Next steps for anti-racist White Americans…

First of all, if you're not anti-racist, but you're a White American, this isn't for you. If you're going to pull some old-line "rebuttals" to well-established academic scholarship on race, this post isn't for you, and your comments will be deleted. I don't have time for your questioning arithmetic when you're in a calculus class. You're a derailer, and I've heard all of your tired arguments before. Nothing new here. Move on.

Still here? Actually want to be a better White person in America? You've already read/watched/participated in stuff like these:

  1. "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" and "Some Notes for Facilitators"
  2. Project Implicit
  3. ELI5: Why is it so controversial when someone says "All Lives Matter" instead of "Black Lives Matter"?
  4. White Fragility
  5. Racial Bias in Perceptions of Others’ Pain
  6. Are You Sure You’re Not Racist?
  7. 13th
Cool. That's a good start.

It's also great that you actually challenge your racist relatives and friends, because that matters, and you are making a difference, and frankly they're more likely to listen to you than to me or other non-White people. Good on you for fighting that good fight.

Some people think it's ridiculous to give "cookies" to people for being decent human beings, but you're trained and raised not to be, so when you fight that, it requires effort.

But you still might feel like "I'm not doing enough. I have a lot of privilege as a White person. What should I be on the lookout for?"

Obviously, call out overt and physically violent racism. That should be obvious. Racial slurs. Harassment.

But also be on the lookout (in yourself and others) for these subtler forms of racism:

  1. Do I think it's okay that White people defend themselves with weapons but insist non-White people resist only non-violently? Why are the Founding Fathers praised for a violent revolution against the British but Martin Luther King, Jr. is praised for being non-violent?
  2. Along similar lines, do I often rush to ask non-White people to forgive White people who've wronged them but show more understanding for White people who are resentful when wronged?
  3. Do I ever feel uncomfortable when I'm the racial minority in a situation? How much control do I have over being in the situations in which I'm the racial minority?
  4. Do I accept unquestionably narratives about all great things (literature, inventions, etc.) being created by White people? What have I done to seek out information on non-White historical figures?
  5. What media do I consume that features only White protagonists? What media have I sought out that features non-White protagonists? Why do I have to seek that out?
  6. Even though I try to treat non-White people well, am I acting more as if they're a guest in my house than as if we are equals in a house that is for all of us?
  7. Do I ever make assumptions that Whites hold majority positions of power because of merit alone? If non-Whites held majority of positions of power in Hollywood, politics, corporate boards, etc. and said it was just meritocracy, how would I feel? How would I imagine fellow White people would feel?
  8. It can be more difficult to see how "meritocracy" works in private hiring practices, but take a look at how straight-presenting cis able-bodied white males get scrutinized for in running for office versus... other folks. Good exercise: imagine public reaction to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton doing anything Donald Trump has done.
  9. Do you say you're not proud of slavery but still uphold narratives of slaveholders as noble in some way? How have you reacted to buildings named after slaveholders being renamed?
  10. Have you considered how questions like "If you could travel to any time in the past?" or "What actor would play you in a movie of your life?" are different from non-White people in the U.S. than for you?

This isn't a comprehensive list. Just a start. If you're reading this, you've probably gotten through a lot of anti-racism 101. This is your 201. Ask these questions of yourself and other White people as you go through your daily life.

P.S. Even though this is a 101 (not 201) point, just a reminder that this isn't about "White guilt." Feeling guilty or bad about yourself does nothing productive to end racism. See racism, call it out. Fix the system.

P.P.S. Here's an excellent example of White supremacy disguised as sincere concern (i.e., an example of concern trolling with a mix of gaslighting): Regarding “Did Oscar voters go for best or adjust for color?” (Jan. 25): The Oscar’s brilliance has dimmed. Because the question presented itself, it is already done. The once proud symbol of accomplishment in the entertainment industry has been smudged. An evaluation of skills and talent have been tainted by the irrelevant factors of diversity and political correctness. The pinnacle sign of accomplishment in the entertainment industry cannot recover and regain the respect it once had even with its sometimes troubling history. Most hurt of all are the nominees and recipients who can never know if they earned the award through talent or ethnicity. Oscars were always about merit before? Non-Whites didn't win Oscars in the past, not because they didn't get leading roles and juicy dramatic roles, but because they just weren't as good actors? Everybody knows that's hogwash. White actors now don't know if they won awards through talent or ethnicity. Why is it suddenly a bad thing for non-White actors to not know?

