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UnluckyClover77
07-09-2015, 02:03 PM
Where I come from, people don't talk about race that much, so bear with me.
Isn't calling someone a "person of color" basically categorizes human beings into "whites" and "non-whites"? When I see random people on the street, I don't think into which category they fit. I'm not even sure into which one I fit! That's just not how my brain is wired.

*Waits with condolence for someone who has to deal with that sort of stupidity on regular basis*

mirandashell
07-09-2015, 02:38 PM
PoC is a mostly American term, I think. It's used as short-hand on this board because the majority of AW members are American. The PoC board itself tends to focus on the American experience of racism. Which is why some things can be a bit of a puzzle.

Ravioli
07-09-2015, 02:41 PM
Yeah, strictly speaking there is no white, no black, and all are people of color. I mean, if you're "white", put your hand on a sheet of white paper and tell me again that you're white. Same for a "black" person, take a selfie with a lump of coal. We're all shades and hues of brown in the end.

Lillith1991
07-09-2015, 02:52 PM
No. There are issues more prevalent for POC and for example, for the PoC section of the Qeer community that don't exist or exist in the same manner for their White counterparts. When you mix racism and homophobia it is different than having each of them be separate issues. And when you are told that as a Black person no matter your financial status that you can't make it because you're Black, that is different than someone who is white being told they won't amount to shit because they're poor.

There's also a history of people trying to incorperate issues domminant in another demographic into so called White issues, so words like POC exist to make sure actually minority people by western standards are having their issues in relation to society adressed. It isn't that we need to get rid of the phrase, it's useful. What we need it to get rid of the mentality that White people getting social privillege isn't an issue, and POC should instead be happy to be treated like honorary White people instead of being respected for who they are.

oceansoul
07-09-2015, 03:07 PM
It's very much an American term. As someone who grew up in a bubble of a different sort - I went to an international school outside London - where we had such a cultural, racial and language mix of students that there was no 'normal.' It's a term I still struggle with and have an almost viceral reaction to people classifying themselves and others by race. When I went back to the US to do my undergrad, I found a lot of the race-related rhetoric really outdated and a bit extremist. It took me a while to understand that issues of racism were actually still a 'thing' in 21st century America, because the atmosphere I came from was so diverse.

sohalt
07-09-2015, 03:12 PM
We're also shaped by our circumstances. The circumstances generally encountered by a POC are substantially different from those generally found by a white person. Glossing over that would be facile and self-serving (if you're not a POC). POC usually don't have the luxury of "not seeing colour", because they're constantly reminded of their colour as a factor used to discriminate against them.

If you're a POC and that's not your experience, good for you. I'm not a POC, so maybe I'm entirely out of line. But most POC I've talked to really resent the whole "I don't see race"-stick from white people, and I can absolutely see why.

veinglory
07-09-2015, 03:14 PM
Race, whatever way any given person defines or assigns it, exists. Therefore we need to have words for it. Just like age, gender, subcultures, or any other demographic variable.

oceansoul
07-09-2015, 03:40 PM
We're also shaped by our circumstances. The circumstances generally encountered by a POC are substantially different from those generally found by a white person. Glossing over that would be facile and self-serving (if you're not a POC). POC usually don't have the luxury of "not seeing colour", because they're constantly reminded of their colour as a factor used to discriminate against them.

If you're a POC and that's not your experience, good for you. I'm not a POC, so maybe I'm entirely out of line. But most POC I've talked to really resent the whole "I don't see race"-stick from white people, and I can absolutely see why.

I agree with you. I was just noting that my own background, was actually one of those circumstances where race wasn't an issue and was not the circumstances generally encountered by POC outside the bubble of cultural diversity found in London-based international schools/communities.

sohalt
07-09-2015, 03:47 PM
Also, it's not my experience at all that race is less of an issue in Europe. We may not talk about it as much, but racism is just as ubiquituous. It just manifests in slightly different ways.

Of course, the world is larger than the USA and Europe, so maybe there is indeed a place where race is less of an issue and OP truly comes from that magical place, (or has otherwise managed to entirely transcend their socialization). I just wanted to point out that "not talking about race as much" in no way, shape or form _automatically_ translates to "less actual racism".

sohalt
07-09-2015, 03:51 PM
I agree with you. I was just noting that my own background, was actually one of those circumstances where race wasn't an issue and was not the circumstances generally encountered by POC outside the bubble of cultural diversity found in London-based international schools/communities.

Didn't see that before posting the comment above and now thinking that it comes across as overly harsh. I don't want to discount your experience. But as you said yourself, it's a very, very rarified bubble you're referring to and just not applicable to most people.

I do think that the wider culture we're immersed in is profoundly racist, and inevitably leaves its mark even on the most well-intentioned. I also believe that most white people are genuinely not particularly conscious of that. Sadly, that doesn't make it any less exhausting for the POC who have to deal with the more or less subtle forms in which such subconscious biases find their expression after all.

JimmyB27
07-09-2015, 04:02 PM
Isn't calling someone a "person of color" basically categorizes human beings into "whites" and "non-whites"?
The categorising is already there. Sure, you're right, in an ideal world we wouldn't categorise each other based on skin colour any more than we do based on hair or eye colour. But the reality of the world is that there are people out there who do just that. We call them bigots or racists. The use of the term 'PoC' isn't itself categorising people, but responding to the racists' categorising and acknowledging that, because of that, a great many people do suffer.

autumnleaf
07-09-2015, 04:25 PM
The OP is from Egypt. I don't know much about Egypt, but it does have very different demographics and history to North America and Europe, so I'm assuming that any racial prejudices and problems it has are also different. Not better or worse, but different.

If the OP is an ethnic Egyptian, then probably they're not seen as a "person of color" in their own country, even though they might be in France or the US. Which goes to show how fuzzy the category can be.

nighttimer
07-09-2015, 04:33 PM
PoC is a mostly American term, I think. It's used as short-hand on this board because the majority of AW members are American. The PoC board itself tends to focus on the American experience of racism. Which is why some things can be a bit of a puzzle.

The majority of AW members are American and White Americans as well. People of Color is simply a term to differentiate from one group of Americans whom typically are aware and conscious of their race and another whom are often unaware and unconscious of their race.

You can probably figure out who's in which group.

sohalt
07-09-2015, 04:44 PM
Okay, that definitely makes me think I was sounding too harsh. The world is indeed larger than Europe and the USA and I'm well reminded to consider that a bit more.

Myrealana
07-09-2015, 07:28 PM
PoC is an American term for anyone who isn't White. It's not a perfect definition, but it's better than previously used terms, such as "minority," or trying to classify every non-white American as fitting into a specific category, or much, much worse.

