Saturday, July 01, 2006

Divided We Fall

The other day, I picked up a weekly newspaper expressly because one of the headlines on the cover was the question: "Is it racism?" You know me, there's no way I could walk past that one. So I took it upstairs, read the little article and decided to write this post.

The article was really just a short page dedicated to describing a young European-American man's struggles primarily with his own perception of things. He doesn't like to stop at a late night convenience store near his apartment any more, he said, because, after dark, it's full of scary-looking Black guys with gold teeth and saggy pants. But on this particular evening, he goes on, he wound up stopping there anyway and was invited more than once (by one of the scary-looking Black guys) to buy drugs. He asks his readers if he's "racist" for wanting to avoid the guys at the store and if the dope man is "racist" for assuming he was looking for drugs. I hardly know where to begin.

First of all, if you'll recall from this post, I don't believe anybody without the power to define their own and other's lives can be racist. So, I wouldn't see the guys with the grills as racist, in any case. Intimidating, possibly. Maybe even irritating, depending on how you feel about drugs and how much coming and going it brings to that section of the neighborhood. But not racist.

Still, in this case (hang onto your hats here, kids), I don't see the article writer as necessarily racist either, at least not for wanting to avoid the party. See, he may be a racist (I think all "White" people are, even the ones who struggle daily to renounce their racial privilege, as I do), but the reason he doesn't want to go to this particular store any more is because he's afraid. Duh!

Now, what's interesting about this is that, were the parking lot (and inside) of the store in question being haunted by other European-American males, looking tough, even a little psycho maybe, and accosting customers trying to sell stolen property (or drugs--what the heck?), would the writer have wondered why he was uncomfortable? I doubt that he would have written the piece. And if he had, I suspect it would have taken an entirely different tack. He might have ranted about what's happening to his neighborhood. Or to the city in general. Or he might have berated local law enforcement. Or he even might have talked about how lack of jobs has more and more young men looking for alternate ways to support themselves. But he would either not have been afraid (and if not, why not?) or he would have known and admitted he was afraid. He wouldn't have written an article asking whether or not he was being "classist" to look askance at these youth for being up in his world making him uncomfortable.

My point is this: White folks are scared to death of Black folks. Not just after dark, either. And not just the ones with gold teeth. White folks know the history and they know that the history goes on. And they know that they benefit from it and they know that African-Americans are hurt by it. And they know that if they were Black, they would be pissed off. You know what I'm sayin'? And that makes White folks scared of Black folks.

They don't admit it. Even to themselves. But Black folks know. That's why some angry young Black males will push. Because they know White folks are scared. And there's a certain base level of gratification for powerless people of color watching a White guy ready to pee his pants busily trying to pretend otherwise out of concern that the smell of fear will be the deciding factor on whether or not he pays some awful price. The scene is really the pay-off and good for days of chuckling afterwards. As offensive as this might seem to some European-Americans, if it keeps the rage from boiling all over us, we should probably count ourselves lucky and leave it at that.

But White supremacists are always talking about how dangerous African-Americans are to the "good (White) citizens" of U.S. communities. And, God knows, if I looked Black, I'd be dangerous because I'd be one of those who are pissed off--and for what I maintain are perfectly good reasons. But the fact is that, as reasonable as rage against the White power structure and its oppressive practices is, the majority of Black folks, by and large, are not threatening anybody--not even each other. It's really quite remarkable when you think about it, after all African-Americans have been through and continue to face on a daily basis. And White people know. They know. They know. They know. (Hel-lo! Do we not all live in the same nation, even if we don't live in the same culture?)

Last night, I watched a beautifully done Czech movie entitled "Divided We Fall." It was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film of the year 2000 and I could certainly see why. It's a story about a couple in Eastern Europe who hide a Jew during the Nazi occupation and the horrified extents to which they have to go in the attempt to pull it off successfully. The story line, script, and direction were excellent, but the actors were phenomenal, not just because they made me believe them, but because they took me there--to the time, the place, and the incredibly complicated circumstances.

There are few people in the U.S. over the age of fifteen who haven't been exposed in some way or other to information related to the heinous crimes committed against the Jews in Nazi-held countries during World War II. Even the knowledge that Jews were not the only ones to suffer (at least seven million others died, as well--gypsies, homosexuals, members of the resistance, among others) in no way mitigates that particular nightmare of Jewish existence for more than a decade, while much of the world just watched--including the bulk of their neighbors and the communities around them. Which is what the drama of "Divided We Fall" is all about. It's about how some of the community collaborates with the Nazis, even though they are not themselves "bad" people. And how some are so terrified that they'll scream "Jew! Jew!" at the sight of one rather than risk being thought to be sympathetic. And how some just hide behind shutters and try to stay out of the way in the attempt to survive personally, regardless. But, as I already mentioned, the main couple in this film decide to do the unthinkable, putting their lives in mortal danger to save one man, the son of their former boss, the only local Jew to escape and return after the rest of his family is already dead.

The couple has wildly mixed feelings about the process in which they find themselves and emotions run high at one point or another for various reasons (I don't want to spoil it for you--it's a really decent flick, if you don't mind subtitles). Still, the most disturbing thought that wiggled its way into my mind as I watched it had really nothing to do with the Jews or World War II or even Europeans. It had to do with one man who had already suffered unspeakably unexpectedly finding the staunchest kind of allies in two people with everything to lose by reaching out to him.

