Common White Fallacies when Dealing with People of Colour

A white person needs to listen to the personal experiences of people of colour when they are under discussion. On the other hand, it is dangerous, and usually racist, to generalize from one or a handful of people of colour and make a general claim. These two statements do not contradict each other.

White people need to understand the basic structure behind first-order logic to avoid the errors of both (i) ignoring the voices of people of colour, and (ii) making generalizations about all people of colour based on the voices of some people of colour.

Errors in Making Generalizations about People of Colour

Fallacy: Confusing Existential Quantification for Universal Quantification (Interchangeable People of Colour)

The following reasoning is invalid:

A black person x thinks P.
Therefore, all black people think P.

This reasoning is invalid because black people are not interchangeable, and one (or any) black person is not the spokesperson for all black people. Just as with white people, black people are individuals and are diverse in thought, culture, appearance, and other properties.

Fallacy: Hasty Generalization

The following reasoning is invalid:

A black person x thinks P.
A black person y thinks P.
A black person z thinks P.
Therefore, all black people think P.

First of all, this argument is never deductively valid, no matter how large the sample size, unless the sample set is equivalent to the population set to which you want to generalize. Inductive reasoning is always deductively invalid. (Science and statistics use empirical observations to draw conclusions, but they are not making inductive arguments.*)

If, instead, the reasoner wants to make a statistical claim about the population of black people, then she may be committing a hasty generalization. The sample size may be too small, and even when the sample size is large enough, it may not be representative of the general population. For example, if you surveyed black people in certain areas of the Internet and found that most were gamers, it says nothing about black people in general.

Errors in Ignoring People of Colour

Fallacy: White is Right

The following reasoning is invalid:

A white person x thinks P.
A Chinese person y thinks not P.
Therefore, x is right and P is true.

This reasoning is invalid because a white person is not necessarily more rational than a Chinese person. Although Western culture identifies the West with rationality and logic, and the East with irrationality and superstition, this does not mean that it is true in reality. A white person is not necessarily correct when the opponent is a black person or any non-white person, either. If a person assumes that this is true, he has an implicit belief in “white supremacy”.

Fallacy: Appeal to White Belief

The following reasoning is invalid:

Most white people think P.
Most non-white people think not P.
There are more white people than non-white people (in the United States).
Therefore, P is true.

Appeal to White Belief is a racial form of the fallacious Appeal to Belief, which has the following form:

Most people believe that a claim, P, is true.
Therefore, P is true.

Appeal to White Belief and the more general Appeal to Belief are invalid because the fact that most people believe that something is true does not mean that is true. For example, if most white Americans believe that racism no longer exists in the United States, and most black Americans believe that racism still exists, then this does not mean that the whites are objective and the blacks have a persecution complex. Appeal to White Belief may appear together with the “White is Right” fallacy.

Fallacy: My Black Friend Agrees With Me

The following reasoning is invalid:

A black person w agrees with me.
A black person x agrees with me.
A black person y disagrees with me.
A black person z disagrees with me.
Therefore, y and z are wrong and stupid.

Sometimes the number of black people who disagree with the white person in question is larger than the number of black people who agree with him, and the white person still thinks that those who disagree with him do not count because they disagree. This reasoning is fallacious, because the fact that one or some black people agree with the white person does not entail that those are the “good blacks” and the rest are the “bad blacks” who are wrong and stupid. The blacks who agree with the white person may agree with him because they are different demographically from those who disagree, or their social position may hinge on being agreeable to whites.

For an example of demographic differences, Oprah Winfrey may think that any black person from the ghetto can become rich if she tried, but Oprah is of the demographic of black billionaires who started off poor, which is not representative of the general black demographic.

It is more difficult to give a concrete example of the fragile social position situation, because it posits that the agreeable blacks have or are influenced by an ulterior motive. However, this sometimes happens, as being outwardly agreeable towards authority figures is not uncommon for humans in general. (For example, you may outwardly ‘agree’ with your boss about something and your boss may believe that you truly agree with her, but your desire for job security may or may not have influenced your behaviour.) Whether or not this is true for a given situation depends on the individual situation.

In any case, the truth or falsity of your belief is not determined by the fact that some black people agree with you, or the number of people who agree with you, even if more black people agree with you than disagree. This is a variation of the “Appeal to Belief” discussed above. In the “My Black Friend Agrees With Me” fallacy, the fact that the blacks who agree with the white person are favoured over those who disagree may be influenced by the “White is Right” fallacy as well.

This reasoning is fallacious even when you substitute any non-white racial group for ‘black’. Whites should not ignore or dismiss non-white voices just because they disagree. Any criticism should be considered and evaluated seriously.


* Karl Popper‘s account of falsification is a more accurate picture of how the scientific method works, although Thomas Kuhn’s picture is more accurate than Popper’s, and others have criticized Kuhn, etc. A full explanation is much too complicated and is irrelevant to this post. The point here is that claiming that inductive logic is invalid is not the same as a criticism of science, statistics, or empiricism in general. Science, statistics, and empirical methods are very good ways of gathering knowledge.


58 Responses to “Common White Fallacies when Dealing with People of Colour”

  1. Eloise Says:

    I love you.

  2. David Says:

    Although blacks are 12% of the population blacks commit 50% of the murders and a greater percentage of other crimes. Consider: black females – 6%. Blacks from zero yrs. to 12 yrs. and black males from 50-100 years commit an infinitesimal percentage of the crimes. Therefore we are left with two percent. If we eliminate crimes committed by this two percent from the U.S. statistics our country compares very favorably with all Western countries. Fact — blacks kill 7 times more than whites kill. Fact — blacks kill whites 20 times more than whites kill blacks. Fact — blacks mug or commit group crime against whites 50 times more than whites commit against blacks. Fact — blacks rape white women 2000 (yes 2000) times more than whites rape black women. In New York City, about 300 white women are raped by blacks every year BUT there has not been a black woman raped by a white male in anybody’s memory (going back over 20 yrs.) Consider: Al Sharpton had to go upstate New York to find a hoax and that was almost 20 years ago. (Source NYT 4/22/05)

    According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics 2004 report (released May 2006), blacks commit 54 percent of the homicides in America even though they constitute only 12 percent of the population.

