Today's lesson, Racism. If you see something written here that you’ve said or done, use it as an opportunity. Take it as a wake up call and make the decision to grow, change and be conscious of your own privilege. Remember, I am not a speaker for the entirety of a people. Use this blog as a reference tool, not as the one and only view on the topic.
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Note: There are several comments made either within articles or on blogs that I don’t personally agree with. With that said, please let me know if you feel that any of these blogs or articles do not give quality information on Cultural Appropriation so I may reevaluate it’s place on this list. Also, I encourage everyone to add to the list any resources on this topic they deem worthy.
This phrase (It’s not my job) gets thrown around, attacked and demeaned pretty often. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ve seen posts where I explain that part of the reason this phrase is used is because people often want the education from A) a person who: doesn’t want to/shouldn’t have to/never offered to give it or B) from someone they’ve just finished insulting and/or being bigoted towards.
In previous posts, I mentioned that part of the issue is that there ARE people who will answer your questions and explain things to you. The idea that you EXPECT this from any random person, specifically, a person who is upset with you because of something you’ve done to hurt them, is very telling of your aggrandized self view. As well as how little you think of the person you’re demanding the education from.
What you should know, is that there is more to the story.
Much of the disgust by people who’re being told they should just “Explain” or they should “Nicely tell the person blah blah blah” or even that they should “Educate so the person can understand” comes from the fact that the person being hurt and being MADE to educate has ALWAYS been in the position to explain, be nice and smile and dance for the person/people who have just put them down, stepped on or belittled them.
Many people, genuinely believe, that if they’re “Polite” about something they’ve said, a question they’ve asked, you should be happy and willing to answer the question. That almost sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Now consider this, the “Polite” question they’re talking about is racist as hell. So-They don’t know it’s racist. Okay, fine. Let’s say I believe this. The very idea that they EXPECT an answer to a racist question, one they may or may not have known was racist, is considered PERFECTLY REASONABLE? Why? Okay, you didn’t “Mean” to say something racist. But if you did say something racist, why is it now the person who you were racist toward’s “Job” to “Nicely explain” things to you?
This would be somewhat reasonable if and only if there were no other outlets to get your questions answered but there are many. No, not many. MILLIONS. Why does the person, the specific person that you’ve just insulted have to be the ONE and only ONE to “Nicely explain” your bigotry to you? That demand is unreasonable, hateful, ignorant, mean and abusive.
In addition to all of this, you’ve first been bigoted, then you’ve demanded an education but not just any education. A “Nice” education. A “Calm” education. A “Pretty” education. One that uses only the words you deem acceptable. Words that won’t ruffle your delicate sensibilities.
You gave no concern for the person you’ve hurt with your racism but you demand that they show YOU concern when they explain to you the ABC’s of humanity.
So-You give bigoted insults, then show how little you think of the person by continuing to insult them by demanding an explanation, then you demand that when they give you the education, they only use the sweet and kindly words you’ve chosen…
You’ve made it clear that you have ZERO respect for this person as a human being. You’ve made it clear that you don’t care about their emotional well being, their time and in some cases, even their physical well being. You’ve put yourself above them in every way. Yet…you want more. You demand more. You continue to insult them if they don’t give you more. Right that second. Right when you ask.
We’ve all dealt with people like you all of our lives. You don’t want an explanation. You want to continue stepping on the same people you’ve always stepped on. A person who demands an explanation as to why the person they’ve just shot is bleeding, FROM the person they’ve just shot, isn’t looking for understanding. They’re looking for a loop hole. A small piece of ammunition that would make what they’ve just done okay. Those of us who have to deal with people like you all day, every day KNOW you when we see you. We know that if we make the mistake of “Nicely explaining” your reaction will NOT be understanding, discourse or even concern. It will be to search, desperately search for any hole, even the smallest opening where you can stick your foot in and say, “Oh yeah well if that’s the case then blah blah blah.”
Yet, you don’t understand why people keep telling you it’s not their job to educate you. Well, I’ll tell you why. It’s because you’re a no account, good for nothing, malicious bigot. Nobody owes you shit.
1-Do not separate yourself from the herd. Don’t be the exception to your own rule. If you’re white and you make statements about white people, make sure you fully understand that you are not the exception to your statement. If you believe that all white people are racist, it’s not all white people-except for you. If you believe it, believe it for yourself as well.
2-Don’t feel obligated to teach the unteachable. Failure isn’t choosing not to sit and give your time, attention, emotion and ability to a racist. Contrary to what every after school special tells you, not everyone is racist by accident. Some people want to believe what they believe. Stop giving racists things that should be reserved for people who want to be better.
