A “safe space” for Whites to talk about race is unsafe for people of colour.

Some individuals believe that a “safe space” is one in which people can talk about a sensitive topic without being criticized. When the topic is race, some white individuals expect that a “safe” anti-racist space is one that is safe for whites to talk about race. However, a safe space for whites is one that is unsafe for people of colour.

When discussing race, the greatest fear for whites is being “attacked” by being accused of racism. The greatest fear for people of colour is being attacked by racism itself. If people should be able to discuss issues of race without being criticized, in practice, the result is the silencing of people of colour, while leaving whites beyond reproach.

In a safe space for whites, people of colour are not allowed to call out the racism of white individuals; however, whites are allowed to make statements about people of colour and people of colour cannot respond.

The notion of facilitating a safe space for whites to discuss race assumes that the white person’s learning and enlightenment is the goal of anti-racism. According to this framework, if the white person does not have a non-threatening environment, then he will reject anti-racism, so we must make sure that anti-racism activities revolve around his needs and progress at the pace he desires. However, this setup reproduces white supremacy, as it gives the utmost importance to white comfort, white opinion, and white perspective. It reinforces the white person’s sense of white entitlement.

The white person’s learning and enlightenment is important only insofar as white allies may be useful in the eradication of racism; it should not be given priority over the dismantling of white supremacy, as this would defeat the purpose of anti-racism.

87 Responses to “A “safe space” for Whites to talk about race is unsafe for people of colour.”

  1. Silvia Says:

    Thank you for this post. As a white teacher in higher ed, I’ve struggled with occasions when white students mention in class that they feel attacked in other courses whose primary focus is a strong anti-racist and anti-colonialist analysis. I am first and foremost concerned for the students of colour who are present and how this kind of discussion might be painful and oppressive to them.

    But my job is also to educate the white students. I usually try to shift the discussion to “it’s painful to become aware of our white privilege, isn’t it?” or “lets talk about how white guilt continues to perpetrate oppression.”

    I do recognize that making it safe for whites to discuss race “reproduces white supremacy” in the ways you describe.

    I also recognize that most of my white students have never had their white privilege challenged and they are processing a huge shift in their world view. While I am not too concerned with their discomfort, I am concerned that they are able to navigate this process successfully. I need to think a lot more about this issue from the perspective of a white, anti-oppressive educator. I appreciate how you have set out the issues.

  2. Angus Johnston Says:

    I think the concept of “safe space” for whites talking about race probably only makes sense if two conditions are met:

    1. The space should be all-white.
    2. The conversation should be facilitated by a strong anti-racist.

  3. Rene Benthien Says:

    I too don’t believe in the utility of ‘safe places’ when it comes to discussing public policy, ideology or any views that effect the broader society.

    ‘Safe places’ are extremely useful for personal issues where public scrutiny will only serve to damage rehabilitation or development.

    However all opinions and views that affect the wider community should be open to attack, at all times, in the market place of ideas. That’s the essence of democracy.

    When it comes to racism I think ridicule, ostracism and other forms of social attacks have been very successful in making it undesirable to exhibit racism. In fact, being a racist is so widely despicable that I think getting accused of being a racist is much worse than being subject to verbal racist attacks yourself.

    Sure this will marginalise the ardent ones and make extremists out of them, but that will further establish the fact that racism really is a dangerous extremist relic of our tribal era, that has no place in civilization.

    Also I strongly feel that there should not be any race-specific safe places, whether it’s for whites, blacks, asians or whatever.

  4. safe space « Raven’s Eye Says:

    […] from Restructure The notion of facilitating a safe space for whites to discuss race assumes that the white […]

  5. Elton Says:

    White people want everything. They can’t have everything.

  6. Rene Benthien Says:

    @elton hope you were joking there mate, cos that’s an idiotic comment.

  7. Nquest Says:

    Thank you for this topic, Restructure.

    Naturally, I agree but I think it’s useful to identify the thinking behind the deference given to Whites in these varying situations. Varying because I’m sure you’ll recall when we were labeled “trolls” on SWPD because Macon D, someone who, depending on the context, would insist that he has years of professional experience — i.e. someone who was passed the primary learning stages. Yet, Macon D was defended by this same kind of mindset that grant Whites deference because both those who have learned, to some degree or another, and those who say they want to learn are consider exceptional or out of the norm.

    As you aptly note, granting Whites this kind of deference both shifts the focus-objective of inter-group dialogue and reproduces White Supremacy. This behavior also robs POC of their humanity. While the prospective White allies are allowed to have their faults, POC who voice concerns they have with the White ally’s thoughts or actions are seen as problems because they didn’t treat the White ally with perfect care, regulating all their emotions and intellect as to make sure the enviroment is perfect-safe for the White ally to remain comfortable with their decision to be(come) allies.

    The other problem with this is the “learning” aspect. By definition, this sets up POC as the long-suffering “teachers” who are supposed to guide the White ally through who knows how many lessons because of some very problematic underlying assumptions… Something else that’s overlooked is what I call the division of labor in this inter-group relationship.

    Somehow, when it seems most White allies view themselves as being concerned about racism in society because, on some level, they want to “help” POC… somehow what gets lost in this POC=teachers is how the very people who are supposed to be “helped” end up being the ones doing the helping. The question then is: what are the White allies doing? What workload are they carrying?

    — whether its being insensitive or oblivious to the concerns of POC or, perhaps unknowingly (or even obstinately) expressing views that are racist or

  8. Restructure! Says:

    In fact, being a racist is so widely despicable that I think getting accused of being a racist is much worse than being subject to verbal racist attacks yourself.

    This is absurd. Do you mean to tell me that you would rather be the recipient of a verbal racist attack than be accused of being racist?

    Men who beat their wives are widely despised, but it is better to be accused of beating your wife than be actually beaten.

  9. macon d Says:

    Thank you for a useful post, Restructure!

    Nquest wrote,

    I think it’s useful to identify the thinking behind the deference given to Whites in these varying situations. Varying because I’m sure you’ll recall when we were labeled “trolls” on SWPD because Macon D, someone who, depending on the context, would insist that he has years of professional experience — i.e. someone who was passed the primary learning stages.

    Say what? What does that even mean? Anyway, I think I get what you’re saying overall, about how the apparent needs of white folks get deferred to in racial discussions over those of PoC, and I agree that it’s a common but obnoxious and oppressive occurrence. However, what you wrote here is not why you two were labeled trolls, by other commenters and by numerous other complainers who emailed me, both white and non-white (though not by me). As I’ve explained before, you were labeled that, along with a white commenter, jw(be), because as Restructure wrote about her own comments there, 99.9% of your comments there have been negative, BUT not ONLY that, often threadhijacking and derailing as well (merely negative, even if 99.9% of the time, wouldn’t be a problem–I publish all sorts of negative comments, and reject some by many other commenters, for a variety of reasons). Jw(be) even wrote there that she thinks my blog is an insult to anti-racism and should be taken down (by what censoring authority, I don’t know)–that’s not troll-like behavior? But okay, you weren’t talking about her. The above were also reasons that I declined to publish/”censored” a few of the comments by the three of you, because I thought they worked in those destructive ways again. I’ve since published other of your comments that don’t seem to me to do that.

    Just to be clear, I myself don’t think of the three of you as “trolls,” despite the many “anti-Macon D” posts here and on your tripartite blog, SWPS. The anti-racism expressed by each of the three of you seems to me sincere, intelligent, and dedicated, and usually informative and constructive. It’s NOT that I mean to offer some sort of seal of approval in that sense–I’m merely clarifying that I myself don’t think of y’all as trolls.

    Okay, back to listening.

  10. Nquest Says:

    Restructure, I think Rene Benthien’s comment reflects the kind of minimizing of the experience of POC. But maybe she can elaborate on her point and explain why merely being accused of being racist is “much worse” than being subjected to one act/attack of “racism.”

    I’m curious as to why Rene believes that to be so. Seems to me that Rene places claims that someone is a “racist” in a social context where the social costs of being branded a “racist” are high and damaging to the accused because of the society-wide rebuke. At the same time, Rene seems to detach “verbal racist attacks” from the social/society context and pretends that such an attack only exists in a one-on-one, individual context with no social or society-wide “despising” of the attacked being present.

    Notice Rene mentioned nothing about the social ramifications for either the attacker (that person would be a “racist”, right? and what price did/do they pay for the attack? any?) let alone the attackee.

  11. Nquest Says:

    MACON D = ignored

    … because of the usual bs.

    FOR THE RECORD: JWBE, Restructure and I were told specifically that we were labeled “trolls” because of the deference factor. Macon is not the only person with email plus there were plenty of on-board statements that either directly or indirectly indicated that White-ally-deference was the source of or part of what prompted the labeling.