In more than one unnervingly intense scene, the look on that young Jew's face went straight through me. He wasn't asking for anything. He knew the position he was in. He knew the couple was infinitely better off without him in their lives. And they knew it, too. And it kept occurring to me that this scenario, this precise excruciating horror was played out thousands of times in Nazi-occupied Europe. Many times in this same way, even when all lost their lives because of it.

And then (could you see this coming?) I began to think about other, heart-breakingly similar expressions on the faces of young Black men standing in handcuffs beside a patrol car; young Black mothers trying to figure out how to support their children when the safety net of social assistance has ripped apart without warning; elderly people of color, pushed aside all their lives and praying--still--for grace to keep believing.

Oh, I know that in the U.S. in 2006, there are no concentration camps per se (though if you've never walked down a tier in a maximum security penitentiary and looked into the eyes of the men and women there, how would you know?). I know there are no mass gas chambers and no creamatoria. But there were two and one-half centuries of slavery. And then the better part of another century of Jim Crow. And the continuing trap of the projects and the ghettos. And the on-going reality of always being portrayed by the society as being less than--being "Black"--even when the African-American is a surgeon or a saint.

The fact is that Jews suffered the Nazis for less than two decades, horrendous as the situation was. But African-Americans have suffered White supremacy (different from the Nazis in what way again?) for more than three centuries. And while there have been allies, they are like those in "Divided We Fall," often riddled with their own fears and conflicts and compromises about their stance, and far fewer than have been so desperately needed to support the multiple millions left, sometimes literally, hanging in the wind.

When it's over, and White supremacy will someday be over, one way or the other, who will be ashamed to face their neighbors, I wonder? Who will remember their own humanity and weep? And who will smile across the great divide, knowing they did nothing more than what was right; that the cost, however great, was worth it; and that all they did was only what they would have hoped for from another had they been the one in hiding, had they been the one called "Black"?

One doesn't have to fear one's allies.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have never read anything so far from the truth. ALL white people are NOT rascists. That's te most absurd thing I've ever read.

anon X said...

Take anon's comment and double it.

Anonymous said...

(I think all "White" people are, even the ones who struggle daily to renounce their racial privilege, as I do)

Do you REALLY believe this to be the "TRUTH"? (1) : the state of being the case : FACT (2) : the body of real things, events, and facts : ACTUALITY (3) often capitalized : a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality b : a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true

If you do your insane

being uppity negro said...

What amazes me is how many people who are White and Black don't understand these paradigms. It amazes me how far and long America can displace their emotions. I find that clearly the educated classes the most visually impaired. However I have to add that the subject matter of the White reporter's fear does it too. The Black Thugs do it. They do it and not know how immensely powerless they are even when they are trying to intimidate White Males and their own, the Black Middle Class, who have left them behind to fight for survival and direction on their own.

So everything is not only directed to Whites when considering what White privilege is. So many Blacks don't want the burden of being Black that they disassociate with anything that could be connated BLACK. I know this because I used do it. I was trained by my family members that were ashamed of being Black on how to erase the visual clues of poverty and ignorance although it was still there. I was taught to follow the model of superiority in separating myself from those thuggish and low-class beings because they had to be bad to be in that condition. My family promoted this idea and this idea was promoted to them by other class conscious Negroes that wanted to avoid the stigma of racism from Whites. That is how the cookie crumbles.

I told a few of my friends a few times my opinion that the artist 50 Cents hates the likes of me (not personally but actually in the broadest sense of identifying me in class) and my class structure, the so-called Middle Class. If he saw me, he would then personally find a reason to not like me. Just because of this thing that separates us...class.

I believe he doesn't necessarily detest Whites as much as he hates his own, the broad existence of being Black. As he said in a few lines of one of recent hits last year, he saw his mother kissing a woman and his dad left. These comments were tuned in his disgust for the things he saw as kid and had to fiend for himself. As the story goes in hearsay he grew up with the wild and craziness as his normalcy. So what else was an angry child supposed to do when stuck with the identity of being a bastard when he knew he didn't have to. He inturn ended up resenting anything that looked like his family that neglected him. He turned upon himself in hating anyone that looked like him. And he wanted to scare and intimidate those with brown skin that looked like him in skin-tone but just didn't want to care about him or those in the struggle with similar circumstances.

I saw this same behavior in little boys that I taught in Baltimore that came from the meanest streets. They were little children losing their innocence to having to protect themselves from everyone...including me, the teacher that wanted more for them and they knew would not want to associate with anything he came from in relative value. I saw my students try to hide from me because they knew I knew what was and was not acceptable. Hence I was considered White and therefore I was the enemy too because they knew I would not understand simply because my willful ways would denounce all they knew and had as unworthy.

My friends are all usually speechless when I break this down to them this way because they are still stuck at "Why does he make this music?" They can't get their brains to get pass that it is not 50 Cents' love affair with "hos" and "the thug life" that is the issue. He actually hates it and you can tell but that is all he knows. It's like the love affair of the abused staying with the abuser. No matter how rich he will become, until he deals with his hatred for all that is Black, it will continue and he will reign intimidating us, the Black Middle Class that wanted nothing to do with poor people like him when he was a kid and a man.

So adding in the fact that he has always had to know that he had to fear the White police and the White social worker, he disquised his fear the same way in trying to over-emphasize his strength is being a thug. In all actuality he knows he cannot trust anyone but he would hurt me before he would even touch a White person and that has to do with his fear of formal retribution and knowing that more down the line will be dealt out in justice. He could kill me and walked out of jail in a few years.

