race, culture, ethnicity, and general common sense - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:37 AM - Thread Starter
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you would think that a group of people committed to gently guiding our children into the best and brightest future we can muster would not need a workshop, or seperate forums, but here we are.

at the risk of getting : i would like to open a discussion not about racism, but about race, and culture, and how these things factor, or don't, into the things we do each day. i feel like we spend a lot of time speaking on the esoterics of racism, but that doesn't really do much to foster anything but hostility, for the most part.

how does race/culture/ethnicity affect your daily existence, if at all?

for me, race and culture have been big factors in my life, my self identification, and how i am treated and percieved by others. i am bi-racial.

despite the fact that i am half black, and half white, i am what the modeling agencies call 'ethnically indiscriminate'. how i am defined by a person often depends on my clothing/hairstyle on that particular day. or who i am with. if i am dressed in khakis and a polo, i am assumed to be white. if i am in 'skater' gear, older people percieve me as white, younger people and black folks recognize me as bi-racial.

when i was in eighth grade, we were asked to create an ethnic cookbook based on family recipies. i was the only bi-racial child in my class. i was stymied. amongst whispers of haggis, polenta, kimchee, arroz con pollo, i sat, wondering which 'side' to choose. i went to my teacher, and asked her if i could use recipies from both sides. she told me to pick one. to pick the one that i liked better. as though half of me was meant to be elevated, more important. i tried to explain. to tell her that to choose one, would be to deny the other. that even in an eighth grade social studies calss, i needed to respect my lineage. my heritage. BOTH of my parents. she wouldn't budge. i went home. told my mom. she told my dad. we ended up in the principals office (did i mention that my teacher was his wife? y eah. akwaaaarrrd!) eventually, i was instructed to choose 'american' dishes, like hamburgers. hot dogs. french fries. but, my grandmother made blue draws! my other grandmother would kill us with the sweet smells of colcannon on sundays. i HAD ethnicities! i had recipies that were steeped in flavor. in culture. foods that had color, and taste, and history.

but she could not see that. any more than she could see me.

for me, race matters. it counts in the small ways. it counts when the bus driver holds the door for me, but closes it on the black man behind me. it counts when i am in the store with a blonde girlfriend, and we seperate, and i am followed around, while she quietly fills her hemp bag with whatever strikes her fancy. it counts when i am filling out paperwork, and they say 'race. choose one.' as though it's understood that we are anomalous. flights of fancy on the part of our parents. i remember when the census form finally included a 'multi-racial' box. i thought that would be the dawn of our validation. i was nine. i am now 26. i still have to check 'other' more often than i can check 'multi-racial'.

other holds so many histories. mulatto. mestizo. halfbreed. so many words we don't say. so many attitudes we still harbor.

for me, race matters in the big ways. it counts when don imus paints a big brush of disdain across eight of my sisters. it counts when louis farrakhan says that my mother is evil. it counts when i look at my daughter, and i wonder how she will feel, when people assume that she will find their 'black tie event' jokes funny because she appears to be white.

for me, race matters in the personal ways. when black women tell me that i am disrespecting 'their' culture by having dredlocks. when white men ask me if i'm part african because of my ass. when the person i am talking to says something bigoted, and i realize they don't know. they don't see.

for me, every time i make a new friend, i have to 'come out' as biracial, to make sure that they aren't secretly KKKers or 5%ers, or just garden variety ignorant folk.

for me, dealing with race, and culture, and perceptions and perspectives isn't a thing i can turn on, or off. i can't choose to forget that i'm half black any more than i can choose to forget that i'm half white. it is not PC overkill to ask for respect. it is not my responsibility to educate anyone on why certain phrases might raise an eyebrow or a hackle. i don't mind engaging in discussion, but really, it is only my job to say 'you have hurt me' and then the rest, mamas, is up to you. if you dismiss it, how can we progress? if you ignore it, it hasn't lessened the hurt at all. if you diminish it with cute abbreviations, you compound the hurt with a sense of belittlement. if you acknowledge the hurt, we can go from there. if you apologize, we can hug, and move on as friends. if you learn from the hurt, we can move on as a society.

but as you would like people to respect you, and your experience, also try to respect others, and how they may walk a different path.
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#2 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 05:04 AM
 
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Originally Posted by boodafli View Post
i feel like we spend a lot of time speaking on the esoterics of racism, but that doesn't really do much to foster anything but hostility, for the most part.

beautiful post!
race and culture is something that hits me hard and deep. i am half white and half either Middle Eastern or AA. in my family this is the great debate- 'who fathered Maggie?' we can't get together without my family arguing about it and me sitting in the middle wanting to vomit. my father(s) ditched out on me as a child so here i am medium complected with dark curly hair and brown eyes in a family of blond haired blue eyed white as paper people. i have always felt like i stick out and am just not 'the same' as them, whatever that means because i honestly don't know. but what gets to me the most is i don't know where i 'belong'. i don't know my culture or even the culture i belong to. i still long to. i thought it would get easier with age and as my life went on but now that i have children it has only gotten so much worse. i want to be able to give them a part of who i am but really who am i? i know it's hard for people to grasp or understand but culture and ethnicity do play such a huge part especially when you don't know where you come from.