    For example: comments that accused us of having a problem with you because you were white; comments that claimed we were just looking for something (read: something racially problematic) to nitpick — i.e. because you were “trying” or “learning” your problematic views should be overlooked.

    Re: Threadjacking… I’m still waiting for explanation for how that occurs especially when Macon supposedly had numerous people who complained. Naturally, those same “numerous” amount of people could have rendered any attempts at a “threadjack” null and void by carrying on a discussion that didn’t involve any so-called “troll.”

    But, regardless of the bs Macon wants to throw out there… Macon was, indeed, offered deference for the very reason expressed here.

  12. Rene Benthien Says:

    @Restructure The situation is very different in that case. Beating someone is physical violence. Being accused of beating someone is just verbal, social attack. Those two things are in totally different leagues. And being racially verbal-abused is no where near the crime of beating your wife.

    If a person was NOT beating his wife then being accused of doing so is one of the worst accusations against ones character that you could make. Another is accusing someone as a racist when they are not.

    I’m not talking about actual racists here, I’m talking about normal folk who get accused of being racists for various reasons. Once we are sure the attack is racially motivated then the attacker is a legitimate target for all kinds of abuse (as long as you don’t break the law).

    @Nquest Yes I did use that social context you mentioned. I thought that was the assumption. If that is not the case then I think I misunderstood this discussion.

  13. Restructure! Says:

    Macon D,

    Just to be clear, I myself don’t think of the three of you as “trolls,” despite the many “anti-Macon D” posts here and on your tripartite blog, SWPS. The anti-racism expressed by each of the three of you seems to me sincere, intelligent, and dedicated, and usually informative and constructive. It’s NOT that I mean to offer some sort of seal of approval in that sense–I’m merely clarifying that I myself don’t think of y’all as trolls.

    Weird, it seemed that you condoned the troll accusations, since you allowed them through, some of them being irrelevant personal attacks that were off-topic but were supportive of you.* Yet you censored my comments, because you believed them to be personal attacks that were off topic; however, my comments were critical.

    * (Calling someone a “concern troll” is itself an ad hominem, but I’m talking about comments that went further than that.)

  14. Restructure! Says:

    I’m not talking about actual racists here, I’m talking about normal folk who get accused of being racists for various reasons.

    The problem with this is that it turns into victim-blaming. When it is assumed that being accused of racism is worse than being the recipient of racism, then people assume that the alleged victim of racism is “being mean” to the alleged perpetrator by merely accusing him/her. If this protocol is followed, then nobody is allowed to accuse another person of racism, and people can be racist all day without consequence, allowing racism to flourish.

  15. Nquest Says:

    The above were also reasons that I declined to publish/”censored” a few of the comments by the three of you, because I thought they worked in those destructive ways again. I’ve since published other of your comments that don’t seem to me to do that.

    Macon, this topic isn’t about you and what you chose or did not chose to publish.

    Just to be clear, I myself don’t think of the three of you as “trolls,”

    … Like I give a fuck whether you did or didn’t? You done feel about bumped your dishonest head.

    First, here’s a blog-thread where direct deference was specified:

    http://stuffwhitepeoplesay.wordpress.com/2008/11/24/stuff-non-white-people-say-about-stuff-white-people-say/

    (And guess what? I had a particular person in mind when I wrote my first post on this thread here at Restructure but the person I quote in the SWPS post was someone else.)

    Second, here’s the blog-thread referencing the time when Macon chose not to publish something I attempted to post on his board FOR NO APPARENT [JUSTIFIABLE] REASON:

    http://stuffwhitepeoplesay.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/im-rejecting-the-comment-you-submitted-for-publication-approval/

    And, finally, my question about thread(hi)jacking… challenging the basis of the claim that Macon never responded to, for some reason:

    http://stuffwhitepeoplesay.wordpress.com/2008/09/20/poc-keep-hijacking-our-threads/#comments

    So, for you Macon, that’s the…

    END OF THREADJACK

  16. Nquest Says:

    Rene: @Nquest Yes I did use that social context you mentioned.

    Which social context? I insisted that there is a social context that has bearing on both the person accused of being a racist and the person subjected to verbal racist attack(s). I also insisted that, by all appearances, you were not considering the social context in which the verbal racist attack(s) exists.

    So I don’t understand your response. Please be more specific and/or make sure I understand exactly what you’re talking about by stating specifically which social context you were referring to.

    Besides, I basically asked you to elaborate on what makes being called a racist “much worse” than being subjected a verbal racist attack.

    With the clarification you supplied in your response to Restructure, I see similarities, if anything. Not differences. The so-called “normal” people you refer to are like the people subjected to the verbal racist attack: neither one of them deserve the unfair treatment.

    So what makes one “much worse” than the other, Rene?

    Also who decides what makes a person “normal” and, therefore not “racist” or wrongfully accused? by what? by whose standard/criteria?

    Seriously, what does “normal-ness” have to do with it? Racism has been “normal” in American society, e.g., for the overwhelming bulk of its history.

  17. Nquest Says:

    The problem with this is that it turns into victim-blaming.

    Though I wish there was a different/better term for it… in a word: EXACTLY!

    What ends up happening is people begin objecting, knee-jerk style to the term “racist” or whatever term that’s used and make that the conversation (whether White person X should be characterized as such because of other redeeming characteristics they possess) instead of honestly assessing whether White person X said something that’s problematic in terms of race.

  18. Nquest Says:

    CORRECTION:

    @ Macon… “You done *fell and* bumped your dishonest head.”

    Also, the first link in that post is to a thread on SWPS which quotes a poster named Siditty. Siditty’s comment wasn’t about Macon, in particular, but expressed the kind of attitude that was often expressed by posters (e.g. No1KState) who labeled one or all of us “trolls.”

  19. Nquest Says:

    Here’s a thread from SWPD (Macon’s blog) where Restructure is labeled a “troll” (the original thread I was thinking about). The label that was used explicitly because No1KState, the labeler, said she gives “white people credit when they do/say something anti-racist” (read: when Whites are “trying”, she’ll cut them some “slack”). This, after she differed from Restructure’s take (POC are allowed to view things differently, right?) and, oddly, encouraged Restructure (and Kathy) to “familiarize yourself with the blog” (because Macon does “something” anti-racist somewhere… a tactic Macon himself has employed when an obvious problem occurred with particular posts/statements Macon made):

    https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=528074983146803930&postID=6699774639461574620

  20. Kathy Says:

    whiteness learning curve:
    a. ignorance
    b. defensiveness
    c. denial
    d. guilt
    e. anger
    f. acceptance

  21. leyah Says:

    thanks for posting this! i really appreciate the analysis of how white “safe” spaces actually reinforce white supremacy. the idea of a “safe” space for whites is interesting to me to begin with…..”safe” to be racist?

  22. Rene Benthien Says:

    @Restructure: I don’t see how this: “When it is assumed that being accused of racism is worse than being the recipient of racism” >>> would lead to this: “then people assume that the alleged victim of racism is “being mean” to the alleged perpetrator by merely accusing him/her.”

    No I’m not saying people should refrain from accusing someone of racism when they are sure of it. As I said in my first post here, social ostracism, derision and ridicule are highly effective. I just don’t want to misfire it on someone who is innocent.

    This would mean people will take accusations of racism more seriously. I don’t want to get to the stage where people just roll their eyes whenever someone calls someone a racist for not giving them a job, or failing their paper.

    Being called a racist, when you are NOT, is bad because, racism is despicable and it’s harder to prove that you are not. Getting racially abused is bad, I’ve been through it, but not many people today really believe that any one race is inherently more inferior to others. Such views are limited to domain of the extreme right wing of society, the ones who engage in racial attacks.

    Ok think about it this way, is there anything you’d much rather not be than a racist? Probably being a wife beater or child molester is worse, but being racist really is one of the bottom of the barrel type things.

    @Nquest I refer to the context you mentioned here: “Seems to me that Rene places claims that someone is a “racist” in a social context where the social costs of being branded a “racist” are high and damaging to the accused because of the society-wide rebuke. At the same time, Rene seems to detach “verbal racist attacks” from the social/society context and pretends that such an attack only exists in a one-on-one, individual context with no social or society-wide “despising” of the attacked being present.”

    This is usually (but not always) the social context of the communities that I interact with in my daily life. I live in a large multi-ethnic liberal city and racist attacks do NOT directly lead to the victim being socially despised. Rather there is almost immediate and widespread condemnation of the attacker, as it should be. Maybe things are different from city-to-city and country to country. I just assumed that you guys lived in a similar setting to mine. My fault on that assumption.

    By normal I meant NOT racist. Someone who does not engage in racial vilification or discrimination, does not identify weaknesses and strengths to a particular race, does not treat anyone differently just purely based on race.