So there...you are right but as far as who these thugs hate more...they hate themselves and they hate their own people.

I am Black. They resent me more because they don't think I would understand. They do get a kick out of intimidating White people for simply being so damn clueless in thinking that they have nothing to do with his/their circumstances.

I just find it amazing how long this country can avoid these issues which are very obvious to you and me.

When do you think the UN will get involved to do a study to identify this and validate your point?

Most recently a few months ago they announced a study about Barbados and White Privilege. I wonder why the US matters dealing with race, inequality, and reparations are always pushed back at the UN.

Changeseeker said...

Well, I'm glad somebody read this besides Anonymous(es). I was beginning to think maybe I had crossed too far over the line this time (like I can control that) or maybe everybody in the U.S. was having a holiday week-end elsewhere--except me.

Yes, Uppity, I know it makes Black folks crazy, too. Institutionalized oppression in the name of racism has been talked into the ground and yet, most (Black or White) want to act like it's either not happening or not important--when it's a crucial (and necessary) part of the horrible on-going reality.

I've had African-American students tell me on many occasions that my course on Race changed their lives by helping them take a good look at the whole picture. One young woman told me with tears running down her face that she had even spent her freshman year in a historically Black university for the express purpose of trying to "find herself" (and a little inner peace)--unsuccessfully. She said being able to look at how institutionalized it all it (on both sides of the color line) released her from her confusion and reassured her that she was "crazy" by design. She said, "You have saved my life. I can go on now. Until now, I wasn't sure there was any hope for myself or for any of us..."

Another Black student of mine did an independent study project on race-based shame in African-Americans. I had her start by reading "The Black Notebooks" by Toi Derricotte. She was a month getting through the first thirty pages and was so agitated when we tried to discuss it that I thought she was going to duck and run. Ultimately, however, she managed to hang in there and learned more about herself, I think, than anything else (not necessarily a bad thing, under the circumstances).

The worst of it all to me is the hopelessness so many African-American youth feel, given their situation. And that is, in fact, one of the reasons for my blog. I know White folks need to learn what I have come to understand, but people of color do, too--you've told me so.

As far as the U.N. study, U.S. prisoners were trying to get a U.N. review of the prisons in this country back when I was involved in the prison movement in the 1970's. As long as the U.S. bankrolls the U.N. to the extent it does and as long as the U.S. government reserves the right to bomb anybody who challenges its right to power (and the privilege that goes with it), I don't think the U.N.'s opinion is going to mean much here, in any case. Still, it would be nice to see. Maybe someday.

JoshuaJDrew said...

OK you know what, Forget the anonymous-ness. And neither of you defended the statement that I brought into question. HOW are ALL (ALL not certain storyies that you are continuing to feed me) WHITE PEOPLE RESCIST? That's such a bogus generalization I could puke. It's almost as absurd as believing in "lucy" ;)

JoshuaJDrew said...

haha oh and p.s. by claiming that ALL white people are rascist your just as prejudice as "ALL the white People"

Changeseeker said...

I don't blog so I get the opportunity to "defend" what I already know to be true to readers who emotionally panic at a thought they can't get their brain around, Josh. European-Americans can't help being racist because we are socialized to be that way, no matter how decent, good, or well-meaning we may be. And of course, the most lethal part of the oppressive attitude is that most "White" folks are so heavily in denial about it because they don't want to know or deal with it. I'm not trying to convince anybody who is not ready to face reality. There's no point. I'm just writing what I have learned about the socially-constructed, political notion of "race" since I started studying it forty-five years ago. If what I write makes you want to puke, you might want to read other blogs, instead. I would certainly understand.

JoshuaJDrew said...

ok so let me get this strait. Your tellihng me that ALL white people are rascist and WE will ALWAYS be rasicist becuse thats what we are... you ALSO to go on and tell me that I'm "emotionally panicing?" I think simply looking at the DEFINITITION of this word RASCISM proves enough that your wrong..

RASCISM
1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

I'm sure that not ALL "european-Americans" as you call all them, and I still have no reason to believe annything you've said. and im not just going to read another blog - I hope yo udon't expect all your readers to agree with you

JoshuaJDrew said...

and the "most oppressive" attitude is to continue to keep rascism alive by calsling all white people rascists - dwelling on that HELPS NO ONE

The Gambler said...

$50 says joshuajdrew is also the first anonymous poster. I'll add another $25 saying s/he's also under the age of sixteen, and $10 for all three of the anonymous posts being his. Any takers?

Changeseeker said...

I tried to save you from this, Josh. When someone posts seven comments to one post, saying the same thing over and over, with capital letters, no less, it ultimately makes them look as if they're freaking out over something they can't handle. You made your point with the first comment. More than that turns into an example of what I was writing about.

There is hope for us, but we must become conscious of our racism in order for us to begin freeing ourselves. As long as we're committed to our denial system, we're stuck and the problem can't be resolved--either in us or in the society.

JoshuaJDrew said...

capital letters are just my way of emphasizing words. It's hard to show tones's [of course now that I just noticed I can use bold...] EITHER way please explain to me what good everyone realizing that they are "Rascist" do - and as a side not I'd like to pay out the 50$ that I posted the anonymouses at the top of the page, but at least I'm arguing points and not taking cheap shots at people. I'm just here to argue my side not to bring people down.

