The reaction of Tea Party defenders, including Sarah Palin, to the NAACP’s calling out some Tea Party members and leaders for their racism calls to mind a fine book by Jane Hill, The Everyday Language of White Racism. She has many insights in the book – which I highly recommend to you – but one that fits this calling out of racism by Black Americans at the NAACP is this one on how whites often react to being called out with a line of reasoning about white innocence like this:
I am a good and normal mainstream sort of White person. I am not a racist, because racists are bad and marginal people. Therefore, if you understood my words to be racist, you must be mistaken. I may have used language that would be racist in the mouth of a racist person, but if I did so, I was joking. If you understood my meaning to be racist, not only do you insult me, but you lack a sense of humor, and you are oversensitive.
Hill adds that this “chain of reasoning makes the speaker the sole authority” over what her or his racist commentaries actually mean. Not surprisingly, many whites are today unwilling to listen to the views of those Americans who are regularly targeted by white racism–even to views about the reality and pain of that everyday racism. I also deal with these important listening and empathy issues in the newsecond edition of my Racist America book.
I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this false indignation at credible and proven accusations for a while. Obviously.
But that still only leaves me with just one question answered, you know? What equally infuriating to me is not just the reaction to being called out; but, the aggressive latching onto of any hint of anti-white racism, without investigation or retraction when the truth comes out.
And what about the cries of anti-white racism at even the most obviously perceived(, and that’s as in “perception” as differentiated from “reality,”) slight. A white girl feels uncomfortable being the only white person at a Black Student Movement meeting – reverse racism! Two white students feel uncomfortable in the Black Culture Center – reverse racism! Mark Williams accused the NAACP of racism on two fronts: that they only help black people, which isn’t true; and, that they continued to advance “colored” people as opposed to African Americans. (I take particular offense at the second accusation because it’s the silliest. It’s a group started in 1909, and after all they’ve accomplished, should they really have to change the name as the term(s) used to reference people of African descent is changed? Should they be the NAAAA? Or even, the NAABP?)
So I guess the particular question I’m trying to express is how do whites rationalize, if they recognize, their callousness to claims of their being racist as compared to the severly sunburnt-sensitivity they have to even a hint of anti-white racism? As some know, I’ve been accused of anti-white racism, and aside from the lack of actual evidence, what infuriates me about these claims is the logic.
I just don’t like the idea that only whites can be racist in this country. I’ve heard that numerous times lately.
Welp – that’s what research supports. Let’s just look at a few facts:
1 Mainstream culture is pro-white, therefore most Americans, even minorities, are pro-white.
2 Levels of anti-white bias among African Americans, for example, has never been found to match the level of anti-black bias among whites.
3 By and large, minorities don’t have the economic/political clout/power to enforce wide spread anti-white bias. Which is to say even if, for example, Sherrod had actually discriminated against the first white family that came to her for help 24yrs ago, that would’ve been one family out of millions. On the other side, a good 200mill whites with various levels of anti-black and/or pro-white bias can have a devastating impact on the lives of 35mill blacks. For proof, check out the demographics of the prison population. Or, read the story of millions of black farmers being intentionally blocked from benefits for decades.
Now, let me lay aside some annoyance and get you an answer that’s probably easier to swallow. When anti-racism activist talk about racism, we’re not just talking about individual bias, but an entire infrastructure to back up the bias of hundreds of millions of individuals. So, yes, there are some virulently racist minorities, ie the New Black Panther Party (which is not associated with the actual and still extant Black Panther Party). But even in the case of the NBPP, there’re not enough of them to make a difference is the lives of white Americans. Ie, not one voter has complained of intimidation in the now ridiculous NBPP voter-intimidation case.
Let’s take the case of voter discrimination in Noxubee County, Mississippi where black election officials were found guilty of discriminating against white voters. Noxubee is a county of less than 12 thousand people of which about 3500 are white. Now, the most egregious violation of voters’ rights occurred within the county’s Dem party, so presumably less than 3500 white were actually affected.
