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livredor
Praeteritio
Wednesday, 19 July 2006 at 09:07 am
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It seems that lots of people round these parts are "blogging against racism". I'm really not sure whether I should participate, and here's why.

I should post something because I am against racism. Well, obviously; even BNP spokesmen sometimes claim to be against racism these days. I don't see much merit in giving myself a pat on the back: look at me, I'm such a good person, I posted to LJ saying Racisim is BAD!.

I should post something because I've been reading quite a lot of interesting and thought-provoking stuff because of the meme and other discussions about racism going on in the blogosphere more generally. But one thing I'm picking up very strongly is that a lot of people seem to want white people to "shut up and listen" and not try to take over the discussion. Well, I'm quite happy to shut up and listen, especially in the blog context because lurking when there are interesting discussions to read is a lot more rewarding than being in a conversation where I'm not allowed to speak.

The trouble is that if I don't post that I am against racism, I could be seen as tacitly supporting it, or not making sufficient effort to combat racism. I've seen just as many complaints about white people being unfairly privileged because they don't have to think about racism if they don't want to, or perpetuating racism by not speaking against it, as I have about white people invading the discussion and making it hard for the victims of racism to be heard.

The side-issue to this is whether I am one of the "white people" intended by the rhetoric from either side. I feel odd defining myself as "white", but clearly I have no skin pigmentation at all so I can hardly be anything else. I want to say "non-black", by analogy to the expression "non-white", but that would probably end up offending people. Navel-gazing about what my racial identity is is definitely not the point though. I think part of the problem is that the "racism" in "Blog against racism week" is sometimes being used specifically to mean racism against African-Americans, namely people with dark skin who live in the USA. Obviously, I have absolutely nothing to contribute to any discussion about the experiences of African-Americans. But I'm also not "white" in this context because I'm not a light skinned, WASPy American either! So on that level the whole discussion has nothing to do with me, except that, well, racism is happening and I would like to stop it, which is too obvious to be worth stating.

Oh, and I don't understand Theory. I don't understand gender theory or queer theory despite being gay and female, so I have even less clue about race theory. I can't use the jargon convincingly, I don't understand the ways of arguing that seem to come from Theory-based assumptions. Because the area is emotionally charged, this blind spot means that almost anything I say is likely to offend people. (By the way, if you are already offended by this non-post, please do tell me so.) It's probably better to say nothing at all than to speak against racism in the wrong way and come across as racist. Of course, perhaps the reason I don't understand theory is that I am in fact racist, however much I try not to be. I really hope that any friend who hears me saying something racist or with the potential for racist effects will point out my error to me.

So. I am very much against racism, but I don't think blogging the fact that I am against racism is going to do the cause any good.


Whereaboooots: Älvsjö, Stockholm, Sweden
Moooood: pensivepensive
Tuuuuune: Crowded House: Fall at your feet
Discussion: 43 contributions | Contribute something
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(no subject) - monanotlisa (7/19/06 08:23 am)
livredor: teeeeeeeeea
From:livredor
Date:July 19th, 2006 02:31 pm (UTC)
6 hours after journal entry, 02:31 pm (livredor's time)

(Link)
Awww, thank you so much for the cheerleading! I really appreciate getting kind comments on my posts. And yeah, discussion is really what I'm hoping for here.
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(no subject) - sunflowerinrain (7/19/06 09:29 am)
livredor: teapot
From:livredor
Date:July 19th, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
7 hours after journal entry, 03:00 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
Thank you for this comment, it's thinky as well as flattering!

I agree that racism is a subset of an absolutely huge problem. But I think it is sometimes worth discussing skin-colour racism qua racism, without necessarily having to mention that antisemitism and prejudice against Irish people and prejudice against disabled people and sexism and homophobia and etc etc etc also exist and are also problems. Also, if this discussion is supposed to be specific to the USA, fair enough; I'm not offended by the fact that some of what's being said isn't really applicable over here.

