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Guest Post: “Quit Sitting Around Here Being Brand New to This”

Ceesays has put together the beginnings of a fantastic resource for those of us willing to buckle down and educate ourselves, but who aren’t quite sure where to go for our 102-201 level courses. JesseW, the Juggling Janitor, was so kind as to list the links. Good thing summer’s almost over (in the Northern Hemisphere) and summer beach reading time is approaching (in the Southern) – we’ve got a lot of resources to read.

Turning it over to ceesays:

 

Okay now go on to step two and start looking for more blogs of people talking about racism. Black skeptics and the Crommunist archive are only a start. there are many, many more people who have been talking this talk for years, in dead tree books and online, things that have *already been said.*

The truth is, dezn_98 should not have had to make this blog post. It is a shame that dezn_98 did, and the shame is yours.

The material available for white folks to educate themselves about racism has existed for over a century, and the sheer volume of material has been growing at an astonishing rate for over 50 years. So stop patting yourselves on the back and being thankful. Y’all are fcking late.

Y’all ought to be going after racist claptrap with the ferocity and eloquence that you use to go after sexist claptrap, and you really ought to have been getting to that level of competence *years* ago. So quit sitting around here being brand new to this. Get wise, and fcking HELP US.

And I don’t mean get wise as in get Tim Wise. The fact that a white man is making a living talking about anti-black racism is a further shame, because it actively demonstrates that white people are so racist they refuse to listen to anyone but a white man about what happens to black folks. Yes, he knows all the moves and he makes all the arguments. Realize that not a thing he says is original to him. He stole it all from Black people talking about their lives. he’s the Elvis Presley of anti-racism.

Kwame Ture’s birthday was yesterday. You might remember him better as Stokely Carmichael. Read him. But don’t just limit yourself to reading black men. Find yourself some Audrey Lourde. Read Blackamazon. Gather comforting things around you and read Beloved. Read Kindred. Find books about the atlantic slave trade, just make sure that the author is black. Read Zora Neale Huston. Read Langston Hughes. Read the archives of The Bad Dominicana. Read Racismschool.

Zora Neale Hurston. Image courtesy the U.S. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

Zora Neale Hurston. Image courtesy the U.S. Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

Read Angela Davis. Read bell hooks. Read Gradient Lair. Read TransGriot. and if I sat and thought I could come up with twenty more, and more after that, because the sheer number of black writers writing about blackness ain’t nobody heard of is truly staggering.

And every time you get angry, or feel the tears coming, Stop. grab a journal. write down how you feel in that moment. don’t edit or correct. then close the book, and don’t go back to read what you wrote before. Go for a walk or something, clear your mind, and get back into the book you were reading, but start 5 pages back from where you got angry, and read it again. Keep going. Keep reading, keep thinking. And everytime you start to feel upset or angry, write it down, and don’t go back and read it.

If all goes well, in a year you will be appalled by the person who wrote their anger in that book. Read it anyway. Understand what it took to come as far as you have come. Understand that there are literally millions of people who still think like that. that we’re all of us raised to think like that. we swim in racism as pervasive as the sexism you fishes have noticed. you have to actively work to raise your consciousness about racism in a way you didn’t really have to about sexism, because there were enough feminists talking that you were willing to listen to.

There are not nearly enough anti-racists for your consciousness about racism to be lifted with as much ease. If you wonder why that is, think about how much harassment the prominent feminist women you’re familiar with go through. Realize that adding a color to that – any colour, though I speak specifically of anti-black racism – easily doubles the harassment.

Read the comments on any article you happen to find written by a woman of colour or a man of colour about racism. note the bonus additions that white women do not have to suffer while they talk about sexism.

Get out there and help us. I’m too tired. I’m tired of trying. I’m weary of the ways of white folks. More and more, I retreat to where most of the voices online are black and get the hell away from the white man’s internet, because it’s killing us while it robs us blind. Stop being comfortable and pleased with yourself, and help us.

Go now, and educate yourself. there are millions of words already provided. go find them. Go read them. Quit being brand new.

