Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Reclaiming Racist!!!

"I'm not a racist." Another variation on it is often, "I'm not a racist but..." or better yet, "Are you trying to say I'm a racist?" All three of these things are beginning to make me literally sick to my stomach. A few weeks back Michael Richards' outburst set the blogosphere on fire, which in turn set the media a fire, which in turn drove Richards to say, "The funny thing is, I'm not a racist." Well to Mr. Richards and all others who utter these words, I have one simple comment, "Yes, (fill in name here), you are a racist." Many folks get jarred by this statement, so read it again in the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" tone. Does that help you stomach it?

I tend to let my mind ferment during the evening by watching reality TV or playing my Nintendo DS (oh it's so great!). Tonight, I opted for Reality TV. I decided to watch the Real World Denver (no I don't think I have a real reason to watch this trash, but I did). Tonight's episode was yet another "big race episode" (this reminds me of when they would say things like, "Next week, a very special Webster" remember that? I digress). The characters end up in a tussle and the N word is barked by a drunken White male, Davis, within earshot of at least one Black roommate. I'll summarize so you don't have to watch the episode, they (producers) take the White roommate away for the night to a hotel and he returns the next day so the cast can talk it out. The result, the Black roommates forgive him and he says... you guessed it, "I'm not racist." One Black roommate Tyrie asked him (and I paraphrase) "So I just want to know, when you used that word. Where did it come from? Is that something you've been thinking or did it come out of anger or...?" Davis quickly responded, "Out of anger." This was particularly important to me because I knew once Tyrie gave him an "out" - mentioning anger, he would immediately jump at that reason. The episode closes with the Black roommates forgiving him and Davis staying so he can show them he can "watch what he says" and "he's not a racist." Dammit, you are a racist!

Now if any of you reading have had the pleasure (or pain) of sitting in on one of my guest lectures on race and ethnicity you know about this. Towards the beginning of the lecture I have all the people in attendance point to their neighbor and say, "You're a racist" and then have them point to their other neighbor and say, "You're a racist." After people follow in a Pavlovian style they usually look back at me, half of them with some form of pissed expression. I then allay their fears by saying, "Now that everyone has been called a racist and called at least one person a racist, we can stop being scared of being labeled a racist." The label racist is avoided like Jehovah's Witness' on a Saturday morning.

Now being the good sociologist that I am, I know that is because most people associate racism with individual deliberate actions towards someone of a subordinate group that are meant to harm and are based on prejudice. Which really means that nobody wants to be considered a Klan member (well except of course Klan members who are out of the closet). That's the big problem, when I'm in a room of over 150 people and I ask, "Who is a racist?" and maybe one or two people raise their hands, we have a problem!!! The problem is not anger, the problem is not drunkeness, the problem is not hecklers and losing our cool, it's racism! I know you want a nice out or absolution, I know you want to prove you're not that bad word, but dammit you gotta claim it to change it.

Imagine this, you go the doctor, you ask him about a piercing headache you keep on having. The headache is usually bearable but on occasion it causes you to yelp in pain for others to hear. The doctor takes does a full exam, xrays, scans, etc. and sees you have a tumor on your brain. When the doctor comes back to talk to you and you ask the doc, "Am I alright?" The doc responds, "You have a cold." A cold, hell nawh you have cancer!!! Racism is a disease, one that needs to be addressed. Unfortunately everyday we ask the world not to label ourselves or others as racist, which drives us further away from curing the sickness of racism. A doctor who prescribed Ludens to you (you know those cough drops you always wanted because they tasted like candy but your momma wouldn't let you have them) instead of chemo would be in serious malpractice and in violation of the their oath. But everyday, people ask me, "Why do we have to say someone is racist?" "Can't we call it something else? or "I get what you're saying, but calling someone a racist is ugly." Racism is ugly!!! I could go into my definition of racism but here is a link to a basic definition of racism that should get you started. If you're already with me, read on.

For me, dropping the term racist from our lexicon weakens our ability to call everyone to the task of being accountable for inequality. Admittedly not all inequality is racial, but many of the social ills that we see have a strong racial component. To borrow from Beverly Tatum racism is like pollution, you may not have started it, but you must live with it and everyday your actions contribute to it. The true question is what are you going to do to reduce it? By ignoring racism and the people and institutions that perpetuate it, we retard social progress. Because we have dropped racist from our lexicon, racial discrimination (disproportionate impact) does not legally exist until animus is demonstrated. Because we stopped calling out people as being racist, the very people who support systems of oppression now label us racists. Because racist became perverted, some are now distorted enough to think the oppressed are the oppressors.

