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Jan 18 2014

White people, stop embarrassing me

The country has gotten better — we have less overt racism, people are generally ashamed if they’re caught expressing bias. But it’s the subtle stuff, the premises that form the foundation for racism, that still poison our citizenry. Unbelievably (for me, at least), white Americans now think they are the victims of racism.

The study was conducted by Sommers and co-author Michael I. Norton of Harvard asking a roughly equal national sample of 209 Caucasians and 208 African Americans to indicate, on a scale of 1 to 10, the extent to which they felt blacks and whites were the targets of discrimination in decades spanning from the 1950s to the 2000s. The scale’s ranking of 1 indicated “not at all” while 10 indicates “very much.”

Both groups reported roughly the same things for the 1950s, with neither believing Caucasians experienced much racism at all during that turbulent decade. Both similarly agreed that at the same time, there was substantial racism against African Americans. Both groups also agreed that racism against African Americans has steadily decreased over time. But here’s where the study gets interesting. Caucasians surveyed believe that the discrimination faced by their African American neighbors has decreased much more rapidly than the African American respondents. Furthermore, they believe that while African Americans now have it better, they – the Caucasians surveyed – have taken their place as the primary targets of discrimination.

How? How can anyone think that? I can’t think of a single thing where being black would privilege someone over me — nothing I aspire to is hampered by the color of my skin.

An astounding 11% of Caucasian respondents assigned the maximum rating of 10 to the seriousness of anti-white discrimination. Compare that with only 2% who reported the same of anti-black racism. Caucasians, the study found, often believe that racial equality is “a zero sum game,” where one group gains at the expense of others.

When the goal is equality, that should tell you right there that it doesn’t have to be a zero sum game — when obstacles are removed from one person’s progress, that doesn’t mean they have to be placed in someone else’s way. Do they think Harrison Bergeron is non-fiction?

71 comments

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  1. 1
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Do they think Harrison Bergeron is non-fiction?

    The short answer is yes.

  2. 2
    theophontes (恶六六六缓步动物)

    Caucasians, the study found, often believe that racial equality is “a zero sum game,” where one group gains at the expense of others.

    Contrast that with (Desmond Tutu):

    A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.

  3. 3
    MikeMa

    Equality, from the POV of lost dominance, can seem a zero sum game. If I am now evaluated equally for a job or a promotion against a larger population which includes (previously discriminated against) blacks, I might feel that there is an element of zero sum in the equation. Those newly equal blacks now have, in a fair world, a fair chance at preventing me from advancing.

    That I was unfairly advantaged for so long should help balance my feelings, but for many, that might not be an easy adjustment. Equality is the right path always but it requires better marketing to succeed in the current environment.

  4. 4
    SurlyJen

    My dad whines about Affirmative Action and how some minority always gets priority over him when he applies for jobs. Poor, poor whitey complex.

  5. 5
    mykroft

    I’ve seen this at work. One friend of mine lamented that his daughter (white) couldn’t get into the school she wanted because her skin wasn’t the right color.

  6. 6
    Pierce R. Butler

    When the star of the show becomes just another member of the cast, that is a demotion.

    Once Larry and Curly stop following orders and start eye-poking back, Moe becomes just another stooge.

    The linked article does not indicate that the researchers sorted our their respondents by age. I hypothesize that if they had, most of the most resentful whites would be among those old enough to have flung most of the pies in their day.

  7. 7
    tuibguy

    At Yahoo Answers, always your go to source if you are bored with Wikipedia, some white folks explain the problem with Affirmative Action. Apparently, it is “race baiting.”

  8. 8
    aarrgghh

    if racism is being told people are sick of your shit … then yes, caucasians are victims of racism.

  9. 9
    Kimpatsu

    nothing I aspire to is hampered by the color of my skin
    Not inAmerica, perhaps, but try living in Japan or South Korea.

  10. 10
    dianne

    One possible confounder is using the 1950s as a baseline. If you asked me to rate anti-black prejudice from the 1950s to the present, I might give the 1950s a 10 and the present maybe a 5 or 6. If you asked me about the severity of anti-black prejudice in absolute terms (so to speak), I’d give it a 10. Relative to the 1950s, I think prejudice has gone down quite a bit, but there’s still extremely substantial prejudice, well enough to rate a 10. Anti-white prejudice? Um…maybe a 2? Once in a while someone might make a nasty comment and very occasionally a white person in a predominantly black neighborhood might be the target of a crime. But system level prejudice? It doesn’t happen. I’m a white-passing mischling and I’m absolutely certain that I’ve never been turned down for a job, been rated more poorly, not been served at a restaurant, or turned down for a loan because I look white.

  11. 11
    lkb64

    I think that one big reason whites think they are experiencing racism is that they do not understand what racism is. They may experience prejudice, but they have very likely never experienced racism, which is prejudice that has access to the power to enforce prejudicial beliefs through govt., business, and private institutional actions.

    Prejudice means thinking something negative about a group of people, like people of a different race. It doesn’t necessary entail ACTIONS.

    RACISM is when someone holds prejudicial beliefs against a racial group, and then has the power to ACT on those beliefs, most damagingly when enough people hold prejudicial beliefs to be able to enlist state and corporate institutions to enact policies against the folks who are the subject of prejudice, in this case, people of a different race.