The Justice Dept under Bush brought the case in 2006. You essentially got 1 guy in 1 county with less than 12k citizen.
On the other side of things, under Bush, the Civil Rights Division of the DOJ routinely ignored recommendations by career attorneys to look into cases of violations of minority voters’ rights.
So what you have is even at the strongest, the anti-white bias on the part of blacks affecting a few thousands whites. But anti-minority bias on the part of whites affecting at least a few million blacks.
That’s what we mean when we suggest only whites can be racist.
To make things even clearer, any person can have racial biases. Racism is bias plus power and not just bias itself.
Oh yeah: “Not surprisingly, during the Bush years, civil rights enforcement on behalf of minorities dropped dramatically. From 2000 to 2006, for example, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission referred more than 3200 individual charges of discrimination to the civil rights division, yet the division filed only seven cases (pdf) on behalf of African-Americans or Latinos. And of only seven cases (pdf) alleging systemic racial discrimination brought by September of 2007, two were reverse discrimination cases — alleging systemic discrimination against whites.”
I’m not sure how racism can be redefined like that. Even if a position of power is required for racism it would stand to reason that any position of power would suffice. So the Noxubee example would in fact be an example of racism, just a very minor insignifigant example that has no effect on the general populace. So I can agree that racism directed at whites really doesn’t have much of an effect in this society. Just from looking at my dictionary and I really don’t understand your position.
No1KState, excellent points and a very good question. The answer probably lies in how the dominant white racial frame works in white minds. Whites are mostly in denial that there is significant white racial oppression today, and that they themselves are part of what’s left. The reason for the denial is that the heart of the white racial frame is a very pro-white view of whites and whiteness. That is, whites are virtuous, moral, civilized, smarter, etc. They know “racism” is bad, so they deny they participate in racist actions or redefine them so they are not really racism. Denial is key here to how this is viewed/rationalized. Another defense is that everyone is prejudiced (racism-lite), so by calling out (however erroneously) what they see as prejudice of people of color, they think that balances anything prejudiced (other, usually not themselves) whites do. It probably requires a deep socio-psychological analysis to make full sense of how and why whites defend themselves so vigorously and fear being called out for racism. Deep down, most know this is a highly racist society and that they are part of it.
I think the more any individual white denies being racist, the more racist they seem to be.That’s my personal experience.
White people should have the good character to ask themselves, “Am I really racist? In what ways? How can I change this? Why do I elicit racist reactions in some situations? How would I feel if I were black? What does it feel like to be black? How do black people defend themselves against this tidal wave of whiteness?” It’s not all that painful folks. You might learn some real universal truths about man. Defensiveness never preceded internal investigation or soul searching.
I think this blog is great, but I do have a suggestion. I would like to see more positive suggestions about precisely what white people could ask themselves to self examine. There is alot of illustrating the problem, but solutions would be helpful too. White people need to do some reverse role playing and feel what it’s like to be an African American. I love role playing as a great theraputic tool. What if you were the victim of racism and the perpetrators just flatly denied it? That would hurt folks. Everybody knows when their feelings are hurt, right? Not a big mystery.
Cordoba blue, good suggestions, thanks. Part of being white and thoroughly buying into the white racist framing of society is a type of hardness Hernan Vera and I call social alexithymia–the inability to play another racial role, to have real empathy across racial lines. (Psychological/individual alexithymia means having no ability to read and understand the feelings of others. A tough mental disability.) Institutionalized racism requires such collective alexithymia. If you begin to feel and understand, seriously not superficially, you likely become a white “race traitor,” and become a part of the long struggle against racism.
I kind of think of it like this:
What these events taught me was that there is a mental illness among whites that prevents them from seeing the darkness of racism within themselves. It’s similar to avoid being considered as a person hooked on drugs or alcohol.
I would personally conclude that with whites, they are hooked on their own power and privileges. Deep down they are aware of their racism and the truths behind their sense of white supremacy, but they will use any mode of propaganda like a drug to help them get over it and continue living in a sense of euphoria only they, in their minds, are allowed to live in.