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it counts when i look at my daughter, and i wonder how she will feel, when people assume that she will find their 'black tie event' jokes funny because she appears to be white.
i couldn't relate to this more. i often wonder how it will be for my oldest who takes after my mother's side. she'll be in 'the club' and will be labeled as racist by so many simply because of the color of her skin and both sides will never really know who she is. i wonder if she will feel the same tug of war over her identity i do.

Maggie, blissfully married mama of 5 little ladies on my own little path. homeschool.gif gd.gifRainbow.gif
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#3 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 10:07 AM
 
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What a beautiful post, though I identify as African-American (there are some other ethnicities there but I just sum it up) I am the mother of two bi-racial children. Both my ex and current husband are white and I deal with the issue of how to impart my own culture without alienating their father's side. My 15 yo has taken to calling himself a Half-frican which I find fascinating as he glides between working class AA culture (my background) and his Dad's Irish/Portuguese/Italian New England well heeled background.

Like Boodalfi, I often sit at my keyboard stunnned that a group who puts so much into raising kids at times seems stumped when it comes to race, culture, ethnicity and being sensitive.

To answer the question of how race and ethnicity affect me, it does every day. Rare is the day where I can go through the day without being reminded that I am a Black woman. To some degree despite the fact that I now reside in one of the least diverse states in the US, I do find some relief. Here I find people who have little exposure to difference so sometimes people don't know what to say but back where I came from it was and still is one of the most segregated cities in the US.

One of the biggest reasons that my ex and I split up was because he refused to acknowledge that race/class was a issue, he felt it was "wrong" for me to talk about it and wanted our son shielded from it. He felt our love was enough to overcome and frankly it was not, I could not talk to him about what I lived with daily and in the end we split up.

Of course now he is forced to deal with race because our son visually appears to be a person of color thuogh its often not clear what race he is. That relationship was my first time witnessing white privilege, for as long as my memory goes back I remember being aware of race when I started school and was the only kid of color. That lasted until I was in the 5th grade, that's a lot of years to not see anyone who looks like you except at home. For years I was ashamed of my kinky hair and cocoa skin, so the idea of not talking about race and ethnicity is hard for me to grasp because I think for most people of color we are always aware of it and live with it.

Ok, gotta run.

Shay

Mothering since 1992...its one of the many hats I wear.
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#4 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 11:55 AM
 
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what beautiful & honest posts ladies! i agree this is an important topic. personally, i am Syrian. generally, when i say that, no one knows what i am talking about, so i unfortunately have gotten into the habit of labeling myself as "arab" or "middle eastern" or "white". when my grandparents moved to the US, they really disowned their culture. sadly, my parents weren't to speak arabic or learn about their heritage as my grandparents felt overwhelming pressure to assimilate. this led me in my teen/adult life to actively seek out people to teach me about my cultural identity as it was not to be gleaned from our household. i grew up in a neighborhood & went to a school that was predominately african american, and i feel that the ability to form so many friendships outside of the family environment i had really made me very conscious of race & ethnicity. it was just something that was spoken about frequently amongst friends & their families & i feel rather lucky to have the experience that i had, but it is hard for me to understand that not everyone had the same experiences i had & so the things that "I" consider as common sense do not apply as a broad spectrum of people. my ex-husband is african american & he has some issues with internalized racism that i wasn't aware of completely until we had our daughter. it is an issue i struggle with on a daily basis with my oldest (i have since remarried a white man & we have our dd2 together who happens to have blue eyes & very light brown hair) as we are bombarded by questions from people along the lines of "are your children adopted?" not always asked so politely. our oldest struggles very hard to find "her place" as her father has implied to her on numerous occassions that her natural appearance is not good enough which has led her to be quite down on her physical appearance. we make efforts to attend a variety of multi-cultural events, from hmong, caribbean, african american, you name it we try to attend. i want my children to be able to not only embrace their own cultures, but to also recognize & respect the differences in our global community. i want to be the one to explain diversity to my children so that the media & peer stereotypes will not be their first hand knowledge of ethnic diversity. sorry this is a book, it's obviously an issue that hits close to home here & i would like to see this thread be able to continue as i learn so much from listening to other people's stories.
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#5 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 12:38 PM
 
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on my way to get my hair cut.--can't wait cause i got a mound of stuff growing up top!! i'll post my experiences upon my return!

