Friday, August 06, 2004

Am I Racist Because...?

I get these thoughts, sometimes, that make me wonder if I’m racist. I grew up in an ultra conservative town just north of the Ohio River. Although it was the first free stop on its Underground Railroad route, I’ve always known the city to be heavily segregated and racially unfriendly.

You might recall my rant a couple of posts ago, where I detailed some of my dissatisfaction with this town. But now I wonder the degree to which the lifestyle of my hometown citizens has affected me in a negative way. Both my elementary and high school experiences were very segregated. And I cannot recall a single event that I went to as a teenager where there was a mixture of ethnicities. Funny thing is…I actually liked it that way.

Since coming home a few years ago, I’ve worked primarily in organizations that I call “lily White,” meaning Blacks and other minorities are few and far between, and nobody seems to see the value in changing the dynamics. When you work for these kinds of places, you can’t help feeling like a token. In my experience, assertiveness, confidence and other traits that would normally be assets in the business world don’t seem to work for Black folks. I’ve literally had Whites in upper management say things to me like, “You’re very assertive and you walk very proud. You might want to tone that down if you want to make it in corporate America.” I wonder if this person would have said this to me if I had been a young White woman. Does that make me racist?

And sometimes I wonder how a White person would feel having to entertain questions like, “Do you know of any minority vendors we can do business with? We made our quota last year, but we’re in danger of not hitting our target this year.” How would it make them feel if they were a minority, and knew the only reason their company wanted to do business with a minority vendor, or seek out a minority vendor in the first place, was to meet a quota to ensure some kind of financial incentive? And how would they feel having to refer a personal contact under that premise?

Am I racist if I’ve grown to expect White people to respond to me adversely, or if I expect them to have such a profound lack of understanding of Black culture that they lump me into unfair stereotypes that I’ve had nothing to do with?

Or am I racist because I’ve always said that I would never date a White man? I don’t really care what other people do, but I won’t date them because I cannot get over the fact that I see them as the sons of former slave masters who once enjoyed a sense of entitlement to Black women—raping them as if dignity and self-worth were attributes they didn’t have. Am I racist if I feel that way?

Am I racist because I don’t feel the ache in my heart around the issue of the Holocaust as profoundly as I feel the ache for former slaves? It’s not that I can’t understand the disgusting nature and horrific magnitude of what Jewish people had to face. But when I compare it to slavery, we’ve lost so many more lives and endured hundreds of years of suffering. And nobody really seems to give a damn. Slavery seems to be something White society just want us to “get over” and “move on” from. How would they feel if Blacks said the same about the Holocaust? Funny thing is, we never would because we know what it’s like to be the victims of ignorant treachery. We know what it’s like to suffer. And we still feel the fallout of slavery even today. At least Jewish people were able to maintain their history. We have none. Ours was lost, and can never be fully recovered.

Am I racist because I resent companies that don’t close for Martin Luther King Day, yet quote him endlessly during Black history month in the midst of marketing ploys?

Am I racist because I resent Britney Spears’ popularity considering all she is, is a shameless copycat of Janet Jackson. And I’m sick of White people biting our style?

Or am I racist for feeling that the main reason White people love Barak Obama so much is because his mom is White and he was raised by White grandparents? These seem to be the first facts that the media uses to describe his merits as a politician and presidential hopeful.

I’m sure that, at some point, I’ll either come to grips with my unanswered questions or gain the insight I need. Until then, your thoughts are always welcome.

36 Comments:

At 8:04 PM, Blogger Fkitten said...

No you're not racist - just living in America. Only one comment of caution, so many soul folks focus on the holocaust and comparisons to slavery. Europeans created anti-semitism and racism, if jews are good at promoting their suffering well good for them. Let's focus on making sure we know our history.

People suffer on this planet every day whether it's Rwanda, Sudan,Yugoslavia or Cambodia it's their history and they have a right to remember them how they choose - hopefully actually.

Listen to this NPR program on Retracing Freedom Summer - a Black 37 yo teacher is learning about the Freedom Riders for the first time.
How do we learn to remember.

Best Wishes


http://www.npr.org/display_pages/features/feature_3821251.html?place=home03

 
At 12:45 PM, Blogger Rod said...

Now I know why you call this website “I Ain't Scared to Say It”. You can't be racist. I feel the same way you do and I'm married to a white woman, and she feels the same way I do. (I even got her to like eating greens and hot water cornbread). I'm the only black man working for a corporation with 250 employees in California, so allot of what you said hit home for me.