Well, we are on top of the hill and we want to stay their. It takes a lot of effort to try to rationalize that morally.
ThirtyNine4Ever, the key is not just the power to discriminate occasionally, here and there, but the power to discriminate across all major institutions, and to control the white racial framing that most people — including many of those not white — use to think about our 4-centuries-old system of racial oppression. Whites control all major US institutions, and that dominant white racial framing. So, probably 95-plus percent of all acts of significant racial discrimination are carried out by whites against people of color, and all that within white-created, white-maintained, and white-frame economic, political, educational, legal, etc, institutions. “Reverse racism” is a white framed and white created term intentionally created by white scholars and politicians about 1970 or so as part of a backlash against racial change brought about by the civil rights movements. It cannot exist, in the original definition of “racism” as systemic racism, until whites are oppressed by people of color across all major US institutions.
And also, Joe, the white racial framing that is implanted into those who are white will see the world through the lenses of white people. In the case of my people it created a sense of self-hatred among my group that manifest itself in many ways from how we see ourselves.
However, and this goes to ThirtyNine4Ever, this is the effect of white racism that has dominated this WORLD for hundreds of years. It has to this very moment as I type this dominated over POC so severely that it has ruined nations and detroyed groups of people.
The problem is that whites refuse to acknowledge that their people in the past and even in the present have done to POC let alone take even a hint of responsibility. Yet, they are coaxed to believe that they are the paragons or morality, integrity, honesty and superiority. To me those are signs of an pathology many of them don’t want to face.
The original definition of the word/term “racism,” coined in modern sense by Magnus Hirschfeld in Germany about 1933, was institutionalized racism against the Jews. That is, this racism was across institutions and more than prejudice. It was systemic, and eventually killed millions.
Whites have made a new version, “racism-lite,” as a way to try to argue all people can be racist. But they mean prejudiced. Only whites have created a system of racial oppression, systemic racism, in the US>
Thank you for the history of the word. I don’t really think of “Jews” as a race so it is pretty interesting.
I still don’t understand, a system can be of a small size. Just because only whites have created these systems on a large scale level doesn’t mean there can’t be racism against whites in small systems. If someone who is white is denied promotion at a factory because the person in charge believs that white people lack the intelligence to lead others, that would to me fit the definition of racism. Within the system of that factory, there is a system of racial oppression. I don’t see everyone’s point I guess. Mind you as I have said before I come from an engineering background so things like this sometimes sail past me.
Yes, but ThirtyNine4Ever, have you known anyone who was denied a promotion because he or she was white? Also, given the history of racism against POC for years, don’t you think it would understandable for a POC to be racist (if given the power) against whites? I’m not saying that it’s right to do so, but if there were cases like that, wouldn’t it be understandable to react like that?
Also, don’t use your background as a way to excuse you not knowing much about issues like this in the past or today. It takes work to enlighten yourself on issues that seem foreign to you. Mind you, I was clueless as well, but I made it an effort to learn more about these important topics mostly because I’ve been the victim of racism and I’m part of a group are victims of destructive racism for far too long.
No one is making an “excuse” for anything here. I’m giving information about my background that might enlighten people as to one the reasons I feel I might be having trouble grasping this issue. I’m not trying to “excuse” my ignorance on this subject.
As for your fist point I’m not making any sort of accusations of racism against white, just trying to figure out the impossibility of racism against whites.
Racism against whites could happen if blacks were to obtain economic, political and social power and used it against whites. I honestly can’t answer that question because who knows what would happen to whites if blacks gained the aformentioned powers. One would say that it would be payback for the racism against them.
I wasn’t using the excuse thing to condemn or demean you. I was just saying that you shouldn’t let your background or anything else prevent you from knowing the dynamics of racism. I’ve heard people use it as an excuse before as a way of justifying their ignorance, and like I said, I was also uneducated about racism in all forms. Still, slowly but surely I discovered that racism not only exist, but it exist as an entirely different beast, and I’m still learning.
Ok. Let’s talk about that white someone.