JoshuaJDrew said...

I am not trying to say that rascism is dead I'm trying to tell you it's not as severe of a problem as your trying to prove to the world. because if 100% of people are "rascists" then that's pretyty much as pessimistic as you cna get. Why not try have some positive views on life instead of trying to make the world seem like a dire mess.

Piscean Princess said...

EXCELLENT post! (sorry for the caps, but this is bangin'!) And I will definitely see that film. Has Sophie Scholl come out in Tampa yet? I'm really looking forward to that one too.

*smooches*

Changeseeker said...

"Sophie Scholl," Princess?

Changeseeker said...

You say you're just "arguing points," Josh, but so far, you've come to my blog and announced that I'm absurd (twice), insane, prejudiced, oppressive, bringing people down, pessimistic, and that what I write makes you want to puke...?

I'm not pessimistic. I'm still very hopeful that we can find a way through all this before it's too late. But continuing to ignore what is a matter of public record while we pretend things are not dire for most people of color just because they're not dire for you isn't going to get us anywhere.

Jessi Guilford said...

The main problem here doesn't actually seem to be with Changeseeker or joshuajdrew either one: the problem is that y'all are both using different definitions of the word "racist." This is apparently a lot more common of a problem than I would have thought, say, four weeks ago.

Joshua: Changeseeker is not saying that all white people think that they are superior to people of color (or POC), or that they all attack POC or burn crosses or belong to the KKK or whatever. That sort of thing certainly is racist, but there's more than just that, involving the sorts of assumptions you (or any other white person) make about people and their intentions, beliefs, and behavior.

It's not necessarily your fault that this is what you think racism is: white people are generally taught this, in a gazillion different ways, from a gazillion different sources. We don't choose it. However, most white people never question it, either, and never think about it, and thinking and questioning now is kinda your responsibility, especially now that you've started a conversation about it.

Don't freak. You're not actually being attacked here. You're just meaning the word in a different way. If you want to understand this other meaning, what you should do is read around a little.

Try here. She doesn't try to phrase things politely for you; she doesn't pull any punches, and you may get a little offended by that. Also, it may not make much sense immediately.

What you'll have to remember is that she's not talking about racism as you understand it, and as you have seen it: she's talking about it as a POC, and how they perceive it. Which turns out to be very different.

If that doesn't work for you, try here. This was written for members of a parenting forum, so it's not really going to be aimed at you so much, but it makes a lot of the same points once it gets going, and is a bit friendlier about it.

If none of these work for you, look around for yourself. Follow some links from here, or links from those links, and listen to what's getting said. And either be polite when you leave comments, or don't leave any comments, and see how that goes.

Or if you'd rather, try the library. If your library is still using Dewey Decimals, you're looking for books in and around the number 305.8.

douglass said...

Changeseeker, I am answering your call for feedback.

You had a good start about the white fear of blacks, although the example you used is not kosher in my opinion as it seems like a model where whites are associated with the with repulsive characteristics of weakness and POC are painted as the golden underdog of justice in a fashion that is uncomfortably similar to the Marxist caricatures of the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

Now, I say the fear runs both ways with whites fearing a perceived criminal element (an illusion)in blacks and blacks fearing the Law and the moneymen (a reality). This fear is self-sustaining inasmuch whites use the legal and financial systems to contain a threat that they created.

But most importantly, this fear is situational.

For example: How does a black man feel if he is pulled over for speeding in the middle of Bibb county Georgia at three in the morning with a white woman in the passenger seat as the trooper comes up to the car and asks for ID??

Anyway: I don't see the reality you see.

I will tell you what I see.

I see a good person with an emotional investment in anti-racism that has dealt with a tough issue for a long time and might have developed identification with POC and a concurrent distaste for whites.

I also see a person who might not fully understand the political implications of her solutions and might confuse whites who object on political grounds as whites who are proactively aware of their racism; but don't give a fuck.

That might provoke harsh feelings and the occasional ideological firefight.



Jessi:

That’s insightful; the definitions are different.

.But this disagreement in definitions is a political disagreement over the reality of a systematic white racism.

It is too bad that this cannot be reconciled by exposure to the propaganda of a particular camp.

douglass said...

oh, correction:

[This fear is self-sustaining inasmuch whites use the legal and financial systems to contain a threat that they created *WITH the legal and finacial systems*]

Piscean Princess said...

...about Sophie Scholl http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1808754491/details

...about Divided We Fall...

Geez, Change, there's so much in here, it's hard to know where to begin. When I was reading your account of the "Am I A Racist" article, I was thinking, dude, not so much. I don't like to go anywhere where there's young folks gathered outside (or inside) loitering & such. In particular, I hate being hit on and otherwise solicited by these loiterers. If I am in a neighborhood I'm familiar with I don't worry so much for my safety, but mostly I just try not to go at all.

You really hit 'em hard with the all white people are racist line! But I think there's a degree of truth to that. I don't know if I'd use the word racist, but I know that the average white American has some preconceived notions about black folks and most of them are probably not so nice. And the fear of black folks is real. Really real. Not just a fear of black males, either. The media has definitely painted black women as always being 10 seconds from cussin' somebody out, complete with eye rolls, neck twists and potentially some finger snapping.

The issue of the allies is another toughie. "...who will be ashamed to face their neighbors..." I think there are quite a few POC that will fall into this category, in addition to the obvious whites.

Changeseeker said...