3-Know the difference. One of the biggest and important realizations you’ll come to is figuring out who is worth your time and who isn’t. This is often wrongfully attributed to those who “Agree” with you. It’s not about agreement, it’s about discourse. Those who search for ammunition in your words but never quite hear you talking, are not worth your time. Discerning between the two will lift an enormous burden from your shoulders. In either case, it’s always important to let people know where you stand. Always speak up when you see/hear something racist but know who is worth more than your stand.
4-When in doubt, stay out. While you should always let people know where you stand [Read: Call out racist things you see] the level of discourse you engage in needs to be your level, whatever that level may be. If you know something is wrong but can’t quite put into words why, say you don’t approve/are not okay with what’s being said but leave it at that. Don’t give wrong information or information you aren’t 100% sure of. In a rare instance when giving information you aren’t 100% sure of, make it clear that you aren’t sure. Beware: if you say this in front of someone who’s racist they’ll likely use it against you.
5-Know you first. You can talk about, work toward and be a part of anti-racist work while you, yourself are learning. However, you should be very aware that you are in fact, learning. Don’t play the professor of a class you haven’t yet passed.
1- The Dictionary doesn’t like it either- As a matter of fact, the dictionary doesn’t have any solid belief in the validity of the book’s definitions at all. They use a societal consensus. It’s the definition that was “Socially” acceptable at the time it was entered into the book. According to Merriam-Webster QUOTE “editors study the language as it’s used.” Contrary to popular opinion, there are no “Great thinkers” who sit around figuring out the best way to define a word. Oddly enough, those that lean so heavily on the dictionary’s definition of the word racism have made no effort to read the dictionary’s description of itself.
2- Racism is intricate. It’s terrifying that people believe a topic as big as racism can be summed up in one to three sentences. This is similar to the problem I have with “Power + Prejudice” being thrown around by people who don’t fully understand what that means. That’s a short way of saying something very long and well studied. The statement may be correct but that certainly doesn’t mean that people understand it’s meaning.
3- White men, no but yes. Remember that consensus I was talking about? Well, people like to say that the dictionary was written by white men. That’s some what true. At least, depending on when the words were entered but it’s not who put the words on paper or even who decided which words would be added that’s the problem. It’s that, the date a word was entered (or updated) has an extreme connection to what the definition actually is. The word racism was entered during the time of the American Slave Trade. The “Consensus” was 100% white men. White men’s opinion on what racism was during Slave times and say, a multiracial group’s opinion on what racism is today, would likely be vastly different but….
4- It hasn’t been updated. Words get updated regularly. Not just updated but removed, added, adjusted and corrected. Racism is not one of those words. The dictionary has not changed a word that would have such a deep meaning in one century to what it’s definition is now, in a completely different century.
5- It’s a reference book. I’m always amazed at anyone who uses the dictionary as the end all be all of anything. Yes, it’s an amazing resource and no, I don’t think all of the above arguments can be made for every word within the book. That’s the issue. Not all words will need updating. Some will likely never need to be updated. But racism is a social issue. A social issue, something that literally changes as society changes, needs constant updating. No, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that it should be updated every year or even every five years. But it was added to the book in the 1800’s. Isn’t it reasonable to think that a 200 year old definition, in a book that uses society’s consensus for their definitions, for a socially constructed problem, is far too long to go without an update?
6- If it never changes, things will never change. Racism is big business. Being able to reduce racism to nothing more than “Hate” allows the racist system and the racists that are born from that system to continue on their bigoted journey. All the while viewing themselves with no fault. After all, can a system “Hate?” Is the belief white people have that Black people feel no pain, or at the very least, less pain proof that they “Hate” Black people? This belief is a racist one. But if racism is hate, none of these people are racist. Why? Because they will tell you that “It’s not racist if it’s true” and believing the (Completely false and deadly version of) “Truth” can’t be racist….just ask any racist.
There seems to be some confusion over what yesterday’s post meant. I’d like to clear up a very important point. The posts purpose was to say that we can all appropriate cultures we’re not a part of. We can all cause harm. We can all do lasting damage. The part that I wasn’t clear on was the level of damage we can create.
While it’s true we can all appropriate, it is not true that we can all appropriate equally.
