking out thousands of dollars from her family account and buying two tickets to Florida, mother, with her child, were later spotted boarding a plane in Tampa which led the local police to their hideout with Mickey at the Grand Floridian Hotel in Orlando. On Thursday, May 28th, the Today Show discussed the issue of Michelle Henry; District Attorney for Bucks County Pennsylvania, who was asked by the newscaster whether this was a case of racial profiling. Ms. Henry avoided the question raised .

My frustration observed in writing this entry is not without merit. For this country has a long history of feeding a stereotype of Black males as dangerous, oversexed, with out a moral compass [See the book, The Assassination of the Black Male Image by Earl Ofari Hutchinson]. Where again you might ask?

  • Examples can be traced from the stereotypical, controversial, and influential 1915 film, Birth of a Nation,
  • March 25, 1931, Alabama with the death of what the media called the Scottsboro Boys.
  • October 24, 1989, Boston—Pregnant Carol DiMaiti Stewart, 30 years old died, from a gun shot to the head. Her husband, Charles, 29 years old reported to police that a Black man claiming to be an undercover policeman pulled their vehicle over and shot he and his wife; killing his wife and later after two weeks of survival, their eight week premature unborn child. Later the police discovered that the husband actually killed his wife and unborn child.
  • October 24, 1994, Union, South Carolina—In order to win the affection of a man with whom she had been having an affair, Susan Smith placed her three year and 14 month old children into the safety devises in her car and rolled the car into John D. Long Lake. She claimed to the police that she and her children were carjacked by a Black man. During the nine days before she had confessed her merciless crime, a number of Black males were harassed and seen as possible perpetrators in the crime.
  • July 11, 2007, Tituville, Florida—Bob Allen, a Senior Republican, and former co-chairman of the campaign of Senator John McCain arrested for attempting to solicit oral sex for 20 dollars from an undercover police officer in a men’s toilets facility. Mr. Allen has a long record of being a proponent of ant-gay legislation in Florida. When arrested, he attempted to avoid prosecution by declaring that the undercover police officer, who happened to be a large black man, intimidated him and Allen felt he had to do whatever it took to survive.
  • Within the 21st century there is an effort to still demonize the Black male and depict them as a threat to society. Black males have been historically and presently seen as a sexual, physical, and emotional threat to Whites. Some Blacks and other people of color have also helped to feed the stereotype. It is time for us all to bash this image when it is presented.


    1. What I wonder is if the day will come when someone makes the claim of being victimized by some anonymous, random black man and before sending out a APB or whatever, the police actually investigate the claim. I mean. I know there’re probably many more times when they cry “black man!” is true, but it’s also a great scapegoat.
      And if nothing else, white people are more likely to be victimized by another white person than someone of color. These false reports would actually sound more crediblel to my cynical ears if the perp was white.

    2. Michael Jenkins

      Great piece Dr. Fitzgerald. I sometimes wonder if Black people are part of the problem in allowing this to continue.

      On there are a number of black men that refuse to acknowledge acts of racism. And say we need to stop whining. There is a group called, Stand Against Racism where some even make excuses for racism/White supremacy. Has anyone else seen this phenomenon?

    3. Dr. Terence Fitzgerald Author

      Mr. Jenkins,
      Your comment reminds me of something my grandmother use to say: “There was house [slaves] who believed that slavery was not all bad.” The destructive beauty of the social reproduction of racism is that it affects Whites, Blacks, and other people of color to various degrees. But we are still socially and ethically responsible for taking an honest look at our part in this play we call life.

    4. Sarah F

      Reading through this website has exposed me to the hypocrisy of many people. I hope you all realize that stereotyping and demonizing Caucasians on this website helps absolutely nobody. The people on here have the nerve to talk about racism when you have sections of the website dedicated to bashing whites? I have to deal with enough bull being a white from Mississippi, I’m not racist, frankly I could care less about race (it’s the amount of pigment in your skin, for Jesus’ sake!). I don’t see why we can’t all just grow up a bit and get past the whole idea of “race”. No one should pay for the sins of their fathers, and no one should support hate or discrimination of *any* kind. We’re all God’s children on Earth, should that be the only thing that matters in the end?

    5. Sarah, you should familiarize yourself with all the stats that show that for people of color, in just about every facet of American life, it’s not just “pigmentation.” Would that it were. We’re not the ones who keep racism going, as it were. We’re the ones fighting it.

