Thursday, July 31, 2008

WHAT DO YOU SAY?

I’m not a bad person. No, really I’m not.
I know, and have known, a few black people, but no real close friends.
I would have liked to have been better friends but I was pushed away.
I studied hard in school and work diligently at my job.
I didn’t have a silver spoon in my mouth… or even saw a silver spoon.
I have never witness an act of racism against a black person but have seen some get preferential treatment.
I hear Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton talking about how racist America is and how white people are causing the troubles faced by the black community, but I have never caused, nor have I ever seen any one I know cause one bit of harm or discrimination to a black person.
I think racism is over… at least the kind coming from white people.
In fact I’m getting tired of being called bad, not being allowed to defend myself, while listening to others say hateful things about white people… about me.
I’m losing patients, and I'm not alone.

---

I can’t ignore this person.

I don’t think this person should be ignored.

This is a good, intelligent person.

What would you say to them?

31 comments:

tristanjh said...

I relate to this person on practically every level. I consider myself to be a good person. I don’t pick my friends and those I associate with based on skin color, religious preference, political beliefs or economic status. I did not have a silver spoon in my mouth either. I can’t say that I’ve ever witnessed an act of racism against a black person, but am aware of preferential treatment given in the organizations in which I’ve worked. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, I am tired of being lumped in with those who are called ignorant or uninformed. It does seem terribly unfair to be blamed for the injustices that minorities, particularly the black race, face when I in no way contribute to it.

That being said. It should also be noted that I have never been given the opportunity to be friends with a black person. I’ve never had a black family live in any of the neighborhoods where I have resided, and consequently, have not have an opportunity to invite them to dinner. But if such a family did move in, I’d react as I always do, with a warm welcome, a plate of cookies and an invitation to the next BBQ.

Recently I found myself in a situation that I was very unfamiliar with…being the minority. My son took part in a summer school program at a Title I school. As part of the program, the students, as well as anyone in the community who wanted to participate, had the option of eating lunch in the school cafeteria. My kids thought this was great fun and we went almost every day. This was not just a group of children, but a lot of their parents too. With some of Dalyn’s essays on my mind, I was excited about this new opportunity to reach outside of my white circle. Each day I would pick our table carefully, choosing a new group to sit with as often as possible and always picking non-whites as my table mates. As I said, this went on for six weeks. Now I didn’t just sit down and wait for someone to talk to me. I introduced myself, initiated conversation and tried to make new friends. Only twice in six weeks did any of these people acknowledge my presence or speak back to me. There was no language barrier, because they all spoke perfect English to their children and the other moms around them. They just didn’t want to talk to me. I couldn’t help but ponder what their reaction would have been if the roles had been reversed. Would they have screamed ‘discrimination’ and called me an elitist white snob?

I can’t speak intelligently about the experience of a black person in this country. I wish I knew what it was like to walk a mile in their shoes. Maybe then some of this would make sense to me. I have thought a lot about when Dalyn used the example of a car being egged and a white person assuming it to be random, while a black person would question if it was racially motivated. Ironically, shortly after that essay our house was egged by a couple of neighbors. Their mom dragged them over to apologize and clean it up, but I have never stopped wondering why they targeted our home. Maybe they were just making mischief and our house happened to be the closest target or maybe they don’t like my rules when they play at my house and wanted to get back at me. But I will always wonder if it was personal.

The recent news coverage of the appropriateness of the ‘N’ word as debated on The View also has me totally confused and a little upset. Admittedly, I wasn’t aware of this debate until long after it had started so I may be somewhat ill informed, but the gist of what I read and watched was that it is okay for a black person to use this word, but not a white person. Excuse me? My gut reaction was that it was just another way for the black community to be angry at white people. They use the word, giving the illusion that it is now acceptable and then pounce on any white person who uses it, claiming they have no right and are using it as a racial slur. Can you imagine what the reaction would be if the white race came up with a set of words that only white people can use? I’m sure the blacks would liken that to having to sit in the back of the bus and use separate restrooms.

I can only speak for myself, but I am totally willing to engage in trying to understand all sides of this issue. But I expect the same from opposing sides. Maybe that doesn’t seem fair to some. Clearly there are those who feel they deserve a greater degree of consideration for all of the injustices they have endured. It would be nice if everything were equal, if all situations were totally fair. But I feel like we need to stop questioning if every little detail is totally fair and fight for the greater good. I can’t count the number of times in a week that I choose to be the bigger person. That I apologize when I’ve done nothing wrong. That I choose to overlook behavior that if I acknowledged would cause conflict. I do this for the sake of what is more important…in this case, keeping peace with extended family. So while this issue, joining two races, is clearly much bigger than a family squabble, the principal is still the same. Both sides are going to have to make an effort. Both sides will have to give a little. And just as the white race needs to understand how the blacks have come to be where they are now, the black race needs to do the same. To give the white race a chance and understand that generalizations cannot be made based on a few bad experiences with a few people. Likewise, I don’t look at the black criminal profiled on the news and assume all blacks to be law breaking scum. As difficult as it may be, for reasons I do not understand, I think a lot could be accomplished if the black race chose to give the rest of us the benefit of the doubt.

J.D.S. said...

When do I get to be released from the group of "white" people used as the symbol of past and current racism? That is the real question I think is being asked.

I was a child in Utah, not exactly a culturally diverse state, but I "grew up" on the east coast in New York and Washington, D.C. I interacted with people of all color, creed, religion, and sexual orientation. I went to law school with extremely intelligent and accomplished people from multiple backgrounds. My relative inexperience with different races meant no bad experiences and no reason to believe any difference between us more important than the equivalent of liking different types of music. Racism is over for someone like me, but I am still white.

Lazy, stupid, angry, dishonest, horrible people exist in every class and race of people. The problem is unfairly attributing negative character traits to an individual person because of an unrelated characteristic such as skin color. Most people, like me, are extremely offended by being guilty of racism until proven innocent just because we are white.

