Trying to Get White People to Talk About Racism is Like . . . .

. . . . . well, like trying to get white people to talk about Racism.

I was going to go for a cute metaphor -- herding cats, pulling teeth, getting blood from a stone -- but nope -- those all seem way easier to me than trying to get white people to talk about Racism.

I mention this because I read a wide variety of blogs, and I notice that while a number of my favorite bloggers do write posts on race and racism, there is this interesting thing that happens in comment threads to these posts -- if the blog is not frequented mostly by people of color, the comment threads very often stray from anything remotely touching on race or racism, and quickly become about "oppression in general", or a particular commenter's "Me Too!" pointing toward their own particular oppression.

The comments that I read are almost without exception from liberals/progressives. I assume that they are well-meaning, and I believe that most of them truly want to be supportive of the author's viewpoint -- but I'm consistently amazed at how quickly these threads can turn from the main point of the post if it's about race and/or racism.

Personally, I think this may be due to three things:

First: Many (if not most) white people, have very little awareness of their privilege as white people.

I have straight friends who have been harrassed on the street with screams of "faggot" or "lesbo", so they may have gotten a small taste of what it's like to be on the receiving end of homophobia -- male friends of mine have been called "pussy" or "mangina", and hence, may have experienced a minute sampling of misogyny -- but I don't know a single white person who has ever had another white person yell "nigger" at them on the street. (I sure it has happened to someone, somewhere, but it hasn't entered my direct reality.)

In fact, now that I think of it, most of the white people I know who seem to have the greatest understanding and awareness of their privilege are those who have been called "nigger-lover" at some point in their lives, because they stood up for the rights of people of color -- but that's not really the same as being the direct recipient of a racial slur -- it's an indictment of how you are "betraying" the racist culture -- as a white person.

(*Before you start going on about how you think you've been on the receiving end of racism because someone called you "whitey" or "honky" or "gringo" while you were walking through a predominantly colorful neighborhood, please do read to the end of this post, as I have a special note for you.)

Second: I think white people are often afraid to talk about race. If they're liberal/progressive, they're afraid they'll say something ignorant and offensive. If they're conservative/regressive, they tend to want to ignore the issue altogether, or turn it on its head and talk about shit like "reverse-racism" or "quotas" or some other ridiculous crap.

I think white people are a little scared that someday, somehow, all the racist crap that's been perpetrated on people of color over the centuries is going to crash down on them karmically, and I think that they'd often just rather keep those worms in the can, thank you very much -- after all, only 8% of the world's population is white.

(FWIW, I think this is also true of the can-of-worms that is real conversation about misogyny/sexism, as women comprise half of the population, and that it is less true of the homo-/trans-phobia conversation, because homos/trannies are a much smaller minority in terms of total population, and therefore less threatening, even though we're supposed to be this big fucking threat -- but that's not what I'm talking about in this post -- I want to talk about race, dammit! See how easy it is to get diverted?)

Third: I think that there is a subliminal message (in our country, at least) that racism is no longer a problem -- and I believe that that message is dangerous, and factually incorrect (and you all know how I feel about shit that is factually incorrect).

I know that racism is still an issue, because there are white people -- white people who think of themselves as liberal/progressive -- who will say racist things to me when people of color are not around -- even after I have confronted them in the past about racist remarks that they have made.

I know that racism is still an issue because white people seem so fucking uncomfortable about discussing it -- so uncomfortable, in fact, that they avoid discussing it, even when it is clearly brought to the table by someone that they consider an ally.

I know that racism is still an issue because people of color can disappear and nobody seems to notice.

Yes, I think that racism, misogyny, and homophobia (and whole bunch of other hatred-based "isms") are interconnected. Yes, I think that it's important for me to "connect-the-dots" between these forms of oppression, and understand how they intertwine.

However, I think that if I'm really going to understand that tapestry of hate, and learn how to untangle it -- there will be times when I must look carefully, and talk long into the night, about the specific threads which don't touch me in the same way that they touch others who are on the Magical Oppression Carpet-Ride[tm] with me. (Wheee! Are we fucking having fun yet? No. I thought not.)

*Now, just to be perfectly clear about that whole "whitey/honky" thing? When I'm talking about Racism, I'm talking about the cultural oppression of racial minorities by racial majorities. If you're white and American, you are part of a 75% racial majority, and regardless of what anyone has told you, Racism is not an Equal Opportunity Oppressor.

I welcome discussion on the substance of my post, or on race/racism in comments to this post. If you derail it, I'm going to be kicking ass and taking names.

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