    If a white person thinks that black folks do not look upon them with kindness or trust, that may be an instance of prejudice, but it is nearly impossible for it to have the force of racism. No one ever got pulled over for driving while white. Bourgeois looking folks don’t get stop-and-frisked in NYC. Prosperous looking white people don’t get shot in the back of police cars while handcuffed with the excuse that they were behaving in a threatening manner. Racism as experienced in this country by people of color is defined by the combination of prejudicial beliefs and institutional action. Notwithstanding President Obama and other individuals, authority in US govt is overwhelmingly held by white people and informed by white beliefs and experience.

    Most people don’t understand the difference between prejudicial beliefs and the experience of being on the receiving end of racism. And that’s how they get it SO wrong, with a little help from Limbaugh and his sort.

  12. 12
    a_ray_in_dilbert_space

    White privilege is a zero sum game. And if someone else is getting ahead, it must be at your expense.

    I once had a conversation with a cracker in North Carolina who had only slightly more brain cells in his head than the couple of teeth he had in his mouth. At one point, he said, “”There’s just no place in America for the white man anymore.”

    “Wow,” I thought. “We have nothing to talk about!”

    In a way, though, he was right–America has no use for him, a man with little education and not much upstairs. He just didn’t understand the reason–the people more privileged than him getting richer and richer at his expense.

  13. 13
    dianne

    Oh my FSM, WHY did I read the comments? Excuse me, I have to go gouge my eyes out now.

  14. 14
    dianne

    Not only do they think that Harrison Bergeron is nonfiction, they think that they’re Harrison: brilliant, handsome, and athletic and only hampered by the evil affirmative action or they would accomplish Great Things!

  15. 15
    geisthander

    Sounds a lot like a racial variant of that Language Myth thing about how much women talk compared to men; when a woman or girl speaks up at all, it’s about showing off or causing a disruption but when men or boys do it, it’s about whatever they say it’s about, which leads to women having not a lot of time/space to be heard because all the men are trying to shut her down.

    Just another example of the in-group (hi, fellow straight, white cisdudes!) dictating that the out-groups shouldn’t get access to the world and being mad that they might do anyway.

  16. 16
    Neil Rickert

    Clearly, white people are seriously oppressed. They have to put up with having Obama as president.

    I suspect that is what this is all about. Some people are just very resentful of having a black president.

  17. 17
    LykeX

    I suspect that is what this is all about. Some people are just very resentful of having a black president.

    While I’m sure that a black president is a serious thorn in the side of some people, I also think that it’s ridiculous to say that that’s what it’s all about. It’s about white people no longer being considered automatically superior in every conceivable way (perhaps except rhythm or whatever other patronizing concession these people might be willing to give). Obama is an example of what these people dislike, but he’s not the whole picture.

  18. 18
    jerrywilson

    “How? How can anyone think that?”

    Two words: Affirmative Action!

  19. 19
    Onamission5

    @ jerrywilson #18:

    An ever so slightly more level playing field for groups who have routinely been discriminated against on a massive scale is not the same thing as discriminating against groups of people on a massive scale.

  20. 20
    hillaryrettig

    Don’t forget that it’s a Republican strategy to convince white people they’re being oppressed; and they pour many millions into it.

  21. 21
  22. 22
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    How did somebody on my Twitter feed recently characterise the problem:
    Discrimination (noun): Only being able to dominate the discourse 97%
    Source: Dude-N*

    *Duden is the German standard dictionary

  23. 23
    microraptor

    In addition to the Affirmative Action answer that’s already been mentioned, the other big thing that I’m always hearing is “How come it’s okay to have a Black History Month, but it’s racist to have a White History Month?”

  24. 24
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    How come it’s okay to have a Black History Month, but it’s racist to have a White History Month?”

    Yeah, the non-sequitur of that is up there with the not-wearing-your-seatbelt excuse: suppose I’m unconscious and the car catches on fire….

  25. 25
    SallyStrange

    I think social justice activists have danced around the fact that achieving equality will necessarily entail a reduction in status for those who benefit from inequality. I understand the perceived necessity of not making it really explicit to straight white cis men that yes, actually, life is gonna be harder now that you have to compete with everyone instead of just other straight white cis men, but still. It’s left us in this situation where the white guys are complaining that equality isn’t all it was cracked up to be, and they’re kinda sorta right–from their perspective only, that is.

  26. 26
    Khantron, the alien that only loves

    @micro raptor

    I like the reply “why aren’t there graveyards for alive people.”

  27. 27
    microraptor

    @ Khantron,

    I just reply that they should read an actual book on American history that isn’t specifically about African Americans or another minority and try keeping track of the number of black people in it compared to the number of white people before they discuss the topic with me.

    As this would require them to actually read a book (oh, the huge manatee!), it tends to be quite effective at shutting them up.

  28. 28
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    RACISM is when someone holds prejudicial beliefs against a racial group, and then has the power to ACT on those beliefs,

    Interesting. So, does a group of students of color surrounding one white student and threatening him with physical violence in racially tinged terms count? Or is that not the kind of “power” we want to acknowledge or discuss?

  29. 29
    jnorris

    white Americans now think they are the victims of racism.

    The new White Man’s Burden!

  30. 30
    ChasCPeterson

    How come it’s okay to have a Black History Month, but it’s racist to have a White History Month?

    Semantics. ‘White History’ has another name: History. And ‘White History Month’ is, therefore, better known as March through January.

