Day Six: Yes, You’re Racist; or Don’t Be an Asshole.

(image via KOLR, h/t Gawker, Mediaite)

(image via KOLR, h/t Gawker, Mediaite)

Here’s a good rule of thumb: if you have to say “it’s not racist to…”, it is absolutely, positively racist. But in case some folks need reminding: yes, white pride is racist.

The question most racists love to ask is something along the lines of, “well, if blacks and Latinos and Asians can have their own associations, why can’t whites?” And the answer to that requires an understanding of the concept of racism, as it is experienced in American society.

Racism is an institution whereby one group in the majority asserts social, political and economic power over others. That power is wielded outwardly to oppress minorities through policies such as red-lining or various immigration acts that allowed for more European immigrants than ones from Africa or Asia or South America, but also through subconscious decisions born of xenophobic, racist pathologies. (And, it should be mentioned, it is because of the systemic nature of racism that whites can never experience racism in this country. They can certainly experience anti-white biases, but nothing systemic or institutional in the same manner that non-whites experience racism. Okay, glad I got that off my chest. Let’s continue.)

As Sendhil Mullainathan pointed out in the TimesThe Upshot this weekend, these pathologies have infected every inch of American society:

■ When doctors were shown patient histories and asked to make judgments about heart disease, they were much less likely to recommend cardiac catheterization (a helpful procedure) to black patients — even when their medical files were statistically identical to those of white patients.

■ When whites and blacks were sent to bargain for a used car, blacks were offered initial prices roughly $700 higher, and they received far smaller concessions.

■ Several studies found that sending emails with stereotypically black names in response to apartment-rental ads on Craigslist elicited fewer responses than sending ones with white names. A regularly repeated study by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development sent African-Americans and whites to look at apartments and found that African-Americans were shown fewer apartments to rent and houses for sale.

■ White state legislators were found to be less likely to respond to constituents with African-American names. This was true of legislators in both political parties.

■ Emails sent to faculty members at universities, asking to talk about research opportunities, were more likely to get a reply if a stereotypically white name was used.

■ Even eBay auctions were not immune. When iPods were auctioned on eBay, researchers randomly varied the skin color on the hand holding the iPod. A white hand holding the iPod received 21 percent more offers than a black hand.

You don’t have to be racist to have been influenced by a racist pathology – locking your doors while driving is not racist in and of itself, but purposely doing so while driving through Newark is racist because society has been trained to fear young black men. Again, it doesn’t mean that you are racist, it just means that society has taught you to subconsciously act on racist sterotypes. What those studies show is that racism affects the lives of people of color every day in some of the most benign ways, regardless of the intentions of whites.

The reason why black or Latino or Asian associations exists is precisely because ethnic communities feel the need to work together to better one another, to achieve a level of privilege that WASPs have enjoyed in this country for centuries.

So whiteness is the thing to aspire to. Not everyone does, of course, but many minorities have a conflicted longing for WASP whiteness or, more accurately, for the privileges of WASP whiteness. They probably don’t really like pale skin but they certainly like walking into a store without some security dude following them. Hating Your Goy and Eating One Too, as the great Philip Roth put it. So if everyone in America aspires to be WASPs, then what do WASPs aspire to? Does anyone know?

That quote is from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s phenomenal novel, Americanah (which I named my favorite novel of 2013), and it perfectly describes why minorities find the need to associate with one another and employ one another: we’re trying to get on your level. (If you also need to know why people of color need their own magazines and publications, there’s also this quote from Americanah.) We do these things because these aren’t privileges we’re afforded in society, at large; we have no representation in local, state or federal government and so we look to one another for help and opportunities.

