Racism can be a slippery concept. At what point is a racial disparity definitive evidence of racism? At what point does a racist’s involvement in an activity make the activity racist? At what point does a racist’s presence become an attempted take-over?
Some cases are extremely clear cut, and others feel like they’re more about personal insecurity than systemic bias. But while it’s hard to come up with a definitive “right” answer, it is possible to say that some people’s radars are far too sensitive for the task.
Enter B. After reading my article, “Anti-Racism Is Becoming Troublingly Racist”, B took issue with the fact that I hadn’t taken the presence of racists in knitting groups and gardening circles seriously enough. After all, the presence of racists must always equal systemic racism, right? Right??!
You can always tell the true quality of an article by reading the comments to see who agrees with the author. In your case, your comments are full of white folks who are tired of being called racist because they want to cling to an outdated and inaccurate understanding of racism that allows them to other themselves from the "real racists" and black folks who still feel the need to pacify white people who feel that way. Lol. While I must say that a lot (if not all) of the examples you provided are, in fact, racist and do not accurately reflect the values of anti racism, I find your conceptualization of racism/white supremacy to be pretty shallow and problematic as well.
White supremacy and racism are extremely pervasive and adaptable. So much so that the average person does not and cannot recognize it when it happens or is happening, including those people who are trying to grasp anti racism. We're all entrenched in white supremacy...it is literally a pillar of American society, yet somehow you don't see how some of the seemingly (based on your opinion) smaller issues arise from the intended and unintended consequences of living in a white supremacist society. Then you had the audacity to make light of it...."We'll conduct a thorough investigation of the racist history of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches." But I'm not surprised at all by any of this and please understand that the very nature of your opinion is indicative of your lack of experience in truly anti-racist spaces.
There was so much wrong with this reply that I was a little overwhelmed, but I wish I’d made more of the idea that “the average person” can’t recognise racism. The fact that some people think this way is genuinely wild to me.
In order for this to be true, we’d have to accept that the original, well-established definition of racism has completely changed. We’d have to assume that the “non-average” people who made that change speak for everybody else. And we’d have to be willing to simply take their word for it when they informed us that something or somebody is racist given that we can no longer recognise racism ourselves.
Her inability to see that people might be tired of being called racist simply because they have the “audacity” to disagree with her updated definition, is breathtakingly arrogant.
You can always tell the true quality of an article by reading the comments to see who agrees with the author.
Oh is that the standard? Good to know. Here I thought it was whether it was something that made people think.
Where should I start with this? The idea that "the average person" can't identify racism by whatever your definition of what racism is? The notion that I'm making light of racism by ridiculing the notion that PB&Js are racist? The "no true Scotsman" fallacy you stuck in at the end?
Tell me, if everybody stops eating PB&Js tomorrow, how does that improve the life of a single black person? How does it address police brutality? Or the legacy of Jim Crow? How does it address prison inequity? Or a lack of generational wealth? Or unfair hiring practices? If you think we should be wasting one second talking about whether enough robots are painted black whilst these issues are still affecting our communities, you have lost your mind.
One point we agree on is that racism is extremely adaptable. My point is that it's adapting into "anti-racism"
I mean, do you think your article made people think? Because it looks like you have a whole bunch of white folks in the comments praising you for saying what they were only brave enough to think. Perhaps you inadvertently started pandering to white folks who don’t want to be labelled as racist and do not want to be called out for their racism just because they’re “not as bad” as the KKK or because they “only use the n word in rap songs.”
What you wrote here demonstrates a half-baked understanding of anti-racism, much like the folks you’re talking about in your article. The micro and macro are inherently tied together. One cannot separate the individual from his environment because people do not exist in a vacuum. Therefore, making light of and ignoring the way in which micro issues are addressed or by dismissing them as trivial plays into the very much white supremacist notion that people who practice anti-racism are quacks. Just because YOU and your little friends in the comments here don’t understand why something is racist does not mean that it’s trivial or unimportant.
The examples you provided are gross exaggerations (and just flat out asinine) of how anti racism addresses issues with the individual (the micro). Literally, no one is out here talking about how PB&J is racist or why robots aren’t painted black and to use those as comparisons to what we’re ACTUALLY talking about….is no less than facetious. Unlearning racism is a LIFE LONG JOURNEY. Nobody enters anti-racism space as perfect and there are some folks out there making some seriously blunders that need to be addressed, as you mentioned in your article. But these folks in your don’t want to be held accountable as individuals. They want folks to ignore the pebbles they throw at us on a regular basis (microaggressions), not understanding that those pebbles are going to add up and amount to something much bigger. It’s not enough to tackle the macro issues. It has to be BOTH.
So yes, it is important to understand how watermelon became a racist trope. It is important to address black face parties at PWIs where our black students are already some isolated. It is important to address why soap dispensers and faucets don’t recognize black skin. But is anyone out there marching for this shit or have we not been marching for black men for the past year? How many black women are out here marching on behalf of black men at their OWN DAMN EXPENSE?
Speaking of black women, it’s wholly unsurprising that your examples of important completely disregard any issues that impact black women exclusively….and that’s another reason why I can’t take anything you say seriously.
