A community-oriented art & graphic design collective. We make graphic apparel, hand-crafted accessories and produce events. And most importantly, spew randomness about important and non-important topics.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What's White Gotta do with it?

Okay so I checked my email this morning. and this link: 'we don't need another anti-racism 101' was sent to my by a friend . who is white (keep reading ). So I read it. And it felt like someone had finally put a period at the end of a sentence I've been trying to put together for a while. I used to write a lot. Now...I just sleep-think. My most passionate moments are when I wake up in the morning; I've spent all night reflecting on something, and it finally clicks when I wake up. I haven't been writing as much due to various reasons. So now most of my thoughts on world views are chucked up to individual conversations with a handful of people that I feel comfortable going there with.
I have a lot of strong opinions, but I also am such an emotionally private person that I run far as hell away from discussions about these things. Because I feel so strongly about them that I just chuck these conversations to one on ones discussions with a few people in my life, and for a while now there's basically been one person who I really can go there with.

I've been thinking. Maybe I should try to verbalize more. Maybe I should try to start writing more. I'm struggling, with the whole thing.

All this to say:
I read that post. And if you look at the comments you'll see a typical response from me. From my comment you can't tell anything about me or what I think. That's me, that's what I do. I am so filled with thoughts but I'll say something mundane because I can't go there. But then I started reading all other comments and sitting and thinking, and so I went back and started writing a comment, and it got hella long, so I was like umm Blog post!! and here is my response. It's maybe not really a response more like me  thinking out loud...
Right now in my life about half of my close and intimate friends are white. This is hard. Why? Because these are people that I've shared personal experiences with and have grown to love. But also people who I find myself in lots of conflict with simply based on their skin color and what it perpetuates in society.  I start to question if I should have certain people in my life based on my formal values & their informal actions. i.e. Should I take a firm stand and say "I'm not going to be friends with you anymore because you're a white person that did xyz, or doesn't do abc"? Even though you're a human being that has pretty much the same formal values as I do. I mean I can't divorce my family (biological & acquired) members because of values & beliefs, actions that differ from mine, so should I do this to some simply because they are white?

I guess I could... it's my choice.

I'm in a group of 'artists' where I'm one other person of color. I am constantly struggling with my role in the group, how much time/energy/soul I should put into resolving conflicts or highlighting certain issues? I've gotten the blame feedback sometimes that I don't bring issues up; and I should try to be more vocal about issues that I observe. As if it were my sole responsibility to realize that certain actions are 'racist' (this being a general term)and try to redeem people from these actions.


Okay I've brought it up. It's said. It gets discussed. Nothing gets done about it. It happens again and again.

Is it my place to be the secretary and timekeeper for a bunch of white people who obviously really don't care in the first place? Should keep harping on how I'm being wronged? "C'mon guys remember we talked about this! C'mon guys what are we gonna do about you all carrying out racists behaviors & situation? C'mon guys let's do something, remember we had that three-hour long meeting about it?"

I think the thing I have the hardest time with is. I tell this white person my  problem. They don't ask me how they can help me. Maybe I tell them. But they ignore it, and they come up with a grand plan of how THEY think my problem should be solved, or what they think I need to get or do to solve my problem. But when it comes down to getting grimey and following through with what I need and what I decide and how I see it needs to get done. Instead we get wrapped up in rhetoric and I forget what the fuck it was I was talking about in the first place. That's the shit that drives me crazy.

I am tired of being the token black person whom the white man employs to make themselves feel better about how 'anti-racist' they are. There has to be a better way.

no pictures.

just ramble,


confanity said...

Sorry; I'm a random stranger but here're my thoughts.

I think it would be destructive of you to let perceived racial roles dictate anything in your life, especially what friendships you maintain. If you cut someone out of your life because they act like an ass, that's one thing. But if you do it because they're white, then that's just petty racism. You can blame "white culture," but that's just an excuse that is itself racist. It's just the same as a white person deciding to start shunning a black friend on account of how they disapprove of the violent side of hip-hop culture. I have to say, if you're seriously considering dumping your supposed friends purely on the basis of their skin color, then they'd probably be better off without you. 8^(

I'm not sure exactly what problem you're outlining with your art group. As a minority, you tend to be asked "Is this racist?" even if you're not inclined to hold forth on the topic? Anyway, unless you were only invited into the group as a racism consultant, you don't need to feel like you're being tokenized. I'm guessing from vague data here, but what it sounds like is that these people really want to do the right thing. But people like 'guerilla mama' have pounded it into their skulls that whitey, no matter how good his intentions, is always automatically racist. Minority culture teaches American whites that they are incapable of not being racist on their own, so of course they defer to you. And in any field, whether it be race relations or girls studying math, etc., it's been shown time and time again that learned helplessnes is the biggest block to actual progress.

