Racist Framing and Action by White Progressives: Some Hard Questions

I am slowly revising my book, The White Racial Frame, for a second edition. A new white activist acquaintance in Minnesota sent me this comment in response to my questions to some folks of diverse backgrounds up there working in several effective anti-racism groups. She first made some kind comments on the book’s virtues, but then noted a discussion in the book that needs much more amplification and discussion:

Your research regarding the level of continuing negative stereotyping of people of color, through purposefully coded front-stage communications and through blatant back-stage communications, is most compelling. White readers of The White Racial Frame come away from the book much more able and motivated to interrupt these racist performances. What I would also hope to see more of in the second edition is articulation of the ways in which progressive/liberal/radical social justice activists (some likely readers of your book) act out of the white racial frame, making their organizations and themselves toxic to people of color. Why are almost all the liberal progressive organizations in Minnesota (environmental activists, child care advocacy groups, affordable housing lobbying groups, etc) virtually exclusively white?

Such white folks disavow any racist thinking on their own part and decry it in others. But in what ways are they reproducing the white racial frame in their personal interactions and within these progressive organizations? Clearly they are acting out of the frame, but they are (seemingly) completely unaware of this. On page 128, you point out that highly-educated whites often think and write, unreflectively, out of a strong and unexamined version of the white racial frame. “Holding that [white] racial frame in their heads, but trying to suppress overt actions reflecting it, whites frequently send powerful nonverbal signals, as real feelings … leak out into cross-racial interactions. “ (p. 135)

What forms do such subconscious performances of dominance and assumed superiority take? How do whites typically manifest the power and privilege of their social location in unconscious ways? What is being communicated non-verbally, and how is that being done? What assumptions are controlling our behaviors? In what multitude of ways on a daily basis do we assume that the white experience is also the experience of people of color, with that assumption informing our perceptions, feelings and understandings?

In the social networks I am part of, people of color tend to find these subconscious white behaviors more damaging than the explicit racial references whites engage in.

She and a Black colleague she works with then added that they

have found very little in the literature naming, surveying or researching such subconscious performances. So anything you could contribute to the understanding of this would be appreciated. Your book, with its articulated focus on the White Racial Frame, provides and ideal time and place for those of us who are white to consider such issues.

Because of her (and their) insightful, and on target comments, I have been thinking a lot about this way liberal/radical/progressive/anti-racist whites do conscious, half-conscious, or unconscious racialized and white-framed performances that alienate people of color and make organization difficult or impossible across the racial lines. Indeed, in a request earlier today about examples of what she is talking about, one of my Latino graduate students sent me this response as I was finishing up this post:

[She] raises an interesting point of the lack of interracial organizing. From my own experiences organizing in the Logan Heights (predominantly Mexican/Chicano) community in San Diego, white leftist/radical organizations and individuals such as C.P. USA, ACORN, labor unions (i.e. S.E.I.U), American Friends Service Committee often approach issues as “leaders” and don’t do enough to understand/involve the perspectives/concerns of the minority community. In essence, white progressives often (my own experience) have a difficult time relating to a non-white constituency, I suspect it due to race and class and the power/status discrepancy they create. Blee’s (2012) Democracy in the Making study of grassroots in Pittsburgh, PA also notes the lack of interracial organizing, and it resulting from white progressives who often talk about diversity/expanding their base. The book does not do enough to investigate the reason behind the lack of cross-racial outreach (but did cite in one case how white activists did not feel safe flying in minority communities.)

Very good points, indeed.

I would also welcome your thoughts on these matters (in the comments, for example), and any existing research or discussions you may have seen on these very important issues. Thanks.