***

oh and I forgot to mention – the diarizing is an important part because reading about racism isn’t going to leave you with a lot of choices about who you can talk to about it. And you do not want to try – because it’s an imposition to the people who know, and talking to people who don’t know will not help you. however I am certain that everyone will understand that experience fully if they take my advice!

***

And like i said, there are a lot of black writers writing about blackness. we could add to this list for days and days. If we started listing the writers talking about colors that aren’t black, that would be one heck of a library.

i find the online resources a lot easier to access of course, being poor, but also – these books aren’t in my library. I’ve been fortunate in that people have gotten books to me so I can read them, and I have passed these books along, because many of us are poor, and the small press and short print runs that are a “natural” consequence of publishing “niche work” means that a lot of these books can be quite difficult to find if you haven’t got cash to spare. But I’m building my shelf, gradually.

I wonder how many people would find that same thing? that for some, it’s just a matter of just buying them, but for others, the books stay out of their hands because Blackness isn’t valuable enough to make it available?

 

If that last sentence doesn’t shatter you, you haven’t got a heart.

So let’s do this. Those of us who need to be reading will get reading, and I hope those of you with the knowledge will expand this list. I want that “one heck of a library.” We should have a “one heck of a library” page, and have enough reading there to keep a speed reader busy for a few lifetimes. And if any of you know about groups or programs dedicated to republishing these works, any groups working to get them into the hands of people who need them, tell me so that we can throw our collective strength behind them. If they don’t exist, they need to. I’m hopeless at creating that sort of thing, I’ll freely admit – but this is Freethought Blogs, and I’m sure someone reading this is the person who can make it happen.

Thank you, ceesays, and dezn_98, and all of you who have taken the time to educate those of us who haven’t had to face life as a person of color, on the previous thread and on Pharyngula, and Blag Hag and Greta Christina’s Blog. For several of us comfortable white folk, it’s been the hammer to the head we needed to jolt us into awareness. I’m sorry you had to rap on thick skulls yet again. Hopefully, we’ll be better at wielding that hammer with you from now on.

If there are any white people in the audience now gearing up to howl about the usual shit butthurt white people* do when confronted with the fact that they are not The World’s Most Perfect Ally: please go read what dezn_98 said. And then bite your tongue, and dedicate some time to reading this Pharyngula thread. If you’re pressed for time, zero in on this comment in particular.

I’m shutting up now so I can get back to reading.

*Full disclosure: I was once a butthurt white person, and too often still am. At least until I remind myself just what vast amounts of shit I don’t have to live with every day because I am not brown. Amazing how the pain goes away when one considers that. Try it yourself!

Comments

  1. Pen says

    I hate to shove in even more education on top of all that but this is supposed to be an international forum and movement. The parameters of race and racism change a lot depending on where you are in the world. Even if we consider only the English speaking world we have Maori/white New Zealanders, Aboriginal/white Australians, Canada and the US as quite old multi-racial societies with the oldest inhabitants as an ethnic minority, Britain as a new one where a considerable proportion of the non-white population are recent immigrants and we might think about adding India, South Africa and several other European countries where English is routinely used. It all makes a difference so if you really are new to all this, please try to remember it before you a) make sweeping statements based on your own society which you very reasonably know more about, b) leap down someone’s throat for not knowing something ‘obvious’ only to discover that they’re from a different continent where the ‘obvious’ is different.

    • viajera says

      That’s a really good point. I recently moved to Canada from the US, and the politics of racism are both totally different yet strikingly similar. In the region where I live there are very few black or Hispanic people, so “racism” as commonly understood in the States is rarely encountered. But, oh, the racism against First Peoples! It’s funny, as a far-left US progressive I fell into the trap of seeing Canada as some sort of liberal utopia before I moved here. Sure Canada’s got the US beat on health care, defense, and gay marriage. But the anti-First Peoples racism here can be as nasty and overt as the anti-black racism is in the Deep South of the US.