If this person is discriminated against on her/his job, that’s just one institution in the entire system. Right? I don’t even have to qualify the following with “chances are” cause the reality is that this person won’t be discriminated against at the bank or hospital, or being profiled by the police, etc and so on.
Minorities have to contend with the compound effect of discrimination from several (actually, every) institution in the system. Whites rarely even face bias against them in one.
Does that make sense?
That does make sense and I see everyone’s point about racism in the US and whites. I see how there really isn’t racism here against whites here. I still don’t understand how a non-white can’t be racist though.
Also, I remember reading that the word “racist” actaully pre-dates the word “racism” is this true?
. . . to finish the general point I was making in the Sherrod thread . . .
First off, I got repeat, actual black racists are a minority, and probably a bare minority, of the black community at large. Most blacks just aren’t biased against whites in the conventional way of thinking. On the other hand, just about every person in America, regardless of race, is biased against blacks. So even proportionally, “reverse” racism is peanuts compared to the real thing. “Reverse” racism is something that blacks learn as a consequence of actual interaction with whites; most whites don’t interact personally with blacks at nearly the same rate, and white racism is learned as a consequence of, for example, just watching TV.
I do make a distinction between bias as conventionally thought of, ie bias whites have against blacks, and the bias blacks have against whites. Stereotypes blacks have to overcome when interacting with whites is that we’re hypersexual, criminal, angry for no reason, lazy, not as smart, untrustworthy, etc and et al. Whereas the stereotypes we have about whites is that they’re bungee-jumping crazies, not athletic, self-involved, and in the case of white men, arrogant and in the case of white women, either corny and/or soft depending on their age. Sure, we probably won’t chose you to play on our team in a game of pick-up, but it we won’t follow you around in a store or give you a subprime loan when you really qualify for a prime loan.
Which is another point about the inanity of the white reaction to being called out. The same white men who blame the housing bubble on the CRA, and thus quite obviously on minorities who may or may not be poor, will become indignant at being called out. In fact, they may even accuse the person calling them out of “reverse racism” re Geraldine Ferraro.
I have somewhat of a different frame. Growing up in Arizona, I didn’t see a huge amount of racism against blacks, mainly because of the demographics here. I did see a ton of racism against latinos/latinas and people from the various American indian tribes. I suppose what I didn’t notice until years later was that I was given a level of privilege over those people.
Yeah, sure. Not to say that other minorities aren’t discriminated against, and in some situations outside of “illegal immigration,” the disparities between whites and Latina/os, and whites and First Nations is greater than between whites and blacks.
That said, I don’t know nearly as much about possible anti-white sentiments within those communities as I do about blacks. So I just speak from what I know, you know?
There are African Americans who definitely dislike white people in general. This is certainly understandable, given the history of black Americans. I have experienced waiting in line at the DMV or where ever, and seen black women, for some reason, stare at me with hatred. This is not common, but it does happen.
They don’t know me, don’t know anything about me. They have an instant antipathy to me because I represent white middle-class-ness to them. This could be classified as an example of racism, albeit on a very small scale. Or it could be a resentment of my middle class status, period. As in classism. If I were in a work setting with some of these women, I could see how they would make things difficult for me in terms of little remarks, slights, rude looks etc.A dirty look can confuse people, maybe hurt their feelings if it’s chronic, but it doesn’t keep them from getting a loan or living in a certain neighborhood. That’s the difference between white racism and a small segment of black people having an aversion to whites.
The larger point is these women have not institutionally discriminated against me. They have not joined forces, so to speak, and decided to deny me rights and privileges that I should receive as an American citizen.
Being a white woman myself, I wanted to add a few thoughts, cordoba. First, I generally try not to question others’ assessments of their own experiences, especially when they seem to be thoughtful (and, in this case, racially-aware) people. But, I don’t know- to say you know that black women at the dmv and elsewhere resent your whiteness seems like quite a conclusion, one that goes a little far for me. First you say they have mean mugged you “for some reason,” and then you determine it must be because you are white and middle-class looking. I’m wondering, how did you reach this conclusion?