  1. cordoba blue

    The first thought I had when reading about white people organizing liberal action groups to the sometimes exclusion of blacks is that African Americans do not have the time to engage in these groups. That may seem a simplification at first, but let’s consider it.
    People who have little income have very little leisure time. Who do you know that participates in causes? They are upper middle class people with leisure time.
    For example, how many white upper middle class housewifes “volunteer” in various forms in the community? Lots! If you then examine the people who must work 60 hours a week just to scrape by, they don’t appear in environmental groups or “let’s make a bike path” groups or “let’s organize some campaign work to re-elect Obama”. Who does this? Only the people who have available time after their mortgage is paid and food is on the table.
    I know this does not answer the whole post, but this thought just struck me when I read about inter-racial organizing. Most African Americans, not being included in the main stream advantages whites enjoy, must work twice as hard to maintain a decent life style. That translates into white liberals formulating most of the liberal causes that this country advocates. When this happens, it’s true that the sensibilities of minority groups are not always taken into consideration.
    When I was a full time teacher in North Carolina, it was always the upper middle class white mothers who were constantly “on-the-spot” volunteering for everything. The black moms were too busy just trying to survive. This dynamic should be taken into consideration when analyzing these groups.
    Ironically, the initial problem was racism. Then that dynamic creates job discrimination, and in turn that dynamic allows whites to dominate social progressive reform and organizations. A vicious cycle.
    Actually, historically, the most active liberals in American history had money, and that translates, once again, into leisure time to think and philosophize and advocate. The working class man has to run to stay alive. His last concern is whether people on Mulroony Street are recycling, or whether all the kids in the housing project on Mullins Street get the new playground equipment the city promised them. It’s frustrating and part of the machine of being excluded.

  2. The easiest thing to point out is the response to non-standard English dialects.

    Yeah! That’s it! It seems like white people assume that white culture is the right culture and anything else is wrong. Sometimes, differences are explained away paternalistically, as in “lack of exposure,” “lack of opportunity,” etc. That sort of avoidance of blaming the victim type thing. Which, when you think about it, is just as bad. We go from assumed-cultural inferiority to the denial of black/brown agency and “exposure.” As in, “Your culture is dysfunctional/backwards/misogynist/not as good as mine(s), but it’s not your fault because you don’t know any better.”

    This cultural superiority is a big problem because if I’m already stressed out 8-hours of the day from work, and that in a “foreign” cultural context, I have absolutely NO intentions of spending my free time having to be bi-cultural.

    Then there’s the presumption of poverty. I’ve known of kids conning school materials out of teachers and saving the money to buy candy and soda. But that has to do with schools and I’m not sure how relevant public schools are to your question, Joe.

    Although it does seem relevant to add that the reason some black parents avoid the PTA, even when meetings are held in a local church, is that we just don’t care to be outside our home culture during non-working hours. Even if PTA leadership offers to hold meetings at a local church, if there’s more than one white person in charge in some capacity, then everything still has to be done according to white cultural norms and being “ourselves” means being deviant.

    And let’s just be honest, right? Some of the reason white activists don’t come into the community is your own discomfort outside your cultural zone.

    What I’ve witnessed of white Americans, even of the well-meaning, is the presumption of cultural-correctness and with it, a know-it-all attitude. This isn’t to say that white activists have to learn how to properly use habitual be or the context in which calling a grown woman “girl” is acceptable if not proper. It’s only to say don’t condescend towards us when we do.

    Btw, please stop imitating black English “girlfriend,” as in, “Oh, no he didn’t, girlfriend!” We don’t even use it that much anymore. You ruined it!

    I do have other thoughts, though. So is this question just in terms of white activist groups or is it for whites in general or is it somewhere in between?

    • Joe Author

      Thanks Blaque Swan, very much on point. The concern of my black (Herb) and white (Margery) friends up in Mn. was with whites in some of the Mn. progressive groups, including anti-racism groups, that they have to deal with regularly. But your question at the end is good, as clearly this is much broader than white progressives. Very Super sharp commentary on the geography/ecology of the black experience with whites in white-controlled worlds. Thanks for that…. I had not seen any discussion of those costs of being bicultural after a day of doing it at work. Of course, blacks who might want to help in those Mn progressive groups might not be willing to face a night in a progressive group dominated by whites who insist implicitly on white ways of doing things! Racist framing and action clearly includes progressive whites insisting on being “comfortable” in white ways of doing things even as we/they make an effort to be honestly (more than rhetorical) anti-racist. The first step in whites learning to be really honest/anti-racist is to learn to be “uncomfortable” in black settings and to listen to fair criticism of white liberal ways, and to shut up and listen a great deal to those with real world experience, right? Whites of all kinds, radical and conservative, usually come to black communities or mostly black settings or even significantly black settings with the white racist framing of black folks, and it probably takes a long time to lose even part of that and to become truly “comfortable” in what were/are in the white framed and racialized mind “dangerous” areas… and to shut up and listen, and thus learn as whites to be bicultural too….Make sense?

