Movie Friday: The Job Interview


A reader has started her own blog, and one of her first posts features what I think is quite an interesting and funny video:

There are a couple of things you should know about a video like this. First, it is an abstraction of several actual experiences, somewhat punched up and stitched together to make a point. I’m somewhat in doubt that anyone has had a single job interview in which all of these things have happened. However, I can avow from personal experience that I’ve been on the receiving end of every single one of those comments.

Of course it’s not simply just mindless entertainment – imagine having to deal with questions like this every day, every time you do anything that doesn’t fit with the stereotype. When that stereotype is a negative one, it disincentivizes people from pursuing anything that puts them constantly in a position of having to defend themselves from such stupidity. There’s a lot of tearing down that happens within the community as well, and that’s certainly a problem that must be addressed. It’s fun, however, to watch the interviewer stumble all over his words, knowing he said something stupid but not knowing how to extricate himself. It is partially for this reason that I write about stuff like this – to give people some insight and vocabulary on how to navigate situations like these.

For the record, while I wouldn’t personally respond to a situation like this in the way that Marcus does, I can certainly appreciate his reasons for doing so.

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Comments

  1. says

    Although the white people in this video say a lot of dumbass things, part of me is a bit sympathetic to the fact that as a white person, you hear so much about race that when you’re asked to confront it, sometimes you choke up and aren’t really sure what to do or say. Some of the things they say in this video are just completely dumb (“you’re more well-spoken than I expected!” -.-;; seriously?) But some of it is probably white people innocently trying to (ironically) be thoughtful/honest toward the idea of race and getting into some epic fail.

    It’s sort of hard for me to describe the exact psychological process that’s at work here. At it’s heart I think that white people are trying to either confront their biases or convince themselves they aren’t racist by voicing things they’re afraid might be racist aloud and hoping to be reassured that they’re not racist. It’s one reason why I think it’s damaging as a society that we can’t all just admit that as human beings, we’re inherently racist and there’s not much we can do about it except compensate. By creating a climate of “If you are racist in any way you are a horrible bad person,” it ironically makes it harder for white people to get past their racist biases because admitting they have them is tantamount to admitting you’re a failure as a decent human being.

  2. says

    Also, it’s definitely true that white americans (specifically americans, not really Europeans) are obsessed with heritage–not even necessarily or just POC’s heritage, though, even their own heritage. Most white americans don’t think of themselves as “american” when they’re asked “What are they”, they think of themselves as being whatever melting pot of white ethnicities they count amongst their genes. If someone asks me, “What are you”, my answer would never be “White.” It would be, “English, Irish, Scottish, and French Canadian.” I think it ties in again to that whole idea that white people are treated like a “tabula rasa”– our skin color is treated in society as having no identity of itself, just being a “lack of color”, and I think it’s something which only encourages white racism since we tend to erroneously think of white as being “standard.”

  3. grassrute says

    “Most white americans don’t think of themselves as ‘american’ when they’re asked ‘What are they'”,
    So let me get this straight, Americans are commonly asked ‘what are they?’and this isn’t a problem…unless there black. Interesting, not that I ever ask anyone ‘what they are?’

  4. says

    The problem in the video is the woman was specifically interrogating him about what part of his racial background was white when he was black. This was especially problematic because she made a point of talking about how his western european features were the attractive ones. It was doubly problematic because of what the black man himself points out–many americans of african descent are of mixed-race descent because their ancestors were raped by white people.

    Actually my sister has recently lent me a book (haven’t gotten to reading it yet) by Octavia Butler called “Kindred” about a black woman who has to go in the past to save her white rapist ancestor so she doesn’t cease to exist. Sucky situation for her. :-/

  5. says

    I have a great deal of sympathy for people who get caught in that word trap. The reason that the character in the short can’t just let him off the hook, is that doing so would prevent him from EVER having to confront his unspoken racist bias. It’s weird how we think things about groups of people without even being aware of it.