I don't think most Americans walk down the street thinking about the race of the people they see, either. I think most people are too busy worrying about their own stuff to casually note the color of other people's skin. However, there is no doubt that the experience of non-White Americans is different in many ways from the life of the average White American. People often say "I don't see color, I just see people," but it's disingenuous. Unconscious bias is real, and it's pervasive. That doesn't even take into account the conscious bias of people who are secretly or even openly racist.

Not too long ago, I was at the Aurora movie theater where a mass shooting took place three years ago. The place is crawling with armed police. I was with a friend, meeting my husband who was already in the theater. After we bought our tickets, one of the armed officers followed us to our screen, even waiting outside the bathrooms when we stopped before getting our seats. I was a little freaked out, but my friend, a Black man, shrugged it off. It happens all the time, especially if he's hanging out with a White woman. He's used to it. I still don't understand how a person gets used to that kind of thing.

That's why the conversation has to continue. His experience is so different than mine, and I didn't even realize how different until that day.

Liosse de Velishaf
07-09-2015, 07:45 PM
Even these days the Internet that Americans experience is very American. As others have said, AW is quite American, though perhaps less so than the part of the Internet I'm used to seeing. I imagine that can be quite confusing on sites where there is a large non-American or non-Western European population, because those members who are not from the US or Canada, or Western Europe probably don't talk about or even experience racism in the same way that Americans do.

kuwisdelu
07-09-2015, 09:05 PM
I agree with you. I was just noting that my own background, was actually one of those circumstances where race wasn't an issue and was not the circumstances generally encountered by POC outside the bubble of cultural diversity found in London-based international schools/communities.

I'll put it this way: a white person talking about how race doesn't matter tends to come across like a man describing pregnancy.

Also, racial issues aren't only about racism, and not all racism is bigotry.

oceansoul
07-09-2015, 09:25 PM
I'll put it this way: a white person talking about how race doesn't matter tends to come across like a man describing pregnancy.

Also, racial issues aren't only about racism, and not all racism is bigotry.

I have kept in touch with POC classmates over the years. Their experience once they left the international school bubble was one of shock. One friend, who was Sri Lankan, went to university in Texas. She said the culture shock was unbelievable, both from people self-indentifying as 'brown' and assuming they should associate with other 'brown' people by virtue of a shared heritage -- she couldn't even begin to understand what they meant, or why people born in the US or with ancestors from another country than hers would think they shared a heritage link by skin colour. And by how white students treated her.

It wasn't just my personal experience as a white person, it's my understanding that was a very collective experience, and that many POC classmates I went to the international school with were extremely dismayed by the outside world when they left high school.

kuwisdelu
07-09-2015, 09:31 PM
I have kept in touch with POC classmates over the years. Their experience once they left the international school bubble was one of shock. One friend, who was Sri Lankan, went to university in Texas. She said the culture shock was unbelievable, both from people self-indentifying as 'brown' and assuming they should associate with other 'brown' people by virtue of a shared heritage -- she couldn't even begin to understand what they meant, or why people born in the US or with ancestors from another country than hers would think they shared a heritage link by skin colour. And by how white students treated her.

It wasn't just my personal experience as a white person, it's my understanding that was a very collective experience, and that many POC classmates I went to the international school with were extremely dismayed by the outside world when they left high school.

Where your post is really rubbing me the wrong way is how "dismayed" you and your classmates are by the rest of the world.

It sounds as if you think it's a bad thing to acknowledge race, or to identify by one's ethnicity and heritage.

It sounds as if you're expressing disapproval that I identify as Zuni, as Native American, or that others might identify as Black or Latino.

I have no idea what's dismaying about that, nor would I want to live somewhere where people refuse to acknowledge my racial and ethnic identity.

William Haskins
07-09-2015, 09:32 PM
americans love their identity politics.

kuwisdelu
07-09-2015, 09:34 PM
americans love their identity politics.

As pithy and dismissive as ever, I see.

William Haskins
07-09-2015, 09:37 PM
not sure how it's dismissive, but okay.

mirandashell
07-09-2015, 10:14 PM
The thing is, Kuwi, is that you are talking from an American perspective. It's important to you because of your history and what happened, and is still happening, to your culture. And no-one is trying to dismiss that.

But it's a little unfair of you to dismiss the experiences of other people because they don't tally with yours. Every country has racism of one kind or another. But they aren't all the same experiences.

And it's the main reason why the only experience of racism discussed on this board is the American experience because everyone else's gets dismissed out of hand.

Lillith1991
07-09-2015, 10:54 PM
The thing is, Kuwi, is that you are talking from an American perspective. It's important to you because of your history and what happened, and is still happening, to your culture. And no-one is trying to dismiss that.

But it's a little unfair of you to dismiss the experiences of other people because they don't tally with yours. Every country has racism of one kind or another. But they aren't all the same experiences.

And it's the main reason why the only experience of racism discussed on this board is the American experience because everyone else's gets dismissed out of hand.

I don't think Kuwi is being dismissive or simply taking things from an American perspective. Someone who is Black and Canadian is still Black, maybe they're the descendant of slaves or Nigerian immagrants. But like their American, French, British etc. counterparts, they're likely to encounter prejudice due to their race. The fact they do doesn't change, just the level and way it is expressed may be different depending on where they're from. I won't even tackle ethnic and racial prejudice from within a given demographic. The point is that it happens regardless of which western society you're from.

Also, I'm with Kuwi on this one. I tend to find it disconcerting when people say that someone else identifying strongly with their race or ethnic group dismays them. I idenify as mulatto or Black for example, and I'm happy with that. My cousins idenify as Khmer whether full or half-blood. And I don't see how no matter how much freedom people have, they havve the right to be dismayed by something like that.

Vegetarian Cannibal
07-09-2015, 11:02 PM
Why do people come into the POC subforum if they're not interested in talking to POC but about POC? Specifically, about POC to other white people? Hilarious.

I'm seeing a lot of useless hand wringing here. "I'm white, not a person of color, hell, I'm not even from the USA but here's my relevant opinion about American racism..." Look. Take it somewhere else. Please. There's a Politics subforum. There's even an Expat/International subforum. Use it. Love it. Explore it.

The way this thread is going, I expect a lot of POC here to become unnecessarily peeved. This subforum is about POC. Naturally, people who identify as POC are going to occupy this space. Respect our space. If you're not interested in constructive dialogue with POC, take it somewhere else. Please.

Over and out.

kuwisdelu
07-09-2015, 11:27 PM
Oh my, oh my.


The thing is, Kuwi, is that you are talking from an American perspective. It's important to you because of your history and what happened, and is still happening, to your culture. And no-one is trying to dismiss that.

When people find it dismaying that I identify with my racial heritage, that's going to feel awfully dismissive.


But it's a little unfair of you to dismiss the experiences of other people because they don't tally with yours. Every country has racism of one kind or another. But they aren't all the same experiences.

