Talking about Racism

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Talking about Racism

Postby rowan » Wed Aug 10, 18:01 2011

Or not talking about it. It's an article about why someone doesn't want to talk about race. I think this is really a good article, and it really made me think about discourse in this country. It's the same reason why I'm generally in favor of pointing someone to Feminism 101 when they come here and ask the same question over and over and over. Which is not to say I want to co-opt this lovely piece about race, I'm just pointing out a parallel.

I think we do need to have conversations, but the trouble is that without people actually paying attention to what's been done already, we wind up going over the basics over and over. (There are some citations in there that look really interesting as well; I will definitely be checking some of those out. After I finish my current hard-core reading. ;)) ... bout-race/

Anyway there's a ton of stuff in this to digest and think about so at this point I will just throw it out there.
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Re: Talking about Racism

Postby Sonic# » Wed Aug 10, 22:36 2011

Thanks for throwing it out there. It was a good read, one that I'm still digesting.

I think that the refusal to speak on race is intriguing for the reasons behind it. As you note, it's a refusal to rehash what's already been done over and over. It's also a refusal of the position that he's regularly put in, the position of a "black man" who has to be an expert on race. Because whites don't have to think about race, they most often don't talk about it, or we treat it as something that should be forgotten, because it's so easy for us to forget it. But in forgetting it, we forget to remember that it's a social construct, and so we allow ourselves to be affected by naive prejudices and suppositions. It's easy for us not to read the books he's mentioned, to not step outside of our ordinary boundaries (his example of Tom going to Africa, claiming that he was a minority for the first time in his life, but not seeing that his privilege allowed him to *believe* he was never a minority - brilliant). It's easy for us to not talk about it, either because the subject is seen as taboo, because there's a fear of getting it wrong, or because we mistakenly believe that the discussion was sufficiently ended with the conclusion of the civil rights movement and further talk will just awaken racial prejudices again. Instead, if it's to be talked about, people expect him to talk about it. And he refused while talking about the refusal.

I should make the effort to talk about it more when I see it come up. I've been shier about it in the past.

You want to relate this to feminism, and there's something to it. As you and I know, men don't have to think of themselves as gendered in the same way that women and transgenders do. Men can be several things at once before the notion of being a man becomes significant. Women carry their gender around, sometimes as a token (the first female blank, it's so impressive you did that as a woman), sometimes as a limiter (have you had children yet? Let me tell you about mothering. Why haven't you gotten pregnant? Are you raising your child right?), and so on. Women are expected to be sensitive to gender issues. They are expected to be interpersonal negotiators, nurturers. They're expected to keep track of all the things (like child care, contraception, and education) that are traditionally seen as women's issues. Many times, men don't know to have these discussions, but if these men, and everyone else, were made to talk about them, and read up on them, that would go a long way towards having more productive discussions that don't rehash the "Feminism 101" line.

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Re: Talking about Racism

Postby Aum » Thu Aug 11, 1:03 2011

I didn't have a concept of race growing up. I lived in a very multicultural community, and my friends had families from different countries and backgrounds. That was the norm for me. I wouldn't have had the concept of racism without it being taught in school. And even after I heard about it, it still didn't compute that people hated one another because of ethnicity. I instead related to people in terms of how they behaved with me. As a teenager I was more aware of how the adults would often drag the children into racist thinking, even though my friends and we were just relating innocently.

I fully support conversations about race as they are perceived by everyone, but there's sort of a balancing point between awareness and reminder. The suggestion of race sometimes plants the seed of racism in the first place. Education about race and racism, is, in of itself, racist. If we are all equal in that regard, then why does it bear repeating and ingraining? It's kind of like someone always pre-facing what they're about to say with, "TRUST ME! I know what I'm talking about." Does that inspire trust?

I'm not blind to history but... it seems like equality is one of those things that has to be an issue before it's a non-issue. Maybe I am just part of a generation or locale who is reaping the rewards of years of civil rights work, and that's why I don't fully get it.
The artist's job is not to succumb to despair, but to find an antidote to the emptiness of existence. -W.A.

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