I know this getting way too long, but let me conclude by saying, we live in a world without racists, but in a world full of racism. While I am forgiving, reasonable, and solution oriented, it disturbs me to see us sidestep the root of the hatred that we see in the disparate worlds we live in and in the malice ridden words we speak. I'd rather have chemo than candy. Wouldn't you?


RachelsTavern said...

Ok, we must be channeling each other. Besides the fact that we are watching the same damn reality TV programs. I was feeling the same reaction.

These idiots drop the n-bomb left and right, and then have the audacity to say "I'm not racist." Then who the hell is racist? The true answer is that they don't think anybody is racist unless it is Black people. You should see the responses when I put up the "You Might be a White Supremacist if.." post or my most recent one "White Supremacist or Central Indiana Message Board Participant?" Otherwise liberal people start getting defensive when they realize that their views are similar to those on websites like Stormfront.

Anyways, I was so worked up over the MTV episode last night that I decided to watch the after show on MTV overdrive. The two white hosts basically let Davis off really easy. The one guy was like "I know you are not a racist because I've talked with you." Hogwash......

I'm ranting too much to be articulate, but I agree with you strongly. LOL!!

Dumi said...

Lol, we definitely have been on the same wavelength. I just stopped by the tavern and saw your link and the comments. I was all set to fire back, then I saw that you handled them quite nicely. Good to know that we're not alone!

Anonymous said...

"By ignoring racism and the people and institutions that perpetuate it, we retard social progress."

Why you gotta bring retards into this? You are anti-semetic, racist, AND able-ist.

Dumi said...

Lol, i appreciate being blazed... too bad folks don't know how to use a dictionary ;)

Anonymous said...

Racism is a mental illness; it is in the marrow, encoded in every person from birth and in every institution in this country. It is simply unavoidable. Racism is like breathing. In fact, they are synonymous.

I had a thought the other night. Racism is like an Oreo cookie: Superior facade, concealing an inferior core. A superior person doesn't have to stack the deck in their favor, doesn't need to discriminate, doesn't have to horde, mistreat people who are allegedly less than.

A superior person doesn't need white affirmative action in a thousand different shades. However...

An inferior, shame based being does, does need the tanning salon, does need the discriminatory lender.

How do you get the superior-inferior-white-perso to tear down the facade of superiority - whether consciously or unconsciously held - when it will expose the sham at their core? To admit racism is to admit dependence on an incredibly cruel and inhumane system that barely makes white folk feel human, let alone superior. That's why they gotta keep taking, taking, taking, buying, buying buying, stealing, stealing, stealing.

Then they project their theft onto us, their nihilistic shit on us, analyze US!

I believe whites know already know the Big Lie inside, but they are not willing to do the necessary work to reclaim their truest selves.

Anonymous said...

“The label racist is avoided like Jehovah’s Witness’ on a Saturday morning.”

I’m a Jehovah’s Witness, and I find that statement to be offensive to my religion. Contrary to whatever makes you think that all JW’s spend their Sunday’s proselytizing, I prefer to be with my family and read the Word of God.

Funny how you are so quick to stereotype all JW’s as being insufferable preachers, whilst proclaiming yourself to be bias free.

Dumi said...

My apologies, somehow my reponse didn't post last night when I typed it. In sum, the first thing that I wanted to get across was that I apologize for offending your religion. Secondarily, I wanted to also comment on your comment. In my post I used the example of JW's and avoidance because it is a common practice among non-JW's, simply illustrative, I did not encourage the behavior. Instead I poked fun at avoiders. In fact, the entire context of my post suggests that one should be uncomfortable and confront things that are commonly avoided, in that sense, my argument runs counter to your characterization of my notion of JW's as "insufferable preachers." I respect your choice to not "proselytize", I also respect others choices to "proscelytize". I also wanted to say that I do not claim to be bias free, that would be naive and disingenious. I appreciate you providing feedback.

Anonymous said...


I just wanted to comment on people's take on black people being "racist"; on blacks (the oppressed) being looked upon as the "oppressors."

As I stated over at Rachel's, I do not look upon black people as racists. Yes, black people show more "racism" towards each other and themselves in their self-hatred.

Hatred of their noses, lips, body physiques, hair and skin color. Thanks to centuries of white supremacy oppression, many black people have internalized racist, self-hatred. And when black people show animosity, hate crimes towards people of other races, I do not look upon this behaviour as "racism".