  23. Nquest Says:

    Rene, you still haven’t explained what makes one “much worse” than the other. Being subjected to a verbal racist attack exists in a social context where there are repeated, if only indirect, attacks that a direct attack only seem to magnify or cause the person subjected to the attack to wonder if the attacker is merely one person bold enough to say what a number of people already think.

    I’m talking about the verbal racist attack just being a blatant example of numerous microaggressions that form the constant background noise POC deal with all the time just for being who they are and NOT because of how something they’ve personally done or said has been received/interpreted by others. Obviously, said “normal” person has to do or say something that results in the accusation that they or, more likely, what they said was “racist.”

    I’d imagine you wouldn’t say a bogus accusation of racism today is “much worse” than a verbal racist attack in 1930. And what you seem to leave out of the context of being branded racist today is the same dynamic: there is almost immediate and widespread condemnation of the person hurling a bogus accusation when the person they label racist is not. In fact, this “almost immediate and widespread” reaction happens even when the accusation is not-so-bogus — e.g. there were plenty of people defending Imus, etc.

    The problem here seems to be competing definition of what constitutes racism (what makes someone “racist”) or the problem where people want to redefine and turn accusations that person X said something that was racist into a statement about whether person X is a racist — i.e. the difference between someone who made a statement or two that’s problematic vs. someone who has a “racist” lifestyle or thoroughly racist philosophy.

  24. Nquest Says:

    Such views are limited to domain of the extreme right wing of society, the ones who engage in racial attacks.

    Okay, now that we’ve located the problem…

    Being called a racist, when you are NOT, is bad because, racism is despicable and it’s harder to prove that you are not.

    Seems to me that it’s harder to prove that a person is not racist or, again, more likely that something the person said is not racist because the curious idea that all racism and racist beliefs, concepts and thoughts resides in/among the extreme right wing of society is a theory that keeps being proven as wrong.

    Seems to me it’s hard(er) to prove because on an objective level an honest person has to admit that statements made by so-called non-racist people can, in fact, be racist or problematic in terms of the views the person expressed about another group/race.

    But no… let’s automatically disqualify “normal” people because they aren’t fringe right wingers…. (*roll eyes*)

    Also, I think we need to be clear here. I think being accused of being “racist” is different when White people are accused and when POC are accused on a number of levels. IMO, the accusation doesn’t bother POC as much because POC are, IMO, more secure and confident about who they are — that they are not racist no matter who and how much they are accused of being “racist” or practicing “racism.” At least that’s been my experience/observation.

    I think some Whites who are accused of being/saying something “racist” must be aware that, on some level, they do hold views about other racial/ethnic that aren’t flattering.

  25. Restructure! Says:

    Nquest,

    IMO, the accusation doesn’t bother POC as much because POC are, IMO, more secure and confident about who they are — that they are not racist no matter who and how much they are accused of being “racist” or practicing “racism.”

    I don’t think so. I think this is true for most anti-racist POC who agree that racism = prejudice + power, but not for most POC.

    All right, I think that POC can be racist against other POC. A Chinese person can be racist against black people, a black person can be racist against Chinese people, they can be racist against Arab people, etc.

  26. Restructure! Says:

    Rene,

    I don’t see how this: “When it is assumed that being accused of racism is worse than being the recipient of racism” >>> would lead to this: “then people assume that the alleged victim of racism is “being mean” to the alleged perpetrator by merely accusing him/her.”

    Let’s say someone accuses another person of racism. There is a non-zero chance that racism actually occurred, and there is also a non-zero chance that the person is falsely accused of racism. However, if being falsely accused of racism is worse than actual racism, then the lesser of two evils is to allow racism, to avoid the worse possibility of a false accusation.

  27. jwbe Says:

    a safe space for whites would be for me to be among honest whites who are willing to share their experience what it means to them to live as somebody “different” within this society.
    Macon definitely doesn’t offer this, he offers a safe space for reinforcing whiteness. Those who post, after his encouragement : That they don’t dare it to talk about issues of race, because they are afraid to offend somebody. They aren’t afraid to offend somebody, they are as Restructure says afraid to be challenged or ‘not allowed’ to continue with that.
    They come up the way like saying, lets talk about friendship but don’t feel offended when I treat you like shyt because I am still learning.
    Racists, regardless how subtle, can’t hide their true personality in real life, because I am sure that the racism impacts their entire live, how they can relate to other people regardless race, how much they feel entitled just because, how much they feel to have the right to tell others how they have to feel etc.

    There greed for being acknowledged as the fassade they try to play, not realizing that they can lie to those who are like them, but not to anybody else. Making out a drama about non-issues and ignoring the important things in life because this would mean that they get involved. Their naivity, sometimes so blatant that it hurts.
    This “teach me” and “I want to learn about race and racism”, “studying racism” and I truly wonder what they assume that they would learn. Anti-racism is about justice and honest respect, a personal sense for justice and respect and this is something a Eurocentric society does neither teach nor welcome and can’t be studied but must be lived.

    The perfectionism which doesn’t allow to accept that nobody is perfect and rejects any criticizm and their entitlement that they think they have the right to educate everybody, sometimes out of the blue for no other reason because you (somebody) is just there, regardless how clueless they are, regardless how dumb, but no, they know it better than you, just because they think so. They are able to ask a question and before you can even answer they try to ‘educate’ you with their non-knowledge, making the assumption that you know exactly nothing and start lecturing you about the question they asked. And if you know the answer and tell them, they say “no, I don’t see it that way” or “I don’t agree”.
    All those “anti-racists” who seem to believe that this society as a whole is healthy on the white part and that ‘only’ their relationship with the perceived other is distorted or how to call it. Not wanting to see how sick this culture is because it feels so good as a white “anti-racist” to always only talk about “the other” and I consider this just as another form of othering and distracting from white issues, the roots, which ‘produce’ this society.

    End of rant

  28. jwbe Says:

    @Macon

    >Say what? What does that even mean? Anyway, I think I get what you’re saying overall, about how the apparent needs of white folks get deferred to in racial discussions over those of PoC, and I agree that it’s a common but obnoxious and oppressive occurrence. However, what you wrote here is not why you two were labeled trolls, by other commenters and by numerous other complainers who emailed me, both white and non-white (though not by me). As I’ve explained before, you were labeled that, along with a white commenter, jw(be), because as Restructure wrote about her own comments there, 99.9% of your comments there have been negative,

    regardless how little one wants to hear that he suffers from cancer, the fact of suffering from cancer still remains. And regardless how much one rejects to hear how offending and abusive he is, the fact that he is offending and abusive still remains.
    And what makes those other complainers more important than our ‘complaints’? I guess it is because you agree with them. Don’t use them as excuse for your own decisions, only you are responsible for your own actions.

    >The above were also reasons that I declined to publish/”censored” a few of the comments by the three of you, because I thought they worked in those destructive ways again. I’ve since published other of your comments that don’t seem to me to do that.

    I said it once, I will repeat it: You are not in the position to judge for anybody else whats constructive or not.

    >Just to be clear, I myself don’t think of the three of you as “trolls,” despite the many “anti-Macon D” posts here and on your tripartite blog, SWPS. The anti-racism expressed by each of the three of you seems to me sincere, intelligent, and dedicated, and usually informative and constructive.

    it seems that you feel threatend by those who are sincere, intelligent and dedicated, usually informative and constructive. Probably because you know, that you are not.
    It also can be that you just lie.
    It’s also odd to say so (no, not really because you are fighting to appear to be anti-racist) that you show up here, only to defend yourself. Not contributing in a constructive manner, talking about issues of race and racism, that thing you wanted to encourage your readers on your blog, no, you only want to talk about yourself as an individual because you are so clueless about issues of race that you don’t get how widespread the problem is that Restructure posted here.
    No, Macon D jumps in here, only himself in his mind instead of asking the question to himself, why this, what Restructure mentions is so common among whites and alleged white anti-racist. This would mean digging in white shyt, and this is perhaps not “exciting” for you and your white friends. Macon won’t go and search how he reinforces whiteness and white supremacy on his own blog, because this is not your intention, your intention is anti-racism and this is the only thing important for your Euro mind.

    >Okay, back to listening.

    ‘we’ are not your background music.
    And refering to my other post, with a sense for justice and honest respect you could see yourself who you truly are. Unfortunately you lack both.

  29. thewhatifgirl Says:

    A “safe space” for whites to talk without interruption by POC? Isn’t that mainstream popular culture?

    It seems to me that the idea that white people don’t already have somewhere to talk “safely” is white privilege in itself, if you ask me. Because of my pale skin, I can talk about race all day long (and say whatever stupid things I want to say about it, too, if I feel like it) without ever having to worry about possibly being actually physically attacked because of what I am saying – the only exception being those few environments where a huge majority of people are people of color. Whereas people of color have to be very careful of what they say lest the wrong person hears them and decides to take physical action against them.