      Cordoba, thus this white culture and dominance in liberal organizations and unwillingness to listen and to be bicultural too, is more to the point than limited black time and resources….

  3. cordoba blue

    I’m confused. Why is it logical for black people to be uncomfortable in a foreign cultural context (white world) all day long..but if white “liberals” are uncomfortable in the African American world they need to “shut up and listen”. It works both ways. Maybe whites would rather hang around their own after working all day just like blacks want to hang around their own after working all day. Is this really the point?
    Blaque Swan states,”I have absolutely NO intentions of spending my free time having to be bi-cultural.” She’s black and that’s understandable. But if you’re white, it’s not understandable? That doesn’t make sense.
    If whites are in liberal progressive organizations in the first place, it obviously means they care and want to make a difference. If people think whites are “dominating” the group then blacks are more than welcome to take the initiative and bring 50 African Americans to every 2 white people in any progressive group and I assure you the perspective will change. It’s about sheer numbers. If a room is full of 62 white activists and 4 blacks, what perspective do you think the meeting will be from? How can whites completely understand the misery of being black down to the cortex anyway?
    There’s an easy solution. Please Black Americans, come in LARGE GROUPS to white activist meetings and outnumber the whites. Then, since the majority rules, those groups will receive a very heavy dose of the black perspective. How simple is that? But it never happens! You are free in this country to assemble and discuss anything you think stinks about America. It’s in the Bill of Rights. So take advantage of this freedom and assemble. Please! Do it today.

  4. an ally


    thank you for your post. i think your friends are on point with wanting to open dialogue about the liberal/progressive/anti-racist white tendency to continue functioning in the white racial frame. i would like to support the comments of Blaque Swan and your analysis of her comments. I think your comment, “The first step in whites learning to be really honest/anti-racist is to learn to be “uncomfortable” in black settings and to listen to fair criticism of white liberal ways…” is right on target and I like your call for whites to learn to be “bicultural” too. as a white woman who spent a significant amount of time living in a predominantly black community, i struggled directly with how to become “bicultural” and how to be aware of and overcome the habits of the white racial frame. following that experience, i lived in a neighborhood that was predominantly white and liberal with a strong community neighborhood association that was struggling to include black residents in association activities. my ideas for helping the association work through this difficulty (though, at the time, i could not be involved beyond a conversation with a board member about my ideas), involved encouraging the leaders of the association to step outside of their comfort zones to reach out to black residents–visit the homes of black residents, initiate conversations with black residents about what they want to see in happen in the community, visit the local churches, basically, meet black residents where they are, both geographically and culturally. my suspicion was that the leaders of the association were well-meaning, but suffering from feelings of discomfort and fear and thus expected black residents to reach out to them instead of the other way around–which, if you consider the history of the neighborhood, was rather illogical, as white residents started moving into the neighborhood in a gentrification pattern. black residents were being pushed out. i don’t imagine that made them feel welcome.

    i agree that it is definitely time for someone to talk more directly about the reality that white progressives/liberals/anti-racists do still struggle with the white racial frame and, in my experience, are not taking time to do some honest self-reflection and self-evaluation. as a white, self-described liberal, i feel that i have to continue, constantly, to challenge myself to be self-aware and practice biculturalism as it is too easy to fall blindly back into a white racial frame and live there. i think white liberals, like myself, would benefit enormously from guidance in this area, which, of course, would lead to benefits for anti-racist work.

  5. Margery (white) and I (black) have done antiracism dialogues in Minnesota since 2004. Our antiracism dialogue circles, professional associations, and “day jobs” bring us into daily contact with white, middle-class, college-educated professionals. Most of the white folk we interact with consider themselves liberal and progressive – most also think of themselves as antiracist. So, from this context and perspective we observe more subtle forms of the white racial frame. In the attempt to identify these forms – performances of whiteness, a couple of years ago, we drew from, and built on, Zeus Leonardo 2009, Race Whiteness Education, to develop a list of tactics and strategies naming performances arising from white knowledge. This list represents much of what we see in particular white performance that is problematic. We hope that these notes will advance this dialogue.

    Tactical and Strategic White Knowledge
    Notes from Zeus Leonardo, RWE, 2009:167-186, 107-125.

