Who has the right to speak about racism?

There have been two recent, thought-provoking posts on Racialicious about who is allowed to speak about racism. In May I Be Offended on Your Behalf? Tami of What Tami Said, who is black, recalls some negative experiences with non-black people speaking about black experience. Because of this, she held herself back from writing a post about racism against Asian Americans. She wants allies and the mainstream to be sensitive and intolerant of race bias, but also she wants them to keep their privilege in check. She then questions this and asks if she (or anyone) has the right to be offended on someone else’s behalf.

In A Question of Authority, Fatemeh Fakhraie of Muslimah Media Watch was advised by somebody not speak to about racial issues “past a certain point,” because Fatemeh can pass for white. She was annoyed by this, because one of her identities is being a Middle Eastern woman, she knows many Middle Eastern women, and she also does her homework on the subject. Similar to Tami, Fatemeh is annoyed when some white people speak for people of colour. In particular, Fatemeh mentions white academics and non-profit workers who speak for Middle Eastern and South Asian women, when Middle Eastern and South Asian academics and activists are capable of speaking for themselves. However, she wonders if a South Asian professor of African American studies has the authority to speak about issues facing Black Americans. She also points out that being from a particular background does not make one a “spokesperson” or “expert” on everyone of the same background. She asks: (1) What defines an authority on the subject? (2) Who has the right to speak as an authority on a race or ethnicity? and (3) Who gets to decide who’s an authority or not?

LM, a commenter on A Question of Authority, made an interesting point:

Anyone has a right to speak; whether they’re an authority is a separate question.

Why does it matter who is speaking? The truth-value of a proposition is independent of its speaker.

If there are such things as truths about racism and what we call “race”, then these truths exist independently of who speaks about them and regardless of if anyone speaks about them at all. The real problem here is not who is speaking, but what is being said.

The problem is that most people outside the racial group being spoken about simply lack the racial knowledge specific about that group. Not only that, but many people who fit this category are unaware of the extent of their racial ignorance; they believe that they are knowledgeable. Kruger and Dunning (1999) published a psychology study titled, “Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments” (PDF)(HTML). The study showed that the participants who were particularly incompetent in a particular subject or skill grossly over-estimated their competence in that subject or skill.

If we accept the hypothesis that people incompetent in a knowledge domain generally have inflated self-assessments with respect to their competence in that knowledge domain, and if we combine this with society’s expectation that white people are more competent and knowledgeable in general, then that white presumptuousness about race that feels all-too-common is an unsurprising result. Obviously, personally observing hundreds of white and black people shake hands does not give you access to the inner thoughts of non-whites with respect to handshaking preference; watching BET heavily does not make you especially knowledgeable about black culture; reading The Joy Luck Club does not mean you understand Chinese American culture; and even if you had studied race for over a dozen years, no white person—or even black person—is the spokesperson for black people. Unfortunately, many white people think that it’s that simple, that people of colour can be understood through prototyping, stereotyping, and generalization.

Like other subjects considered difficult, race and racism are complex subjects. Even if you want it to simplify it by embracing racial color blindness so that you don’t have to think about race, it doesn’t make race simple. Even if you want to simplify it by embracing multiculturalism and celebrating differences, it still doesn’t make race simple. It’s a lot more complicated than that, and there are a billion little things that cannot be generalized in addition to the few things that can be generalized that make up people’s racial experiences. It’s great to look for patterns, but be educated about rigorous empirical methods, because it’s not that simple. For example, personal observation is not a good way to draw conclusions about people outside your racial group.

Where does authority come from? Authority comes from knowledge.

Again, the truth of a proposition is independent of who the speaker is. The reason that academics are often authorities on specific types of knowledge is that they are often right, or at least they are generally more knowledgeable than everyone else. Somebody who has studied a specific subject (such as a scientific discipline) intensely for several years is going to be exposed to more knowledge about the topic than somebody who knows of the subject only through fictional portrayals on TV, for example.

My dad once commented that he thought that scientists were presumptuous, because they make scientific claims about evolution. He believed that his opinion that evolution is illogical (based on the false assumption that evolution is about moving from the primitive to the advanced) is as equally valid as that of a biologist’s. I thought that he was presumptuous for thinking that biology was that easy, that biologists spent years of advanced study without ever coming across his type of criticism, because they had never thought of it before or even debunked it in high school biology. Of course, when I suggested that he read an introductory book on the topic of evolution, he refused, believing that one does not have to study evolution to know that it’s crap.

You should always question authority, but if you find yourself dismissing the the claims of people who have studied a subject for years or lived an experience for years, believing that these views are not worth considering, you are the one who is presumptuous, not the “experts”.

Society confers a type of authority on those who are knowledgeable (generally). Although there are good reasons for conferring authority on to academics, authority is more about how society works than about truth per se. Knowledge and truth are more closely tied to one another, but what counts as “knowledge”?

Is personal experience a type of knowledge?

Yes, but personal experience is imperfect knowledge.

The hasty generalization is a fallacy, even if you are a person of colour. People of colour are individuals, and have a myriad of different racial, ethnic, and cultural identities intersecting with other identities, such as gender, sexual orientation, class, and nationality. In addition, there are people of colour who arrogant, stupid, and cunning enough to try to be the spokesperson for their racial or ethnic group, and there are many white people who will accept what they say uncritically.

The problem here is that sweeping generalizations about people are false even when they are about people of colour. (Imagine that!) People are not homogenous, and statistical analysis can be assumed to be necessary in population studies of people of colour as well. People of colour don’t literally live in a different world from white people which defies the laws of physics, statistics, and logic.

White people need to be critical of self-appointed spokespersons of colour, because generalizing from one instance to all instances was never an effective empirical method as far as generating truth is concerned. This should not be a racial issue, but it is, because of racialization.

Once again, the issue is not about deference to racial authority between whites and non-whites, but about racial truths versus racial falsities, racial knowledge versus racial ignorance. Often whites make false or misleading statements about a different racial group even when they have good intentions, but it is the wrongness that is the problem, not the fact that they said it. When the white woman told Tami that “any black person who saw it would be offended”, the statement itself is absurd, even if it was told by a black person to another black person who disagreed that it was offensive.

Similarly, there are non-whites like Michelle Malkin, Irshad Manji, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and my archenemy Chinese Canuck who often make generalizations from their personal experience to an entire group of people. While their personal experiences are of course valid, their generalizations are not. The problem is not who is doing the talking; it is what is being said.

Everyone has the right to speak. Whether you are knowledgeable or correct is a separate question.

54 Responses to “Who has the right to speak about racism?”

  1. LLB Says:

    I think you are absolutely right here. One thing though. In my opinion, personal experience, in combination with academic knowledge, gives a person an invaluable edge when discussing a subject matter, for the simple fact that it is knowledge, but a very specific kind of knowledge, one that can’t be fully communicated in any other way.