It’s one thing to be intentional in calling out white folks for being poor allies and writing about the ways they need to be improve (you know, accountability). It’s another thing to write about white folks being poor allies and then concluding that the entire anti-racism movement is overly focused on the minutiae.
“Literally, no one is out here talking about how PB&J is racist or why robots aren’t painted black”.
I have a working theory that every sentence that begins with, “literally nobody is talking about…” is wrong. And given that we’re only talking about racist PB&Js because she mentioned them in her first comment and because somebody wrote an entire article about them, I don’t see my theory being debunked any time soon.
Because it looks like you have a whole bunch of white folks in the comments
Ok, so I think this is where we disagree. It's telling that the three people who have had a problem with the article out of the thousands who have read it have all started with some version of "the white folks in the comments...".
My aim here is to point out a trivialisation of racism (as well as some wrongheaded attempts to be racially sensitive) which I see as a problem. I could not care less about the skin colour of those who are frustrated with this problem too. Funny how you chose to overlook the black folks in the comments who also agreed. Remember, once upon a time, when not focusing on the colour of people's skin was the dream of anti-racism?
Conflating micro and macro, i.e. assuming all individual white people are racist because we live in a system built by racist white people, is exactly what racists are doing when they say black people are thugs and criminals. The goal of anti racism at the micro level can't be to perfect the art of seeing individuals as monoliths, whether it's a white monolith or a black monolith. Surely the goal is to recognise that we're all human, each capable of being kind and cruel, smart and stupid, selfish and generous.
At the macro level, we're aiming to fix systems which disadvantage black people and repair the damage caused by historic ones. Right? Do you think it's a bad thing to include as many people as possible in that effort? Do you think the progress that civil rights has made so far has been made without the involvement of any white people?
People aren't our enemies because they're white, they're our enemies if they're standing in the way of our progress towards the goal of ending racism’s impact. It doesn't need to take a lifetime, it's not a quest for spiritual enlightenment, it's a human-wide effort to move beyond petty tribalist thinking and hateful rhetoric, and to repair historical injustice. PB&Js are not a part of this effort. Even if you think they're important (and I kind of have to question your sanity if you do) surely we can agree that they're not priorities.
p.s. It's wholly unsurprising that you're so primed to take offence that you call me out for not talking about issues which exclusively affect black women, despite two of the three issues I mention affecting black women just as much as anybody else. I also didn't mention trans women of colour, or disabled people of colour, or gay people of colour. I'm not here trying to help you fill in a bingo card, I'm trying to communicate an idea. Seriously, what are you trying to achieve with this? This kind of petty point-scoring is a waste of everybody's time.
We disagree on how we define racism. It is literally impossible to live in a global society that embraces white supremacy and remain “unscathed.” Now do all white people hate black folks? No. Do all white people have the propensity to say, do, and believe racist shit? Hell to the fuck yeah. Obviously everything is not racist (I’m not sure why you keep harping on that facetious PB & J example; obviously I don’t believe that pb & j is racist), but the examples you linked to that you are implying are on par with your PB & J example are NOT what you’re trying to paint them out to be.
Racism in gardening? Well, the article isn’t literally calling gardening racist. It’s talking about how racism shows up in gardening circles. Same thing with knitting. Nobody would ever expect a knitting group to be anything but wholesome, but guess what? Knitting groups are often radical and go hard when it comes to politics. Of the articles I chose to peruse, they appeared to be thorough and well thought out and you come and post this half-baked smut with a half-assed understanding of racism and white supremacy. The veganism article is not about how veganism is racist. It talks about how and why white nationalists and white supremacists have adopted veganism and vegetarianism. The article LITERALLY says “But not many realize that, strange as it sounds, numerous white nationalists are vegan and vegetarian. And it’s not just an odd coincidence, but an outgrowth of one of the movement’s bedrock beliefs: the concept of “blood and soil.”
Maybe it’s because you’re not actually part of any of the groups you threw under the bus that you do not understand how racism can and does show up in those groups. There is literally a group on facebook about being anti-racist and vegan. Why? Because veganism has significant moral, ethical, and political components to it that makes it really important for folks to understand how veganism contributes to environmental racism.
As for the “what about the black folks” comment…..I’m not worried about the black folks in the comments. Black folks don’t have the power to perpetuate white supremacy like white folks do even if they’re being problematic. But you’re catching heat from me specifically because you are using your very public platform to spread some very wrong and dangerous ideas.
Now I agree with the general idea that there needs to be some prioritization happening (and it is), but to just dismiss all of these issues you brought up in the first paragraph of section 3 as irrelevant, even farcical? Nah. You are straight up trippin’ and you have some learning to do.
As for black women, we’re tired of being lumped into issues that generally affect black people. We get erased when that happens, while black men are put front and center (conversations around the school-to-prison pipeline and mass incarceration tend to center boys. Not all black women are part of a nuclear household or desire to have one).
It’s kind of adorable that she describes this as “catching heat”. People who are so used to talking to their echo chamber that they think writing the overusing the word “literally” makes their argument meaningful, will never cease to amaze me.