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#6 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 01:19 PM
 
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and, erased!

Racism is wrong.

My multi-cultural self is richer for those cultures, and, perhaps because I am not *entirely* one of the other, I am also able to seperate myself from the injustices done to the culture that has lived great injustice. I still see the injutice, and would correct it if I could, but it is over. Continuing cultural prejudice and mistreatment, yes, I will speak out about that. But the past is the past. I will teach my children that it was wrong, that many people suffered and died, and that it needs to never happen again, but I refuse to hate.

That is what I was trying to say, albeit not clearly, and not eloquently.
And, this is my experience.

Katia

For greater things are yet to come...

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#7 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 01:25 PM
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how does race/culture/ethnicity affect your daily existence, if at all?
Y'know, to be quite honest, it does not affect too much other than what I know I can get away with. For a real life example: I live inner-city and am snow white, drive a minivan. One of my headlights didn't work and let's just say I was a little slow getting it replaced... as in five months slow. I know, without a doubt, that if I was a AA male I'd been pulled over within days of the headlight going out. Right now my tabs are expired. Same thing. And I've had cop cars right behind me. I hardly give it a second thought... My cloak of white is handy, guilty as I am. Dd is bi-racial and maybe because she is a girl, I don't worry as much. I have friends who have bi-racial boys and they seem to have more issues with how the outside world treats them. And as mentioned, I am white. I won't even claim to speak for other moms who are white so you better believe I am not going to say anything in regards to other AA/Asian/NA moms of bi-racial children. I can only speak to my experiences. We did choose to live in an area of rich diversity. Her school is reflected of it. She has been in classes (dance etc) that appeared to be all AA girls and boys and has been in classes of all white girls and boys. That has been rare though and just flukes.

On a quick side note, I hate when people ask "what" she is. Really, really bothers me to no end. I usually answer with her name. If I want to put the person on the spot, I'll ask what do you mean and why does it matter to you. Sometimes it is a combination of her name and the what do you mean and why does it matter.

As for friends, not to sound pathetic, but I don't have many. I do have many people I know on an acquantance level I work, bus my dc around, take care of home and try to read when I can. My three closest friends- two are white and one is asian. But the bigger circle I hang with is very culturally and ethically mixed. I think since the area we live in is so diverse, when we go out all together, it is not an issue. We are a pretty mellow group so that might have something to do with too.

That's all i can write. Please excuse my spelling. I'm an awful speller and too tired to do a spell check right now.


(Wonderful posts by prev posters)
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#8 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 01:48 PM
 
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I don't have the time right now to give this thread the attention it deserves but wanted to thank you all for your posts.

OUR DAUGHTERS ARE PROTECTED SHOULDN'T OUR SONS BE TOO! :
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#9 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 02:41 PM
 
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I explained the origin of why race matters so much to me in my post about "Why this white mama cares"...but I stopped that piece when I reached today, when I got to my kids. It's hard to put my fears for my kids out here, on this board, when I've seen so many adults told to just "get over it", "move on" or "you're responsible for your own reality" even while I watch my children dealing with the same racism those adults described. How do you tell an adult to get over something that is still strangling our children? The blind arrogance in that statement is stunning.

Still thinking on this...

boodafli, thank you.
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#10 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 02:54 PM
 
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Honestly, race doesn't affect me on a day to day basis. Well, not in a negative way. I'm white. Every single person that I see in my office building is white. In the grocery store, the fabric store, the drug store, restaurants, gas stations - all white. I'm never in a place where I am a minority, where I can't find products for my skin, hair, etc, where people might be judging me because of my race.
I don't ever have to think about race - which I guess is what it means to have white privilege.

This is the school enrollment for my town, first # is percentage in my town, second number is % in my state. Total students: 3797.
African American1.2 8.2
Asian 0.94.8
Hispanic 1.6 13.3
Native American 0.0 0.3
White 94.071.5
Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander0.00.2
Multi-Race, Non-Hispanic2.31.7
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#11 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:06 PM
 
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I'm an AfricanAmerican woman, and on a daily basis, I can't point out things that I do/are done to me that are directly attributable to my race. A friend of mine and myself have been going back and forth, back and forth for MONTHS over the fact that I consider myself to be colorblind - so perhaps I'm just ignoring/unaware of the daily, insidious, racism that surrounds me? I don't know, and I'm certainly not going to spend my time/effort looking for it.