    Azkyroth: that scenario is not racism because there the victim is not structurally oppressed. The only valid definition of ‘racism’ is the one that social-justicey sociologists prefer.

  31. 31
    malta

    Here’s the part I never understand… when was equality supposed to start?

    If the white respondents agree that discrimination was rampant in the 1950s, they’re agreeing that the vast majority of white folks in the U.S. made it difficult for the vast majority of black folks to get an education, get a good-paying job, buy a house, build equity, access good health care, vote, engage in politics, and thus pass those benefits along to their black children. Did the advantages that white people accumulated magically disappear in 1965? Were affirmative action programs so powerful in the 1970s that it made up for centuries of slavery and segregation?

    Even if the white respondents are only willing to acknowledge 1950s/1960s racism, at what point do they think that legacy stopped having an effect on how people live now? I mean, I think about my own family background and stuff like getting a good education and buying land (or in our case, having the government give it away for free) seems to play a HUGE role in helping the next generation. I just can’t grok whatever twisted logic it takes to arrive at a different conclusion.

  32. 32
    A. Noyd

    ChasCPeterson (#30)

    that scenario is not racism because there the victim is not structurally oppressed. The only valid definition of ‘racism’ is the one that social-justicey sociologists prefer.

    Yes. I’m going to copypasta myself from parts elsewhere on the internet because I’m lazy:

    In high school, I was briefly bullied for being white. It ended when my bully knocked me into a food cart in the lunch room and I got a hole in my scalp that required all of a single stitch to close. He got expelled. I’m not sure what happened to him after that, but what sort of future does a frustrated young black man usually face when he’s kicked out of school?

    The only racism involved was the racism of the system (and my ignorant compliance with it) that insured he suffered far worse for his discrimination and prejudice than I ever did.

    That’s how these things almost always go. That’s why white people can’t claim that anti-white prejudice and discrimination are racism. Because actual racism is still there, and it’s working in our favor.

    The guy might have been able to injure me while others looked on, but I didn’t have to lift a finger and his whole life was probably destroyed. That’s the difference between racially-tinged physical violence and racism.

  33. 33
    LykeX

    @Azkyroth #28
    To my mind, there’s a big difference between prejudice from individuals or a group and society-wide prejudice. I don’t much care which words we use for each, as long as we recognize the difference. They’re not remotely the same thing. For one, if an individual or group discriminates against you, you might conceivably avoid them or fight against them by banding together with others.
    However, if the prejudice is part of the basic social structure, then not only is there no clearly defined target to fight against, but more often than not, you will have been raised in such a way that you’ve absorbed the attitudes yourself, even if you’re part of the oppressed group.

    If a white person is attacked by a black person, it’s not the same as a black person being attacked by a white person. It’s different because different basic assumptions apply. A black attacker will be assumed to be a dangerous, violent criminal, beyond redemption and better off dead, while the white victim is assumed to be innocent, harmless and beyond reproach. A black victim will be assumed to be a dangerous, violent criminal, beyond redemption and better off dead, while the white attacker is assumed to be innocent, harmless and beyond reproach.

    The power to physically assault someone isn’t really that relevant. Anybody can attack anybody, but not everyone can get away with it.

  34. 34
    vaiyt

    A black victim will be assumed to be a dangerous, violent criminal, beyond redemption and better off dead, while the white attacker is assumed to be innocent, harmless and beyond reproach.

    Zimmerman.

  35. 35
    citpeks

    ” nothing I aspire to is hampered by the color of my skin.”
    Au contraire, PZ. This guy’s whiteness seems to have hampered his objective.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/12/i-got-myself-arrested-so-i-could-look-inside-the-justice-system/282360/

  36. 36
    theoreticalgrrrl

    Oh lord, I get into these arguments with relatives all the time. My cousin was asking me why HE should suffer because blacks, in the distance, remote past, dealt with racism and slavery.
    I asked, “Suffer? How on earth are you suffering?”
    He told me that one time his boss told him he only hired a black man because of Affirmative Action, that the black man was totally unqualified and sucked as an employee, but the poor boss was trying to meet hiring quotas. So that hurts guys like him (he has a great job with a three-figure income, btw). Also it’s unfair that blacks who are not African-American benefit from Affirmative Action, which isn’t fair because they aren’t descendants of American slaves, so that gives them an unfair advantage.

  37. 37
    theoreticalgrrrl

    @vaiyt

    I was staying at the same cousin’s house during the Zimmerman trial and we all watched it together, which sparked that conversation. He believes that if you dress like a thug, you can’t be surprised if people treat you like one. The funny thing is he was paraphrasing Dave Chappelle’s stand up, which we had seen the day before, where Dave said if a woman dresses like a prostitute she shouldn’t be surprised if guys treat her like one, and that it’s analogous going to the person in the police uniform when you need a cop.

  38. 38
    David Marjanović

    Not inAmerica, perhaps, but try living in Japan or South Korea.

    Nope. That’s xenophobia, not racism: try being Japanese in South Korea or vice versa – as soon as people figure out you’re foreign (or your grandparents were), you’re in trouble.

  39. 39
    Inaji

    theoreticalgrrrl:

    He believes that if you dress like a thug, you can’t be surprised if people treat you like one.

    So…a tee shirt, jeans and a hoodie identifies you as a thug, eh? I do believe I may be in trouble.

