Friday, March 13, 2009

Happy Friday the 13th!

I have been linked on John Scalzi's blog, in the middle of a gargantuan thread about racism and science fiction, titled Mary Anne Mohanraj Gets You Up to Speed, Part I. I am thrilled to be included! The linked post is my all-time big-draw, the one about having a black name.

But you know what? I gotta say... this linkage happens fairly regularly, accompanied by something like: This white woman says racism is real, now do you believe us? Jesus H. Why don't (other white) people believe personal testimonies about racism, unless it comes from one of us? I have noticed that I am often posted to bolster the arguments of People of Color when they are not believed.

I realized while I was reading threads during the post's major-linkage period last year (particularly on MetaFilter): Many white people simply do not want to believe racism is genuine. Why not? What exactly is lost if whites believe racism is still a dominant influence? Why the constant arguing that it isn't really like that, that isn't really about race, you musta got it wrong?

When I started reading threads in which my word was doubted, I got really sick over it. I realized then, of course: this is what People of Color have to put up with, when they report racism. It must be due to something else, you are over-sensitive, etc.

My question is, why the doubt? What exactly does it COST whites of good will, to take racism seriously? I am confused about the protesting.

And speaking of which, over at John Scalzi's, the posts on the thread in question are currently up to 471, and it's not even noon. (Good lord, I can't imagine traffic like that, she marveled.) Lots of defensiveness, but also a great deal of raw intelligence on display. Mary Anne, of course, is tops.

Check it out.


How do the Calorie Restriction people stop from periodically going berserk and binging? Last night, I bought a package of mega-sugary conchas, and yes, ate the whole thing.

It was especially satisfying to chow down whilst watching the entertaining Jon Stewart vs. Jim Cramer spectacle! Technical knock-out! James Poniewozik of TIME reports on the prize-fight:

So, be my guest—talk among yourselves about who "won" the interview. (By the way, The Daily Show also has the full unedited exchange online.) Dance in the streets with Cramer's trophy head held aloft if you like. (As I type, The Huffington Post's headline is JON STEWART EVISCERATES JIM CRAMER AND CNBC, in VICTORY DECLARED IN EUROPE-sized type. [Matt] Drudge is rather more coy on the subject.) It was a beatdown, to be sure. (After airing a promo for Cramer's Mad Money which could have itself been a Daily Show parody: "I understand you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a f__ing game.) But in the long run, it was most fascinating as a discussion about how business journalism in particular and journalism in general are done in America.

About CNBC generally, Stewart kept returning to the question not only of why the network didn't report on financial disaster coming, but who CNBC is for at all: "Who are you responsible to? The people in the 401ks and the pensions and the general public, or the Wall Street traders?" Stewart asked (adding that most traders are "bright guys" who are "f__ed in all this too").
I was fairly stunned by Cramer's fake well as disgusted by his overweening self-centeredness. He really seemed to believe the entire Wall Street fiasco is about HIM and HIS TV SHOW.

Cramer, the economy is in the shitter, dude! Wake the fuck up!

Poniewozik writes:

[Cramer stated during the interview] "It's difficult to have a reporter say, 'I just came from an interview with Hank Paulson, and he lied his darn-fool head off.' It's difficult. I think it challenges the boundaries." OK, this is an easy quote to attack—why not just say he's lying, damn you!—but in fairness it's not as simple than that. The real story—and not at all a more flattering story—is that lies like these are not obvious and cut-and-dried: refuting them takes a lot of work and a lot of time and often involves sticking your neck out and going against the crowd (see previous point). Much easier to quote your subject, adding a caveat if necessary, and move on.

Much easier, too, to make this story about a feud between two cable-TV stars, declare a winner, and move on. Because then we don't have to recognize that this song is about us.
If you didn't see it, go over there and watch the whole thing. It explains more than any single news show or documentary, exactly how this happened: the fawning "financial news" media was up Wall Street's ass.

You can't report fairly on something if you are also trying to get rich off it yourself.

We might call that biased reporting, yes?


Sarah J said...

Not only biased reporting, but it illustrates the problem with "balanced" journalism. Henry Paulson lies, they have to find someone else to quote to say that he's lying. They can't just say that he's lying, that wouldn't be "objective."

Yet the reporter's damn job should be to tell the public that Hank Paulson is lying, that the emperor has no clothes, that the economy is up shit's creek.

This is why Jon Stewart is so effing important.

Annie said...

Racism is alive and thriving, much to my utter disgust.John Stewart is on fire! He totally skewered Cramer. Loved the way he rolled clips to drive his points home.God, I love that man. He fights the good fight.

John Powers said...

People my age are signing up at Facebook. When they do, a common hello is "Welcome to the great time suck!" Seeing that I think they're not giving the Internet a chance;-) 300+ comments in I see your post linked. Time well spent in my estimation.

Mary Anne Mohanraj mentioned on her site that she'd deliberately decided that the RaceFail 09 discussion was worth her time. Then she realized it had eaten into limited child care time, so a real money cost to the decision became obvious.

This isn't exactly to your question about what it costs white people of good will to take racism seriously. But Mohanraj constructing those posts and then sticking around to engage was very generous. It cost her real money to do.

Have I mentioned lately that I love your blog? I thank you very much for your generosity Daisy:-)

I've been called out for racism in stuff I've put up online. Actually there's enough experience with that so there's sort of a menu of ways I've responded to being called out; highly defensive is one.

A white guy like me coming to any discussion of race, it just goes with the territory that it's going to cost me something. The pay out, if there is one, is maybe I can become more lovely than I already am. LOL, but I'm sure that's a kind of lovely anyone other than me will ever notice. The point about being generous is not expecting any pay out, but the other way around: maybe the gifts you offer might be appreciated.