I felt MORE discrimated against for my maiden name (Abdulwali) after 9/11 than I ever did in my life - and visually, I'm very obviously not a person of Middle Eastern descent. Have I become numb to racism? I don't know.....

Maybe I've been lucky all my life. I've been followed around in stores, but I've also worked retail - and BEEN a follower. I've been told that I wasn't black enough, because I can speak the Kings English - and the concept was so utterly STUPID that it didn't even rate a second thought - it just told me about the level of development of the idiot who said it. I've been told that I was 'too black' when looking for a corporate job with baby (but relatively neat) dreadlocks, and I said that any company that wouldn't hire me based on my HAIRSTYLE wasn't a company I wanted to give my energy/time to, ANYWAY.

At the same time, it makes me kinda sad - I don't feel like I have an 'instant' connection to other people of color that many of my other POC friends do - but then, I don't have an instant connection to ANYONE - largely because (paraphrasing the words of a great man) the content of their character means infinitely more to me than the color of their skin.

I live in a world of hope that eventually - everyone will feel that way. And I think a large part of that is 'Getting over it'. I'm sorry, as I know that will offend some people, but it seems wiser to look to the future, and shape THAT world in the image that you want, rather than pointing to the past and what got you where you are now.

There's nothing any of us can do to change the past - all we can do is chose our reactions to events of the past, and make the choices that will better insure our future is as we want it to be.

We can't control what other people do. We can't control how other people view us/treat us/interact with us - and I'm not trying to spend the energy on 'teaching' a world of grown person that my skin color is NOT what defines me. I will instead, spend that time/energy teaching my future children that skin color is NOT what definies them (or anyone else) and anyone who acts that way is simply not worthy of my (or their)time/ energy/ association/ respect.

The more that we emphasize just how MUCH race matters, the more we emphasize that there is a DIFFERENCE between people - at their core level - based on what color skin they have. If we come to a point where race DOESN'T matter - then we will at least have gotten one stupidly divisive issue out of our world.

And I would like the emphasize the HUGE difference between RACE and CULTURE. I am not, in any way shape or form encouraging people to ignore their culture/tradtions/mindset that they were shaped by - whether it's the 'appropiate' one for their apparent race or not.
I'm a black woman, who grew up in a heavily arabian/south asian/muslim environment as a child - culturally, I'm more asian/Middle Eastern than I am African-American, and it's downright INSULTING to me for someone to assume anything about my culture because of the color of my skin.

So. That's me. The black woman who loves to sunbathe, and whos had natural hair 90% of her life, and has lived in the segregated south and the racist north and europe - and while I'm sure, if I sat, and REALLY thought about it, I could spew a whole list of racial motivated things that have happened to me - but you know what? That's not a viable use of my energy. Me mulling over the mean things that people have done to me because of my race ain't gonna change a THING.

Teaching myself to view people as PEOPLE who happen to be different colors will get me a heck of a lot further than getting angry because some narrowminded old man called a group of girls the same thing that the men they are dating/growing up with /listening to music by call them on a daily basis. And until we realize that no matter WHO says it - its offensive, and make sure that THEY get fired too - well, it's really a pointless battle.

The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.
| @jovialady is Kiya ~ TTC 3 years & counting for a ~ Connsumte BookDragon|
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#12 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:06 PM - Thread Starter
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i'm glad to see some replies to this. i was talking to my mom this morning, and she told me a funny story about when i was much younger.

so, we apparently had the whole 'you're bi-racial, that means you're half black, and half white' conversation when i was around three. so one day, she comes into the bedroom from gathering the laundry, and i am standing on the dresser in front of the mirror stark naked, craning my neck around to look at my back.

she asks me 'what are you doing?'

and i tell her

'i'm looking for the black half.'

oh my god i almost fell off the chair i laughed so hard at that.

and, shay, i've been calling me a halfro for years. i love it.
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#13 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:13 PM
 
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earthymama2b--maybe because I'm white, and I've heard way too much because people think they are "safe" around me...I can't tell anyone to just "get over it" because it's still too close. I've been a teacher, and I've seen what happens in the teachers' lounge and in classrooms and how that impacts children of color. Telling people to "get over it" and "move on" releases others from their responsibilities. I, too, hope..but the reality is too close to my children.
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#14 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:21 PM
 
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Thanks for this thread, 'halfros' and other posters

Being white, I could also say that my race/ethnicity doesn't seem to influence my daily life. Which means, of course, that I can be blissfully unaware of my privilege whenever I choose to.

