Ever said any of these 7 things? Then you just might be a racist.

Have you ever said any of the seven things below? If so, then you just might be a racist.

Well, actually, that’s not true. If you’ve ever said any of the seven things below, you’re definitely a racist.

So, you know: Stop it. Stop being a racist. Stop it right now.

For one, it’s just so blazingly stupid.

And you don’t anyone to think you’re stupid, right?

Right? Nobody wants that.

Therefore, on behalf of sane people everywhere, thank you, friend, for wildly attacking your own tongue with a fork, or a screwdriver, or whatever’s nearest at hand that can stop you, mid-sentence, should ever you find yourself about to utter any of these things:

I’m not a racist, but …

Why don’t black people just get over it already, and quit being so sensitive? Nobody who’s alive today had anything to do with slavery. It’s time to let go of the past already, and move on.

If making it as a black person in America is so hard, how do you explain people like Colin Powell, Clarence Thomas, and Barack Obama?

All kinds of foreigners, of every color, come to this country and make it. Why do so many blacks fail, when so many Asians, for instance, succeed?

God forbid we should ever do or say anything that’s not “politically correct.”

When I look at a person, I don’t see the color of their skin. I just see a person. Why do we have to be so hung up on color all the time?

How come you never hear anything about discrimination against white people?

"Very true!!!!! I agree with what you said!!!"

Christians in love with non-Christians (and ..."
"True. I cringed everytime I see his name or comments."

Christians in love with non-Christians (and ..."
"You have the floor Pastor he said it as we all faced that product of ..."

The fundamentally toxic Christianity
"Save souls, nourish them as the devil roars for opportunity to steal, kill and destroy. ..."

My mom died late last night; ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • frank sonnek

    My. what did you have for breakfast this morning dear John?

    Oh and you forgot….

    "I don´t have a problem with those black folks. I have friends who are black." and THEN that "fact" gives me permission to say all that other stuff right?

  • Half a yam.

  • DR

    "I'm color blind. I don't see color, I just see the person inside."

  • Jeremy

    “God forbid we should ever do or say anything that’s not ‘politically correct.’”


    About the only time you ever hear the term "polically correct" these days is when it's used in this context by someone trying to justify a racist statement. They still think it's some big movement. Pretty sure that died out sometime in the 90s.

  • Talia

    It's awkward that I've heard all of these and more in the last week.

  • Argy Bargy

    For once I will not allow myself to be distracted by my daily search for waffles…this posting held my interest and gets two thumbs up!

    I might add to this list, "But I know Howard Stern's/Don Imus's not being serious…I'M not prejudiced…but he's so FUNNY [when they makes fun of _______…fill in the blank…really, is there some race, ethnicity, handicapped condition, that they havn't made fun of?]."

  • Berkshire

    That phrase "reverse discrimination" or "reverse racism" has always perplexed me. It, too, is so inherently . . . I dunno . . Caucasian-centered. . . . as if the default direction for prejudice is only toward minorities. Racism is racism, no matter who's doing it to whom. But we honkies have sure had a lot of practice doing it openly, and getting away with it.

    The people who say some of those things have no awareness whatsoever of (or want to deny) White Privilege. As just one example, even where racism is not *overtly* obvious I, as a white person, have far less of a chance of finding myself the only white person in a classroom or boardroom or wherever, within my usual sphere of existence (this is not so, however, when I ride public transport here in NYC, and marvel at the city's diversity). I would imagine such a situation can have a great psychological impact. White Privilege manifests in countless ways, and I know I'm the beneficiary of it. If we live in a meritocracy (and I'm not saying we do, though I know some people do), it is a tiered one, at best. I'm not competing with everyone equally. Not everyone gets the same shot in the competition, and race is very often one of the things at the root of that.

  • Absolutely! Have you ever read the essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by

    Peggy McIntosh? Really thought provoking.

  • Roybe

    My pint is that, although yes it's used as he states, the PC movement is still alive and well and causing people to have to make sure that their message isn't lost because of the "misuse" of words.

  • Freda

    Those rules go for everyone, thank you very much. Racism is alive and well, no doubt, but let's be brutally honest here – you cannot ignore our differences – you can only accept them. Do we not see the difference between redheads and blonds, for instance? We aren't blind to color but we need to be blind to judgement based on it.

  • DR

    "Try to use the term niggardly in public."

    Why would one try to do that at this point?

  • Don Whitt

    I heard a term the other day I had never heard before and it stunned me a bit. A paraplegic person was described as "Other-abled".

    I had a momentary cognitive fit when I heard that and said, "Aren't we ALL other-abled"? and they said , "Yes". 🙂

  • DR

    Those rules go for everyone, thank you very much.>>>

    You may not be making the point I think you're making, so please correct me if I'm wrong.

    When I read things like this, I think of statements like "Reverse racism" being bantered about which technically does not exist, given it implies equality on each side on this particular fence. In this context, "white" being one one side of the fence and "non-white" – specifically African-American – being on the other. And it is absolutely not reverse, those who are caucasian have little to no experience with being profiled and harassed by law enforcement. They do not have the same problems renting properties or getting bank loans. There is no institutional racism that caucasians face in America that is on par with those who are non-white. Are there some who are prejudiced against caucasians? Yes. But this is is a drop in the collective racism ocean. There is no comparison.

  • Jeremy

    I was talking about how those words, "politically correct" has been sort of coopted by racists. As I recall, when I was in college in the early 90s, the political correctness "movement" surfaced as a way to be respectful and less "Archie Bunkerish". Then it reached a rediculous level where a 5ft tall person was no longer short, but "vertically challenged" and a person over 60 was no longer old, but "chronolgically challenged". It became a way to make a joke after a while. And eventually the good meaning people who came up with it as a way to be respectful toward each other stopped using it, leaving it to the racists and sexists (etc) who kept it alive for their purposes.

    So when they're called on a racist statement they made, they can say "Well, excuse me, Mr. Politically Correct" and it's all rationalized in their mind. Now it's on me for being overly sensitive and not on them for what they said. It's not because they're racist, it's because I'm one of those loons from the early 90s who tried to make everything so darn complicted. It's sort have become their "get out of jail free" card.

    But you're right. People have become more careful in what they say and how they say it. They just don't call it that anymore.

  • Don Whitt

    IMHO, we're all racists, no matter what flavor we are. It's genetic. The problem is many people don't try to understand it or filter it. Willful ignorance.

    I had a German Shepherd once. One of the interesting things about the breed is its incredible capability of discerning differences. 10 people, one a female, the dog would be all over the poor gal. 10 people, one with a hat, woof-woof at the chapeau wearer. Uncanny.

    I think all of us animals have that gene and some translate that to "I don't like things that aren't like me". But it's universal, though varies in intensity from person to person. At some point, it served us well. In a melting pot like America, it's like having fire ants in your shorts if you can't come to terms with it.

  • Jeannie

    PC is just another name for sensitivity and good manners, in my opinion. I do not intentially use words that make feel others uncomfortable and I don't intentionally point out differences or ask questions that make other's squirm. And if I accidently do so, I want to be educated so to not make that mistake again.

    The argument that slavery or the indian wars were a long time ago and therefore irrelevant is ridiculous. I still feel a tinge of shame from my white, Irish, bootlegging and alcoholic grandparents. How much more if they had been treated as if they were less then human, or murdered for their color? These things are always relevent, even if they are unspoken.

    Discrimination is human. We all make judgements based on past experiences, culture and beliefs. The trick is to be aware of it and realise when we are being unfair. And humility and sensitvity to another are always the gold standard.

    People make judegments on me everyday based on my inability to walk unaided. I have never gotten used to it. My feelings on it range from mild irritation to angry indignation. And yeah, right or wrong, I am very sensitive to t. It is something I cannot hide. I imagine it feels the same way to be judged based on a color or race.

  • Argy Bargy

    Yeah, really, haha. I wouldn't either. Although "niggardly" is "non-used" perhaps improperly, as well. It's provenance is not what everyone assumes given is homonymous approximation to the slur. See:


    However, given that it could be construed or taken as offensive, I avoid using it. The point is that it is perceived by many as offensive. That's enough for me to not use so as not offend.

    It's kind of a basic concept, I think: avoid saying things that you know might or will offend a listener over a hurtful subject like this. That basic civility is sidestepped so many times, it makes me ill.

    It then comes down to "stop being so politically correct" which translates all to often, I'm afraid to "this is an issue of control for me and I'm not going to avoid saying it even if it offends you."


  • Robert Meek

    As a 52-year old HIV poz single gay white man (from thence my perspective comes), I have gone from the hesitant belief that "reverse" racism & discrimination exist to concluding that although racism moves in all directions, these specific phrases are, indeed, code-words for hidden bigotry. I have more to share but as is has been thundering here, I am off-line thumbing this painfully on an old Palm Centro PDA. (Ouch!)