      And could you give some examples of the white people bashing? I’m not sure I follow.

    6. Seattle in Texas

      Hello Sarah F.,

      If you’re still around, I do hope you come back to engage in a dialogue here. There was a book I read about whites in the south that was really good that hit on what you are talking about–but I cannot remember the name of it. When I think about “the South” many things come to my mind. The term “Yankee” never meant a thing to me (with the exception of “Yankee Doodle Dandee” or the New York Yankees) until I came to Texas and the whole Civil War thing? I didn’t know that people are still so close to it…we don’t have that North/South thing going on where I come from. There are other things I didn’t know existed also. There is something different about approximately the Eastern half of this nation in that respect. But, on the Western side, there are very negative stereotypes about people in the South. It is believed to be inherently and overtly racist. My own experience in Texas has really blown my mind. It is really bad in my general location. To save space won’t explain. But just far beyond what I had imagined before I arrived and people tell me “you’re not even in the ‘deep south'” as if that is supposed to make it okay here. Then people from the ‘deep south’ who are here tell me they went into culture shock when they got here…so I don’t know what to make of that. But the problem is, that it is generalized to the entire South and all white people. (here’s something to help break those stereotypes for anybody whose interested–when I first saw the title, I thought it was people from my home area and my tummy dropped as I don’t want people making fun of our hippies…it turned out wasn’t our hippies at all: )

      Anyway, I can see how you, as a white person from the south who is working toward antiracism with everybody else, can encounter many different types of experiences just because of being from the south. If I can remember the name of that book, will come back with author and title–it is a fun read actually.

      I think at this website, the authors of the post are not attacking “all” white people–rather the institutions and structures, and at times, critical of individuals and certain groups, that either are inherently racist or perpetuate racism in various ways. I think working towards an antiracist society, which includes bringing forth an environment that is not hostile for white people in the south or from the south where ever they may travel, means confronting those very factors and elements that are set in place that ensure they are continuously reproduced across generations–which is creating greater segregation and barriers between groups over time. This website and all of the authors of the main posts challenges them. I hope that you will re-look at the posts that led you to come to your conclusion with that in mind. Not tolerating racism is not the same thing as perpetuating racism–the folks here call it when they see it and how they see it, through scholarly analyses in language we can all understand.

      I just wanted to swing by and thank you for posting your thoughts because it made me think about issues related to whiteness as related to this nation in general.

    7. Seattle, your response to Sarah F makes me wonder – If some, not all, white people think criticisms of institutions and structures, and at times even the nation as with Rev. Wright, is the same as or just exactly demonizing all white people, how are we going to have a productive conversation on race?
      Sorry. Just answered my own question. I don’t know what blogs like racismreview could do differently, but it would certainly help if mass media would stop framing racism as just a feeling had by people, but an entire infrastructure of bias built against people of color. It would also help if the soft subjects in both schools and colleges were less racist themselves.

    8. Nquest

      Sarah F makes her comment on a thread about the latest “Black male did it” false police report.
      Grow up, indeed…
      And she managed to get in the ever so popular (and underwhelming)… “No one should pay for the sins of their fathers” . Of course, making a comment that’s relevant never has been that important for the very race-conscious (“I have to deal with enough bull being a white from Mississippi”) and race-whupped drive-by, guest lecturers who are so gracious to take time out of their busy “I’m not racist” bus tour schedule to stop by and give us a few words of wisdom.
      I wonder if Dr. Feagin or someone else has a name for this phenomenon where certain type of Whites say to hell with whatever the specific topic is and decide to grace us with their prepared, cookie-cutter remarks they’re subject to spit up as indiscriminately as an overstuffed infant passed around at a family reunion.
      I mean, at least be original vs. manufactured (in more ways than one).

    9. Seattle in Texas

      To both comments above, I agree. I think mainstream whites in general probably feel that way. I think many are blind to their privilege and even if they have had history, it was a distorted, unhonest, and biased presentation. For folks like back in my area, they just either skim over a lot or simply leave a lot out. I have my own thoughts on the foundation of this society in general. I did not see Sarah F.’s later remark.

      But in terms of having honest discussions about race and racism that makes all people feel welcome and heard who wish to engage seriously–particularly white people? I don’t really know. Most often they have the privilege of being able to walk away at any point and go back to the world they came from. They don’t have to deal with it or confront it if they don’t want to.