Having been very concerned with unlearning racism for a long time, this thread is one of those gems that mdc, despite it being as whitewashed as your average Greek picture postcard town, offers sometimes and that keeps teaching me new stuff. Thanks everybody! :
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#15 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:23 PM - Thread Starter
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lest my OP get categorized as poor me navelgazing, let me clarify that these are events that shaped the person i have become. these are occurences that had as much impact on my personality, as, say, confirmation, or whatever. that is not to say that i am 'defined' by my skin color. that is to say, that i choose to acknowledge my experience, rather than pretend like nothing happened.

it's all fine and dandy to say that YOU are colorblind, but the rest of the world is not. and when well intentioned people do ignorant ass things, and you choose to ignore it, they will continue to do ignorant ass things to you, and to other people, because they are NOT colorblind.

i don't think we could ever turn a grand wizard of the KKK into a civil rights activist, and that's not at all the point i'm trying to make. intentional racists will always be intentional racists. it's the folks, like some of the mamas on this board, who say things which are hurtful to many people, and even though they don't mean to be hurtful, when they're called on it, it gets turned into a debate. the whole idea behind this thread was to illustrate that it is not 'pc overkill' to ask that people not say dumbass things. that for a lot of us, race is something that comes up far more frequently than just in wispy ethereal debates on hippy message boards.

as far as ignoring things-you can ignore those things all you want. but that doesn't mean they aren't happening. i can ignore my cellulite too, but that won't make it go away. the only thing that will? action.
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#16 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:26 PM
 
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Originally Posted by earthymama2b View Post
So. That's me. The black woman who loves to sunbathe, and whos had natural hair 90% of her life, and has lived in the segregated south and the racist north and europe - and while I'm sure, if I sat, and REALLY thought about it, I could spew a whole list of racial motivated things that have happened to me - but you know what? That's not a viable use of my energy. Me mulling over the mean things that people have done to me because of my race ain't gonna change a THING.

Teaching myself to view people as PEOPLE who happen to be different colors will get me a heck of a lot further than getting angry because some narrowminded old man called a group of girls the same thing that the men they are dating/growing up with /listening to music by call them on a daily basis. And until we realize that no matter WHO says it - its offensive, and make sure that THEY get fired too - well, it's really a pointless battle.
oh my gosh i am so in love with you right now!

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#17 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:32 PM
 
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Teaching myself to view people as PEOPLE who happen to be different colors will get me a heck of a lot further than getting angry because some narrowminded old man called a group of girls the same thing that the men they are dating/growing up with /listening to music by call them on a daily basis. And until we realize that no matter WHO says it - its offensive, and make sure that THEY get fired too - well, it's really a pointless battle.
That pisses me off. That statement lumps my husband and every black man together into one harmful stereotype and I know plenty of young black men who are endlessly respectful of women and who would *never* call them what Imus did, and to suggest otherwise--as you did--not only perpetuates the stereotype but suggests that Imus and others should somehow be excused for their own bigotry.
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#18 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:35 PM - Thread Starter
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Teaching myself to view people as PEOPLE who happen to be different colors will get me a heck of a lot further than getting angry because some narrowminded old man called a group of girls the same thing that the men they are dating/growing up with /listening to music by call them on a daily basis. And until we realize that no matter WHO says it - its offensive, and make sure that THEY get fired too - well, it's really a pointless battle.
only, (and i don't want this to turn into a tangent, i just want to address this right quick) did hip hop culture create don imus' attitude? or did don imus contribute to the whole, bitches ain't shit mentality by being a crotchety racist arse on the radio for years. did he get his racist opinions from his daddy? who got them from his daddy?

i dislike hiphop that objectifies women, but i'm not going to get sucked into that blame the victim mentality, that because other black men call women hoes, that it's okay for white men to do it, because 'if we don't respect us, why should they.' that's bull. that's a cop out. that means that nobody has to take responsibility for anything.
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#19 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:37 PM
 
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And : what boodafli said.
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#20 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:39 PM
 
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i really want this to make sense but somehow i doubt it will. -

we all have VALID and IMPORTANT insights and experiences to bring to the table when it comes to discussions like this. no one is right or wrong when we're expressing our honest feelings on who we are and how we view the world. all these posts have great merit and i'm so loving this thread and all of what everyone has had to say. my dirty little secret is that i HATE HATE HATE talking about race. hate it. the reason is because the finger likes to be pointed at everyone and their uncle. i wholeheartedly believe in looking at the individual not the skin color or accent or anything else. we can acknowledge our differences and respect them without dwelling on them. so when we turn inward and talk about race/culture/ethnicity and what it personally means as opposed to debating all the ins and outs of racism past, present, future, i think we make real progress simply by being human and expressing our humanity then being argumentative. when we do this race and culture and all that becomes a political debate rather than a human issue. JMO, of course. just had to throw it out there.