  • beth

    You obviously don't live in the South. In my city, less than 40% is Caucasian. White priviledge here disappeared years ago for us middle class working people. I was a part of that school bussing program in the sixities and seventies. Taken out of my white school and sent across town to a black school in an effort to make things fair. In several of my classes, I was the only white girl in a class of 40 students and I lived in fear of my life. Yes, I know quite well what it is to be hated for my skin color. Only after I was almost raped in math class by a group of football players, did my parents pull me from public school. Yes, the teacher was in the room and no, she didn't do a thing to stop it. She left the room because thats what kind of fear gangs can instill. It could have been her next.

    Don't sit on your high horse and preach at me., I learned what i learned on the street and classroom, not a book. Am I free of my fears and prejudice? No, but I am delighted that as far as I can tell the relations my children have with other non-whites doesn't look like anything mine did..


  • This is an excellent list. I hear these often, unfortunately. The "black friend" especially – as if somehow knowing a black person gives one special, secret insight into living in black skin, which then somehow gives you permission to say something offensive. I have learned a lot from some of my own black friends and one of those is that having black friends does not make one black. I have also learned a lot from my daughters, who are Asian.

    One of them isn't even particularly stellar at math!!! ::::gasp:::: I know, I know, but ALL Asians are good at math, right?

    Even those "positive" stereotypes are hurtful and dangerous, because they are still assumptions based on skin color alone. No one considers that my children, though Asian, are not being raised in a traditional Asian-cultured home, nor is their first language Mandarin Chinese – both of which contribute to academic success.

    Excellent post, Mr. Shore!

  • Good point. That is why the "I don't see the color, just the person inside" is on Mr. Shore's list. Of course you see the color – denying that you do simply means that you aren't being honest.

    The bigger lesson in all of this is that we must let go of our "-isms" and embrace the diversity that makes our country rich and unique. Tolerating differences isn't enough – we need to learn to appreciate and enjoy our differences. We don't have to like everything about the various subcultures of our multi-cultured country – there might be food or music or fashion that comes from a particular ethnic culture that isn't your personal cup of tea – but the key is to realize that doesn't make it inherently bad!! Too many people still assume that different = wrong. So they live their lives in suspicion of anyone who isn't exactly the same color/religion/political party/creed as themselves.

    It's so sad, because the richness that comes along with diversity makes life so much more interesting, so much more vibrant – we can learn from each other, appreciate each other, and leave each other free to be ourselves.

    If only.

  • DR

    However, given that it could be construed or taken as offensive, I avoid using it. The point is that it is perceived by many as offensive. >>>

    "Gay" used to be a word that was defined as joyful or happy, but it's clear that in today's culture it's primary – if not exclusive meaning – is referring to someone who prefers the same sex sexually and romantically.

    The N-word is the same, regardless of the variation. It's quite clear what it means today even though it used to mean other things. There's really no other meaning that's significant anymore.

  • DR

    You obviously don’t live in the South. In my city, less than 40% is Caucasian. White priviledge here disappeared years ago for us middle class working people.>>>

    I'm sorry you had some frightening experiences in high school but with all due respect, this issue really doesn't have much to do with you or your neighborhood. We're dealing with some macro-racism that is built into our country's foundational institutions where geography has little or nothing to do with it. Your situation or the smattering of white kids who got bussed in to other schools doesn't equal "reverse racism". By nature of your skin color as someone who is white, you simply have automatic privilege you probably don't even think about much. For example in my neighborhood growing up – my suburban white neighborhood – my friend Bobby (who is African- American) was pulled over 17 times by the cops the first year he got his license. His father – a dentist – pulled over at least that many times the first year they moved in. For no offense, law enforcement was simply checking them out to "see why they were in the neighborhood".

    Similarly, there is some documented data that shows people of color being discriminated against in getting bank loans, renting apartments, etc. It's all so well known I wouldn't even know where to look the stats up it's just….everywhere.

    So I'm sorry you felt hated by a few people, that's unfortunate. But until your child or your brother (or mine) gets pulled over for absolutely no reason at all at the same rate the Bobbys of the world do, then things are not equal. They are not simply "reversed". I realize you didn't use that term, but it's what you're describing, and reverse racism simply doesn't exist.

  • DR

    IMHO, we’re all racists, no matter what flavor we are. It’s genetic.>>>

    No disagreement there. There are certainly privileges built in to being Caucasian in America that American citizens of color do not have so their experience of racism is quite a bit different than what white people like me will ever know. I'll never know, I'd never dream of thinking I'd be able to speak to it or understand it. They get to have the last word on their experience, not me.

  • Tony

    I am fully aware that I discriminate and jump to conclusions like when I watch the local city news, but does that make me a racist? I think not. Am I a racist if I sometimes think it (your initial list), but would never say it or agree with somebody that did? Maybe.

    Most importantly, am I a racist if I would never let any of my economic and business decisions (buy, hire, fire or promote) be influenced by race? Hopefully, I educate by example.

    How about a list "You're not a racist if"? – Not that I need any confirmation.

  • Roybe

    "It’s kind of a basic concept, I think: avoid saying things that you know might or will offend a listener over a hurtful subject like this."

    This is kind of my point. To not offend people that believe something fervently, because we are afraid to offend needs to stop. People wonder why there is such a negative discourse in religious, political, and racial topics. Granted these are topics that should be handled with care but the volatility between the sides of these topics today is much worse than what it has been since the institution of PC was begun.

    IMHO as the polarity of viewpoints increases, due to a lack of honest/open discussion, personal frustration increases until real ugly things get said and the polarity increases wash, rinse, repeat.

    In other words, yes, Politically Incorrect discussions can get heated, mean, etc. but progress is made when understanding and apologies occur or at least parties take the higher road, if necessary, and agree to disagree. Unfortunately, with political correctness, by eliminating the offensive conversations, now everyone believes their opinion is right or wrong and have no reason to adjust their beliefs in light of 'reason' or even facts.

    As in this forum, I have my expectations of what people believe and will discuss without offense, (although I have been happily surprised already) as you have your expectations of me, but until a subject is broached I tread lightly. This works in situations where everyone has patience, empathy, understanding, etc.

    Although that's great in this forum, to me those that have truly discordant views, to mine, and are truly frustrated with trying to talk to people about a topic is where learning occurs. It forces me to look up facts and figures and prove or change my stand. This is the power of the country we live in. However by limiting people's speech through societal means, it just increases discord, hate, and mistrust.

  • beth

    If I understand correctly, my personal experiences don't count , but Bobby's does?

    Maybe I have benefitted in some obscure way by being white. I don't know how, Are we maybe confusing a "benefit" which means getting something extra? for a detriment? There is a big difference.

    And it wasn't just a few people. I went to the largest High school in the largest city in Lousiana. My freshman class of kids was over 2000. Class size was limited to 40 kids.

  • Robert Meek

    Who are you talking to? I, for one, have lived in the South since 1974. First in NC, and later in SC. I have not seen anywhere that I have been that one can say "white privilege…disappeared"! Who is sitting on their "high horse"? Who has preached at you? I would never presume that what you relate to me is invalid. Quite to the contrary, and very tragic. Yet, what grounds do you have to spew such a hateful tone in this post? What did anyone say that justifies such a response?

  • Of course your personal experiences count – everyone's experience molds how they see the world. The point is that your experience is the exception, when viewing the country as a whole. You've had the unique experience of being the minority – and knowing how unpleasant it can be. Getting hurt simply because of the color of your skin, only because there were more of "them" and fewer of "us." Being on the receiving end of the frustration of generations with seemingly no voice.

    How you view other races, based on your experiences, is completely understandable. You have to be aware of why you feel the way you do in order to move past it. What it can also help you do, I hope, is maintain empathy for those who are treated as you were – bullied and mistreated simply because they are "the other."

    The bigger point is that you can go anywhere else in this country and enjoy the white privilege. Your teen-aged son won't be targeted by police when he's merely minding his own business, because he's white. A study was just done in Missouri (where I live) that found several municipalities in which black drivers are pulled over at rate 70% higher than white drivers. SEVENTY percent, in 2010!! That's insanity. In many situations, racial minorities are at a disadvantage before they walk in the door. They have to work harder to earn the same income – legal or not, it happens all the time. White privilege is real and insidious – so much so that we often don't even realize it.

  • Berkshire

    I'm not following you here–the word niggardly has no relationship to the "n-word" that we hate today. It doesn't mean the same thing or refer to the same thing. It's not pejorative (unless you're the cheapskate it's directed toward, I suppose). It does not have the same origins. Their only resemblance or relationship is phonetic–they share the same first syllable. Why don't we stop using words like 'diction' and 'continuation' because their first syllables sound similar to words deemed naughty. It amounts to the same thing. While I'm at it, I'm never going to call a male rooster a cock again, as someone might misunderstand.