      There are a couple of things that I think about when I think about whites in the South. Well, first, I know some of the most radical whites I’ve met have come from the South–so with that, not only have stereotypes been broken for me but I don’t want to overgeneralize. Besides coming to Texas…there are about three things that have made me think southern whites. One, a well written book that deals with the issue. Two, taking in a young white person for a short period of time who was running from a hate group and later I found out the law. And Three, a comment that was said by a person who see himself as antiracist which was, “The only way to get rid of racism in this country is to sterilize all the white people in the South.” Plus the other stuff that circulates. I think there is a genuine hatred for the south by folks in different regions. But I think this type of stuff serves to shift the responsibilities of all the wrongs to the south and make other regions feel as though they aren’t racist and perhaps morally superior–it serves to reinforce a different type of white supremacy. No critical dialogue even among the white folks.

      On the religious comment–I don’t know what to say about that. I’m not religious or a person of god. So…I try to ignore and avoid discussion on religion in that sense she was speaking. But I do have respect for religions and religious people in general.

      And Nquest, if the last comment you made was directed at me, then please avoid reading my comments–skip over them. That’s what I do. Why waste your time? What I do agree with in the remark higher though is the disingenuous behaviors and attitudes of scholars in general. Higher education too often is a world of pretention…. On here, I don’t come on as a scholar. Just don’t.

    10. Nquest

      Seattle in Texas Says: “Nquest, if the last comment you made was directed at me…”
      WTF are you talking about?
      It was clear what and to whom my post was directed to and the focus of my post didn’t change from my first comment-line to the last.

    11. @Seattle (and also Nquest I think) – The comment by Nquest that you’re referring to was meant for Sarah F. You both are on the same side, even if you have different styles of communication.

    12. Seattle in Texas

      Ohh–wasn’t clear to me, all apologies. I thought you were being critical of my response to her at the end.

      In terms of racism in the south, being born and raised in the south, etc.? I think the point she makes, whether she realizes it or not, is that the south–both currently and historically, is a scapegoat for racism and white supremacy throughout this nation. With that, it creates an “us” (virtuous “good” whites) and “them”–“those” racist people–this goes beyond far beyond class I think. And nobody chooses their parents, place of birth, the types of socialization(s) they are exposed to during childhood, etc. I just don’t know what to say for people who are born and raised on the south. But what I can say for the white people in particular who are born and raised outside, they are benificaries of white supremacy just as much as those are in the south. I don’t know what to say beyond that in terms of racism and whiteness in the south. But thank you much for the clarifcation.

    13. Nquest

      I thought you were being critical of my response to her at the end.
      Why? Your name wasn’t included in my post and there wasn’t a single quote or paraphrase of your response. So, again, WTF are you talking about?

    14. Nquest

      @Seattle (and also Nquest I think)… You both are on the same side…
      No1KState, don’t include my name in that when you can tell that my post “was meant for Sarah F.”

