I’m Not Racist, But..

My social circle is a pretty cool group of people, with generally reasonable views. But there’s a subject that will knock down any lively conversation in a heartbeat: racism.You see, we all like to think we’re good people. We’re not racists, because racists are bad people who think non-white people are different from us white people, and we don’t believe that, so we’re not racist. I notice the same when discussing other marginalised groups: “I’m not against trans people, I’m not gay phobic, I’m on your side, so back off!”.

I kind of felt the same when I read the following article: “how to tell the difference between real solidarity and ally theatre” at the awesome Black Girl Dangerous blog. I think as a white person it can sometimes feel like you can’t do it right. And there’s a ‘threat’ (notice the quotation marks) of another angry black person, another angry trans person, getting angry at you because you tried to be supportive but now apparently you didn’t get being supportive right and you know what, I’m doing this for you so if it’s not appreciated, whatever I’ll not care about trans rights any more if I’m pissing you off so much just saying I’m agreeing with you. Can someone get me a whaaaambulance?

Dutch people have the harmful habit of including a person’s background in a story if that person has a Moroccan background and did something wrong. “So these two Moroccan guys walked up to me” and you already know they were up to something bad, because that’s how these stories always go. But say something about it – was it really relevant these guys were Moroccan? – and the story teller will usually explode. “Jesus look you know I have nothing against Moroccan people, can you back off?!”.

I feel that too. I’m trying to do everything right and then it’s still not good enough. All of this just doesn’t feel nice for a white lady.

That’s privileged as shit, isn’t it? To think that my feelings are even of any concern at all. That I have a right to feel good. 

When it comes to sex workers’ rights I’ve proposed giving anti’s a golden bridge out. But I don’t think it works that way way with racism. Instead I think white people need a bigger tolerance for feeling like crap. For letting it sink in that we don’t know best, are not leaders here and are messing up, and people not petting our heads when we refrain from doing harm but instead biting our heads off when we do.

So I started thinking, how can we get white people on board with this? What should we do to get white people to do all this? And then it struck me.

That all of this is really, really, really not about us. Not about how we feel. Not about what we want to do. What our role should be. That we’re not needed.

A shock to my white lady mind.

So that article was good, and made me think. Go read it. It’s okay if it doesn’t feel nice.

7 thoughts on “I’m Not Racist, But..

  1. Steersman

    Interesting post, as usual, and the “Black Girl Dangerous” post makes some good points too: certainly willing to concede that many people – present company excluded, of course – tend to try making more out of being an ally than is really justified.

    However, I can’t help but get the impression that the author of that piece – Mia McKenzie, and those of many other similar ones such as from a feminist or trans-activist perspective, are trying for a bridge too far, that they too are making more out of their cases and complaints than is really justified. If not walking about with a chip on their shoulders. For instance, McKenzie says, relative to a tweet from “Annie” in response to hers about not “trusting white women” (which is kind of racist in itself – “them darkies sure are shiftless” ….), that “not everything a black person says about their life is for your consumption and feedback, non-black people”. So, just after broadcasting to the entire freaking world her racist opinion on “white women”, she has the outright gall to insist that what she just said isn’t for the world’s “consumption”. What an arrogant, ignorant, and clueless twat.

    No doubt marginalized groups have maybe somewhat more of an uphill battle to contend with, but I don’t see how that necessarily precludes outsiders throwing in their two cents worth, particularly in response to very public if not obnoxious opinions: this whole “shut-up-and-listen” trope that many feminists have been peddling is rather “problematic” to say the least. Not sure if you’ve ever done marriage counselling, but I expect you know that an outsider’s perspective is frequently and precisely what the doctor ordered to resolve rather fractious disputes. Which I think has a substantial degree of relevance to both the internecine disputes within marginalized groups, and in their relationships with the larger community.

    Apropos of which, not sure if you’ve heard or know of the black American comedian Chris Rock who did a rather insightful YouTube video titled “Black People Vs Niggahs” wherein he argues that there’s a “civil war going on with black people, and there’s two sides: there’s black people, and there’s niggas.” And his point, elaborated on in some detail in a linguistics paper on slurs, is that some “segments of the black population [have] degraded the black community through laziness and stupidity” which is then the “justification” for that not-necessarily racist epithet.

    And I think that that is a very important perspective, that any community is going to have elements that “degrade” it, and that both those inside and outside it have the right if not the obligation “to call things as they see ‘em”.

  2. warenhuis

    So you’re basically saying that ‘white’ people are not allowed to contribute their arguments to racism-related debates? Can’t you see the irony in that?

  3. Marijke Vonk Post author

    I really could not disagree more with what you’re saying. And I’ve never had anyone tell me that I need to deal with ‘degrading elements’ in my community (like Trump) before I can fight for my human rights. All of what you’re saying is really already countered racism 101, so I’m not sure where to start. Perhaps you could do some googling yourself on arguments against your current positions.

  4. Marijke Vonk Post author

    No that’s not at all what I’m saying. Or what anyone has ever said, anywhere, really. It’s interesting though how white people confuse “this is not about you, at all” with “you’re not allowed to talk”. The fact that the spotlight is not on us seems to be almost disorientating.

  5. Steersman

    Marijke Vonk:

    I really could not disagree more with what you’re saying. And I’ve never had anyone tell me that I need to deal with ‘degrading elements’ in my community (like Trump) before I can fight for my human rights.

    Except I’m not saying that you do. I’m saying that in any sub-community – whether it’s blacks, feminists, sexworkers, kinksters, Rotarians, or needlepointers – there are likely to be elements who are frankly assholes – hardly an implausible hypothesis given human nature. And that those elements tend to reflect badly on the sub-community, and tend to detract from “harmonious relations” between the sub-community and the larger society. And which is what justifies, if not obligates, individuals in the larger community speaking up about those problematic elements, even if individuals in the sub-community object to those individuals “putting their oars into the waters”.

    I know that is maybe somewhat abstract, but you may wish to take look at the article Ferguson: Beyond Black and White by the columnist Cathy Young who, I think, illustrates the point rather well.

  6. warenhuis

    Then explain why you find it necessary to mention ‘white people’ as a collective instead of people on an individual level. How you can address racism by holding a different standard based on something superficial as the the color of somebody’s skin? That is the problem I have with this ‘white privilege’ terminology. It is trying to fight fire with fire.

    If people are discriminated based on their race, which still happens all too often, that should be addressed. But don’t create double standards in the racism debate based on somebody’s skincolor. That makes matters worse.

  7. kim

    To solve the problem of discrimination there should be two parties wanting the same thing; that is to be people, just people. Acknowledge you are the same and no other than that.

    Now, if you look at history, especially the history of people of colour, you might see the deep cultural ways in witch years of racism and oppression are embedded. Therefore racism is really part of the people themselves.

    I don’t think it would be fair to those people who feel or felt suppressed to move forward to equality without having them compensated in one way or the other. As I see it, this is a time of recognizing both our past mistakes and wrongdoings and the pain and suffering it still causes. A time of giving them room for accusing us for all that we did in past and present and for us to acknowledge we were, and still are in many ways, wrong. And for us to try to make things better so that maybe the next generation won’t have to suffer the same inequality.

    Somewhere in the future I hope to see everyone getting along and people to be treated as equal (because we are). But for now let us take the blame in silence and regret. Only when one says he’s sorry, he can be forgiven.

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