    Knowing that some people might be offended because they are ignorant of the meaning or origins of the word, it's awfully nice to avoid using it. But that said, I think a moratorium on that word goes too far (and THAT said, I can't think of a time when I've actually used the word. But as someone who writes, I want every possible word at my disposal if I'm talking about someone "stingy" or "miserly"). I can be reasonable and considerate in just about any situation, but I kind of draw the line with hijacking my lexicon out of a mistaken notion that niggardly ever meant anything other than its denotation (I mean, it never even had a connotative offensive meaning, either. This is just crazy). Acquiesce to people's sensitivities, sure, but not their sheer ignorance.

  • Argy Bargy

    But by "limiting people's speech through societal means" as you put it, you are avoiding the "discord, hate, and mistrust" that those words engender to begin with. We all are limited in our speech by "societal means." It's called custom, being polite, etc. We all learn these unwritten, but nevertheless powerful rules everyday (or should). I understand that if ignorance causes one to blunder into offense (as has happened to me all too often) by its very nature you or I didn't understand it would cause offense.

    But when someone uses the term "politically correct" I have found it often implies "I know (now or before) that what I/we/he/she said is offensive to some/many but I don't want to be restricted in my ability to say it."

    It's just rudeness. Maybe I'm being dense here, but it seems to be a basic concept: play nice. If I've blundered into saying something offensive, I find out what and why, apologize at the offense it (even if unintentionally) caused, and try not to say it again.

    If I find that the offense taken is unreasonable, or hypersensitive, then I move on. No sense getting into it with a walking powder keg. But I've found that someone actually coming out and objecting to something being said does have reason to be offended.

  • Berkshire

    I think if you actually read the article that someone graciously provided a link to, the one about unpacking the backpack of white privilege, and read even just the thoughtful list of privileges (if not the entire narrative) described by the author (who is white), you will have a better understanding of what we're talking about. Never hurts to open one's eyes.

    Some of what I know I got from the "books" you appear to disdain, but a great deal more I got from living in a very diverse community, and working in the mental health field, with most of my clients being of different racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds from my own–people who've dealt with overt as well as institutionalized racism their whole lives. Interesting illustration of the point of white privilege and institutional racism is that in that urban mental health services center, the majority of clients are African American and Latino. The majority of providers are white. This is not insignificant.

    No one is denying you had a terrible experience (and btw, racism was the reason that busing school kids became necessary). I'll bet many white people have. Hell, I have, too. But we're talking about institutionalized racism, and you are, whether you admit it or not, the beneficiary of that in innumerable ways that are so widespread and taken for granted that you don't even notice. Most of us white folks don't notice. That would mean we'd have to think about it, and maybe contribute toward changing it. It would mean relinquishing some clear benefits and advantages, and we wouldn't want to do that.

    Seriously, read the article, so maybe you can stop feeling defensive and "preached at" and learn something about how others experience the world.

    And my horse is not very high at all. He's just a pony, really.

  • Berkshire

    It's called defensiveness. That is also her privilege, I suppose.

    But as always, its very telling to those witnessing it.

  • beth

    Did neither of you read the last line of my first post? Where I clearly stated my childrens experiences are nothing like mine were? Thats progress. Thank God.

    I diagree about the geography not mattering. I live in Louisiana. Our two largest cities, New Orleans and Baton Rouge made the Forbes top ten list of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. to live. We rank 50th in all that is bad: Illiteracy, murder, crime, rape, abortions, teen aged pregnancy, etc., , Maybe I could go elsewhere and enjoy white privilege, but this is my home too. I was born at Tulane and my first home was in the ninth ward. Remember where the levy broke? Remember the rioting? Remember the Gold Dome? Remember how snipers shot at the helpers trying to empty hospitals of the sick and dying? The vast majority of crimes committed here are by young black men. I do not believe my experience is in any way exceptional. Its very much the norm.

    There is a huge criminal underworld here led mostly by black gangs. This lifestyle is celebrated by the culture. Its not going away and in fact is growing. I suspect if that element could be eliminated, a huge percentage of those traffic stops would cease along with it a huge amount of discrimination in all other areas of life.

    And i also don't buy that concept that "they" , have to work harder than I do . I am self employeed and run a cleaning service and a lawn service, to stay ahead of the illegal aliens whom are always undercutting my bids. I have to work…..well, like a slave.

  • I also live in an urban area, and I have been robbed at gunpoint by a young black teen who, I imagine, was making his gang initiation. So I am not oblivious to the crime perpetrated by young black men. That does not, however, give the police the right to regularly target young black men who are doing absolutely nothing wrong for traffic stops. And the culture in which gang activity is celebrated is (a) a minority, (b) not exclusively black by any means, and (c) the result of generations of abject poverty and suppression that began with slavery then was continually perpetrated through Jim Crow laws.

    My kids go to school in a diverse area, and they have no problem telling the "good" kids from those who cause trouble. It has nothing to do with skin color but with behavior – treating teachers and peers with respect. Neither the good or the bad is limited to one race or another, and thankfully, they are able to see that and internalize it, to understand that skin color does not define a person. It is part of the identity package in which each of us is wrapped, sure. And it can be a source of strength and pride or shame and suspicion. Unfortunately, that self-image is often forced upon us by others and their assumptions – and become self-perpetuating, often in the worst of ways.

  • Natalie

    Beth, I am replying to most of your responses here, since I cannot apply to the one below. Like everyone else has posted to you here, I am very sorry about the experiences you have had. There is evil in the world everywhere, no matter the race or ethnicity or background. But to correct you in that Louisiana ranks 50th (I'm assuming you mean 1st) in "rank 50th in all that is bad: Illiteracy, murder, crime, rape, abortions, teen aged pregnancy, etc., ," Lousiana actually ranks 5th in violent crime which includes rape, murder, robbery and aggrivated assault. (http://www.census.gov/statab/ranks/rank21.html) 5th is still very bad, of course, but instead of blaming black people for these statistics, maybe blame the terrible conditions that those in poverty-stricken states such as Louisiana are forced to live in. It's easy to blame crime on race without looking at other factors.

    I have an uncle that has lived in the South for a good portion of his adult life. He is overall a good man – he's a blue collar worker who works his butt off, makes a small amount of money and does the best he can with what he gets. He also believes that he was born with no "white-privilege" because he has to work hard for what he has – in your own words, he works "like a slave" (which, by the way, is one of the most offensive things I have ever heard, but I'll get to that). Maybe it's a Southern thing – left over bitterness from the Civil War. I don't know.

    Having "white-privilege" doesn't mean that because you are white, you don't have to work hard. Billions of people around the world of all races work hard and struggle to live and keep what they have. If you visit Appalachia, you will see one of the poorest areas of the country that is almost 100% white. However, if you look back in history, you will see the dominating race, the conquering race, the imperialist race has always been the white race. DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND – I am NOT saying that all white people are imperialist pigs. But being born white in this country gives you certain rights, certain privileges if you will, that you would not have otherwise. For example, you will not be harassed by the police for no reason, you will not be pulled over in AZ for "suspicion of illegality", and you will most likely get paid more than your Latino or African-American counterparts, no matter what your career.

    You work hard, and from your word your children do not carry the prejudice that you do, and that's wonderful – and you deserve great credit for not passing along that kind of hatred. But really – why say that you work "like a slave"? Do you even know anything about slavery? Do you know what generations of blacks (as well as Mexicans under the Spanish) were subjected to? Do you have an owner? Does your owner whip you and starve you and chain you up? I'm assuming not. So please do not compare your troubles with those of slaves.

    I do admire you for working hard to support yourself and your children. I also admire your attempt to shelter your children from your own terrible experiences. I am half Latino, and fortunately I was born into privilege. My dad and mom worked hard to be able to provide for me, and I was lucky, and consider myself lucky. I have seen racism first hand – not against blacks, but against Latinos, simply because they are Latino.

    White privilege exists whether you believe it or not.

  • Natalie

    "I remember once telling my (black) primary doctor “All people are racist, to some degree. They just don’t know it, don’t believe it, or are lying about it – either to others, or themselves.”"

    I also agree. My husband points out constantly that EVERYTHING – from commercials to movies (hello, Prince of Persia!) to TV – is racist in nature. Perhaps it is human nature? I don't know.

    Thank you for sharing your story – has that one experience of your parents' affected you towards blacks? Just curious more than anything.

  • I think there is something about being raped or almost being raped that does and should remain in the memory.

  • Oh yes it does. I am also rape survivor – many years ago, at the hands of white peers. Do I assume that the white teenage classmates of my own daughter are out to do the same thing to her? Well, no, I don't. Do I arm her with what I hope are the tools to defend herself, shod she ever feel vulnerable, at the hands of anyone? I sure try. All the "bad things" that have happened in my life – and for better or worse, there are many – could have turned me against a particular group or demographic. But that would only serve my anger. And while my anger has motivated me in some ways, it has also been debilitating in ways over which I continue fighting to get. I work at it, and part of that work is directing the anger at the perpetrators and what might have caused their actions – and nothing more.

