Clueless White Woman

June 24, 2008

It’s hard to be a racist

Filed under: cluelessness,personal perspective,racism — by clueless @ 7:07 pm
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Carmen Van Kerckhove wrote a piece for CNN called The fallacy of colorblind post-raciality, discussing why about seventy percent of respondents in a recent poll said they did not have “some feelings of racial prejudice.”

The thing I hate about the term racism is that it is so blunt. Either you are racist — with the connotation of “sheet-wearing psycho” — or not. Somebody who’s got preconceived notions (which are normal and expected) that pop into their head when they see a person who’s different in some way fall into a murky middle ground that is badly defined, sensitive, and defensive. I don’t like being lumped into a group which includes raging bigots. Who would? (I mean, besides raging bigots who are publicly proud of their bigotry, but they are fucking nuts.)

I can’t say, “I’m a racist” — and I mean I would find it physically difficult to say, because it just feels untrue based on what I have been taught about what racism is. (See? I even have biases about racists. This is getting into some serious complicated thought.) I have a hard time just admitting I have prejudices and biases; I am always quick to follow it up with explaining that I may have them, but regardless I strive to ignore those preconceptions and treat everyone equally. I can’t be colorblind, true. Physical appearance, even cultural symbols (e.g. a crucifix, or a hijab, or a Magen David) are all obvious, visual indicators of “affiliation” and things will pop into my head when I see them. But I have a desperate instinct to protest against them and justify my biasedness (biasity? biasness? uh, racism?)… I know they are part of me, but I really do not WANT them. They are annoying and get in the way and are so fucking stupid and pig-ignorant… But, being grateful I’m not the crazy sheet-wearing neo-Confederate crazy person isn’t a free pass to completely ignore my own problems.

Maybe I’ll clean the brain out someday. In the meantime, *sigh* I’m a racist, but I’m of the clueless variety, and I’m trying.

On a lighter note… I’ve got racial biases, but I hate Don Imus 🙂 I somehow don’t think he bothers with much self-examination on the race question, but prefers to wonder why those uppity minorities are always complaining about nothing. And I think I’m clueless.

June 16, 2008

No racism anymore?

I found There’s no racism anymore, by Tami Winfrey Harris, extremely interesting. (Not only because I always find Tami’s writing interesting!)

…that’s what my stepson said to me last week when I told him about my new gig at Anti-Racist Parent: “There’s no racism anymore.” I was dumbfounded. Has he not heard his dad and I discussing the race bias in the 2008 presidential race? Did he not spend most of his life in Chicago (one of the most segregated cities I have ever seen) where young black men face profiling by citizens, shopkeepers and police officers? Is he not one of just a few children of color in his school… nuff said?

I offered my son a few examples of ways that racism most definitely does exist, including the fact that one of his teachers, though she grades him fairly, seems to treat him differently due to race. “Well, yeah, there’s that stuff,” he retorted. “But not real racism.”

I get where Tami’s stepson is coming from. In many ways we are a much more equal society than we were forty years ago, probably even twenty years ago. It’s very hard to find segregation or blatant racism, and that’s a good thing. But little things, subtle things, are still everywhere. The lack of “obvious” bigotry means that minor bias or prejudice is dismissed.

It’s hard to speak up about those “little things” — what average person wants to be called a racist? What average person wants to point a finger and call another average person that? It has become a charged word, and causes a defensive, even angry response in the accused. Nobody wants to be THAT GUY. However, the endemic nature of biases and prejudices still need to be examined and addressed somehow. If we don’t, then we’re all clueless.

It is interesting that this isn’t just a “white” thing, though. Partly because I get to feel a little guilty relief — I’m not clueless because I’m white, I’m clueless because I’m not observant or looking with a sufficiently critical eye. But also, I am quietly optimistic that maybe the younger generation will continue eradicating biases and prejudices until we really do have an equitable society. I’m going to continue reading Anti-Racist Parent in the hopes of finding strategies to raise my own (white) children to be anti-racist, the same as I will now strive to be 🙂

June 13, 2008

Who the hell am I and why am I writing this?

Filed under: cluelessness,personal perspective — by clueless @ 5:10 pm
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Perhaps you can tell from my name: I’m clueless. I know that now. I figured if I never saw it, it must not be happening. Not really bothered by the clear anger of feminists or minorities, but a little surprised — I mean, I’M nice, so white people must be nice. MY spouse is nice, so white men must be nice. I encountered sexism, but figured it was just a bit of noise on the horizon, nothing serious.

But really, that’s not true. My personal experience does not define reality, it only defines me.

I would like to publicly admit that I am clueless.

But I hope that does not make me irredeemable. I want to get a clue. I want to learn. I want to hear what is really going on, and add my voice to those others who say this bad thing is not ok.

I have a feeling this process is going to be incredibly hard to do without being defensive. I apologize in advance for any missteps I make in this, because I really do not understand yet. And this is a real apology. Not, “I’m sorry if you’re offended by my self-justification” — instead, “I’m sorry that my statements or opinions hurt you.” I just ask that you tell me why and advise me how to do better.

I have found it easy to slip into self-identifying as a feminist. It’s simple because I’m a woman and I want to be treated with respect, ergo, woman’s rights are automatically important to me. But it took longer to realize that I should stand up for any other discriminated-against group. Their rights may not be something that I need in my life, but letting myself consider them as less important means I give bigots a pass — and that chips away at civil rights for everybody.

I hope that admitting I don’t get it is a first step. And I hope that people will be willing to teach me.

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