It is also frustrating because it appears that there is no end to the blaming of all white people for past, and arguably continuing, wrongs. We all just want to know when we will start getting the benefit of the doubt that we are "good, intelligent" people who have never been and never will be racist.

brohammas said...

no actually the question is "how do I respond to a person who feels this way".
Do I understand that both of your answers is "I agree"?

tristanjh said...

Sorry...I guess I misunderstood what you were asking for.

I do agree with this person to a large degree. Undoubtedly there are white people who are racist, so his claim that racism is over, at least by white people, is not completely correct. But are white people as a whole racist to the degree that you have suggested in your previous essays? I don't think so. Is the black community keeping racism alive? In my opinion, yes, but as stated earlier, I haven't walked a mile in their shoes and can't claim to understand all that they have been through and continue to go through. But from where I am sitting, there definitely appears to be a double standard.

I think what this person is asking of you, Dalyn, is the same thing that I am asking of you and the very thing that you seem to ask of your white readers. To step back from the situation in which you find yourself enough that you can acknowledge the other side. No one is claiming that this is an easy task. You clearly have close friends and family who have expericed racism and it angers you. And in fairness to you, you have raised a lot of awareness and given us a lot of food for thought. I would like to think that I am a better, more informed person for having been a part of this blog, despite having been 'sheltered' and perhaps even 'ignorant' at times because of my lack of experience with such issues.

Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see what would happen if you devoted an essay to how the black community can better understand the white perspective. This is a two way street after all. And I think your friend is looking for a little validation that he is not the enemy. That he is not actively or inactively contributing to the problem. So in my opinion, respond with compassion, understanding and an open mind.

Claudia said...

In defense of previous responders, I don't think they are saying "I agree". I think they are giving you the reasons they feel the way they do, and giving you a face and an experience base to respond to. Your question was "what should I say?". The only thing you can honestly say is what you feel. So, how will you respond to them? How will you validate their experiences and still make your point?

Tiash said...

WOW!! Is the only word that comes out of my mouth.
Are you guys really serious?

It's weird to hear white people say they have been lumped into a category with ALL other white people and being blamed for things they did not do. Black people in America are a victim of racial profiling every day of our lives.
Racial Profiling is begin lumped into a category based on race, right? I am sure you all have heard of this.

To the comment about blacks getting preferential treatment at your place of work. I would like to know how many black people actually work there compared to the number of white people. Black people are denied for career opportunities more often than not when their is an equally or less competent white person up for the job.

I worked hard to make sure my children have the best out of life. In doing so I moved into an area where the schools are some of the top in my state and the neighborhoods are predominantly white.
I know racism is alive when I take my children to get ice cream and one of the little white boy standing with their mothers behind us whispers to his friend, "their black and I'm scared". The worst part was that the mother never said anything to the children about there not being a reason to be afraid. Should I have explained to them at that moment that all black people arent bad and that my children are no different from them? No! That is something that should be taught by their parents.

Now, instead of a nice family outing where my children are happy and enjoying their ice cream. I have to try to console them and explain what just happened. If racism was not still alive I would not have to so this.


Dalyn, I would ask your friend to ask five of his white friends have they ever experienced racism against blacks or have they ever taken part in any.
My guess is that all of them would say no. Because they either dont want to admit to it or because they have forgotten about it. For them it was something that happened and they never thought about it again, because it didnt affect them. But for the person it was done to, it is something that they will never forget.

J.D.S. said...

The comments made by the person were more statement then question. I think the underlying question he is asking you is what I said. Do you agree with him and me?

This is a big issue for our society because many black leaders appear to me intent on keeping the all white people are racists myth alive to avoid losing a key constituency and invalidation of their long struggle to get to this point. We are several generations past the initial civil rights struggles and much of the population have constant contact with minorities and have seen them achieve the highest successes in life. Equality is becoming more a normal fact of life each day. Whether you agree with his policies or not doesn't change the fact that we have a bi-racial presidential candidate this year.

I think a significant population of the minority community are conflicted in burying the hatchet because they want to hold on to all that they lived through and not lose the black culture that was created by the struggle. Some black leaders have no desire to be part of one "rainbow coalition" if it includes the "white" part of that rainbow. It is just like other ethnic groups trying to protect their culture by excluding people they don't consider part of their group. That is why you get charges from Jesse Jackson, that Obama is "acting white." Because, for some, it's us and them and this division is not a negative thing for them. I think a majority of "white" people have opened the doors to minorities and would like to work toward true equality. I also think that there is still a large population of minorities who are closing that door and saying "no thank you, we prefer our own group." If minorities want to remain exclusive, that is fine by me; however, you can't fight to be exclusive and then complain that the exclusivity is because of "white" discrimination.

tristanjh said...

Tiash:

I want to respond to some of your comments. When I said that minorities, both black and otherwise, were given preferential treatment in the companies I have worked for, I did not say that I disagreed with it. I do not doubt that it is significantly harder for some groups of people to obtain higher education and to find adequate employment. To that end I support affirmative action and increased scholarship opportunities. In my specific case, however, the number of minorities given promotions was disproportionate with the population. My thinking is that if the population is 5% black, than at least 5% of management positions should be filled by black candidates. In my experience, however, the number was significantly higher and from the position I had in these companies I can assure you that most of them were far less qualified than the white people who were passed over. Right, wrong or indifferent, can you at least understand how that white person felt? Many had obtained degrees in business management and had greater seniority in the company. Fair? Definitely not.

And in my earlier comment I was very clear that I do not believe white people as group to be totally innocent. My heart breaks for you that you had that experience in the ice cream store. It is not fair. It is not right. But as Josh said, 'lazy, stupid, angry, dishonest, horrible people exist in every class and race of people.'

I also echo Josh's feeling about 'exclusivity' and this was my point when I brought up the 'N' word fiasco. Whether you use that word or not, this is just one example of many. How do you think my kids felt when the black and hispanic families at my son's school would not even acknowledge our presence. I can assure you that I had some explaining to do to my kids as well.

tristanjh said...