Jessi: Wow! What a well-presented comment. And I was so impressed with the FAQ post at Egotistical Whining that I permanently enshrined the link at the head of my links (as you may have noticed). But I assure you that Josh knows exactly what my definition of racism is (he's actually a former student of mine). He just rejects it out of hand. Maybe Shannon can help. Thanks.

Douglass: I'm not sure I follow the part about the model. The situation at the store, to my mind, is simply about White fear (that's not weakness, D., that's wisdom) and Black folks trying to sell a product. When I drive in certain areas of the city where I live, I draw attention because of the way I look. The drug boyz know I might not be looking to buy, but they don't want to miss a sale just because I'm nervous, so they may act the fool a bit trying to take up my slack. But that's just bidness. Not about race at all really, in my opinion. But I'm not sure that's what you're talking about. And I definitely am unsure what you mean by "political implications of her [my] solutions"...? I don't believe most Whites are aware of their racism. I believe they fight tooth and nail not to be aware of it. And, as I like to say, you can't wake up a person who's pretending to be asleep. I know I make some people crazy, but it's usually only because they're trying to dance faster and faster to stay ahead of any possible realization they might have about the matter and, after a while, when they get tired and sweaty from the wild whirling, they start resenting me for making them dance. I'm not making anybody dance. It's just their reaction to my words. I don't get all caught up in the somebody else's emotional response. It doesn't accomplish anything. But neither does trying to keep everybody comfortable all the time. It's a very uncomfortable topic.

Princess: I call "White people's not-so-nice preconceived notions about Black folks" racism. :-D That's not all that racism is to me, of course (you've read my "Racism = Prejudice + Power" post) but it's certainly one part of it. And I absolutely agree with the point you make about African-American women. Many White folks are very nervous around unapologetic Black women. I know I start looking for the exits under certain social circumstances involving Black women--as much as I hate admitting it. And I totally agree with your point about some people of color having to feel ashamed someday, too. Very insightful. Good stuff. Thanks.

Another Conflict Theorist said...

"Particularly edgy" indeed. I knew many of your white readers wouldn't be able to get past the 'all white folks are racist' declaration. I would, as some of those who responded to your post have suggested, define racism in the future so that those who assume that racism is synonymous with a white sheet and hood aren't confused.

Excellent post. Challenging and thoughtful.

Another Conflict Theorist said...

By the way, this may have been adequately covered by other respondents but I think that we, as people who wish to challenge racism and its institutions, all have come to a point where we need to decide that it's worth it to work with those who may have internalized racist misconceptions. I'm glad to see that this blog, as well as others, is doing that.

Also, even though we may accept the idea that whites are "racist", I think that 1) many don't wish to be and 2) the same racist, homophobic patriarch under which we labor hurts them as well.

Changeseeker said...

I totally agree with both of your last points, ACT. I could be kinder. But I tried that and it didn't work and I'm getting older and things are getting worse. Sigh. So I'm just galumphing along now doing what I do and hoping it makes enough sense to some folks that it will make a difference. I am, after all, just trying to learn myself. It's not easy getting daily reinforcement to be "White" and not actively participate any more than you can help.

Each-1-Teach-1 said...

Where have I been? You did it again Prof, great post. Socialization is the main player here. If people of color can be socialized into wanting to be white, into being ashamed of themselves, to the point where we start being colorist ourselves, then what is so absurd of thinking whites are socialized into being racists? It's just the other half to the equation, internalized oppression can be seen as the overspill of racism itself. People of color could not have been socialized to strive for whiteness if it wasn't something already taught to whites as something superior. Being honest with yourself can be pretty tough at times, and we've all had to look ourselves in the mirror at some point or another and accept some things about ourselves that will then allow us to move forward. Ignorance trully is bliss for many. Try being a man of color and having to face your own prejudices about your own kind, or about whites for that matter(I'll have to blog on that one). Are all policemen pigs? I'm almost sure they are not, but that doesn't stop me from coping an attitude and getting defensive every time I get pulled over, it doesn't stop me from fearing for my life and at the same time wanting to fight back every time I have a brush with the law. My point is that we all have prejudices that we have been socialized into exercising; it takes active consiousness to put some of them to rest. I'll have to check out this movie you're talking about.

Changeseeker said...

You are so boldly honest, each-1-teach-1, and I appreciate your honesty--and your comments--so much. I've been trying my damnedest for several hours to post a link to your most recent post on what African-American workers and undocumented Latino workers have in common because I think it's excellent, but I can't get blogger to cooperate. Your post is here.

JoshuaJDrew said...

well for one jessi I have to give you credit for an excellent post. second I absolutly LOVE pissing people off so if anyone was SINCERELY offended well, i am kinda sorry. and finally I think I have the MAIN reason that all of this bothers me...

By singling out white people as the casuse for rascism *I* feel like it's only looking at a small part of the pictures. Rascism is NOT just a problem with caucasians (although I WILL admit that we did TOTALLY start that problem) but ALL races have people that ARE rascist. I know MORe than my share of Asians, cubans, mexicans, blacks, you NAME it that have prejudices and racial views on white people and people of all the other races. I thought about it a lot and THAT'S why reading stuff like this, yeah it does get me pissed off, and I am sorry for a lot of the rude comments I made, but it's not because I don't think rascism is a problem - it is, we saw that during/after hurricane katrina (Although not EVERYTHING the media presents as rasicm is - ex. Bush does NOT "hate black people") but rascism is not a problem that exist in just "white america" and to blame just "white america" I feel is just a big of a problem as rascism itself. ;)

douglass said...