The basis for white people (at least in predominantly white countries) being the main target of cultural appropriation accusations is because they are capable of doing the most damage. By being white in a white dominant society, you have more access. Not simply to things you can get but to how you’re seen. The humanity that you have above all others allows you to have the first and last look. When a non-Native white woman hyper sexualizes Native women, it’s far more likely to become “The norm.” We know this because that’s exactly what has happened. While a non-Native Black woman can and does do damage with the same image, the Black woman is doing damage to herself and Native women. As Black women are already seen as less than human while at the same time being hyper sexualized. The same action that would harm Native women only when a white woman did it, would harm Native and Black women if a Black woman did it.
Next, in this same scenario, the white woman does not and never will represent “All” white women. The Black woman will. Each individual WoC is representative of her entire race. White women are not.
Finally, it’s the power behind the race that can cause the most danger in cultural appropriation. The ruling race has more power in every avenue. The negative stereotypical images are now part of media, in school books and used to market products. They show up in pictorials and as mere background decoration. You see, while every race can appropriate, not every race can colonize. There in lay the difference. Harm can be done by all but the most harm, the deadly harm, the lasting harm comes from the ruling race. This is why, many people, while knowing that we can all appropriate choose to focus on white people only.
One strange and down right dangerous notion that seems to be spreading about cultural appropriation is that only white people can do it. I don’t know where this idea comes from or why people insist on continuing the incorrect thinking but it’s imperative that it stops.
The dangers that come with cultural appropriation are no less valid depending on the culprits race. While race can be part of a culture, it’s the culture itself that is being harmed with appropriation and as we all know, or at least we should, most cultures include multiple races.
My best guess is that it comes down to Black and white. At least, from the American perspective. While in America, Black American culture is…well, Americans of Black race, most cultures do not have that same demarcation point. For example, there is no such thing as “White American Culture” or “white culture” for that matter. This is where, I believe, many people get confused, frustrated and down right angry.
Many white people hear “There is no such thing as white culture or white American culture” and take that as a slight. What this statement means is not that no white person has a culture. It’s meaning is that white Americans/white people have a connection to a specific culture and it’s not “White.” (A little more explanation here if this is confusing) As in, Irish, Swiss, etc. Sure each of these cultures have multiple races but the dominant race is white. There are a lot of people that take the idea of culture and make it about race because in some cases, like Black Americans, race is a factor.
The issue here is that when we’re talking about the culprit of appropriation, this is one of the very few instances where race doesn’t matter. Any person, of any race can appropriate a culture. For example, every harm that can come from a non-Native white person appropriating Native culture can come from a non-Native Japanese person, a non-Native Black person or any other race that you can think of if they’re not a part of the Native culture they are taking from. It isn’t just incorrect to think otherwise, it’s dangerous. Sticking with the Native example, while we’ve talked about how the hyper sexualization of Native women has a direct correlation to their being the highest group of rape survivors in this country, the very idea that a Korean person wouldn’t be doing the exact same kind of damage that a white person would, is fatal.
The entire point here is not to cause harm. Not emotionally, physically or spiritually. The belief that only white people can be cultural appropriators is opening the door for a pandemic of problems caused by non-white people who choose not to know better and white people who simply don’t give a damn. There might be things that only white people can do but cultural appropriation isn’t one of them.
1- “It’s not really part of your culture” -Some form of this will be said as they, a person not of the culture in question, tells you what is or is not part of your culture. At least half of the time, this will accompany some form of belittling the item/issue. Clever retorts like, ”You can have it" or "I wouldn’t even want that to part of my culture" will be made.
2- “Sharing/Blending/Appreciating” -These are some of the favorite code words used instead of the word they actually mean, stealing.
3- “If I can’t wear thing A, you can’t wear thing B.” -This will be the more extreme racists. They tend to equate something important in one culture to something non-important in their own. This is a place where you’ll often see the use of “Blue Jeans” used as something that “Others” can’t do ya know…’cause appropriation. This also let’s you know that the person speaking, has absolutely no understanding of what cultural appropriation actually is but…they sure do like to regurgitate their opinions about it loud, often and without an ounce of knowledge.
4- “Oh yeah, such and such is real important to culture A” -This will be said, on this post, after racists read number 3. No seriously, save this post and come back and read the notes. They will pick a dance, a food or something seemingly random that they’ve seen someone call an appropriated item. They will then belittle said item and give the verbal equivalent of an eye roll. Once again, see number 1.
4b- “If so-and-so did this" -This is a favorite tactic of the racist. They wouldn’t miss a chance to use it during cultural appropriation talks as well. If someone, specifically someone famous or well known among the crowd, gets accused of cultural appropriation, a racist will often jump to say "If so and so did this no one would say anything about it" or some form of the like. Racists often have no understanding of why one person can do something and another can not. It’s basic human decency for most of us but racists believe that they, specifically them, should be able to do all things to all people and everyone should stand and applaud.