  40. 40
    chigau (違う)

    So…a tee shirt, jeans and a hoodie identifies you as a thug, eh? I do believe I may be in trouble.

    oops
    me, too

  41. 41
    microraptor

    Didn’t you know that it’s illegal to look suspicious while black in the US?

    Granted, being black is pretty much synonymous for looking suspicious, but…

  42. 42
    demonhype

    Hoo, boy, that was me several years ago, believing that white people were the truly discriminated-against victims. How embarrassing. :(

    Of course, it didn’t help that I was an overprotected white girl in a white middle-class (or was it lower middle-class?) neighborhood, isolated from anything but white-bread culture, with the only knowledge of black people being from what I saw on TV, what I heard the various levels of racist white adults say around me and to me, and of course the occasional trip to a part of town where it was mostly black people, which was incredibly intimidating to someone from my background. They went from being a strange alien race to being people who are given everything without earning it, based primarily on hearing it from the adults. Not overt racists, not white-hooded KKK members, just average people who spent their entire lives using the N word and weren’t about to give it up no how, people who actually had argued in favor of the civil rights movement to their parents in the sixties and who proudly voted for Obama twice, but still have a great deal of sytemic subconcsious racism buried in their minds, people who right up until Obama was elected in 2008 thought that racism was a thing of the past and that blacks were just whining and that I was being too much of a bleeding heart. They’re more open at this point to the reality that racism and oppression haven’t gone away and have just found new ways to hide in plain sight, but it took the surge of open hatred over Obama to wake them up to the reality. And that wasn’t what I grew up with either, that’s a new development in their lives.

    Regarding affirmative action, it didn’t help when my one friend from HS got to go straight to college mostly on grants and scholarships for being half-Puerto Rican (on her SAHMom’s side) despite the fact that her white dad had his own company and was richer than my and my other friend’s white fathers put together. Even then, I didn’t begrudge her, until she started coming home on breaks and treating me like I wasn’t in college because I wasn’t smart enough (I was actually smarter than she was) and not because I didn’t have the money and was forced to work a 9-5 job. I stopped talking to her after a few of those times, because I wasn’t in the mood to be insulted and it was clear she only wanted to meet with me to emphasize how superior she was.

    It also bothered me back then when they’d show all those Roots things, with Kunta Kintae (probably misspelling it) being flogged until he admits his name is Toby. I kept feeling like I was being personally blamed for all that horribleness whenever they went on about it. Much later, in college, I got to see Song of the South, and was surprised that it wasn’t more racist than it was. The way people talk, I was expecting something on the level of blackface minstrel shows or something. If I’d seen that as a girl, I would have gotten a much more clear view on slavery and/or racism, because Uncle Remus was IMO a very good and decent and empathic and decidedly intelligent man who seemed to truly understand children and the way they think (as an adult, not as an adult with the mind of a child). He leads the white boy into deciding not to run away in such a way that the boy thinks it is his own decision to return home–that takes a lot of intelligence, as well as a great deal of empathy, to be able to guide someone into making a wise decision in such a way that you don’t so much advise as lead them to think. It hit me that this guy, born in another time with better opportunities, could have been something great. He could have been a child psychiatrist or social worker and helped thousands of troubled children over the course of his life, but thanks to slavery and racism his potential was wasted picking cotton. As for the empathy and decency: he could have let the white plantation owner’s kid run away, thinking ‘that privileged little shit only thinks he’s got problems, well, let him get raped by hobos and see what real problems look like’, but he doesn’t. And the way the mother orders him to stop telling her kid stories would have pissed me off, in that she doesn’t ask as one adult to another but tells him as master to servant or slave, and I KNEW this guy had been like a grandfather to her.

    That would have had much more impact on me back then, because the racism portrayed isn’t so overt and is therefore more like the kind of racist attitude I had seen and perhaps even followed blindly. I couldn’t relate myself to a slave-owner beating a black person, but I could certainly relate myself to someone who expresses a complete disdain for black people, and due to my hatred of hypocrisy it would have led me to look at my own behavior and motivations and compare them to those people in that movie. I can’t look at the abusive slave owner or the lynch mob and think “I am (and/or people I love are) just like that, aren’t I?” but I could certainly look at that woman talking down to Uncle Remus and see myself and those I love in her attitude. I’m not saying to never ever show the horrors of slavery, or the Roots movie or that new 12 Years a Slave (which I would like to see very much, and at this point would not consider it an accusation against me personally), and I’m not saying to show Song of the South in every single school just based on my own experience, but I’m thinking there might be other approaches to use alongside them that might be more effective to particular individuals who would shut their minds down to something like Roots, having a knee-jerk reaction of “I’m being personally attacked!”. Kind of like the multiple approaches to atheistic activism.

    So there’s that.