      It took me a while to see it, but now that I do it’s eerie how similar the stereotypes are to US stereotypes of blacks and Hispanics. Or, for that matter, Costa Rican stereotypes of Nicaraguans, or Panamian stereotypes of Colombians, or British stereotypes of Indians, or…you get the picture. Kind of like learning your first foreign language helps you understand your own language better, seeing the nearly-exact-same racist stereotypes applied to a different group of people really makes the racism inherent to your culture of origin (which, because you grew up in it, can sometimes be easy to miss) crystal clear.

      Here in Canada, I’ve learned a lot from following the Idle No More movement.

      • says

        I’m in the process of moving in the opposite direction, from Canada to the U.S., and I’m beginning to realize that much of the anti-black prejudice I thought of as typical of clueless white Americans also occurs in clueless white Canadians, but just less overt. The things people back home have said to me about “those people” where I’m moving…ugh. (For the record, I am white and clueless myself. As Giliell says below, thanks for hitting us with the sledgehammer.)

  2. rq says

    Mmkay. I’m going to put this out there publicly, even though I was going to write privately to Dana.
    The thing is, all of these posts and comments about racism have been making me uncomfortable. And that’s not a pleasant feeling. But I’ve been reading them. And I’ve been trying to understand them. And the discomfort isn’t going away, because it keeps pointing me straight back at my self – at all the (lack of) thought I’ve done on the subject, on all the (lack of) education I’ve put myself through on the subject, at all the times I have (not) spoken up against racism, at all the times I have thought it to be a relic of the past or not relevant to my situation / current location (hint: not North America, but still racist as fuck in a lot of ways). It’s not a comforting feeling to realize that yeah, I’ve been doing things wrong, I’ve been too silent, too comfortable.
    Okay, I can say – it’s not relevant to my day-to-day life. Fine. I can say – it doesn’t affect me, personally. Fine. But how does that help to make the world around me any better, how does that make the world around me more diverse or interesting or better for my children? How does that help? (It doesn’t, right?)
    I freely admit, I may not be much better in the future, beyond internet comments and shutting up and listening/reading (and I intend to do more uncomfortable reading). I may not have much opportunity to do something huge, but I’m confident that I will have the opportunity to do something small, to do something, to have the guts to speak up a little louder. Perhaps a little more often. To make myself uncomfortable through literature, through listening, through learning. And through teaching, in small ways.
    Because, yeah, feeling uncomfortable is no great feeling – having someone write lenghty, passionate, right comments and posts that are, in some broad way, aimed towards me (and not in that oh-you’re-so-awesome!! way) is unpleasant. But how can I compare that to the reality that is described to me in those posts? I can, of course, get angry at them – for pointing out to me my failings. I can also (which I hope I will do) be angry at them – for pointing out the things that need changing, that are in my power to change (or at least try). So yes, I feel uncomfortable with these posts and comments by dezn_98 and ceesays, but I think… I think that’s a good thing.

    TL;DR: Thank you for bringing out the thick skull hammer. Thank you for making me uncomfortable. Thank you for helping me see that I’m still about as blind as I’ve always been, and thank you for offering a way out (at least partially).
    (And thanks, Dana, for hosting these conversations.)

    Now to stop patting myself on the back and get to it.

  3. CaitieCat says

    Gradient Lair is awesome, I read her daily. Often very uncomfortably, but never without just cause.

    We Are Respectable Negroes (Chauncey deVega) is also wickedly smart reading.

    Renee’s Womanist Musings is excellent, particularly on the failings of white-focused media.

    NeoProdigy at Ars Marginal (and the other bloggers there) is cuttingly hilarious about things media-related.

    For other POC, Angry Asian Man is pretty awesome, as are my dear friend Ami Angelwings’ various ventures (tumblr, livejournal, blogspot, she’s got a few venues you can Google her at).

    In more mainstream media, Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic is a thoughtful and thoroughly readable writer.

    Those are the blogs specifically by and about POC that I read regularly; there are others I read when someone links something great, but those are my go-to folks. None of them is the least bit interested in being conciliatory (nor should they be!), and none of them will fail to hand you your head in a bucket if you take a racist dump on their carpet.