  30. jwbe Says:

    @thewhatifgirl
    this is one of the difficulties or so I think when it comes to whites ‘talking about race’, that they translate it into talking about “the other race(s)” and forgetting that whites also have a race.

  31. jwbe Says:

    @Macon,
    and you do it again and I want to read a statement, why you do this.
    You once posted the racist image in the one thread ‘feel threatend and imperiled’ and now you post a racist quote
    http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2009/06/wonder-what-sex-is-like-in-interracial.html?showComment=1243969472495

    why do you think that on an alleged anti-racist blog racist images or quotes are necessary to start a post?

  32. thewhatifgirl Says:

    jwbe, absolutely. *points accusingly at self*

  33. Nquest Says:

    Restructure, admittedly you caught me thinking narrowly in the Black/White construct. That’s mostly because, in my experience, Whites appear to be the ones who label Blacks “racist.”

    Your point is well taken regarding anti-racist POC who agree that racism = prejudice + power. However, even POC who hold racist views regarding other POC or even Whites or POC from their own group aren’t affected by being labeled “racist” the way Whites are. At least that’s my experience.

    I’m not aware of POC who after voicing anti-Hispanic sentiments (observed from anti-immigrant debates) or anti-Arab/Muslim sentiments (observed from Palestinian/Israeli debates, Iraq war and war-on-terror debates) or anti-Asian sentiments (observed from discussions regarding Korean store owners in the “Black” community) disputing or protesting being called “racist” the way Whites do. I’m not aware of any POC in those situations holding the images/example of the KKK or skinheads or any so-called Black equivalent as the litmus test for what constitutes a racist (or “real” racist) and suggesting (or stating overtly) that since they don’t fit those character/stereotypes that they are henceforth not “racist.”

  34. jwbe Says:

    >jwbe, absolutely. *points accusingly at self*

    which leads to the next problem. Somebody white, who can
    “talk about race all day long (and say whatever stupid things I want to say about it, too, if I feel like it”
    is already somebody creating safe spaces for white(ness) and still feels comfortable within that.
    for whatever reason you also seem to consider ‘safe spaces’ only as non-violent spaces, but safe spaces also offer a space without psychological violence etc.

    When anti-racism for a white is more than just lip-service but a way of life an evironment you describe ‘whites talking all day long about (other) races’ this becomes a non-safe space, because it becomes quite stressful.

    This is the reason why blogs like this for example are important for me where I can have exchange with people who think similar like me, but the chance that these people are then white goes towards zero.

  35. maevele Says:

    this is a big part of why i recently stepped up to help mod the racism 101 comm on lj. When it started I was concerned that it was going to be “safe space” for white people to talk about race at the expense f PoC without being called out when it’s problematic. i decided the best way to help keep it from being that type of space was to volunteer to help mod it, and to steer my moderation into making it a space where white people can get their 101 on, but still get called out for racist bullshit, because other wise, ick.

  36. NancyP Says:

    Are we talking about pedagogical strategy here?

    I think that there is a role for white-member-only short-term/ one-shot discussion groups led by well-trained white anti-racist facilitators. Part of the goal ought to be to raise some awareness of majority privilege, parental messages, societal and media messages, so that everyone in the group can see that by virtue of being raised in this society, they have had some privileges and held some assumptions that have done damage to POC. I at least feel a little squirmy and a lot rude at the thought of repeating my past insulting stupidity in front of someone who would be a target, and the presence of POC would make me less frank than I might otherwise be. A shared acknowledgment of a problem points out the systemic nature of the problem, reduces the personal shame, and increases the ability to seek improvement. “Hello, my name is Nancy, and I am a racist…” (the 12-step generic intro for AA, NA, whatever-A). The utility of white-members-only discussion groups might seem to be for beginners only. Obviously this is only one small part of an overall effort to unlearn and rethink the social messages we have grown up hearing.

    As for the term “safe space” – that’s a term most commonly used for discussion of personal trauma. I think that the idea of “safe space” is counterproductive in the above type of discussion group, and that the correct term ought to be “learning space”. The message should be that it is ok to make and to acknowledge your mistakes in this setting, and that the purpose is to learn from them and do/ think better.

    Job one should be learning to take criticism gracefully and give it some thought.

    Comments?

  37. rene benthien Says:

    @restructure:

    Let’s say someone accuses another person of racism. There is a non-zero chance that racism actually occurred, and there is also a non-zero chance that the person is falsely accused of racism. However, if being falsely accused of racism is worse than actual racism, then the lesser of two evils is to allow racism, to avoid the worse possibility of a false accusation.

    Yes the probabilities for both are non-zero but they are also vastly different.

    When I accuse someone for being a racist, the probability that he is not actually one is vanishingly small. I’m very careful before I accuse anyone of anything and only do so if I find the evidence to be satisfactory and beyond reasonable doubt.

    This is the principle behind our criminal systems. You presume innocence before finding guilty. If this were not the case then the legal system would lose credibility.

    I want everyone to be careful before they accuse someone of being racist or claims of racism will start losing credibility and when actual racism occurs people will be less willing to punish that individual.

  38. Restructure! Says:

    @rene:

    Yes the probabilities for both are non-zero but they are also vastly different.

    When I accuse someone for being a racist, the probability that he is not actually one is vanishingly small. I’m very careful before I accuse anyone of anything and only do so if I find the evidence to be satisfactory and beyond reasonable doubt.

    Of course, you believe that when you accuse someone for being racist, the probability that is is not is vanishingly small. However, most people would believe that the probability of a false racism accusation is higher than the probability of actual racism, and evidently, you believe that as well for people of colour other than yourself.

    This is the principle behind our criminal systems. You presume innocence before finding guilty. If this were not the case then the legal system would lose credibility.

    Our criminal systems also presume that committing a crime is worse than being accused of committing a crime.

  39. jwbe Says:

    Macon, where are you now? I asked you a question, the quote on your blog.
    Or do you make the choice not to answer because you can’t censor answers here you don’t want to hear?

  40. Rene Benthien Says:

    @restructure:

    However, most people would believe that the probability of a false racism accusation is higher than the probability of actual racism, and evidently, you believe that as well for people of colour other than yourself.

    No I don’t. I generally presume that the accusation is made correctly because I trust people will make it with great consideration. I’m get a bit more uncertain when a friend of mine calls the lecturer a racist for failing him, when other minority students did well. But apart from a small set of mitigating factors I take the racial accusations at their word.

    “Our criminal systems also presume that committing a crime is worse than being accused of committing a crime.”

    I’m talking about being falsely accused.

    Convicting someone of committing a crime when that person is innocent is one of the worst things for a legal system, the worst fear of every judge. Many legal scholars would argue that setting ten criminals free is better than sending one innocent man to Jail.

  41. Restructure! Says:

    @Rene:

    “Our criminal systems also presume that committing a crime is worse than being accused of committing a crime.”

    I’m talking about being falsely accused.

    Convicting someone of committing a crime when that person is innocent is one of the worst things for a legal system, the worst fear of every judge. Many legal scholars would argue that setting ten criminals free is better than sending one innocent man to Jail.

    I’m talking about being charged with a crime, not convicted of one. When someone is charged with a crime, there is a risk that she is innocent, but they proceed with the trial anyway, because it is better to go through with the trial of an innocent person than let a possible crime remain unaccounted for.

  42. Rene Benthien Says:

    @Restructure: Yes but even during the trial the defendant is presumed innocent, all the way up until conviction.

    So if you are saying that accusation of racism was merely equivalent to getting charged for an offense does this mean that if you accuse someone of racism outside the court, everybody should presume his innocence? And if you fail to provide the evidence beyond reasonable doubt you would be deemed as falsely accusing the person?

    I don’t think this is in practice a realistic equivalent. When a person gets accused of racism it is a social punishment. He can of course redeem himself by showing that he is innocent, but often that opportunity does not arise. The damage to reputation and social well-being caused just by the accusation is often irreversible, unlike in the court of law where acquittal is presumed unless the prosecution has sufficient evidence.

  43. Rene Benthien Says:

    @Restructure: I’m an eager-beaver and rushed to grasp on what I felt was an give-away lead on and failed to edit for clarity.

    The first paragraph results in the answer: “yes you should only accuse someone once you can prove beyond reasonable doubt that he is guilty”..which is the argument that I’m making.

    The second paragraph is further justification for being careful before making the accusation. Because unlike the court of law, the accusation is also a punishment.

  44. Restructure! Says:

    @Restructure: Yes but even during the trial the defendant is presumed innocent, all the way up until conviction.

    Yes.

    So if you are saying that accusation of racism was merely equivalent to getting charged for an offense does this mean that if you accuse someone of racism outside the court, everybody should presume his innocence?

    Yes.

    And if you fail to provide the evidence beyond reasonable doubt you would be deemed as falsely accusing the person?