    I’ve definitely been asked “what are you?” or something to that effect. I was also recently in a conversation with a buddy of mine who said of a server at our favourite bar “what do you think she is?” It took me a while to figure out that she wasn’t asking me if she was human or not. It’s definitely a weird question, and it makes the presumption that the listener knows that the speaker is talking about ethnic makeup.

    The other thing to remember about his response “I’m black” is that black is a label for a wide variety of ethnicities, some of which are lighter-skinned than others. Responding “no, you’re not black” is basically saying “even though I don’t know what your background is, I am better able to make that call than you are.” It’s a knotty issue that I’ve talked about before (part 1, part 2, and part 3).

  6. says

    It’s definitely not the kind of question I ask people I don’t really know, whether they’re white or black! After I’ve known someone for awhile, I might ask them what their ethnic background is if I’m still curious (usually if the topic comes up anyway.)

  7. says

    You have more self-restraint than some others, but yes generally people don’t just jump into the question. The subtext of the question is often “you’re not white – explain”, which is tiresome at best and offensive at worst. It was certainly the subtext of the question in the video. Often it is useful to know from a cultural standpoint, and to make sure we’re not making certain assumptions about people (Indian people are not exactly pleased if you confuse them with Pakistani, and vice versa) but it’s always dicey ground.

  8. says

    You have more self-restraint than some others, but yes generally people don’t just jump into the question. The subtext of the question is often “you’re not white – explain”, which is tiresome at best and offensive at worst.

    It has been awhile since I’ve talked with anyone about ethnic identity, but to the best of my memory, it usually comes up when I’m talking about various heritage events that I go to (I’m something of a Celtic buff, and I often go to highland games and watch folk bands in addition to playing the bagpipes badly.) I don’t remember that I’ve ever said it in the context of “you’re not white explain”, but it’s something I’ll watch out for just in case.

  9. says

    I have to confess that I’ve never seen/heard anything like the scenarios given in this clip. Maybe you could put on a wire, Crom!

    And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the human impulse to be curious about origins. Yes, some obsess about it, but anecdotally I don’t believe it falls on racial lines. Of course, there’s a time and place for such a query in polite company. What’s more, if someone told me that they’re “black”, it is about as informative a category as “white” or “Asian”, which is not very much. I’d be curious for further delineation whatever the case.

    The vid, though, devalued itself significantly by opening with an overtly racist accusation.

  10. says

    I’ve never seen/heard anything like the scenarios given in this clip

    The phrase “no duh” comes to mind. Those are things that only happen to people foolish enough to have been born one o’ them funny furreign colours.

    There’s also nothing wrong with being curious about a person’s dating history, particularly if you’re interested in dating them. I know you’re probably out of the dating scene, but imagine what would happen if you’d started your first date with your lovely wife by asking how many sexual partner’s she’d had to date. There is a time, a place, and a circumstance under which your curiosity can be satisfied. Demanding that kind of information from a stranger is rude (as you’ve noted yourself). If someone chooses to answer your question in a vague way, guess whose problem that is? (Hint, it rhymes with ‘yours’). Pressing the issue can cross the line into offense, particularly if the person is being intentionally vague, as is their right if they’re tired of having to justify their skin colour to complete strangers all the time.

    Sorry your feelings were hurt. I know how sensitive you are about these things :P

  11. says

    The phrase “no duh” comes to mind. Those are things that only happen to people foolish enough to have been born one o’ them funny furreign colours.

    To be fair, it could have happened in the context of scary fundamentalist being around while there were PoC around. I kind of assumed that they meant “I’ve never seen/heard anything like the scenarios in this clip while PoC were around.”

  12. says

    I know what he meant :P

    People may feel less inhibited from asking questions like this if they’re not in a crowd, or we may not remember them if we don’t find the asking remarkable. I certainly don’t notice most of the sexism that goes on around me until someone points it out, or if I’m particularly sensitive to jargon phrases or arguments I’ve heard before.

  13. says

    Allow me to clarify. I’ve taken part in may interviews of PoC, panel or individual. I’ve also known plenty of PoC who have shared with me their experiences in interviews. Granted, most are of Asian, not African descent, but last I checked “Asian” was part of the “PoC” monolith, no?