(Nevertheless, I definitely appreciate the distinction you draw between this example and institutionalized forms of prejudice directed large-scale toward people of color.)
I don’t know, I’m actually still trying to think through why your comment struck me as problematic. Perhaps it’s because from my own experience, I feel almost no resentment directed towards me from people of color. Every now and then, perhaps, but I don’t assume it’s because of their general hatred of white people. Although I just thought of one example, a woman at the library who told me to get up and move because she didn’t want to sit next to white people. She was clearly mentally disturbed, and after thinking it through I took it as a function of that as opposed to she truly doesn’t like white people. (Although I acknowledge, like you, that it makes sense that some people of color would be resentful or mistrustful of white people, as the practitioners of white racism.)
I was hoping other people had thoughts on this too.
cordoba blue, why do you think they were staring at you with hatred? And furthermore, why do you think it was tied to class and race? (gender too–if I do recall, you said you are a male in an earlier thread?) Why do you assume they are of the lower SES and it’s possibly the result of resentment of your middle class status?
Might there be other possibilities? Like, were you ahead of them in terms of being called or standing in line if things were moving very slowly and the waiting period was long. Maybe they were having a bad day, or bad week, or bad year, in general and just weren’t happy due to circumstances beyond their control, so when you both crossed glances it seemed as though they were “staring at you with hatred”–maybe they were looking at everybody like that…. Maybe they mistook you for somebody else they (or a close relative or friend) may have had a bad experience with in the past, if indeed they were staring at you with hatred…. Maybe for some reason you reminded them of somebody they did not like for what ever reasons they may have had. Maybe it’s how you carried yourself. Maybe it’s a combination of things. Maybe your reading into it too deeply and that was just your racialized interpretation of that experience. This list could go on forever. And if you were disturbed by it, why didn’t you go ask them “heh, what’s up?” and find out from them how they were feeling, rather than making racist assumptions from the privileged standpoint?
There’s a lot more I would like to respond to, but I don’t have the time. And quite frankly, I am tired of interacting with middle class people who continuously socially construct their world and experiences in inherently racists ways (in this case liberal) and eventually come to shift the focus to themselves as the victims in some way accompanied with condescending disclaimers, such as, “This is certainly understandable, given the history of black Americans.” as if such acknowledgments are supposed to suggest immunity from being called on your own racism and you now have the right to covertly cry out reverse racism or what have you–even though the way you socially constructed your interpretation of the experience was inherently classist/elitist and racist–and I’m sorry, but the arrogance to imply they must have been resentful because of your own SES? Your using your own alleged SES covertly asserts/implies some sort of inherent and taken for granted power and privilege you at least seem to think you have over others as a result of your own status (and probably do in many ways as a white middle class male–I believe you have said you are a white male before?). As if, “ohhhh, he’s of the middle SES *walk on eggshells* so we have to be unconditionally submissive to, and/or accepting of you.” And the racism cancels out the disclaimers…why bother with them in the first place?
I have no idea if you follow me–probably not, but nonetheless, I hope you keep reading this website and commenting.
Lastly, anybody who knows me knows that one of the other things I cannot stand is classism and elitism…I tend to make the skin crawl for people who hate the poor too…sometimes intentionally and sometimes not–either way, their own incompetence, delusions, lack of experience and understanding of poverty and the lower SES does that for them second nature…. So if you are serious about working towards anti-racism, as well as anti-classism/anti-elitism, or towards social equality for all, I would strongly encourage you to also think more critically about how you view people/groups with regard to SES, the assumptions you make or hold of them because of their SES, assumptions about what poor people are like, how you respond to and interpret their criticisms, the self-interpreted stares and glances you get from others, etc…..
Are you saying that the status of white middle class male doesn’t give one power and privledge in this country? At least in the terms of getting a job, pay after getting a job, police protection, ability to obtain public office, obtaining loans and obtaining government services? I’m sure I missed something there but one of the biggest problems in this country is that very privledge.
Wow. I guess there’s a lot a do not have to say, huh? Like Kristen, I can appreciate the distinction you’re making.