- Hey Changeseeker,

you said,

": I'm not sure I follow the part about the model. The situation at the store, to my mind, is simply about White fear (that's not weakness, D., that's wisdom) and Black folks trying to sell a product."

I might need to explain my part about the model

you said,

"My point is this: White folks are scared to death of Black folks. Not just after dark, either. And not just the ones with gold teeth. White folks know the history and they know that the history goes on. And they know that they benefit from it and they know that African-Americans are hurt by it. And they know that if they were Black, they would be pissed off. You know what I'm sayin'? And that makes White folks scared of Black folks...They don't admit it. Even to themselves. But Black folks know. That's why some angry young Black males will push. Because they know White folks are scared. And there's a certain base level of gratification for powerless people of color watching a White guy ready to pee his pants busily trying to pretend otherwise out of concern that the smell of fear will be the deciding factor on whether or not he pays some awful price."

Sorry, I don't see why it's wise to fear an entire race of people for no reason.

Being intimidated when there is no immediate danger is not healthy.

Blacks victimize each other far more than they victimize whites.

Blacks fear the legal consequences of victimizing whites more than they fear the legal consequences of victimizing blacks.

for example: in Soul on Ice, Eldridge cleaver starts with raping black girls.

Pray Tell, why did Eldridge fear raping white girls?

Hmm…


“I started out practicing on black girls in the ghetto where dark and vicious deeds appear not as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of a day. When I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey. I did this consciously, deliberately, willfully, methodically.”

But, changeseeker, you might be onto something:
“Rape was an insurrectional act. It delighted me that I was defying and trampling upon the white man’s law, upon his system of values, and that I was defiling his women . . . I felt that I was getting revenge.”

Changeseeker said...

Josh: Apology accepted. And of course, Bush doesn't "hate Black people." Though some people think he doesn't care much about anybody who's not rich. Your argument, however, hinges entirely on your definition of racism (as Jessi noted) and using your definition, you're right. Using my definition on the other hand, you're not. It's that simple. And since it's my blog... ;-)

Douglass:

"I don't see why it's wise to fear an entire race of people for no reason.

I believe African-Americans in general are angry--not only at what was done to them in the past, but what is being done to them even as we blythely blog on the subject. The fact that they are not wiping up the streets with the bloody forms of European-American bodies at every opportunity doesn't mean they're not angry. My question is: how far is it wise to push people? White folks have the impression that it's okay to keep this pattern up forever. After all, it's been working for three hundred years, right?

"Being intimidated when there is not immediate danger is not healthy."

Exactly! My question, then is how do we stop feeling intimidated? I don't think the answer is to expect people of color to shuffle and grin more (it isn't true and it doesn't make us feel any better--in fact, it makes the situation worse). I think the answer to relieving the free-floating anxiety we feel is to stop being racist. To change not just our perceptions of others and our little personal attitudes, but to actually change the institutional structure of oppression against people of color everywhere.

And you don't have to go all the way back to Eldridge for a case in point. Go into a bookstore and read chapter one (it's only two pages) of Makes Me Wanna Holler by Nathan McCall (published in 1994).

douglass said...

I will find this McCall. But I will have to read the whole thing.
I can't just read one chapter.

changeseeker, you say

". The fact that they (poc) are not wiping up the streets with the bloody forms of European-American bodies at every opportunity doesn't mean they're not angry. My question is: how far is it wise to push people? White folks have the impression that it's okay to keep this pattern up forever."

Well, I do remember the one time I was afraid. I was 6 years old and the Rodney king riots were being televised. I saw a group of black males 'wiping up the streets with the bloody forms of European-American bodies', specifically a white truck driver who was dragged from the truck and beaten in a most ape-like fashion.

I say the blacks and poc would revolt if they could, but
Weapons cost money and tend to get more effective as the price goes up; If you remember the massacres that came from encounters between lightly armed elements of the Bosnian Army and heavily armed Serbian Paramilitaries during the Wars of secession from Belgrade; You see that an American Race war would have a similarly uneven outcome in the favor of the majority that has the most military equipment. (Whites, and the POC know it)

That might be one reason why non-violence has been so expedient in the struggle for civil rights.

The POC would lose a war in a hurry.

So the whites are in power and they know that POC are not about to turn the tables in this lifetime.

But see what happens when blacks are in Power.

Go ahead, go to the great lakes region and join the RPF; fight in the African world war then tell me that whites are somehow abusing POC in the USA.

JoshuaJDrew said...

well honestly then i don't understand your definetion of "rascism" lol not at ALL

douglass said...

Changeseeker,

I need to expand that last part.

you say:

"When it's over, and White supremacy will someday be over, one way or the other, who will be ashamed to face their neighbors, I wonder? Who will remember their own humanity and weep? And who will smile across the great divide, knowing they did nothing more than what was right; that the cost, however great, was worth it; and that all they did was only what they would have hoped for from another had they been the one in hiding, had they been the one called "Black"?"

I think that's true.

But contrarily, the African political milieu is evidence enough that blacks are not immune from things like racism, imperialism and warfare.

I say that the definition of racism that says prejudice + power= racism is used in a fashion that is inconvertibly anti-white, when it is applied to Europe or the United States.

It's slight of hand lies in labeling whites as the sole owners of the means of Production; an assertion that is empirically false but conveniently allows the theorist to construct a house of cards regarding the inherent immorality of EuroAmerican culture.