I'm quite certain I didn't do that. In fact, I'm quite certain I pointed out that not all race issues are about racism, and that not all racism is bigotry. I'm quite certain I'm keenly aware that experiences of race are not all the same, because I pointed that out myself.


And it's the main reason why the only experience of racism discussed on this board is the American experience because everyone else's gets dismissed out of hand.

Excuse me, but I must have missed the part where all of aruna's invaluable posts suddenly disappeared.


The point we are trying to make is that racism is such a massive political *thing* in America that it can skew the perception of race by Americans.

And how is that not dismissing our experiences because they're different?


All countries have racism in one form or another, it's part of the human condition, unfortunately. But it's not such a charged issue in many other countries.

No one said it wasn't. What was said is that race still matters.


To non-Americans, race issues in America are so charged and so sensitive that it doesn't really relate. And to non-Americans on this board, it prevents any discussion of anyone else's experience of racism.

I take it by "non-Americans" you mean "white Europeans"?


And when anyone brings this up, there is the reaction that this thread has elicited. That's why it's the American experience that dominates.

We tend to be quite receptive to hearing about experiences of people of color (forgive the Americanism) from all around the world. We don't tend to be very receptive to white people (of any nationality) lecturing us about race.


For instance, I'm of Irish heritage. Anyone interested in the racism I've experienced in Britain? No. Because I'm white and from an American perspective, where skin colour is the big divide, my experience isn't racism.

This isn't the "racism" forum. It's the PoC forum.

To my mind, that includes people with non-European ancestry from all around the world, including but not limited to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the pre-Columbian Americas. I.e., the "non-Western" world.


Yeah... I think the post 25 just proved my point.

It really didn't.

kuwisdelu
07-09-2015, 11:34 PM
And there we go. That's exactly what I'm talking about.

Maybe it would be a good idea to put 'For Americans only' in the board title?

Umm. No.

You seem to be the one missing the point.


I'm off now cos this isn't really going anywhere and I'm not being understood. It's a real shame cos this board could be a great resource for *everyone* on the forum.

Have fun then.

nighttimer
07-09-2015, 11:35 PM
It's very much an American term. As someone who grew up in a bubble of a different sort - I went to an international school outside London - where we had such a cultural, racial and language mix of students that there was no 'normal.' It's a term I still struggle with and have an almost viceral reaction to people classifying themselves and others by race. When I went back to the US to do my undergrad, I found a lot of the race-related rhetoric really outdated and a bit extremist. It took me a while to understand that issues of racism were actually still a 'thing' in 21st century America, because the atmosphere I came from was so diverse.


We're also shaped by our circumstances. The circumstances generally encountered by a POC are substantially different from those generally found by a white person. Glossing over that would be facile and self-serving (if you're not a POC). POC usually don't have the luxury of "not seeing colour", because they're constantly reminded of their colour as a factor used to discriminate against them.

If you're a POC and that's not your experience, good for you. I'm not a POC, so maybe I'm entirely out of line. But most POC I've talked to really resent the whole "I don't see race"-stick from white people, and I can absolutely see why.

IMO, the two most important things for anyone attempting to better dialogue with people whose life experiences, identity and how they move through the world in a way different from their own is to open their eyes and heart and shut their mouths.

You learn more by listening than speaking. When someone says, "I don't see color" or "I don't think of you as Black" or "You're very intelligent and speak so well" you are devaluing me as a human being and as an individual and while I will smile benignly, I've already stopped listening to you.

As writers we revere the written word. We create worlds with words and many of us are gifted, skillful and talented with how we create magic with words. But we should be cautious when we enter worlds where the terrain and the language and customs are foreign to us. We see all the time in this forum the question asked, "How should I as a White writer create a character of color who isn't phony, inauthentic and stereotypical?" Watching a marathon of rap videos or The Cosby Show ain't gonna get it done.

If you don't know you'd better ask somebody. And shut up and listen when you do. You're the one seeking information and knowledge. How you gonna hear if you're busy bumping your gums saying dumb shit you don't even know is dumb?

Case in point: Charlie Rose is an experienced interviewer who does an excellent job in asking the right question. Toni Morrison schooled Mr. Rose by reminding him to pose the right question to the right person.

(http://www.upworthy.com/he-asked-her-the-wrong-question-about-racism-and-her-answer-is-flawless)I welcome the honest and candid posts from AW members from outside of the United States on race issues. Whether its their observations and questions about how they play out here or in their own countries, it is an opportunity to teach and learn from each other. There really is no such thing as a stupid question because it offers an opportunity for everyone to get a little smarter and savvier about a complex and knotty problem.

America does not have a monopoly on racism and the pain inflicted upon one group by another and what that does to them. I don't understand why anyone would want to claim exclusive rights to that franchise. The Jews were as White as Adolf Hitler, but he treated them with the same contempt as any Klansman did a uppity Negro.


americans love their identity politics.

Possibly they do. When they trouble themselves to recognize its existence.

kuwisdelu
07-09-2015, 11:38 PM
Maybe it would be a good idea to put 'For Americans only' in the board title?

Incidentally, I note less than half of the threads on the first page are about American PoC.

autumnleaf
07-09-2015, 11:44 PM
I take it by "non-Americans" you mean "white Europeans"?


Or maybe North Africans like the OP.



To my mind, that includes people with non-European ancestry from all around the world, including but not limited to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the pre-Columbian Americas. I.e., the "non-Western" world.


But not Egypt, apparently.

kuwisdelu
07-09-2015, 11:49 PM
But not Egypt, apparently.

Egypt is neither part of the African continent, nor part of the Middle East?

That's new to me.

Edit: Incidentally, I have no problem with OP's question. It's some of the responses that trouble me.

backslashbaby
07-10-2015, 01:58 AM
I think the discussion is very interesting! Certainly things look different from Egypt and within Egypt :) I just had a great discussion on Twitter with a Cubana, too, about the term Afro-Cuban. They do it differently than here in the US (I already knew they did in some other Latino cultures).

Of course what bothers people is being told that their way is wrong! I think cultures are bound to handle things differently, and 'wrong' is not really in my vocabulary for all of that.

It does not mean that racism doesn't exist in other cultures, though. That would be like finding a unicorn, lol. But it might not be as sensitive as here. You'd have to ask the PoC, though, of course.

My South African friends explained some of their terms, etc, and I found that unusual compared to US reasoning. I don't think we are 'right', but those terms wouldn't work here any better than Afro-Cubano goes over well for quite dark-skinned folks in Cuba.

As far as the OP goes, white people did not place that term on PoC. You are right in thinking it's awful (imho) if that's the impression! But it's a term that PoC wanted to use themselves, so it's not about white people wanting to add a 'brown' category for their (our*) own reasons.

* - I'm very white and also not white. Always taken for a very white person, though, and that's important to these discussions most of the time.