But like Seattle…
So I’ll just say two things.
One is that I’ve seen a lot of black women who just look at everybody like that. And I know not a few who, to a stranger, just look angry. For all the skin benefits of melanin, a hard life can do that to a person. And black women, especially working class black women, have it harder than most.
To extend Seattle’s thoughts on the gender aspect – there’s another site I used to read a lot. It was a blog by a feminist, environmentalist, anti-racist white guy.
There, I learned that men just expect, for whatever reason, that if they come across a strange woman and there’s eye contact, she should at least give them a pleasant look if not a smile. I’m not a guy so I don’t know, but I feel that’s a pretty safe general statement when you take into account how strongly men react when a woman . . . well, if she doesn’t smile, she’s a bitch and if she does, she wants him. Right? That’s apparently the male perspective.
But from a woman’s point of view, it’s just not safe to give a strange man a smile. (Except in the South and usually only to men of the same race.) Not when every 1 in 6 women will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime. Race comes into play to the extent that many, if not most, black women have been told how white men raped and molested black women of all ages during Jim Crow. (Yep, we have that collective memory even if the rest of America doesn’t.) And like I said, the only reason a woman would warmly greet a man is if he’s of the same race and they’re in a part of the country where strangers greet each other.
So, let’s think this out. A black woman at the DMV notices a white guy looking in her direction? I would be shocked if she didn’t give him a hateful look! I’ve done that, too, as a way to scare off a potential assailant.
So to Seattle’s point, you probably have read more into those looks than was really there, but that was probably more about your gender than your race.
On the other hand, if you’re a white woman, you have to bare in mind than you’re a stranger to these women and there’s no reason for them to give you a warm look. And remember that you don’t know what kind of day they’ve had. Unless, again, you’re in the South. Race comes into play in that even I’ve come across white women who, rather intentionally or subconsciously or because of a different collective memory, openly express “mistress” sentiments.
There’re all kinds of reasons you got the looks you got that have nothing to do with just a general hatred of white people and everything to do with the specific time, place, and situation.
The whole point of my comment was to illustrate that a small amount of racial bias does not constitute institutionalized racism, like the type African Americans are exposed to. My understanding was that you saw the gist of my comment. I appreciate that.
I think you are questioning my conclusions as to why these black women gave me ugly stares. First of all, I have on occasion experienced this look from black women before. It’s always from complete strangers who I have never spoken to or even, literally, looked in their direction until I noticed them staring at me. If they didn’t like me, it wasn’t because of anything I did because I had no interaction with them. Thus, I am concluding I represent some kind of symbol to them. A symbol of oppression. Everybody can read other people through body language and instinct, even very young children. Actually especially young children.I don’t believe my instincts were wrong.
What I think you don’t understand is, I actually feel, not resentment, but compassion for these women because I know the source of their antagonism.
I think, further, that on an anti-racism blog, it’s not politically correct to state that some black people just don’t like whites? Like perfectly normal human anger or resentment toward a race that’s enslaved you? Could this be what is bothering you? Black people are human, and entitled to feel resentment, and entitled to give a white person an occasional ugly face. At the least! This is absolutely not a criticism Kristen, it’s an observation. This does not make them racists in the same manner whites are racists. It makes them human!
Yes, there are some black Americans who don’t like white people because white is symbolic of a whole set of tortures and injustices that they’ve been exposed to for 400 years. This is normal, and actually healthy human psychology. To make the claim that blacks have no beef with whites does not coincide with what black commentators write here. The black commentators who write here are justifiably angry with the white race. Again, this is not racism per se, it’s human beings saying,”I take serious issue with being treated like a third class citizen!” From whatever race, whether it’s blue or green or yellow. In this case the perpetrators are white.Of course black Americans have a bucket of resentment toward whites, some more than others.But the difference is that they have not, as a race, united to subjugate whites and treat them in ways you would not treat a farm animal.