    An individual black male is seven times more likely to commit murder than an individual white male. It so happens that black felons commit 43 percent of aggravated assaults, 66 percent of armed robberies, 27 percent of rapes and 85 percent of interracial crimes of violence, mainly against whites (this last figure from a Justice Department report 2003). However, it’s not just in the United States. The greatest dicators in recent years have emerged in Africa. People like Idi Amin of Uganda, Hastings Kamuzu Banda in Malawi, Mobutu Sese Seko, in Zaire, self-anointed Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic, Mohammed Saidi Barre in Somalia, Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe — the list is endless.

    Blacks are dumber as well, statistics analyzed by the New York Times (July 4, 1999) dispel the poverty argument by establishing that impoverished white children whose parents earn less than $10,000 a year score higher on standardized SAT tests than black children whose parents earn more than $70,000 a year. Also, nearly 70 percent of black children are born out of wedlock.

  3. LLB Says:

    But how many of your poor whites live with institutional racism or in a racist post-colonial power structure.

    As for the statistics about black women and males 0-12,50-100, I am sure that the vast majority of white crimes are commited by white males in the teen-50yr age group as well. That doesn’t tell us much other than a general propensity for males in that age range.

    But you’ve done very well at demonstrating that statistics are tools, and not facts, as well the nature of tools vis-a-vis the hand that wields them.

  4. knowgoodwhitepeople Says:

    Great post.
    The above is an understatement.

  5. Restructure! Says:

    David,

    Can you give more details on your NYT sources? It would speed up my reply if you provided links to your sources so that I don’t have to spend time trying to Google the statistics.

    Right now, I found recent data on black and white murder rates in the United States. In 2006, there were 573 black-on-white murders and 208 white-on-black murders. However, 74% of Americans are white, meaning that if the murder victim was completely random, there would be a 74% probability that the murder victim was white. So it is important to find the per capita murder rates.

    573 black-on-white murders / 221.3 million whites = 2.58924537 × 10^-6 black-on-white murder rate
    208 white-on-black murders / 37 million blacks = 5.62162162 × 10^-6 white-on-black murder rate

    Thus, a more black Americans are murdered by white Americans per capita than white Americans are murdered by black Americans per capita, unless I’m missing something.

  6. macon d Says:

    Good post Restructure–I often see white folks making such mistakes.

    I do have a couple of questions, though:

    A white person needs to listen to the personal experiences of people of colour.

    Why? I’m not being facetious–I’m wondering just why you think a white person needs to do so. What is a white person to do with what they hear when they do so? Anything? Or should she simply listen, as if to let the person of color vent?

    I assume (and I hope not fallaciously) that you mean the “personal experiences” here that a POC has have to do with her racial membership–other kinds of personal experience seem irrelevant here. If the POC’s reported personal experiences have to do with race, then what is the white person to do with that knowledge about non-white experiences with race? What is a good way for the white person to learn from it?

    Learning about race seems to require some generalization. I think this is especially true if a white person wants to stop saying things to POC, or doing things to them, that are racist.

    And yet, if I’m reading your post right, you offer no guidelines for proper forms of generalization by whites about the racial experiences of people of color. If, for instance, one POC does not like it when a white person says this or that to them (e.g., “My, you’re so articulate!”), and then another member of that non-white racial group also doesn’t like that, and then another also doesn’t like it, shouldn’t the white person realize, at some point, that members of that non-white racial group don’t like it when white people say that thing to them? If so, that realization seems to require generalization, doesn’t it?

    So I’m wondering, where and how do you think a white person CAN effectively generalize about POC, based on what POC say or write? (And of course, the goal of such learning, via informed generalization, is anti-racist: the cessation of racist behavior.)

    You also wrote,

    On the other hand, it is dangerous, and usually racist, to generalize from one or a handful of people of colour and make a general claim.

    Is there not a relevant difference here between ordinary, everyday people of color, and those who study, read, conduct research on, and publish vetted writings on racial matters? (I assume you wouldn’t want to fail to distinguish between the members of any particular racial grouping . . .)

  7. jwbe Says:

    Macon,
    I am not American and therefore the use of language can become sometimes a little bit difficult. But it is not about rules but about a deeper understanding.
    It is enough for me to read for example only one time one example by one Black person to understand, why “My, you’re so articulate” can be offensive for Black people. The history of it is important.

  8. Restructure! Says:

    Macon D,

    Good post Restructure–I often see white folks making such mistakes.

    Do you see yourself making these mistakes, or no?

    Why? I’m not being facetious–I’m wondering just why you think a white person needs to do so. What is a white person to do with what they hear when they do so? Anything? Or should she simply listen, as if to let the person of color vent?

    I was thinking of writing a follow-up post about this, but from the generally positive reaction to this post, I thought it wasn’t necessary anymore. But apparently it’s not obvious [to people like you], and I should make a post about it. So wait for the follow-up post.

    If, for instance, one POC does not like it when a white person says this or that to them (e.g., “My, you’re so articulate!”), and then another member of that non-white racial group also doesn’t like that, and then another also doesn’t like it, shouldn’t the white person realize, at some point, that members of that non-white racial group don’t like it when white people say that thing to them?