      I would never suggest that white people need to feel comfortable in a discussion about racism. I’d be concerned if they were. I will say this, though. If a white person in a discussion group or whatever says something racism, and they probably will no matter how “harmless” the comment may seem.
      One really great example of the kinda racist things white people say even if they don’t mean to criticize but in fact compliment black people came during the first 2 maybe episodes of some BLACK/WHITE documentary/reality series FX was doing. The daughter of the white family, who, for the show, would put on movie-effects make-up to look black, had come out of the closet (sorry, couldn’t resist!) to the friends she had made in this spoken poetry group. At some point, she invited the group, the rest of whom were black, over to meet her family. Some of them performed their poetry. The mother was in tears. I don’t know exactly what was going through her head, maybe she was trying to be “poetic” too, but in expressing how moving the poems had been, she used the phrase, and I’m quoting cause I know for sure these were her words verbatim, “beautiful black creatures.” Now, of course, she didn’t mean it in the way the same way as the old racist trope of blacks as monkeys. But, of course, why would you call anyone a “creature?” And you should know, and would if you actually paid attention, that black people are still compared to monkeys and other animals on the basis of their blackness. So why use the word “creature?”
      I guess you could argue that since all human beings are creatures, the black guests were being overly sensitive. And of course, that’s the argument the mother made. And, I think the daughter even started down that line – in the “confession room,” she said she wished her black friends had paid more attention to her mother’s heart and not semantics, more or less. But then you have to ask, would the mother have called a group of white kids “creatures?” And when, if ever, are white people compared to animals on the basis of their whiteness? I’m not talking about saying, “Those kids acted like a bunch of animals/monkeys/whatever at Chucky Cheese.” Or saying, “Did you see Chris “Birdman” Anderson? He’s a beast!” (If you don’t know, Birdman is a reserve forward on the Denver Nuggets – he’s a white guy.) Black people always have our antennas up. We know when you’re complimenting physical talent and when you’re not. We know when you criticizing misbehavior and when you’re not (but if a white person is reading this, be warned: DO NOT call a group of black kids, NO MATTER how terribly they’re misbehaving, a group of animals. Just, don’t.). So I think it’s rare that a comment black people say is racist isn’t actually racist, former Pres. Clinton’s comments and denials notwithstanding. What we’re detecting, listening for, is whether you’re commenting on a person’s talent or behavior, or race. And, to make it rather simple, a quick question a person can use to discern the difference is if and under what circumstances the same would be said about a white person.
      The dinner would’ve ended better if the white family had shut up and listened. Their guests did recognize her sincerity of heart in wanting to express how wonderful she thought they were. But, they were offended by the suggestion that they’re “creatures.” As though the white family was “human” and they were “creatures.”
      Which brings me back to group discussions/forums on race. To some extent, yes, I personally would hope that white people would feel comfortable enough to say what they really think. But, if what they say/think is racist, they will be criticized. If they don’t over-react about hearing their heart and not their words, there will be at least one black participant who’s willing to calmly explain why it’s racist to call black people “creatures.” But, if the comfort level is defined by whether or not a comment is criticized, then . . . I think white people’s expectations are impossibly high. 1 – No one’s ever always right. 2 – To make an analogy, the catcher knows better than the pitcher how fast a pitch was. 3 – Can you only express yourself in ways others find offensive? Instead of being defensive, perhaps you should ask questions about what you said and whether or not it’s actually true. 4 – When you hear a black kid speaking in his home vernacular, do you judge him by his heart, or his words?

    16. Wow. I forgot to close the bold tag. Oh well. It should’ve end at “creature.” Sorry.
      Now, in continuing our discussion about Sarah F’s comment, it occurs to me that because our nation institution are made up of people, when we criticize institutional racism, we are accusing white people of being racist. Right? Of course, there’s the way that our expectations of so-called “proper” English work against black students without necessarily being anti-black. But when we talk about rates of incarceration, employment and housing discrimination and so on, we are by definition talking about the attitudes held by at least enough white people to make a difference. Right? Don’t get me wrong. We are commenting on the way, for example, the racism of a loan officer effects other areas of a black person’s life, like – what neighborhood can he live in? What type of house in that neighborhood? Will he be able to afford upkeep and to what standard? How many jobs and/or hours is he going to have to work and how will that effect his ability to parent the only children he has, who are by his wife? Will he be able to attend school events? Will he be able to attend PTA and teacher’s meetings? If he’s not, how will that affect the way the teacher interacts with his child? . . . I could go on, but you get my point.
      By strutural racism, we mean, of course, that black people have to overcome barriers that white people don’t even have to consider. Right? And we use the terms institutional/structural to try to get the point across that we don’t care about personal attitudes as much as actual equal opportunity. You can think I’m a n*gger all you want so long as you give me the loan/promotion/ect I actually qualify for. On one hand, “institutional” and “structural” are apt descriptions for what people of color face. It’s actually as if just because you’re black, the effective probability of success is lowered. I mean to say that whereas just by accomplishments alone you have a 60% chance of getting the job you want, being black brings you down to about 45%. It’s also an apt description of, say, our life starting point. Like, by analogy, white people get to start at the starting line. But just because you’re black, you have to start 15 meters back in a 100 meter dash. Right? So then, if a white person and a black person finish at the same time, even though it looks on paper like a tie, it’s really not. And then, what on paper gives a white person a 60% chance should actually give a black person a 75% chance at getting the job she wants. And that’s the way racism operates and that’s what we’re commenting on when we say “institutional” and “structural racism.”
      Sorry to be so long. I’m trying to make sure you (any fellow commenter or random reader) can follow my line of thinking.
      So. That said. When we talk about employment discrimination and discimination in the housing market or the financial services market, we’re also commenting on the attitudes of the persons (white or not, but individuals) who make the hiring decisions, decide which houses to show to whom, how much interest to charge, etc and so on.
      Because of that, it does follow that calling the US a racist nation is the same as calling white people racist. Instead of getting self-righteous, white people should question the validity of the comments. If it’s true that you, as a cop, pull over disproportionately more black people than white people, instead of replying about your black friends and how you don’t hate black people, you should just look at the numbers. You obviously think black drivers present more of a threat and that’s racism. So, I guess I’m trying to say that yes we are saying that white people,as a collective group, are racist, and it’s because you are, Blanch(e)!
      BUT, Sarah F’s of the world, because it is true, it’s not “demonizing.” And I guess that, yes, if you over-emphasis something in proportion to its actual occurence, you are “demonizing.” Kinda the way local news covers black crime and white crime out of proportion to their actual occurce. Say there’s only time for 2 stories on crime – and, of course, it has to be some type of violent crime because blood and tears = ratings – and white people committed 20 crimes that day, and black people committed 4 (Black people make up just 13% of the general population which would mean 2 crimes, but I adjusted for the rate of proverty – which is a legacy of racism.) If the news covers one white crime and one black crime, it has participated in demonizing black people and is part of the problem of institutional racism.
      But, and here I’ll extend my analogy, racism hasn’t been, and certainly not even this blog does and couldn’t, covered at the same extent that it negatively impacts a person of color. So, there’s no demonization here. End of analogy.
      Now, Sarah F’s of the world, try to understand and accept this: commenting on the racism of white people collectively isn’t the same as commenting on the racism (or lack thereof) of white people individually. Which is why having entire sections bashing, say, Bill Bennett’s comment about aborting black babies and how in the world he has a job in mainstream media, isn’t the same as white people bashing.
      And lastly, Sarah F’s of the world, for all that black people today in 2009 have to put up with from the white individuals who make up our country’s institutions, let’s just be glad our “white people bashing” is mostly limited to the internet. By which I mean to say, shut up complaining; things could be much worse and justifiably so.