    Beyond a reasonable doubt is too strong, though.

    I don’t think this is in practice a realistic equivalent. When a person gets accused of racism it is a social punishment. He can of course redeem himself by showing that he is innocent, but often that opportunity does not arise. The damage to reputation and social well-being caused just by the accusation is often irreversible, unlike in the court of law where acquittal is presumed unless the prosecution has sufficient evidence.

    Heck, no. When a person gets accused of racism, they often have a whole bunch of irrelevant comebacks, like “my best friend/wife/relative is black”, “you’re overly sensitive”, “you are playing the race card”, “you are looking for racism”, “you are trying to suppress free speech”, “you are being politically correct”, “you’re racist for bringing up race”, “why can’t we get along?”, “stop trolling”, etc. The reputation and social well-being of the accuser becomes damaged.

  45. Nquest Says:

    I don’t think this is in practice a realistic equivalent.

    But you were the one who introduce said practice as relevant and important to this discussion:

    rene benthien Says:
    June 4, 2009 at 3:33 am

    This is the principle behind our criminal systems. You presume innocence before finding guilty. If this were not the case then the legal system would lose credibility.

    Not only have you acted like the accused have not already been found guilty — the accusation itself being such a finding that is not contingent on you agreeing with it — but at every turn you have turned a blind eye to (1) the social context that racial attacks exist in, (2) the immediate and widespread condemnation of the person hurling a bogus accusation and (3), as Restructure pointed out, the immediate and widespread condemnation that comes when POC point out any regarding race/racism.

  46. Chris Says:

    I am currently going through a situation in which I have been accused of racism in my work place.

    I am NOT racist and have even spoken out against others who are, yet the charge has been made anyway.

    Management seems unable or unwilling to deal with the issue as months have passed since the incident and no action on either side has been taken.

    I am left feeling that I can no longer approach individuals of any ethnic background to discuss work/quality issues for fear of the further accusations being made. Because of the reluctance on managements part to get involved I also feel that it is futile to have them intervene on my behalf. In short, I have been silenced and my ability to work effectively has been undermined. My work place is now a place of fear which I would equate to walking in a mine field.

    All I ever hear are the issues about racism but where is the help for those of us who are falsely accused?

    When someone points the finger and calls you a racist how do you disprove their claims?

    Do I think an ‘safe all white’ venue to discuss these sort of issues would be helpful? Absolutely not. I want to know why people feel it necessary to make these claims. I want to know if they REALLY believe the claims they make. I want them to understand the damage that is being done not only to those falsely accused but also to the efforts of trying to eliminate racism by making false accusations. I want to know how to stop it.

    You can’t effect change to any issue if you cut it into pieces and then only discuss one side of it.

  47. thewhatifgirl Says:

    jwbe, yes, the very fact that I wouldn’t think of psychological violence is another proof of privilege, isn’t it?

    Chris, have you considered that you might have actually said something racist or that could be understood as racist? I am asking you this honestly, because you didn’t mention whether you did or not. Have you tried to talk to the person (actually talk, including listening to what s/he has to say without immediately dismissing it) about it? Because, as you say, you can’t effect change to any issue if you cut it into pieces and then only discuss one side of it.

  48. thewhatifgirl Says:

    Chris, also, it is easy to say that you are not racist but it isn’t so easy to actually not be racist. Standing up for people of color doesn’t make you not a racist.

  49. Chris Says:

    Excellent questions, thank you. I tried to keep the blurb short and in effect did leave out some key points.

    To answer your questions:

    The comment stated to the accusing person was work related only. To quote what I said ” (name), I noticed that when you move that across the table you’re damaging it.” ***We work in a manufacturing environment****

    The person then stormed off to report a case of racism.
    I think it safe to say that I said nothing that could be understood or misunderstood as being racist.

    Management was to at this point get involved and do SOMETHING about it as outlined in our companies code of conduct, but here we are months later and nothing has been done to initiate a discussion. As I stated, I no longer feel ‘safe’ enough to approach the individual on my own for fear of further retribution based on their reaction to the initial comment that started the whole thing. I do not believe that having a private talk with this person would benefit either of us given that so much COULD be further misunderstood and without having a third party there to hear both sides, Iit is not something that would entertain doing.

    Prior to this event, I could honestly say that I indeed was NOT racist. Since and because of the event, I admit that I am now forced to consider a persons ethnic/religious background prior to making any comments and sometimes choose not to comment at all if there is a perceived risk. Does that now make me a racist? I don’t think so but it’s not a place where I happily sit.

  50. Kathy Says:

    Hi Chris,
    Maybe you should now be forced to admit that we all have ingrained racism, usually the first indication that a person has not done any self-examination is when they claim to NOT be a racist.
    Is it possible that you established a pattern of unfair criticism or some other pattern that caused the person to feel that you were acting in a racist manner? Obviously, your solution does sound like a pattern of racial profiling in the manner in which you are managing.

  51. jwbe Says:

    >jwbe, yes, the very fact that I wouldn’t think of psychological violence is another proof of privilege, isn’t it?

    I think its more a sign of Eurocentrism unable to understand that humans also have souls that can be injured

  52. Rene Benthien Says:

    @Chris: You should try not feel any reluctance to discuss work related issues with anyone. As long as you are even handed and constructive with the criticism people will appreciate your professionalism, doesn’t matter what race they are.

    @Restructure: yes I do think there is a penalty payed for accusing someone of racism. I just think the penalty is much worse for those wrongly accused of racism.

    I think Chris case is a great illustration of the harm from false accusations, not just to the individual but to the cause of anti-racism. By someone unfairly accusing him of racism he has now started racially profiling as part of his solution.

    @Nquest: As I said earlier, I’m only going in the social context that I’ve been associated with. You are obviously coming from different set of experiences to mine. For example I have not experienced a ‘constant background noise’ of racism against me. So that probably explains the different views on the matter.

    Of course racism, stereotyping and group loyalty is prevalent but they need to be dealt with strongly thoughtfully and fairly.

    And yes I do want to take practicalities into account. My comment about the ideal of the justice system not resembling our day-to-day situation was actually meant as an argument FOR taking in the messy realities.

  53. NancyP Says:

    I think that the correct response to being accused of racism, but not understanding why or not having intending to be offensive, is for the accused to apologize for making the person uncomfortable, and if the offense isn’t immediately obvious to the accused (d’oh!), to ask, in a polite non-hostile tone, if the offended person would mind being more explicit about the offense. At which point, the offended is perfectly able to say, “just think about it for a bit”, if she doesn’t feel like saying more for whatever reason. Humility, the ability to listen and change, and forgiveness are virtues that can be cultivated by everyone.

  54. NancyP Says:

    Chris, perhaps your degree of attention, tone of voice, body language, or differing emotions about (physical) “personal space” play into the overall impression that the other person takes from your criticism. This might be accentuated by differences in these factors when addressing white vs black coworkers. People aren’t necessarily conscious of their body language shifts.

  55. Nquest Says:

    Rene, let’s try this again:

    Not only have you acted like the accused have not already been found guilty — the accusation itself being such a finding that is not contingent on you agreeing with it — but at every turn you have turned a blind eye to (1) the social context that racial attacks exist in, (2) the immediate and widespread condemnation of the person hurling a bogus accusation and (3), as Restructure pointed out, the immediate and widespread condemnation that comes when POC point out any regarding race/racism.

    So it’s clear you have not considered the reality — which is not to be confused with what you choose to acknowledge via your experience — strongly enough, much less in thoughtful and fair manner.

    Logically, as Restructure has illustrated, your position is bankrupt. I don’t know where you’re from but there are prominent radio and TV commentators, etc. (e.g. Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, take-your-pick-from-Fox-News, etc.) who have been accused of being racist or routinely making statements but they remain prominent radio/TV personalities.

    I want everyone to be careful before they accuse someone of being racist or claims of racism will start losing credibility

    This is nonsense especially because you’re speaking in the utter, uber abstract. You’ve said nothing about actual instances of people carelessly accusing individuals of being racist (and typical accusations relate to something an individual says that’s racist… there is a difference). Likewise, you’ve said nothing about the accusations reach some undisclosed, dangerous “losing credibility” frequency. And, perhaps the most important non-disclosure is how you’ve failed to point out who the accusations will lose credibility with.

    Note how here in the U.S. we have a very current event involving questionable accusations of racism. The Rush Limbaugh’s and Pat Buchanan’s of the world accused Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor of being racist because of a statement she made about being a Latina and hoping that a “wise Latina” would make “better” judicial decisions than a white male who doesn’t have the same type of experience.

    You’ve made no reference to that (from what I’ve seen) or to any other real life situation. We don’t even know if you have a basis for your cautionary message. All we know is that you can’t remember what you said from one post to the next (and that you have a slanted — as in biased — view of what happens when someone is accused of being/saying something racist).