    You’re completely missing the point about why telling PoC that they are “articulate” is problematic. Have you read this link: So You Think You’re an Anti-Racist? 6 Critical Paradigm Shifts for Well-Intentioned White Folks? Check out item #1:

    The Base Shift: Human relations programming –> Social justice activism

    I’ve pointed it out to you. Now can you explain in your own words what the connection is between the Base Shift and your neophyte white antiracist thinking displayed in your question? (Tip: Concentrate on the part I quoted, and less on the examples in the description.) Are you doing interracial PR, or are you doing antiracism? Do you even understand why telling PoC that they are “articulate” is problematic? Is it problematic because PoC don’t like it, or for another reason?

  9. macon d Says:

    Do you see yourself making these mistakes, or no?

    No. I don’t write about what “all” black people think; I don’t claim that when a white person and a PoC disagree, the former is right because he or she is right; I don’t commit the fallacious Appeal to Belief; and I don’t ignore or dismiss non-white voices just because I disagree with them (though I do reserve the right to disagree–surely I shouldn’t think every PoC who disagrees with me is right, just because he or she is a PoC).

    Do you think I make these mistakes, on my blog, perhaps? If you think I do make them, please identify which ones, and where I made them.

    It’s great that you’re planning a new post on what white people should do with what non-white people say, and how the need to generalize fits into all of this. This neophyte looks forward to it.

    The Base Shift: Human relations programming –> Social justice activism

    I’ve pointed it out to you. Now can you explain in your own words what the connection is between the Base Shift and your neophyte white antiracist thinking displayed in your question? (Tip: Concentrate on the part I quoted, and less on the examples in the description.)

    It’s difficult to get much out of what you quoted: “The Base Shift: Human relations programming –> Social justice activism.” That quote doesn’t mean much to me. Maybe you mean, instead of “quoted,” “the item on the linked page that I’m referring to, i.e., item #1.” If so, I see no connection between my example of complimenting articulate black people and this:

    [Does what you’re doing] contribute to eliminating racism? The most anti-racist shift for white people is to understand that confronting racism is going to be uncomfortable, difficult, emotional, and painful. So why do we put so many resources into human relations programming? Who might we be trying to protect?

    If you mean (it would be nice if you’d just say what you mean, instead of making me guess with a handful of questions), when you ask whether I’m doing interracial PR or antiracism, in a more general sense, that is, the writings on my blog, then no, I don’t think of them as interracial PR–they’re not a mere celebration of diversity and human relations. They’re an effort to talk about the myriad manifestations of white supremacy, and to get others to talk about them, and hopefully, do things about them. It’s anti-racist work, and it’s not easy work–it often is, for me, “uncomfortable, difficult, emotional, and painful.” (Though I think it shouldn’t ALL be that way, especially if I want to attract other white neophytes to what I write, and to the discussions that occur there).

    If you think I’m doing “interracial PR,” please explain what that means, and how you think I’m doing so. A few of the posts on my blog are less serious than others, but overall, I do think the general approach there contributes toward the elimination of racism, instead of the mere celebration of diversity (and how could it be doing the latter? It’s about whiteness, not PoC).

    I think I’ve already made the shift, then, from human relations to anti-racism (although promoting good human relations does help to promote anti-racism–I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive).

    You’re completely missing the point about why telling PoC that they are “articulate” is problematic. . . .Do you even understand why telling PoC that they are “articulate” is problematic? Is it problematic because PoC don’t like it, or for another reason?

    No, I’m not missing the point–I do understand that issue, as my blog post demonstrates. Offering such compliments is, obviously, problematic for a range of reasons, including the fact that PoC don’t like it.

    But the point of my example of complimented articulation was about white reception of PoC testimonials, not about why it’s wrong to compliment black people for being articulate–it’s just an example. Right, “like” is a bad word choice there (and again, my blog post on the topic fully demonstrates my understanding of the issue), but by focusing on my supposed neophyte-like lack of understanding of that issue, you’ve avoided the questions I’ve asked you about how white people can best generalize from PoC testimonials.

    Please stop addressing my neophyte efforts in general, and help me learn from you about the issues raised in your blog post here. I admit it, again–I’m a neophyte, okay? I’m white–as I’ve said many times on my blog, and as you’ve said on yours, PoC know more about racism and how race operates than white people do. What I’m trying to work out via discussion with you is an issue raised by your blog post here–how white people can use, and generalize from, PoC testimonials and knowledge.

    So, I’m still waiting for you to address this question of mine:

    You:On the other hand, it is dangerous, and usually racist, to generalize from one or a handful of people of colour and make a general claim.

    Me: Is there not a relevant difference here between ordinary, everyday people of color, and those who study, read, conduct research on, and publish vetted writings on racial matters? (I assume you wouldn’t want to fail to distinguish between the members of any particular racial grouping . . .)

    What I want to know is, when is it not “racist” to “generalize from one or a handful of people of colour and make a general claim”? How could a white person do so effectively?

  10. macon d Says:

    (sorry for the bad italics usage–I’m also a neophyte with html).

    :>

    A preview function would be nice. . .

  11. Restructure! Says:

    Macon D,

    Look. I would rather not be blogging or discussing racism and antiracism. This is not my hobby. I would rather be reading philosophy, geeking with computers, or doing something relaxing, than dealing with you. I’m doing it because I know I won’t have peace as long as there is racism (and sexism) in the world. This is emotionally draining for me and it’s taking a toll on my mental health.

    I feel like this shit is obvious, and white people can figure it out as long as they put in mental effort instead of expecting it to be something easy like flipping a switch. I feel like I have to spell out everything for you, which takes up time and effort on my part, when it’s not even my job to end racism. Maybe I’m wrong and white people can’t figure it out themselves, although it still seems obvious to me. However, you are being an asshole by telling me, “it would be nice if you’d just say what you mean, instead of making me guess with a handful of questions” and requesting, “help me learn from you”. Why do I have to be nice to you and educate you about antiracism? This reeks of privilege. Check #13.