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#21 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:41 PM - Thread Starter
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i really want this to make sense but somehow i doubt it will. -

we all have VALID and IMPORTANT insights and experiences to bring to the table when it comes to discussions like this. no one is right or wrong when we're expressing our honest feelings on who we are and how we view the world. all these posts have great merit and i'm so loving this thread and all of what everyone has had to say. my dirty little secret is that i HATE HATE HATE talking about race. hate it. the reason is because the finger likes to be pointed at everyone and their uncle. i wholeheartedly believe in looking at the individual not the skin color or accent or anything else. we can acknowledge our differences and respect them without dwelling on them. so when we turn inward and talk about race/culture/ethnicity and what it personally means as opposed to debating all the ins and outs of racism past, present, future, i think we make real progress simply by being human and expressing our humanity then being argumentative. when we do this race and culture and all that becomes a political debate rather than a human issue. JMO, of course. just had to throw it out there.

yeah. that was sort of what i was hoping this thread would be. just a nice, honest, 'this has been my experience' without any 'and so that invalidates yours' kinda shish.
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#22 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:48 PM
 
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What I learned years ago is that for a white person to really learn about race and racism, she has to go outside of herself. You can't learn about the impact of racism by reflecting on yourself, because our entire culture is focused on the great whiteness of being. Our officially acknowledged history, our media, our schools' curriculi, are all from a white perspective. There is no way we can learn about racism by constantly examining ourselves because, quite frankly, the source of racism and bigotry lies within us, like it or not. It's too much a part of us to see it completely. Sometimes, in order to grow and to gain a true understanding, we have to just shut up and listen. Listen to how it's impacted others and continues to impact others. Listen first, without getting angry for once, realizing that from that hurt will come growth, and then, much later, reflect inwardly.
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#23 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 03:56 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Missy View Post
What I learned years ago is that for a white person to really learn about race and racism, she has to go outside of herself. You can't learn about the impact of racism by reflecting on yourself, because our entire culture is focused on the great whiteness of being. Our officially acknowledged history, our media, our schools' curriculi, are all from a white perspective. There is no way we can learn about racism by constantly examining ourselves because, quite frankly, the source of racism and bigotry lies within us, like it or not. It's too much a part of us to see it completely. Sometimes, in order to grow and to gain a true understanding, we have to just shut up and listen. Listen to how it's impacted others and continues to impact others. Listen first, without getting angry for once, realizing that from that hurt will come growth, and then, much later, reflect inwardly.

:

My (white) ex, bleeding heart liberal said the he had no idea how racist this country is until we got together and started being around me. He saw with his own two eyes how people treated me. How I was treated in the workplace, by police and so on. He knew it was bad, but he never saw it first hand and he didnt know how deep it ran. Its not enough to say "I understand" while staying within your comfort zone.
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#24 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 04:06 PM
 
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I think about race every day.

I spent my time in college (in nyc) deeply examining race and gender and class and sexuality. I absolutely believe that for white Americans (and Europeans) being racist is the passive position. To say that you are colorblind, to say that you don't think about race, to say you are not racist becase it never enters your mind... that IS racism. Being anti-racist is an active position. It means thinking about race every day, thinking about how race/class/ethnicity/nationality/gender/sexuality/etc. interact institutionally and personaly. It means deconstructing your own perceptions of the world as a matter of course, not as something you do when the mood strikes you.

After college, I went right into inner-city teaching. I had NO intention of teaching, I wanted to get my PhD is Philosophy... but I felt like a fool walking around all day stating my point of view and arguing about what people should do in terms of racism and injustice, and yet there I was more than happy to be the debater and not the person actually getting her hands dirty and DOING something. It pissed me off that students of color in NYC receive a sub-standard education compared to their white counterparts. So I threw myself into that, knowing it would be messy and humbling.

I've been teaching for awhile now, my students are very diverse. The majority are African American, some are Latino/a, a handful are white, a handful are Asian, a handful are immigrants from the middle east. Most have special needs.

I am the stereotypical white teacher standing in front of a class of children of color. But I fight every day not to make the same mistakes so many have made before me, and are making now. I have to take the ACTIVE stance of examining every thought in my head, and reflecting on every action I take and word I say. I spent a year teaching fifth grade working with my students to view our entire year's academic studeies through the lens of race, per their request. I did not purport myself to be the expert. We learned together.