Cyia
07-10-2015, 02:14 AM
I don't see how someone's being from a country other than the US has any bearing on the relevance of their opinion concerning matters in the US. It's an exterior perspective rather than an interior one, but it's a perspective none the less, and it's one that forces a solely American conversation out of its bubble. Outside perspectives are important in most conversations.

UnluckyClover77
07-10-2015, 03:20 AM
Oh, God! How did that happen? I just saw a concept that was strange to me, and I tried to make sense out of it by asking the same people who are exposed to it. I'm sorry if that came across as offensive, but I definitely didn't have that intention. :)
I'm not dismissing anyone's experience because it's different from mine, or else I wouldn't start this thread (Duh!). I think I'm starting to understand it a bit more, though.

We have problems too, y'know? I don't live in rainbow unicorn land, but if you ever pay us a visit and someone tells you that you don't belong into a certain "societal club" because you're too "pale" or too "dark", they're basically giving you the exclusive right of punching them in the face and telling them just how stupid they are. There's discrimination, yes, but it just doesn't work that way.


The use of the term 'PoC' isn't itself categorising people, but responding to the racists' categorising and acknowledging that.

For me, it seems more like confirming it or going along with it than responding to it, but I guess you have to call it something...?



It sounds as if you're expressing disapproval that I identify as Zuni, as Native American, or that others might identify as Black or Latino.



Also, I'm with Kuwi on this one. I tend to find it disconcerting when people say that someone else identifying strongly with their race or ethnic group dismays them. I idenify as mulatto or Black for example, and I'm happy with that. My cousins idenify as Khmer whether full or half-blood. And I don't see how no matter how much freedom people have, they havve the right to be dismayed by something like that.

Hmm...It's very shocking that no one else mentioned that. It would make more sense to me if someone identifies with a certain racial group based on tradition or heritage, rather than the color of their skin tone. :)


Why do people come into the POC subforum if they're not interested in talking to POC but about POC? Specifically, about POC to other white people? Hilarious.



If you don't know you'd better ask somebody. And shut up and listen when you do. You're the one seeking information and knowledge.
(http://www.upworthy.com/he-asked-her-the-wrong-question-about-racism-and-her-answer-is-flawless)

I'm not sure if this is even about me or someone else, because that's exactly what I did; I dropped by and asked a question, and I specifically asked it to people who have to deal with racism (American or not), but I don't see a problem with others who just want to share their opinion, even if I didn't ask them.
And, yeah...considering that I spent all morning reading your posts, and not saying anything, I'd say I'm a pretty good listener.



To my mind, that includes people with non-European ancestry from all around the world, including but not limited to Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and the pre-Columbian Americas. I.e., the "non-Western" world.


Does that mean I'm a PoC? Interesting, not sure what to do with that information, but still interesting.

JimmyB27
07-10-2015, 04:07 AM
You learn more by listening than speaking. When someone says, "I don't see color" or "I don't think of you as Black" or "You're very intelligent and speak so well" you are devaluing me as a human being and as an individual and while I will smile benignly, I've already stopped listening to you.
I say this with the full understanding that I'm a white guy with no clue, but it seems to me like the first two of those are clumsy and inelegant ways of saying "I don't judge you based on the colour of your skin". Actually, now I think of it, even that's pretty clumsy and inelegant because the best way of showing you don't judge someone based on the colour of their skin is to not judge them based on the colour of their skin...
As for "You're very intelligent and speak so well", people really say that? I think I get this one - there's an implied 'for a black guy' in there, right? (You did say there's no such thing as a stupid question, right...? ;))


For me, it seems more like confirming it or going along with it than responding to it, but I guess you have to call it something...?
What I meant was that the lines in the sand, as it were, have been drawn by the racists. They are saying PoCs are worth less than 'people like us'. So, of course we are going to be talking about PoC, and of course we have to 'call it something'.

oceansoul
07-10-2015, 04:36 AM
I think I didn't explain well. My friend from Sri Lanka was dismayed as were other POC who moved from the international environment. And yes, I have to use that word because it conveys the right sentiment. But the reason she was upset was not because of how other POC identified in her new home in Texas ... it was because she was expected to participate in a certain 'system' of identification because of the colour of her skin. She identifies as a Sri Lankan, because that is where she was born and what her cultural heritage is. Her dismay came from how the tendency of people she meant in Texas was to group people by skin colour, and see that as something that superseded cultural background or to be completely ignorant of her cultural heritage.

kuwisdelu
07-10-2015, 04:57 AM
I think I didn't explain well. My friend from Sri Lanka was dismayed as were other POC who moved from the international environment. And yes, I have to use that word because it conveys the right sentiment. But the reason she was upset was not because of how other POC identified in her new home in Texas ... it was because she was expected to participate in a certain 'system' of identification because of the colour of her skin. She identifies as a Sri Lankan, because that is where she was born and what her cultural heritage is. Her dismay came from how the tendency of people she meant in Texas was to group people by skin colour, and see that as something that superseded cultural background or to be completely ignorant of her cultural heritage.

Indeed, I misunderstood then. I'm sorry.

That's unfortunate. It's not my usual experience for other PoC not to respect one's cultural and ethnic identity.

I can understand how that can be frustrating. I'm often mistaken for Latino, and my mother is always complaining about how people expect her to speak Spanish.

However, yes, in the US, we do tend to regard other PoC as allies, since we're fellow minorities in this country, so that often breeds certain shared experiences.

Certainly that part is a different experience compared to someone coming from a country where they're not an ethnic minority, so I can understand where they're coming from with those feelings.

I don't think that means there are no shared experiences between PoC from different countries. Particular to a publishing perspective, I think this excellent essay (http://deepad.dreamwidth.org/29371.html) from an (Eastern) Indian author discusses issues with which many PoC around the world can relate, with regard to the Euro-centric Western culture that dominates much of the world.

kuwisdelu
07-10-2015, 05:18 AM
People keep bringing up skin color, but it's really not about skin color, despite the nomenclature.

There are certainly issues even within the PoC community of people judging others by skin color, but for many U.S. — especially on AW at least — it's not about skin color.

Any Native American will be the first to tell you that we're not a single entity, but come from over 500 federally recognized tribal nations, and many more unrecognized tribal nations. Many of those tribes are very light-skinned, too, and many of us can pass as white.

So I certainly don't think skin color supersedes one's cultural or ethnic heritage, and if I said anything to give that impression, I must have been unclear.

kuwisdelu
07-10-2015, 05:26 AM
I say this with the full understanding that I'm a white guy with no clue, but it seems to me like the first two of those are clumsy and inelegant ways of saying "I don't judge you based on the colour of your skin". Actually, now I think of it, even that's pretty clumsy and inelegant because the best way of showing you don't judge someone based on the colour of their skin is to not judge them based on the colour of their skin...