    Whiteness in performance, perspective/worldview, entitlement:
    • Engages in discourses of color blindness
    • Displays an unwillingness to name the contours of racism
    • Avoids identifying with a racial experience or with a racial group
    • Minimizes racist legacy
    • Displays colonialist mindset and behaviors
    • Engages in behaviors of domination over others
    • Assumes the role of setting the rules of engagement in inter-racial interactions and otherwise controlling the situation
    • Values white comfort in interactions with no empathetic regard for what people of color are experiencing
    • Deep emotional conditioning producing a felt need to have one’s personal “goodness” and virtue in regards to racial matters affirmed. This produces deep-seated resistance to considering that they (and most white liberals) are infected with and manifesting the same disease as others — White liberal exceptionalism
    • Assumes (without serious study or investigation) the absolute adequacy, indeed superiority, of its understanding of the world including racial dynamics
    • Asserts a white liberal understanding as entirely accurate and truth-filled, regardless of feedback from people of color
    • Emotionally, white liberals have great difficulty learning from – being informed and transformed by information provided by – people of color. Deep emotional conditioning to hear only ‘static” when people of color speak; an inability to accurately process verbal communications from people of color. (To learn from someone else, one must expect that the other person is going to tell you something you don’t already know.)
    • Assumes ownership and entitlement over racialized “territories”
    • Transforms everything around it as an object of its domination and disposal
    • Engages in an obsessive pursuit of honor and status
    • Projects a self-image of racial virtuousness
    • Claims aesthetic and moral superiority with preeminent right to name and recognize and to speak on its own behalf and on the behalf of the Other
    • Projects its image of humanity as universal—its bodily image as ideal representative of all
    • Displays blindness to its own position—projects its rationalization onto all others
    • Insists on white normality as central reference for social organization and interpretation
    • Puts forth self-serving rationalizations and myths as “common sense,” universal, and normative
    • Converts its self-serving rationalizations, worldview, and “common sense” into law—giving them legitimacy and moral authority

    Whiteness in ways of knowing (white epistemology) and collective behaviors:
    • Constructs the Other as an “idea” in abstract ways rather than as people in the concrete
    • Attempts to dodge relative scrutiny of itself as a positionality, as a morally-conditioned, socially-informed perspective
    • Idealizes and aggregates different peoples around the world as the same, unchanging and constant
    • Claims moral equivalency of differences as though differences are equal and transitive
    • Holds on to a fragmented understanding (non-relational and partitioned) of racial formation (how racial formations have come to be as they are)
    • Resists and avoids a thorough-going analysis and interpretation of racial formation in its totality, by attending to isolated details absent the coherence of historical causation—of linkages
    • Attends to how things are now (status quo under white hegemony) rather than how things have come to be
    • Resists engaging in a thorough historical understanding of how whites came to be in a position of power
    • Focuses on individual merit, exceptionalism, or hard work as explanations for white hegemony (ascendancy over other groups)
    • Engages in exercises of willful ignorance through systematic distortion of communication using tactics of detours, evasions, detractions of taking offence and being hurt, displacement of the problem, disingenuous comparisons, and various strategies to accomplish “not getting the point”—and therefore not being responsible

  6. edna

    Thank you, Joe, for bringing these points forward and for your insightful work. I have found the literature on microaggressions helpful in understanding subconscious behaviors and the way the white racial frame manifests itself in day-to-day interactions. Donald Wing Sue has also done some excellent work on this. Another aspect that I find interesting is something Joe writes about in terms of the emotional content of these subtle forms of discrimination. In thinking about the change process and how we can create meaningful forms or organizational learning in our institutions, the affective aspects seem to be especially important.

  7. I can related to everything Herb and Margery mention, as in, “Yes, I’ve experienced whites acting that way.” And micro-aggressions – death by a million cuts.

    It’s these micro-aggressions that make learning/working in white America racially stressful. I emphasize white America. Whatever stress whites feel at work, and I’m sure everyone’s stressed at work, they’re still basically in their home culture. So blacks spending our free time out of our home culture isn’t the same as whites spending free time out of your home culture. Your spending 2 hours a week outside white culture doesn’t compare to the at least 40 hours a week people of color spend outside of ours.