And one more thing...when that incident occured at school I want it to be noted that I didn't take a lot of personal offense. I was frustrated and disappointed, but I tried to approach it with understanding. White or not, I was an outsider, one who does not live in their community. There are a hundred reasons why they may have been wary of me. While I think that there should still be a minimum of common sense courtesy, I don't hold any grudges. My son will go to this school for the next year and I don't intend to give up. I will volunteer every week and I will invite his classmates over for playdates and their moms over for lunch. Hopefully, by the end of the year my son and I will have some new friends and the opportunity to learn about one another.

Tiash said...

tristanjh:

I am happy to hear that the most your children have had to encounter was people NOT speaking to them.

As I have only shared one of the many incidents me and my chidren have had to discuss over the dinner table.

What I would give to not have heard some of the comments people make.

I don't think black people have a problem with white people because of things that happened in the past. Because personally when I think of those times I am proud. I am proud because we were able to make it through that and overcoming so much. My thoughts are not clouded by the hate of another race.

What upsets me are the things I have personally faced and the things my children are having to face right now and every day.

tristanjh said...

tiash:

In response to your last statement, when Dalyn's e-mail came out yesterday, I was e-mailing with a mutual friend of mine and Dalyn's. I said to this person that I wished that I could spend a couple of weeks where you or Dalyn live. I would like to shadow you and your family and truly understand what it is like for you. My goal on this blog is only to point out that there are so many people who are not like the ones you encountered in the ice cream store. I feel badly that your experience hasn't included very many of them.

J.D.S. said...

Tiash-
The objections you have to racial profiling are the same objections "white" people have to the sweeping label of all "white" people being racist. Nobody is saying racism is over in general, there probably will always be racists. However, racism is over for many people and they legitimately don't like being stereotyped as racist anyway. I disagree with your notion that his claim he is not racist is because he hasn't looked hard enough and is actually racist and also unobservant and prone to faulty memory.

Nobody wants to diminish the actual insensitive or hateful individual experiences that occur. However, it is fundamentally unfair to apply individual experiences to all "white" people as though it is indisputable proof of how all "white" people think or act. That is precisely the charge that the post is talking about.

Rob said...

Dalyn, great post. Let me respond to the original question you asked. To the person you quoted I would say the following three things:

1.
Hearing a white person declare that racism towards blacks doesn't exist much anymore reminds me of a Baptist declaring whether Mormons are really Christians, or a new father’s proclamation about what his son’s future attitude towards sports will be. In other words, you may or may not be right, but you're simply not in a position to make an accurate judgment on that issue. So rather than assume that the limited experience you've had with interracial relations is representative of everyone else's experiences, I would suggest you ASK several black people whether THEY have ever encountered racism.

And if you don't have any black friends to ask that question, I would suggest, to avoid potential embarrassment, that it might be prudent to keep any "racism no longer exists" declarations to yourself until you do meet some black friends that you can ask. After all, if it turns out that you are wrong, you can probably imagine that voicing such an opinion in the presence of someone that has suffered from racism is probably going to sound insensitive to say the least.

Also, keep in mind that you may (likely) have seen subtle signs of racism that you haven't really noticed, because you have not been conditioned to notice them. Or maybe you noticed it at the time, but then a year or two later you've completely forgotten it, along with 99% of the other conversations and things you experienced that year, that didn't affect you in a profound way. Especially, if you WANT to believe that there's no racism towards blacks in this country, you are much more likely to quickly forget any instances of it that you see. In fact, the only type of racism that you are likely to remember is any instances of “reverse-racism” against whites.

2.
You might stop and ask yourself why you take it so personally when you hear someone say that there's a racism problem in America. Why do you feel they are calling YOU racist? Do you identify yourself with all white people? Do you feel that calling some white people racist = calling every one of them racist? Is it uncomfortable for you to accept the idea that plenty of white people are racist? Do you feel that this somehow casts a stain on you? Is that why you feel the need to defend your race against these accusations?

It appears that you feel threatened when someone points out that there is racism against black people in this country. Don't take it so personally—they are not saying that ALL white people are racist. They are not calling YOU racist. They are trying to inform you that racist things are happening, which you don't seem to be noticing, probably because you are not exposed to it personally.

It is human nature to get defensive when you suspect someone might be accusing you of something, but if you try to set those feelings aside and listen closely to what they are saying, and try to consider their point of view, you will probably come to the conclusion that they are not really trying to accuse you of anything, but instead are trying to call attention to something that they see is hurting our country as well as their race in particular.

3.
As for affirmative action, yes this is a somewhat controversial doctrine (for example Clarence Thomas opposes it), and I have sympathy to your feelings of "unfairness". It is certainly not fair to have one person passed up for a promotion or a hire in favor of someone else who is less qualified, simply because of your race. But other than offending your sense of fairness, I wonder how much you have actually, personally been impacted by this? I know I can't really say that I have. I have not gotten every job offer that I have wanted, but I have no evidence that I was passed up for something simply because of my race.

And before you protest the unfairness of this policy too loudly, I would suggest you spend some time reading about some of the arguments for it. You may find that it helps you remove your emotional reaction to it, even if it doesn't change your position on it. You might even decide that the unfairness that affirmative action is designed to counter is bigger than the unfairness caused by affirmative action itself, and therefore you might decide you support it after all.

Chaci said...

Great post, it's been enlightening reading everyone's comments, I find myself nodding in agreement. As Bob's 2nd comment questioned why we might feel defensive when grouped into a category...I think it comes down to the fact that we can't generalize individuals into groups...especially groups as large as black vs. white. It's hard for single individuals to take responsibility for an entire race, especially when there are so many subcategories, socioeconomics being a very influential factor that I think gets over looked all too often. Yes, I get defensive when I’m clumped in with a group, and am told that all generalizations about the group apply to me. For example, Dalyn, I grew up in Bountiful, however, while I wasn't exposed to as much diversity as I experience in Philly, for Utah I had a pretty diverse upbringing and I had many conversations and experiences with black friends and black and white family members about race and racism...so, I find myself feeling defensive sometimes when it seems you assume everyone from Utah is ignorant about race. I agree that it can be true for a lot of people, but I guess I feel the need to point out that it wasn’t my experience, and isn’t everyone’s. Dalyn, I would respond with the same argument you gave Glenn Beck—and I’m curious—what did/would you say?