White pride organizations are racist because there’s nothing left for white people to accomplish in this country – you have all of the privilege and security one could ever need. You’ve faced no oppression in your lifetime. (Yes, Irish, Italians and Jews have all been oppressed at various times in our history, but they’ve all now been accepted into the greater construction of “whiteness” [though, of course, anti-Semitism still exists in some pockets of society]. You’re not losing out on job opportunities in 2015 because your last name is Murphy, but you are if it’s Muhammad.) You’ve inherited wealth, sometimes for generations. You’ve even got advantages in online dating. None of this is necessarily your individual faults, but this is a level of privilege that no one else is afforded. We should all be given the same opportunities, and that’s not happening if white pride organizations – through which whites continue to assert their social, political and economic dominance by hiring and electing other whites or by segregating communities – continue to exist.

Listen, we get it. Being white is AWESOME; it doesn’t mean you’re inherently better, but it’s pretty clearly better to be white in America. I mean, you can’t dance and your rappers suck (and still benefit from the privileges of whiteness), but I understand why you love it. Thing is, you’ve already won, white people. You’ve achieved a level of privilege and security that everyone else aspires to. That everyone else is fighting for. Congratulations.

Just don’t be assholes about it.

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6 Comments

Filed under 365 Days, Essays, Race

6 responses to “Day Six: Yes, You’re Racist; or Don’t Be an Asshole.

  1. Galaxian

    If pride is a watchword for all identity groups in the USA except for whites, who are told to express guilt instead, then how can pride comprise racism? That racism includes strong pride cannot imply the converse. Most whites reject the white nationalist movement for its hatefulness toward others, not because they feel guilty for being white.

    • I never said anything about whites having to feel guilty, or anything about white guilt at all. White pride, by definition, is harmful to non-whites and is simply another way to marginalize and oppress minorities. To think it is anything other than that is just plain stupidity.

  2. adeoteri

    I’ve followed your musings for a while now, and respect you enough to say that you’re probably smarter than the average bear. I even found myself in agreement with you on your sports “takes”, particularly baseball commentary, in which we share common affection for the game. I’ve played the game all my life, and count the days until spring, just like you.

    That said, I’m continually confounded by your obsession and utter devotion to all things race (justifiably so, or not), and casual willingness to certify so much as “racist” or “racism”. It is as if in your world, all human action is driven by a conscious (or in this case) subconscious decision with regard to race, and all of life’s events must be viewed through this lens. Your narrative is small minded, and beneath someone who has appears to have an engaged mind. The world is a layered, complex place, filled with equally complex problems, and not every story or current event can be made to or simplified to fit your narrative about race, and our collective attitudes towards it. Answers to challenging problems are not simple, and most problems usually have several. Using your example, isn’t it first a matter of prudence and safety to lock your doors when driving through an unsafe Newark neighborhood with a higher rate of crime? I, for one, think less about who is committing the crime, but moreso the fact it exists and presents a threat to my safety. If I were to drive through a rough neighborhood in a predominantly white area, say, somewhere in South Boston or elsewhere, is it your assumption I would not lock my doors or take proper safety precautions because the perpetrators happen to be white more often than not? Herein lies my point: In the first, I am not racist, or trained to be racist, or responding to racist notions, to be aware that I’m in a dangerous area, and take measures to protect myself if it so happens the area is a minority one. It just isn’t as simple as you say.

    I could go on, but I won’t. While I recognize you have the right to express them, and the internet is an “opt-in, opt-out” medium, I take issue with your views because I find it disappointing that someone like yourself feels the need to paint with such a broad brush by attempting to distill everything into some narrative that every (or most) white person is racist, whether cognizant of it or not. You often provide the counterpoint to the conservative drivel on Fox News (which, I don’t watch, to be clear). It is a shame when intelligent people hug liberal or conservative dogma, or any type of extremism which refuses to allow for the omnipresent “gray” area, the concept shared responsibility, or constructive, cross-sectional dialogue. The answer is never just that simple, and real progress only happens when each side is able to sympathize with the other, see the layers of contour in each problem, and acknowledge that no point of view has a strangehold on truth, facts, or productive responses or solutions.

    “The more I see, the less I know.” Consider this. Consider gripping a little less tightly and being a bit more open minded about your views, since, after all, that is what you ask of us.