    Of course, other things helped me. My late brother had a Columbian friend who didn’t get a dime of scholarship or grant and took out loans like everyone else, which prevented me from making my friend’s situation become, in my mind, the poster child for affirmative action. Becoming an atheist made me aware of how invisible prejudice and even some persecution can be if it’s not directed at you. The rudimentary beginnings of Atheism Plus, many years ago, with many atheists taking note of social justice causes beyond simply atheism, helped a lot to broaden my horizons. But I think Greta Christina’s advise about just shutting up and letting a black person or a gay person or a woman or atheist talk really helped a lot, when she said that when, say, a black person expresses the kind of racism and oppression they’ve experienced, it’s not an accusation and you shouldn’t take it as such because not everything is about you, and if you are truly sympathetic and not a racist you should shut up and listen and maybe learn about some things that you have no experience of and probably will never have experience of. It’s an opportunity to learn something new. I’ve used that on other white people since then, pointing out that they aren’t being personally attacked and, in fact, if a black person is telling you about their experience that person might well know that you’re not like that and that might be why they’re willing to share their experience with you: they might believe you are sympathetic to them. If a black person is telling you about their experiences with racism, you should take it as a compliment rather than a personal attack, and embrace that opportunity to learn something you never could have every learned any other way due to the color of your own skin. They’re not attacking you, they’re helping you to be a better and more well-rounded person.

    I don’t know if that’s changed any minds, but I do know some people I believe have softened up due to that argument and have become less inclined to shut down when that subject comes up.

    Just thought I’d throw those thoughts out there, shed some light on the way I thought and my motivations when I was one of those “white people are the truly oppressed race!” people, in the hopes that maybe some of that might help someone else here in their arguments and discussions to make some people see their own privilege and perhaps help them overcome the idea that discussion about racism, or sexism, or whatever, is not an attack on them personally. Sometimes it’s not just about raising the awareness but also about figuring out how to package it so they don’t reject it on sight or shut you off the moment the subject comes up.

    And that “if you dress like a thug, expect to get attacked” thing sickens me to no end. I’m “dressed like a thug” right now. Many people apparently “dress like a thug”. I love how they try to pretend that it was Trayvon’s clothing that made it totally acceptable to attack him, when he was dressed like many people, white and black, dress every day. I find it amazing that anyone could actually use that argument and keep a straight face, because they know perfectly well that if I, a girl with skin as white as snow, went out to buy some candy at the corner store, people would only think I’m wearing this hoodie because I’m cold. Change only the color of the face inside the hood, and I somehow become Evil Incarnate and deserving of violence and death. Not about his race, my pasty fat ass.

    I know violent language isn’t accepted here, but I have to admit being forced to suppress an intense compulsion to punch such people straight in the face when they say such disingenuous things that are clearly intended to defend their racism. Hey, maybe if they were wearing a hoodie at the time I could just use the “he was dressed like a thug, I had no choice!” defense too! After all, it works so well to defend Zimmerman!

  43. 43
    twas brillig (stevem)

    analogy: 2 racecars engaging in a race. As the cars line up at the starting line, the black car is loaded down with a pile of weights. The white car is not. The race starts and because of the weights, the black car usually loses (over the course of many identical race conditions). As a compensation for such discrimination, when the cars line up, a few of those weights are taken off the black car and put on the white car (still many weights on the black car). The cars race, and with the new weight distribution, occasionally the black car wins, but only occasionally. The driver of the white car, shouts out, “You’re discriminating against ME and favoring HIM, you’re loading ME down with these weights. RACISM! You’re favoring black cars over white cars.

    [I hope that analogy is pretty transparently obvious with no need for translation, but I'd be happy to share. I hope this doesn't qualify as a troll action]

  44. 44
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    @Azkyroth #28
    To my mind, there’s a big difference between prejudice from individuals or a group and society-wide prejudice. I don’t much care which words we use for each, as long as we recognize the difference. They’re not remotely the same thing. For one, if an individual or group discriminates against you, you might conceivably avoid them or fight against them by banding together with others.
    However, if the prejudice is part of the basic social structure, then not only is there no clearly defined target to fight against, but more often than not, you will have been raised in such a way that you’ve absorbed the attitudes yourself, even if you’re part of the oppressed group.

    Should I mention that the school system’s response, over and over and over, was either to ignore it because “I didn’t see it” or give me a head trip about how I was supposedly to blame for it?

  45. 45
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    The guy might have been able to injure me while others looked on, but I didn’t have to lift a finger and his whole life was probably destroyed. That’s the difference between racially-tinged physical violence and racism.

    Odd, because I had an energetically opposite experience.

  46. 46
    ck

    That’s the problem with “privilege”. It’s basically invisible to those who have it unless they look extremely hard to see it. So, you have people oblivious to the automatic invisible benefits they already enjoy, and seeing visible actions like “Affirmative Action” that try to benefit visible minorities, and thinking that they’re being severely harmed by these things.

  47. 47
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Azkyroth

    Should I mention that the school system’s response, over and over and over, was either to ignore it because “I didn’t see it” or give me a head trip about how I was supposedly to blame for it?

    This is, AFAICT, the usual response to any type of bullying in far too many schools (including those I went to), based on which I suspect that they wouldn’t have acted any different if it had been white kids beating you up instead.

    As far as the more general issue of your having suffered racially-tinged violence, the point that people are making is twofold. One, there is a matter of prevalence; some white people suffer certain types of racially-tinged harrassment in a few limited circumstances. All black people (and other POCs) suffer many types of racially-tinged disadvantages in virtually all circumstances. Secondarily, actual physical violence is a relatively minor aspect of the systemic disenfranchisement encompassed by the sociological uses of the term racism, which is the standard usage on this blog. So, the violence you experienced was definitely bullying, and motivated by bigotry, but discussion of systemic racism requires distinguishing that type of bigotry, even when it includes actions, and the type of systemic disenfranchisement that characterizes U.S. treatment of POCs.