    I have been asked many times about my heritage with no offense intended or taken. How offensive is it to ask someone what world cup team they are cheering for? How often is someone with a British accent asked which part of England they hail from? I have a particular color morph which leads people to openly venture what region of Europe they think I’m from. So what?

    I’m quite aware of which Asian and African countries, and even the regions of those countries, from which my co-workers draw their heritage. Usually this information is volunteered quite readily, since it’s a point of interest that most people share. I don’t believe you can honestly draw any parallel with intimate details like one’s sexual history.

    Yes, if someone answers the question in a vague way, I would quickly get the hint that the topic is one to which the person has exceptional sensitivity, and acknowledge that it would be very rude to press the issue.

    My feelings are irrelevant. I was only commenting on the cognitive dissonance of “anti-racists” that so often sabotages the commendable goals they profess to be pursuing.

  14. says

    Tune in on Monday, Scary. There’s a reason why you can’t abstract your own personal feelings and experiences on an issue to encompass those of members of a group that you don’t belong to.

    The sexual history thing was to illustrate that there is a time and place for personal questions (of which heritage is one), and that demanding it from strangers as though they have an onus to provide you with that information is incredibly rude. It is an imperfect analogy in toto, but in the context in which I used it, it is sufficient.

    In the video she did press the issue. That was the point. He answered the question, she refused to accept his answer, so finally he had to get aggressive with her. It’s something I’ve had to deal with dozens of times. As a one-off question, encountered infrequently, with absolutely no subtext, you’re absolutely right that there is no reason to take offense. Those kinds of circumstances represent the minority of times when I’ve been asked that question.

    Pointing out racism somehow engenders cognitive dissonance with anti-racism? Or maybe you mean that calling someone ‘racist’ is racism, just like calling someone ‘stinky’ means that you are the one who, in fact, dealt it?

  15. says

    When anti-racists begin a a video clip with a stereotype that white people are ignorant, the cognitive dissonance is obvious. I’m curious in how that dissonance is reconciled.

    I agree that the situation depicted in the vid was extremely rude. But I honestly don’t think anyone in their right mind phrases the question as, “what are you?”. I’m objecting to your interpretation of the initial question as “you’re not white – explain” which is ridiculous. It’s more like – “you’re a human being. What’s your story?” As I said, if Marcus had a British accent, the receptionist wouldn’t be rude to ask a complete stranger if he came from Leeds or London.

    The protagonist in the video states, “[white people] have this obsession with heritage”. Yes – of everyone, white, black, Asian, or Aboriginal. The East Indians and Asians that I know have the same “obsession”. So what? It would be just as (in)valid to ask, why are black people so dismissive of heritage?

    And finally, yes, I’m not under any illusion that my personal experiences are any sort of counter-evidence. Please understand that in no way was I denying the occurrence of white-on-black racism in interviewing. I’m only asking for true-life examples, bereft of perspective, of which I have none in my own experience.

  16. says

    “Every 2.5 seconds an act of racism goes on in America, and if you’re white you probably don’t believe that.”
    “Every 2.5 seconds an act of racism goes on in America, and if you don’t believe that you’re probably white.”

    I’m sure I don’t have to explain the difference between those two statements to you, so that’s all the explanation I think you’ll need to understand why there’s no “cognitive dissonance”. I’m also pretty sure that a) I don’t have to explain the difference between nationality and ethnicity to you, and b) that you understand how offensive it is when (for example) an Irish person is asked what part of England they’re from.

    I would never question the sincerity of your belief, but when I tell you that people ask me that exact question, you’re not allowed to pretend it doesn’t happen. You’re also therefore not allowed to dictate to me how “ridiculous” the context of a question is when you’ve never heard it, and don’t really believe it exists. You can choose to question my sincerity, but I don’t imagine that’s where you’re coming from.

    I think part of the issue here is a failure on your part to consider things in aggregate. One person commenting that a woman’s attire is sexy might not qualify as harassment, but when the comments come from all corners without relief and no other kinds of compliments are forthcoming (save those about physical appearance), it becomes a pattern that is far larger than the simple comment. To then say “well my _______ friends comment on personal appearance all the time – it’s invalid for women to get upset about it” is simply ignoring the aggregate effect, and refusing to accept any premise but one’s own.