I think you feel the way you do, because you out numbered, out powered, and forgotten. My biggest problem now a days is, most “non-blacks” think that since the 60's all has been forgiven and forgotten and blacks like white people, and white people like blacks. Which is far from the truth. Black people don't trust white people. I personally think the word “nigger” runs through their head every time they see my face. I purposefully do not bring chicken or watermelon to work, because I don't what to lose it again when some white man makes a marginal racist comment ... again. I am offended when I hear, “He speaks so well”. I hate when whites refer to Hip Hop culture as black culture, and are upset that their kids “think they're black”. Every time I see a white man over 60 years old, I automatically think that he is a racist. I know some of these things are personal problems, I have and I am trying to work on them, but how far are they from the truth?

The 60's was only 40 years ago. All the racists who were in the Senate, or CEOs, or governors, or law makers, are now just loosing their power. Now their sons and daughters are running the show. Yes they are more tolerant of the “Negro issue”, but it will take a few more generations for blacks and whites scars to heal from all the major fighting we did over 40 years ago. I have not nearly experienced the racism that may mother and father have, but I have had my share. My kids will get their diminished share too.

 
At 5:08 PM, Blogger Worried Boyfriend said...

hmmm. its a topic thats such a fine line to walk. Its almost a damned if you do, damed if you don't. I don't want to think that racism is still prevelent in our modern, American society. But clearly it is. I also don't want to think that I'm getting hired, or pushed ahead, because I'm black. Then I remember all the children of powerfull white people that I know and call my friends, that are given things all the time because of what their last name is. Its a tough call.

 
At 5:20 PM, Blogger Serenity said...

Naw you aren't racist... You are just speaking the truth. More power to you! Nice to meet another person of color!

 
At 11:15 PM, Blogger River said...

The Britney Spears copying Janet Jackson sure is aload of crap.

Im not racist. But in London alot of black guys sure are idiots.

 
At 7:00 AM, Blogger JustMe said...

To River:

Now River...I'm sure that, even in London, it has to be clear to any intelligent person with eyes that Brittany Spears has about as much originality as a relaunch of The Price is Right. Dream on, Flowing Water...your idol is a copycat! Flat out...no two ways about it. She can dance as long as she has a good choreographer with a lot of patience. Her moves are too robotic to be natural. She just ain't got it! Free yourself from the clutches of corny-ass pop stars! It's not too late. And as far as the comment about Black men in London, I know some of them, so you're going to have to be a bit more specific about why you would say such a thing. None of the ones I know are idiots. This post wasn't about bashing races...but about raising questions...of which that comment answered none. So if you have a legitimate beef that you're willing to support with at least some material, perhaps I could entertain what you're saying. But if all you want to do is bash Black men, you picked the wrong site. Come again...please.

 
At 10:27 AM, Blogger River said...

First of all I dont like Britney Spears or pop music at all. But to say she is a rip off off Janet Jackson is alittle far out :)

And what I meant is. You make a very one sided argument about being painted with the wrong brush etc, and getting black steretypes. Well the reason for that is because 75% of black men play up to that stereotype. They talk the talk, and since the re-emergence of hip hop and artists like 50 cent this has only gotten worse. Now of course there are just as many punk ass white kids, but no one complains when we are called crack heads or junkies because of that. And futhermore in London racism isnt as bad as people like to make out, yes racism is terrible against muslim people etc but against black people its almost non-existant. It would completely go away if black people would stop crying about it.

 
At 12:03 PM, Blogger JustMe said...

River, River, River...I can see that you are a bit "touched" as we say. I'm not going to bother on the Janet/Brittany topic, because of all the points this post made, that was the one that was meant more for comic relief than anything else.

But since you say that 75% of Black men live up to the stereotypes...I cannot let you off the hook. Now, what if I said something like "At least 75% of the White people of the world are evil, warmongering, genocide promoting terrorists who plague the world with violence driven by an insatiable quest to conquer the world." Would that be fair? Absolutely not! Yet history shows that Whites, as societal bodies, fit the mold quite nicely.

The difference with regard to stereotypes is that those that were imposed on Black people were driven by ignorance from White people. Some Whites are notorious for their lack of interest in understanding our people. They never have, and as long as there are people like you, they never will. We were never given the luxury to impose stereotypes on you. We didn't own the media. Whites on the other hand did, and they put out an insane amount of fuckery to eliminate any chance that we would feel self worth. And they also did it to convince people like you that there was something better about the way you speak, act, dance and conduct yourselves in general.

Who gave White people the right to decide what is culturally and socially acceptable worldwide? Who said they could set the standard for everybody else?

Contrary to your point, racism won't go away when Black people stop talking about it. All the lack of conversation does is allow White people like you to remain in your bubbles of perfection as if, historially, you all haven't been the leaders of worldwide bullshit whether we're talking about slavery, the Holocaust or any of the rest of the suffering that's dominating the headlines.

