"Dangerous White Stereotypes"

This is a very good article about The Help which makes some excellent points (without explicitly making them) about black women not being a monolithic group, about the complicated experience of enjoying art that you also find to have problematic aspects, and about there not being such a thing as a "good person," full-stop, because we all have the capacity for the decency and the capacity for malice.

The overt content—that the stereotype of the White Racist Who Is a Terrible Person is dangerous, because the suggestion "that bad people were racist implies that good people were not"—is excellent, too. There are a whole lotta white people, among them people I know, who are watching that movie and coming away from it with a very satisfactory feeling of superiority to Those Racist White People.

I have written before about the rape culture being a continuum of behaviors that reflect a disregard for consent, and oppressions work the same way (see Part 3b): Oppressions do not exist as a hierarchy, where only the most egregious acts can be deemed oppressive, lest a word like racism lose all meaning. They exist on a continuum, at one end of which is genocide, and at the other end of which is, say, the use of "Whatta maroon!" because, hey, Bugs Bunny says it, without knowledge of its racial history.

White people like to absolve themselves by ranking racism, by noting that ignorantly using a slur out of context and murdering someone because of hir race are not equivalent things. Of course they're not—but they serve the same oppression.

That's what makes them both racism.

Stereotypes like the ones in The Help allow privileged white people to distance ourselves from racism, rather than encouraging us to connect the "little things" that perpetuate white privilege to the undeniable brutality of unchecked racism, and that is indeed a dangerous thing.

Anyway! Professor Turner worked a hell of a lot of good stuff for thought into that piece. You should definitely read it!

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