Friday, October 29, 2010

Don't you DARE call me racist!

I went to a diversity training today. It was actually pretty great. People opened up. People shared. People cried. People connected. All in all a productive day.

I did, however, see something very interesting. Recently, I read a blog (I think at Feministing? Too lazy to track down right now...) that discussed how it seems that in the popular media lately, it is almost worst to call someone on their racism than to actually SAY the racist statement.

Let me better explain what I mean. The problem is that people think that you either ARE or AREN'T racist, and if you "aren't racist" then when you say something racist, you should get SUPER offended because being racist is horrible and you "aren't a racist." Instead, the reality is that we all have biases and "non racist" people can and DO say racist things. But instead of examining THE racist thing said or done, people just get hyper defensive and scream I'M NOT RACIST and the marginalized person who pointed out the racism is suddenly villainized.

I have no idea if I'm making the point well...but I hope you're sticking with me.

The basic idea is that it's SOOO horrible to call someone's words/actions racist, that we pay more attention to that than to the racist action/statement. anyway, one of the things we did was examine our biases about other groups. After we discussed our biases about each group, people from that group were able to share their reactions. For example, we talked about how Latinos are viewed as lazy, or Black people as loud. In each case, the people from the "in group" shared varied reactions from offended to unaffected, because they hear it so much anyway. But when these marginalized people were examining their biases about white people, they said that white people often judge people by race.

To clarify, the point of this activity was to speak in sweeping generalizations about other groups; to "get it all out there."

So now white people were able to give their reactions. And that's when I saw the most impassioned reaction, where a white woman vehmently proclaimed how hard it is to have it be assumed that you make assumptions about race.

...wait, what?

So it's awful to have people suppose you are racist because you are white...OK...but isn't it a little more important to examine the experiences of marginalized people in this context? If that's the worst thing people are saying about your culture, well then I think you'll be all right.

But that's just my opinion, I guess.

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