Well, Flowing Water Child, we are going to keep talking about the subject as long as we feel like it--regardless of whether people like you are sick of hearing it. Perhaps what you should do is listen for a change. You might learn something about yourself and how to live with, and not above, the rest of the world.

 
At 2:30 PM, Blogger River said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 4:34 PM, Blogger River said...

Can I ask why you removed the post? Couldnt answer?

 
At 4:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

River's Post: Deleted by accident. Blogger says they don't have a fix for this problem yet. But since River is concerned, here it is...

RIver Speaks:
Well that was a waste of your time. Considering i was talking about 'young' black men from 'London'. I can tell you now that what I just said about them is true. It dosent bother me in the slightest. But thats what bothers some people. And in London racism between white and black people is on an equal level. It isnt as big a deal as people would have you believe. Infact these said black people have given alot of racism my way, but hey for some reason a blackman cant be racist. Im pretty sure your right when talking about America, but dont tell me what its like in London when i have lived here all my life and seen it all before.

Now I do know some black people that are not like that, they have never told me anything about having a hard time with racists, like I said its old, its not like its made out.

Also your point about black people getting it unfair in job promotions etc is also bull in regards to the UK. Infact its much the opposite, Ive seen it happen that a black man will get the job over the white person just to keep a mix or to not appear racist. The way I see it black people want special treatment and then still moan about it when they get it. Its a 2 sided sword, racism is coming both ways, if a black person wants to find racism they will. So stop looking and stop giving and maybe it will go away.

Finally the 'why arent children being taught about black history' in schools is beyond me. In the little history that is in curriculum there is some black history. Black people want a full dedicated subject for it, thats rediculous. How much history is learnt in school? Such a small amount.

 
At 4:50 PM, Blogger JustMe said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 4:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think racism is similar to tribalism and will never go away.

I honestly believe if the native Americans or Asians possessed guns and cannons - they would have done the colonializing. It's about power not about skin color. It's about the man with the gun in his hand. The man with the gun takes the gold.

The Europeans weren't inherently evil, they just possessed too much military power in proportion to the rest of the world in the 16, 17, and 18th centuries. Power and wealth corrupts.

We never hear about the massacres in China by Chairman Mao or the massacres in the USSR by Josef Stalin. These were massacres in which millions of people died. 11 million Ukranians starved to death in the 1930s.

Our media seems to thrive on keeping our people at odds with each other. Laci Peterson, OJ SImpson - forget the real problems. Let's take some raw trash and put it on the airwaves.

I think slavery is a unique event. The politically correct press won't talk about slavery that still exists in the world today in places like the Middle East.

Personally, I think African Americans have the most legitimate beef with the system. This idea that the U.S. is to blame for all the worlds problems has go to go however.

I think most people are getting tired of every group imaginable jumping on the bandwagon in terms of trying to gain minority status.

If a caucasian goes to China are they going to get any preferential treatment? If a caucasian goes to Mexico are they going to get any special treatment?

Is the fact that Mexico can't get their legendary corruption under control our obligation? They have oil. They have land. There's no reason for Mexico to be a third world country. Easier to blame old gringo than take a hard cold look at your own society.

I don't see Japan worried about diversity (99% Japanese) - and also the media says nothing about it. The only countries under pressure to diversify are white European countries. No one says anything about this.

Here's a hypothetical example:

If Japan were to suddenly start importing a huge amount of caucasians what would happen? If 40 years went by and Japan was 50% white - but they still had the same language, buildings, and history - would they still be Japan? Would it be the same nation or a husk of the old nation?

A nation is more than just a piece of paper and an arbitrarily drawn border. Is it wrong for France to want to be primarily French and not look like downtown Bhagdad?

Racism is wrong - but you can't automatically infere from that the nation-states lose their right to retain their nationality, culture, and traditions.

White people in general have become homogenized into a generic culture. It seems the only groups that maintain a good sense of their heritage is the minority groups. To me, this seems a great source of strength - belonging to something larger than yourself.

White people have this generic "Irish Spring, Coca Cola, Britney Spears" media culture. Most caucasians have lost their roots and and couldn't trace their family 3 generations back.

The debacle of WW II has led to a 50 year guilt complex for all Western nations where instead of nationalism we have reverse nationalism. Europe went from controlling the majority to the Earth's land mass to being unable to even set a workable immigration policy.

The U.S. needs to clean up it's own mess in terms of racism - particularly in regards to slavery. This apologizing to everybody that gets off the boat however - needs to go.

Why should someone who just got off the boat get preferential treatment to my or your kinds in college admission?