  • DR

    With all due respect, to use the word "niggarly" – even in its proper definitiion – feels awfully obtuse knowing how provocative its kissing cousin syllabic is.

    and how Knowing that some people might be offended because they are ignorant of the meaning or origins of the word, it’s awfully nice to avoid using it. But that said, I think a moratorium on that word goes too far.>>>

    Then I think we're just wired down to the bone in a very different way. For me, the insistence to use a word like "niggarly" even in its proper context communicates nothing of its meaning because of the distraction its proximity to such a horrible term that a reasonable, educated society is trying to banish. It seems like an awfully easy trade off.

  • DR

    No, you aren't understanding correctly. You inferred (if not specifically stated) that in your area of the world, white privilege doesn't exist anymore within the working class and that your anecdota proved it.

    Bobby's situation is happening all over our country as a result of systemic racism that is built within the foundations that our entire country relies upon, including your neighborhood and the South. White boys getting pulled over by the police for just walking down the street just doesn't happen to the quantity it does to boys who are African-American. The data is there, go find it.

  • DR

    There is a huge criminal underworld here led mostly by black gangs. >>>

    Beth, I'm glad you're being honest here, though reading what you are offering is making me a little sick to my stomach, I have to be honest right back.

    I'm white. I spent years working in non-profits with gang kid, mostly Samoan and African-American. I spent a huge amount of time in several major metropolitan markets. Believe me, the "black gangs" to which you're referring are being used by men in much higher, more powerful groups that are decidedly Caucasian. I know you're going to be angry with me saying this, but I don't know how else to say it. You don't have the full picture here.

  • Shelley W

    Yes, it is a classic.

    Anything by Tim Wise (timwise.org) is illuminating, as well. Here’s a good example: http://www.lipmagazine.org/~timwise/whitepride.html

  • Kara

    Right on. (Also, this is super-depressing, because I, like other commenters, have heard so many of these so recently.)

  • Sarah

    I read that for one of my classes. We also had to read two articles by Robert Jensen as well:

    White privilege shapes the U.S.: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/whiteprivilege.htm

    and More thoughts on why the system of white privilege is wrong: http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/freelance/whitefolo.htm

  • Roybe

    “Pretty sure that died out sometime in the 90s.”

    That is not true. Try to use the term niggardly in public. How about asking a woman if her appellation is Mrs. or Miss? Or not use the term Chairperson, Chairman, or Chairwoman properly, or address a cover letter to a Human Resource Officer without knowing the persons name. (Dear sir/TWIMC).

    PC is not dead, it’s just become sublimated into the way people are educated. Unfortunately, I am old enough to remember when most people talked like Archie Bunker rather than the ‘proper way’ to speak that we all now engage in.

    What John is pointing out is that for those that have racial issues against African Amreicans (BTW in my lifetime the PC term for this part of our society has changed from black, to colored, to Negro, to African American), under the PC speech of today, using the above ‘code words’ identifies you to like minded people so that behind closed doors the Archie’s can be comfortable.

  • LoneWolf

    “Why don’t blacks just get over it already, and quit being so sensitive? Nobody who’s alive today had anything to do with slavery. When are African-Americans going to stop living in the past, and start taking care of the present?”

    “The sins of the father…”

  • Kara

    I’m pretty sure you just proved Jeremy’s point.

  • Berkshire

    Peggy spoke at my school some years ago when I was in graduate school. I loved what she had to say about how, nearly every time there’s a school shooting, she would hear ‘experts’ talking about how they can’t pin down a profile of the typical school shooter. She said, “How about ‘white adolescent male'” or something to that effect. She was right at that time, of course. We don’t like to bring race into it when we’re talking about white people doing bad things, but if it had been young black men who shot up Columbine, it’s hard to imagine race not being injected into the discussion.

    Of course, when a black youth shoots another black youth, at a mostly black school, we can’t bring ourselves to report on it at all. It’s as if we expect it, but white kids shooting white kids is a tragedy of the first order. Also very telling of the state of racism in this country.

    Anyway, I liked her. Great speaker and very eye-opening.

  • I had a white supremacist assbite leave a comment on my WordPress blog calling the NAACP racist because they're an organization of black people. Of course, the almost-all-white "tea party" isn't racist — no, THEY exist for "freedom," "democracy," "liberty," "small goverment" and the like.

    Whitey forgets that CONTEXT MATTERS. The NAACP was formed in an atmosphere of extreme discrimination against blacks. Whites remain the majority, so for the "tea-party" dipshits to refer to themselves as "victims" (under the "tyranny" of the nation's first democratically elected non-white [and "socialist"] president) is such utter bullshit.

    Now we have Glenn Fucking Beck trying to co-opt Martin Luther King Jr.

    It's enough to make me want to go out and lynch some of my fellow whites.

    Ha, ha.

  • DR


    I thought about you on my way home from work today (I ride Caltrain so I do my best thinking while rolling home).

    I really understand how you're feeling. Before my experience with my kids in the inner city, I shared much of the same belief set, much of the same experiences. My first year working with people of color where I was the minority for the first time, I was terrified. I faced a lot of anger and hostility from everyone; people who were Black didn't like me, and people who were white would see me with Black kids and call me all sorts of lovely names.

    But the hardest of all was facing my own feelings about African-Americans. I realized how scared I was of them. How uncomfortable they made me and how bad I thought they were for my city. As the weeks turned into months, I slowly began to open my mind and heart to the possibility that the world in which I lived – I chose to live within – didn't contain the full version of what was really happening. I began to understand my discomfort was more about me and the decisions I'd made to believe in the biases I'd selected as "truth".

    I took a walk with an African-American man who was looking back, unbelievably gracious. He realized I'd never had any exposure to anything other than my own little white girl surroundings. I asked him as we walked around the lake, "What would it take to convince you I wasn't a racist?" (at that point, proving I *wasn't* a racist was the goal. Not understanding why I was. He said something that changed me forever;

    "You'll know you're not a racist when you're content to allow me to have the last word on my experience as a Black man in America. Because for you, being white means you get the last word on everything, including what racism really is and what it isn't. Who I am and who I'm not. For you, color doesn't matter because it rarely interferes with your day. For me, my color is the first, middle and last thing I deal with in almost every moment. So when you're ready to believe all of that is true – when you're ready to believe *me* at my word? You'll be on your way."

    I have never forgotten that moment because I realized how much I had to lose. I was operating under the impression that I was right – that I = America, at least in my mind. I hated that entire year, but it was the most important year of my life. I'll never be the same. Thank God.

  • It's because the replies can only nest six deep, if that makes sense. It's a pain. I'm thinking of changing templates just because trying to track blog comment chains in this one is … more than I can figure out. Anyway, that's what's happening.

  • DR

    I noticed that my *d* didn't type, but it really doesn't change the point I was making at all.

  • It is not the words, but what is in the heart that makes “racism”. The Latin word niger means black and was pronounced knee’gr as best we can know today. For 2500 years the word has not changed much. The changes have taken place in usage and in the heart. Or so I think. John’s observations seem to speak about what is in the heart. It seems insensitive to me to be so unobservant of another as not to notice their racial features at all. It will probably have been an important factor in shaping their life experience. There are still a few people left in our subcultures who may use the word nigger without prejudice, but not among the rappers or tea partiers, I think.

  • Don Whitt

    I had the opportunity to live and work in China for awhile, so experienced the other side of the equation. Taxis not picking me up late at night, being threatened with violence in certain establishments, treated like a freak or diseased in public, handed "Gweilo" menus at restaurants, people either staring at me or looking away – in general treated "less than", despised. I recommend it to everyone.

  • Berkshire

    This is fantastic. Thank you for sharing it. That guy was a gift to you, and now you've allowed him to also be a gift to the rest of us.

  • Don Whitt

    @Berkshire: Gweilo literally means "foreign devil". It's used by Chinese sort of like "cracker". And, like all slurs, it's how it's said that makes the difference.

  • Robert Meek

    “How about a list “You’re not a racist if”? – Not that I need any confirmation.”

    A tad defense, aren’t we? Sounds like a nerve was struck, albeit a subconscious one that you don’t want, and I can agree – been there, felt that way.

    I remember once telling my (black) primary doctor “All people are racist, to some degree. They just don’t know it, don’t believe it, or are lying about it – either to others, or themselves.”

    He agreed.

    It took me over 45 years to come to that conclusion: that society being what it is, we are all to some degree conditioned with a bit of racism in us. Mind you, we CAN and SHOULD overcome it. Neither of us was saying that it was acceptable, inevitable, okay, or should be tolerated. We merely both agree that to some degree it is in us all.

    My late mama, who admired Martin Luther King, Jr very much, and taught me as a small child about the sit-ins in Greensboro, NC, while we lived in Gary, IN, and about the non-violent sit-ins he promoted, for peaceful demonstration, and so much more. I remember her telling my young mind, “Never judge a book by its cover. Do you know what that means? It means never judge a person by how they look on the outside. Always judge them for what they are like on the inside, the kind of heart they have.”