    This is why, I think, that deference is paid to persons of color on racial issues. I mean, sure, they could be as ignorant as new born babes, but, all things being equal, they are going to have this intangible edge over the white person (“all things being equal”, the irony of that phrase made me laugh). Yes, it is an assumption, but it seems at least as safe an assumption as all the other ones we make (like assuming that a person is an expert in a given subject, given things like academic degrees or acclaim).

    But what I really wanted to say was how cool I thought it was that you had attained superhero status, with archenemies and all, although I would have chosen arch-nemesis (it sounds more menacing).

  2. jwbe Says:

    I think there are two ways, (in this case for white people). The one is the “outside” way in which a white person doesn’t feel affected in whatever way by white supremacy and this system. S/he is coming *to help*, which is always paternalistic and always also in a dominant and controlling position and therefore ‘knows better’.
    Or you do it from within. That doesn’t mean that somebody white can feel how it is to be a Person of Color, but it is a ‘who degrades you, degrades me’ etc.

    there are situations where I am not sure and then I am silent, because I don’t want to make an issue out of something in public what perhaps isn’t an issue for PoC. Macon’s posting of this postcard in his ‘interracial dating’ post was such a case. I personally find this picture totally wrong and also stereotypical, most of all if you follow the link and can then read the text below the picture. I think it is out of the time of Jim Crow. I wondered what was going on in Macon’s brain. But because nobody Black said anything I also didn’t.
    I personally do not necessarily trust or believe academics, knowledge without empathy means nothing when it comes to social sciences and also it was scientists who invented race.

  3. LLB Says:

    I guess I’m not as sensitive as you. I actually said something about it. It was absolutely vile. I shudder even thinking about it now.

  4. Restructure! Says:

    @LLB:

    What happens if a Chinese person, for example, tells you, “Chinese people are superficial people. I know, because I’m Chinese.”

    Do you think, “Well, she’s Chinese, so I guess she knows best.”?

    @jwbe:

    How does a white person feel it from within, and what you mean by white people thinking, “who degrades you, degrades me”? Tim Wise alluded to this, but I didn’t fully understand how racism diminishes him and his family.

  5. LLB Says:

    That’s why I qualified it. It’s only an edge when everything else is balanced out. It can’t save you from stupidity.

  6. LLB Says:

    Oh, and I would have said, “Well, you’ve certainly demonstrated that some Chinese are superficial”, lol.

  7. nquest2xl Says:

    JWBE,

    Your comment about the Jim Crow picture is interesting. You criticize the “coming to help” attitude but, for some reason, didn’t voice your… your opinion about the picture because there was no PoC you could “help” by adding your voice to theirs had a PoC said something about the picture.

    Obviously you had your own reason(s) for being offended by the picture. It was obviously an issue for you, so I don’t understand why it was important for it to be an issue for a PoC unless your thing was of the “May I Be Offended on Your Behalf?” variety.

    So the “who degrades you, degrades me” is rather curious. I really don’t know what that means to you. Again, I note that you obviously had your own reason(s) for being offended by the picture. So I don’t know why you make your decision to speak out contingent on if and when PoC speak out.

    Maybe you can explain that. I understand, perhaps, the thin line between being a supportive “ally” and being a presumptuous front runner. One problem with that, though, is locating the idea as if the picture is an only an issue for PoC or should only be an issue if/when PoC say it is.

    That makes me question White anti-racism even more. It’s the argument I’ve made before: that Whites need to approach this on their own terms for their own reasons.

  8. jwbe Says:

    Obviously you had your own reason(s) for being offended by the picture. It was obviously an issue for you, so I don’t understand why it was important for it to be an issue for a PoC unless your thing was of the “May I Be Offended on Your Behalf?” variety.

    For me it is sometimes, not often, but sometimes difficult to make the correct decision how to react in a particular case and if my judgement is correct. This is not about waiting to come to help but just not being sure what to do. It’s a similar situation with FF’s avatar on AA.org. Nobody of the Black members says anything, so should I be the one starting an argument in this particular case because I find her picture offending?
    On Macon’s blog there are also some non-white members who like his blog and LLB wrote that it was Macon’s blog which made him aware about issues of race (paraphrasing). Also something like this can irritate me if it is correct to always interrupt or how to say it, most of all if I am not sure. This may have been the wrong decision in the case with the picture.

    That makes me question White anti-racism even more. It’s the argument I’ve made before: that Whites need to approach this on their own terms for their own reasons.

    Knowing my own reasons doesn’t mean that I am always sure how to react in particular situations.

    How does a white person feel it from within, and what you mean by white people thinking, “who degrades you, degrades me”? Tim Wise alluded to this, but I didn’t fully understand how racism diminishes him and his family

    Nquest and restructure, this is about feelings, I can try to explain. One example, when I was in America we passed (by car) a chain-gang. I felt humiliated, like being myself in a situation where I am humiliated in public.
    There was even a moment where I felt sorry for Macon, when I thought for a moment that he perhaps is just plain stupid. These are feelings which just come.

  9. jwbe Says:

    Edit the one sentence:
    This, not saying something, may have been the wrong decision in the case with the picture.

  10. Fatemeh Says:

    Hi! Thanks for the link to MMW and for your thoughts on the post; they’re very well-structured and well-thought-out; I really enjoyed reading this!

  11. Restructure! Says:

    @Fatemeh:

    Thanks for the feedback. I was worried that it was rambling, because I didn’t take a break and come back later to read it, before posting.

    @LLB:

    What if the person who said it is just like you, except Chinese? It would be his word against yours.

  12. LLB Says:

    Well, if the person was just like me, then they wouldn’t be making universal statements based on race. Superficiality is a subjective personality trait, and couldn’t be more than incidentally correlated to either nationality, geographic location, or subjectively selected morphological characteristics.

    But if they were sort of like me, with the exception of their willingness to make statements like the one you provided, then I suppose I would answer with something like the above. But, in that case, whatever experience they have had with racism clearly does not make up for forming such obviously fallacious arguments.

  13. Nquest Says:

    Nobody of the Black members says anything, so should I be the one starting an argument in this particular case because I find her picture offending?
    Why shouldn’t you? Why are the Black members important? If you find something offensive then you should be able to state what you find offensive and no one else should “start” that argument but you.

    Knowing my own reasons doesn’t mean that I am always sure how to react in particular situations.

    Regardless, why are you deferring to Black posters/members via “[none] of the Black members [said] anything”…? Why do they have to in order to give you either the reason or the cue for “how to react”…?

    Why are you basing what you do on the Black members? You say it’s not about “helping” but you make it sound like you would have been comfortable or “sure” about saying something if the Black posters/members did.

    WHY?

    And, really, you didn’t sound as if you were not “sure”…

    “I personally find this picture totally wrong and also stereotypical, most of all if you follow the link and can then read the text below the picture. I think it is out of the time of Jim Crow. I wondered what was going on in Macon’s brain.”

    And what do you mean you didn’t know how to “react”??

    But because nobody Black said anything I also didn’t.

    WHY?? I’m asking because, again, it sounds like you would have said something if someone Black did. I don’t understand that. I don’t understand why someone Black saying something would matter… unless there is something you’re not saying.