    It seems like you read things like that all the time, but you just assume it applies to other white people, not yourself.

    Between this post and the previous one, I was thinking of not blogging anymore because it was useless getting through to people. Luckily, I shut myself off from the world for a while and recuperated, and gained new energy to write this post I’m commenting on. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go recharge now, and maybe I’ll respond to the issues in your comment eventually, if I decide to continue blogging.

  12. macon d Says:

    Restructure, please don’t stop blogging because of all this. We need your good brains! Seriously!

    Actually, I’ve felt an exhaustion too at times from struggles at my blog. I take the criticism there much more seriously than it may seem.

    Thanks for the explanation. I don’t expect help from PoC. I started my blog hoping that white folks would read it (since they need it), though I’m very glad that a lot of PoC do too.

    Right, you certainly don’t “have” to be nice to me, or explain anything to me–I just meant that I’d find communication with you easier to conduct if you’d tell me what you mean, instead of suggesting it with guiding questions.

    Of course I don’t expect you or other PoC to do anti-racism work, nor to help me with mine. But you wrote a post on the topic, and you’ve commented many times on my blog, which is also on the topic. Those things constitute invitations to further communication on the topic.

    Anyway, I do hope you rest well. You don’t seem to find value in communicating with me, so I’ll stop trying.

  13. Nquest Says:

    Macon (guiding question coming), why do you keep trying to communicate with someone (Restructure) who said you wrote “intellectually dishonest tripe”??

    Also, for some reason, Restructure “labeling” you doesn’t seem to bother you either. WHY?

    Notice how Restructure is talking about ending communication with you when, in my case, you wanted to talk about why you wouldn’t talk to me. Why the difference?

  14. Nquest Says:

    Regarding the Paradigm (Base) Shift…

    Macon, your idea that POC view Whites as untrustworthy because of how Whites “probably” will enact common white forms of racism reflects “human relations programming” mode. It’s also evidence of the “Racism as individual acts” paradigm.

  15. macon d Says:

    Macon (guiding question coming), why do you keep trying to communicate with someone (Restructure) who said you wrote “intellectually dishonest tripe”??

    Also, for some reason, Restructure “labeling” you doesn’t seem to bother you either. WHY?

    Because I’m an ever-changing project–I’m unmakingmacon (at gee mail dot com), remember? I’ve decided not to let labels people use for me stop me from trying to communicate with them, especially when they’re as smart as you and Restructure are. That’s why I went back to talking to you at my blog. So don’t worry, Nq, I’ll get back to talking to you there. (I’m hoping to find the time to rewrite the posts that we’ve been discussing, so I want to pin things down with you on that over there, if you’re still willing.)

    I don’t want to clutter up R’s blog with this, so over and out, etc.

  16. LLB Says:

    Restructure,

    Maybe you could just take a break from the racism blogging. I understand you feel the urgent need for a solution to it and sexism, but don’t wear yourself out.

    Actually, if you wanted to blog on a different topic, like philosophy, I’d love to read that as well.

    Anyway, I just wanted to communicate my appreciation of your writing and to encourage you in it.

  17. jwbe Says:

    Macon
    Do you think I make these mistakes, on my blog, perhaps? If you think I do make them, please identify which ones, and where I made them.

    Common sense, listen to yourself and how you answer to some non-white people on your blog and also here, as well as empathy will help you answer your own questions.

  18. Nquest Says:

    Jwbe,

    Restructure has been “identifying” what she sees as mistakes Macon has made all along but that doesn’t stop Macon from pretending she hasn’t.

    And, Macon, you’re right. You are “ever changing” in the inconsistent and hypocritical sense. Again, Restructure was the first to “label” you as “intellectually dishonest” yet your reaction was and has been markedly different. Again, I ask… WHY??

  19. macon d Says:

    Nquest, send me an email if you’d like to discuss this. As I said above, I see no reason to clog Restructure’s blog with it.

  20. jwbe Says:

    Macon:
    No. I don’t write about what “all” black people think

    tell me, how does this work? On your blog you write “non-whites don’t trust whites”

    What I want to know is, when is it not “racist” to “generalize from one or a handful of people of colour and make a general claim”? How could a white person do so effectively?

    because I still couldn’t figure out what you do mean with that I would like to see that you clearify this. Up to then I believe that you try to categorize.
    What exactly do you want to generalize and why?

  21. Restructure! Says:

    Thank you, jw, for standing up to Macon D in this blog and his blog.

    For people reading this and thinking that I’m being unnecessarily harsh to Macon D: Macon D has been examining whiteness for “over a dozen years”, and felt that I was astoundingly condescending for thinking that he is a neophyte who needs Antiracism 101.

    Macon D,

    Of course I don’t expect you or other PoC to do anti-racism work, nor to help me with mine. But you wrote a post on the topic, and you’ve commented many times on my blog, which is also on the topic. Those things constitute invitations to further communication on the topic.

    Yes, these things constitute invitations to further communication on the topic. I don’t even mind you writing, “So, I’m still waiting for you to address this question of mine:”, because it’s standard internet-discussion protocol to expect people to be accountable for their words. However, “help me learn from you” is an additional request that does not come from standard internet-discussion protocol. It comes from typical white “antiracist” thinking.

  22. Restructure! Says:

    Macon D,

    Also:

    I’m a neophyte, okay? I’m white

    You being white does not automatically make you a neophyte. You appear to be a neophyte because of your actions. Take some responsibility for your actions and your own education.

    jw is white and she does not appear to be a ‘neophyte’.

  23. Nquest Says:

    Macon is sensitive about his whiteness. He feels his whiteness is an important part of why objections to his faulty assumptions and arguments are made. Ex:

    Is there something about you that keeps bringing you back to the web site of a white, desperate, intellectually dishonest liar?