    17. Seattle in Texas

      The second to the last part of the post that said: I wonder if Dr. Feagin or someone else has a name for this phenomenon where certain type of Whites say to hell with whatever the specific topic is and decide to grace us with their prepared, cookie-cutter remarks they’re subject to spit up as indiscriminately as an overstuffed infant passed around at a family reunion.

      I didn’t take that to be referring to Sarah F.–I tend to go off topic on this site a lot and my own response to hers was off topic along with hers. I thought your post was addressing both her post and my response. And the reason I probably thought that was because I myself tend to respond to different thoughts at one time when I put up responses on here–sometimes I use names and other times I don’t. In that paragraph, it wasn’t specific. Also, the time of the post came after I had put up a response to her rather than before. Not that it matters–but in terms of how I came to my own questions, it does for an explanation. And it may be common knowledge to who ever that her post was a cookie cutter type of response to racism? But if I were aware of that, then I would have known the post was referring to her and not addressing the posts in general including my response to her. If that makes any sense.

    18. Nquest

      I didn’t take that to be referring to Sarah F.–I tend to go off topic on this site a lot
      That’s your personal problem, not mine. I had already indicated that Sarah F made a statement that was off-topic (i.e. not relevant) and even identified the specific statement — “No one should pay for the sins of their fathers” — that was off-topic and, following the context, thrown around indiscriminately (i.e. in cases when it doesn’t apply, like a thread about the latest “Black male did it” allegations).
      Next time when you’re confused, leave your comments to a question asking for clarification only rather than assuming (1) that my posting/communication style must be like yours and (2) that I would name Sarah F when I directed comments to/about her post but fail to use your name towards the end of a post you could have just skipped over after I mentioned Sarah F in the first line.

      Re: “cookie cutter” responses… I believe Dr. Feagin (and Bonilla-Silva, the other person I had in mind) would call statements like Sarah’s — “No one should pay for the sins of their fathers” — “common White [racial] frames.”

      My whole point in mentioning that particular statement was to note how it is “ever so popular”, wasn’t RELEVANT to the thread even tangentially and, hence, thrown around indiscriminately (i.e. without regard to topical relevance). It is also cliche and something a great percentage of DRIVE-BY posters like Sarah F, one-vent-wonders, say time after time damn near verbatim from the “I’m not racist”, to the “We’re all God’s children”, to the “get past race”, to the “bashing Whites” stuff. All boilerplate, run of the mill, cookie-cutter, drive-by stuff certain type of Whites say over and over.