Why are people picking on Girls?

Last year when Girls debuted on HBO, there was a lot of pushback on the blogosphere. Why was the cast all white? Isn't this New York? These whiny people aren't the voice of this generation. I was, frankly, confused by this reaction. All the criticisms were founded, of course. I just had no idea why people were (and actually still are) picking on Girls and on Lena Dunham.

Pretty much every major show on the normal networks and on cable has white lead characters, with the characters of color as support or background characters. Friends was all white in New York. So was Seinfeld. So was Sex and the City. Even the shows that have some racial diversity still feature white characters as the leads (for example, Law and Order: SVU had B.D. Wong and Ice-T, but the main leads were Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni; Hawaii Five-O's latest incarnation has Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim, but the main leads are Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan).

There are, of course, exceptions. The Mindy Project features Mindy Kaling. And Psych has two leads, one of whom is Dulé Hill, though you could easily make the case James Roday is the main lead of the two leads, with Hill being more of a supporting lead character. (As a random side note, Roday the actor is partly of Mexican descent, but his character definitely appears to be generic white.)

If people are going to be upset about Girls being racist, they'd better be equally upset about... just about every other show in America! And if they're going to be upset about whiny characters, they should be equally upset about Curb Your Enthusiasm, Californication, and a host of other shows that are critically acclaimed.

Ultimately, I think this singling out of Girls comes down to sexism. For some reason, straight, white male directors/actors/writers get let off the hook for featuring straight, white male characters. But if a straight, white female director/actor/writer dares to feature straight, white female characters, all hell breaks loose. She's a woman! Shouldn't she be perfect?! Geez. No. This is an HBO show and is no more perfect sociologically speaking than any other HBO show. True Blood has lots of black characters, but are you honestly going to tell me that Sookie and Bill are not the main focus of the show and that the black characters are the main focus?

I'd love Girls to break some new sociological ground. I just don't think that one show alone should bear such a burden. The whole system needs to change. No need to single out Lena Dunham to turn the whole thing around herself.

Further reading: How Hollywood is Racist

The Oppression Olympics

Welcome to the Oppression Olympics!

Here are some of the events you can watch, courtesy of the Google search engine:
Which Is Worse? Racism, or Sexism, or Asking Which Is Worse?
Sexism Is Worse Than Racism
Do victims of racism or sexism suffer more?

I don’t get why people get in stupid debates about whether racism or sexism is “worse” and whether black men face more obstacles than white women face. It’s silly. I’ve created a very simple illustration to show why it’s silly to entertain such a line of inquiry.


Take a look at this square. Let’s say that being closer to the top of the square means… better, whatever that is (more opportunities, less hate, more money—however you define “better”). Let’s also say that being closer to the bottom of the square means… worse, however you define “worse.”

So how would you then describe the situation of the dark-green stars in relation to the light-green circles? Is one simply in a better situation than the other? I don’t think so, since even such a relatively simplistic illustration shows more complexity than the “sexism is worse” or the “racism is worse” crowd would have you believe. I don’t get why people who have presumably taken geometry in secondary and/or primary school can get into such linear ways of thinking (“I’m ahead, you’re behind” or “You’re ahead, I’m behind”).

Immigrants are Americans

In a recent letter to the San Francisco Chronicle, someone named David Ferris wrote

Unfortunately, during the 2000-05 recovery, immigrants – both legal and illegal – got the jobs that should have gone to the youngest and poorest Americans. If we don’t make every effort to ensure that any jobs created go to our own people, we’ll be looking at another “jobless recovery.”

Hate to break the news to you, Mr. Ferris, but legal immigrants are Americans. I am the son of immigrants, and they are both full US citizens who work, vote, pay taxes, and donate to charities. I guess Mr. Ferris imagines he himself is not a descendant of immigrants…