They're very different. How would you feel if a woman told you "I don't think of you as a man"?

kuwisdelu
07-10-2015, 05:30 AM
Oh, God! How did that happen? I just saw a concept that was strange to me, and I tried to make sense out of it by asking the same people who are exposed to it. I'm sorry if that came across as offensive, but I definitely didn't have that intention. :)
I'm not dismissing anyone's experience because it's different from mine, or else I wouldn't start this thread (Duh!). I think I'm starting to understand it a bit more, though.

Your question was fine. It was some of the early answers that rubbed some of us the wrong way. Don't worry about it.


Does that mean I'm a PoC? Interesting, not sure what to do with that information, but still interesting.

Unless you're an Egyptian with entirely European ancestry (most likely British if that were the case), then probably, yes.

Edit: For the purposes of this forum, anyway. As mentioned, the term originates as an Americanism referring to American ethnic minorities, but we use a more inclusive definition on AW.

aruna
07-10-2015, 10:51 AM
We're also shaped by our circumstances. The circumstances generally encountered by a POC are substantially different from those generally found by a white person. Glossing over that would be facile and self-serving (if you're not a POC). POC usually don't have the luxury of "not seeing colour", because they're constantly reminded of their colour as a factor used to discriminate against them.

If you're a POC and that's not your experience, good for you. I'm not a POC, so maybe I'm entirely out of line. But most POC I've talked to really resent the whole "I don't see race"-stick from white people, and I can absolutely see why.


I recently wrote a post about this. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?307401-Should-White-Men-Stop-Writing&p=9481492&viewfull=1#post9481492)

It's something white people like to say to "prove" how non-racist they are. Along with the "enlightened" cliche, which I'm hearing a lot these days: "Race is a social construct. It doesn't exist." Yeeees. Tell that to black kids who get shot down by white policemen.

aruna
07-10-2015, 11:39 AM
As a Guyanese, I bring a totally different experience of racism to the issue. Racism in Guyana is still alive and well and flourishing -- but it is of a completely different brand to the US experience. With us, it is Africans and (East) Indians (as opposed to Amerindians, who are a minority), a long-standing feud that ripped our country apart. Two large groups, hating one another and voting accordingly.

Finally, this year, something seismic occured: a new party that concentrated not on identifying with one or the other race, but on our common humanity. Acknowledging our differences, without allowing them to obscure the larger vision that we are all, one people. That's Guyana's motto: One People, One Nation, One Destiny. And I think it is a good and wise one.

In addition, there's the huge "third race", the people of mixed ethnicity, to which I belong. We have historically been called "coloured", and the word "coloured" was never a slur in Guyana. So there's that. I actually like the word coloured; taken neutrally, it's actually a happy word, and I'm sorry it can't be used in the US.

Anyway, that aside: unlike Kuwi, I've never been able to identify with one or the other race or ethnicity, and that, I believe, would be the case even if I were "purely" one race. I can't. I identify with something that is beyond these divisions; something that is essentially human, a communion with all humans everywhere and apart from the culture, race, ethnicity, nationality I was born into. It's as if, yes, I have this body derived from all of these different ethnicities, and I find it fascinating and wonderful and all that, but it's not ME. It's not my essence. And I want to be able to meet and care about and even identify with others no matter what their own heritage.

The Guyana experience showed very clearly how too much identification with one's race/culture can divide a nation, and can lead us into a deadlock. There are people in Guyana who, because they are Indian and identify as Indian, will always vote for a certain Mr XXX just because he is Indian, even though his corruption and greed is a proven thing and he may end up in a US jail one of these days. They don't see that. They only see his Indianness. And this is where cultural identity can be a bad thing. IMO we need to be able to see and appreciate BOTH: our culture and race and the richness it offers to society, and those who are, on the surface, different.

Because we all share that same common essence, and our differences are superficial. Racism is a result of seeing the superficial and not the essence of who we really are. I guess thatis what is essentially meant by "I don't see race", but it denies the fact that we do fall into groups on account of our different apperances, and some groups despise other groups, and treat them poorly.

The party of Unity in Guyana won the last election, and it is only to be hoped that the identity of unity will spread and overcome the horrible divisiveness of the past, and we can move on.

Sorry this post was a bit long and philosophical. I'm at work and there's a bit of a lull and I felt myself waxing poetic!

aruna
07-10-2015, 11:57 AM
BTW, yesterday my husband was in a different hopsital and I went to visit him. You could have knocked me over with a feather when one of the doctors turned up: a black female doctor! I don't think I've ever seen a black doctor in Germany before, much less a black female doctor. That's how homogenous this country is. Just had to mention that. It made me feel good.

What Kuwi says is true: in a white-majority country, PoC notice each other and feel a silent bond. That black nurse I mentioned earlier? I've never spoken to her, but when we pass each other on the corridors we smile and nod at each other in a way I don't do with other, white, members of staff. I live in a village that is essentially lily-white. But there is a white man who has a little black boy: I often see them going for walks together, the boy on a tricycle, and they speak German. Never seen the mother. So I tend to wonder: is she black, or is she white and the boy was adopted? So yes, I do see colour; when it's the exception, it stands out.

Anyone read Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's novel Amerikanah? There's a scene in it in which two women in a department store are trying to describe another. The person is actually black, but they twist themselves in knots trying to descibe her without mentioning her skin colour. That is the hypocrisy of the "I don't see colour" ideology. It's all pretense, and a lie.

JimmyB27
07-10-2015, 12:25 PM
They're very different. How would you feel if a woman told you "I don't think of you as a man"?

I would probably shrug and go 'ok, whatever', but I see what you mean I think.

RichardGarfinkle
07-10-2015, 12:36 PM
I recently wrote a post about this. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?307401-Should-White-Men-Stop-Writing&p=9481492&viewfull=1#post9481492)

It's something white people like to say to "prove" how non-racist they are. Along with the "enlightened" cliche, which I'm hearing a lot these days: "Race is a social construct. It doesn't exist." Yeeees. Tell that to black kids who get shot down by white policemen.

It is a terrible truth that many humans are very willing to kill others over social constructs.

It seems to me that the color blindness claim is itself a matter of privilege. A person who is not prejudiced in matters of race is not necessarily respectful of heritage.

So, while many in the current crop of US children think that the prejudices endemic in this country are ridiculous (which gives me hope for the future), they would not necessarily understand (for example) why being Zuni matters so much to kuwi.

aruna
07-10-2015, 01:45 PM
It is a terrible truth that many humans are very willing to kill others over social constructs.

.

Thing is, it's NOT just a social construct. There are very obvious physical differences between groups of people, which is how we traditionally define race. There might be genetic proof that race does not exist, but in our everyday life it DOES exist and has consequences for us all.

RichardGarfinkle
07-10-2015, 02:31 PM
Thing is, it's NOT just a social construct. There are very obvious physical differences between groups of people, which is how we traditionally define race. There might be genetic proof that race does not exist, but in our everyday life it DOES exist and has consequences for us all.