  14. Restructure! Says:

    @LLB: I like your answer.

    Another thing I’m wondering about is the role of formal study with respect to so-called “other” languages and cultures. Somebody can study a foreign language like French in the classroom and even get some kind of credentials for it, but it doesn’t make sense to think that this person knows French more than a native French speaker who grew up in France but does not have credentials about French-language ability.

    Is the topic of race and racism like language studies, or is it more like science? The study of institutional racism requires statistics, and the study of implicit bias requires psychology experiments. Racism is more covert now, and not all people of colour become aware of this type of racism, and they often internalize it.

    On the other hand, there are people of colour who do become aware of it (in that suddenly all those ‘anomalous’ past experiences connect together and we have the language to articulate how it’s racism). Doing rigorous studies are ideal, but white people without personal experience of racism may not know what are the right research questions to ask. I guess they would base their knowledge on what has already been published. It would seem much harder to innovate…

  15. LLB Says:

    The difficulty I have is with stuff more subtle than that, like what I posted about. Humor seems like a much more murky place to try and sift through, but because of that, it also seems like a real breeding ground for the kind of covert racism you speak of. I lack confidence in this area.

  16. jwbe Says:

    Why shouldn’t you? Why are the Black members important? If you find something offensive then you should be able to state what you find offensive and no one else should “start” that argument but you.

    In this case the Black members are important because it is a Black American msb and I am neither Black nor American. I am a tolerated member there what I appreciate, and it was for me two years back, when I joined the board, irritating that somebody like FF can act that way on a Black msb without being banned. This is my personal opinion, but I don’t think that I would have the right to demand that she is banned. For me this is the thin line between being a know-it-better “watchdog” and saying something against racism, because I can’t ignore the place, so a Black msb.
    Also because of Oshun’s response to the avatar of FF, saying, that she finds the pictures interesting and said thank you for posting (the site where the avatar was taken from). I also don’t find the pictures taken by the probably white South African photographer (according his name) interesting but questionable.
    Who I am then to start a discussion about a picture I find racist?

    Why are you basing what you do on the Black members? You say it’s not about “helping” but you make it sound like you would have been comfortable or “sure” about saying something if the Black posters/members did.

    I don’t have a problem with sending a pm to the owner of AA.org if there is a racist post, like it was the case recently with one white member, so that he can make the decision to delete the thread or ban the member or something else, but I wouldn’t tell him what to do and I also didn’t wait if somebody Black says anything in this thread. But this is something in the background.

    I also didn’t have a problem to know that Macon D isn’t such an anti-racist as he wants to claim or to be and I didn’t need anybody else’s confirmation for that opinion and to start discussions or so with Macon when I started reading his blog.


    WHY?? I’m asking because, again, it sounds like you would have said something if someone Black did. I don’t understand that. I don’t understand why someone Black saying something would matter… unless there is something you’re not saying.

    it is the summary of the entire topic ‘Macon’s blog’. My opinion is he should delete his blog, period. His blog is not racist enough that it could be deleted according the terms of google/blogspot.com. He won’t change his attitude, he proved this often enough with his problematic threads and his cencoring us, which was the reason why I wanted to start a counter-blog, where he doesn’t have the power to censor anything when being challenged. I think in most cases I know what to do or to say, independend from anybody else.
    I also know that I wouldn’t respond in a way like LLB that Macon could ignore so easily. But I also know that I can sometimes be quick with my judgements and this particular case, the picture, was for me a situation, that I just didn’t know if I should start an argument or not. In this case, I made the wrong decision and didn’t say anything. I sometimes have problems to judge pictures, it’s the same with brands which have plantations on their products. I find them all racist but I don’t know how this is viewed in America.
    So the judgements about pictures can differ and this can, sometimes, be irritating for me. In such cases I wait what people of the affected group say about something.

  17. Restructure! Says:

    Just in case people are wondering why chinesecanuck is my arch nemesis, here are some examples:

    Why I hate the term “Person of Colo(u)r”
    What exactly is a Banana?
    Most Canadians Believe that (New) Minorities are “Coddled” by Government: Poll
    Bananas, Part II (or Classism, Part I)
    You want to be considered “Canadian”? Stop acting “foreign”!

    I’m discouraged from commenting, because my negative comments are often deleted, which is a pretty effective deterrent.

  18. the laughing linden branch » If no one’s offended… Says:

    […] special thanks to Restructure for helping me along with […]

  19. grandpa dinosaur Says:

    Yes, but personal experience is imperfect knowledge.
    Ha ha, it sure is. I’ll admit that, and half the stuff I write about is based on personal knowledge.

    I should do more research, but it’s always stolen. Oh Shady College students, you make my research and knowledge sound like you truly understand marketing and consumer demand!

    Canadian Cannuck knows better than to comment on PDDP. BECAUSE I KEEP TELLING HER SHE CAN’T READ… But seriously… She can’t.

    Also! That makes me question White anti-racism even more. It’s the argument I’ve made before: that Whites need to approach this on their own terms for their own reasons.
    I always ask White people why they can’t do anti-racist work with us, instead of for us and I don’t get any answers. What are they doing that is so secretive?

  20. grandpa dinosaur Says:

    Also! That makes me question White anti-racism even more. It’s the argument I’ve made before: that Whites need to approach this on their own terms for their own reasons.

    I always ask White people why they can’t do anti-racist work with us, instead of for us and I don’t get any answers. What are they doing that is so secretive?

    (Sorry I had to fix that.)

  21. Restructure! Says:

    But seriously… She can’t.

    Seriously!! I read her comments on Racialicious too, and all of a sudden she’s talking about something unrelated, like debutantes and finishing school.

  22. grandpa dinosaur Says:

    Sorry, I was jumping between two accounts. Can you delete that last comment?

  23. Understanding racism requires recognizing faulty logic. « Restructure! Says:

    […] Unfortunately, Macon D believes that if claim X is about racism, then the race of the person making the claim is relevant to the validity of X. Not only is this idea racist, but more importantly, it is completely illogical. The truth-value of a claim is independent of the qualities of the person who makes the claim. […]

  24. William R. Anderson Says:

    Hi,

    I just came upon this site, and it’s wonderful to read all the comments and posts.

    I am a white male, and for the longest time I’ve been uncomfortable about racism and too afraid to look into it. Most discussions of racism I’ve been involved in or witnessed (and there haven’t been many) were very awkward and shut down quickly. I’ve always felt with people, there is this avoidance going on that is exacerbating the problem rather than helping. Usually I avoid talking about it just because I don’t know what to say, I don’t have the framework for discussion; and being aware of this, I know most of whatever I say or express will be racist, so I’d better just shut up.

    What you write about truth and justice, the role of critical thinking, makes sense to me. Without empirical truth, it is only superficial statements. It is like a mock trial without evidence or questions.

    In terms of Tim Wise’s “degrades me” statement. I understand that. There is a great shame in me for this racist system. That I haven’t opposed it enough, I haven’t educated myself enough, and for that, I ought to be ashamed. I feel I commit injustice, but do not redress. I believe if one is complacent with injustice, then one is also guilty for that injustice.