Plus, I can take a few mean stares. I’m no worse for wear. I just feel badly that they, frankly, were so beat upon that it’s affected how they feel about perfect strangers.I know there’s pain behind those stares, and that’s why there’s no resentment on my part. It’s black Americans who should feel resentment, not me.
Hi Seattle. You are jumping to about 2 dozen conclusions that are open to interpretation from many angles. For example: “eventually come to shift the focus to themselves as the victims in some way accompanied with condescending disclaimers, such as, “This is certainly understandable, given the history of black Americans.” as if such acknowledgments are supposed to suggest immunity from being called on your own racism and you now have the right to covertly cry out reverse racism or what have you.”
Whoah! Slow down please. First of all I do not feel a victim of anything. I’m white. I’m not the oppressed race. Black people are victims, not white people. How you interpreted my comment as claiming I’m a victim I don’t understand. The whole gist of my statement was that some black people are angry with whites for the exact same reason you elicit anger Seattle. But they don’t group-up and plot racial discrimination against whites like whites have done for centuries.
Next, why is it condescending to say blacks have the right to be angry? Everybody on here says blacks have the right to be angry. What is this really about? Because I observed that I was given angry looks by some black people I was totally unacquainted with does not mean I disagree with those actions. This is an observation, not a condemnation.
Lastly, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t believe this site was extremely valuable and necessary. And this site is about ending racism. I’ve worked my entire life trying to do that. You don’t know anything about me, but you jump to conclusions with torrents of assumptions. No offense intended. I don’t think you understood the point of my comment.
Definitely an interesting thread here.
Thanks for the response, cordoba. I think we are mostly in agreement. But, I disagree with your suggestion that behind my questioning of your comment was a desire for political correctness. As I said in my first comment, I realize there is and logically should be plenty of frustration and anger on the part of people of color towards whites because of racism. (But when it comes to true anti-white bias, there is quite little of this among people of color, as shown by numerous implicit association tests.) And, yet, I would wager that African Americans are generally very savvy, or careful, about how they manifest this resentment, very infrequently just picking white people out of a crowd and glaring at them. Think about it- some women resent men for sexism, but very, very few would ever go around glaring at random men they see.
And that brings me to the realization I had last night when I was continuing to mull this over. Sometimes we white antiracists kind of think the racial world revolves around us and our advanced understanding (advanced compared to our white peers). I think it makes us feel good and enlightened to interpret the actions of those around us – whether it’s people of color or other whites – from a racism/antiracism lens. Like, a couple days ago I saw a young black man angrily slap a street sign as he was walking by it. I could just let my antiracist mind go with that one – “It sure is tough to be a young black male; I bet his teachers never believed in him; his parents were either overworked or underemployed and that was hard on the whole family, the police harass him and his friends, etc.” But until I talk to this young man, I have no way of knowing his experience, and I definitely can’t know what was going through his mind at the moment he hit the sign. Or, in your case, at the moment you look up and see a black woman not happily staring at you.
I think this is similar to what Seattle was getting at when referring to whites claiming victim status. Although, I don’t think your comment reflected self-victimizing so much as self-centeredness. That’s why I reacted to it first with, How exactly does cordoba know they resent his(?) whiteness (and middle-classness)? and second with, What makes him think these women have specially picked him out of a crowd to target with racial resentment?
As a side note, I think we need to be very careful about how we use stereotypes. Your comment reifies the angry black woman stereotype. Is it really black women, and no other people, who look at you this way? (I thought Kstate brought up some good points on what may be behind women’s looks in general, or working-class black women’s looks specifically.)
cordoba, I believe your comment at this point has been thoroughly nitpicked. But I also think this is a crucial issue, and I hope we all continue to have excellent conversations on this site. Please note how I use “we” terminology here in talking about white antiracists. I am not engaging on the level of political correctness or white guilt. Rather, we have yet a lot of work to do on ourselves and on our white-dominant society, and I hope we can push each other to be better allies.
Yeah, I agree with Kristen. Even though there’re some aspects of your comment that I found trouble, cordoba, ultimately, this has been an okay discussion. I find this more productive than the arguing and having to prove the basics of institutional racism.