I'm not disagreeing, I'm only pointing out that the fact that people kill over something is not evidence against the claim that the thing is a social construct. People kill all too easily. That doesn't prove anything.

As for obvious physical differences, I don't want to get into an argument about genetics beyond saying it isn't as simple as you're describing it. Race as a concept is not coherent. The cultural construct part of it exists. The genetic concept contains elements of fact and a mass of myth. The shared experience, heritage, and identification aspects are the most coherent because they are people looking at the facts of their own lives.

autumnleaf
07-10-2015, 03:06 PM
I'm not disagreeing, I'm only pointing out that the fact that people kill over something is not evidence against the claim that the thing is a social construct. People kill all too easily. That doesn't prove anything.


Religion is a social construct, and an appalling number of people have been killed due to differences in religion.

Ken
07-10-2015, 03:26 PM
Interesting conversation. Many great points raised. Neat reading all these differing perspectives. Remaining attuned ...

aruna
07-10-2015, 03:35 PM
I'm not disagreeing, I'm only pointing out that the fact that people kill over something is not evidence against the claim that the thing is a social construct. People kill all too easily. That doesn't prove anything..



But I speaking specifically about people who are killed BECAUSE of their race. And people were enslaved BECAUSE of their race. ANd prevented from voting BECAUSE of their race. Pretending that race doesn't exist because it's "just a social construct", as I keep hearing mostly from white people, well, that just "isn't as simple as you're describing it." In all the above cases, whether historical or contemporary, it was the physical apperance alone that determined race. The more powerful race didn't/doesn't care about the cultural context.

.
The cultural construct part of it exists. The genetic concept contains elements of fact and a mass of myth. The shared experience, heritage, and identification aspects are the most coherent because they are people looking at the facts of their own lives.


I'm not quite sure what you're arguing here?

RichardGarfinkle
07-10-2015, 04:50 PM
But I speaking specifically about people who are killed BECAUSE of their race. And people were enslaved BECAUSE of their race. ANd prevented from voting BECAUSE of their race. Pretending that race doesn't exist because it's "just a social construct", as I keep hearing mostly from white people, well, that just "isn't as simple as you're describing it." In all the above cases, whether historical or contemporary, it was the physical apperance alone that determined race. The more powerful race didn't/doesn't care about the cultural context.

.


I'm not quite sure what you're arguing here?

What I'm arguing is that there is a benefit in separating the social construct, the genetics, and the heritage.
Let me clarify.

Bear in mind that while I am not POC that is only because my ancestors did not have skin tone as one of the characteristics that was used to declare them a separate race. Indeed, I am as much on white supremacist hit lists as anyone else. Please remember that for the better part of two thousand years my ancestors were the punching bags of European Christian culture. And why, because they had the poor taste to not go along with a mythology that treated them as deicides and bearers of a sin passed down through blood.

The Cultural Construct of Jew was completely imposed from the outside and created for the convenience of that outside culture. Not only do I see no reason to go along with it, I find myself obliged to correct it, often for very well intentioned people who I respect and like. They don't even notice that their casual assertions about their holy book involves wiping out two thousand years of history of my ancestors. So, I point this out over and over again, but it it does not stick in many minds. They don't even notice that they're doing it. Fighting that social construct is, I think, part of my responsibility, even though (as I'll discuss below) I don't follow the ways of my ancestors. The social construct is toxic and needs separation and eradication from the matters of genetics and heritage.

I am conscious of the fact that less than a hundred years ago it would have been unlikely to the point of nearly impossible for me to have met my wife, let alone be allowed to marry her. And indeed, in certain places it would have been a capital offense for me to have been intimate with her at all. I see no bloody reason to allow social structures like that to exist.

Okay, on to genetics. I like to use the word mytho-genetics for the wildly inaccurate ideas people have about biological inheritance. People think that one keeps a great deal of the genetics of ones ancestors. But that's only true in highly endogamous societies. Here's a quick multi-generational break down.

Your biological children will have 1/2 of your chromosomes (barring non-disjunction). That's guaranteed. But one of your grandchildren might actually share no chromosomes with you. It's unlikely, and the expectation value is that they will have 1/4 of them. Your great grandchildren expect 1/8. Great-great 1/16, great-great-great grandchildren 1/32. great-great-great-great grandchildren 1/64. You only have 46 chromosomes. That means it's not unlikely that after only 6 generations a descendent of yours would have no genetics passed down from you at all. Exception: descendents in a complete female line will share mitochondrial DNA with their foremother.

In an endogamous culture more people share the same ancestors and therefore the same chromosomes will appear from multiple sources in the same generation. But regardless, it does not take long for ancestry to be less a matter of biology than it is a matter of cultural heritage. Furthermore, an oppressed people are often targets for rape. So while I know something of my ancestry in terms of families and marriages, I can't guarantee that I have no non-Jewish actual biological forebears.

That brings me to the third aspect of what is called race: cultural heritage. This is the one that I think is worth preserving. It isn't the invention of outsiders, it isn't a genetic myth, it is people choosing to look back and identify themselves as part of a people stretching back and hopefully forward in time. Part of that heritage can be one of oppression, it can involve a culture created by outside force and pressure (as African-American culture was created through the forces of the society around them, and Jewish culture was shaped by the Diaspora and Christian mythology). But it is the taking up of that culture that is worthwhile.

Note, however, that I did not do that. I largely walked away from my ancestry because I did not marry among the people and I do not follow the ways of Judaism. Thus I talk about my ancestors, not my people, because I made the choice not to keep up the ways of the culture. My decision was the opposite of kuwi's, but I respect his and hope that things work out for him. But I can't really shed all the culture (nor do I want to), there are aspects that are still present in my thinking and in the ways I brought up my children (respect for learning, argument as a good thing, certain kinds of cooking etc.).

So from my perspective, I am not Jewish because I don't follow the ways, but my ancestors were. The cultural construct Jew does not give a damn about my view. It defines and tries to force. I see no reason to let it. So, I will stand against it and point it out and try to tear it down. But the heritage, I support and for those who embrace it, I respect them (as long as they aren't being jerks about it. Argument is part of that heritage as I said). I also respect others who are trying to expand the inner idea of what being Jewish is, including the rabbi who tutored me years ago for my Bar Mitzvah who is trying to get the definition changed so that having a male Jewish parent counts. He wants people like my children and my nephews to be counted among the people if they wish to follow the ways.

That's why I see the heritage as what matters. I refuse to glorify the brutal actions of those who are murderously contemptuous by taking in their idea of who and what a people are.

So, race is not just a social construct, but the part of it that is a forced social construct should be erased.