Tribalism won't go away. A media indoctrination won't make people stop prefering their own families, their own communities, and their own kind. The only thing we can legislate is the prevention of wrong actions. We can't legislate morality.

I think people need to stop apologizing. The apologizing and groveling only compounds the problem.

Many caucasians weren't even in this country during the time of slavery. Apologizing for someone else's dead ancestors doesn't solve anything.

The great weakness of our country is our enslavement to the almighty dollar. We'll send jobs out to India for a penny an hour before we worry about educating anybody's kids - no matter what the color.

That's my rant.

 
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At 6:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe you’re disappointed in your race more than you are a raciest.
American Indians didn’t become slaves, even after being tortured and killed.
I think that’s what bothers most African Americans.
Hell you can’t even call your selves Americans.
Having a title like that just separates you even more.
And slavery started in Africa, we just took advantage of it like everyone else in the world did.

 
At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has it ever crossed your mind that everyone is to some degree racist? People tend to segregate themselves without any intervention or coersion. People tend to distrust and dislike cultures unlike their own. People tend to advance their own interests in lieu of what's "right". Have you considered that racism may be, in part, biological? That we have some vestigial psychological appendage that slants us towards people who look like us and act like us. It's called the tribal mentality. We are all guilty of it. Fathers want their daughters to breed with a man much like themselves. It's not only racial but cultural. I've got news for the liberal media, the only way to combat racism is to deny its existence and stop fanning the flames. I suppose I'd be considered racist by the extreme left. I don't dislike black people because of their skin color, that's insane. Would you really like to know what most white people are thinking? I mean really? I'll answer that age old mystery for you right here. We are thinking that if we are going to be robbed, raped, or killed that it will probably be by a black guy. Just check the FBI crime statistics database. 80% of the viloent crime in this country is perpetrated by 13% of the population (black people). Now we can go on all night about the reasons why but that's another story. We are thinking that if our daughters date a black guy that her chances of getting pregnant and left alone with no support are increased by a factor of 20. (Check the statistics) We are wondering what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. did for us and why our street name got changed on his behalf. We are wondering why we have become devils after granting black people the freedom they yearned for. Yes, that's right, I said it. The majority still makes the decisions in this country. We wonder why we are shown to be blithering idiots in the media. I wasn't born a racist. I aquired the taste from personal experience.

Angry White Male

 
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At 10:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes you are a racist. It's OK, I am too.

Angry White Man, agreed with your post, especially the last part. I wasn't born racist, I wasn't raised a racist, my lifes observations made me this way.

 
At 4:10 PM, Anonymous GrowingUpWhite said...

Sigh. It bothers me so much when I do it.. When I see a black man. I don't see a man, I see a Black man... Why? Because I was taught that black people are, in most all cases, ignorant, unskilled, and lazy. There is the occasional exception, of course.

Is this accurate? Of course not. The color of one's skin does not qualify them in any way, any more than one's height, age, weight, and such. Have you ever said "Ah, she is only 5'1. She must be stupid."? Of course not... And doing the same with a persons skin is just as ignorant.

But here is the sticker. I KNOW that my racism is unfounded, but I still do it. Any ideas why?

 
At 9:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want you all to know I am not a racist. For all you who think white are evil because of slavery you need to remember all the men and yes women who fought and died to STOP slavery. Just something to think about with all your hate.

 
At 7:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I object to being lumped in the same group as the george bushes and tony blairs of this world just because I'm white and middle class just as much as black people do with their stereotypes. I'm a good person and I like people (most of them). The world is full of idiots, but as far as I can tell no matter how you divide people up - race, religion, sex, money - there's the same proportion of idiots.

Whilst group psychology is something innate within us which means we prefer to socialise with our own kind and find it harder to mix with others, those boundaries change constantly depending on the context we're in and are becoming increasingly meaningless. Do I want black people to forget about slavery? No, but why should I be judged for something just because I'm white. As far as I know, there were no slave traders in my family.

I'm from england and I don't think we're as divided as you describe american culture to be, but I've made friends with a lot of different people in my life so far and race doesn't have to be an issue.

 
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At 12:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel just like you. Yes they deserve to die and i hope they burn in hell. lol.

 
At 12:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel just like you. Yes they deserve to die and i hope they burn in hell. lol.

 
At 9:23 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Wishy Wash, just make up your mind and stick to it. Stop being luke warm.

 
At 7:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like I'm a little late but here's my two cents... Why is Britney Spears like Janet Jackson? There are tons of other white AND black artists to compare. You're basing your idea of racism on something other than class. Read this...http://www.slate.com/id/2104994/ it's written by a black business professional, a lawyer. AND it's a woman, married to a white man with 2 biracial children. Oh, the horror! Get some class and then you can come back into my neighborhood.

 
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