    Are you asking me to provide actual examples of times that I have been asked that kind of question?

  17. says

    Okay, here goes.

    “If you are black, you’re probably involved in criminal activity.”

    “If you are involved in criminal activity, you’re probably black.”

    Both statements are racist, since they relate a behavior (crime) directly to race. Statistical evidence that crimes are more likely committed per capita by black people than white people in a given jurisdiction are not a defence for such statements.

    There are plenty of other examples of the cognitive dissonance of anti-racists, chief of which is the spoken or unspoken assumption that white people are by nature racist, while PoC are not.

    And since when does the difference between ethnicity or nationality matter? Aren’t both included side-by-side in all anti-discrimination legislation? And what kind of thin-skinned Irishmen do you hang out with?

    I acknowledge that I am much less likely to witness such incidents than you. Nevertheless, I am hesitant to accept the victim’s testimony of these transgressions as the complete picture in the absence of either the defence of the accused or some sort of empirical account. This is not meant to impugn the victim, but rather an attempt to understand the incident as objectively as possible. If anything, it might wake me up to some comments that I might be making that unintentionally offend others. So yes, I’d be interested to hear actual examples of times that you have been asked questions that you found offensive.

    I fully agree with your argument re: aggregate effect. As an adoptive parent, I am cognizant of innocent questions from strangers that generate aggregate frustration. (e.g. “Are they yours?”, “So where did you get them from?”) But that engenders an acknowledgment of the aggrieved that the questions in isolation come not out of ill will, but rather a common ignorance of the situations of others, borne out of inexperience. In that light, and in a moral sense, it would be wrong (but understandable) for me to get upset about it. If ten panhandlers accost you for spare change on the same block, does that give you the right to go ballistic at the tenth?

    Dammit, the sun is shining, and we should be fighting about this stuff over a beer on a patio somewhere.

  18. says

    Hahaha beers on a patio are much more appealing than being at the office, I assure you.

    The second statement isn’t racist, although it does make a comment about race. Same as if you point out that the majority of people who are in jail are black, or any other statement in which a statistical reality exists based on race. The first statement makes a causal inference, whereas the second one is merely descriptive. While people might get upset, it is a statement that is technically correct and does not make any kind of race-based attributions.

    The distinction between ethnicity and nationality perhaps shouldn’t matter, but one cannot pretend that it doesn’t. People rarely make attributions to individuals based on the country of their origin – it’s usually broad stereotypes about an entire region of distinct cultures. An Anglo/Saxon person from England, to use your example, falls under the category of ‘white’ person, regardless of whether she has been in Canada for 5 minutes or 5 generations. The way she is looked at and treated by society (for good or ill) is not a product of her country of origin as much as it is the overall sociological structure of her race. It gets trickier for Asian people (both East- and South-Asian) as they are further lumped into a homogeneous category, despite the vast differences in (and often direct antipathy among) cultural and national groups.

    There are indeed anti-racists who claim that only white people can be racist, and on its face it is a ludicrous claim. I’ve acknowledged my own racism several times on this site and I am unashamed to admit both my systemic and personal racial biases. However, when we look at the people who are predominantly opposed to the anti-racist movement, they tend to be almost exclusively white. There are a number of prominent anti-racists who are white, and I wouldn’t dare make the claim that being born white makes you more likely to be racist. It does, however, give you a bit of a cognitive blinder that is hard to overcome, just as being male gives you a cognitive blinder towards issues of sex and gender, or being heterosexual gives you a blinder when it comes to sexual orientation issues.

    I’ll see about digging up some personal examples that I’ve put up on the blog here before. There are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of blogs that are exclusively about race that you could peruse if you were interested.