I look upon it as rage, anger and despondency that has been turned inward upon themselves, and is then turned outward to anyone who either directly, or indirectly is looked upon as being considered by white society as having more value and worth than a black person. Because this white-controlled society has denigrated and devalued blackness as bad, evil and worthless for so long, black people have, and will attack, verbally and physically, anyone who would be deemed "better than" black people in society:

-Light-skinned black people
-People of other races who are considered better than black people (the hateful "Model Minority Lie" comes to mind)
-The constant media images proliferating in America and around the world, that send the message that every one else accounts to value in this world, everyone, but black people.

Black people and all that is considered black, have been spit on, shit on, urinated on, and vomitted on by white run America for so long. Black people see this constant bombardment against their worth and integrity. Day in and day out. This is not lost on them. And their rage will be directed, conciously, and subconciously, against those whom they see that white dominated society treats as better than them.

Another aspect of this "racism', is the destruction of those who look the most like them.

That is why there is so much black-on-black crime in America.

Knowing that they cannot take their anger and rage out on white people on a large level, many black people turn their rage in upon those who have the least value in the eyes of American society:

Black people

And crime statistics bear this chilling evidence out in police reports, UDOJ reports and FBI reports.

Centuries, and centuries, and decade after decade, generation after generation of being told that they are less than human, they are less than all other non-white races in this country, of having constantly hammered and pounded into their minds that everyone has a chance and a right to "be" in this country has taken a terrible toll on the psyches of black Americans.

And black Americans see still that they are 2ND, no, 3RD class citizens in the country that they have worked so hard to be a part of.

This treatment can only create an outlook of fatalism, no nihilism, that has created discord and rancor in the black community.

Black people as racists?

I don't think so.

Black people as a race who have been besieged and put upon for forever, and are directing their rage and anger against those who will cause the "least" amount of retribution from white society (black people and other non-white people), do strike out at those who they see that white America favors over black people (at least white society favors them, until white society has gotten its fill, has used up the non-white people that they can, until they can then go on to the next non-white people they can use against black people, the next non-white people they can use for their own purposes).

Black people as racists?

Until I see black people able to command the power over ANYONE in this country, until I see where black people's rage and anger directed against other races in the form of hate crimes, until I see black people's rage in black-on-black crime have the effect on EVERYONE else in this country the way white supremacy affects us ALL, then, maybe people can give credence to so-called "black racism".

Until I see "black supremacy" rule the land, black people, like other non-white people, will continue to just be pawns in this white dominated, white controlled, white loving society.

On another note, there have been commentors over at Rachel's who consider my strong opinions on white America, and especially white males, as "hatred".

Hmm. Well, they are certainly entitled to their opinions. But, I look at it this way:

If I did not get so angry at the way this country has, and is stll treating black people, if I did not get so angry at the blindness that white run America shows towards her black citizens, if I did not really care about my fellow white male citizens and what the racist policies have done to them as well as to black people, then that would mean that I just did not give a damn.

If I did not care one whit, I would not say anything.

But, because I do care, I take everyone in this country to task on what they should challenge and seek to dismantle in all forms of white supremacy.

And by everyone, that includes black people, native people, latino people, Asian people, even, omigosh, white people, and most definately white males.

If anything, I prefer to call it "tough love.''

But, that's just me.

Ann, who speaks her mind.


You always know where you stand with me. DeleteReplyForwardSpamMove...

David Schraub said...

Just off reading that top paragraph, I'm curious if you've read Lawrence Blum's stellar book "I'm Not a Racist, But...". It's magnificent.

Great post, too :-).

Dumi said...

No I haven't read it. But maybe I'll give it a read some time. Thanks for the comment

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that it would be detrimental to racial progress to drop the term "racist" from our lexicon. However, I am still not sure that I see how we "destigmatize" racism by simply keeping it in our conversations around race and racial issues. Furthermore, what exactly is a racist person's interest in claiming that aspect of his/her identity?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree that it would be detrimental to racial progress to drop the term "racist" from our lexicon. However, I am still not sure that I see how we "destigmatize" racism by simply keeping it in our conversations around race and racial issues. Furthermore, what exactly is a racist person's interest in claiming that aspect of his/her identity?

Sharon Dodua Otoo said...

thanks for this post - i hope it's ok for you for me to link to it? ( ) thank you! s

Dumi said...

I think the value for a racist person in this sense is realizing that racism is not something that is generated inherently out of malice or ill-intention. It provides "the racist" a new way to view individual role in a collective process of disadvantage.

You're more than welcome to link!