    That’s the question he asked me and I certainly didn’t attribute any of the problems I found with what he said to his ‘whiteness’; indeed, my very objection in that thread was about Macon’s assumption to that effect. And Macon obviously doesn’t believe this:

    I’m white–as I’ve said many times on my blog, and as you’ve said on yours, PoC know more about racism and how race operates than white people do.

    When this PoC (Nquest) not only objected to Macon’s attempt to say what “many”/”most” PoC do in terms of trusting/distrusting Whites (people PoC assume to “probably” be racist or racial stereotype wielders) but illustrated how McCall, Hooks, etc. didn’t support his idea… Macon just declared himself as someone who knows more/better than PoC, this one, and any random Black blogger (read: Amaryah).

  24. macon d Says:

    Macon: No. I don’t write about what “all” black people think

    jw: tell me, how does this work? On your blog you write “non-whites don’t trust whites”

    jw, like Restructure, I too thank you for standing up to me on my blog. I need all the constructive (i.e., well-explained and supported) criticism I can get. Mere labels don’t help much.

    You asked how the above works. From what I can see, it doesn’t work, because you’ve left out a word from my blog: “many.” As in, “many non-whites withhold their trust from whites.” So as I said above, I don’t write about what “all” black people think. But in order to point out various racist things that white people often do to black people, I sometimes write about what “many” report they think about such common white behavior.

    What exactly do you want to generalize and why?

    I want to generalize, to some extent (and no, not fully, as in “all black and/or non-white people think this or that”), about common non-white experience with, and knowledge about, common white tendencies, in order to wake white people up to those tendencies. And thus, in order to get some of them to stop enacting those tendencies. Calling on non-white testimonials of this sort makes such writings of mine more convincing.

    Why do I want to do this, you ask? I hope what I’ve just written makes my anti-racism motive clear.

    I believe that the act of generalization, itself, is not necessarily a negative one, IF one is NOT generalizing fully to all members of a group, and IF one’s partial generalization is accurate, and IF one’s clearly expressed purpose in making a partial generalization is for the benefit of the members of that group, rather than their detriment.

    R: jw is white and she does not appear to be a ‘neophyte’.

    True. Being white does not, automatically, make one a neophyte in racial terms, because–as I was trying to say–one can train themselves beyond that stage, or at least otherwise “appear” not to be a neophyte. jw and I have both been trained to be white (in a general sense–the training has also had many differences for us, of course), and I think it’s safe to say that we’re both trying to untrain ourselves. She may well be further down that road than I am (and I post articles by her on my blog because I think she is well down that road–I consider her articles worth posting because they come from that place).

    As I more or less said before, I do take responsibility as best I can for my actions and my own education. I’m not asking, anymore, for help from you. It does seem to me, though, that if the overall goal we all seem to have in writing about race is anti-racism, then telling a white anti-racist that he’s a neophyte, and then telling him to go figure out for himself what that means, doesn’t do much to help him contribute to that goal.

    I am glad, though, that so many other PoC have shared what they know about racism, and about common white tendencies, in forms that have been accessible to me, and educational.

    PS–R, have you considered finding a way to add a “preview” function here? As a self-professed geek, surely you know how to do that? @_@

  25. macon d Says:

    Nquest:

    What you quoted by me is a misstatement on my part; I now see that it should have the word inserted here in brackets:

    I’m white–as I’ve said many times on my blog, and as you’ve said on yours, [many] PoC know more about racism and how race operates than white people do.

    Also, this statement of yours misstates what you and I have said on my blog, in the following ways:

    When this PoC (Nquest) not only objected

    So because you’re a PoC, you automatically know more about race than I do? Or, are you saying, that I’m not following my own logic, because I said that, but didn’t follow it? I reject the former, and if you mean the latter, then as I said above, I misspoke.

    Anyway, the issue isn’t about who knows more about race–it’s about what a post on my blog says, and specifically, whether it accurately represents common non-white reactions to white people. In order to assess that, you need to be accurate about what the post says, in order to be accurate yourself about where it might be wrong.

    to Macon’s attempt to say what “many”/”most” PoC do in terms of trusting/distrusting Whites

    Please be more accurate. I’ve since withdrawn “most.”

    (people PoC assume to “probably” be racist or racial stereotype wielders)

    I didn’t say write this–you’re misrepresenting my writing. I wrote that PoC are often realistic about the possibility that whites might enact racist tendencies, so they withhold their trust in this regard. That’s very different from saying that PoC are racist or stereotype wielders.

    but illustrated how McCall, Hooks, etc. didn’t support his idea…

    I don’t think you did illustrate that.

    Macon just declared himself as someone who knows more/better than PoC, this one, and any random Black blogger (read: Amaryah).

    No, I didn’t do this either. I said you misrepresented what I wrote. That’s different from saying I “know better” than you.

    But, let’s be polite. This is Restructure’s blog, and we have a long thread going about this topic on mine. Let’s continue the discussion there (unless, of course, R says she wants us to continue it here).

  26. Restructure! Says:

    I’ve done some thinking, and I think it is silly for me to tell people, “Isn’t it obvious??!” without explanation. I remembered how I hated it when other people did it, although they were arguing about what they thought were “obvious” innate properties of blacks or Muslims, and they thought they didn’t have to explain because it was “obvious”. Hence, I should make my arguments clear and explicit, not only to communicate to others, but also to make ensure that I’m not being intellectually lazy. It’s more work, but I should be doing it for myself as well. (Maybe I should spend less time commenting and divert that energy to working through explicit arguments on my blog.)

    As for the preview function, this blog is hosted by WordPress.com, and it doesn’t even allow us to edit the template unless we pay money. (We can change the stylesheet within predefined options and move around the sidebar widgets, but we can’t edit the template directly.) I used Blogger before WordPress.com and I know it is more flexible, but something annoyed me about it, I forgot what, and I still generally prefer WordPress.com.