      Now maybe you felt what you were saying in post #7 was pretty standard stuff you’ve heard other Whites say ad-infinitum but there was contextual coherence and consistency in what I said — e.g. I dubbed Sarah a *guest* lecturer who was so “gracious” to take time out of [her] busy “I’m not racist” schedule AND in the paragraph where I mentioned Dr. Feagin I, again, referred to [Sarah’s] decision to “grace us” with her “prepared” statement.

      Question: Do you feel the your post #7 made prior to mine #9 (*ahem*) was something you had already largely “prepared” before entering this thread? It’s pretty clear to see and safe to assume Sarah’s was given her statement about “Reading through this website…” (i.e. this thread only mattered to the extent that it was where she decided to get her vent on).

    19. Nquest

      “…when we talk about [institutional racism like] rates of incarceration, employment and housing discrimination and so on, we are by definition talking about the attitudes held by at least enough white people to make a difference. Right?”
      The problem with the ignorant reductionist logic that “institutions are made up of individuals” is that it lacks broad application. “When we” talk about America’s racist history and dare point out how revered figures like Abe Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, etc. were racist/white supremacist, the common defense is to rush for nuance and talk about the society (read: institutional/social structures and the tide of prevailing, accepted social norms) and the time-period in which they lived.
      Also, there are the quick defenses that only a small minority of Whites were slaves owners — i.e. the whole institution of slavery DID NOT require very many individuals to trade in slaves for it to be the widespread order that the entire society was centered around up until the Civil War, of course.
      Then, too, all of Black culture, let some people tell it, revolves around rappers, no matter how few they are as the percentage of population among African-Americans. Same goes for the so-called Black underclass. Never at any time does it take all/most Black individuals for anything to be labeled “Black culture.”
      Anyway, I think the important point to make about institutional racism relates to how we conceive of “culture” in terms of things like “corporate culture” or “police culture.” Individuals are relevant in that context in terms of the individuals power to establish or enforce adherents to “accepted” norms.
      The “institutional” aspect of institutional/structural racism relates to how those practices that discriminate or have disparate impact continue as “the way we’ve always done it” — i.e. the unquestioned tradition/norm.
      It is those social traditions/normative values that form the basis for the “man of his time” rationales for figures like Lincoln and Jefferson.
      The attempt to put this on the individual playing field is nothing less than an attempt to avert critical interrogation of the status quo (a not-so-clever way to resist change) and to place the debate in a more comfortable and advantageous setting for White deniers who hope they can diffuse, again, critical interrogation of the status quo by using the plausible deniability factor. It makes their arguments so much easier. You’ll have to be able to prove that every individual White person is racist to prove that American society/institutions perpetuate racism and/or racial inequality.
      Re: the last point… Newt Gingrich’s latest statement about Judge Sotomayor shows the inanity of that mindset. He supposedly “walked back” his claim that Sotomayor is a “racist” and has, instead, labeled her a “racialist” because he doesn’t know her personally…. like Black people in the Jim Crow SOUTH and in the Sundown Town NORTH had to personally know White KKK terrorists personally in order to arrive at the proper conclusion that the KKK, etc. were racist.

    20. Nquest

      Before the last paragraph in my last post #22, insert the following:
      Of course, even if you had a statement from every single White person in the U.S. and something less than flattering about POC (like “beautiful black creatures” or any of the things chronicled here) was somewhere in that statement, the defense would be that you would have to know that person’s heart which, of course, would require knowing them on a personal/intimate level.