I speak with some authority here: I look white, yes, but I'm Jewish and I indulge in certain cultural signifiers. It's hard to find a good balance between educating, fighting, and just plain being equal. But in my opinion, "just plain being equal" is the best. If you have friends, treat them as friends. Duh. If a white friend says or does something you don't like, react with the same feeling (in a different way, maybe, depending on context, but with the same intent) as you would to a black or Latin or asian friend who had similarly given offense.

Educating people, in accordance, is most effective when done in a purely factual manner. Above, you say that you tell people what to do, and they don't do it... but then you also say that when you talk to other people about your issues, and they tell you what to do, it bothers you. Irony, much? People naturally react poorly when told what to do. So if possible, education is most effective when you say "X is a problem because Y," and leave people to their own devices. They may ask for advice, in which case giving it is fine, but it may still be best to keep it general: "Z is an effective way to avoid the problem," for example, or "My friend Bob does W and that seems good for him."

Hope my thoughts are thought-provoking, if nothing else.

chichi said...

@confanity, think of it this way: You have a friend who accidentally steps on you, you let it slide the first few time it occurs and then one day you point it out. Said friend apologizes and promises to not do it again.

All is well and good and then said friend steps on you again... "Oh, I'm so sorry, I didn't meant to that!"

And this continues to happen, not in succession but at random times. At some point, one would start to wonder if this friend's apologies are actually genuine.

I really do think it's a cultural sensitivity difference. The perpetuator no matter how seemingly innocuos never fully understands the pain being inflicted on the wounded party. I use the word pain for lack of a better word.

@one3snapshot. Just don't be around them as much for the sake of your sanity.

One3snapshot! said...

@ confanity. This post would have been too long and probably needed. It's a reaction post to the anti-racism 101 post by Ma. Yes a lot of things were vague due to me trying to be succinct while writing from an emotive place. First of I do question if I should have certain white people in my life if they claim they are 'anti-racist' and yet still continually live lifestyles that implicitly (sometimes explicitly) counteract that notion. My question to myself is related to the feeling that I should start holding myself more accountable to in order to actually make the changes I want to see.

For me right now that also means NOT spending my time trying to get the white man to change but instead focusing on developing and strengthening relationships with people of color.

I wouldn't be dumping friends just because of their skin color but because they are continually doing.

Maybe I'm racist, whatever that means. I do know that these feelings come more so from my close interactions and relationships with white people. It did not come PRECONCEIVED... which is less than I can say for a lot of my white friends who only have me as their friend of color.

I think that you skewed the point guerillamama made, at least how I interpreted it from my own experiences. The cultural difference between theory and action. wp tend to spend more time on rhetoric and complicating thoughts than actually simply doing.

what i said still stands in the end. if someone wants to help. they should ask HOW they can help and not argue with me about what is best for me. simple as that.

p.s. your statement of speaking with authority is part of the issue we're talking about. what is the relevance of authority in your response to me? how did you decide that you had authority on this topic?

Okaey said...

@One3snapshot - context, that is what is at trial here.

It reads like you are conflicted because your friends continue to offend even after promising to change. [Well, change takes time BUT not forever]

It reads also as if you are conflicted that the offenses in question are with regards to race relations AND that these 'friends' are a different race than you. [This begs the question about your friends of "same" race as you who offend you or offend mutual friends of yours (even with regards to race), if any at all. If NONE, is it because you have not considered or paid attention OR would it be because you have ignored or not cared when offenses are not against your race? - am just saying...]

Sanity is over-played. What you really want is peace beyond all understanding. Understanding then is enabled by the peace. PEACE OUT!

Anonymous said...

There are only 2 kinds of people. True Christians and not true Christians. If you are of the flesh and fallen why would you expect anything but conflict and divisiveness in your life. Walk in Love and be obedient to God. eh eh eh! Try it first. Contempt prior to investigation is not a virtue just a willingness to remain in the dark.