Okay, let’s try being a little more direct.
The article LITERALLY says “But not many realize that, strange as it sounds, numerous white nationalists are vegan and vegetarian.
And my point is, OH MY GOD WHO F****** CARES??!! They aren’t white supremacists because they’re vegetarian or vegan. They’re vegan (in very small part) because they’re white supremacists. Let’s focus on the right part of that equation shall we? Choosing to become a vegan or vegetarian doesn’t increase your chances of becoming a white supremacist. So why are we spotlighting veganism? What’s the end game? Do we feel like we’ve made progress if we rid the world of vegans?
This is my problem with articles like that. They don’t move us forward in any way,. They’re worthless, cynical, race-baiting clickbait which does nothing but distract from meaningful issues whilst lining the pockets of rags like Vice.
If racism shows up in a group, let’s tackle the racism. I’m with you 100% on that. If there’s something about the group which is inherently racist, let’s tackle that too. Absolutely agreed. But if a racist turns up at a knitting circle, the problem is not knitting. Any suggestion that it is makes the fight against racism sound like a joke.
Lastly, God, I am so tired of that word "erased". This burgeoning narcissism in woke circles which leads people to believe that if their exact specifications aren’t being centred they cease to exist is so tiresome. I’m not going to explain, every time I write about black issues, that not every black woman or man is part of a nuclear family. I’m not going to point out that disabled black people have their own challenges each time I talk about the challenges of black people in general. I’m not going to mention, every time I talk about the need for prison reform, that most black people have never been to prison. It’s not because I don’t care, it’s because I’m trying to write something coherent.
There is never a time, not ever, when I refer to black people and intend to exclude or "erase" any black person. If you choose to take offence where none is being offered, that's up to you. It must be exhausting.
“They’re worthless, cynical, race-baiting clickbait which does nothing but distract from meaningful issues whilst lining the pockets of rags like Vice.”
I should also have added that they also exhaust people who might otherwise be interested in helping with real issues. I regularly find myself talking with people who are genuinely interested in addressing racial inequality, but whose capacity to care is being ground down by the unending waves of nonsense.
I mean your intent is irrelevant, lol. You LITERALLY excluded black women. You could’ve decided to talk about mass incarceration of black women but you chose to talk about men instead. You could’ve chosen not to gender the issue at all. The fact of the matter is that black men see higher rates of incarceration in comparison to black women because they’re men. We’re both black. Both genders are facing the same issue. The common theme is our blackness. The impact is still the same just like those well-meaning people who thought it’d be a good idea to segregate parent teacher conferences by race. But for some reason, you cannot see how your individual actions and decisions are complicit in the ERASURE (I said what I said) of black women in anti racism advocacy as a whole. If I had a dime for everyone who made the excuse “that wasn’t my intent or anything else along those lines I would be a very wealthy woman.
Another “LITERALLY”, but notice how B switches gears here. Maybe it genuinely hadn't occurred to her that a few racist people enjoying knitting doesn’t make knitting fundamentally racist.
The fact that she dropped this ridiculous line of debate feels like a small victory in the battle for sanity. Sadly, the war isn’t over.
I mean your intent is irrelevant, lol. You LITERALLY excluded black women.
Ah yes of course, that's the "logic" now isn't it. If you can find a way to feel offended by squinting your eyes hard enough, then it doesn't mattter if you're just being a narcissist. It's asinine to suggest that every time I don't write specifically about black women I'm erasing them. By this logic I also "erased" black disabled people and black gay people and black trans people too. Should every paragraph about black issues include a list, delineated by group classification, of the specific issues of every possible type of black person? That woud make for great writing. Maybe you should give me your full name and a list of your struggles so I don't "erase" you by not mentioning you personally.
This is too stupid to debate. If you choose to be offended, that's your choice. Also, maybe seek therapy. No mentally healthy human being would be offended by this. It's also irrelevant to the topic we were discussing.
You seem to not be getting the point. Nowhere did I say that every time YOU don’t write about black women you’re erasing them. I’m saying that YOU are contributing to a greater trend of erasing black women. There’s a difference, and the fact that you’re even trying to argue me down about this says enough for me. And for the record, yes, every time we exclude a marginalized group from a conversation they SHOULD be apart we are, in fact, erasing them.
So wait…am I erasing them or am I not? B starts by saying I’m not, but ends by saying I am. Only one way to find out. Let’s test out my new powers.
the fact that you’re even trying to argue me down about this says enough for me.
Like I said, this is too stupid for me to debate. So yes, you win, I'm erasing you. Do you feel it? There's LITERALLY nothing I enjoy doing more. I'm surprised you can even respond to this considering that I erased you so hard. Be erased I say! ERASED!!
It’s truly poetic that this was the last I heard from B. Maybe there really is something to this “erasing” stuff. Maybe my keyboard is mightier than the pen and the sword. Maybe I can make people disappear simply by not writing explicitly about them or by telling them they’re erased. Or maybe the whole argument is completely ridiculous.
I’ll let you know. I’m off to test my new powers on Robin Di'Angelo…