    21. “Anyway, I think the important point to make about institutional racism relates to how we conceive of “culture” in terms of things like “corporate culture” or “police culture.” Individuals are relevant in that context in terms of the individuals power to establish or enforce adherents to “accepted” norms.”
      You’re exactly right, Nquest. Well first, I think, and should’ve said so, that one of the reasons so many whites respond to critiques of institutional and structural racism as an attack on whites is because, deep down, they know coded-language is used to propogate racism; they assume anti-racists do the same. We don’t; we don’t have to. Secondly, it also helps the argument of deniers if they can reduce institutions to the level of individuals because individuals are “powerless against that which is institutional.” And so, even though their Jeffersons and Lincoln were quite public about their racism, it’s ok because it was just the culture at the time. But, as you point out, of course individuals can stand against the machine. I know it. You know it. Sarah F knows it. As you say, white deniers have an incentive to resist change.
      Thanks for responding to my thoughts. I’m trying to clarify my thinking. I know the accusation of “white bashing” is bs; but, I don’t know, I just like being able to tear apart every piece of someone’s argument. It helps me to try to follow their logic to its conclusion because it’s, well, it’s been false every single time I’ve followed their logic, and so I know what to say to debunk it. What I really enjoy, I must confess, is debunking an argument I see coming before it arrives! (bwahaha!) That’s when people really start pulling stuff out of their butts!
      Also, quite honestly, I’m not sure it helps anti-racism rhetorically to ignore the bit of truth Sarah F points out – that “institutions” and “structures” are propped up by mostly white people and to criticize them is to criticize white people. However ridiculous it is, I do think Sarah F has a point in that regard. At the same time, I do recognize it’s just a way to avoid a real conversation. But rejecting that idea out of hand would only give racism deniers an excuse to walk away from the table. And while we may see it for what it really is, they will still pretend their walk out is justified. Personally, I want to be able to take that play out of their hands.
      I meant to say this earlier, but . . . I do find the accusation of “white people bashing” offensive because no one is actually, literally being bashed. Which is to say the words I use in a blog will not leave a dent in anyone’s cranium. (Not physically, anyway.) The accusation of “bashing,” the comparing of blogs like these to actual violence, is an attempt to make the “basher” use less honest language as most people react by “walking back” earlier statements. Or, at least, that’s the goal, whether Sarah F was consciously aware of that or not. Charging a person with physical violence is a way of changing the conversation. Much like the whole thing about not knowing a person’s heart.
      And let me also say that I find that whole argument about not knowing a person’s heart empty and offensive as well. (I’m about to get into religious teaching, Seattle, but you’ll be able to follow along since I’m not commenting on religion, just the practitioners.) Most of the white people making this argument are, or at least claim to be, Christian. There is a passage of Scripture where the Jewish religious leaders criticize Jesus for not making his disciples ceremonially wash their hands before eating. Jesus respond’s by declaring that it’s not what goes in a person that makes him wrong, but what comes out. Jesus says, and I’m paraphrasing, “the words a person uses comes from their heart.” So, actually, we do know a person’s heart by the words they use. So for example to me, whatever her claims to the contrary, Ferrarro is racist. Patty-B is racist. Rush is racist. If they weren’t, why do they use those words. Why use “creatures” if you’re not really racist? Why “nappy-headed hos” if you’re not racist?And for the love of all that’s good and holy, if you’re not racist, why would you ever need to use the word nigger? So, I find that argument vacuous because it’s vacuous. And I find it offensive because here we have self-proclaimed Christians making arguments that fly in the face of the actual teachings of Christ. I’ll end here by just saying I find that pattern a bit infuriating and disturbing.

    22. Nquest

      Well first, I think, and should’ve said so, that one of the reasons so many whites respond to critiques of institutional and structural racism as an attack on whites is because, deep down, they know coded-language is used to propogate racism; they assume anti-racists do the same
      While that’s possible, I think its more straightforward than that. They now they are in the numerical majority and know, as a whole, they are more economically stable/affluent… so any government action that’s perceived as helping “minorities” is seen as taking something from Whites — a zero-sum perspective.

      Other than that, seems to me that they’re used to equating American with White. So when you say American government or government change, you’re talking about Whites and Whites changing (ask Shelby Steele and John McWhorther, their racial liaisons). Plus Whites know they are overrepresented in the halls of power both within and outside of government. So their institutions=individuals views comes into play there too.

    23. Nquest

      Also, quite honestly, I’m not sure it helps anti-racism rhetorically to ignore the bit of truth Sarah F points out – that “institutions” and “structures” are propped up by mostly white people and to criticize them is to criticize white people.
      If White people don’t like being confused with the institutions, the solution is simple… take the considerable power they have in numbers (and dollars) and change the institutions to reflect their values… if they don’t already.
      Now that Dr. King is dead, White folks love to talk about how Dr. King fought for the rights of all people but the wages of whiteness had poor Whites sprung so, instead of joining in with MLK’S Poor People’s campaign in massive numbers, very few poor Whites organized…
      while we may see it for what it really is, they will still pretend their walk out is justified. Personally, I want to be able to take that play out of their hands.
      I guess I’d be open to hearing that if Sarah didn’t appear to be a drive-by, one-vent-wonder. If she is, the whole point is jump in, vent then run as fast as hell… not just walk out… lol

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