Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Dear Seattle this is why we can't have nice things.

This is a perfect example of why matters of race are not going to get better in this country.

First go read this article by Mr. Charles Mudede about a situation at his daughter's school. That is a whole other entry so what I want to focus on are a few other things.

Go ahead read I'll wait.

Now Seattle likes to think it's a Liberal wonderland where oh hay we're not racists but as comments on that post will show um, yeah lots of racism.

Let me quote the first comment"
really? i think you are the only one turning it into a race thing.
you are teaching your daughter intolerance by making a huge deal out of this.
so what a chinese girl was carrying a blonde doll? it seems YOU are the only one that is making a racial issue of this.
maybe your the one with issues here. racism is racism no matter what color its coming from and you are definitly coming off as racist.

If in fact one is not a racist, and would actively want to ensure that a situation is not in fact a racist situation, this is not the right approach to this conversation.

This is absolutely the reason why as I have often said, "shut up and listen".

As a person of color, there is nothing that pisses me off or makes me believe that yes, you're a racist faster than instant denials of any race based fuckery.

As these things go let's get a few things straight right off.

The absolute wrong way to approach a conversation about race is to start off with a defensive posture in order to protect the image of your brethren.

That is to say, steam rolling into OMG NOT RACIST is not okay.

It's not okay because after that what kind of conversation is to be had? What indication is there in an immediate denial of an experience that when I'm talking to you, you're going to listen to a word I say?

This is reason #1 why I often hate talking about race to self identified liberals who will run screaming that they aren't racists but five minutes later will say something like this. This is my experience in Seattle.

Now I'm going to take this out of a big sphere and bring it to just you and me.

Yes let's make it more intimate shall we?

I will say that you can refer to this as a primer for Race Discussions.

First rule of fightclub race discussion is even if you are really pissed off do not, I repeat do not lead out with anything including the words or sentiment "NOT RACIST".

Don't.

Second rule, most likely unless it's something you said personally it's not about you personally so there is no need to take it as an insult. I know that's really difficult and often when other people who are like you are being called out on their shit, it can sting. Stay with it. Take a deep breath, repeat to yourself "I did not do it."

Third rule. Bear in mind that if you are speaking to a person of color, their experience of things is going to be radically different than yours if you are not a person of color. This, is (yeah I'm saying it) privilege. Nobody is mad at you for having whatever privilege, but it is important to understand that your privilege can and does give you an entirely different view.

Fourth rule. Realize that if someone has just experienced something they perceived as racist they are probably going to be upset. They might be really pissed off, they might want to cry, they might be really fucking terrified. As with many situations in life, do not try and downplay things because you will probably end up pissing that person off more or if they are a friend hurting them badly.

Because that does hurt.

One thing I will tell you is that for me personally (this comes from a large majority of my friends during my life being White people) a dealbreaker in a friendship is this kind of thing.

Imagine if you will.

I was in my early 20's and had gone to a job interview in my one nice conservative suit. I looked like every other young office person and I went into a store to buy a soda and something to snack on. I was the only person in the store and I stood at the counter waiting, then the owner turned to me and asked if I had cash, I figured that maybe their debit card thingy wasn't working and said I did. The cashier rang up my items then held them and demanded to see and count my cash, then checked my bills, then insisted that "you people" never have the right amounts blablabla.

I was so appalled I wasn't sure what to do. The owner got angry and loud, told me that I could never come in there again because he did not want to deal with "your kind" anymore and that if I didn't leave immediately or if I hung around he was going to call the police.

I told a friend of mine about it and her immediate response was all about how it couldn't have been race, that I was over reacting etc.

That hurt me deeply and I didn't talk about it with her anymore. Not long after that, I was in the area again and was waiting for a bus where apparently this guy could see me and he called security for the building. The guard came out and took one look at me and told me that man was a racist and anytime someone not white was near the bus stop he called security.

I don't care that I was right about this man being a racist, what I care about is the fact that my friend was so quick to question my experience. To assume that since she'd never experienced that it didn't happen.

That hurts.

Now to bring this back to being in Seattle.