    It seems clear to me that your position is that of an advocate for people you prefer not to see/call racist — i.e. you’ve made the decision that they are not even before a thoughtful and fair consideration of the accusation. That’s not a problem you have across the board. Note: You didn’t declare all those accused as ‘presumed innocent’:

    Rene: “I’m not talking about actual racists here, I’m talking about normal folk…”

    Hmmm… What constitutes an “actual racist” and what makes you a thoughtful, fair and accurate judge?

  56. Chris Says:

    @NancyP: It’s one thing for someone to approach me and tell me that something that I said or did made them uncomfortable. For such a thing I would most assuredly apologize. If that was indeed the problem then that is what the complaint should have been rather than being taken to a level totally beyond the scope of ‘making someone uncomfortable’.

    @Kathy: Sorry, I don’t buy that at all. Do I believe that we all make judgments about people? Oh absolutely!!! We have to. It’s a matter of survival. But to take that and stretch it into ‘racism’ is just that – a stretch. What I find interesting here is that no where did I mention what race either my accuser or I are. I find it somewhat amusing that you all assume I’m white.

    As this thread goes on it seems we have come away from the issue that was raised in the initial question. My recounting my story was to simply bring my personal experience to the question at hand.

    I still believe that one race gathering in segregation for the purposes of ‘downloading’ their racial issues may well serve as a venue for venting frustrations, but unless you open a dialogue with all the parties involved don’t hope to change anything…. and in some extreme cases I can see it possibly heading in a non-constructive, possibly aggressive and damaging direction.

  57. Rene Benthien Says:

    @Nquest: ok since you bring up Sotomayor, do you think it would be worse for her if someone called her a racist, or if someone said something derogatory about her race?

  58. Rene Benthien Says:

    I think I’ve addressed most of the other points in my previous posts but just to repeat another time:

    “Not only have you acted like the accused have not already been found guilty”
    I’m only talking about the falsely accused.

    “the social context that racial attacks exist in”

    Again, this is just the social context that I live in. Possibly different where you are.

    “the immediate and widespread condemnation of the person hurling a bogus accusation and ”

    I don’t ignore this. I accept this as a legitimate impediment to accusations, false or otherwise. I just know that false accusations occur anyway and that being falsely accused is worse in the event people believe that you are racist when you aren’t one.

    “What constitutes an “actual racist”?
    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism

    “what makes you a thoughtful, fair and accurate judge?”
    i’m just blessed i guess.

    Also the real life example was my friend calling her lecturer a racist when he failed her paper. even though he gave great marks to other minorities.

  59. jwbe Says:

    being accused of being a racist, I think there are many nuances – who is addressed and why.
    Whites can be actual racists and still don’t have their career ended, like D. Duke for example. White cops can shot Black civilians out of the blue without any serious consequences. Etc. Being racist is not necessarily an obstacle in white people’s life.

    In some instances a true wrongful accusation towards a white could perhaps have consequences, but in an overall view, whites don’t have to be concerned.

    It’s something different when the group in power, whites, uses wrongful accusations of racism, calling it “reverse racism” to silence PoC. Calling Obama during his campaign for example “racist” because whites don’t want to hear the truth does have very different consequences than a Hillary Clinton who actually said something racist. She still was the option to become president of the US, despite her racism and problematic statements.
    In a white supremacist world it can even be an advantage to be racist. White politicians with problematic attitudes regarding race tend to be more successful.

  60. jwbe Says:

    in addition, calling PoC racist to silence them is racism. Which answers the question whats more serious, a wrongful accusation or actual racism. Sometimes one cannot separate these two.
    This is how I see it

  61. jwbe Says:

    and when it comes to accusations of being racist, it’s my observation that whites tend to use it towards people regardless race when they don’t like to hear the truth about racism/white supremacy.
    I lost count how often I was called racist and other names by other whites, because I don’t share their ‘main-stream’ oppinion, this neither impacts me or my live nor do I take them seriously.

  62. Nquest Says:

    @Nquest: ok since you bring up Sotomayor, do you think it would be worse for her if someone called her a racist, or if someone said something derogatory about her race?

    Judge Sotomayor’s case is an example of how bogus accusations are met with “almost immediate and widespread condemnation” of the accuser(s) which weakens the case you made.

    I just know that false accusations occur anyway and that being falsely accused is worse in the event people believe that you are racist when you aren’t one.

    Again, how do you figure it is “worse” to be “falsely” accused of being racist (and, again, more then likely accused of saying something “racist”… THERE IS A DIFFERENCE) when verbal racist attacks like the ones against Judge Sotomayor where she was labeled an “affirmative action pick” by people who have been accused of being racist yet still hold PROMINENT position in radio/TV?

    The “affirmative action pick” racial attack says that Sotomayor and all those like her (i.e. all racial/ethnic ‘minorities’) are given something that they didn’t earn, don’t deserve, etc. which also says that such people aren’t capable of the kind of academic scholarship/excellence Sotomayor achieved. That racist attack has far reaching implications and go far beyond the attack of the individual. The racist attack has social implications and exist in a social context that impact national policy. By that standard alone, such racial attacks are far more damaging than percentage of Whites, e.g., whose reputation take a hit due to accusations of racism if that actually occurs in any significant percentage.

    And that’s your problem. You have grossly overstated how bad and how much “worse” it is to be accused of being racist. Of course that’s why you’ve kept the conversation in the abstract. No need to let facts/reality complicate things.

    Also the real life example was my friend calling her lecturer a racist when he failed her paper. even though he gave great marks to other minorities.

    And how is that situation “worse” than, say, your friend being subjected to a verbal racist attack? You presented NO evidence that the lecturer suffered any damage to his/her reputation as a result to your friends remark.

    Seriously, you have got to come up with something better than that. You also have to come up with a stronger logical position that explains why accusations like the one your friend made have any bearing on the credibility of other accusations of racism as if each case can’t be judged on their own merits.

    Also, how exactly do the “great marks to other minorities” prove your friend wrong? First, I have no idea what “other minorities” mean (those in her racial/ethnic group or those in other racial/ethnic groups). Second, we have no idea what your friends paper was about or what your friend’s argument was in terms of why she accused the lecturer of being racist.

    Regardless, while I think your friends accusation probably was baseless (and, apparently, didn’t hurt the lecturer one bit), you present an “all or nothing” type of view of racism that’s contrary to the lived experience of people subjected to racism. For centuries, racism have favored certain individuals, behaviors, etc. among the groups subjected to racism. So the idea that other minorities received great marks, itself, says little about whether the lecturer is racist or not — i.e. the fact that the lecturer doesn’t give all minorities low marks doesn’t prove anything.

    What we have here is the lack of thoughtful and fair consideration on your part.

  63. Rene Benthien Says:

    @Nquest: It depends on how bad you think being a racist is. The lower racism is on your scale of morality the greater the psychological damage of being called a racist.

    Luckily for Sotomayer she has defenders with big microphones. This is not the case with normal people. I’ve seen a friend subject to office seclusion and gossip due to an unwarranted accusation of racism. He left his job because he couldn’t handle the stress of being seen in this light and he didn’t know how he could have defended himself as most of the allegations were being made behind his back through gossip. It damaged his career.

  64. thewhatifgirl Says:

    Chris: “It’s one thing for someone to approach me and tell me that something that I said or did made them uncomfortable. For such a thing I would most assuredly apologize. If that was indeed the problem then that is what the complaint should have been rather than being taken to a level totally beyond the scope of ‘making someone uncomfortable’.”

    Except that, if you are ‘making someone uncomfortable’ by being racist, the chances that having a simple conversation with you about it will actually produce positive results rather than further negative results are very small. If YOU suspected that someone already hated YOU for a part of yourself that you could not (and would not want to!) change, would you believe that you could talk to them honestly about a problem you had with them without them treating you to further indignities? I seriously doubt you would. Which makes it your responsibility, as the supposed offender, to show that you are not in fact racist by starting a considerate conversation with the person who was offended.

    Also, the only people I ever see/meet who defend themselves against charges of racism the way you have here are white. I’ve done it myself, more times than I would like to admit. And your peculiar assumption that noticing race makes you a racist (“Since and because of the event, I admit that I am now forced to consider a persons ethnic/religious background prior to making any comments and sometimes choose not to comment at all if there is a perceived risk. Does that now make me a racist? I don’t think so but it’s not a place where I happily sit.”) is something that I have only heard from my fellow white people.

    But as participators in conversations about race, our race is always important, not because it’s racist to notice race – it’s not – but because we each have different experiences with race and its effect in our lives. The cultural implications of race are what make a person racist, and those cultural implications have impact in each of our lives as individuals.