    My one question is about the role of the word “racist”, as in calling someone a racist. Do you believe this is an overgeneralisation? While behaviours and thoughts can be clearly defined as racist, people are much more complex that a small set of their thoughts and behaviours. Referring to someone’s being as a racist filters out all the other aspects of that person and leaves a caricature. It also adds some sort of permanence to their racism.

    If racism is rooted in thinking patterns and lack of critical thought, then this is a common human phenomenon, and it is not absolute. To refer to someone as a racist means they cannot have a non-racist thought, nor can they unlearn their racist thoughts and attitudes.

    I write this, because I often read comment sections in sites where hundreds of commenters debate, with a great deal of energy, whether or not someone is a racist. Not over what they did, but over whether what they did infers they are a racist or not. To me, it seems like an unhelpful question to ask and distracts from more constructive questions. To divide up the world into the racists and non-racists seem illogical to me, as all people are capable of having and do indeed have racist thoughts and attitudes.

  25. Restructure! Says:

    Hello Mr. Anderson,

    Yes, dividing up the world into racists and non-racists is illogical. I agree that when most people think of ‘racists’, they think of this binary categorization and assume implicitly that there is a group of ‘non-racists’. They also filter out all other aspects of the ‘racist’.

    This is a very popular idea, but not everyone who calls a person ‘racist’ is thinking of this framework. As an analogy, a person may call somebody else a ‘woman’, and this person may think of her as a one-dimensional character, or she/he may think of her being a woman as only one aspect of who she is.

    It’s probably much more useful to categorize actions and words as ‘racist’, but it’s even less helpful when a person insists that he/she is “not a racist” when accused of racism.

  26. Restructure! Says:

    Wait, that analogy isn’t very good, because being a woman is more permanent than being a racist.

    Anyway, I may call somebody ‘racist’ if this person’s racist thoughts and actions exceed a subjective threshold. However, I have racist thoughts and actions too, and I am trying to recognize them and restructure my thinking as well.

  27. William R. Anderson Says:

    Well, being a woman isn’t that permanent either. It’s a lot more difficult, but it’s possible (depending on one’s philosophical understanding of “woman”).

    Can you define what the subjective threshold is? Is this your subjective threshold, or the threshold of the one involved in the racist behaviour?

  28. Restructure! Says:

    I’m probably just making excuses for myself because I wrote a post called “Stephen Harper is racist.” It’s my subjective threshold, because I think his worldview is too racist for a Prime Minister of Canada. That I called him ‘racist’ is probably more political than about an accurate description of reality. I do not think that I can be unbiased when it comes to talking about Stephen Harper, though.

    When it comes to communicating with people who are actually listening to you, yeah, it’s probably unhelpful to categorize people as ‘racist’, although being called a ‘racist’ is not worse than the actual racism.

  29. William R. Anderson Says:

    Oh, you’re Canadian… I didn’t read that post. But I will. He’s not exactly my favourite Canadian either. My point also wasn’t directed at anything you wrote or did, and I didn’t read that post. It’s just about people in general. Not even talking about black people to white people; I see white people arguing over whether someone is a racist or not.

    True, I would agree being called a racist is nothing compared to experiencing racism. My only concern was that massive energy is spent on proving or disproving whether someone “is” a racist, when something constructive could be discussed about how that behaviour was racist and how to reconstruct the understanding of that behaviour. That way, Stephen Harper, for example, will stop doing that racist behaviour.

    In terms of the political system, it’s an imperialistic system. There’s no way the prime minister or president can’t be racist. (Sorry about the double negatives.) The position itself is racist, and sexist for that matter. Anything system that is founded on the idea that one person is inherently higher than another will only lead to racism and sexism.

  30. Restructure! Says:

    Personally, I see more white people spending massive energy to argue why a person is “not racist” than why a person is “racist”.

    What’s your experience?

  31. William R. Anderson Says:

    My experience with white people is that when they find a “clear cut” racist behaviour, like using racist epithets, they will make accusations of someone being a racist. To that person’s face, they may hold back, but behind that person’s back they will be aggressive. They will also pride themselves on not speaking to that person. Usually everyone agrees, though there will be a little disagreement. You can even see Fox News anchors engaged in this.

    On the other hand, if there is a racist behaviour that is not so “clear cut”, like a presumption, or behaviours you outline in your human relations programming, they will spend a lot of energy saying why it’s not racist.

    So, yes, I would say it’s mostly energy spent on denying someone is a racist.

    Oddly, I thought the question was the same.

  32. Restructure! Says:

    Jay Smooth has a video, How To Tell People They Sound Racist, and he says the same thing you said.

    In practice, however, when you accuse someone of saying or doing something racist, he/she flips it into a conversation about how he/she is not racist (because he/she has black friends, or reads books written by black intellectuals, etc.). I think most of the people who talk about whether or not a person is racist are the people who are defending that person from accusations of racism, rather than the people doing the accusing.

    Sure, there are people who say “he is racist!” rather than “That’s racist!”, but when a person is accused of doing or saying something racist, he/she often takes it personally and takes it as a personal attack. The person who is accused of racism then introduces irrelevant information about other aspects of his/her life, and hijacks the conversation, which was originally about the racist act, and makes it all about him/her and his/her list of accomplishments.

    I just don’t want the idea that one should not call people racist used to silence discussions of racism. Even when you don’t say that somebody is racist and only imply that what he did was racist by saying that he thought of a person as a stereotype, people often take it as a personal attack because they believe that only racists are capable of doing racist acts. Basically, I think the onus is on the accused not to turn the conversation (“what you did was racist”) into about him (“I am not racist”).

  33. William R. Anderson Says:

    Agreed. The onus is on the accused. My position is that discussions of defining someone as “racist” shut down constructive discussion about racism. It leads to silence that is frustrated and not constructive. The question of someone being a racist isn’t rational, and only leads to some condemnation of their being, which is irrational because a person cannot be defined like that.

    Logically, no person is completely racist, and no person is complete non-racist. Being a racist means that person is completely racist, all their actions are racist; conversely, a non-racist would mean they are completely non-racist and none of their actions is racist. This is self-evidently false.

    It cuts to the heart of what, I think, is preventing people from having realistic discussions about racism. White people don’t want to talk about it and are afraid to confront it because they “feel” their whole being about to get judged and defined as something they consider themselves is awful. It is an irrational reaction, and one that makes them _stop_ thinking critically. They take it as a defense of their entire being, while ignoring the real question at hand about their specific behaviour. This is basically what you wrote, but I’m reiterating for clarity.

    (Note, a person who doesn’t consider racism awful is quite openly not afraid to be called a racist, even proud of it. People like this, however, have bigger problems when it comes to critical thinking.)

    The burden of responsibility does lie with the person who committed the action, I agree. On the other hand, it’s in everyone’s interest to get that person to a point where they move beyond a complete judgement of their being, to one where they can separate their concept of self from their behaviour. If the person is not thinking straight when confronted about a racist behaviour, it is no excuse for them; but if we all want people to engage with racism critically, then it is necessary to circumvent this defensiveness.