Liosse de Velishaf
07-10-2015, 10:11 PM
Race as a "social construct" to me refers to the use of race as a shorthand for a lot of stereotypes and mistaken ideas. Your skin color doesn't inherently signify anything about you except that you have that skin color. So when someone says "race is just a social construct" what I hear is not, "there is no race and people aren't killed because of race", because people quite clearly are killed because of their race. But rather, human beings created race as an artifact of their culture, and you can't assume with 100% certainty that someone belonging to a certain race is going to share what our social construct of race tells us are the prototypical features of that race.


ETA: Misquoted Richard, my bad.

aruna
07-10-2015, 10:19 PM
What I'm saying is that all too often people (white mostly) shut down discussions on race with the "race is only a social construct" cliche, trying at the same time to sound incredibly intelligent and cryptic.
Of course there is more to race than skin colour! That has always been behind my contributions to these discussions.
But used in that way, this argument is to me exactly the same as "I'm colour-blind".

RichardGarfinkle
07-10-2015, 10:36 PM
Race as a "social construct" to me refers to the use of race as a shorthand for a lot of stereotypes and mistaken ideas. Your skin color doesn't inherently signify anything about you except that you have that skin color. So when Richard says "race is just a social construct" what I hear is not, "there is no race and people aren't killed because of race", because people quite clearly are killed because of their race. But rather, human beings created race as an artifact of their culture, and you can't assume with 100% certainty that someone belonging to a certain race is going to share what our social construct of race tells us are the prototypical features of that race.


Please note, that I very specifically did not say race is just a social construct. I said one of three aspects of race is a social construct and that aspect needs to be removed.

ETA: Liosse: Okay, we're cool.

Liosse de Velishaf
07-11-2015, 01:13 AM
What I'm saying is that all too often people (white mostly) shut down discussions on race with the "race is only a social construct" cliche, trying at the same time to sound incredibly intelligent and cryptic.
Of course there is more to race than skin colour! That has always been behind my contributions to these discussions.
But used in that way, this argument is to me exactly the same as "I'm colour-blind".

That's not the way I meant it, but if it's been coming across that way then it's probably better for me to discontinue that line of argument. I think I'll be taking a listen and don't speak approach to this thread for awhile.

Roxxsmom
07-11-2015, 01:39 AM
I know what Aruna is saying, and I cringed a bit. Because I teach biology, and the current genetic evidence is pretty clear--there are no alleles that are confined to just one race (in biology, race is defined by the existence of race-specific alleles within a population that is en-route, possibly, to becoming a new species), and the features we identify as racial differences (skin color, hair texture, eye and hair color facial shapes and so on) are very minor, superficial things that diverge rapidly in populations, due either to genetic drift, or as an adaptation to local conditions. Blue eyes and light skin, for instance, are very recent developments, less than 10,000 years old (according to some scientists).

So biologically speaking, we're all one race or subspecies, and race as it's usually understood is a social construct. However, this does not mean it doesn't exist or that it isn't important. With a highly social, intelligent species such as ours, social evolution has long since eclipsed biological in importance. I do try to emphasize that when we cover this topic in my classes, because I really don't want to come off as one of those "race doesn't matter and we should all just be color blind" white people who is telling a huge percentage of my students that their experiences and cultures aren't real.

In general, the notion that we should simply ignore race usually means (really) is that everyone should just be more like white people in terms of their values, norms, customs and so on, so white people can be more comfortable. Also, there's that belief many white people have that all the differences in prosperity, treatment, or achievement between races is due simply to poverty, or bad behavior, and if PoC would simply act like white people, then it would all go away.

This is a contrast with the more overt racism that maintains that there are genetic differences in competence between races. But it still refuses to take any responsibility for institutional and society-level racism.

I do understand the discomfort with a sweeping word for all people who aren't of European descent. Whether we're talking culture or biology, people from different parts of the world have no more in common with one another than they do with Europeans. Except via the historical situation they find themselves in--being relative outsiders in the culture that has dominated global development and recent history. There's a need for a word to describe that shared experience, since writing out "people who have ancestors from Africa, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and the Americas" each and every time gets pretty tedious. And saying "non white" defines the circumstances in terms of a lack, rather than the possession of something. The term "minority" is also misleading, because PoC aren't minorities everywhere in the US, let alone the rest of the world. Racism can affect people, even when they aren't outnumbered.

So my feeling is that PoC may be an imperfect term, but it's useful. But it's entirely possible that a new word may replace it someday.

backslashbaby
07-11-2015, 03:28 AM
Race is used for risk factors for certain diseases even, though, so I don't think we are at a (biological) point where it really is a social construct anyway.

I'm a thin diabetic. Want to take a guess which side of my family has a lot of that going on (not so much the thin part -- that's more my dad's side). And I am no longer lactose tolerant, either! That's one white mutation I especially enjoyed there for a while, damnit. Now I have to take those pills when I eat, because there's no way I'm giving up dairy :D

The social part matters more, probably, but population differences can be very real in important biological ways, too. Back when they used to assume that everything was basically the same, folks didn't get warned of important risk factors (and many still may not).

kuwisdelu
07-11-2015, 03:43 AM
All models are wrong, but some are useful.

Roxxsmom
07-11-2015, 04:13 AM
Race is used for risk factors for certain diseases even, though, so I don't think we are at a (biological) point where it really is a social construct anyway.

Yes, but as far as I know, there's no one disease that is ubiquitous to an entire race or confined to one. Sickle cell, for instance, does not affect all populations of people considered black/African, nor does it entirely exclude people who aren't considered black/African. And while cystic fibrosis is most common in people of northern European descent, it doesn't affect all white people to the same extent (and it occasionally crops up in other races too).

Knowing one's ancestry can indeed inform relative risk of genetic diseases. But there are cases where someone had classic symptoms of a disease that's associated strongly with a given race and it was missed because they didn't have the superficial physical traits associated with such. We tend to focus very strongly on things like skin color when we define race, yet these are extremely malleable traits that don't tell us much about ancestry. There's more genetic diversity on the continent of Africa than in the rest of the human race combined.

On a different note than disease, as far as I know, my ancestry is overwhelmingly western European--British and German mostly. Yet my blood type is AB positive (my mother is B positive, my father A positive). The B allele is more strongly associated with Asia than it is Europe, but people have been mixing and mingling throughout our long history.

nighttimer
07-11-2015, 04:46 AM
If you don't know you'd better ask somebody. And shut up and listen when you do. You're the one seeking information and knowledge. How you gonna hear if you're busy bumping your gums saying dumb shit you don't even know is dumb?


I'm not sure if this is even about me or someone else, because that's exactly what I did; I dropped by and asked a question, and I specifically asked it to people who have to deal with racism (American or not), but I don't see a problem with others who just want to share their opinion, even if I didn't ask them.

And, yeah...considering that I spent all morning reading your posts, and not saying anything, I'd say I'm a pretty good listener.

