Thursday, May 26, 2011

On Race (with Fabulous Web Sites!)

First things first – I am white. I am super white. You can see blood vessels right through my sometimes nearly-translucent skin. Yes, sometimes I look like Rand McNally took LSD and decided to get into body painting. I am a shade of white sometimes referred to lovingly as “fish-belly white.”

I am anti-racist.

I am also a recovering racist.

Now, I did not have any of that extra-stupid obvious racism. I was not raised that way, contrary to numerous efforts by my mother’s first husband. (To be honest, I think a lot of that was just to get a rise out of me. That does not change the fact that even being in a position to decide to use racism ironically is okay – it is a glaring sign of privilege.) I had relatives that I almost never saw because they tried to take my toddler self down to our town’s courthouse to attend a Klan meeting – and my mother was completely not okay with that. So I only saw them at family reunions, where they would do things like pass around stickers with an “obviously” African American silhouette enclosed by a circle with a line across it. Yes, some of them are the caricatures of human beings you think of when you think of the classic racist.

So, instead, I grew up virulently anti-racist instead. I can be contrary like that.

So, to even think of myself as a racist means thinking of me as one of those people. That is really, really uncomfortable. When I say I am a recovering racist I mean that I am always looking for and fighting those subtle (to a white person), pervasive pieces of meme that are always ready to steal and keep brain space. You know, the things you can think and still not actually consider yourself a racist: that positive stereotypes are okay, that if no one of a particular group is around then it is okay to smack talk them, that you “don’t see color,” that you got where-ever you are on effort and merit alone, that perhaps “previously” oppressed folks should just get over it and live in the supposed meritocracy of the now, that some people are now unfairly advantaged over white people, that now a days it is all about class (denying racism rather than acknowledging the intersections). I am always fighting the idea that white people are somehow the default, standard human being. This  is amazingly present once you notice it, white folks.

I recognize my race privilege.

I have had fights with people over “gypsy” stereotypes. I have walked away from unacceptable caricatures of people of Asian descent. I have cursed people out over generalizations regarding immigration. I live in a neighborhood with a proud African American history (the first in our county to “allow” black home ownership). My kids are sometimes the only white kids in their classroom. I do not ask the neighborhood moms about their hair, and do my best to answer their daughters when they ask about my daughters’ hair. I remind my husband that to the neighborhood teen boys, he is a stereotypical villain (over 40 white male, heavy, loud and blond). I do not do this for cookies – I do it because it is the right thing to do. 

I do it because it is the shit we should never have to do if we truly lived in a US that was not racist.

I am not perfect, and I will fuck up. Hell, I may have fucked up in this very entry. I am, and will be, working on it.

I spend a lot of time on this issue, and there are some places that I want to point you towards so you can too. I know that you cannot walk around all privileged and expect people to be willing to take time out to educate you – but there are folks that put terrific stuff out there, and I appreciate it so much.

Elon James White is amazing, and so is his crew at the Brooklyn Comedy Company. My daughters and I never miss an episode of This Week in Blackness. The BcCo podcasts are so wonderful that they draw a fantastic audience, too: Blacking It Up, the White House, and the JTMSCast.

Dammit, I am out of time to write for now, but I have to get posting again, so I plunge forward. Just know that I am not giving any of these folks the space or accolades that they are rightfully due!

I have read Racialicious for quite a while now, and they address so much that you better settle in and plan on spending some time there. You will leave a better, more educated person for it. I am new to Jack and Jill Politics, and they are really on top of all of today’s relevant news. They talk about a lot more than the intersection of race and politics, and do it all so very, very well. My most recently added must reads include Angry Black Lady Chronicles, which are amazing, and Angry Black Bitch, which is fantastic.

If any of you Dear Readers go to these sites – please use your manners.

Oh, and avoid articles about “black Twitter.” Seriously.

And hey, Team Voltron: shout-out to the chatroom!