    The factors noted my MikeMa and SallyStrange also contribute to these sorts of perceptions. For instance, Azkyroth, you are justifiably upset that you were regularly bullied and abused and no one did anything about it, and quite reasonably feel hard done by, which you are. And, because the nature of your being hard done by in this case (bullying), is one that has a great deal of social acceptance, is largely considered the ‘natural order’ and all that bullshit, while overt expressions of bigotry are increasingly frowned upon (note I say increasingly, not universally), so it’s only natural to ascribe the problem to the less socially accepted concern. I’m not saying you’re not blaming bullying too, because you’ve expressed your feelings on that matter (which which I agree) on a number of occasions, I merely tend to think that it’s the majority of the situation you’re describing.

    Similarly, many poor and middle-class whites find themselves, as MikeMa and SallyStrange note, suddenly competing for scarce jobs and ever-falling wages with a whole lot of people who never used to be in the running, and are justifiably scared that there’s not going to be enough jobs to go around, and feel the need to hold on like hell to the piece of the pie they’ve got. The thing is, the greedy bastards siphoning all the money out of the system are the reason why there’s never enough jobs and money to go around for the lower classes of any ethnicity, but we can’t blame them because our whole society is built around worshiping and emulating them.

  48. 48
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I guess. It feels like there’s this concerted effort among social-justicey people to draw the lines between what is “NOT OKAY AND WE MUST DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT” and what isn’t so that I’m just barely outside it, over and over again.

    I’m aware of all the other stuff you’ve said, and it’s importance. Maybe I just wish I could attach a little of the stigma that “RACISM” and the analogous terms have (you know, the things that make people feel the need to anxiously explain they AREN’T LIKE THAT, NO) to the behavior I’ve suffered from.

  49. 49
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    It’s true that bullying hasn’t received nearly the attention that it ought; I’ve seen some beginnings of that kind of attention being paid lately, although mostly in the specific context of LBGT kids, which tends to kick it back to being a particular matter of homophobia and transphobia, which are, of course, huge problems that need to be addressed. The thing is, and I know you’ve been beating this drum for a while here, bullying is a huge, huge problem, with massively bad effects on a lot of people, and isn’t necessarily related to relative privilege (although those doing the bullying are very often at least somewhat higher on one or more privilege gradients relative to their victims.). The fact that it’s a problem that intersects with a whole lot of other problems (i.e. bullying is used to reinforce various social mores like homophobia, misogyny, racism, etc ad nauseum) tends to mask the fact that bullying is, itself, one of those harmful social norms, and can and will be carried out even in the absence of any transgression of same. There are just so fucking many flavors of total assholery embedded in U.S. culture (and others, but we’re mostly talking about the U.S. in this thread), and they interweave in so many ways that parsing which flavor(s) of assholery is the paramount driver of any particular asshole action.

  50. 50
    Ing

    @Azkyroth

    I’ve observed that some forms of practiced “Social Justice” are fairly callous

  51. 51
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I’ve observed that some forms of practiced “Social Justice” are fairly callous

    Some people who are basically well-intentioned get wrapped up in their narratives and theory and make mistakes which invite comparison with the math-mistakes of A) mistaking partial derivatives for regular derivatives and/or B) treating nonlinear functions as if they were linear. I’m one of them, granted…

  52. 52
    stripeycat

    SallyStrange@25
    Part of the problem seems to be that too many people value relative status over actual autonomy. You see the same thing with wealth: people who’ll cheerfully take a loss if it means a bigger one for their rivals. I think it ultimately stems from the zero-sum competetiveness encouraged by conservative thinking and upbringing. Of course, stress and poverty also tend to break down cooperation and intensify fear and mistrust of others.

  53. 53
    A. Noyd

    Azkyroth (#45)

    Odd, because I had an energetically opposite experience.

    I think Dalillama in #47 said everything I could possibly say in response to this.

  54. 54
    sonofrojblake

    SallyStrange@25:

    social justice activists have danced around the fact that achieving equality will necessarily entail a reduction in status for those who benefit from inequality

    This.

    From the white point of view, it very much IS a zero-sum game, because white people think they are starting from zero. No job, no secure housing, no access to healthcare – that feels a lot like zero to people whatever the colour of their skin, and if you tell them your objective is to reduce their status further – and that is what your objective is – you can hardly expect them to like it.

  55. 55
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Yes yes, Azkyroth, you are the most tragically oppressed person ever, and all suggestions otherwise must be derailed for you.

  56. 56
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    More to the point, this tendency to refuse to acknowledge that structural racism 1. is a thing and 2. is somewhat worse than that one time you got called a cracker years ago UNLESS every single POC ever behaves in a perfect, angelic manner (totally reasonable!) is incredibly racist, and is the kind of demand that only someone benefiting from incredible structural power could think reasonable to make.

  57. 57
    opposablethumbs

    HappiestSadist, I think that phrasing was unnecessarily cruel.

  58. 58
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Noted. Filed appropriately.

  59. 59
    LykeX

    …that one time you got called a cracker was threatened with physical violence years ago…

    I think belittling what happened is quite unhelpful and you don’t need to do it to make your point.

    Maybe I just wish I could attach a little of the stigma that “RACISM” and the analogous terms have (you know, the things that make people feel the need to anxiously explain they AREN’T LIKE THAT, NO) to the behavior I’ve suffered from.