    I think sometimes we have a tendency to talk past each other, so I want to make something 100% absolutely clear from here into perpetuity. I do not consider most racism to be a reflection of personal ill will towards a specific group or groups. That kind of racism does exist, and pops up from time to time, but has largely been eradicated thanks to a variety of methods. However, in the contemporary context, the effects of racism are not felt as a consequence of that kind of overt “classical” racism. Being aware of the modern face of racism is important if we want to deal with those issues. I would absolutely not support “going ballistic” on anyone, or making any kind of personal attribution for things that are, for the most part, not under someone’s conscious control. However, the more aware we are of the issue, the more things do come under our control. It is for this reason that I talk about race issues. We can absolutely agree on the “common ignorance of the situations of others, borne out of inexperience.” I am trying, in my small way, to diminish that ignorance.

  19. says

    this is a good and enlightening conversation.

    Also, I once took SF’s almost exact position in a discussion about general “isms” (this paragraph specifically:

    I fully agree with your argument re: aggregate effect. As an adoptive parent, I am cognizant of innocent questions from strangers that generate aggregate frustration. (e.g. “Are they yours?”, “So where did you get them from?”) But that engenders an acknowledgment of the aggrieved that the questions in isolation come not out of ill will, but rather a common ignorance of the situations of others, borne out of inexperience. In that light, and in a moral sense, it would be wrong (but understandable) for me to get upset about it. If ten panhandlers accost you for spare change on the same block, does that give you the right to go ballistic at the tenth?

    And got totally blown up at as “not getting it” and being completely racist. It’s still a very upsetting recollection for me and has encouraged me NOT to go to blogs about race or talk about race for fear of being accused of being overtly racist again.

  20. says

    Convos between me and Scary are rarely boring :P

    I can understand how difficult it must be to get jumped on for not speaking the language properly. Again, part of the reason I started talking about this stuff in the open. It can feel very exclusive oftentimes. At the same time, I’m sure you can appreciate how difficult it must be to a) have to explain concepts for the millionth time, and b) to have your safe space disrupted by people insisting that your group isn’t entitled to its feelings and identity. This is why I think more and not fewer people should be talking about race issues. Until we’ve got the language and the post-structuralist overlapping narratives thing nailed down, we’re going to have a tough time getting past the entrenched positions.

  21. says

    Okay I am having a difficult time tracking down the specific post I wanted, which contains an approximate transcript of a conversation I had with a girl at a bar that is a particularly relevant illustration of this issue. It’s here somewhere, but there’s literally a year’s worth of posts to sift through and I can’t be arsed.

    You might find some of the stuff in my New Bright Lights talk interesting. If you want more stories, then you’ll definitely have to buy me beer first :P

  22. says

    To be fair, that was on the blog of a friend, not on a specifically race oriented blog like Racialious or something of that nature, which only made it all the more hurtful. :-C it wasn’t in a context where I was expecting someone to jump down my throat for taking a dissenting position.

  23. says

    We have so many different threads going in one post that it’s best I split them up.

    First off, I think the two of us have come a long way in the past few months, if not in changing our own stances then at least understanding the source (and integrity) of the other’s.

    I do not consider most racism to be a reflection of personal ill will towards a specific group or groups.

    Now we are talking the same language. Unfortunately, the tactics used to fight non-classical racism do not reflect this understanding. For example, here in Canada proof of ill will is not required for citizens to haul other citizens to a Human Rights Tribunal for thousands of dollars over perceived slights. The HRCs and Ts were originally intended to be remedial, but are now clearly punitive in nature. Further, the tone of most “anti-racist” messages are accusatory in nature, similar to climate change propaganda (“You’re killing the polar bears!”). This vid is case in point – it begins with an accusation that white people are ignorant of the issue, and proceeds with several complaints and caricatures about white people. While the shock value is clearly intended to grab the viewer’s attention, it detracts from the message.

    IMHO, the video would be much more bridge-building if it presented similar, but slightly more believable situations, and continued the narration of the protagonist as to how each comment made them feel. To me, that was the informative and valuable part of this vid. While it gives the anti-racist a “boo-yeah!” thrill to include the rapist comment, the Ronnie comment, and the usage of strong-arm tactics to cow the employer and get the job, I think they are counter-productive.