    This is an excellent topic and project, ceesays, thank you for your organizing, and Dana for making the work available to us here. I look forward to seeing the other resources people will bring to the thread.

  4. besomyka says

    Seconding TransGriot! She’s intersectional, relays a lot of information and though from other sources, and has a clear opinion herself. If you aren’t sure how sexism, LGBT rights, and racism all intertwine, she’s a great place to start.

    That advice on how to read isn’t something I’ve ever done explicitly (although I keep journal like things from time to time), but it strikes me as very good advice – particularly about taking the break, but being deliberate, and is something I’ll try to do in a variety of circumstances.

  5. says

    Page bookmarked, and reading list started. Turns out my local library has some bell hooks and Angela Davis.

    Thanks, dezn_98 and ceesays, for writing this post and the previous one, and Dana for highlighting them. They are much needed.

  6. Eric Foster says

    (This comment is mostly a rambling mess by a white man about mental illness and feminism–feel free to skip to the last paragraph where I get to my question)

    As a straight cisgendered white man who went to a high school with two black students and no more a handful of students from various parts of Asia, I have no perspective on race issues whatsoever. (And suffering from a severe anxiety disorder, I’m now 26 with no more perspective than I had back then.)

    Obviously, I also know nothing about the female experience, but this comment from EEB made me understand feminism more than anything else I’d ever read, because I’m admittedly emotionally dense and my mind works hyper-rationally such that both angry emotional arguments and the sort senseless word salad that spews forth from religionists and accomodationists just completely shuts my thought process down–I go near catatonic and it feels a bit like a record skipping inside my brain.

    But specifically EEB said this:

    Tell me how in the world a women is not supposed to be a women in order to not be raped?

    Put that on for a minute. Try to feel what that would mean in your day-to-day life. Now, that feeling, endure it, for as long as is healthy for you right now. And if you can, imagine living with it, not as a momentary intellectual exercise, but as a truth you feel down to your core, every day, all your life.

    There’s a reason we’re so passionate about this issue.”

    I just saw a psychiatrist for the first time in my life a about week ago, so I can pop another pill and continue this post, but I know all too well what such a feeling is like (especially because I’m 5’5 and extremely weak–I doubt I’m any more imposing to a determined criminal than the average woman). And knowing how much different life is with medication (I can answer the phone! I can post a tweet! I can comment on a blog post without second guessing every word for 2 hours then deleting the whole message!), it’s kind of depressing to know there’ll never be such an easy solution to end racism and rape culture.

    But I can understand the problem now at a deeper than intellectual level, and I’m grateful for that.

    Anyway, a few days ago while adjusting to my medication, I went on an Xanax-induced Amazon shopping binge and emptied out my gift card account on country music and books about feminism. Specifically, I picked out Andi Zeisler’s Feminism and Pop Culture, Estelle Freedman’s No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women, and Shira Tarrant’s Men and Feminism. I chose these books because the reviews seemed positive and the titles/summaries seemed to be something that would hold my interest for the length of a book, given that I have a backlog of hundreds of books and articles on various subjects on Kindle alone.

    So my question for ceesays (or anyone who cares to answer) is thus: Knowing that something recently published and relevant to current issues about racism or about racial representations in the media would probably find itself at the top of my reading list faster than something written decades ago, if I run out and buy a $50 Amazon gift card, what books (preferably available on Kindle) would you recommend I purchase? I checked Amazon myself, but I don’t even know where to begin.

    • ceesays says

      This had to wait for moderation, I think.

      The short list of people mentioned in the post, above, span the last six decades. The most recent contributors are generally writing on blogs; the others have wikipedia links to their bibliographies. you are not, as I mentioned in the original post, likely to find many of these books available for kindle, because a lot of them went out of print in the midcentury slump just like fiction of the same period. But you could always try searching them on Amazon to see. I don’t use Amazon or Kindle because I am not an American, so I can’t really tell you what’s available. I generally assume that i’m searching for used dead-tree books, or I’m saving blog articles to pocket to read on my phone.