    In 1975, all that changed, for her.

    My father accepted a voluntary “demotion” from “head” of his company’s Chicago district back into “sales” in western NC. The field was so lucrative, at the time, it was deemed we would be very well off financially.

    Father worked for commission on sales.

    Then the severe recession hit, and it hit hard. Going to Hardees restaurant became an unnecessary luxury for us, that we avoided. Mama took to babysitting. I remember asking “Are things that bad?” Calmly, but with vivid concern etched in her face, she said one word, “Yes.”

    More telling, for me, was the tone of that “Yes.” I was very afraid, and I was 17!

    But before it pitched like that, the first year was excessively fruitful for my father’s company, and his district did so well, that “head honchos” from the “home office” were coming in for a celebration, which mama dutifully attended, albeit grudgingly so.

    They left early, after dinner, dessert, because they all began to drink, and my parents knew they would get drunk. This was something my parents no longer did – drink, that is.

    Father let mama in the car, and walked around, only to be confronted by two young black men, who jumped over a hedge, and accosted them.

    Gone was father’s wallet, $200.00, all his credit cards, his driver’s license (think home address), and a spare key to the house that he kept in there. They looked at mama, and she merely shook her head, and they left her alone. She had not brought her purse with her.

    I remember them telling us, on the phone, after the initial talk with the police. Dear sister, 10-years old, went to mama’s purse, and found a 10 bill. She started to wail hysterically. She thought that was all the money we had in the entire world, and that we would now starve!

    But the tragedy of this came later, after father got the replacement driver’s license, the new wallet, credit cards with changed numbers, the locks changes, and keyed locks places on all of the windows of the house.

    Every time, and I DO mean EVERY time, we were out in public, and mama saw young black men, for YEARS afterwards, she would start. Be startled, a slight jerk of fear race through her, only to me, visible, was terror way deep in her eyes.

    She now feared all young black men, and it took her forever to get over it.

    When father died, they lived in a lovely community that was, ironically, 60% black. I remember mama used to say, “Not that you can tell it.” I’m not sure what that meant, nor if that accidentally qualified as “racist,” or now. I just ignored it.

    I remember cleaning out father’s car. I thought I was readying it for sister, but as it turned out, she didn’t want it. Poor child, said it was an “old lady’s” car.


    As I meandered through the car, de-“fathering” it, I ran into something cold, hard, steel-like, tucked under his driver’s seat, near the door. I pulled it out.

    It was a crowbar.

    I brought it in, showed it to mother, and quietly laid it on the table. “Where did you get that from?” she asked me, hesitantly. “Father’s car,” I said. “Why on earth!?” she responded. “I thought maybe you could tell me,” I said. “I had no idea that he felt that way, at all. None.” she said. “He was determined to protect you, or die trying,” I added. “Yes, he was,” she said.

    Protect her from what?

    They lived in a very peaceful town, 60% black.

    They lived there of their own, free will.

    Protect her, from what? (I fear to think any further on that point.)

  • Diana

    Quite true and very sad.

  • DR

    The words (or root of the word) niggard and the word n* are obviously not the same thing (I don't say it or type it, even if I'm quoting someone else who does).

    Given that it's my point, I'm pretty confident in clarifying whether or not you're articulating it correctly. I don't care if you *agree* with the point I'm making, but please try to make sure you're understanding it prior to countering it.

    It's not a matter of being ignorant and not understanding what the word "niggardly" means, it's clearly not a pejorative term used to describe a particular ethnicity. That's obvious. The *meaning* has nothing to do with my point; if it was a term that wasn't so antiquated perhaps it might. But it's used so sparingly, that its obvious phonetic cousin – the "n-word" – is what one is going to *hear and react to*, even though the two words share no meaning. It's worth avoiding for that reason alone. We're not exactly talking about "apple" or "Starbucks".

    That's my point and honestly, I'm fine if you don't agree, but it's a bit odd to at least not be willing to acknowledge that reality.

  • DR

    Clearly I'm not as great typing on my iPhone as Elizabeth. My first sentence misspelled "niggardly" again (and I'm done typing that for good).

  • Diana


  • DR

    Maybe I have benefitted in some obscure way by being white. I don’t know how, Are we maybe confusing a “benefit” which means getting something extra? for a detriment? >>>

    I didn't answer your question. I will now. Consider American a 400-meter race. Think about the starting line before the gun goes off. As someone who is Caucasian, you got a massive head start. The clothing was made to suit your coloring and your frame. The shoes you're wearing were created so you could race your other white peers as beset as possible. The stadium was *made* for you, thousands of white people cheering for you. The gun goes off. You go.

    As you're half way around the track, African-Americans finally get to jump into the race. The clothes don't really fit terribly well, they certainly aren't flattering. Family is fractured through slavery, hardly anyone in the stands is cheering. Those who are watching the race are uncomfortable that someone who is a non-white gets to run alongside everyone else in the first place, it's never been done that way before. But they run because they can. They work as hard as they can to catch up to you. They try as hard as they can to make the "stadium" their own, this stadium that was really crafted for white people only.

    So no, we don't have any special benefits. We have to train, we have to practice our run. Sometimes we lose. But we're so far out ahead that we don't even see how far ahead we are. Nor do we have any idea of how hard it is to run in clothes that were not made for us and still don't fit well in a stadium that wasn't made to suit us, that's filled with people who really don't understand us and don't need to. We've no real idea of the self-consciousness of that experience, of the pressure.

    That's how I see it.

  • DR

    @Berkshire: Of course, feel free to share he was and continues to be such an amazing gift to me.

  • Diana

    My above comment was a response to Don Rappe's comment. Then I read Mindy's comment. I respect Mindy for her willingness and ability to differentiate between the white peers who raped her and her daughter's white teenage classmates. That takes a great deal of self-discipline and courage. And yet, I also understand Beth's viewpoint and I don't think attacking it from an intellectual standpoint is going change her viewpoint. If anything, it might only cause her to be more deeply entrenched within it because she'll feel like she's not being heard, not being respected, like her experiences (which caused her a great deal of pain) don't count.

  • Hey! I think the use of this word in conversation might be a fitting distinction of the difference between speech and writing– two very opposite activities as John Shore wrote here not so long ago…(did not grab the URL- sorry.)

    But as a writer, yes, I want the use of that word if it's the fitting one…

    not to mention other words deemed pejorative, vulgar, or profane. There is a reason such words exist.

    And there's no reason students also should not learn such words as niggardly, however archaic especially in the teaching of literature wherein one might find a word that's come to resemeble (though not mean) a current one.

    2 cents.

  • Great story, DR. Huge personal growth is often painful, but so worth it in the end.

    And FWIW, I am in total agreement with you on the "niggardly" debate. Because it is an antiquated, rarely used word, even as it means something totally unrelated to the "n" word, it seems to worth avoiding. We have plenty of other ways of describing a miserly situation. I don't agree that David Howard, who resigned over the public kerfluffle that erupted when he used the word, should have lost his job (he got it back). But I do think that because it *sounds* so much like the "n" word, and is also a negative descriptive, it just seems like a bad judgment call to choose that particular archaic word, especially when speaking in public. I'm a writer – I LOVE words. I do not, by any stretch of the imagination, support dumbing down our language. But that one particular word simply isn't necessary when the chance of it being misheard and therefore offending someone is so high.

  • I have traveled and worked in China many times, and have never been treated poorly even once. I've certainly stood out like a sore thumb, and admittedly, that can old very quickly. Perhaps because most of the time I had my Chinese daughters with me, I was treated well? I don't know. I laughed at myself often – for my inability to "fit in." I'm sorry your experiences were so negative,

  • That's a really vivid analogy, DR. Nice.

  • Don Whitt

    @MIndy, re. China…

    This was in the 1980's. I'm sure that's significant.

    But this WAS Hong Kong – a cosmopolitan city, not some backwater village in Mongolia. I had a 9-5 job, shopped for groceries on the sidewalks, had local, native friends and resided in what was considered a "Chinese apartment building" by the white real estate agents who tried to shuttle us gweilos to "more suitable" sections of town (the "mid-levels") whenever we insisted on living in the center of the action. I learned as much of the language as I could and ate at every hole in the wall bistro that would serve me.

    And I LOVED my experience there. It's one of the most important things I've ever done in my life and I would move back there in a second if I could. It was exhilarating, inspirational.

    My point was that I experienced racism and it was extremely valuable – a big influence on me. It was not a knock against China.

  • Troy

    Robert, It's quite possibly a different basis than prejudice. I almost wrote "easily", but it's not easy at all.

    My wife's son was murdered in a fairly highly-publicized church shooting, and I can reliably state that a brush with violence can change you forever. Both of us can become very paranoid at times others would consider quite innocent. It's got nothing to do with the type of person that raped our lives; it's just the fact that someone DID. I'm much more aware of situations, even verbal ones, that could harm my wife, and much less tolerant of things that I consider negative.