I'd be quite interested to hear your rant, if you felt like it. I am glad you think I'm being tactful, because I don't feel as if I am, really.
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(no subject) - sunflowerinrain (7/19/06 03:27 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (7/19/06 04:14 pm)
(no subject) - ewtikins (7/19/06 05:13 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (7/19/06 06:30 pm)
(no subject) - sunflowerinrain (7/19/06 03:28 pm)
(no subject) - sunflowerinrain (7/19/06 03:29 pm)
coalescent: default
From:coalescent
Date:July 19th, 2006 09:31 am (UTC)
1 hours after journal entry, 09:31 am (coalescent's time)
(Link)
What monanotlisa said. Also:

I think part of the problem is that the "racism" in "Blog against racism week" is sometimes being used specifically to mean racism against African-Americans, namely people with dark skin who live in the USA.

Possibly, but I'm sure it's not intended to be limited to that strand of racism.

However: I have come to realise I really don't like the phrase "people of colour". Every time I read it I think it sounds patronising--which is ridiculous, because we need some phrase to describe people who are not white, and because I'm white so who the hell am I to say what's patronising? But I can't help thinking that I don't know any "people of colour" who would be comfortable being described in those words.

So. I am very much against racism, but I don't think blogging the fact that I am against racism is going to do the cause any good.

The argument, as I understand it, is that just by having a lot of people say they're against racism you create an environment where people are aware that racism is not ok. Which sounds reasonable, and a good thing, although I do also take your point that it could potentially make those who don't blog look like they're tacitly supporting racism.

I think we need a word. Coming out for something is a more powerful statement than coming out against something--as the "pro-choice" lobby have unfortunately demonstrated, I think. People who are against sexism can say they are feminist (of course, that brings a whole load of other assumptions with it, but hopefully you'll grant the basic point). People who are against racism can say they are ... what? What's the word, other than "anti-racist"?
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coalescent: default
From:coalescent
Date:July 19th, 2006 01:41 pm (UTC)
5 hours after journal entry, 01:41 pm (coalescent's time)
(Link)
The argument, as I understand it

To clarify: the kickoff posts, if you haven't seen them, are here, here, here and here.
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(no subject) - livredor (7/19/06 04:01 pm)
(no subject) - coalescent (7/19/06 06:24 pm)
(no subject) - coalescent (7/19/06 02:48 pm)
(no subject) - lyssiae (7/19/06 08:46 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (7/19/06 03:47 pm)
(no subject) - ewtikins (7/19/06 05:02 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (7/23/06 01:50 pm)
(no subject) - oyceter (7/19/06 07:50 pm)
(no subject) - coalescent (7/19/06 07:59 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (7/23/06 01:56 pm)
(no subject) - oyceter (7/25/06 02:24 am)
chickenfeet2003: default
From:chickenfeet2003
Date:July 19th, 2006 10:28 am (UTC)
2 hours after journal entry, 05:28 am (chickenfeet2003's time)
(Link)
Of course, perhaps the reason I don't understand theory is that I am in fact racist

Or it could be that "Theory" is twaddle wrapped up in academic language that serves mainly to allow people to hold onto opinions that are contradicted by evidence. I think one of the hardest things that people with a scientific training have is getting their heads around the notion that "theory" in certain "disciplines" is independent of any evidence base and seen in fact as a priori superior to "facts" the objective existence of which is denied.
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From:neonchameleon
Date:July 19th, 2006 11:47 am (UTC)
4 hours after journal entry
(Link)
Or it could be that "Theory" is twaddle wrapped up in academic language that serves mainly to allow people to hold onto opinions that are contradicted by evidence. I think one of the hardest things that people with a scientific training have is getting their heads around the notion that "theory" in certain "disciplines" is independent of any evidence base and seen in fact as a priori superior to "facts" the objective existence of which is denied.

I wouldn't go quite that far. The problem with such theory is that there is sometimes good stuff buried underneath all the twaddle - and that no one - not even (or probably particularly not) the proponents can say where the twaddle is and where the good stuff is.