No, it wasn't directed at you or anyone else, UnluckyClover. It's simply general advice for anyone attempting to navigate a culture or group they are not part of. When I used to go to gay bars with a friend, I had to park my hetero-paranoia where I was too scared to go to the restroom. It was my own ignorance and nothing more than that. Eventually, I did learn the only thing to fear in going to the men's room in the gay club is you might miss out on a hot jam being played while you're using the facilities.

What I've learned I've learned by watching, listening and observing and speaking once I'm sure it isn't a dumb-ass question. This approach has proven to be more successful than not. ;)



I say this with the full understanding that I'm a white guy with no clue, but it seems to me like the first two of those are clumsy and inelegant ways of saying "I don't judge you based on the colour of your skin". Actually, now I think of it, even that's pretty clumsy and inelegant because the best way of showing you don't judge someone based on the colour of their skin is to not judge them based on the colour of their skin...

As for "You're very intelligent and speak so well", people really say that? I think I get this one - there's an implied 'for a black guy' in there, right? (You did say there's no such thing as a stupid question, right...? ;))

I did and there is not and you are right. "For a Black guy/gal" is always annoying. My experience is Black people can be every bit as intelligent and articulate as anybody else and when we're regarded with surprise or disbelief you feel like you're being treated like a talking dog; the fact you can speak matters more than what you are actually saying.


I recently wrote a post about this. (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?307401-Should-White-Men-Stop-Writing&p=9481492&viewfull=1#post9481492)

It's something white people like to say to "prove" how non-racist they are. Along with the "enlightened" cliche, which I'm hearing a lot these days: "Race is a social construct. It doesn't exist." Yeeees. Tell that to black kids who get shot down by white policemen.

Agreed and seconded. The people who say stuff like that are usually the ones most unaware of how significantly race factors into how those whom experience it as a fact of life and not an abstract intellectual construct.

Being a person of color in a place where your color is seen as a problem to be solved is not the least bit abstract.

kuwisdelu
07-11-2015, 04:55 AM
And I think dumb-ass questions are totally okay as long as you're open to the answers.

Ken
07-11-2015, 05:11 PM
Crazed as it may seem, I believe it is possible to not be aware of a person's race when interacting with them and still not be dismissive of their race and heritage and culture in any sense of the term. It's like you are just not focusing in on that at the time because it is not relevant at the moment. E.g. If I am speaking with a PoC and discussing (I dunno) botany, say, our respective races is rather irrelevant. But if the subject becomes more personal then race may become a factor. And certainly if the person wants to share their culture and treat me to a meal in line with their heritage I am all for that :-P

Another thing I guess is just exposure. If you are around PoC a lot as I am then after awhile you just forget your differences. Okay, that seems pretty kumbaya but that's my experience for what it is worth. (two cents to be precise.)

Chrissy
07-12-2015, 12:12 AM
I came across this blog post (https://medium.com/@johnmetta/i-racist-538512462265) today and it reminded me of what Aruna was saying about White people needing to show they're not racist. It seems apparent that primarily concerning oneself with proving one's own lack of racism is yet another aspect of the privilege of being White.


To understand, you have to know that Black people think in terms of Black people. We don’t see a shooting of an innocent Black child in another state as something separate from us because we know viscerally that it could be our child, our parent, or us, that is shot.

The shooting of Walter Scott in North Charleston resonated with me because Walter Scott was portrayed in the media as a deadbeat and a criminal– but when you look at the facts about the actual man, he was nearly indistinguishable from my own father.

Racism affects us directly because the fact that it happened at a geographically remote location or to another Black person is only a coincidence, an accident. It could just as easily happen to us- right here, right now.

Black people think in terms of we because we live in a society where the social and political structures interact with us as Black people.

White people do not think in terms of we. White people have the privilege to interact with the social and political structures of our society as individuals. You are “you,” I am “one of them.” Whites are often not directly affected by racial oppression even in their own community, so what does not affect them locally has little chance of affecting them regionally or nationally. They have no need, nor often any real desire, to think in terms of a group. They are supported by the system, and so are mostly unaffected by it.

What they are affected by are attacks on their own character. To my aunt, the suggestion that “people in The North are racist” is an attack on her as a racist. She is unable to differentiate her participation within a racist system (upwardly mobile, not racially profiled, able to move to White suburbs, etc.) from an accusation that she, individually, is a racist. Without being able to make that differentiation, White people in general decide to vigorously defend their own personal non-racism, or point out that it doesn’t exist because they don’t see it.

The result of this is an incessantly repeating argument where a Black person says “Racism still exists. It is real,” and a white person argues “You’re wrong, I’m not racist at all. I don’t even see any racism.” My aunt’s immediate response is not “that is wrong, we should do better.” No, her response is self-protection: “That’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything. You are wrong.”

Roxxsmom
07-12-2015, 01:06 AM
I certainly don't mean to be dismissive of lived experiences when I stated what the biological definition of race is (very similar to subspecies) and it doesn't appear to apply to humans. And whether or not race is a social construct or there really are immutable genetic or physical traits that are shared by each member of a race (traditionally defined as Caucasian, African, Asian, Native American) and that set each apart from all the other traditional races, I don't think (and I didn't mean to imply) that there's anything "only" or "just" about race as a cultural or social definition that has arisen as a consequence of history. It's real, it's important, and it's something people live and experience.

I'm brought to mind the fraternal twins--one blond haired and blue eyed and very European looking, and one who most people in the US would identify as black. These two girls share 50% of their gene alleles, and the ones responsible for their coloring are only a tiny portion of their entire genome. They share parents and have the same socioeconomic start in life, but they will have very different experiences growing up and living in America.

I do want to know if there's a better way to go about teaching this in a biology class, where the biological meaning of the word "race" means something very specific that doesn't seem (as per current genetic evidence) to apply to the traditional definition of human races as biological entities. I thought that emphasizing the difference between the social meaning of the word would make it clear that race as shared experience, identity and cultural heritage that people with ancestry from specific regions share is very important and real, but I'm worried now that I might have been offending some of my students without meaning to.

kuwisdelu
07-12-2015, 01:15 AM
Your approach sounds fine to me.

backslashbaby
07-12-2015, 03:09 AM
...I do want to know if there's a better way to go about teaching this in a biology class, where the biological meaning of the word "race" means something very specific that doesn't seem (as per current genetic evidence) to apply to the traditional definition of human races as biological entities. I thought that emphasizing the difference between the social meaning of the word would make it clear that race as shared experience, identity and cultural heritage that people with ancestry from specific regions share is very important and real, but I'm worried now that I might have been offending some of my students without meaning to.

The bolded is the part that I'd emphasize a lot, maybe? I think science students understand when definitions are very strict compared to the same terms used in a less rigorous way. But I don't really like my word 'rigorous' there, because people just love being the most correct, and that's not what I mean by that, exactly :D I mean they mean different things and that's fine and good, because they are both useful in different environments.

Ken
07-12-2015, 03:45 AM
"Fine to me," too.