    Having a crowbar under the seat to guard against ANY violent person is very understandable to me after his experience. It may not be healthy, but it is understandable.

  • Berkshire

    Um. . . .the word *isn’t* “niggarly”–it’s niggardly. With the letter “d” in there. That’s perhaps where the disconnect is happening. If it was niggarly (I’m not even sure what that would mean or who would use it) than I’d agree with you and not use it.

    This is precisely what I was talking about–people are upset about use of a word that has no relationship to the epithet.

    For some reason I wasn’t able to post this right under DR’s comment referring to this.

  • Berkshire

    I think it does change the point, even if your ‘d’ didn’t type–twice.

    The words (or root of the word) niggard and the word nigger are not the same thing. Never have been, and never will be. There is no fine shade of meaning here–it’s not like the debate about calling a woman a girl, or an Asian “oriental”. There is NO relationship. Niggardly, believed to be of northern Germanic language origins means “stingy” or “miserly”. Nigger (forgive me) has origins in a romance language, and is derived from similar words meaning “black”.

    Again, I would say make room for people’s sensitivities, but not their ignorance. You may, in fact, be doing someone a favor by increasing their awareness. By that I mean, it feels awful for all of us to have our sensibilities offended. It makes us angry, hurt, and if it’s intense enough and we’re offended often enough, we’ll carry it around inside and that’s really not good for us on any level. If one chooses to use the word niggardly, and someone gets upset about it, it’s not unreasonable to explain to them that they are taking unnecessary offense for the reason stated above–and if they still take offense and want to assume the worst about your nature, then I think it becomes their own issue at that point, probably tied to many issues. There is no etymological or even historical relationship between those words. With that clarification, you’ve just given them one less thing to get upset about. There are enough legit reasons to take offense out there. Seriously, it’s even more offensive to assume people are so ignorant that you can’t use a legitimate word without them being scarred by it.

    I’m referring specifically to this word we’re discussing, by the way. I can’t think of another word that has a similar problem–maybe someone else out there can. I remember reading some time ago about someone losing a job over using the word (wish I could remember the exact circumstance, but for the moment it escapes me). That is completely insane. Someone suffered loss of job and reputation, to prove what, exactly?

  • “Pinky”

    Wow. You have a blog. Cool.

  • Berkshire

    I think I might get it from context, but what is a “Gweilo” menu?

  • Berkshire

    BTW, my brother is a diversity educator at a small high school in VT. Would you mind if I shared this with him, given the potential that he might share it with his class? I know you’ve posted it here on a public forum, so I think I know your answer, but wanted to check just the same. That man you walked with put it so well–with such rare clarity–that I think it would be good for others to see it, and useful for my brother’s students.

  • Wow, John.

    Kind of strike a nerve here?

    I always like the sentences that start with "I'm not racist, but …" and almost always end with something that proves the beginning to be false.

    As for the whole "niggardly" thing happening above … on an annual basis, how many times have you actually wanted to use that word in public except to prove that you can't use it without annoying someone?

    A lot of what people say is not politically correct is really just rude. Or worse.

  • Joel

    I was recently put in a besmirching light in a social media setting, by former facebook friend who happened to be an adopted mother of a black child, when I miss identified a "hip-hop" song as a "rap" song, it actually was one several trigger mechanisms used for a heated racial debate (on her part) and subsequent removal of my status as one of her friends.

    I commented on a very clever video post of a black youth, who was "singing" about his love for chicken, and the lengths that he would go to get said chicken… When she posted it she made a comment on how deserving of notoriety he was. My comment on her facebook profile was "today he's singing about battered chicken, tomorrow when he's a big rap star, it will be about battered women, (did you see his shirt?!)". Now in the video, both the youth and his dad were wearing "wife beater" tank top shirts. This was the start of a momma bear on the attack.

    Her next comment was, "you wouldn't be saying that because he's black?" To which I replied something to the effect of, "not at all, It is a poor attempt at humor because of the stereotypical explicit lyrics used in rap music, and the shirt." In her zealous frenzy to provide protection from my "racist" remarks she said in later posts, that I said, "he would grow up to be a wife beater".

    I can absolutely appreciate the love of a mother, but the argument that I faced, had "racial chip on shoulder" written all over it.

    In reflecting on my insensitivity, I see her more like a "bruised reed", someone whos heart the Lord can understand, when I don't.

  • berkshire

    I'm perfectly happy to acknowledge your reality. I just don't share it.

    See previous comment, re: not using "diction" and "continue" because their initial phonemes sound like offensive words. It just doesn't make sense to me.

    Also, as I said, I can't recall ever actually using the word "niggardly", in written or spoken language. But, as a previous poster mentioned (and nice post, Beth L, by the way), the word exists. It's out there in literature. I've seen it. So, people should learn about it, so as not to be offended if the word crosses their path.

    By avoiding such terms altogether, such ignorance is allowed to continue, and possibly even grow. Also consider that by walking on eggshells even about innocuous terms that should not rightfully cause offense, fruitful dialog could get shut down. I think another commenter alluded to this, though I can't remember who. Their gist was be kind, be sensitive, but blunders (whether your own in speaking, or another's in listening and misinterpreting) do present an opportunity to go deeper and really get to the heart of things. Healing can happen in such situations.

    If an offended person refuses such engagement, well, then you were probably screwed no matter what words you chose. They will cling to their right to be offended, whether or not it serves any higher good.

    I would suggest healing and connection between people is less likely to happen when everyone is afraid of each other, and afraid to communicate authentically out of that same fear (even a seemingly noble fear of causing offense). Personally, I don't want to live that way, and even more than that, I certainly don't want to assume the worst about my listener or reader's intellectual and emotional capabilities. That, to me, is the greater offense. It's quite condescending, frankly.

    With respect, there's a reality that you don't seem willing to acknowledge here, if I may also point that out. It *is* possible for people to be overly sensitive in a way that's just plain ridiculous–and really, on some level, harmful to themselves. I'm not referring to the cases you and I are probably familiar with, and would probably both agree that it's best to avoid using those terms. I'm mainly referring to this one.

    It seems pretty clear, though, that we just have a different view of the subject. Thanks for engaging in the dialog and staying with it.

  • Berkshire, I understand your point – and I'm one who will agree to disagree.

    I don't believe that either 'diction' or 'continue' fall into the same category as 'niggardly' – not by a long shot. First, they are common words that our English-speaking ears are accustomed to hearing. Second, there is a big difference between 'offensive' and 'insulting, derisive and denigrating.'

    I also don't believe that the word should be banned, and can certainly be used in writing – because in writing, that 'd' is visible and therefore the difference clear immediately.

    My reasoning to not use the word 'niggardly' in speech – and I'd say off the top of my head that it may be only word that falls into this category – is based solely on the immediate and intense negative emotional response associated with the SOUND of the word. That and the fact that because it is such an infrequently used word, choosing it seems almost intended to raise the ire, or test the ire at least, of the audience. An unnecessary taunting, so to speak.

  • Tim

    ,.Yeah. I'm racist. I admit it.

    Just the other day I was talking about switching doctors when my insurance went from PPO to HMO. My previous doctor, a nice man of middle eastern origin, was a competent doctor. He diagnosed a chronic depression I had struggled with for over a decade. Unfortunately, communication was VERY difficult because of his thick accent. It was embarrassing for me because I would have to ask him to repeat himself two or three times to understand what he was telling me. But I am a faithful person. Regardless of the linguistics, I wasn't about to ditch Dr. Hatamy on that basis. But when I told them that my Blue Shield went from PPO to HMO, they told me they couldn't continue treating me. I switched clinics and was assigned a new Doctor just starting practice. Dr. Shaulata. I assumed this was another middle-eastern name, but was surprised to meet a blond, blue eyed WASPy looking guy who spoke perfect understandable English.

    I was relieved. Guess that makes me racist. Also…when someone is driving either exceedingly slow, or suddenly creates a traffic hazard by making a left turn from the right lane…I generally look back to see if they were DWO. Driving While Oriental. And I DO know that Asian is the politically correct term. But that's OK, because my niece is Japican (Japanese and Mexican).

    Yes, I'm racist. But like Don Rickles, I try to be an Equal Opportunity Offender.

  • Tim

    What are the facts? Could it be that the dark-skinned races were more faithful to traditions that stunted technological advancement? Could it be that privilege was more an outgrowth of culture as opposed to the amount of melanin in their skin?

    I lived 12 years in a predominantly Black/Hispanic neighborhood of Southeast San Diego. I saw a LOT of prejudice between light-skinned and dark-skinned African-Americans. I saw divisions between Hispanics who talked "white" as opposed to those using the ethnic "thickness" of Cheech Marin. Ignorance comes in all colors or the lack thereof. Like another poster said, evil is common to all people. Seems funny that on a blog that leans toward the ecclesiastical, the issue of sin being common to all color doesn't crop up more often.