Professor Marimba Ani is one of my favorites:

http://www.africawithin.com/ani/yurugu.htm


so,


changeseeker,

How is your definition of racism NOT inconvertibly anti-white?

Changeseeker said...

Douglass: You compare a truck driver being beaten for probably two minutes (the principle perpetrator going to prison for his acts) with Rodney King being struck more than 56 times during a period of more than 12 minutes by police officers wielding hardwood batons--even when he was lying motionless on the ground (with no one convicted of any wrong-doing for the incident)--and you claim not to recognize any difference. And manage to call the truck driver's attackers "ape-like" while applying no such sterotypical pejorative term to the so-called "peace officers" who attacked King. That about sums it up.

African-Americans have lived in mortal fear for their lives and well-being in this nation for three hundred years, yes. And your point is? That they better keep that in mind? That this makes the situation acceptable and reasonable and healthy for the nation?

And while Yurugu is an impressive book (I own it, of course), lumping African-Americans and their situation in with the behaviors of Africans in Africa (having also been grossly twisted by their experience of colonization) makes about as much sense as saying, "Well, people in general are this way in Denmark, so obviously, all White people world-wide and most especially in the U.S. must be exactly the same"....? The experience of life from nation to nation is culturally different, Douglass, even though people of color are relegated to dealing with institutionalized oppression in the name of anti-Black racism world-wide.

Josh: Of course, you understand my definition, Josh. You just don't like it because it makes you uncomfortable. That's the way it is for White folks. We have the power to claim ignorance when we don't like the truth.

JoshuaJDrew said...

no lol im sorry i REALLY don't - please explain - even in an email if nessisary (joshuaJDrew@Yahoo.com)sorry

douglass said...

Changeseeker:

What scared me as a 6 year old was twofold, that police would beat somebody so much (king) and then they couldn't even contain the situation that led to the beating of the truck driver (I now know that the response was delayed in part because national guard couldn't find any ammo).

The savage and vulture-like beating of Rodney king was perpetrated by lawbreakers hiding behind badges they didn't deserve.

It is clear to any observer of the King tape that King was not only beaten, he was tortured.

Now,

King WAS driving down the freeway going over 100 mph while high on drugs, something that puts other people in danger and consequently pisses off the police into taking some departmental variation in their policies towards druggies who tear down the freeway at 100 mph.

But the truck driver was minding his own business before he was attacked.

The ape-like assault of Reginald Oliver Denny went like this:

He was kicked in the stomach, struck with a claw hammer three times, had his head smashed in with a cinder block, was photographed, assaulted with beer bottles, robbed and had his gas tank shot at after which the initial assailant did a victory dance.

All of this happened before he was rescued NOT by the police (who were hiding like cowards), but by concerned BLACK (again, black) citizens who saw the assault on TV.

ok,

My point is not that 'they better keep that in mind' but that people have the right to organize on the basis of anything they may please because this is a free country, and that includes on the basis of 'whiteness'.

You say that POC have lived in fear.

So what.

They are a minority.

That is to be expected.

Whites 'live in fear' amongst a majority of non-whites.

Again, that is to be expected because that is they way the cookie crumbles between Hindus and Muslims, Koreans and Chinese, Japanese and Chinese and even between the European ethnicities before the creation of the 'white' race.

That is the way it is and that is the way it is going to be.

It came about after a long evolution of in the behavior of the human species and it cannot be reversed by revolutionary means.

Anyway, Your analysis translates into saying that POC are incapable of certain immoralities (like racism) because of a global structure of white racism and white supremacy, but whites are only 30% of the global population and are outnumbered by 'poc' nearly 3 to 1.

I understand that cultures vary and whatnot and that life in Burkina Faso is not the same as life in Eritrea just as life in NYC is not the same as life in mobile.

But you claim that the existence of 'white' entitles anti-black racism, which is not only false, but also patently anti-white.

Unless you can show me otherwise, I continue to think that
your definition of racism is that of an extremely clever anti-white racist.

Jessi Guilford said...

You say that POC have lived in fear.

So what.


Okay. I call troll.

douglass said...

Jessi:

My point is:

There is often conflict between the minority and the majority, so in my opinion is a bit silly to demonize the majority for exhibiting this dynamic.

oh, I encourage you to take my assertions head on instead of sniping at me.

Jessi Guilford said...

"So what" told me everything I think I need to know about your assertions, sweetheart.

douglass said...

Hello Jessi,

I see that you had an emotional reaction to my assertion(s).

That's ok.

But calling me a 'troll' and 'sweetheart' showed me that you wanted to punish me for expressing my views.

That's not ok.

Again, the point of my 'so what' is that there is often conflict between the minority and the majority, so in my opinion is a bit silly to demonize the majority for exhibiting this dynamic.

Do you have any thoughts about that?

Changeseeker said...

You don't come head on yourself, Douglass. No matter where you begin, you always eventually find your way back to the same quasi-intellectual agenda that seeks to rationalize and legitimate the continuation of White domination despite the fact that this is not in the best interests of the human race, which after all includes Europeans and European-Americans.

The bottom line, then, is that the generalized attitude of White entitlement you demonstrate always ultimately leaves me not caring what you think.