  24. says

    The second statement isn’t racist

    Okay, then how about this:

    If you have a moustache, you’re probably a child rapist

    If you are a child rapist, you probably have a moustache

    While the second statement may be true, the two elements have no causative connection whatsoever. However, the mere mention of this true statement is irresponsible because of its obvious inference. I do believe that the content of one’s character, including their self-awareness of prejudice, has no causal relation whatsoever to skin color.

    Entire policies are predicated on such inferences without evidence of causation. For example, consider these two statements:

    If a home practices corporal punishment, children are likely to be abused

    If children are abused, they are likely to come from a home in which corporal punishment is practiced

    The latter is true, while the former is not. However, the constant repetition of the latter has led in many countries to the belief in the former without any causal evidence proposed, and therefore the banning of corporal punishment sans evidence.

  25. says

    However, when we look at the people who are predominantly opposed to the anti-racist movement, they tend to be almost exclusively white.

    While I would agree with you, there are several points I’d like to make about that. First of all, you could also say that anti-Semites are almost exclusively pro-Palestinian, thereby falsely equating a condemnable ideology to a legitimate political position. Second, this is predictable when the theme of the “anti-racists” is almost wholly dedicated to forcing the theory of “white privilege” down peoples’ throats. When you intentionally or unintentionally define your enemy by their skin color, rather than a thought process, you will invariably alienate many who have that skin color. Third, I will postulate that the vast majority of those who are opposed to the “anti-racist movement” are quite supportive of combatting attitudes of racism; they only oppose the tone, the tactics, and the proposed solutions of the anti-racists (you can put me in that category).

  26. says

    re: cognitive blinder

    The blinder goes both ways. Being female gives a different, but just as severe cognitive blinder to issues of gender and sexuality. Being black gives just as much a cognitive blinder to issues of racism than being white. Being an adoptive parent gives me just as much a cognitive blinder (e.g. over issues such as pregnancy, childbirth, post-partum, etc.) as being a natural parent gives them a blinder over the issues we face.

    We musn’t confuse this with the real victims of discrimination, who are the most likely to have their blinders off due to their experiences. And yes, minorities are by definition more likely to be victims of discrimination. But simply being a minority does not, per se, mean an absence of cognitive blinder.

  27. says

    I don’t know enough about the Human Rights Tribunals to have an informed opinion of them, but since Ezra Levant is against them, they must be a pretty good thing.

    If this is going to become an argument about “tone” then we should probably just stop here :P I find the whole exercise of “you’re right, but I don’t like how you said it, so I’m going to oppose you” to be as futile as it is hair-pullingly frustrating. I’ll deal with the “accusation that white people are ignorant of the issue” bit in the next comment, but suffice it to say I don’t accept the premise of your argument. It might be worthwhile to remember that the video is mainly for entertainment, rather than to be either purely educational or “bridge-building”. Sometimes we use hyperbole and caricature as ways to point out human foibles. Insofar as they are designed to entertain, I disagree with your assessment that they’re “counter-productive” – I was very entertained.

  28. says

    I thought I dealt with this, but maybe I didn’t make my position clear.

    While moustache-having is completely divorced from a person’s propensity to rape children, race does play an important role in how you view acts of racism. There is a reason why you’ll find very few PoC who will echo the statement “white people are the real victims of racism”. It’s not because PoC are spiteful, it’s because you are far more likely to have a visceral as well as academic understanding of racism as a PoC in a predominantly white country than a white person is. One’s ability and willingness to perceive the racial motivation behind events (explicit and otherwise) is informed by your race, in addition to other factors to be sure.

    If you’ll accept the above premise (you may not), you can see the argument as follows. Since a PoC is far more likely to be a) aware of racism, and b) on the receiving end of racism or the victim of race bias, it follows logically that they will have far less trouble believing the statement about the frequency of racist events than would a white person be. It says nothing about white people being maliciously ignorant, simply that racism doesn’t directly affect white people with the same severity, and (perhaps as a result) white people have less skin in the game to motivate them to learn about it.

    All that being said, we’ve spent a lot of time on the 3-second introduction to a Youtube video.