What irritates me is that such theory is theory in the colloquial sense (= an interesting idea someone's come up with) but fromm my observation, we are expected to treat it as an established scientific theory.
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(no subject) - chickenfeet2003 (7/19/06 12:14 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (7/19/06 04:29 pm)
(no subject) - chickenfeet2003 (7/19/06 04:43 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (7/23/06 01:58 pm)
(no subject) - chickenfeet2003 (7/23/06 02:08 pm)
lisekit: dolly
From:lisekit
Date:July 19th, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
7 hours after journal entry
(Link)
"Blog against racism"? First I've heard of it, but it does sound like a nasty case of slacktivism to me. Clearly belongs in the same bag as email petitions and inspirational email forwards. If people would really like to work against racism, I feel they'll have to tear themselves away from the blogosphere to do it. Certainly, no-one has the right to criticise anyone for not making a lazy gesture in the direction of activism from the comfort of their webspace.
(Reply to this comment) (Thread)
(no subject) - monanotlisa (7/19/06 04:06 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (7/23/06 02:02 pm)
(no subject) - monanotlisa (7/24/06 11:02 am)
(no subject) - livredor (7/19/06 04:34 pm)
(no subject) - rachelmanija (7/19/06 10:34 pm)
(no subject) - livredor (7/23/06 02:09 pm)
(no subject) - rachelmanija (7/19/06 10:29 pm)
ewtikins: bluelights
From:ewtikins
Date:July 19th, 2006 05:00 pm (UTC)
9 hours after journal entry, 05:00 pm (ewtikins's time)
(Link)
This pretty much sums up my views.
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smhwpf: Angel
From:smhwpf
Date:July 19th, 2006 10:22 pm (UTC)
14 hours after journal entry, 11:22 pm (smhwpf's time)
(Link)
I think the injunctions to white people to "shut up and listen" and to "participate in the debate" are not necessarily contradictory: the important thing is that they should be done in that order.

The side-issue to this is whether I am one of the "white people" intended by the rhetoric from either side.

An important point, and one that raises a question in my mind: it is clear that Jews still face prejudice and hostility from certain quarters, that is there are a significant number of people who are to some degree anti-Semitic. The stats show that Jews in Britain are more likely than (other?) white people to be victims of racially-motivated attacks (though not to the same extent as blacks and Asians). We've both been on the receiving end of verbal anti-Semitism, and I suspect that's far from uncommon. But what I wonder, and would like to ask your opinion on is, do Jews still face systemic racism and discrimination in society? Does, for example, having an obviously Jewish name or wearing obviously Jewish garb put one at a disadvantage in the job market? How deeply do you see anti-Semitism as running in society?

My turn to shut up and listen! :)
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livredor: likeness
From:livredor
Date:July 23rd, 2006 02:22 pm (UTC)
4 days after journal entry, 02:22 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
Sam, I'm not going to talk about antisemitism here. I appreciate your asking, but this isn't the right discussion for that. I have seen a lot of people who are rightfully upset because they are trying to talk about their experience, but can't do so because they are drowned out by people reminding them that white people have it just as bad, look at the Jews for example! I absolutely don't want to contribute to that bad dynamic.

Anyway, pretty much everything I want to say about this topic is in this post last year.
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cartesiandaemon: default
From:cartesiandaemon
Date:July 19th, 2006 11:49 pm (UTC)
16 hours after journal entry
(Link)
I was going to muse about the wothwility of such posts, but oyceter's link said a lot, which I couldn't add to.

If you want to join in, but don't have anything to say, you could always try to think of an amusing story on the subject -- I know it happens to be almost automatically[1]. Or post about being a Briton in Scandanavia.

It does make sense that perhaps no-one thinks of themselves as racist, but have assumptions that if no-one challenges ossify, so if everyone expresses their views, enough people might know someone who makes them rethink.

[1] I seem to have been hypersensitised to prejudice, that before many of my natural prejudices form, when seeing an [adjective] person in a film or wherever, a little trigger in my brain pops up saying "are they represented fairly?" so I never do see them naturally. Of course, most of the [race], [sex], or [religion] people I know are middle class intellegent colourblind geeks, like everyone else I know, so my prejudices are about different things. If I lived in a place where black people *were* statistically more likely to rob you, they might be different.
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livredor: likeness
From:livredor
Date:July 23rd, 2006 02:33 pm (UTC)
4 days after journal entry, 02:33 pm (livredor's time)
(Link)
Thanks for this comment. I think I may tell a story about racism, actually; I'm still mulling over whether that's a worthwhile contribution.

I won't talk about being a Brit in Sweden or English in Scotland, though; those issues are specifically and explicitly irrelevant. The original complaint that started this was that it's hard for people to talk about being discriminated against on the grounds of their skin colour / race / visible characteristics, and part of what's making it hard is that people keep bringing up irrelevant comparisons of discrimination that white people experience from other white people. I'm not at all saying that those kinds of discrimination don't matter, but they are very much Off Topic in this particular discussion.
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