One of the things I absolutely hate about living here is how prevalent and constant it is when a person of color says anything that indicates a racial issue, so many people have this instant negative reaction because Seattle is supposedly so Liberal and open minded.

It boggles my mind.

It's not just the situation with Mr. Mudede, I saw it when there was footage of a cop beating the fuck out of a girl (a teenage girl) in a jail cell, when a Latino man was beaten by police, I've seen it constantly.

And this is why on a national cultural level we are absolutely not post race because there is a Black man in the whitehouse.

Until by and large we can not instantly deny that something racist or racist flavored has occurred, we can't discuss it and we can't get to the bottom of it.

Frankly, in this particular instance I am angry. I'm angry at the fucking people in this city (many of whom use anon internets toughguy tactics) for being such fucking douchebags.

I am angry at the people in the comments trying to shame Mr. Mudede about his family's choice of hair products.

I am angry that the school district isn't being more firm.

And I am MOST angry because I could have been that little girl and I feel that deeply. I feel it because I spent a lot of my formative years being the only brown child in a class or one of maybe two and it really can fucking suck.

So I will leave you with this, please. PLEASE, if shit is going to get done learn how to listen. Learn how not to be the savior of the reputation of people with skin the same color as yours because it's not going to work and it's not going to fix anything.

Please understand that even if something proves not to be an issue of race, it is extremely important to have the dialogue in a way that makes it so that conclusion can be found.

And my biggest rule of all, Don't be a Dick be a Richard.

The above is my wee attempt at a little humor because if I don't laugh, I will cry.

Homo Out.


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4 comments:

beatfreak said...

And the worst part about that attitude is that for a lot of POCs when incidents like the above happen, we will question ourselves over it. I know for me there are times when I try not to believe that race is the issue. So it's a no win situation, because if we don't speak up then so-called liberals will say things like "Why didn't you say anything?"

I'm with you though. When I see someone I know say stuff like that, I trust that person a little less. I know they won't be the person I go to when something hurtful is going on with me.

Regina said...

Thank you for this reminder. I suppose MAYBE the friend you told this matter to thought she was doing you a favor or making you feel better by saying "Nuh uh", but that kind of denial can contribute too, ya know? In fact, it's the first rule of power mongering....deny. I absolutely HATE that type of argument because it negates the experiences of others AND creates doubt, insecurity, and second guessing. It's pure bullshit. Everyone's experiences and feelings are valid!
Being a white, cis-gendered female who "likes" to think of herself as in touch with her privilege and the unfair treatment of others, I can honestly say that I fall short time and time again. Being raised by southern parents and living in the conservative midwest most of my life DOES have an influence on my thinking. It will take the rest of my life to "undo" those influences, but I believe it's worth it and valuable to advancing the humanity of mankind. Even when I'm seen as a shrew, uptight, radical, drama queen, etc....I still think the fight is worth fighting to wipe out the fucked up thinking that unquestionably influences decision making in all areas.
Seattle has a long way to go in changing that mindset. The only difference between living here and living in the midwest is that Seattlelites often don't say racist shit out loud. They still think it, though...as evidenced by the disparities in the workplace, schools, and government. Time for the blinders to come off.

lilacsigil said...

I see a lot of people saying "But maybe the girl's hair product made the teacher ill." Maybe it did - lots of people are sensitive to smell, and I'm one of them. It is a genuine disability, but the way to deal with it is not "single out the one black kid and throw her out of the classroom". There's a whole shitload of privilege in play right there, and calling "ableism" doesn't take away from who, exactly, had the privilege in that situation.

witchyvixen said...

This makes me want to cry. I'm sniffling right now. This is so not about me but it still hurts my feelings. How can anyone say that any of this has nothing to do with race? And how the FUCK does sticking your fingers in your ears and hollering, "la la la!!! Didn't happen!!! La la la!!!" Make anything better?

With regards to the haircare thing, even if we insist on taking the race thing out of it how can a person we entrust our children with be allowed to embarrass ANY child in front of her/his peers? I would rather have passed out every day of my life rather than hurt a child's feelings. What kind of selfish monster is this woman?

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