  27. macon d Says:

    Thanks for that, Restructure. Not that I expect an explanation of your “neophyte” label, because I’m doing what I can to empathize with your exhaustion regarding anti-racist work. (I say “doing what I can,” because as I’ve written on my blog, being trained as white means that I’ve been left with a certain lack of empathy for PoC–it’s an atrophied capability in me that I’m trying to build up again.)

    Too bad about the preview function–I didn’t know WordPress sucked that much. I don’t know if Blogger’s any better. I do think WP’s templates look better (yours, for instance).

    Rest well (or welcome back, if you’ve already taken a break),

    macon

    PS–less time commenting, more time post-writing–Amen!

  28. Nquest Says:

    I misspoke.

    It doesn’t work that way, Macon. You’ve made that statement too many times for me to count and now, all-of-sudden, you want to modify it. How convenient.

    All I had to go on was your statement as you said it here and on your blog a number of times. Indeed, you’ve said it here after you’ve essentially said you know more/better than I do, not about racism, but about what PoC think about Whites in terms of trust/distrust.

    The effect of what you’re saying is that you know PoC better than PoC do.

    you need to be accurate about what the post says

    I have been accurate and your “how race operates” clause covers whatever perceived inaccuracy you think there is. But tell me, what makes you more knowledgeable about or aware “common non-white reactions to white people” and, more importantly, what those reactions mean than non-white people?

    I’ve since withdrawn “most.”

    See the pattern. Misstatement after misstatement after misstatement.

    I didn’t say write this–you’re misrepresenting my writing.

    Macon, don’t go there with me. And, really, the first thing you need to do is be accurate:

    That’s very different from saying that PoC are racist or stereotype wielders.

    What I said was that you suggested that Whites are the “people” non-whites (aka PoC) assume to be racist or stereotype wielders — i.e. Whites are are the racists or stereotype wielders.

    I don’t think you did illustrate that.

    I clearly did. There was like 4 or 5 AFTER THE FACT — i.e. non-prejudging factors I listed that were clearly present in the material you quoted from McCall and those factors, particularly his AFTER THE FACT assessment that his White co-workers had little or no exposure to Black people and didn’t know how to relate to him.

    Those aren’t things based on a “realistic” assumption of some “possibility” that any random White person is racists or will enact “common forms of white racism.” Those are well-founded judgments of observed behavior/actions. That’s without even mentioning the faulty assumption that those “strange” or “unfamiliar” White people would be trusted if they were not White.

    Human beings don’t just up and trust “strange” or “unfamiliar” people. PERIOD. That alone debunks your idea.

    No, I didn’t do this either.

    Macon, what do you call your who argument but you declaring (without evidence, mind you) that you know more/better than PoC do about what PoC do in terms of “common non-white reactions to white people”??

    You insisted your position had support (when it didn’t) and that you were right to draw the conclusions you did.

  29. Restructure! Says:

    I think I will respond bit by bit instead of all at once, so that there is less stress and pressure.

    Macon,

    Although I think express amazement when non-white people see them as “white” is more problematic than editing details (I think I should be completely restructured, if it should exist at all), you still have generalizations such as this:

    The strange thing is that on the other hand, white people usually think of themselves and other whites as individuals. And on top of that, they also tend to just assume that non-white people see themselves that way too.

    It implies that non-white people don’t see either themselves as individuals, or that they don’t see whites as individuals. (If it’s the latter, your usage of ‘themselves’ is a bit odd.)

    Anyway, if you edit your posts, you should use strikeouts to show that you’re not trying to hide your mistakes. Latoya Peterson used it on Racialicious and Munzenberg used it as well, both demonstrating responsibility and accountability.

    edit: I can edit the posts on my own blog, so I’m not too bothered by the lack of preview on my blog. :)

  30. Nquest Says:

    In addition to what I was saying…

    Macon, you not only insisted you were right but claimed I was wrong via the “message” you felt I needed to hear.

    And it’s rather odd that you would ask why I (still) want to know where you got your idea from when it’s clear I disagree with you and feel African-Americans, by and large, don’t do as you suggested and, indeed, relate to White people in different ways, in different capacities, where the kind of “trust” issue you suggested isn’t an issue or the “distrust” is founded not in assumptions but in AFTER THE FACT, after actions/behavior assessments.

    I knew you didn’t get your idea from “many” African-Americans/PoC. Turns out, you didn’t get it from any of the ones you quoted.

  31. macon d Says:

    I knew you didn’t get your idea from “many” African-Americans/PoC. Turns out, you didn’t get it from any of the ones you quoted.

    Incorrect. As I’ve shown many times at my blog.

  32. LLB Says:

    That’s it Macon, now you’ve crossed the line! WordPress does not suck! Why, I even added a preview ability to my WordPress blog just because you asked me to. Now I’m wounded, cut to internet core and bleeding out on the electronic floor.

    Restructure, let me know and I can point you towards the plugin I’m using to offer Macon the comment preview ability he longs for.

    Wounded I tell you!

  33. macon d Says:

    Sorry about the wound, LLB. But I’ve got a bandage here, and hey, it’s “flesh-colored” too!

  34. LLB Says:

    I don’t know whose flesh they borrowed for those bandages, but it sure wasn’t mine. Do they actually match anyone in existence?

  35. Restructure! Says:

    LLB,

    As I understand it, there is WordPress.com and WordPress.org. WordPress.org is where you get the full WordPress software yourself and install it on your own web server, and you can install WordPress plugins. On the other hand, WordPress.com is hosted by them, and you can’t install plugins or edit the CSS or the template. You probably have your own web server and have installed the WordPress software on it, which is why you can download WordPress plugins and install them yourself. The WordPress software itself (from WordPress.org) is free, but WordPress.com is a (hosting + WordPress software) service that is limited.