    At the same time, people are, in general, not practiced in critical thinking, so it is not surprising if they don’t. Look at advertising. It’s successful only when it _stops_ people from thinking. That’s its goal. If people think about it, they don’t need a new iPod and their money would be better spent on something useful; but advertising makes people want it anyway and hand over their credit card. We have an entire population that is trained to suspend logical judgment; that’s the basis of our society. Therefore, while it’s true they are responsible, is it realistic to expect someone to think rationally? I think it’s realistic to expect a person to be irrational. It’s no excuse, but it’s our situation.

    I thought for a while about the human relations programming you wrote about. The idea of a white subconcious fear of a race war is not correct. I’ve never experienced such a fear myself, and I’ve never heard a white person express such a fear. If they did, I would think they’re paranoid, if not insane. It may be hidden in my subconscious, but usually I pick up on my subconscious feelings when I think about them for a while. If you want to make that statement about white people, then I’ll need some evidence to believe it.

    There is, in general, a conflict-avoidance that is taught and ingrained in people. Perhaps it is taught only to a class of white people, I am not sure. However, I see it all the time on a daily basis, not just in race relations. Someone is offended, and the other person tries to be overly nice, which can be condescending. With a racist conflict, the stakes are much higher, because racism is considered the highest offense.

    My belief is this is something that is taught to us, in order to induce submission in the population. It is the way people are taught to accept systems of power over them, all the while the powerful do rotten things to them. People think: don’t rock the boat or we all sink, accept the order over us, or else we’ll all suffer. People are taught to suppress anger, be good and harmonious, unified. That is the only way our power system can commit injustices to us day after day. And the powerful get away with plenty.

    Sorry for the long comment. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

  34. William R. Anderson Says:

    Just watching the video you linked to… it’s exactly what I was wondering about… thanks!

  35. Restructure! Says:

    Why are most White Americans afraid to have a black nationalist as the President of the United States? Why do they love MLK over Malcolm X? I mean, what’s the worst that could happen if Al Sharpton was the President of the United States?

  36. William R. Anderson Says:

    Woah, I don’t know what I said about that.

    I like Al Sharpton, when did I ever say or suggest anything against him?

    Maybe you’re asking me in general. I can’t speak for other white people. I genuinely like Martin Luther King Jr, he spoke moral truths. For example, besides his speeches on the wrongness of racism, he was one of the few people to say that the Vietnam war was wrong and immoral. He openly and accurately condemned poverty in our system.

    Malcolm X spoke moral truths too. Progress isn’t sticking a knife 9 inches into someone’s back and then pulling it out 6 inches.

    I’m not a fan of by any means necessary because it’s vague. What does necessary mean? What does “by any means” mean? Nuclear weapons? That would end the problem of human rights and dignity, but I mean it would end it. He means any means as in, any “moral” means, but it’s not clear. The ends do not justify the means is the principle I’m thinking of. As much as I don’t like capitalism, what the Soviets did to people did not justify them. Stalin said by any means necessary too.

  37. Restructure! Says:

    Whoa, I wasn’t saying anything about you as an individual. I asked about “most White Americans”.

    Now I re-read “Anti-racism is not human relations programming”, and I realized it could be read as talking about all white people rather than most white people and those who focus on human relations programming. My writing is not as clear as I thought. I will have to revise it.

  38. William R. Anderson Says:

    I guess I’ll throw the question back to you: who would you vote for and why?

  39. William R. Anderson Says:

    Can I also ask why you’re changing your writing?

  40. Restructure! Says:

    Who would I vote for out of which candidates and for which country?

    I’ll probably be updating the post, because I think it isn’t clear. I don’t want it to sound like SWPL satire. For example, this sentence may be interpreted as a statement about all white people:

    White people’s focus on and preoccupation with human relations programming appears to indicate a deep-seated, subconscious fear of an oncoming “race war”, in which people of colour will eventually revolt violently in response to centuries of white oppression.

    Anyway, my comment that starts with “Why are most White Americans afraid to have a black nationalist as the President of the United States?” is responding to your disagreement that white people are worried about a race war. Those questions in the comment were not rhetorical questions. It seems to me that many white people are afraid to have people of colour in positions of power, especially those that have historically been oppressed. My hypothesis that white people are worried about a race war may not be correct, and I was asking what you thought the reason was, why White Americans are afraid that Michelle Obama is a black nationalist, etc.

  41. William R. Anderson Says:

    a) The people listed were “Americans” so the USA

    b) Okay, so fear of a race war is a hypothesis, not a fact. Your evidence is that white people are afraid to have people of colour in power. That’s not enough evidence, and the evidence doesn’t support your conclusion. They may be afraid a person of colour won’t perform well, or is unfit to govern. They may believe that POC’s interests are too narrow and will exclude them. All racist thoughts. Not a fear of a race war. If anything, there would be less chance of a race war, because then the person of colour is in a normalised, official position. Why do think “white people” expect a race war more if there are powerful POC working in the system as opposed to outside the system? Do you think “white people” are afraid that if Al Sharpton is elected president, he’s going to make a black army to attack white people? Nobody’s afraid of that now, except for the crazy wingnuts who believe Obama is some communist prepared to bring on the NWO. Obama’s politics are much different than Al Sharpton, though.

    c) In terms of Michelle Obama, it’s propaganda. The terrorist fist bump was a stupid trivial propaganda piece, and most people saw it that way. It only made Obama’s numbers stronger. Ironically, they defended Michelle Obama by suggesting she’s not a black nationalist, and likewise, Obama needed to be defended as not a muslim. For which, I am truly disappointed he didn’t do the right thing and say there’s nothing wrong with being muslim. He could have had some courage, but he took the safe route because he wanted to be president. Same thing with reverend Wright. He could have done the right thing, said what Wright said in those clips has some merit, but he wanted to be President and succoured the mob.

    To be honest, I think the big problem is people don’t think about the centuries of white oppression. They are not aware of the anger towards them. They think everything’s fine. That’s the big problem. You’re attributing some kind of consciousness on them that doesn’t exist, and which should exist.

    Look at the Sept 11 attacks. They couldn’t understand why they were attacked. Many really believe it’s because the terrorists hate their paradise of freedom. They have no awareness of the horrendous crimes the US has committed around the world. They don’t even know what happened in Vietnam. (I was sickened by how Clinton and Obama could praise McCain’s service in Vietnam. It’s like praising someone in the Luftwaffe.)

    So they have their race war already, as you describe it, except they’re clueless as to why it’s happening. They think the “Arabs” are attacking them because they’re crazy, not because of years of oppression towards the Middle East. That’s the answer to your question about fearing a race war.