      I assume that because I’m entirely accustomed to having Black women’s writings simultaneously erased and stolen from. A number of the bloggers I linked have stopped blogging or have announced that they’re going to stop blogging at a future date, precisely because their work is stolen by tenured academics, who get paid for that theft, while they receive nothing but compliments – as if “you’re so articulate” ever filled a stew pot.

  7. says

    I’ve been clocked as PoC ever since I was little, whether I liked it or not, due to the very pronounced Spanish blood on my mother’s side of the family (Spanish/French). What I’ve learned as a PoC, is the same thing I’ve learned as a Transgender Woman, a Disabled Person, a Autistic person, and someone in the Lower Class: stay safe by being invisible, if people shun me or marginalize me, do not object and oblige them.

    It’s really true I’ve learned: you can’t force people to associate with you. People always find a reason with me, there’s always a reason…so I gave up on “people” and allowed them to fully shun and marginalize me without fighting back, and looked at them with amusement when they objectified me sexually, demanding access to me, reminding them that they shunned me..People can’t have it both ways, they think they can, but, with me, they always learn that they cannot, and that I don’t really exist eventually, except as someone they once knew, long ago…foggy idea of a person in their head…and then now years go by, and it’s not so bad; they don’t even remember me. Who was I? Some random nobody they shunned and marginalized they can barely remember. That’s everyone, that’s life, and it’s a fight to keep people away from me who don’t care about me and only want me for my body/looks/femme attributes. This is a very, very racist Society, a real and true joke, and I fight back by keeping myself under a thick crystal glass that takes it’s turns being opaque and translucent. People can look, for sure, very briefly, they can ponder and wonder, but they can never touch what they don’t understand, what they don’t appreciate, what they abuse and use, what they marginalize, what isn’t even a person to them but an extreme sex fetish and nothing more.

    It’s good people are learning about Racism. Who knows, in 30 years we might have a slightly less racist society, who knows, one can hope certainly. I certainly hope, and I guess, that in 30 years we can have an enlightened society towards transgender people, of course, so maybe in 30 years we can have a non-racist society too? I’m not sure, it’s such a stretch, but it could happen. Maybe in 30 years we could have a Society that doesn’t heavily discriminate against Autistic people. Maybe in 30 years we could have a Society that doesn’t view all disabled people as children who are sub-human. Maybe in 30 years we could have a Society that values the contributions of people from shabby lower class backgrounds. Maybe. Maybe.

    Maybe people just don’t care and don’t want to grow up in this racist society. Maybe they prefer the comfort of their religion and underlying religious cultural assumptions if they’re atheist and non-POC. Maybe I just don’t care anymore, and will continue to take the trauma of shunning and marginalization from Crackers who think they know everything about everything. I was raised in a family full of Caucasian culture, and many of them were not clocked as PoC, but I was and always have been in offline/real world. It’s a horrible thing, and the human race is no longer an entity I find it worth my time or moral venture to put stock in except to say it’s disgusting, primitive, and savage as a whole, but most especially the uncivilized white parasites that dominate the world and kill anything that resists them. Them and their bullshit capitalism, their bullshit religion. Religion is white man’s slavery: his slavery, it starts in your mind. Because once they got you by the mind, that’s the anchor for all of the other exploitation; the capitalism, the patriarchy, everything. It all starts in the mind. Then once enough people believe it, culturally, even the atheists are brainwashed into believing the trappings that surround and eminate from religion.

    Worthless Humanity is my view. When the Aliens come they will wipe us out. I will switch sides, become one of them, and aid them in their conquest of the savages on this planet.

  8. ceesays says

    One book in particular that stands out as one of those books you just can’t get is This Bridge Called My Back. It’s long out of print, and that means a lot of people quote from it without actually having read it, but it’s in enough demand that used copies – that forward not a penny in royalties to the authors – sell for over a hundred dollars.

    If there’s any book that ought to be in fierce circulation as university level material, it’s this book. If there was one book I seriously wished was available in e-reader format, it’s this book. Even the underground pirate version is the most desperate book scan anybody ever made, with pages from different editions and even then the quality is terrible. But that’s all that’s left of this book.