  • Ace

    My favorite is, “What about reverse discrimination against white people?” which goes straight back to my theory on people wanting “more than” and not being happy with “equal to.”

    Kind of like any dinner table discussion where the topic of rape comes up, at least one male present is going to derail the conversation by fixating on the “but the poor poor men who get accused of rape falsely, think of the MENS!” and not letting anyone talk about any other aspect of the subject.

    Anyone who brings up “reverse discrimination” is likewise just trying to dodge the issue.

  • Tasha

    Let me tell you a story. A few years ago, I was in a meeting at the now infamous BP. I was the only black person in a room of 30 whites with a sprinkling of Asians, etc. The VP of our department was speaking. Suddenly, he looked squarely at me and began to inject the term "niggling" into what he was saying. He had a niggling problem with this or that, he said. This continued for several minutes during which time none of my co-workers would make eye contact with me. Did he say my name? No. Still, every time he said this word, it was like being stung by a thousand bees. Soon thereafter I quit the company. My skin simply wasn't thick enough to work there.

    I try to end each day with forgiveness of whomever for whatever. My prayer is that whites will realize how being the majority impacts the rest of us It is the cumulative effect of these seemingly small actions that spawns hopelessness, despair and hate. Thanks John, for holding up the light.

  • Diana

    Wow. That was really passive-aggressive on his part. And anything you'd done to fight back would have just made you look paranoid, even though everyone knew what was going on (which is why no one would look you in the eyes.) Sad.

  • Tasha: Wow. So it's possible to hate BP even more. What a You-Know-Whatted up thing to happen to you.

  • Oh my – that's awful and … bizarre. What a dumb jerk.

  • Roybe

    At this point I’ll agree to disagree.

  • Because it's all funny to you, that makes it OK, right? You've got a half-Asian niece, so it's all OK for you to offend. Anyone who takes offense is just being overly sensitive, needs to loosen up and get a life, right?

    My Asian teenager just got her learner's permit. She is the most conscientious, rule-oriented kid I know, and is now, of course, pointing out every possible traffic infringement I make. She said to me not long ago, "Mom, why do people say Asians are bad drivers? Am I going to be a bad driver just because I'm Asian?" I told that of course she wouldn't. I also reminded her of what traffic is like in China – a very different proposition than in the US! I pointed out that anyone who learned to drive there, or anyplace like that, might well have a hard time adapting to US rules of the road. Has nothing to do with race, but with culture, the driving culture of where they started. Yet people will make assumptions about her driving because of the propagation of a stereotype by people like you. Thanks for that.

    And you wonder why being in the majority comes with privileges you don't even know you have. Must be nice to be in the position to offend everyone equally.

  • Wow, Tasha. What an unbelievably ugly passive-aggressive display of a man's true self. Ick. Daring you to say something – and of course if you had, you'd have been smacked down for being overly-sensitive, because OF COURSE he didn't mean anything by it! OF COURSE he wasn't directing it at you. Very telling that no one else could look you in the eye. I'm sorry you had to endure that.

  • J

    power to the people. <>

  • Ace

    I've witnessed that kind of crap before, it is sadly still very common. I even witnessed a PE coach in my rural high school doing crap like that when one black family moved into the (overwhelmingly white) county and the daughter started attending the county's solitary public high school. I wish I'd had the guts to call the jerk out on it at the time (not that it would have done much good besides getting my ass kicked by my redneck peers, and the administration was also a bunch of "good ole boy" rednecks).

    Nothing's changed about racism in this country, all the "political correctness", whatever your opinion of it is, hasn't done anything but make people more clever about masking their true feelings, such attitudes haven't gone away.

    People still hate each other, they just hide it better. :

  • Thanks, Don, for explaining. All of my travels to China have been in the last 15 years, and I while I have worked there, it has been in short bursts, not as a resident. So our experiences differ in many regards, and yes, I’m sure the decade makes a difference! In addition, our mindsets were different. As a resident, you knew that you were there for the long-term, for better or worse. I knew that I was leaving in a matter of weeks each time – and I have no doubt that allowed me to enjoy my minority status, because it was temporary, nothing more than a novelty and thus fascinating to me. Plus, I was loving observing the experience through my daughters’ eyes, who were enjoying being part of the majority (altho’ they did get frustrated when everyone expected them to speak Chinese and they didn’t – yet another expectation based on race). Anyway, your perspective is much more genuine, in terms of really living as the minority, than mine.

  • Diana

    Regarding the driving thing–it's true that where one learns how to drive has an impact on how one drives. In fact, people (regardless of race) who learned how to drive in other states and then come to California think we Californians are crazy. Then there's the time my mother and I took a trip to Florida and ended up in a heavy downpour (as opposed to the sprinkle or two that we Californians call "rain".) We couldn't even see through the windshield and so ended up pulling off the road to wait for the rain to ease up. In the meantime, all the Floridians kept on driving down the road at normal freeway speeds, honking, pointing and laughing as they passed us by (okay, they didn't really honk, point and laugh–but we wouldn't have blamed them if they had.) So yeah, driving culture matters.

  • Robert Meek

    I had the fortune of working a "reverse" scenario.

    I was working Saint James Nursing Center, and L. Richardson Memorial Hospital. Both were predominantly black, in staff and patients. I was about one of three white on staff, in both cases.

    I was the only male nurse at the nursing home, one of two at the hospital, and for sure the only (out) gay man at both places. That rather much gave me a "triple whammy" with them – white, male, gay.

    The nursing home was the original L. Richardson Memorial Hospital, built in 1928. It was a fantastic historic building, despite having no A/C initially, and a terrifying ancient boiler for the heating system.

    I had nothing against the nostalgic old radiators with steam running through them, against outer walls, heating us in winter, but we all feared the old boiler might explode, in the basement.

    My problems at Saint James were over all, standard, but being in the minority like that was well, an eye opening experience, socially.

    At L. Richardson Memorial Hospital, I was given ICU and ER experience, which no other hospitals wanted to invest in me, as a relatively new RN out of school less than 5 years.

    Over all, my experiences there were very positive, too.

    There were a couple of dicey moments, however.

    In one case, an elderly man was confused, as the elderly often are in that setting, but his story was that I had brandished a knife at him, standing in the doorway of his room, and poured the urine from his urine bottle on his slippers. Sadly, his wife believed him, without giving me a moment of consideration at all.

    Eventually, she changed her mind, when she went in, and he said tersely "I know you've been trying to poison me for years with rat poison!" I could hear her wails as she cried and ran out of the hospital, shocked.

    The other man was on the board of directors of the "black" YMCA. (Yes, this town was shockingly still semi-segregated. Although blacks went to all 4 hospitals, and shopped anywhere, segregation was gone, they still had both a "white" and "black" YMCA, and some funeral homes that were "black"! Or course, these were entrenched in the "black" side of town, which was quite significant in its size both in residential and business district. It even had a "black" university in it on that side of town. Okay, it was Greensboro, NC and I am referring to A&T State University which was "black," and UNC-G, which was integrated.)

    Anyway, this man was from that YMCA, and there had been an on-going battle about which one got how much money of the budget for that year, in the news.

    He was severely ill, in ICU, and I came in as his nurse.

    He refused to let me care for him, check his vital signs, do anything for him, and incessantly raged any time I told him anything (like "The doctor said we can take that out now" about a rectal tube he wanted removed) he would cuss me out and bellow that I was lying.

    I repeatedly pages the Nursing Supervisor and demanded to be reassigned, and she refused, saying "All you can do is document it in your nursing notes," which I did.

    This blew up to where I was told I would work on none of that patient's doctor's other patients, and my time card was removed from view, and management clocked me in, and out, on my behalf.

    I tolerated this for about two weeks, and demanded they either resolve it or fire me, and said if they did nothing, that I would quit.

    Well, by then, the doctor was on my side, saying he hadn't meant for me to quit or be fired, and that I was an excellent nurse, and demanded they settle this with me.

    It pales, compared to what you experienced, but it opened my eyes a tad, to what blacks must have suffered forever.

    I think one of the problems is no matter how much we care, as white people, we generally have no such experience to reference for comparison, and cannot truly understand what it is like to be the recipient of such hate.

  • DR

    I like sparring with you, I take something good away from it each time we do.

  • erika

    Tasha and Robert


  • Ace

    That's one of the better/clearer explanations of how social privilege works I've seen, I agree with Beth, very nice.

    I think a lot of the problem is that people confuse the specific with the generic. Racism is an *institutional* problem ingrained in the social and political *systems* in both the USA and many other nations, whereas bigotry and prejudice pretty much runs in all directions.

    Nearly everyone can come up with a personal example of someone else doing something nasty to them for some arbitrary aspect like the country their family came from, their skin color, what their naughty bits look like or what they do with them in their spare time, their religion, etc. and while such actions can be extremely hurtful on a personal level it's not quite the same issue.