  42. Restructure! Says:

    a) Oh, you mean out of MLK, Malcolm X, and Al Sharpton? That’s an odd, anachronistic collection of candidates. I would have to study more about MLK and Al Sharpton. Malcolm X was insufferably sexist, so probably not him.

    b) I agree with you at this point that my hypothesis is unsound, and I will probably amend that post sometime. Right now, a lot of my time and energy is being diverted into xmas shopping, so I probably won’t do it immediately. Anyway, your Sept 11 example is quite convincing. There are still some things at the back of my mind that are unresolved, like why many white people expected that black people would riot if Obama was not elected. Also, do you think that white liberals and leftists, who feel some guilt or feel like they are being blamed for centuries of white oppression, are worried about racial anger?

    c) I think Obama himself is anti-Muslim and deluded when he said:

    Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

  43. William R. Anderson Says:

    White people would expect black people to riot if Obama didn’t win. Is this a true statement, first of all? And what are its conditions? I would expect people to riot if Obama were legitimately elected and then McCain were handed the election, as was done in the first Bush election. People rioted then. If the black candidate won the election fairly, and it were handed to the white candidate, I would expect black people to riot. And they should. I would also expect white people to riot. If people don’t riot in such a situation, then there’s something wrong with them. It’s impossible to predict, but I believe if white people thought that a Black Nationalist won the election fairly, they wouldn’t riot.

    The one critical point you’re missing in your statement is “fairly”. White people expected that black people would riot if Obama was not elected “fairly”.

    The question to investigate is if people have a different set of rules of electoral fairness for a white president than a black president.

    To add to this discussion, there were a riot after the Rodney King verdict. I know few, if any white people, who do not understand why there was a riot. It was an injustice and everyone knew it. Have you met many people who expressed confusion as to why people were rioting then? Or who believed there shouldn’t have been a riot? In such a situation, if people aren’t rioting, there is a problem with them. It was clearly an unfair event that spoke to the unfairness of the system as a whole.

    One can discuss whether rioting is the best way to achieve justice, but that’s a different question. Rioting is, historically, a common reaction to illegitimate and unjust power being excercised over a population.

    Re: white liberals and leftists. They care about racial anger, but that’s not the only thing they care about. They feel guilt for a whole number of issues. A white liberal feels worried about racial anger, but also gender anger, anger from the poor, about the environment. They feel plenty guilty looking at white people on the streets too. If I would hazard a guess, they fear racial anger more because they understand that racial oppression has been the worst of oppression.

    You know the term white privilege. White liberals have an understanding of it, even if they don’t know the term. If someone is privileged, that means they are responsible. The degree of someone’s privilege corresponds to the degree of their responsibility. White liberals have a stereotype of being well off, at least middle class, attending universities, etc.. They have a degree of power in society and they are usually aware of it. So, they expect racial anger, because they understand that their privileged position means responsibility. If people aren’t angry over injustice, there’s something wrong with them. So it is sensible that people, who consider themselves privileged and responsible, expect an angry reaction.

    I don’t know if they believe they’re being held guilty for centuries of white oppression.

    You may ask if their reaction to perceived racial anger is a rational one. Few people, and fewer “liberals” are not afraid of conflict. They are trained from an early age to fear conflict. They are trained to fear conflict in general, so they will not conflict with the authority figures in their lives. So you have a generation of people who are conflict avoidant. If you don’t believe me, ask a psychologist the number one problem they see in their clients. Ask why there are so many assertiveness training books and groups. You’re assuming they’re only avoidant of racial anger, when it’s actually all anger. Racial anger may hold a more feared position for them, however, because they believe that racism is the worst of social ills.

    You may wonder why you see some young liberals protesting and being angry, but that’s just a displacement of interpersonal conflict. They lash out at institutions, because they can’t lash out at their parents. But usually they just avoid all conflict. Most of them look at protests, even ones who are protesting something legitimate, as too angry.

    As far as Obama goes, I don’t know if he’s deluded. I think he knew what he was saying, and he knew that’s how he would get elected. If he said all the rotten things he did to get elected and then push through a truly positive agenda in the US government, I could accept that grudgingly. But if it’s going to be business as usually, he’s a typical politician. I’ve read that there’s been some talk about Obama not giving Israel the same old nudge nudge wink wink, and may hold them accountable and will stop military and financial aid to them. This is promising if it’s true.

    Finally, after thinking about some of these issues, I was wondering if you believe that North American black people are privileged? For the moment, I’ll stick to black people, because they have the worst history of oppression in North America. (I’ll avoid First Nations, though the oppression against them is worse, since their relationship to North America is different historically.)

  44. Restructure! Says:

    Mr. Anderson,

    White people would expect black people to riot if Obama didn’t win. Is this a true statement, first of all? And what are its conditions? […]

    The one critical point you’re missing in your statement is “fairly”. White people expected that black people would riot if Obama was not elected “fairly”.

    Some white people expected black people to riot if Obama didn’t win, period. For example:

    Fox Radio host wonders whether blacks will riot if Obama loses
    A white person at a racial reconciliation group asked if black people would riot if Obama didn’t win.
    Some Republican supporter made a YouTube video, asking if black people would riot if Obama lost.

    I may be overgeneralizing from three white people, but I also heard this sentiment of white people elsewhere on the internet, but I don’t remember from where. It’s not ubiquitous, but I don’t think it’s rare, either. I guess the question is why some white people think this, what are the conditions, etc.

    Re: white liberals and leftists. Macon D, a white leftist, wrote:

    Whites may also fear black crowds, again perhaps unconsciously, because they suspect that blacks want revenge for having suffered so long at the hands of whites. We somehow learn that if that’s true, then we’d better watch out for a group of black people with enough power over a white person to inflict that vengeance.

    It seems that Macon D, at least, thinks this is true of whites. It may be his projection, but I got that impression of white people (or some white people) from somewhere even before I knew Macon D.

    If I would hazard a guess, they fear racial anger more because they understand that racial oppression has been the worst of oppression.

    I don’t know if racial oppression has been the worst of all oppression, and I don’t think it’s useful to rank oppressions, as they are all going on at the same time.

    So, they expect racial anger, because they understand that their privileged position means responsibility. If people aren’t angry over injustice, there’s something wrong with them. So it is sensible that people, who consider themselves privileged and responsible, expect an angry reaction.

    Do you think it would make more sense if instead of saying that white people fear racial anger, I said that white liberals/leftists feared racial anger?

    You may wonder why you see some young liberals protesting and being angry, but that’s just a displacement of interpersonal conflict. They lash out at institutions, because they can’t lash out at their parents. But usually they just avoid all conflict.

    Yes, this is so true.

    Finally, after thinking about some of these issues, I was wondering if you believe that North American black people are privileged? For the moment, I’ll stick to black people, because they have the worst history of oppression in North America. (I’ll avoid First Nations, though the oppression against them is worse, since their relationship to North America is different historically.)

    What do you mean if I “believe that North American black people are privileged?” I think black men are privileged over black women, that straight blacks are privileged over gay blacks, that able-bodied blacks are privileged over blacks with disabilities, that rich blacks are privileged over poor blacks, etc.