I have seen SO much classism when it comes to middle class white teachers teaching AA students from the projects. I will not impose the middle class value system I was raised with onto my students as a *better* alternative to the value system they are raised in. I can occasionally and carefully show "other" ways of looking at events, but devoid of value judgements. I could certainly never argue that the middle class community isolation and fear mentality is in any way superior to the connections my students have with their extended families and chosen familes around them. But, of course, even that is stereotyping. It's rarely helpful to make any kind of sweeping statement.

In other words, everything is a dialogue, both within my own mind and with others around me. I'm lucky to be working with a diverse group of progressive adults who also see the need to deeply examine our own thoughts and actions.

Of course, being white, even having the *choice* whether or not to think about race is a luxury.

So that's me on a professional level. On a personal level, I just got into a bar argument the other night with an old man spouting off racist remarks. I won. :
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#25 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 04:14 PM
 
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Altair,

Don't you hate all those movies where the white woman jumps in to save the poor, underprivileged children of color? Yay, go Michelle Pfeifer and Hilary Swank! (Based, of course, on real-life stories) I guess there are no black women doing the same. damn. thing.
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#26 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 04:14 PM
 
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lest my OP get categorized as poor me navelgazing, let me clarify that these are events that shaped the person i have become. these are occurences that had as much impact on my personality, as, say, confirmation, or whatever. that is not to say that i am 'defined' by my skin color. that is to say, that i choose to acknowledge my experience, rather than pretend like nothing happened.

it's all fine and dandy to say that YOU are colorblind, but the rest of the world is not. and when well intentioned people do ignorant ass things, and you choose to ignore it, they will continue to do ignorant ass things to you, and to other people, because they are NOT colorblind.

i don't think we could ever turn a grand wizard of the KKK into a civil rights activist, and that's not at all the point i'm trying to make. intentional racists will always be intentional racists. it's the folks, like some of the mamas on this board, who say things which are hurtful to many people, and even though they don't mean to be hurtful, when they're called on it, it gets turned into a debate. the whole idea behind this thread was to illustrate that it is not 'pc overkill' to ask that people not say dumbass things. that for a lot of us, race is something that comes up far more frequently than just in wispy ethereal debates on hippy message boards.

as far as ignoring things-you can ignore those things all you want. but that doesn't mean they aren't happening. i can ignore my cellulite too, but that won't make it go away. the only thing that will? action.
There is a HUGE difference (and forgive me for being new to MDC and the race-related drama that has occured) between educating/correcting well-meaning people who don't KNOW better - if that is where this is coming from - forgive me for assuming that we were talking about race in the wider world.

I am ignoring the grown ones who are intentional racists who SHOULD know better, and acting on the young ones (whether in body or in multicultural experience) who don't know the difference/know better. One is a pointless (and making) exercise. The other holds value - and I think our only chance of changing anything - over the next generation or so. I don't expect to see a world in my lifetime where race doesn't matter. But I'm working damn hard to be sure that my grandkids at least have a chance.

As far as Imus and hiphop - as long as I can turn on the radio and hear someone being called a H*, or a B**ch, there is a problem - and it doesn't matter if there is a kicking beat behind it, or if it was bleeped out, or not. Anything else, to me, is rather hypocritical. I also know black men who are the most respectful creatures on earth, but oddly enough, they aren't the ones that most people who don't actually KNOW a black person are exposed to. I'm not excusing anyones bigotry, for any reason, including what color they are. I'm just saying that if we call ONE media entity on the radio out for his bigotry - we should be calling ALL media entities on the radio out for their bigotry.
I'm not even going to go into the fact that it was actually the producer of the show in question that used the term first, and HE hasn't lost his job - or even rebuked. Hrrm. Interesting that - I wonder what the media circus was REALLY supposed to do/prove/distract us from?

And - perhaps (once again) I'm the odd one out - but the idea that if I don't respect MYSELF, no one else will respect me either makes - well, perfect sense. If I allow (and participate) in my own degredation - what makes me think that other people won't denigrate me as well? Doormats get walked on.

I hope that no-one feels that their experiences are invalidated, by others not having shared those experiences.

The mystery of life isn't a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.
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#27 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 04:16 PM
 
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To the OP and the title of this thread:

"Common Sense is not very Common".
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#28 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 04:16 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Altair View Post
I think about race every day.

I spent my time in college (in nyc) deeply examining race and gender and class and sexuality. I absolutely believe that for white Americans (and Europeans) being racist is the passive position. To say that you are colorblind, to say that you don't think about race, to say you are not racist becase it never enters your mind... that IS racism. Being anti-racist is an active position. It means thinking about race every day, thinking about how race/class/ethnicity/nationality/gender/sexuality/etc. interact institutionally and personaly. It means deconstructing your own perceptions of the world as a matter of course, not as something you do when the mood strikes you.