    Moreover, even when you’re outside your cultural environment, no one looks down on you, for example, because of your (im)proper grammar. And because whites are so apt to look down on people of color for various cultural “defects,” and to assume “ownership and entitlement over racialized territories,” it only takes a couple of white attendees to a meeting to change the entire dynamic. So there’s no 1 to 1 equation. Symmetry doesn’t mean equality.

    And not to be presumptuous, I just want to be clear as to what I meant by bi-cultural: I literally have to be bi-cultural. I have to master a different dialect; a different approach to interpersonal interactions; a different body-carriage. I mean, it’s not enough to just speak standardized US English, I have to use a different accent, including a different voice pitch, altogether. And even after all that, all I’ve managed to do is is demonstrate my skill at imitating white society. I still have to prove myself.

    Moreover, in my experience, limited thought it may be, white women don’t own their personal space and bodies in ways that I’m familiar with. I know that who touches who, how much, and where has a lot to do with interpersonal power and status. But it just seems exaggerated when it comes to white men and women of all races. This touches on the intersectionality of race and gender, but it does seem like something white progressives and feminists in particular should be concerned about.

    When it comes to anti-racist work, all blacks ask is that white activists and potential allies prove you’re truly anti-racist. Not “colorblind.” Anti-racism work isn’t about everyone’s right to be “white”; it’s about the equal right to just be. You don’t need to master black English. You don’t have to carry yourself any differently than normal. I imagine disabusing one’s self of assume racial superiority takes just as much energy as my wearing a mask. But at least you’re exerting yourself in the interest of justice and humanity, you’re a better person for it at the end of the day. Me? I’m just over-exerted.

    Well, okay. Full transparency? You might be teased for clapping off-beat and/or just a general lack of rhythm. (And, try not to show up somewhere if you’ve just been swimming or something but haven’t had time to dry your hair just in case you really do smell like a wet dog.) But no one assumes you’re “less than” because of it. Less intelligent, less knowledgeable, less experienced, etc. So long as you avoid the mistakes Herb and Margery listed and accept correction when you do slip up, you’ll be fine.

  8. cordoba blue

    I think the above list should be brought to all white liberal anti-racist meetings. The two parts, for example:
    .Displays colonialist mindset and behaviors
    • Avoids identifying with a racial experience or with a racial group.

    are very insightful. Here’s the problem. We are talking about human beings, correct? Aren’t all humans fallible? That list is so long, can anyone measure up to its perameters?
    And this is exclusively the behavioral manifestations of whites, correct? I didn’t know white people were so feral. I did not know exclusively whites did stuff like: “Engages in exercises of willful ignorance through systematic distortion of communication using tactics of detours, evasions, detractions of taking offence and being hurt, displacement of the problem, disingenuous comparisons, and various strategies to accomplish “not getting the point”—and therefore not being responsible.” I guess that’s what I’m doing right now, right? Is that correct?
    The problem is a psychological phenomenon called, “If you do some good, you get more criticism and resentment than someone who does absolutely nothing at all.” The guy down the street who makes black racist jokes, and drinks beer in front of the television while watching reality shows like “Dancing with the Simpsons” gets ignored. He gets a free pass to be an idiot. While the white liberal anti-racist has to pay the bill?The guy who actually reads anti-racist literature, and took college classes in African American history is the guy who gets a kick in the back-side? C’mon people.
    The white liberal anti-racist who is trying to make a difference, by virtue of being in the room with African Americans in the first place, by wanting to help further anti-racist progress, is the very person who is targeted as in “Be Quiet Hypocrite!” And you mean only whites would feel baffled at this response? All humans would feel baffled at this response. In many circumstances, not just racialized ones.
    Racial progress is a NUMBERS GAME. If EVERY SINGLE WHITE American did some anti-racist work, it would result in much more progress than a handful of “perfect” Marine quality Grade A Certified by the NAACP anti-racists, who passed every single qualifier of the above list.
    Actually the above list was very informative and defines racism. It does give one cause to contemplate and look inside. Which is what it’s supposed to do.It would be a fantastic beginning to numerous discussions about race. Many whites would be able to identify with parts of that list if asked to. But not if they are asked to never be guilty of any of those qualifiers. That list is for people who are above human frailty.
    The problem is there’s a great deal of animosity towards the “white folk we interact with consider themselves liberal and progressive – most also think of themselves as antiracist.” The clear message is “but the truth is they’re all contemptible creeps and do not deserve the Purple Heart of the True Anti-Racist”. How many people would simply walk, if confronted with such animosity? Plenty. Of any color.