    Let me know if my assumptions are incorrect.

  36. jwbe Says:

    Restructure, you are welcome

    Mere labels don’t help much.

    nobody uses mere labels toward you, even if your selective reading skills want to see it that way.

    Calling on non-white testimonials of this sort makes such writings of mine more convincing

    You don’t understand the basics of creating “whiteness”. You have no clue about Eurocentrism. Because you are still full in the center of both. your “unmaking Macon” won’t happen that way. What you try is to compare black and white. Whites do this and that and Blacks do that and this. You have no idea about different realities because you still consider your reality as the only one. From this reality you read the answers to you and this is the reason why you can’t understand Restructure’s post here or Nquest’s answers in your “amazement-post”.

    Why do I want to do this, you ask? I hope what I’ve just written makes my anti-racism motive clear.

    no it doesn’t. You come across unexperienced. When you say you have spend more than 12 years to educate yourself and this is the result, then you are only more an example proving my statement right: Anti-racism is not about changing ‘hearts and minds’, this is a way which won’t work.

    jw and I have both been trained to be white (in a general sense–the training has also had many differences for us, of course), and I think it’s safe to say that we’re both trying to untrain ourselves.

    No, your statement is not safe because we have nothing in common. My reality is very different to yours.

    being trained as white means that I’ve been left with a certain lack of empathy for PoC–it’s an atrophied capability in me that I’m trying to build up again

    you use this “being trained as white” as excuse and you even don’t realize it, because you don’t seem to be serious to ever leave this “white place”.

    btw. I asked you on your blog “define anti-racism”, you didn’t answer this question, so do it here or on your blog, but I want to know your answer.

  37. LLB Says:

    Restructure!,

    Yes, you are correct in your assessment of the difference between the two. I’m not very familiar with wordpress.com and the restrictions they put on their users. Do they allow you to use plugins if you upgrade from a free account? Not that I’m suggesting a comment preview ability is worth paying them to upgrade, but I’m curious.

    The sad thing is that that kind of limitation really keeps WP from shining, since the flexibility of using various plugins is a big part of why I really enjoy using WP.

  38. macon d Says:

    jw, gotta run, but will return to your comment. Just this, for now:

    I did answer on my blog your request for a definition–I was wondering why you didn’t respond–guess you didn’t see it. Do you know which post’s thread that was on? Sorry, but I can’t find it! Arrgh…

  39. jwbe Says:

    oops, yes I missed it, found it now

  40. macon d Says:

    jw:

    Thanks for the description of your impressions of my online presence so far. I will take them under advisement.

    Anti-racism is not about changing ‘hearts and minds’, this is a way which won’t work.

    Why not? Won’t work to do what? Stop acts of racism by newly educated white people? I think it will do that. Stop institutional racism? I think it can work towards that too–institutions are run by individuals, mostly white ones. Why not try to change the hearts and minds of white individuals who work in institutions?

    No, your statement is not safe because we have nothing in common. My reality is very different to yours.

    Oh, I thought you were white, like me. You’re not? If you are white, then why don’t we have that, and some of what it means, in common?

  41. Restructure! Says:

    jw,

    Where did you say, “Anti-racism is not about changing ‘hearts and minds’”? I agree with you, and I want to see what you said about it.

    LLB,

    No. Here are the upgrade options:

    Custom CSS – $0.04 per day
    Unlimited Private Users – $0.08 per day
    5GB Space Upgrade – $0.05 per day
    15GB Space Upgrade – $0.14 per day
    25GB Space Upgrade – $0.25 per day

  42. LLB Says:

    Restructure,

    What do you think anti-racism is about then, I would be interested in hear what you think it is about.

    And as for WP.com, that makes me sad that they would so neuter their own product.

  43. jwbe Says:

    Macon:
    Why not? Won’t work to do what? Stop acts of racism by newly educated white people?
    you can’t change the ‘hearts and minds’ of Eurocentric way of thinking, because Eurocentrism is based on division, othering and disrespecting other culures. This is together with Christianity the core of white supremacy.

    Oh, I thought you were white, like me. You’re not? If you are white, then why don’t we have that, and some of what it means, in common?

    Different people can have different experiences, so my reality differs from yours. Having something in common as a group doesn’t mean that this is true for individuals.

  44. jwbe Says:

    Restructure,
    Where did you say, “Anti-racism is not about changing ‘hearts and minds’”? I agree with you, and I want to see what you said about it.

    I think I mentioned this already in a comment on Macon’s blog ?
    But there is also a guest-post for Macon’s blog in the making, where I mention this.

  45. Restructure! Says:

    Macon D,

    The idea behind the post believe others consider them trustworthy was based on what looked like the Interchangeable People of Colour fallacy. Your whole post hinged on this:

    An anonymous black woman wrote an email in response, pointing out the columnist’s lack of interest in why non-white people might say such things. She also wrote, “As a Black woman I will admit that the typical Black person does not trust any white person (our history nurtures this and it does not help that institutional racism reinforces it).”

    Your based your post on what one anonymous black woman thought, and generalized to all non-white people. This is one example of why you appear naive about race and why you seem illogical.

    In express amazement when non-white people see them as “white”, when Nquest challenged you about where you got your reverse racism idea from, you responded:

    nquest2xl, the voices in this article and comments thread should help to explain where I get this stuff from–it’s not nonsense.

    This looks to me like an example of the “My Black Friend Agrees With Me” fallacy. Obviously, Nquest is black and he disagreed with your assertion about what all non-white people thought, yet you dismissed him by pointing out what you believed were non-white people who agreed with you. Of course, that post was problematic to begin with, as it was based on the “Interchangeable People of Colour” fallacy and perceived to be confirmed using “Hasty Generalization” justification. (In my opinion, of the 18 comments, only one supported your view, while others were making nuanced statements about distrust.)

