White people dismiss non-white knowledge before they can question it.

If a white person takes what a person of colour says seriously, it does not imply that the white person does not question the claims of the person of colour. If a white person takes what a person of colour says seriously, it means that the white person does not dismiss the claims of the person of colour. “Dismissing” includes the white person considering what a person of colour has said and then rejecting it because he has never experienced it himself and has never heard of such a thing before, and then reconsidering it later only because enough people of colour started telling him the same thing.

That you have never experienced something yourself is not a valid reason to reject another person’s experience. If you are white and a person of colour mentions something that you have never experienced before, it does not mean that the person of colour must be lying or hallucinating. It could mean that you are not omniscient, and not more knowledgeable about everything than any person of colour. Given these two possibilities—either you are (i) not omniscient and not more knowledgeable about everything than any person of colour, or (ii) the person of colour must be lying or hallucinating—there is a higher probability that you are ignorant about something, and the person of colour is telling the truth and not suffering from hallucinations.

That you have never heard of a claim before is not a valid reason to reject the claim. The truth of a claim is independent of how many times you have encountered the claim, and whether or not you have encountered it previously. If you are white and a person of colour makes a claim that you have not heard from other people of colour, it does not mean that this person of colour is wrong. It could mean that you have a tendency to think of people of colour as monolith with a shared singular racial experience instead of as individuals with diverse experiences. It could also mean that you are not omniscient, and that there exist some true claims of which you are unaware. (It could also mean that you do not have as many friends of colour as you would like to believe.)

All claims should be examined and questioned using reason, but prejudiced dismissal or incredulity is not critical thinking. The common problem with white people is not that they analyze the claims of people of colour too much, but rather not at all.


Further reading:

11 Responses to “White people dismiss non-white knowledge before they can question it.”

  1. Silvie Says:

    Hmm…Another option might be, the claim is examined and questioned with the white person at the center. Such as, if a woman of color says something was racist, a white person responds, “oh, I’ve been discriminated against in that way too, and I’m white and a woman, so that means it is _always_ about sexism and therefore you are completely wrong.”

    Or maybe that doesn’t count as analysis?

  2. Restructure! Says:

    That still sounds like a dismissal to me. It sounds like “I’m more of a woman than you are, so I know more about sexism than you do. You wouldn’t know anything about sexism, because you’re not woman like me.” (Of course, the perception of WOC as not really women is more about the perception of POC as not really people. The prototype of a woman is a white woman, so WOC are perceived as less than.)

  3. Manju Says:

    restructure: the problem I have with many of your post is that they appear to be arguments by assertion. In this post for example there’s no evidence to backup your claims. How do you know this is a “common problem with white people?”

    There’s no data, not even anecdotes.

  4. Monica Roberts Says:

    All you have to do is pay attention on the Net to a POC asserting something that doesn’t fit the world view of white people, and Restructure’s post will be validated.

  5. Joy-Mari Cloete Says:

    Manju, what you’re doing is exactly what Restructure is writing about. Sure, it might be great to have some actual data; however, why can’t you just take the post for what it is?

    Do some homework. This topic appears constantly on progressive blogs.

  6. Restructure! Says:

    Thanks, Manju. I have added a “Further Reading” section at the bottom of the post.

  7. Manju Says:

    “Manju, what you’re doing is exactly what Restructure is writing about.”

    Joy-Mari: What about what your doing? Why isn’t that exactly what restructure is writing about?

  8. jwbe Says:

    >restructure: the problem I have with many of your post is that they appear to be arguments by assertion. In this post for example there’s no evidence to backup your claims. How do you know this is a “common problem with white people?”

    There’s no data, not even anecdotes.

    There is one thing I truly wonder: how little many whites seem to realize other white people’s behavior and actions (also towards other whites). Or is it the power of positive stereotyping whiteness and the idealizing of what whites should be or would like to be?

  9. DaisyDeadhead Says:

    Hey! Check out my post about Off Our Backs. (Pardon length; you can skip to the end!) The same thing is going on there, exactly.

    A black woman is called malicious and mean and everything else, but…well, I see no proof that she is any of these things. Apparently, a white collective member definitively announcing this is considered proof enough. And she was run out of the collective.

    Really, really bad.

    Good post. This dynamic must be analyzed and identified every time it manifests.

  10. Restructure! Says:

    Silvie,

    I was thinking about your comment more today. I think what you described would be dismissive, but if the white woman asked why it was not sexism instead of assuming it was sexism, then it would be analysis.

  11. Feynman was not being arrogant when he told people, “You’re wrong!” « Restructure! Says:

    […] person explains an academic or technical subject to a white person, the explanations are often dismissed without […]


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