    Again, this is a numbers game. If there is to be progress in anti-racism it will take MILLIONS of WHITES to make it happen, not a few hand-picked apples without a blemish. From a sociological standpoint, this makes sense.
    The above list is a reminder, a touch-stone, a passage to think about within a discussion of anti-racism itself. But it should not be used as a club to batter a sincere constituency. I realize it’s difficult not to be bitter if you are an African American. But progress means accepting help from where it comes, not sneering at applicants until there’s simply nobody left who will tolerate this type of psychological battering.
    I’m sure it must feel very rewarding to smack a white person with a demerit, for any of the injustices on that list. I mean this very sincerely, not sarcastically. But it will not entice recruits. And recruits are very badly needed.When you are fighting a war, you should not turn away recruits.

    • FannieL

      cordoba blue wrote: “I’m sure it must feel very rewarding to smack a white person with a demerit, for any of the injustices on that list. I mean this very sincerely, not sarcastically. But it will not entice recruits. And recruits are very badly needed.When you are fighting a war, you should not turn away recruits.”

      Do you realize how condescending this is? Your words imply you think blacks should be grateful for “recruits”
      to save them. White people who are in touch with their own humanity should want to be anti-racist for their own sake, not for the sake of blacks and other people of color. The problem I have seen is reflective of a superiority complex where many whites behave as if they know all the answers and show unwillingness to learn from diverse people.

      When whites can interact with blacks simply as people — individuals, not as a group per se — they will make giant leaps in “getting” that black people are as diverse as white people. Appreciation for people has to go both ways, not one-way with whites feeling like their participation in anti-racist activity gives them the right to not be called on the various behaviors listed by
      Margery (white) and Herb(black).

      We are all human, which means we are all imperfect. Once whites internalize this reality, they can overcome social conditioning that may make them feel they are automatically smarter or more aware than every black person they might encounter. Try it and you’ll be amazed. I, a black woman, always take the position that I can learn from a variety of people just as they can learn from me.

  9. cordoba blue

    The only way a white person can truly NEVER be guilty of ever crossing the lines that list delineates, is to magically turn into an African American overnight.
    Blaque Swan stated:”I imagine disabusing one’s self of assuming racial superiority takes just as much energy as my wearing a mask.” If we’re using that list as a map? Yeah, pretty much! Because that’s one hell of a narrow psychological road to follow. If you scratch a mosquito bite “in a superior manner” that means you’re a narrow-minded white supremacist mosquito bite scratcher?
    Like I said, a great deal of bitterness went behind the creation of that list. Sad part is it’s true though! And actually brilliant. And if handed out at white anti-racist meetings for months (yes at least months!) of discussion I know it would generate much insight on the part of whites. But you can’t expect all whites to abide by that list every waking moment because (let’s be real) WHITES ARE NOT BLACKS.
    In summation, it’s a fantastic but demanding list. Superlative tool for discussion, and attempt to emulate in behavior. But if it’s an entrance fee to being a “REAL white anti-racist” I’m afraid we will all fall short and many wanna-be’s will simply pack up their marbles and go home. Thus, from a political power perspective, everybody loses.

    • mbfromnm

      I am a white man and I have been reading your comments for a year now.

      Are you aware of the pattern in your posts? In 90% of the cases, you end up telling people of color how they are wrong.

      If you are trying to learn, and you want to ask questions, it is possible to frame them in a way that does not come off as you do. You can say something like “My immediate reaction is to say X. What am I missing here?” Otherwise you are perpetuating a centuries-old pattern of us whites instructing POC about the error of their ways.

      One thing that black folks are real tired of doing is educating whites about racism. If you want to learn more about racism, I suggest you speak to other whites. There are whites who have done a lot of work on this and they can be resources for you. How about breaking the pattern of insisting that POC educate us (a white privilege if there ever is one) and ask all your questions of whites who are committed to working through the endless subtle ways that maintain white superiority and the white frame.