    Problematic. When we use the same word, people think it’s all the same*. We do that and we very quickly end up in exactly the situation that HappiestSadist is describing: Viewing and treating institutional prejudice against a minority group as the same as individual prejudice of a minority against the majority. And then we all know what happens, right? Minorities are bashed and the institutional racism remains untouched.

    There are things that can, and should, be done to prevent minority prejudice**, but it’s not the same as needs to be done for institutional racism. They’re not the same problem and pretending they are isn’t going to do any good.

    Furthermore, if you tend to bring up these issues during discussions on racism, it’s no wonder that people seem callous to you. I’d guess that you seem callous to them. I note that what you’re saying here is very similar to what racists will often do to derail discussions on racism. Your initial comment at #28 could easily be read in that fashion, so maybe beware of that. I’m guessing that’s the reason for the combative tone of HappiestSadist’s comment.

    Pardon me if I’m saying something you already know, but I’m just trying to be clear.

    * No really, they do. I think this lies at the basis of the routine use of equivocation in religion, for example. Ever talk to a theist about “faith”? Then you know what I mean. It takes a war to get them to understand that different definitions aren’t interchangeable and it’s not always because they’re stupid.

    ** Incidentally, combating institutional racism is one of them

  60. 60
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    LykeX, I was referring to all the various “but a black person was mean to me once!” complainers, not just Azkyroth. It’s a common derail, to bring up that apparently there are assholes among POC, therefore institutional oppression is not that bad. It’s incredibly self-obsessed, and racist as fuck.

    And yeah, that would be why I am combatie about this, because that is a revolting attempt to equivocate, and I am sick of seeing it. (Also, well, history.)

  61. 61
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Azkyroth:

    I’m one who uses the definition of [group] Power + Prejudice + unearned Privilege = Oppression.

    Racial oppression = racism, so the definition above would simply need to be qualified like so:

    Racial ([group] Power + Prejudice + unearned Privilege) = Racism

    I resist calling anti-white prejudice racism, because it minimizes what racism actually is and the extent of its effects.

    But I most certainly condemn prejudice.

    If you ever read me saying that X isn’t racism, remember that I can say that hacking into someone’s private e-mail isn’t rape without condoning hacking into someone’s private e-mail. I can even believe that resources need to be devoted to stopping problem X (and do believe this about racial prejudice regardless of target) without conceding that X is racism.

    If I may? noting that comparisons are never 100% accurate or they wouldn’t be comparisons, there’s a history of transsexual folk claiming intersex identity and membership. Why? Because being intersex is seen as not the fault of the intersex person, being transsexual frequently is seen as both a choice and a moral failing. Moreover, the health insurance industry generally covers genital surgery on intersex kids while refusing to cover the same procedures when performed on transsexual folk. They see their suffering as being treated as less legitimate than intersex suffering, so adopt the language of intersex folk with a conscious or unconscious desire to be treated seriously and to have one’s medical treatment treated as necessary.

    But along the way, they end up painting insurance coverage for surgeries on intersex kids as a “favor” to intersex kids and their families. There are other mistakes as well, but that one alone should be sufficient to paint the picture.

    I think what happened to you was morally inexcusable and that you were failed by many. I sympathize with the desire to be heard. But I honestly wonder: are *you* being heard if you use the term racism? It may feel validating to a transsexual person to have suffering taken seriously, but are transsexual people being heard if they have to pretend to be intersex folk for others to listen?

    Think about whether you would feel the administration had done well by your story if they suddenly took bullying seriously, but only when racial prejudice was involved and continued to ignore all other bullying. Would you feel like they had really learned the lesson? Or would you feel like they took a few words more seriously than they took the ongoing, repeated nature of the harassment?

    I want to hear you, Azkyroth, not some caricature of you. I want to make life better for you and those who can benefit from your stories. If society forces you to disguise your story, their will always be some who would have escaped harm under a well-designed response that will not escape harm under the response designed for a misrepresentation of the problem.

    When I say X is not racism, I’m trying to clarify the stories **because I care about you**. You don’t have to have enslaved ancestors to be deserving of anti-bullying intervention. You get that just for being you.

  62. 62
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    sonofrojblake

    No job, no secure housing, no access to healthcare– that feels a lot like zero to people whatever the colour of their skin,

    This is what I was getting at in #49. When you’re starting at zero, which most white folks are, it’s hard to realize that a lot of people are having to start from -2 or -3, or to care, because you’re scrabbling to stay on zero yourself. The thing is, it’s the people who are starting at 100,000 or so (metahporically), because they’re a large part of the reason why whites and nonwhites alike have no jobs, housing, access to healthcare, etc. (although POCs have more difficulty getting any of those things than whites; that’s another aspect of it, not just where you start, but how many obstacles there are to go anywhere. As bad as the system is rigged against poor whites, it’s rigged worse against POCs. The rich have been systematically exploiting white bigotry to make sure of both these factors.)

    and if you tell them your objective is to reduce their status further – and that is what your objective is – you can hardly expect them to like it.

    That is a misrepresentation of the goals of social justice generally. It is not to reduce the status of privileged groups but to increase the status of less privileged groups. Elevation of others to one’s own level is only a threat to status for knee-jerk authoritarians who can’t imagine any social organization that isn’t a rigid hierarchy where the shit rolls downhill and everyone wants to make sure there’s someone below them for it to roll onto. The goal here is to level the ground so that the shit stays with whoever generated it, and doesn’t roll onto anybody.