Corbie said...

I told Dalyn that I would respond to this post but that I needed time to gather my thoughts, look inward, formulate a semi-intelligent and honest response. Here I am nearing 48 hours later and I still don't know what my response is. I don't want to play referee here and I truly believe that, as Dante said, "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in a time of moral crisis, remain neutral."

Thus, I will write my truths as honestly as I can and probably end up back where I started. I have no roadmap for where this is headed. By the time I came back to this blog to respond, many of you had addressed the academic arguments quite well. It looked like a very typical debate on the subject. So, I guess I will forego that route and just go with anecdotal personal observations.

I truly believe the Lyndon Johnson quote that I posted on this very blog recently. You cannot hobble a man for years and remove the shackles and expect a fair race to follow. To this end, I think that a person's claim that they have not seen one bit of harm done to a black person is at the very least denial. The harm has already been done and continues to be done. It is done everyday when blacks are wrongly accused and convicted in a disproportionate amount. It is done everyday when black students receive a lesser education because they live in a disadvantaged neighborhood. But it also happens in, to quote George Bush, 'the soft bigotry of low expectations'. Some would argue that these viewpoints are all contradictory. Perhaps they are, but I agree with all of them. And it illustrates for me how complex this issue is.

I am not black nor do I have immediate family members who are (I do have bi-racial cousins) thus I do not feel like I can adequately speak from their vantage point. I can, however, speak from mine. I am married to a man who is hispanic. Despite being born and raised here in Utah, he is a first generation American. His mom is from Mexico, dad from Guatemala. They are hard workers - self-made people, not a college degree amongst them. My husband began working at a local Mexican restaurant (earning an actual paycheck) when he was 8 years old. He has not stopped working since and, despite offers to play football or live the American dream with friends at college, he knew that his only real option was to work hard and smart right out of high school. He has managed, through honest to God blood, sweat, and tears to build a highly successful business.

So, imagine my surprise and indignation when recently I hear a teenage girl describe my husband as a 'rich, hot, Mexican' and another female teenager follows up with 'rich and Mexican - isn't that an oxymoron?'. Perhaps they were trying to be funny - any of you who know me know I appreciate a good laugh - but I was offended on a deeper level than I could have even anticipated.

When I make phone calls on logistical paperwork issues - insurance, school forms, investments, etc. - I notice, without question, that I receive different treatment when using my last name (Coy) versus my husband's (Lopez). My husband is asked for ID to use credit cards in the same line that I wasn't just moments earlier. Is this racism? Sexism? Any number of 'isms' combined? I don't know. Again, all I can do is state my observations.

My children are well-educated at a great school, they play instruments, they read incessantly, and they are learning to give back because they have been given much. I am left to wonder whether their last name will often trump much of that. I often remind myself that, if I am noticing these things, what must it be like for a black person? After all, my kids look much more caucasian than their ethnicity would warrant - surely black people get the brunt of it.

Ultimately, as with most worthwhile debates, I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. Black people may not want to give up the mantle of 'victim' as easily or quickly as whites would like them to, but whites have done little to motivate them to want to do so.

As far as affirmative action goes, I do not believe, on any large scale, that whites have been negatively influenced. Certainly the same can't be said about blacks and the public policies that have impacted them for many generations.

So, this wound up being none of the things I had waited 2 days to accomplish - I see no signs of organized, coherent, or well-argued. This being said, I don't mind that this is the case because it reflects how I feel when I look inward on this subject - torn, confused, hopeful. I will ponder it a bit longer and perhaps jump back in if you all are still exchanging ideas when I finally wrap my mind around the truths as I see them.

Rob said...

I keep reading comments like "I don't like being grouped with the racists", "I don't like it when you assume all of us white people are racist", "I don't like the assumption that all white people are the same".

My point #2 above is trying to ask why you assume that people are thinking that? I think you are having a defensive reaction, assuming that whenever someone talks about racism, they are lumping all white people into the guilty bucket. But if you go back and read closely what they are saying, you will discover that they are almost always NOT saying what you fear. They are talking about racism generally and you assume they are talking about you. i.e. "if a black person is talking about white racists, then he MUST be saying that ALL white people are racist". But that is your assumption; that is almost never what the person is really trying to say.

This defensive reaction that is a big problem. That's what leads to the mentality of "us" and "them". Even if you believe that "they" are equal and good and not scary, if you wonder why "they" keep accusing "us" of things, this will lead you to subconsciously categorize people, even if it's just in relatively minor ways.

I'm not trying to come down on anyone--this is a natural human reaction, but it's one we need to be aware of and fight against.

tristanjh said...

Rob: Am I having a defensive reaction? Absolutely. I feel defensive because I know what I believe, how I feel, and how I would respond to many of the situations being brought up. Despite being naïve, sheltered, and inexperienced this does not mean race is not an issue to me, that I don’t think about it regularly and do what I can, in my limited opportunity, to improve the status quo. I have been exposed to several otherwise good people who, if stopped at a downtown stoplight, would quickly lock their doors if a black man entered the crosswalk. I dated someone who had a couple of family members who did not find it inappropriate to share jokes at the dinner table that disparaged minorities. The former made no sense to me and the latter enraged me. And don’t think that I didn’t stand up and make my feelings known. I questioned the driver and demanded to know if they would have taken the same action had it been a white person walking by. I left the dinner table with an apology to the chef, but a clear message that I wouldn’t silently condone the behavior by remaining at the table. Don’t assume that I don’t regularly have conversations with my children, check out books on the subject and seek out opportunities to teach them that skin color is no different than hair color or eye color. So while statements are made that may not be meant to include ‘all whites’ there certainly isn’t anyone singing the praises of what is often perceived as the very small percentage of the white population that gets it and tries to make a difference. And once again, the burden is placed upon the ‘white community’ to understand while no such understanding is asked of the black community.

tristanjh said...