Somewhere in the discussion Mary Anne Mohanraj talked about how sexist behaviors elsewhere sometimes ended up making her rant at her husband. If you're a man close to women in your life sooner or later you're going to hear about sexism. Talking about sexism isn't easy either. But we want to engage, in part because particular women are important to us.

The "I have an ethnic friend" fallacy rightfully gets exposed in the thread. But when you ask about costs to white people, the personal often is part of the equation. Motivations for engaging in such conversations include wanting to be better co-workers, partners,friends, etc, with POC.

The gulf to bridge is often so wide that it's hard to spot good will sometimes. It's easy to understand impatience. But 500 comments on that thread shows civil discussion about race are possible and worthwhile.

Meowser said...

My theory: A lot of white people (especially women) don't have enough self-esteem to handle the issue the way it needs to be handled. They hear "you benefit from white privilege" and hear "you suck." And they hear, "What you said was racist" and hear, "You REALLY REALLY suck." Chronic toxic shame is gas, and when it sounds like you're being accused of fucking other people over, that's the match. BOOM.

And believe me, I am so not pointing any fingers at anyone for that, because in the depths of my black-dog killer depression, this is exactly the kind of thing that made me want to jump. I couldn't help but think, "If I really have white privilege, then that means I'm stealing things that legitimately belong to other people. My very presence on earth means that women of color are being robbed of their dignity, safety, and wholeness. And I want MORE than what I have now? Even MORE? How dare I? What have I done to deserve taking up room here? What? I AM A MURDERER AND A THIEF, on top of everything else that sucks about me."

And you don't need to tell me what an extreme and inappropriate reaction that is. I know that. I knew it when I was having it, and it still didn't go away. I had to be drugged out of it. This shit runs deep in people. A lot of white people grow up with the idea that they're garbage, just total, absolute scum, unless they achieve x, y, and z by a certain age and never, ever let anyone see where they're lacking. And maybe they'll still be total garbage even then. Hence the preponderance of flaming ego surrounding this and other issues; if your standing is that shaky, you simply cannot be wrong. (Probably I'm one of the rare people who would cop to having self-esteem below toilet level while it was actually happening, because being aspie I always figured everyone would see through any attempt I made to cover it up.)

What finally broke that thought pattern for me for good, oddly enough, was consideration of how people on different parts of the autism spectrum are treated -- i.e. that those of us with usable speech have privilege over those who do not. I said to myself, "What are you going to do, not ever talk? That would be ridiculous. No non-speaking autistic person would ever expect you not to use speech if you have it. All they want is for you to not be an entitled jerk about it." Oh.

Mista Jaycee said...

You still got it! Great post!

sheila said...

You know, I think it's true that most white people just don't think racism is as big of an issue as it really is. I'm white and I see that. Maybe it's wishful thinking I don't know. But I think it's mostly stupidity and not living/seeing it day to day.

Sorta like my republican friends last summer telling me I was nuts for saying the economy was wasn't until they experienced it later for themselves did they understand.

Starla said...

christina emailed me the other day, apparently someone finally moved into betty's house over the weekend. bout time =)

i miss youuuu

Aspasia said...

Many white people simply do not want to believe racism is genuine. Why not?

From the POV of a WOC, I think it makes many white people uncomfortable. They truly feel as though they have done their part by not using the N-word, by not thinking all Hispanics are shiftless illegal immigrants stealing their jobs, by not assuming all Muslims or Arabs (Muslim or not) are a threat to the country and all other manner of stereotypes and hatred. They're expecting cookies to be handed to them (which are, sometimes) but instead receive pointed criticism on how that is simply not enough. A lot of those are ones that are politically moderate or liberal.

The politically conservatives are the type that think, "Well damnit, we gave you people your civil rights and your Martin Luther King Jr day and your specialty language television stations and your ethnic History Months. What more do you want?" Condescending as that approach is, they don't see it as such or as racism and likewise want cookies for refraining from lynching the whole lot of us.

Both groups just want us to shut the hell up and be happy with what we were so graciously "given". But real change against racism doesn't come with superficial strides like changes in laws and having a Hispanic or Black or Asian Heritage Month. It comes in the everyday, mundane expressions of racism that POC feel. The looks, the small gestures. It is always the little things that build up that piss people off the most. This has to be acknowledged and it simply isn't. That would require a one-way, non-refundable ticket out of the Comfort Zone. I can write an extremely long response listing my personal experiences with that. Also, as a mixed race woman, I feel racism from whites AND blacks and even some deeply assimilated other POC ethnic groups. Again, my experiences are way too long and I don't want to take up any more of your space or time, Daisy.

All of this is merely my take on the subject. What is particularly dangerous now is Obama's victory. Not that he got in (even though I'm not a fan of the major parties, much less the spineless Democrats on the whole and suspicious of ALL politicians that come from IL). But there is too much excitement that this means all racism is eliminated or severely disabled and so by us continuing to point it out, well that's just petty. When we, the colored, bring this up then aforementioned whites point to The White House with a question mark and impatience on their faces.

Now, onto the awesomeness of Jon Stewart! Sarah J and others will like Glenn Greenwald's column about the eviscerating of Cramer by Stewart:

Renee said...

You know it never ceases to amaze me that fauzgressives think that they are so avante garde when they acknowledge racism. The irony is that their form of acceptance often means being just as racist as the original commentary. Whiteness as expert is a failure on so many levels when it comes to racism. Never for one minute could they take the world of a POC because of course we have an axe to grind.