5- “Cultural Appropriation isn’t even that bad.” -This will almost always be followed by a dissertation containing the code words from number 2. They will talk about the “Blending” of the cultures and how it makes things better when the powerful steal and abuse the less powerful…*ahem*…I mean, appreciate the less powerful. If they really find themselves in a corner, they’ll pull out the “There are more important things to worry about" line. Which, also tells you how little they actually know about appropriation.
I was going to post all of the recaps of the Trayvon Martin Murder Trial but as I started re-reading them, it became far to overwhelming and I’m sure that many feel the same way. For those that would like to see the daily/hourly recaps, check out The Political Freakshow. He has done an outstanding job with posting about this case.
For now, I want to tell you about two really thought provoking posts I read. Both with opposing views on whether it was okay to show pictures of Trayvon Martin’s murdered body. Before reading them, I didn’t think about whether it was a good idea or not. I just thought, I can never look at those pictures. This trial hits to close to home for me and seeing those pictures is not something I believe I could handle emotionally.
None the less, after reading both views, I definitely side more with one of them.
But…please read them both. Read them both and decide for yourself. Really think about the situation. I think great points were made on both sides.
What do you think?
White privilege is a term often used but largely misunderstood. Those who agree that they have it, don’t often understand exactly what it entails. White privilege is somewhat easy to deny because it’s very nature, depends on the belief that one race is superior, therefor more deserving of any given “gift.”
The gift of life. As white people have a lower rate of infant mortality than most other races. Better health care generally. The gift of education. As every step of the schooling process supports white learning. Elementary school, middle school, high school and college. As testing became the main teaching tool of the US, the leaning toward racial bias continued.
White privilege means that you have the greatest chance to get a scholarship for college but if you don’t get one, it’s probably because some minority took it from you.
Once in the job force, your white sounding name, can help you get in the door. Have a felony? No problem, if you’re white. As a white man with a felony is more likely to get a job than a Black man without one.
White privilege means that, although white people are the largest group on welfare and receive a larger amount of said benefits compared to other races, it is said that the welfare system is set up to help Black and Latin@ people be lazy.
White privilege does not mean that you have an easy life. As a white person, falling on hard times isn’t an unrealistic event. The difference is, when you fall on hard times, its just that, hard times. You are a hard worker who just needs a chance. Not a lazy moocher looking for a handout.
Sometimes the hard times have nothing to do with work or school. Sometimes it’s far more personal. Even then, in the darkest of hours your skin is a benefit. If you lose your home, you are less likely to be homeless and you are more likely to get help.
White privilege does not guarantee and easy life, a good life or a happy life. However, the privilege does make your life different and gives you and advantage over others based solely on the color of your skin.
Being white means that having an entire political strategy that encourages white people to hate and fear Black people, is a perfectly reasonable thing to do.
The very congress that believes in such a divisive but successful strategy, is the same congress that allows the criminal “Justice” system to give white people a lessor sentence for committing the same crime and even a lessor chance at being caught than those that aren’t white simply because police are targeting (mostly) Black and Latin@ people. Even then, white people are considered the victims. Even though, the rates at which white people commit crimes are either nearly equal to or in some cases, much higher than their non-white counter parts. The criminal “Justice” system is not set up to protect white people. It is set up to protect white people from being punished. This is a massive privilege.
Then, there’s affirmative action. As much as people of color are accused of not just benefiting from it but it being an unfair advantage over white people, it is white women, yes white women who are it’s largest beneficiaries. Interestingly enough, they benefit but seem to also be the least likely to support it…because it’s thought to be for people of color. Although, white people as a whole, seem to overlook their own “Leg up” when it comes to affirmative action.
While fault and blame may not come into play here, what does come into play is your belief in this very racist and unjust system. If you either deny that white privilege exists or believe that you have it but don’t see any “Power” in it, you are making a conscious decision to perpetuate racism. White privilege might not be something that you asked for or that you can get rid of. However, you ARE making a decision when you deny it’s existence or believe that it wields no power. Is there no power in a better education? Is there no power in better health? Is there no power in having a job? These are all things that are more likely to be afforded to you based solely on the color of your skin. To deny them, is to intentionally perpetuate racism.
These are just some of the minor points involved with explaining white privilege. To talk about the lack of respect, the lack of integrity and the belief that criminality is racial, would take an entire other post. Part two coming soon.
For now, check out the white privilege check list.