Tiash:

You have been on my mind with great frequency over the last couple of days. Your comments have mulled around in my mind and brought about many more questions. It is not my intention to pick on you and I am not doubting your experiences. I just want to understand. So I hope you will indulge me a little bit so that I can be better understand your experience.

You mentioned that you moved to a predominately white area and I am curious about your experience. Do you have friends in your neighborhood and do your kids? Are your kids accepted at school and in the extra curricular activities they participate in. Is your family invited to neighborhood functions and are you children included in birthday parties and such?

And I have thought over and over about your experience in the ice cream store. I first thought about how I would have felt if my child had made that commented. I can assure you I would have been mortified. I feel quite certain, however, that I would have dealt with it appropriately. That I would have knelt down to my child’s level and asked him why he was scared and given whatever explanation was appropriate for why this fear was irrational. Then I would have spoken to your children. I would have inquired about their interests and hobbies and would have pointed out the similarities to my child. In my opinion, this is what the mom should have done. And it has caused me to wonder why she did not. Perhaps she was so horrified that all rational thought left her mind at that point. I wonder if she thought you hadn’t heard and opted to speak to her child in the privacy of her car. I wonder if she felt that bringing it up in front of your children would have made your children feel worse. I don’t know and I’m not condoning her lack of response, these are just the possibilities I considered. And I had one more thought. One I hesitate to bring up at all, lest you feel I am judging you or that you interpret this to statement to imply you had a responsibility to act here. I don’t believe this to be true, I just wonder if you could have responded in a way that would have been helpful to the child that made the offensive remark as well as to his or her mom. And I wonder if this would also have given your own children an example to follow when they find themselves faced with these situations and you are not at their side. Again, I reiterate that this is not your duty, but may have brought about a positive result. What if you had knelt down and asked the child why he was scared? What if you had demonstrated to him the many ways in which he and your children are alike? Is it unfair for you to have to do this. YES! But is the positive change worth the inequality of the situation? I would really appreciate your thoughts.

Corbie said...

Though we may not agree in a general sense on this topic, I very much appreciate Tristan's last comment. First, I think that if people expect to have people see things from their vantage point, they should make every effort to do the same. Her playing the devil's advocate about the mom in the ice cream store was enlightening. Perhaps any of those options were true...that she wanted to speak to her child separately so as to not cause more hurt, that she was embarassed and, right or wrong, remained silent out of sheer horror at her child's comment, etc. This reminded me of when I was little and I would tell my grandma that someone had been mean at school. She would often remark that they probably did not have enough food to eat at their house. It was so random and so outside my natural inclination that it would always give me pause. This kind of 'assuming the best' and trying to walk a mile in another's shoes has to run both ways for any progress to be made.

I also liked her point about the victimized mother stepping in to try to be productive in the face of a destructive comment. I firmly believe if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem...no middle ground, no gray. Is it the duty of the victim to do this? Absolutely not. Would it possibly foster an environment where communication and understanding could replace hostility and anger. I think so. And in the end, if this is truly the goal, who cares who makes the first move?

Nice post Tristan.

Kieya said...

To respond to your post:

I'm sorry pal, but racism does very much exist.

Tristanjh used an example of him experiencing what its like to be "the minority." Now imagine that feeling, multiply it by 10 and imagine having that feeling for most of your life. I've had that feeling intensified x100 since coming to a university in Boston; and its only gotten worse over the course of 4 years.

I can understand why some very intelligent white people would say "racism doesn't exist." Chances are they haven't experienced it on the level that I have, as a Black woman. Its easy to not see something where you are part of the majority; its no fault of your own -- you're just a product of your environment. When you have that privilege, its very hard to see from the perspective of others who don't.

Now obviously, me saying all of that^^ to them probably won't help any because it requires them to look outside of what they know.

I can only offer my examples of being called a N*gger at a bar in Boston, being told that all black people in college are trying to be "white" by speaking proper english during a sociology class, of having another white student call me a slave -- specifically "you're my slave" to show that racism does exist.

I won't & can't say that all white people are racist because they're not. These individuals do not represent the race as a whole just as something one or two Black people may say cannot be applied to all Black people as a whole.

But I will say that white people are afforded a privilege that black people are not.

As a college student who gets good grades, volunteers, serves as a Resident Assistant and participates in several student groups on campus while working I've grown weary of the "you aren't worth it" argument. I'm tired of the "you don't belong here; you just got into this university because of Affirmative Action so you can't possibly be as smart or smarter as me" complaints. I'm tired of the dismissive looks & tones because of my skin color. I'm tired of people telling me to "get over it" just because they can't see it. The effects of slavery run deep & are prominent in America.

I would say all of this not to change their mind on racism but to hopefully spark something -- make them want to see for themselves, to open their eyes. Look around, truly look around. Racism is probably so deep embedded that it isn't even recognizable. People need to realize that most racism doesn't come in the form of the KKK and/or burning crosses on front lawns. There was a time when that behavior was perfectly acceptable by the majority of society & those that contested it were "less than human." But today racism has taken more of a covert edge.



Sorry for rambling on.

tristanjh said...

Kieya:

Not that it matters and, admittedly Tristan is a male name, but I am female.

I have read your comment no less than 10 times and I still can’t fully digest it. I don’t doubt what you say is true, but am having difficulty wrapping my head around the fact that these people are so bold. It boggles my mind that the individuals you have encountered seem to feel justified in their remarks and actions. I have only lived two places, Utah and Idaho, and have not had the opportunity to travel very much. I have always had an ideal image in my mind of what it would be like to live in a big city. I have always known that living in Salt Lake is a little like living in a different universe when compared to many other US cities. I watch the news and never thought that racism did not exist in general, but I supposed that there were culturally diverse places where skin color was less of an issue and assumptions were not generally made on that basis. Don’t get me wrong, there are jerks everywhere, but I just thought that in the grand scheme of things, there were places where it isn’t a regular occurrence, or at the very least, getting progressively less frequent. I would have guessed Boston to be one of these places.