  29. says

    I disagree with the entirety of this comment (save the last sentence). White people are not “the enemy”. Nobody has said that except you. Nobody is interested in “shoving it down people’s throats” any more than someone who is a math teacher is “shoving fractions down people’s throats”. I appreciate that you have a flair for rhetoric, but it becomes tedious after a while.

    As far as the last sentence goes, I still disagree with most of it at least as a statement of fact. Once again, I do not doubt the sincerity of your beliefs, and I’m sure that’s where you see the difference between our positions lying. However, since we cannot even agree on a definition of racism, I would suspect that our differences have more to do with the perception of the problem than tone and tactics. To be sure, you have been a completely fair arbiter and mostly neutral advocate of a position, and I cannot and will not accuse you of being a “closet racist” or any such nonsense; we have a disagreement on the issue that I think is deeply entangled in how different our entire outlooks on life are.

    While my colleagues(?) on the anti-racist side may respond to seemingly-benign argumentation with zeal and vitriol, often those arguments are expressed solely for the purpose of trolling. Certainly nearly all of them have been discussed and refuted to death, as I’m sure you’re tired of me making red-herring sound-byte claims about gun control even though for me it’s the first time I’ve ever discussed the topic. Whatever your personal experience with other anti-racists has been, certainly it isn’t inconceivable that you could understand why they react so strongly.

  30. says

    I can agree with this only insofar as it is impossible for someone to “truly” understand what it is like to be a member of another group. When you say the blinder is “just as severe”, I can agree with you only from an individual perspective; however, the consequence of gender blinders is not equal between men and women. There is a particularly good illustration of this in medical science – for decades it was only men that were included in clinical trials, because men were seen as the “default”. As a result, many popularly-prescribed medications (particularly those for heart disease) don’t have a proper dosage adjustment protocol for women.

    You rightly pointed out that the blinder of natural parents is what is at play when they ask you questions like “whose child is that?” (my mother found this question particularly galling, and once wrote a long and impassioned letter to a co-worker who had asked her that question about me). While the consequences of assuming that parents of children with a different skin tone must be babysitting are rather slight (although in the case of mistaking the adoptive parents for kidnappers, it could be dicey), the consequences of the gender and race blinders are not so benign, and tend to work in one direction to the disadvantage of one group more than the other.

    I am not suggesting that being a PoC or a woman means that you don’t have some kind of blinder, but when you spend all of your time in a society that is wearing only one blinder, you gain an appreciation for both sides of the argument pretty quickly. Non-PoCs must go out of their way to research the perspective from the other side, which most people don’t have a strong motivation to do (as racial issues crop up in their lives less often).

  31. says

    And now I do need beer, because Movie Friday is supposed to be a light-hearted fun thing, and instead I have written a week’s worth of posts as comments :P

  32. says

    One’s ability and willingness to perceive the racial motivation behind events (explicit and otherwise) is informed by your race

    Ah, we will need to agree to disagree, then. But I think it’s only because I refuse to use a surrogate category of race. Instead, I’m sure we will agree that “victims of racial discrimination are more likely to agree with statements concerning the high frequency of racial discrimination than non-victims of racial discrimination”. I simply don’t agree on the necessity to put race place-holders in there.

    Sorry for taking so much time on this, but it has been very informative for me.

  33. says

    shoving it down peoples’ throats Guilty as charged for the flair of the dramatic, but I don’t think sociology teachers should be ridiculing students that differ in opinion as “deniers”.

    certainly it isn’t inconceivable that you could understand why they react so strongly.

    Understand? Certainly. Just like I understand why the guy went ballistic on the tenth panhandler. Still doesn’t make it right, nor does it do much to ease the hurt feelings of the tenth panhandler, and is ultimately counterproductive. That’s my point.

    (and I don’t mind your red herrings because you’re always willing to intelligently discuss the matter afterwards)

  34. says

    I’ll save this for another day, but in parting I’ll just say that the tone is just as important to the meaning conveyed as is the message. Tone can easily make a position polarizing, which answers the question of why there are so many opposed, rather than indifferent, to the efforts of anti-racists without being racist themselves.

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