      • cordoba blue

        Hi. I’m not “insisting” anything. Just offering an opinion that to gain anti-racist momentum, it would behoove people who set the bar too high to allow plain old run-of-the-mill anti-racists entrance. Plus, many commentators claim (to contradict your argument) “How about breaking the pattern of insisting that POC educate us (a white privilege if there ever is one).”..that if you want to understand racism the key is ASKING POC how it works. But I appreciate the feedback. HaVe a GrEaT DaY!

      • No, mbfromnm’s telling the truth. When anti-racists encourage learning from people of color, I don’t think they(/we) mean exclusively. Part of the idea has to do with learning from the people most affected by racism and hearing our stories. Another, perhaps even larger, part is to listen as opposed to telling. To be a student and accept the position of knowing less than demanding to be the teacher knowing more.

        But at some point, students need to “look it up, dear.” I think that’s the point mbfromnm is making. Some whites abuse the position of student. One reason a person always needs to be taught is that they’re being too lazy to think about these things themselves. And with all the burdens people of color carry, it would be an act of anti-racism if anti-racist whites thought through these issues on their own, rather individually or collectively, rather than making educating entirely the responsibility of people of color.

        Come on. Some issues are really quite obvious and shouldn’t need explanation, ie black distrust of law enforcement or even black distrust of “states’ rights.”

          • FannieL

            cordoba blue — I hear you about “doing the best” you can and being “still here.” Thank you.

            Blaque Swan — you have a gift in saying things that make such good points! Thank you. I really like your comment: “But at some point, students need to “look it up, dear.”

            IMO, this is the only path to ongoing personal growth — whether focused on anti-racism efforts or understanding the issues that affected us in childhood.

            We can consult with and talk to others. But for information to become internalized enough to help us change ourselves, much learning has to be actively pursued and processed individually.

            Connecting the dots happens over time, in stages, not all at once. And only we as individuals can give ourselves the gift of seeking the bigger picture through ongoing learning.

      • FannieL

        mbfromnm — Your comments are so on-target. Thank you for informing Cordoba that it is not my job as a black person (or the responsibility of other POC) to educate white people about racism. You give me hope. You really get it. Indeed, all of us must continue to learn — whites and POC.

  10. Mosquito bites? Entrance fee? Racist scratcher?

    Blue, seriously. Just read the words on the screen. Don’t attempt reading between the lines. Don’t skim. Don’t assume. Don’t catastrophize. Just read the words, every word, on the screen. And if something strikes you as particularly problematic, such that you find yourself wondering, “Does scratching a mosquito bite in some particular manner make a person racist?”, ask yourself, “Did [random commentor, likely Swan] use those words?” Also ask yourself, “Is it possible to scratch in a racist manner? What would that look like?”

    Think to yourself, “Did [Swan] say the list is ‘an entrance fee to being a REAL white anti-racist? Let me look back at the words she used. She suggested white anti-racists ‘. . .avoid the mistakes Herb and Margery listed and accept correction when you do slip up . . .’ Okay, so she’s not saying white anti-racists have to follow the list perfectly without error.”

    No one’s asking white people to be black. No one wants white people to be black. The last thing the world needs are a bunch of WASPs and yuppies wiggering out.

    All we ask is that you be human and see other’s humanity. Instead of racial superiority or racial inferiority, try racial humility. Whites aren’t just between angels and everybody else. Neither are you just between everybody else and demons. We’re all the same. Black people recognize that in the same white person who so angelically volunteers to tutor young black children is the capacity to demonize, devalue and ultimately destroy young black life. We don’t have a problem conceptualizing and accepting the full range of a person’s humanity. One’s evil doesn’t negate one’s good, nor vise versa. We just wish whites would allow others the same full range; and accept the facts that it’s in you, too, and we see it.

    Is further illumination necessary? I stopped reading your comments months ago, cordoba blue, because you insisted on putting words in my mouth, so to speak, and admonishing me for things I did not say. I’m more than willing to elucidate any comment I make that you might find muddled, befuddled or confounding. I’m more than willing to agree to disagree and that civilly. I’m more than willing to listen and learn. What I will not do, however, is be chastised and checked-down for things I never wrote or said.


  1. I Might Look Black, But I Ain’t Like “Y’all”: Mia Love & The Paradox of Race, Gender, and Religion in American Politics | Dr. Darron Smith
  2. I Might Look Black, But I Ain’t Like “Y’all”: Utah Politician Mia Love :: racismreview.com

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