So I decided to do a little research. I was shocked that the population of Massachusetts is only 7.58% black. Not exactly what I'd consider to be diverse. The population of Boston of is 25.33% black, which was closer to my expectation, but what disturbs me is that the student body of Boston University is only 3% black. That isn’t much better than the 1% enrollment of black students at the University of Utah. This is kind of off-subject, but interesting nevertheless.

I’m sort or rambling here, and I should probably work on this comment a little more before posting it, but I wanted to acknowledge your remarks and thank you for sharing. For what it is worth, my eyes are open, and I am definitely looking around.

Tiash said...

Tristanjh:

This post is to answer your questions and enlighten you a little on my experiences in the neighborhood I live in since you seem to be curious.

1) No I do not have friends in my neighborhood but I can truthfully say I have never had friends in any neighborhood I have ever lived in. So I did not take it negatively when none of my neighbors welcomed us to the neighborhood. As it was never anything I expected.
2)Are my children accepted at school and extracurricular activities?
Accepted? Not really sure you would call it that. They get along well with everyone as they have great personalities and everyone tends to enjoy being in their company. Even though, they come home with many stories of 'out of the way' things people say to them. In the beginning it was regular conversation at the dinner table. Now I have taught them how to deal with those comments so they dont bring them up as much anymore. The only comments I ask that they tell me about are the ones coming from the teachers which are also frequent. They also havent had a black teacher in the 4yrs we have been in this area and I have 3 children, at one point at 3 different schools. The schools dont even celebrate Black History month.(go figure)

They are very active in sports and band (track, football, basketball, softball), sometimes being the only black person on the team.I can happily say that these are very good experiences for them. Most of the parents are very friendly and we enjoy sharing these times praising our children.

3)We are never invited to neighborhood functions but my children are invited to many birthday parties normally by teammates white and black.

As stated before, I do not lump all white people into the same category and in no way feel that all white people are bad. Thus, giving light to Rob's comments as to why you feel the need to be defensive. I judge each person on an individual basis. I just happen to have many negative experiences to share here in this forum.

To comment on the ice cream incident.
If you are out with your child and a dog comes up to them and they are afraid, do you wait until you get back to your car to console them? If your child sees something scary on television and are upset by it, do you wait until later to let them know there is nothing to be afraid of and that it is just a movie?
Who waits until later to console and give comfort to a child that is afraid? Not me.
When my child is afraid of something I console them and offer them comfort at that time not later. So the notion of the mother waiting to talk in privacy doesnt seem realistic to me.

Why did I not say something myself?
Back to the child stating that they were afraid. Why would I knowingly approach a CHILD that is afraid of me? The child couldve started crying or gotten really upset by that. Seeing that the mother had not offered any comfort to the child at this point lead me to believe that the situation wouldve become worse for the child. At that point I was not thinking of 'making a point'or 'righting a wrong' I was thinking of the welfare of the child.


As far as setting an example for my children, due to the frequency of these types of comments I have had several examples for my children to follow and they know how to handled themselves when I am not around as I stated above.
Seeing as they have not gotten into any altercations with any other children I think I am doing a pretty good job.

You made a comment in an earlier post : " And once again, the burden is placed upon the ‘white community’ to understand while no such understanding is asked of the black community."

First of all you say it is a BURDEN to understand. Saying that it is a burden implies that is something that you rather not do. My family have to try to understand the thoughts and actions of the white community EVERY day because that is where we live, in a white community. I can truthfully say that living in this community has made us more aware of racism than when we lived in a predominantly black community. Sometimes I question whether I should jeopardize them getting the best education they can in order to move them back into a community where they dont have to hear hurtful things or get weird stares when we are the only blacks in the room. Are we really supposed to try to continue to understand this?
When my child is the only black child in the class should he really be expected to understand the views of every white person in his class considering they will all most likely differ? or is it easier for them to try to understand the one black child?

Is it easier for the minority to try to understand the majority? Or is it easier for the majority to understand the minority?

Rob said...

I can tell that Tristan and others on this blog really want to believe that only a small percentage of people are racists. Which is natural--most people want to believe that, and even I would really like to believe that is true. And if you confine racism to deliberate acts of bigotry, then that's probably true. I would bet that the vast majority of people would not label themselves as racists. But if you consider the more subtle expressions of prejudice, the subconscious association of negative characteristics with a particular race, then unfortunately that is just not true. Subconscious prejudice is in fact wide-spread and pervasive. Don't believe it? You can test your own implicit associations of black vs. white race here: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/demo/selectatest.html Click on the "Race IAT" button to test your subconscious orientation to race. It takes about 10 minutes. If that link doesn't work, or to read more about the test, here's the "home" page of that site: http://implicit.harvard.edu I highly recommend everyone take that test--the results will likely surprise you. And for a fascinating and enlightening discussion of this test and other experiments of people's behavior, see the 3rd chapter of Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink".

Why are these subconscious associations so bad? Because they influence the way we treat people. They cause us to implicitly assume things about people who we don't know, or have just met. And I suspect it is small consolation for a black person to know that they were treated differently because of subconscious rather than deliberate prejudice. Of course, race isn't the only thing people make subconscious associations with. Height, weight, attractiveness, gender, dress, and accent all come into play as well, and will for example influence the level of intelligence that people will assume someone has. However, racial associations are much more damaging than prejudices along these other lines, because it is much more hurtful to have someone pre-judge you based on your race.

Given the length of the comments, I'm not sure if people are still reading this, but maybe someone is.

Siditty said...

I don't know what to say, and most likely wouldn't tell a person like this anything. I find that people with this mindset, even though not overtly racist, hold too many misconceptions of black people to honestly want to change. I can say as I youngster in an all white neighborhood I was ok with being a "black ambassador", but as I have gotten older, I am not as patient as I used to be. I feel if whites really wanted to know, they would have found the answer themselves.

