Dismantling, a Guest Post

About the Writer: Victoria is a student majoring in Secondary English Education. She is a native south Floridian with a lifelong interest in racism and a more recent interest in feminism.

Many times I’ve seen the suggestion that white people should work harder at dismantling racism by genuinely listening to people of color when they speak, talking about race – and not just with people of color – and stepping in when a person or people of color are facing racism. When someone is being openly racist, that is a rare opportunity to say or do something because normally people keep this hidden. Part of the logic is that a white person will listen to another white person – mostly because he or she is white, and assumed to not stand to benefit from getting another white person to think differently about race. This logic has worked for me on many occasions, both online and in person.

So when I came upon this post on Sociological Images, I felt that something wasn’t being said. In fact, something I don’t think that the OP intended to say was being said. You’ll probably want to read the entire thread to fully understand this post. I entered the thread thinking, “Surely, on a site like Sociological Images that someone else will have already picked up on this.” But since no one did, I made my first comment: The white author of the post, and the white woman she quoted were not qualified to make statements about how black people perceive the stereotype of the 1950s’ housewife because they were neither black, nor had done any research to fill in for that fact. Honestly, whenever I talk about race with white people, I expect that I will either be berated or have to give a long, drawn-out explanation, complete with a laser lights show, diagrams, and 4-D clay models. So I waited, and as you can see by the length of my comments, I was not disappointed.

As the day wore on, more and more white people* hopped on the bandwagon. They decided that I pretty much didn’t know what I was talking about and I was making irrelevant points. I had to email a couple of people who are well-versed in racial discussion to verify that I was not making something out of nothing. It seemed so obvious to me. I was baffled at how these people who are normally so liberal, so with-it, so astute in their comments, were defending this one-sided and inaccurate post/argument.

I turned to dismantling the argument because no one seemed to grasp that their white-constructed stereotypes were only “obvious” to themselves as white people. So, I chose to point out the flaw in part of the argument that was being used to uphold the exclusion of black women from the stereotype of a 1950s’ housewife – one which was irrefutable, and I backed it up with links to reputable websites. And, as you can plainly see, 100% pure logic and truth were totally overlooked by all of the people who wished to argue that my point was irrelevant, and they kept shooting for protecting their white-as-default world view.

Even in the face of proof that black women were NOT involved in the “welfare queen” stereotype in the 1950s, as the article claimed they were, they all glazed right over that – skipped that part of my argument every time (never mind that black women had to work because they were denied welfare in the 1950s, by the way). And then I went a step further in showing the stereotype that would place black women as housewives, not only to their own families, but to white families in the 1950s as well. Again, you can see for yourself what it takes for people to "get it." Only one came back to say she understood (even though her explanation showed she didn’t). It was rare for anyone to work up the nerve to agree with me or express the same sentiment, but some people did. Overall, those who disagreed and argued, stopped arguing with me when confronted with the evidence they chose not to respond to.

It may make people wonder what we are to do when we want white people to step in and say something about race and racism, but when they do they’re actually being dismissed and shut down in many of the same ways people of color are. I think that it’s still important for white people to step in and dismantle flawed racial thinking, even with the potential of being dismissed. It would be “typical” to a white person for a person of color to say what I said, but they will remember clicking the link to my blog and finding a white woman’s photo there. And white people never EVER forget being insinuated to be racist or not racially “hip”, especially when they really believe they are. They will later go out of their way to not make the same type of comment again, just so that no one will accuse them again and make them look bad. Sometimes this fear that people will perceive them in an unflattering light is enough to help them understand the things they didn’t before. Sometimes it’s not, but there’s nothing lost in trying.

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* One of the people I thought was white, later in the thread says he’s black.

Comments

  1. * One of the people I thought was white, later in the thread says he’s black.

    Yeah...I never trust those.

    What most people don't get is that writing is highly revealing. POC think one way, whites tend to think another. Write long enough, and your way of thinking will be revealed.

    Thanks for accepting my invite to do a guest post; I actually laughed aloud right here:

    Honestly, whenever I talk about race with white people, I expect that I will either be berated or have to give a long, drawn-out explanation, complete with a laser lights show, diagrams, and 4-D clay models. So I waited, and as you can see by the length of my comments, I was not disappointed.

    You dealt with some real idiots there. As I said in our email discussion, many were on that thread just to co-sign and high-five each other; they didn't come to think. They came for the "easy road" to post-racialism, not to pause and analyze, much less dig too deeply into the past. That thread was rife with avoidance.

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  2. That thread was rife with avoidance.

    I agree. Thanks for spelling out here what happened, Victoria, and good on ye for pointing out and naming that thread's bad smell. I've learned something from it all ("all" includes this post) about my own white blinders, and about how discussions like that one can go.

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  3. I really appreciate the offer to get that off of my chest. And thank both of you, Moi and Macon, for taking the time to read through it all and make sense (if there was any) of it.

    Moi - I don't know if he said he was black just out of convenience or what - sounded more like credentials to him than fact. His comments down thread on there were...well, pretty typically white to me (some shit about the Cosby Show being a subversion too). I just wanted to make sure I made a note so anyone reading didn't think I neglected to pick up on that.