    • First off, thank you for reading. (Also, are you on Twitter? I presume that’s where you see most of my baseball stuff, just trying to see who you are so I have a better understanding of who I’m talking to.) Anyway, I appreciate the comment, and the civility of your tone. I’m not trying to live in a bubble of confirmation bias, so I always enjoy different viewpoints.

      You’re correct in that I do beat the race drum quite a bit. I do so because I find it necessary, as these are things that affect me and people like me every day. I don’t think I’ve ever tried to paint all or most white people as being racists, but I don’t think there’s anything controversial in saying that old, white men are usually pretty racist (and they happen to be most of the people who govern the country, so take from that what you may).

      There’s obviously room for gray areas and a person’s intentions must be taken into account, but even decisions made with the best intentions can have ignorant or racial consequences. That’s not to say that the decision-maker in question is racist; just that they didn’t know better. I’d like for that to not be the case. I’d like for people to know that even in the most benign things there are undertones that people can take offense to.

      Case in point, the holidays just passed: I’m constantly asked “oh do you celebrate Christmas?” or people will say “Merry Christmas” to everyone around me but “Happy Holidays” to me. That’s completely harmless on the surface, but it’s also pretty damn stupid. 73% of Hindus in America celebrate Christmas (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/12/23/christmas-also-celebrated-by-many-non-christians/) and it’s a largely secular holiday in this country. Again, nothing racist about saying “Happy Holidays” to me, it’s just that the person in question doesn’t know that it otherizes me. I’d like to live in a world where people are aware of these types of things.

      I’m not saying we need to live in an entirely “PC” world, but it’d be nice if people who do or say offensive things could understand *why* their actions were construed as offensive and learn from it, rather than go “race card!” and hit the block button. This doesn’t just apply to matters of race, but also matters of LGBTQ rights as well – and especially in trans rights – it just happens this is what affects me most. (Yes, my rhetoric is oftentimes inflammatory, but that’s mostly for “comedic” effect or to provide greater emphasis. I’m trying to work on that, as it were.)

      I know you mentioned that the internet is an opt-in/opt-out service, but I sincerely hope you don’t opt-out. I always appreciate thoughtful dialogue. Again, thank you for reading and commenting, and hopefully we can talk baseball in the future.

      • adeoteri

        Thanks. Your points are noted, and I too don’t want to live in a confirmation bubble. I probably read more news I disagree with than content that aligns with my view, hence why I’m here.

        Anyway, I think ignorance might be the most inclusive trait in the world-it spares very few, regardless of their allegiance, and explains a lot about the world in general. But it also explains why I attempted to communicate with respect, and why I read your commentary despite my disagreements. Most people don’t know their ass from their elbow, so, I guess I feel the onus is on those who do, to lead or conduct the discourse in a civil, responsible way.

        My only direct reply is just that: I guess I’m just taken back by your the way in which you communicate at times, which can be (by your own admission) bombastic or hyperbolic. I understand your points, respect your right to express them – but I wish it weren’t so visceral, since like I said, you’re clearly an engaged mind. There aren’t many. So you know, I know I’m not innocent; I’m often the loudest yeller in the room (I chalk that up to passion or intensity, but I know how it can be perceived) with really strong opinions, but deep down I know I’m more likely to be heard & understood if I’m communicating without trying to incite. But if/ since you were trying to draw me in to have a real conversation as a result, well, you’ve succeeded, haha.

        To clear up who I am, I’m a friend of Danielle & Frank. I’m on Twitter (the only social media I use, @amdeo23) and think it’s the best news source in the world for things I care about. One of those things being baseball, which is how I came to find you as I mentioned. Bonds, Clemens & Piazza should be in HOF (despite the first two being terrible people).

        Until next time…

  3. Ben Raifsnider

    It’s not racist. Thats just like saying Black pride is racist. WHite proud is allowed, we should be proud that were white, and blacks should be proud that there black, But we should all get along and put racism behind us all.

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