For a person to assume that because I am black, I look to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton as "black leaders" insults me. For a person to say they don't know of a person who has caused discrimination to a black person is also insulting to me. It means they don't acknowledge or even know about white privilege. To say they think racism is over is to me a way of "blaming the victim" and saying when a racist incident does happen, that it is all made up in their head.

It seems at times, there are many white people who are angry that black people want to be treated as equals. That we don't all fit into the stereotypes, and that it is black people's faults alone that has everything to do with why many white people speak so negatively of us.

There is nothing to say to a person like that, except good riddance.

Siditty said...

It does seem terribly unfair to be blamed for the injustices that minorities, particularly the black race, face when I in no way contribute to it.

You benefit from it. In benefitting from it, you contribute to it.

It should also be noted that I have never been given the opportunity to be friends with a black person. I’ve never had a black family live in any of the neighborhoods where I have resided, and consequently, have not have an opportunity to invite them to dinner. But if such a family did move in, I’d react as I always do, with a warm welcome, a plate of cookies and an invitation to the next BBQ. 



That sounds nice ideally, but as the girl that was in the only black family in the neighborhood growing up, I don't remember all the neighbors being so warm. I remember neighbors who never even spoke the word "hello" to me or my family, but I played with their kids, or they managed to speak when a for sale sign went up in the yard. I don't know of any families that would do that now in the white neighborhood I live in.

Only twice in six weeks did any of these people acknowledge my presence or speak back to me. There was no language barrier, because they all spoke perfect English to their children and the other moms around them. They just didn’t want to talk to me. I couldn’t help but ponder what their reaction would have been if the roles had been reversed. Would they have screamed ‘discrimination’ and called me an elitist white snob? 


What would have happened in the reverse is that a black mom would have gotten the same treatment, chalked it up to being the stereotypical "cold, white, people" and more than likely she wouldn't have said anything, because anytime something like that happens in a predominantly white setting, white people would assume she was crazy for vocalizing her thoughts, making it up in their head, and no one would admit they had racist thoughts or ideas about the black mom.

The recent news coverage of the appropriateness of the ‘N’ word as debated on The View also has me totally confused and a little upset. Admittedly, I wasn’t aware of this debate until long after it had started so I may be somewhat ill informed, but the gist of what I read and watched was that it is okay for a black person to use this word, but not a white person. Excuse me? My gut reaction was that it was just another way for the black community to be angry at white people

The assumption that it is ok for ALL black people to use the n-word because Whoopi Goldberg and Sherry Shephard (sp?) said it was OK on the View and that fact that your assumption was it was another excuse for blacks to be angry at whites is the issue you should be addressing. Two black people can't speak for all black people, much like Elizabeth Hasselbeck and Barbara Walters don't speak for all white people. In terms of the word, why would you be upset if you couldn't use it? It is a racial slur, the n-word was a racial slur than many whites still use to this day, the only difference is now they don't use it in front of blacks. As a black person how do I know that whites haven't come up with a set of words that is only acceptable for whites to use? You have whole entire neighborhoods, communities, and everything else that are exclusively kept white.

But I feel like we need to stop questioning if every little detail is totally fair and fight for the greater good. I can’t count the number of times in a week that I choose to be the bigger person. That I apologize when I’ve done nothing wrong. That I choose to overlook behavior that if I acknowledged would cause conflict. I do this for the sake of what is more important…in this case, keeping peace with extended family. So while this issue, joining two races, is clearly much bigger than a family squabble, the principal is still the same. Both sides are going to have to make an effort.

Let's say someone kidnapped your family member, abused them sexually and physically, than then mentally degraded them to the point that in the eyes of the perpetrator and victim, that family member was nothing but an animal. Then let's say the perpetrator releases said family member on a limited basis out into the world, where others did the same things time and time again and there was no recourse. Would your family or that family member be so quick to forgive and forget, or try to understand why what happened to them? Or try to sympathize and understand the mentality that took place that would make them do such a thing? Would you expect your family member who lived through such a horrible thing need therapy or help, or would you expect them to shake it off without having any type of therapy or acknowledgement that such things happened? Would you expect that person to have no problems with adjusting to such an injustice?

That is how I look at racism in this country against black people. People want to pretend it was so long ago, and it is still here. Vidor, TX still exists, my parents still remember Jim Crow and segregation, if my parents still remember, there are white people who still remember. Things don't or can't change overnight, and with the obvious discrepancies in class, income, and education between whites and blacks, it will continue to be an issue.

Siditty said...

When do I get to be released from the group of "white" people used as the symbol of past and current racism? That is the real question I think is being asked.

When current racism and the concept of white privilege goes away.

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Nevertheless, it would be interesting to see what would happen if you devoted an essay to how the black community can better understand the white perspective.

We understand the white perspective more than you could the black perspective. You can choose in your life not to interact with minorities because right now you are still the majority. Even if I lived in an ALL black neighborhood I would have to interact with with white people, be it at work, school, or with law enforcement. Again it is expected that blacks understand the hate, I think some of us don't want to understand it, we just want it to go away, but we know it isn't going to go away.

--------

To the comment about blacks getting preferential treatment at your place of work. I would like to know how many black people actually work there compared to the number of white people. Black people are denied for career opportunities more often than not when their is an equally or less competent white person up for the job.


I am curious about this as well. My father has worked for the same company since 1981, he has a master's degree, and up until 1993, he was making less than his less educated, white counterparts base pay wise, just like the other black counterparts. The company is a big global company and a HR person who was a white male decided to look into diversity and ensuring there were blacks in every division of this company and that compensation was equal. They found it wasn't The white males at this company in the position my father was in had on average two years of college. Every single black person in this position had no less than a master's degree and several had PhDs. The performance evaluations didn't show the blacks doing worse than the whites on average, and sometimes the black employees scored even better, but the raises didn't equal that. In fairness the company resolved the situation, but I don't think they did it out of seeking racial equality, but out of fear of lawsuits.