    Again, I don’t think it’s useful or it makes sense to rank oppressions, because they don’t fall on to some kind of linear scale.

  45. William R. Anderson Says:

    I checked out the links. This is probably a question I have no way to answer, because I don’t know a real measurement of people’s attitudes, and I haven’t had many or even any encounters with this theme. If you have any more info or interpretation, please share.

    If white people are expecting black people to riot if a black doesn’t win the presidency, they’re not making sense. If they’re expecting black people to riot if a black person wins the presidency and then gets it given to his white competitor, George Bush style, sure why not? I would hope all people would riot. On the other hand, Obama is not the “black people’s candidate”. Black people didn’t nominate him to be their leader, and they’re not the voters who got him elected. If anything, Obama represents an appeal to the idea of the end of black politics. I wasn’t sure, but it seemed to me black political issues were being pushed aside in the election, though it seemed to get described as though it were “the” issue.

    There are many forms of oppression, but is all oppression equal? The middle class also faces oppression, but I don’t consider that oppression to be very urgent to deal with at the moment, since the middle class is very privileged by comparison. Even saying the middle class is oppressed sounds absurd, because we know they’re well off compared to most other people.

    I wouldn’t “rank” oppressions (did I use that word? If I did, I take it back. That makes it sounds like a competition). However, First Nations oppression is more urgent than oppression towards black people. First Nations had their land taken away from them, almost all of them were killed violently, and now they are slowly being killed off in a case of genocide, and their existence is ignored. Black people face violence toward them, inequality of wealth, disenfranchisement from the political system. But black people have some form of political power, have economic subsistence, and their issues aren’t completely ignored. They have privilege that First Nations people do not have.

    This doesn’t mean one group’s oppression is more important than the others, just that one group’s oppression is more severe and requires more immediate attention. It is useful to compare them, because protecting a people from being exterminated is more urgent than ensuring people are getting fair wages.

    I was also wondering about the term, white privilege. It’s hazy to me what it means. Is it privilege of being white, or being the privileged race? When I read the term, it suggests to me a privilege that is innate in white people, i.e. “whiteness”, rather than assigned privilege. If circumstances were flipped, and for example, black people were the privileged race, would white privilege still exist? I can understand immediately ideas of race privilege, gender privilege, ability privilege, economic privilege, etc.. White people have race privilege. But is that the same thing as white privilege?

  46. Restructure! Says:

    I agree that First Nations on average are more oppressed than black people on average, but I think that’s because they face at least two oppressions just by being First Nations. They are POC and suffer racial oppression, but they are also indigenous people suffering from colonization. Because of this and other interacting effects, they are also suffering from severe economic oppression more than other racial groups.

    It seems to me that what First Nations suffer is not just racial oppression, but also colonization and economic oppression. It’s not just about race, which is why you cannot say that racial oppression is the worst oppression.

    White privilege is assigned privilege. “Innate in white people” doesn’t make sense. I personally think of white privilege as functionally the same as race privilege given how the world is set up, but maybe there is something I’m missing.

  47. William R. Anderson Says:

    Hi Restructure,

    I wish I had more time to pick your brain, but unfortunately I don’t.

    A quick rephrasing of what I was asking.

    The racism as worst oppression. I say that because I think the ultimate form of racism is genocide. And that’s, as far as I can think, the worst crime. The ultimate form of economic oppression is slavery, which I would say is an awful crime, but not as bad as genocide. And there is definitely crossover. It’s racism that allowed slavery of Africans, when it was considered immoral to enslave whites.

    I’m not sure I understand how colonization is different. Colonization is imperialism, which is economic oppression. Colonization has been predominantly white people colonizing non-white territories, but historically, it has also been white people colonizing white territory. e.g. Romans colonizing Greeks, Germans, Franks, etc..

    As far as my question about white privilege, what I’m having trouble with is the logic of it. White privilege is something only white people can have. But if circumstances were reversed, for example, and black people occupied the position of white people in our world, then would black people have white privilege? This is why it doesn’t make sense to me, and the idea of race privilege makes more sense. The term race privilege indicates a systemic phenomenon with race as a modality, rather than white privilege, which indicates a racial phenomenon with the system as a modality. I may be wrong, but it seems to me that white privilege and race privilege are two different concepts, though their results look the same because we have only this world.

    The term white privilege is understood to mean white in a white dominated society privilege, but using the term white privilege is vague, it lacks reference.

    Hope that makes sense. I don’t have much time to check over my statements. Let me know if you need more clarification if I’m too vague, etc..

  48. William R. Anderson Says:

    By the way, I’ve been reading left-liberal websites, and I have yet to come across an article that conveys the idea of fear of a race war if Obama lost. Send me some links for those. If this is a popular idea, I’m really out of the loop.

    Secondly, about the people spending time trying to answer the question about whether someone is a racist or not. I remembered why I was thinking about it. Ralph Nader, on the night Obama won, said Obama can choose to be an Uncle Sam or an Uncle Tom. There was a 500+ comment string debating whether or not Nader is a racist. At some point, I thought, isn’t this a waste of time? Point out why the statement is racist, and then discuss the issues. A person can’t be defined with a single word, it’s illogical.

    Gotta run…

  49. space Says:

    If you call white privilege “race privilege,” then once again you’re doing that trick of putting the dominant group, whites, back behind the Wizard’s curtain. And that defeats the purpose of talking about this stuff, which is to expose and dismantle the power structure. If you don’t talk directly about the power structure, it will be ignored and carry on. After all, when people think of “race,” they tend not to think of whites because whites are the default (even though yellow people, not white people, constitute the racial plurality of the world and thus would make more sense as a “default human being” if you were going to have such a thing). You could have a theoretical society where whites were not on top, but in the global scheme of things led by predominantly-European-descended international corporate and banking bigwigs and set up by historical European colonialism and mercantilism, whiteness is an advantage. Even Asian Indians, who can’t change their caste, will try to lighten their skin color to improve their social status, thanks to the legacy of European colonialism. People often use Indian castes as a counter-example to racism, and sure, a dark Brahmin may outrank a pale Dalit (Untouchable), but a pale Brahmin will outrank a dark Brahmin.

  50. Restructure! Says:

    The racism as worst oppression. I say that because I think the ultimate form of racism is genocide. And that’s, as far as I can think, the worst crime.

    Definition of racism: “1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others. 2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.”

    Genocide does not make something more racist; it’s just worse because so many people end up being killed.

    The ultimate form of economic oppression is slavery, which I would say is an awful crime, but not as bad as genocide.

    I don’t see a necessary link, and genocide is worse than slavery because death is worse than slavery, not because of what type of oppression is being used.

    I’m not sure I understand how colonization is different. Colonization is imperialism, which is economic oppression. Colonization has been predominantly white people colonizing non-white territories, but historically, it has also been white people colonizing white territory. e.g. Romans colonizing Greeks, Germans, Franks, etc..

    It’s different because my parents were immigrants, and I am benefitting from colonization, even though I am a POC. I’m benefitting at the expense of indigenous POC.