    Oh yes, I have learned to come equipped to talk race with WP. Either someone just straight-up doesn't get something, or they plan to share with me their entire philosophy because they really do think they get it, and I spend 13 years deconstructing it just so we're on the same plane when we get into the actual discussion. Half the time we never even get back to the issue that got us talking in the first place.

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  4. Very nice post, OP. Honestly though, I'm not surprised by what occurred at all. I've met plenty of sociologists and anthropologists who express "liberal" and "with it" sentiments on the one hand, but, when you really start chatting with them, reveal themselves to be highly biased/ignorant to/of the facts and reality at best. At worst they show themselves to be subtle racists.

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  5. I've noticed a lot of the commenters and sometimes the author themselves on SociologicalImages don't get why some things are issues - ESPECIALLY when it comes to race. A lot of the people think they are sooooo with it and cool, but they don't know shit. I know Lisa and Gwen are busy, but I wish comments would be moderated more vigorously. I never feel like I'm having a discussion - just a 'roid-fueled argument. Total difference.

    And yeah, Moi, I COMPLETELY agree with you that one's writing can reveal one's race. And oftentimes, one's gender too. It's pretty amazing how oppression and discrimination can make bedfellows out of strangers.

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  6. Tahiti,

    I agree. I don't read daily or anything over there, so I tend to miss a lot. But one thing I've noticed is that just about everyone goes on and immediately assumes that the homework has been done and that what is being stated is accurate. The other day there was a post about the 50th anniversary of the Pill and the guest author of that post made a comment stating that the Pill causes cell proliferation and that means higher instances of cancer - something to that affect. No backup evidence. In fact, most of us have lots of access to research that states otherwise. I was thinking WTH? Now we're spitting medical and scientific information without qualification or even proof that research was done to formulate such an idea. I don't get what they're doing over there. Thanks for your comment.

    And thank you, Dr. Vagrant X, for yours. I think the shock has worn off from this particular incident and I can be comfortable with expecting these sorts of responses from the "with it" crew now.

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  7. Tahiti,

    It's pretty amazing how oppression and discrimination can make bedfellows out of strangers.

    Brilliantly stated. I smell an Ankhesenology moment.

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  8. It's funny if you think about it. Only White folks think they're invisible. I can't help but be a little more amused than I should when White people realize just how much and how well we see them.

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  9. @ RVCBard,

    I get you, but could you elaborate?

    Because I'm thinking white anxiety is rising now that they're interacting more with POC and realizing many POC have very negative perceptions of them. I think this is a new experience for most white people; they're not used to have negative expectations about them, especially not ones pertaining to weakness and stupidity. They want the other stereotypes, like "boring" and "arrogant".

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  10. I think I know was RVCBard means.

    White folk really think we can't see them when they don't want us too. It's akin to the toddler hiding his eyes behind his hands and thinking he's now invisible. If he can't see you, then you, conversely, cannot see him. So when White folk are running around doing dirt they think PoC don't see them doing this and cannot suss out (cuz alla us darkies iz dumb) what they're doing.

    They also think PoC see Whites as "regular people." They're always shocked that we see them as being just as raced as they see us. We see them as "other" as well and they are flabbergasted.

    And you're right, Ankh. More and more, White folk are getting the real 411 on how PoC really see them. They've been fooling themselves into thinking PoC worship them. Now they're finding out the truth and they do NOT like it.

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  11. Amen, Witch -

    Your last paragraph about "worship" reminds me of an incident one summer several years ago.

    During the summers, my dad - a college professor - would teach high school students in a federally funded "summer camp" of sorts which allowed them to stay in college dorms. This camp brought kids from several rural West Virginian counties together with kids of color from the towns. Now, the kids got along fine - too fine, as some parents would later complain, when a black kid and white kid starting dating.

    The white kid's parents were NOT happy when they found out and demanded an audience with the program director (I know, big surprise, right?). The director (a black woman) met with the white family who demanded to know she allowed "that sort of thing" to go on. The director later related this convo to me & my dad, and she laughed the whole way through.

    Apparently, the black kid's parents had also contacted her when they found out, and they had made their displeasure clear, which SHOCKED the white family. They didn't know how to handle the news that a black family didn't want their child dating a white person and were also demanding the kids be kept apart.

    Mind you, it didn't help the white family's ego to learn the black family in question was fully "functional", headed by two parents earning dual respectable incomes.

    No siree, that didn't help at all.

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  12. The White parents' reactions don't surprise me. White folks still think the Civil Rights
    Movement was all (as in soley) about integration, i.e. Black folk begging to
    snuggle up with White folk.

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  13. "What most people don't get is that writing is highly revealing. POC think one way, whites tend to think another. Write long enough, and your way of thinking will be revealed."

    *co-sign* This is so absolutely true, and not just for race. The truth can be masked only but for so long. You can't hide who you really are or what you really feel. Bravo, Victoria. Excellent post.

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  14. liberal racists tend to be the worst. at least with conservatives you know their views on race will be something similar to jim crow era. but one expects a liberal to know better. that is why i finally just started to realize you had different types of liberals. people who were liberal for just specific things. most whites are not liberal for social justice for blacks. most are liberal for environmental, death penalty, or gay rights usually.

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  15. most whites are not liberal for social justice for blacks. most are liberal for environmental, death penalty, or gay rights usually.

    Or simply for themselves, to make themselves feel superior, enlightened, and such.

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