    Now that I think about it, perhaps you are not especially illogical when it comes to interacting with PoC, but you are just illogical in general. In sit quietly in movie theaters, and shush those who don’t (part one), you wrote:

    This strikes me as a common white form of behavior, especially, from what I’ve observed, among middle-class American white folks.

    This is just plain “Hasty Generalization”.

    However, when Professor Zero offered counter evidence, you responded with:

    Hi Prof Zero, would you say that’s all the people from Baton Rouge, LA, or just a certain sort that’s somehow markable by the characteristics that you identified? Could this be a class difference you’re pointing to?

    This seems extremely stupid and biased to me. Of course Prof Zero’s personal observations are also affected by other, non-racial factors, but you appear to only take this into consideration when the evidence is going against your view, not when you make your own observations.

    That you mentioned the middle-class factor does not really negate this, because (1) you said it was “common white form of behavior” and that the middle-class aspect makes it “especially” true, which means that you are making two different statements, one about common white behaviour, and the other about middle-class status exacerbating this alleged common white behaviour; and (2) you are still making a hasty generalization.

    Ironically, when jw (in the comments of express amazement when non-white people see them as “white”) challenged your claim that when whites discuss race they are Calm and Rational™ , you said:

    Already your claim of “civil discussions in a calm and rational way” you think would be typical for whites, indicates, that you didn’t have many talks with whites when it comes to race.

    Oh but I have, middle-class whites especially, from the ones among that group willing to even discuss racism. “Civilized” and “rational” is the way they almost always want to talk about race–passion and hysterics are an exception to a general rule. I could quote other writers who’ve seen this among whites, but uh, com to think of it, they’re not white, so I won’t quote them to you, since you don’t think I should do that. Yes, I’ve seen individual whites get hysterical, but that’s been to the frowning consternation of the other whites in the room, who usually do all they can to calm that person down. I’m talking about a general white consensus for discussion of race; certainly individuals act as exceptions to the rule, as with any general rule or tendency.

    Once again, you are making a “Hasty Generalization”, because not only are you discussing your personal experience, but you use that personal experience to make a generalization white behaviour. (Also, I’m skeptical of your observation, because you don’t exactly strike me as the epitome of rationality and logic, so I’m not sure if you’d be able to recognize it when whites are being irrational and illogical.) (Also, where did jw say that you shouldn’t quote non-white writers?)

  46. jwbe Says:

    (Also, where did jw say that you shouldn’t quote non-white writers?)

    nowhere. This was his not so rational ego which lead him to this assumption.

    there is another observation: He doesn’t challenge racist or white problematic comments on his blog. While he thinks about how to silence us, he doesn’t think about how to silence such people. He avoids to confront them but confronts those people who take anti-racism seriously. At least my understanding is that an ‘anti-racist’ website is also a *safe space* for non-whites, not for whites.

  47. Restructure! Says:

    jwbe,

    On SWPD, you said that you were tempted to make a website that criticized SWPD. I think this is a great idea, since we’re obviously not welcomed by many (most?) SWPD readers, and probably not so much by Macon either. The comment section of SWPD is too cramped, but I don’t want to use this blog to post a rebuttal to Macon’s posts, because I want this blog to be more ‘general’ than about a specific website.

    Macon D really doesn’t understand how problematic his blog and his comments are, and when we are resisting racism, he sees it as a personal attack on his status or something. In many ways, commenting on his blog is of limited use, because our criticism is perceived as destructive or negative criticism existing merely to negate his blog. If we create our own blog, then it will reframe our resistance as antiracist content itself. (I think.)

    On the other hand, I think I shouldn’t waste my time with him, because it’s useless.

    Then again, there are so many people reading that blog, especially naive white people, and they might come away with the impression that his blog is ‘antiracist’. I mean yes, it is antiracist in a way because he is resisting some racism, but he consistently makes completely screwed up comments like “Nquest sees me as inconsistent and as a faulty spokesperson for black people” (where the problem for Macon is the characterization of him as ‘inconsistent’ and ‘faulty’).

    It’s hard to argue with him, because even if you’re talking about one thing, he makes multiple screwed up statements, so that you have to ignore them or switch from what you were talking about to a recent comment that was even more messed up. You can’t even have a linear debate.

    But yeah, if he’s been learning for over 12 years and from our internet interactions he learns at such a slow pace, then we shouldn’t hold our breath for Macon D suddenly having an epiphany and finally understanding why his blog is so screwed up.

  48. Restructure! Says:

    Oh, I thought of a good name for the blog: Stuff White People Say.

    edit: I couldn’t resist snagging the subdomain, just in case.

    edit2: jwbe, did you get an email at your aol address?

  49. “Then how am I supposed to generalize the racial experiences of people of color?” « Stuff White People Say Says:

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  50. jwbe Says:

    Oh, I thought of a good name for the blog: Stuff White People Say.
    edit: I couldn’t resist snagging the subdomain, just in case.
    edit2: jwbe, did you get an email at your aol address?

    yes, I got the email. Thank you :-D

  51. Restructure! Says:

    Macon D,

    A white person needs to listen to the personal experiences of people of colour.

    Why? I’m not being facetious–I’m wondering just why you think a white person needs to do so. What is a white person to do with what they hear when they do so? Anything? Or should she simply listen, as if to let the person of color vent?

    I changed it from “A white person needs to listen to the personal experiences of people of colour” to “A white person needs to listen to the personal experiences of people of colour when they are under discussion” for clarification. Does the whole post make more sense to you now, or no?

  52. “If People of Color are telling me something, do I just let them vent?” « Stuff White People Say Says:

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  55. Anti-racism is not human relations programming. « Restructure! Says:

    […] person who identifies as an antiracist, and the author of the blog Stuff White People Do, made this comment: Learning about race seems to require some generalization. I think this is especially true if a […]

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