    The term race privilege indicates a systemic phenomenon with race as a modality, rather than white privilege, which indicates a racial phenomenon with the system as a modality.

    The concept of “race” itself is part of the system. What do “race as a modality” and “racial phenomenon” even mean? (Of course, being “color blind” is not the solution, because we have to still talk about the system.)

  51. Restructure! Says:

    By the way, I’m trying out Twitter for a week to see if it’s important. (I started Sunday.) I’m @restruct.

    I’ve learned that when you don’t have time to blog, you may have time to Twitter, because you can’t blog at work, but you can Twitter.

  52. William R. Anderson Says:

    Hi Space,

    The reason why I started writing to Restructure at this blog was because Restructure made a comment about the role of critical thinking in understanding racism. Restructure mentioned that Macon D’s uncritical but passionate attack on racism was dangerous because it lacked logic and critical thinking. This made a lot of sense to me, and so I have tried to engage in a critical discussion about racism. For me, it is necessary to understand the logic and the principles involving race and racism. This is why I am asking these questions, albeit badly. I do not believe I can seriously begin to challenge a racist system unless I am clear on the logic and principles behind the ideas and terms. In other words, I don’t want to be like Macon D, uncritically attacking racism and doing more harm than good.

    Please be assured that I’m not trying to “trick” anyone. If you cannot at least trust my intentions, then please do not read my posts. There is no point in us having a discussion if you believe I’m engaging in trickery.

  53. William R. Anderson Says:

    “Genocide does not make something more racist; it’s just worse because so many people end up being killed.”

    What I meant was the extreme form of racism, that is racism brought to its conclusion, is genocide. That is, a race is considered inferior, and at its most extreme form, this inferiority means worthlessness. Moderate racism would allow for unequal status in a society, but an extreme form of racism would mean expulsion from society by violence.

    “I don’t see a necessary link, and genocide is worse than slavery because death is worse than slavery, not because of what type of oppression is being used.”

    How is it possible to disconnect oppression from its impact? Death is worse than slavery, that’s what I meant to say. Racism leads to at worst, genocide, which is death, while economic oppression leads to at worst, slavery. Therefore, racism is worse than economic oppression. It’s like smoking versus drinking. Drinking leads to liver damage, but smoking leads to lung cancer. Smoking is worse than drinking.

    Moreover, I guess I could also say racism is worse because it also enables economic oppression; but as far as I can tell, economic oppression doesn’t enable racism. So, racism allowed slavery of Africans when it was immoral to enslave whites.

    “It’s different because my parents were immigrants, and I am benefitting from colonization, even though I am a POC. I’m benefitting at the expense of indigenous POC.”

    I still don’t understand. It seems to me imperialism is economic oppression (i.e. slavery, stealing property, stealing resources). Therefore, it is consistent that POC can also benefit from colonization. How does colonization benefitting POC mean colonization is different than economic oppression?

    “The concept of “race” itself is part of the system. What do “race as a modality” and “racial phenomenon” even mean? (Of course, being “color blind” is not the solution, because we have to still talk about the system.)”

    I’m sorry, I realised it was unclear when I wrote it. This is an idea I’m trying to communicate verbally, but it’s not working very well. It wasn’t possible for me to spend much time rephrasing it. This could mean there is a logical problem with my thought, but I would like it to be made explicit if it is so.

    Race as a modality means racial privilege is a systemic phenomenon, and in our system whites occupy the race privileged status. The term white privilege, as far as I perceive it, means racial privilege is a white phenomenon, not a systemic one. White privilege only has meaning in a system that has white racial privilege. That’s why, theoretically, if we put black people in the position that whites occupy in our world, it is absurd to say they would have white privilege, but that’s what they would have. This is not a problem if we use the term race privilege, the systemic principle is sound.

    I guess it sounds overly academic, but the principle behind it is important for me to figure out. If I don’t understand the principle, then I don’t understand what white privilege means. I understand race privilege immediately. White privilege and race privilege are not the same, as far as it makes sense to me. My concern is if it is a category error to consider them as having the same meaning, or for the idea of white privilege (as opposed to race privilege) to exist.

    Space made reference to dealing with the power structure. I agree, and I’m focusing on understanding the power structure itself. I’m not sure I understand Space’s objections, because it seems to me I’m trying to _not_ think of white people as the default – the idea of a default human being, apart from seeming meaningless, sounds pretty degrading to me. My concept is that the variable in the system is race, and it equals white (white people have race privilege in the system). This is different than saying the variable is white, and it equals white (white people have white privilege in the system).

    Sorry that my explanations are confusing, I only have time to write when it’s late at night, so I’m very tired when I write.

  54. Restructure! Says:

    What I meant was the extreme form of racism, that is racism brought to its conclusion, is genocide. That is, a race is considered inferior, and at its most extreme form, this inferiority means worthlessness. Moderate racism would allow for unequal status in a society, but an extreme form of racism would mean expulsion from society by violence.

    You and I have different concepts of what racism means. My concept of racism is more like the dictionary definition, while your concept of racism implies that the racism is (mostly) inert until it concludes in genocide.

    How is it possible to disconnect oppression from its impact? Death is worse than slavery, that’s what I meant to say. Racism leads to at worst, genocide, which is death, while economic oppression leads to at worst, slavery. Therefore, racism is worse than economic oppression.

    Both racism and poverty can lead to death. Sexism can also lead to death. Homophobia can also lead to death. Transphobia can also lead to death. I don’t see the necessary links that you are making with respect to racism and genocide on the one hand, and economic oppression and slavery on the other.

    It’s like smoking versus drinking. Drinking leads to liver damage, but smoking leads to lung cancer. Smoking is worse than drinking.

    I don’t even agree with this. Smoking is worse than drinking, because even second-hand smoke increases your risk of lung cancer.

    Moreover, I guess I could also say racism is worse because it also enables economic oppression; but as far as I can tell, economic oppression doesn’t enable racism. So, racism allowed slavery of Africans when it was immoral to enslave whites.

    Sexism also enables economic oppression. Transphobia also enables economic oppression. Ableism also enables economic oppression.

    I still don’t understand. It seems to me imperialism is economic oppression (i.e. slavery, stealing property, stealing resources). Therefore, it is consistent that POC can also benefit from colonization. How does colonization benefitting POC mean colonization is different than economic oppression?

    I thought you said earlier that colonization is part of racism, instead of economic oppression?

    If imperialism and colonization is the same as economic oppression, then doesn’t it mean that indigenous POC suffer an additional oppression on top of racism?

    My concept is that the variable in the system is race, and it equals white (white people have race privilege in the system). This is different than saying the variable is white, and it equals white (white people have white privilege in the system).

    Ah, it’s this part of your explanation that really clicked for me. I think of it as the first one.

    I’m just one POC, though.

    On the other hand, racial categories are arbitrary. I would prefer it if racial categorization didn’t exist, but people still saw and acknowledged differences in skin colour, ethnic identity (when applicable), etc. That is, race isn’t a real variable, which is different from being able-bodied, being cissexual, etc.


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