After college, I went right into inner-city teaching. I had NO intention of teaching, I wanted to get my PhD is Philosophy... but I felt like a fool walking around all day stating my point of view and arguing about what people should do in terms of racism and injustice, and yet there I was more than happy to be the debater and not the person actually getting her hands dirty and DOING something. It pissed me off that students of color in NYC receive a sub-standard education compared to their white counterparts. So I threw myself into that, knowing it would be messy and humbling.

I've been teaching for awhile now, my students are very diverse. The majority are African American, some are Latino/a, a handful are white, a handful are Asian, a handful are immigrants from the middle east. Most have special needs.

I am the stereotypical white teacher standing in front of a class of children of color. But I fight every day not to make the same mistakes so many have made before me, and are making now. I have to take the ACTIVE stance of examining every thought in my head, and reflecting on every action I take and word I say. I spent a year teaching fifth grade working with my students to view our entire year's academic studeies through the lens of race, per their request. I did not purport myself to be the expert. We learned together.

I have seen SO much classism when it comes to middle class white teachers teaching AA students from the projects. I will not impose the middle class value system I was raised with onto my students as a *better* alternative to the value system they are raised in. I can occasionally and carefully show "other" ways of looking at events, but devoid of value judgements. I could certainly never argue that the middle class community isolation and fear mentality is in any way superior to the connections my students have with their extended families and chosen familes around them. But, of course, even that is stereotyping. It's rarely helpful to make any kind of sweeping statement.

In other words, everything is a dialogue, both within my own mind and with others around me. I'm lucky to be working with a diverse group of progressive adults who also see the need to deeply examine our own thoughts and actions.

Of course, being white, even having the *choice* whether or not to think about race is a luxury.

So that's me on a professional level. On a personal level, I just got into a bar argument the other night with an old man spouting off racist remarks. I won. :
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#29 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 04:23 PM
 
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I explained the origin of why race matters so much to me in my post about "Why this white mama cares"...but I stopped that piece when I reached today, when I got to my kids. It's hard to put my fears for my kids out here, on this board, when I've seen so many adults told to just "get over it", "move on" or "you're responsible for your own reality" even while I watch my children dealing with the same racism those adults described. How do you tell an adult to get over something that is still strangling our children? The blind arrogance in that statement is stunning.

Still thinking on this...
Great post Missy, Thank you!
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Boodafli, thank you.
will have to come back later to post more here!

Take Care,
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#30 of 82 Old 05-03-2007, 05:04 PM
 
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Let me start by saying that I find this thread very interesting and I applaud you all for sharing. I believe that it is through other people's experiences that we learn about things we will never experience first hand. I also want to tell everyone that I am white, as are DH and DS. I have lived my whole life with that middle class white privledge that seems so pervasive in American culture. My only limited glimpses into what people of color experience came from having friends of color and hearing the comments and seeing the actions done to them.

I have issues with things like "I don't see color" and "Color doesn't matter". Of course you see color, unless you have visual impairment. Ethnicities, race, etc, DO matter. We see colors and color matters, not in the sense that they dictate how people are treated, but in that each person's heritage, culture, self is important, does matter. Semantics, I know, but in the end, it's these little things that all grow together into big things. I feel that some people try so hard to appear non-biased that they seem prejudice, if that makes any sense.

A very ironic story, but I think it belongs here. DH worked with a guy who was just a big jerk. There are certain rules I have in my home and certain words that I won't allow, the "N" word being one of those words. This guy was at a party we were having and made some comment using that word. (He had been drinking and was a bit beligerent) I swear the music stopped, everyone got quiet and everyone stared at me (they all know how I felt and how serious I was about it.). I told him that that word was not acceptable and to please not use it again. (He'd never been there before) He thought it was funny and said it again. I told him that if he did it again he'd have to leave and would never be welcomed back. He asked DH if he was going to let me talk to him that way. DH said yes. So, the guy said it again and was asked to leave, and finally was escorted home by DH. So, about a week went by and the guy was talking to a (white) friend of ours. She is married to a coworker of this guy's, so the guy knew her husband well. He was complaining about how I made such a fuss and made him leave and now he's not welcome back (we were the "fun" house) and how he should be able to say that word whenever and wherever he liked. Our friend asked him if he thought it was appropriate to say it in front of her. He said yes, what did she care? Our friend then reminded him that her husband (his coworker) IS BLACK!!!!! So, it just goes to show that some people just don't think about anything outside of their own little world. (As a side note he now has lost his job and is a meth addict. Isn't really relevent to the story, I just like being right. )
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