Sunday, March 16, 2008

I Threw A Brick Through A Window


Main Entry: rac·ism

Function: noun
Date: 1933

1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race 2 : racial prejudice or discrimination

I stirred up a shit storm of controversy over at Shakespeare's Sister. It's nice to know I haven't lost my touch.

Jeff Fecke wrote a post addressing the Jeremiah Wright kerfuffle: Yes, this is a Racist Country, and Saying So is Not Racist. I credit Jeff for having the courage to address any question regarding such an emotionally volatile issue as "race relations." The trouble started when I dared to take exception to Jeff's contention that

"nobody with any decency would think that problematic racism was directed at white people."
I had the unbridled nerve to suggest all racism was troublesome:
Despite growing up in a wicked white town bordering Boston's black neighborhoods, I'm a decent, reasonably street-smart white guy. I later lived in Jersey City from 1990-2003. The occasional racism directed at me and/or my wife was all too problematic.

There was the 30 African-American youths reaching for rocks after my car broke down on Mattapan's Morton St. in 1980. Followed by the half-dozen black teenagers surrounding me and abusing my date at Downtown Crossing circa 1986. And who could forget '92's bottle throwing Latinos (JC's Wayne St)?

Bigotry is bigotry, folks, however it rears it's ugly head. Nothing brings that message home like having it directed at us privileged white folk. Oh the irony! For I've long fought against bigotry amongst us whiteys first using my fists, later my voice and now my pen.

It's undeniable that "white" racism has far more of a negative impact on all other ethnic groups. But we ignore any bigotry festering on the other side of the avenue at our peril. Until we take a systemic approach, our progress will continue to be painfully slow.
For the most part, this didn't go over so well. My decency was checked, examined and found wanting. Here's a sample response:
AF, what you're describing is not racism, it's hostility and hatred. White people in American can be subject to racial hatred, but not to racism.* Racism is systemic, and it's the reason behind the outrageously disproportionate incarceration of black Americans, the poverty gap, the education gap, the media's treatment of black people in public life, the horrible mismanagement of Hurricane Katrina.
I'm not saying this to pick nits. I really think it's an important distinction because I hear too many people using words like "reverse racism" or acting like a group of black kids stealing cars is on the same level, as redlining neighborhoods.
Sniper | 03.15.08 - 5:28 pm |
*(my emphasis added)
I personally hate the term "reverse racism" too. Now I have a clue as to why. I'm white and my past few harassers were not. My experiences were "not racism" but "hostility and hatred." I'm still sorta confused. Me:
How is violent "hostility" directed towards me and mine based solely on the color of our skin not racism? Look, if you sit down with me over your fave beverage for a half-hour and still want to throw rock and bottles at me, I can accept that. But I cannot and will not let guilt over shit I've never done to any other person prevent me from tilting the mirror in back in other direction when their acts and words demand it.

Where does this brand of "hostility" end and racism begin? Because if what I've described as racism isn't racism, it might as well be. Perception has a tragic habit of becoming a self-fulfilling reality. Upon encountering such "hostility", the bigot finds his irrational hatred justified. A vicious cycle continues not unabated but rather accelerated spreading poison across generations, class, color and creed.
Aw, now why did I go and say that? That was just plain hateful. Looks like a job for Condescension (Wo)Man!
@Anacher Forester: If you haven't done a lot of anti-racist work, you might not believe that racism =/= prejudice.

After decades now of progressive discussion and struggle, it's clear (I think) that racism needs an institutional and power component along side skin or ethnic prejudice.

This doesn't make your experiences less painful,natch. But should keep you from a facile comparison.
that? I'm a specist? Fuck! And I thought after treatment I was doing so well.

will work. More me:
Shorter version:

1. Racism is defined as prejudice against someone based solely on their race.

2. Racism is Racism regardless of the races involved.

3. No one race has a monopoly on racists or an immunity to racism.

4. All bigotry begets more bigotry regardless of race.

I'm not claiming that racism against nice white fellas is any way proportional to your average garden variety racism. I've had it laughably easy. But it is a small symptom of a very big disease. To call it otherwise is intellectually dishonest.

As for my experiences with the aforementioned "hostility", they left me far more saddened than angered and far more motivated than despairing. The anger I still carry with me to this day is directed at that which created and continues to feed this hatred.

"It's undeniable that "white" racism has far more of a negative impact on all other ethnic groups." But just as not all honkeys are racist, not all racists are honkeys.-AF = Amoebas Forever!