    So from the little that I know of you here, I have concluded that you are white, and from that conclusion further considered that you might be falling back on white privilege to avoid having to face your own racist tendencies. If you are not white, by all means, enlighten us, but it’s silly and more than a little revealing that you would make a statement to the effect that you aren’t white without revealing what race you are actually going to claim.

  65. thewhatifgirl Says:

    Rene: “It depends on how bad you think being a racist is. The lower racism is on your scale of morality the greater the psychological damage of being called a racist.”

    Really? On an anti-racist blog, are you really trying to suggest that the author herself and regular commenters like jwbe and Nquest think that being racist is that bad? After this whole long thread, do you still not understand that the tilted balance between being called a racist and experiencing racism is not a reflection on how bad it is to be called a racist but how bad it is to experience racism?

  66. Kathy Says:

    Rene:
    you write:
    “I think Chris case is a great illustration of the harm from false accusations, not just to the individual but to the cause of anti-racism. By someone unfairly accusing him of racism he has now started racially profiling as part of his solution.”

    Seems to me that you are assuming that Chris was unfairly accused, without even knowing the actual details of what happened. I am not convinced at all that Chris is an innocent person free of racist action. In fact, Chris’ defensive response convinces me that there is a lot more to this story than Chris has revealed.

    I agree with thewhatifgirl, that the posts that Chris has written sound like the sort of responses that fellow white people make, and interestingly, Chris just seems to throw it out there that s/he may not be white, however the posts written, such as “Prior to this event, I could honestly say that I indeed was NOT racist”, to me, sounds like a white person in denial and defense mode.

  67. jwbe Says:

    Rene
    >He left his job because he couldn’t handle the stress of being seen in this light and he didn’t know how he could have defended himself as most of the allegations were being made behind his back through gossip. It damaged his career.

    fragments out of a whole story prove nothing. People who want to get rid of somebody will do it in ways they think will be most affective. When he left the job because of this, there is more to tell and a deeper reason than just being called racist.

  68. Nquest Says:

    I’ve seen a friend subject to office seclusion and gossip due to an unwarranted accusation of racism.

    Rene, I didn’t ask you about that friend of yours. I asked you about the lecturer your [college] friend called a racist. Beside that, we don’t know whether the office accusations were unwarranted or not. And until you bring your friend and his accusers here to this blog to tell their side of the story we won’t. Your word, because you have struggled to make a case for the ridiculous idea of yours, is shot.

    Changing the conversation from your friend that called the lecturer a racist to your friend who, according to you, had his career damaged over “gossip”… Well, it ruins your credibility because time after time you have proven nothing.

    Luckily for Sotomayer she has defenders with big microphones.

    So we’re supposed to believe that no one defended your friend against workplace gossip. Sorry, not going to happen. From what you’ve displayed here, we have NO reason to believe you have an interest in being truthful or honest.

    Again, I asked you about the lecturer your friend called a racist. Instead of dealing with that, you conveniently come up with another story that we’re supposed to believe just because you say it.

    You and Chris need to go back to the creative writing drawing board… People sitting around the office “gossiping” about someone being racist — one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard. What was the “gossip” about?

    The problem you and Chris is thinking you have a shred of credibility or believability to start with. It’s as if you and Chris are not aware of the ready counter, and I’m sure I’m not alone:

    “You see, I’ve seen countless people (most of them White) concocting stories (read: making shit up) on the internets, left and right… all day and night.”

    I’m seriously not impressed with you and Chris posting the stories you have on this blog, on this topic, like you making a relevant, much less substantive point. All you’ve done is prove Restructure’s point:

    When discussing race, the greatest fear for whites is being “attacked” by being accused of racism.

    Now do you have something to contribute to the actual topic or would you prefer to continue being the chased rabbit diving for your favorite holes? Seriously, even your original post lacked relevance:

    Also I strongly feel that there should not be any race-specific safe places, whether it’s for whites, blacks, asians or whatever.

    In a word: HUH???

    i.e. obviously you didn’t care to read or failed to comprehend what the topic was referring to. Whether that was a product of your haste to inject your curious agenda here or whether that was a conscious decision on your part (like you conscious decision to drop the talk about your friend that accused the lecturer of being racist, amongst other things), I don’t know.

  69. rene benthien Says:

    @thewhatifgirl: I am a Tamil who used to live in Sri Lanka. So I think I’d know something about how bad it is to experience racism. When I came to Australia I was impressed by the equality and freedom of speech that was in their culture, now my culture.

    Yes there is racism here, and there are racists, and being subject to racism is pretty bad wherever you are. But living in Australia, the majority of society and the institutions generally backs you up. That is as it should be. In that context I reckon accusing someone falsely of being the worst kind of moral character is worse than actually being subject to verbal racism.

    @Kathy, jwbe and Nquest: You have simply illustrated my point further. The presumption really should be that of innocence, but in reality this doesn’t happen. A majority of you doubt their innocence even though there is nothing in what was said here that would indicate otherwise.

    The lecturer doesn’t know about what my friend has been saying, so I suppose he hasn’t felt the harm done to his reputation. And the story is limited to a small group of people so far.

    Nquest you have avoided all of my arguments and have just attacked the validity of my examples, which really aren’t that necessary to the point anyway. Your argument has devolved into ad hominem attacks which is a clear sign of the poverty of your arguments, and futility of continuing this any further.

  70. Nquest Says:

    Rene: Your argument has devolved into ad hominem attacks

    Bullshit.

    1. Rene, I didn’t ask you about that friend of yours. I asked you about the lecturer your [college] friend called a racist.

    Avoidance issues shown to be yours, not mine.

    we don’t know whether the office accusations were unwarranted or not… until you bring your friend and his accusers here to this blog to tell their side of the story we won’t.

    Avoidance issues, again, not mine but yours.

    do you have something to contribute to the actual topic or would you prefer to continue being the chased rabbit diving for your favorite holes?

    More of your avoidance issues. You avoided the actual topic from the very beginning. That’s not an ad-hom… that’s a statement of fact. So, too, is the fact that you and Chris are under some delusion that just because you say something we should believe it no matter how much the things you two say (1) is unbelievable on its face, (2) has obvious holes and/or details missing or (3) doesn’t actually support your tangential (because, again, this bs is OFF THE TOPIC) argument. Like this:

    The lecturer doesn’t know about what my friend has been saying, so I suppose he hasn’t felt the harm done to his reputation. And the story is limited to a small group of people so far.

    Now that’s the definition of a impoverished argument. You’re the one who presented that as, how did you say, “the real life example” of what you’ve been talking about. But, after seeing just how poor that example-as-argument was, you rushed to concoct another story to cover up for your fuck up… all while desperately relying on readers here to wear blindfolds and just believe every word you said as you finally figure out what argument you want to make.

    Still, though… your argument is obviously lacking. Again, we don’t know whether the office accusations were unwarranted or not… until you bring your friend and his accusers here to this blog to tell their side of the story we won’t.

    A majority of you doubt their innocence even though there is nothing in what was said here that would indicate otherwise.

    Bullshit. Again, we don’t know whether the office accusations were unwarranted or not… until you bring your friend and his accusers here to this blog to tell their side of the story we won’t.

    Identifying the lack of information provided in the stories you and Chris present is just that… identifying the lack of information YOU’VE PROVIDED. You’re the one making the argument. The very last thing you should do is to come here telling ONE SIDE of the story.

    Plus the fact that you’re playing that old spaghetti game — throwing endless blobs of shit against the wall in hopes that something with stick — reflects on how you were never prepared to make the argument YOU chose to redirect this thread with.

    Sorry, but bs will not be ignored. You don’t get to present X as “the real life example” and then get do-over because you didn’t think your first example through… especially after you’ve had several days to present PROOF/examples. And no one should have had to ask you for proof/examples to begin with.

  71. Nquest Says:

    Rene: Nquest you have avoided all of my arguments

    More bs and you know it’s bs that’s why you didn’t specify what I “avoided.”

    List all of your arguments <<>>

    ———————————————

    “…[you] have just attacked the validity of my examples, which really aren’t that necessary to the point anyway.”

    What???

    Without solid, verifiable examples you have no point. No wonder why you wanted to carry on an abstract, bs argument where you didn’t have to subscribe to any standards of logic or proof.

  72. thordaddy Says:

    rene,

    In an increasingly liberal-progressive society, the “racist” accusation is less and less meaningful or credible. In fact, the “racist” accusation is but a political tool that almost never correlates with an actual loss of freedom for the “victim” of said “racism.”

  73. Kathy Says:

    Rene,
    You have continued to use criminal trial law in your examples, such as using guilt beyond a reasonable doubt as burden of proof, or innocent until proved guilty.
    In civil trial law, the burden of proof would be more probably than not, and the PLAINTIFF would be responsible for proving that the defendant caused injury or damage. If we are going to use trial law in the examples you have given, we havent even heard from the plaintiff, we have only heard weak arguments from defendants, those charged with racist acts.
    Based on the information you have provided, I find that more probably than not, the defendants are guilty. If more evidence can be provided, lets hear it.