    A part of the problem illustrated by the OP and comments like the one quoted is that since the beginning of the Civil Rights movement (in the broad sense, including not just African American rights groups but the Chicano Movement, American Indian Movement, the post-Stonewall groups like ACT-UP, etc.) social justice has somewhat overwhelmed economic justice on the national political stage. The New Left basically sold economic reform out completely in the name of realpolitik, with the Democrats throwing their base the occasional bone of nondiscrimination laws (not that these is a bad thing, but it’s possible to work on more than one issue at a time) while moving ever rightward economically.

    So, we have white people, particularly cis straight white men, looking around at a country where every few years some new minority is granted a few more legal rights and gets one step closer to equality before the law, and at the same time watched their own quality of life steadily degrading, and tending to make some assumptions regarding correlation and causation. Basically, if we’d actually implemented things like universal healthcare and a worthwhile social safety net (and kept the unions, and increased the minimum wage, and a few dozen other important economic reforms) a few decades back, whites would be feeling a lot less hard done by today, and probably wouldn’t be crying so much about suffering from ‘discrimination’.

  63. 63
    David Marjanović

    Azkyroth, let me confirm that where I come from, bullying works the same way, and schools – on the very rare occasions that they even notice – respond the same way. Literally nobody was black in my school when I was there, and I wasn’t bullied for my surname or anything – I was bullied for not conforming socially.

    I really think you’re extrapolating beyond the data.

  64. 64
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    Same here, David. I was bullied a lot in school. Some of it was homophobic, some gender-related, some religion-related, but most just because bullies will pick on literally anything.

  65. 65
    David Marjanović

    Sorry, forgot to add that I also wasn’t poorer than my bullies.

    And I forgot to refresh before posting. :-( I’m with comments 61 and 62.

  66. 66
    David Marjanović

    bullies will pick on literally anything

    If they can’t find anything, they’ll just make shit up!

  67. 67
    Al Dente

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy @62

    So, we have white people, particularly cis straight white men, looking around at a country where every few years some new minority is granted a few more legal rights and gets one step closer to equality before the law, and at the same time watched their own quality of life steadily degrading, and tending to make some assumptions regarding correlation and causation.

    Anecdote time:

    I’m in worse financial shape now than I was ten years ago. I’ve received one raise during that time, that raise not being enough to keep up with inflation. My quality of life has degraded, I’ve had to give up a few luxuries like magazine subscriptions and I donate somewhat less to various charities than I did before. I don’t blame things like same-sex marriage or affirmative action for my financial condition but I do know a lot of people do blame these sorts of things for their loss of real income. The Tea Party makes a point of blaming various social changes for the economic deterioration many households are experiencing.

  68. 68
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Azkyroth, let me confirm that where I come from, bullying works the same way, and schools – on the very rare occasions that they even notice – respond the same way. Literally nobody was black in my school when I was there, and I wasn’t bullied for my surname or anything – I was bullied for not conforming socially.

    I really think you’re extrapolating beyond the data.

    For the record, I wasn’t claiming that the administration only failed to intervene because the bullies in these instances were people of color; I was questioning whether it is really useful or sensible to define “power” as narrowly as people seem to want to. A couple of people who deigned to respond to what I was actually saying have given me a bit more to think about in that regard.

  69. 69
    Inaji

    Azkyroth:

    A couple of people who deigned to respond to what I was actually saying

    Phrasing things like this ^ doesn’t help. Several people have gone to considerable length in clarifying things for you, hoping to help you understand. As for questioning how power is defined when it comes to things like privilege and racism, it might have gone a bit better if you didn’t tie that up with a personal experience. There is intersectionality in all these issues, which LykeX and others pointed out, however, structural, systemic, social racism has little to do with what happened to you, at least as far as terms and definitions go. In order to understand the multitude of smaller incidents, you gotta be able to see the large picture.

  70. 70
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Several people have gone to considerable length in clarifying things for you, hoping to help you understand.

    Yes; the other half of the sentence you quoted was an acknowledgment of that.

    As for questioning how power is defined when it comes to things like privilege and racism, it might have gone a bit better if you didn’t tie that up with a personal experience

    My personal experience is what informs it: it’s upsetting to me to see points, even ones that I generally agree with, supported by generalizations that appear to flatly deny that I can possibly have had the experiences I have, especially the painful ones. People who listen – really listen – to that and explain why that perception is either mistaken or lacks perspective are appreciated; people who respond in ways that I have to reach into nonexistent stocks of benefit-of-the-doubt to differentiate from the people who assured me that “you just think you’re all that and a bag of chips” and that if I didn’t use big words or feel good about my grades, people wouldn’t “have to” bully me….aren’t.

    I’m now going to try to drop out of this conversation, again.

  71. 71
    carlie

    Azkyroth – there is also a large element of triage going on. Anti-bullying campaigns are brand new to society. Actually thinking about the effects your actions have on other groups is fairly new to society. It’s the largest, most obvious problems being attacked now. That doesn’t mean that the ones that happen more infrequently aren’t as important, just that, when something gets started, it’s usually the one that has the most potential impact that gets dealt with first. That’s where we are ow.

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