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We are several generations past the initial civil rights struggles and much of the population have constant contact with minorities and have seen them achieve the highest successes in life. Equality is becoming more a normal fact of life each day. Whether you agree with his policies or not doesn't change the fact that we have a bi-racial presidential candidate this year.

My parents are in their late 50s......how many generations are we removed from the civil rights struggle.

I think a majority of "white" people have opened the doors to minorities and would like to work toward true equality.

I don't agree, I think white people are more insular than ever, they just don't overtly say it is because they don't like or are scared of black people.

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To that end I support affirmative action and increased scholarship opportunities.

Remember the biggest benefactor of affirmative action is white women. They are a protected class under affirmative action, it seems to always be lost on many white people, as they assume it is hand outs for black people.

In my experience, however, the number was significantly higher and from the position I had in these companies I can assure you that most of them were far less qualified than the white people who were passed over.

Did you ever ask yourself when you looked at white people getting promoted how less qualified they were than you, and it makes no sense for them to move ahead?

I have a hard time even believing that they just found the least educated, unqualified black person to put into a management, especially when stats say that a white high school drop out felon has a better chance at getting an interview than a college educated black man.

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I think it comes down to the fact that we can't generalize individuals into groups...especially groups as large as black vs. white. It's hard for single individuals to take responsibility for an entire race, especially when there are so many subcategories, socioeconomics being a very influential factor that I think gets over looked all too often. Yes, I get defensive when I’m clumped in with a group, and am told that all generalizations about the group apply to me.

That is how I live my life every single day. I will always be grouped. People assume the music I listen to, my class status, my education, and my inclination towards crime all because of how I look.

-----------

I don’t doubt what you say is true, but am having difficulty wrapping my head around the fact that these people are so bold. It boggles my mind that the individuals you have encountered seem to feel justified in their remarks and actions

I know lots of people who will boldly admit this, especially if amongst "their own"

As a child I would get the "compliments" of "your family is not like the 'others'" and the "why can't more of your people be like you" comments. As if my family was a freak of nature.

Corbie said...

See, I also think Tiash makes some really great points about the ice cream parlor incident. Her thoughts on why the other mom should have handled it differently and why she chose to deal with it the way she did are duly noted. Which is why I continue to say this is such a complex issue. In my eyes, this is exactly what we should be hoping for...dialogue, communication, understanding. Every single person on this blog means well and seeks a higher good...nothing but good can come of that and ultimately, little by little, perhaps the need for these conversations diminishes. Unfortunately, as one commenter mentioned (Siddity I believe), segregation and Jim Crow are still very fresh in many peoples' minds and it is going to take time and a lot more effort on the part of the majority to heal these wounds.

brohammas said...

I have a lot to say here, I started this thing for heaven's sake, but I have bbeen attempting to practice a new skill...listening.

My true and full response will need to be it's own post, but I need to add a couple things.

The previous post goes a long way in illustrating the real divide between black and white in perception and understanding.

Most black people do not fully realize how isolated some parts of the country are. I warn all black people I know, I tried to warn my wife, before they visit Utah, about how few black people there are. Every time they think they are listening to me, go there, and get blown away.

I mention this to help those who may not know that white people in Utah HONESTLY have little to no opportunity for black/white interraction. Because of this, any information at all on the other race (aside from isolated individuals) is academic at best and second hand at worst.

I should probably start anew here but;We are dealing with a societal issue and discussing it on that level. This macro approach requires some sweeping declarations that do not take into account each individual. Now while individuals may vary, there are cultural similarities within the larger group that any individual may belong too, which create trends or similarities in experience and attitude.
When an individual finds that a statement directed at the group they belong to, does not apply to them, that individual must stop and honestly evaluate if this means the statement does not apply to the whole, or if that individual may be a deviation from the larger group.

If the statement does not apply to the individual, but does apply to the group, than the individual should concede the point and not derail the discussion over a personal defense

As to my actual question in the post,
I have met and talked with many of "this person". I have said many different things with varied results. I was/am asking for additional ideas as to be more affective and broaden the scope of these discussions.

thats why I write these things in the first place.

tristanjh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Siditty said...

Most black people do not fully realize how isolated some parts of the country are. I warn all black people I know, I tried to warn my wife, before they visit Utah, about how few black people there are. Every time they think they are listening to me, go there, and get blown away.


There is difference between being ignorant of another cultures, and just being plain oblivious and condescending.

I literally grew up as the "only black". My thing is, and maybe I am dumb, but I shouldn't have to answer dumb questions about if I eat "chitlins", over if I wear weave or not, or why I "talk white", or become the spokesperson for all blacks. I grew up with kids who asked me what it was like to live in the ghetto. Note these people were neighbors, so it should have been painfully obvious that I wouldn't know, as I didn't live in the ghetto, I lived amongst them!!!!!

Once I had a girl tell it was weird my family had pictures of nothing but black people on the wall. Hello, I come from a black family, I don't expect to go to a white person's house to see pictures of asian people all over the place. I've been asked if me and my brother have the same father, because we aren't the same shade. They would have been offended if I told them we aren't the same shade because some slave master raped someone in my family, and sometimes recessive genes can be really strong.

I shouldn't have to explain to people I did not marry a white "black" guy aka Eminem type, or that he didn't come from a trailer park, or the inevitable question of how his family "reacted" as to hint he was "marrying down" by marrying me, and in no way could my family be offended at the fact he was white, as that is "marrying up". My husband got offended when I got mad at his brother for asking me about ham hocks. But he never seemed to be offended when his half brothers would share with me their father's "n*gger" comments. Nine years later, that still rubs me the wrong way. I don't know why people feel the need to share with me stories of racist things their families say, and then back track and say that same family member isn't racist, they or just ignorant, or came from a "different time".

John Doe said...

As a white man, you are the ultimate object of fear and hate for the black community. Don't be surprised by the lack of reaching out, what you have, blacks want.

Your ideas of history and even America are vastly different form most black people. Whites are also not allowed to defend themselves, as they are always in the wrong.