    • Eric Foster says

      I found the pirate version with a quick Google search, and I honestly think I’ve paid $20 for professionally published ebooks that look nearly as bad. Maybe I’ve just seen some extremely desperate scans, but this version looks entirely readable. Thanks for pointing it out.

      Also I posted another question for you upthread that I think might have gotten lost in moderation and my own rambling: Knowing that something recently published and relevant to current issues about racism or about racial representations in the media would probably find itself at the top of my reading list faster than something written decades ago, if I run out and buy a $50 Amazon gift card, what books (preferably available on Kindle) would you recommend I purchase?

      • ceesays says

        er, is there something wrong with the very short list of people mentioned in the body of the post that i should be aware of?

        • Eric Foster says

          No, not at all. I’m sorry if I seemed to imply your list wasn’t helpful. I also planned to add the blogs to Feedly as soon as I got around to it.

          But first, to answer your question directly and briefly, the very short list of people mentioned in the post have probably written hundreds of thousands if not millions of words each, but the post gave no indication of which of those words I should begin with.

          My sole criticism of your and dezn_98′s posts were that they told me to read a book to stop being so stupid–which is excellent advice to give almost anyone uneducated about a topic–but neither of you said which specific book to pick up. And checking books about race issues on Amazon is minefield–because even knowing the credentials of an author, a lot of the books have middling star ratings because racists like to leave one star reviews, making it hard to tell which of a half dozen or more books by a particular author will be the most educational. So my main question sprung from that dilemma. I thought maybe someone who had read a lot of these books could help me put together an introductory best-of list as a summary and a springboard.

          Also, I wasn’t aware you didn’t have access to Amazon or Kindle. So forget my request for recent books about racial issues that would intersect with other issues I’m interested in. What I was asking for specifically were recently released academic works on the subject, sort of 3 to 5 recent books from academic presses covering different areas of racial issues as a way to catch me up to speed in some minor way within a month or two. If what I’m asking for isn’t your area of expertise, I apologize for assuming otherwise. If what I’m asking for doesn’t exist, that deeply saddens me and is a problem that academia should fix expediently (and I would hope not by stealing from bloggers).

          Here’s what I’m still hoping you could help me with: which books, by the authors you mentioned in the post, would you consider the most important? Would you help me fill out a list of five, which should be enough to give me the perspective to continue to explore the rest of the literature without all this handholding.

          So far I’ve got:
          1. Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider (which I found during my feminism search a few days ago)
          2. This Bridge Called My Back (which I went found the pdf of after you mentioned its importance)
          3. bell hooks’s Ain’t I a Woman? and/or Feminist Theory (of which I’m just trying to pick the best from a list of almost 40 published works listed on Wikipedia, so if you’d recommend a different one, please let me know)

          So I’m still one or two short, and if I acknowledge my privilege that I can probably find a way to get my hands on any title you name that isn’t sold exclusively at insane used book markup prices, what couple of other books would you consider most important as a starting point?

          Again, I didn’t mean any offense and I’m sorry if I caused any, but my lack of familiarity with racial issues and the sheer volume of books available caused my usual resources for finding the best works written on a topic to fail me, and I thought it best to ask how I get from point A (a list of names) to point B (the most important works written by those authors, or the best academic summaries/compilations of those authors works).

          If you know of someone you feel would be better able to recommend specific books, I’d appreciate if you just let me know how to reach them.

          And finally, thanks for responding to me twice already.

          • ceesays says

            I think you managed to get some books to start with pretty well on your own, honestly.

            And I think once you read those ones, you might discover a specific direction that *you* want to read more about just from references and credit given to other writers.

            You may find that you want to specifically read about feminism from the perspective of black women. You may find that you want to read more about black power and the civil rights movement. you may find that you want to read more about prison abolition.

            It’s never so easy as read the books you’re told and everything will come out as you expect. you have good choices there. I think. I honestly would start right there, and let your reading guide you.