It hasn't always been the way it is now, D. And it isn't always going to be this way. In the face of the question, do you want to be "on top" or do you want the human race to survive, you've made your perspective clear. And in the face of your perspective, what could be left to say? Finis.

douglass said...

changeseeker,

you say,

'quasi-intellectual agenda that seeks to rationalize and legitimate the continuation of White domination despite the fact that this is not in the best interests of the human race, which after all includes Europeans and European-Americans.'

"The bottom line, then, is that the generalized attitude of White entitlement you demonstrate always ultimately leaves me not caring what you think."

"It hasn't always been the way it is now, D. And it isn't always going to be this way. In the face of the question, do you want to be "on top" or do you want the human race to survive, you've made your perspective clear. And in the face of your perspective, what could be left to say? Finis."


um, ok.

How is that supposed to make me feel?

I don't see why you, a sociologist who has studied racism for 45 years, would try to insult and belittle a young layman like me.

but still, I see things differently.

I see a history of Europe where Europeans were assaulted and attacked by people of color, (Mongols and ottomans) as well as attacking people of color (crusades)

Where you see a world of 'White domination', I see a world where 'whites' are outnumbered 3 to 1.

We have a different worldview and that is ok.

I think your doom and gloom outlook on the history of whiteness is motivated by today's political agenda.

But I am open to learning, that's why I read your page.

If you just can't handle me, I will leave.

If not, I don't see why we have to be nasty to each other just because we disagree.

Changeseeker said...

I'm not insulting you, Douglass. You insult yourself as a human much more greatly than anything I could say to you--which, as you point out, may have something to do with your age, but I doubt it. In any case, if it is naivete that you are manifesting with such a lavish brush, then you need to study and listen and quit saying the same things over and over and over.

Responses don't touch you because you really aren't seeking knowledge. As I recall, you wrote at one earlier point that you consider yourself to be honing your skills at argumentation. But scholarly pursuit ostensibly is predicated on the premise that one seeks the truth, not to simply appear to have the most facile arguments. I know--you think the truth is relative to what someone (you?) wants it to be. But it isn't and again that may be your age showing, but you get no freebies when you want to spout perspectives that are so calculated to leave us dangerously vulnerable to our own destruction.

At some point, Douglass, answering you becomes a patent waste of time and energy. How you as an individual feel about being told what you are doing instead of validating your perspective as if it were worthy of the kind of consideration you seek isn't germane to me. I want the human race--all of it--to survive. What could we possibly have to discuss until you want that, as well?

douglass ( being reasonable, for once) said...

Changeseeker,

ok.

I completely agree with your analysis of the global economy (the one you put forth in a now deleted thread).

But, as you know, I disagree totally with your synopses of whiteness.

With that in mind, I figure I need to review the situation and pinpoint exactly where I am out of tune/ off key/harbor untenable prejudices out of emotion, etc.

So, could you please tell me what you really think of my half baked understanding of race relations,

specifically; could you tell me where I need to improve?

My email is: kdm25505@bellsouth.net

Best,

Douglass

Changeseeker said...

Does this mean I can delete the incredibly long comment immediately preceeding this last one, Douglass? It's off-putting to some of the other readers who see it as harassment.

In the meantime, my email address appears on my blog profile, but in all fairness, I'm working on a book and preparing a new course for fall, so I need to be spending more time away from this for a while. I can tell you, however, that there are some excellent books out there on the topic, such as White Like Me: Perspectives on Race by a Privileged Son by Tim Wise; Racist America by Joe R. Feagin; White Privilege: Essential Readings on the Other Side of Racism edited by Paula Rothenberg; Overcoming Our Racism: The Journey to Liberation by Derald Wing Sue; and White Men on Race: Power, Privilege, and the Shaping of Cultural Consciousness by Joe Feagin and Eileen O'Brien.

Keep in mind, though, that European-Americans get a lot of daily reinforcement to not see the problem as it is and to "reason it away" even if, by accident, they do see it for a split second. Which then becomes part of the problem. At which point no amount of argumentation will be adequate.

douglass said...

please delete that rambling mess of a comment.

I did have an emotional reaction to your message.

anyway,

You won't see me around here until I have finished some reading.

bye.

Changeseeker said...

We're all on a journey, Douglass--every one of us. I wish you well on yours.

Anonymous said...

Why can't we all be one race: Human??? Believe me, right now, I want to dig up my "anscestors" and beat them to death all over again for what they did to their own fellow human beings. It is WRONG for a person's skin color or nationality to be the deciding point in how a person is treated. We're better then this, folks! We need to get past this color barrior. Yes, it was bad, horrible, wrong, and every other negative you can think of. But it's also past. We can't go back. We have to keep moving forward and not repeat the same mistake. Forget individual Racial Pride. Let's have some pride in the Human Race!!

Changeseeker said...

Anonymous 7:56, I hear you loud and clear. The problem, of course, is that institutionalized oppression in the name of racism is just as bad in this country today as it ever was. It's not as instantaneously visible, true. But it's operating just as effectively. Lynchings still occur, but they are often (now) lynchings of the spirit, wherein people of color and most particularly African-Americans are socialized from birth to perceive themselves as inferior to White people and to behave appropriately. Because this is institutionalized (meaning embedded in the social institutions -- family, education, religion, politics and economics -- in this country), individual White people with a desire to live differently are hard put to change much of anything and actually hard put most of the time to even realize that they're still carrying the virus of White Supremacy in spite of themselves. This is the main reason I write this blog. And this is also why there are nearly 50 comments on this post that was originally written years ago.