  74. Nquest Says:

    “less and less meaningful or credible” to WHOM?

    To keep leaving this important detail out ruins the credibility of the person repeating such a mindless meme. Save those inane talking points for political boards/blogs where people might accept that bs at face value… as self-evident.

    It’s not going to happen here.

  75. jwbe Says:

    Rene,
    >
    @Kathy, jwbe and Nquest: You have simply illustrated my point further. The presumption really should be that of innocence, but in reality this doesn’t happen.

    The reality is that you again are somebody who can’t read. My point was a different, so my post does not illustrate your point.

    >The lecturer doesn’t know about what my friend has been saying, so I suppose he hasn’t felt the harm done to his reputation. And the story is limited to a small group of people so far.

    And this is your example that false accusation of racism is worse than verbal racist attacks? When the ‘attacked’ even does not know the accusation and does not feel the harm done to his reputation?
    But come up where false accusations of racism reproduce racist stereotypes which then lead to racist attacks and systemic discrimination based on race. Systemic discrimination ‘lives’ from verbal attacks towards stigmatized groups, open or not open directed towards these groups.

  76. thordaddy Says:

    ye ye,

    It is self-evident that the most important freedoms you exhibit are the freedom to live and the freedom to spew your nonsense on a global scale. After that, what freedoms are so important that in your zealous pursuit to eradicate “racism” you must necessarily step all over the freedoms of others to live and voice their conscience?

    When one takes the leap from opposing violent racism to eradicating “subtle” and “invisible” racism, he does so KNOWING that he MUST USURP the CONSTITUTIONAL FREEDOMS of others.

    So when YOU cry “racism” there is a good chance that you are, in reality, seeking to eradicate the freedom of others to have their voice. You are, simply put, a totalitarian sympathizer.

    That’s why the accuser of “racism” is less and less credible.

  77. Nquest Says:

    See, Rene… You had your chance but now your non-answer to the critical question of WHO the amount of false/questionable claims of racism will lose credibility with has gone the way of the attention starved troll.

    “Less and less credibility”, indeed.

  78. Restructure! Says:

    Rene,

    @Restructure: yes I do think there is a penalty payed for accusing someone of racism. I just think the penalty is much worse for those wrongly accused of racism.

    I don’t think so. If the penalty was worse for those accused of racism (both falsely and correctly), then the political right would have become non-existent by now; Fox News would not be one of the top rated cable news networks; and Al Sharpton would be more popular than Bill O’Reilly.

    I think Chris case is a great illustration of the harm from false accusations, not just to the individual but to the cause of anti-racism. By someone unfairly accusing him of racism he has now started racially profiling as part of his solution.

    I am not entirely convinced that Chris’ description is what he was actually accused of. I would like to hear the accuser’s testimony instead of the accused’s interpretation of it.

  79. Restructure! Says:

    From now on, all comments with the term “ye ye” will be automatically filtered from appearing on this blog.

  80. Nquest Says:

    By someone unfairly accusing him of racism he has now started racially profiling as part of his solution.

    LOL!!! @ both Chris and Rene.

    This is classic (as in collecting dust, it’s so old) mini-jedi mind trick bs sorry-azz White people try to pull on the internets. Anything to claim victim status and/or blame POC for the racist attitudes Whites hold and want rationalize away as “normal” or justified… Straight fallacious, limp-wristed scare-mongering at that.

    Of course, POC wouldn’t want Whites like Chris who were “not racist” before being accused of racism to then choose to behave in a racist manner after the encounter. This kind of logic exposes the height of racist thinking — i.e. the idea that POC are not as intelligent or as clever as the conniving clique amongst Whites.

    If nothing else, the fact that anyone would consider Chris’ story credible instead of too-fuckin’-ridiculous-to-believe is proof a pathetic mindset that will use anything to advance a one-sided agenda. If there was ever a legitimate point to be made regarding the harm of the still UNQUANTIFIED number of false charges of racism that do damage to innocent, good little White people, there never was anything to be gained by making what Chris wanted to show as questionable/false charges of racism into the kind of idiotic caricature Chris did.

    That bs might work and you might get some buy-in (or at least few challenges) when you’re in the company of your fellow true believers….

  81. Lxy Says:

    Oh goody. TrollDaddy is back!

    His “wisdom” was dearly missed.

  82. thordaddy Says:

    Restructure,

    Why do you fail to acknowledge that the more zealous you become in eradicating all remnants of “racism,” the more you must adopt a totalitarian mindset?

    Further, recognizing your zealotry in eradicating “racism,” you must necessarily work to limit the freedom of conscience and association amongst those you accuse of “racism.”

    Therefore, it should become obvious that a charge of “racism” is in many ways a tool of oppression and the false accusation carries the same effect.

    And please do not think it is lost on thordaddy that your freedom-hating zealotry does not have a particular target in mind.

  83. Restructure! Says:

    Please direct debates about the fairness/ethics of comment policies to the comment section of the Comment Policy page. The filtered term may be referred to as rule #5.

  84. Nquest Says:

    Here’s a blog-e-tary which offers yet another critique of the underlying thought pattern present in Rene’s contentious notion:

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I’m not a conservative, mostly because I’ve been thinking so much about slavery and Reconstruction. It seems, to my mind, to be an authentic conservative in the 1850s is to perhaps recognize slavery as evil, but oppose doing anything about it that might upset the planters. It seems, to my mind, to be an authentic conservative in the 1960s would be to recognize that segregation was also evil, but resolve to nothing about it which might upset its supporters.

    … Lincoln (a conservative at heart, no?), a reluctant reformer, [was] doing whatever he [could] to avoid war, to avoid making the war about slavery (initially), trying to save the Union at all cost.

    He isn’t wrong. But if you are the slave, that essentially conservative approach will always privilege your master over you. Conservatism, with its belief in institutions, traditions, and the past, will seemingly always privilege (perhaps inadvertently) the powerful over the powerless…

    http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/06/something_to_think_about.php

  85. Therese Says:

    I would also like to add as an extension to “safe space for whites” the concept of a safe space for males.

    I don’t know if it’s due to lack of awareness, concern or pure innocent naivety or even disregard, but commenters of blogs moderated by white males, are generally allowed to stretch the boundaries of sexism, xenophobia and prejudiced judgements between PoC much further than they would be able to in a space moderated by a female PoC.

    It is not to say that white males can not be anti-racist or pro-feminism, it is probably just a bit trickier for them to pick up trigger signals that a non-male or PoC would recognise.

  86. DaisyDeadhead Says:

    Wow, those are some educational threads. Thanks for links.

    And this is an educational thread too… you and me (Restructure) were discussing age at my blog… okay, here is a blast from the past: In the old left, it was simply understood, all whites are racist, all men are sexist, and so on. The problem came in situations like “class” which are somewhat nebulous and not so easy to define, and the rich hippies liked to pretend they were working class because they had not asked mom for money in, like, six whole months or something.

    But nobody ever argued that they were not racist– if you are white, it was understood that you were. The task was to figure out how much and in what ways it manifested. Otherwise, it could not be eradicated.

    I still think that way, and I am shocked when people try to (haha) whitewash themselves. As far as I’m concerned, that’s the major problem here. One simply cannot grow up white in a racist culture and emerge pristine. Some of us grew up with particularly pernicious parents… I discovered when writing about my father that many people are ‘closeted’ concerning their severely racist parents, and fear talking about them, that they will look backward and stupid (especially if southern). This silence must be overcome. There is no healing without diagnosis.

    Nquest: I’m not aware of POC who after voicing anti-Hispanic sentiments (observed from anti-immigrant debates) or anti-Arab/Muslim sentiments (observed from Palestinian/Israeli debates, Iraq war and war-on-terror debates) or anti-Asian sentiments (observed from discussions regarding Korean store owners in the “Black” community) disputing or protesting being called “racist” the way Whites do.

    IMHO, this is because the definitions and discourse have been taken out of our hands… POC are arriving at conclusions about our behavior without our input (gasp) and some people find that particularly threatening to witness, not realizing it’s standard POC discourse when they aren’t around. That’s why they have to inject themselves and be obnoxious: Hey, you can’t talk about me like I’m not here! The internet has made “eavesdropping” possible, and some of us learned to listen and learn in quiet, while other people didn’t–they were feted constantly and rewarded for every little thing they learned. (and you won’t promptly “reward” the whites, either!)

    Just my two cents.

  87. I Am A Racist, Sexist, Ableist, Sizist, Homophobe, Heterosexist, etc… « What If Says:

    […] have to be this way,” we will begin to win people over. When we take the sting out of these supposed insults (as suggested in the comments) by calling ourselves the same words, perhaps we can better bridge the […]


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