  • I try to be very niggardly about the use of that word.

  • DR

    Berkshire, head down to the bottom of the thread to the BP employee story. I've heard this kind of thing no less than fifty times. I'm certainly not suggesting you would say "niggardly" in any way other than the meaning of the actual word, but others do. This case below being awfully egregious, but it's an example of how a word like this can be abused. It's just not worth it.

  • DR

    He diagnosed a chronic depression I had struggled with for over a decade.>>>

    I'm guessing that medication may not be the answer. Trading this lovely (and obviously unrepentant) character flaw for one that's a bit more educated and a lot less ignorant might just do the trick,

  • Tim

    Mindy, you made the assumption that I think it's nice to be in a position where I can offend equally. I admitted I'm racist. Contrary to what you believe, I don't think it's "nice" or "funny". I know it's offensive and it's something I work on everyday to overcome.

    Growing up in the 1960's, my prejudices were promulgated by nearly every adult role model I had, INCLUDING my teachers in public education.. I didn't just decide one sunny Saturday morning to be racist. Over my life, I did decide to engage those stereotypes, and for that I AM guilty but not unrepentant.

    My post was a flimsy tongue-in-cheek response that I thought better of this morning.. I certainly don't think racism is funny, nor do I pretend that I'm something I'm not. Fellow respondent, DR (down thread) has seemingly made his own professional diagnoses of my chronic depression as being remedied with education. I disagree. I already know what I am. I've known it for decades. I'm not perfect. I'm a sinner. Any therapist will tell a depressed individual, identifying the problem and starving the streams of negative thought are essential in reversing the course of that disease. I continue to hope that Jesus gives me the strength and grace to excise this thorn in my flesh of nearly 45 years. Old habits die hard. Youthful intolerance lacks some of the benefit of the longer retrospective. But I do appreciate all of your comments.

  • J

    that is not exceptable. I think you need to persue your grievence.

  • denver

    I (a feminist, btw), always proudly proclaim that I am a Miss. Not a Mrs., or a Ms., but a Miss. Or a fraulein, or a mademoiselle. 😉 I don't think it's non-PC to proclaim to the world that I am just fine by myself, thank you, and not married. 🙂

    I have always wondered, though, if so many people say African-American, or Asian-American, etc., why doesn't anyone say European-American? If you say black and white, fine, but if you say African-American, then you should say European-American, no? Disclaimer if you need to know: I am American Indian + European mix; totally "passing" though for 100% white (the only trait anyone ever sees in me physically attributable to my Native ancestry is "you have such nice high cheekbones!"). It just bothers me when there are double standards like that. And if the idea behind ancestry-American is to a) say we're all Americans and not so different and b) to not polarize people on opposite ends of the spectrum (white and black), then to still say white while saying x-American everything else is defeating the purpose, IMHO.

  • I agree with you. Yet I’m probably guilty.

    Your post is understandably skewed to America, here in the UK we’re more racist against Asians than blacks I would say, or certainly here in West Yorkshire where I live, I’ve been here a year and it’s a whole different world to where I lived before. There are loads and loads of Asians here, and most of them live in their own communities. When you buy a house here the Estate Agent (‘Realtor’ to you?) tells you not to look at certain houses if you’re white ‘because that area is very Asian’. I didn’t know that such comments were still legal! (hey maybe they aren’t!) It’s easy to fall into a pattern of just going to places frequented by whites and leaving the Asians to it, but is that ok? It doesn’t feel right.

    The white people here justify it by saying that the Asians like to be left to themselves, and it’s certainly true that a lot of them marry someone from ‘back home’ and so there are lots of people around who don’t speak English very well, and the kids are starting school here with English very much a second language despite the fact that one of their parents was born here and went to school here. Is that ok? I guess we should respect that. But it makes them ‘different’, in fact looking at what I’ve just typed, it makes ‘them’ a ‘them’ and ‘us’ and ‘us’. I was brought up in an area with very few non white people, and happily educated to believe that racism was shocking and there shouldn’t be any barriers anymore. But now I have to think, well, if they like to stay separate, that’s ok. But I’m still not happy typing ‘they’.

    And why do ‘they’ live in a lot of the poorer areas? Though not always, some of ‘them’ have done very, very nicely in business actually and are richer by far than most of ‘us’. But most of ‘them’ live in more run down areas. Bradford is the city here that most of ‘them’ live in rather than Leeds, and Leeds gets loads of government money thrown at it for regeneration, several new huge buildings this last few years and now it’s station is about to be done up. Bradford got a bit of money, started some work, and it was then withdrawn so the centre has been a large building site for about five years now. Hum..

    I can’t do much about that. But at least I think about my attitude, though I probably get it wrong.

  • It’s probably worth pointing out that in the UK ‘Asian’ usually means south Asian, whereas in the US it tends to mean east Asian.

    But yeah, Britain is just as racist as the US; we just don’t talk about it as much – which if you ask me is even more harmful, because it’s pretending the problem doesn’t exist.

  • Scott

    I see both sides of your thoughts about racism in the UK and my experiences in the US. The interesting part is that I was adopted from Korea, lived on a farm with mostly white people in the nearby town. It was tough growing up different, but also gay…

    I eventually moved away to a bigger city and now my friends are so varied and I feel better that way… Yes, asians feel they need to stick with their own kind, but give them a few decades and you’ll see how much the mixing starts! There is a model I know here who is half Japanese/Black… beautiful, just beautiful!!!

  • Lee Marshall

    It’s great that you can use that experience to empathize instead of an excuse to hate back.

  • Lee Marshall

    I’m sorry, but this White female reader also thinks the assumption that a guy rapping about chicken while wearing a tank top is going to go on to be a wife beater isn’t funny and is racist. Would you really have said that about a White guy singing pop music while wearing a tank top? I understand the play on words, but it’s still not funny. Do you know Frank Sinatra supposedly used to beat the crap out of Mia Farrow when they were married. Yes, White Mr. Classy was a wife beater.

    I am saying this to try to share with you why the assumptions underlying your remark hurt your friend’s feelings. White men beat women and kids just like Black men do. Linking together rap and spousal abuse a style of t-shirt does sound racist when it’s made about a Black man. Please notice I am saying your remark sounds racist, not that you are racist.

    Food for thought.

  • Lee Marshall

    Way to tell it, my honkey brother! Kidding, but you did hit the nail on the head!

  • Kristie

    We’re all racist to some degree. I’ve said some of those things and have no regret about what I’ve said. Some of the most racist people I’ve encountered in my life have been African-American. And yes, I’ve been the victim of reverse discrimination. I worked in a professional setting for five years with an African-American boss who pointedly favored the other African-Americans who worked for her. I and the other Caucasian woman were treated as second-class citizens and were laughed at by Human Resources when we tried to complain.

  • Jill

    I’m a caucasian who has been in a a hostile reverse discrimination too. Working for AT&T in a major midwest city. Myself and the handful of other non African American associates were verbally abused regularly and denied earned promotions and raises. I guess if that fact makes me racist than I am one. There was only one woman out of that entire floor that treated whites as equals and she faked ebonics around her peers as to not get persecuted too. I was relieved when I got laid off from there.

  • Jill

    Sorry for the bad grammar in my first post..It was meant to say “I’m a caucasian who has been in a hostile reverse discrimination situation too.”

  • Grizzbabe

    Here in the US, we talk about race a lot, but we rarely ever “communicate” with each other on the subject, which has the safe effect as not talking about it.

  • Bob

    You left out, “Why shouldn’t I fly a confederate flag? It just shows I’m a Lynard Skynyrd fan?” and “The Civil War was about states’ rights, not slavery.”

  • The first has long been one of my rules. Virtually every sentence that starts “I’m not racist, but …” ends by proving the first part wrong.

  • Crystal

    I never understood the term “reverse discrimination”. Isn’t discrimination just discrimination no matter who it is for or against?

  • Chris

    Yes, Crystal. “Reverse Discrimination” is just Discrimination, however RD has seemingly become popular along with the idea that only a dominant cultural or racial force can be discriminatory (Which isn’t true, the effects of their discrimination is just more felt).

    “The unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people or things, esp. on the grounds of race, age, or sex.”

  • Amanda

    I got corrected on this once by someone… racism is racism, no matter who is doing it or to whom it’s directed. I think the only reason people label it as “reverse” is because we’ve become so accustomed to white folks being the ones perpetrating it, so anything against whites *must* be reverse racism… but racism is simply judging/discriminating against someone else because of their race and/or skin color.

  • jeff

    there is no such thing as “reverse discrimination”!

    it’s just discrimination!

  • “Nobody who’s alive today had anything to do with slavery.”

    We get a similar argument here in Canada about residential schools. They do not know that the last one closed in 1996. In discussion with my wife, who is Algonquin, I expressed the guilt that I was feeling, even though I personally never oppressed a a member of our First Nations. She said that I did not need to feel guilt, but I did need to realize that I benefitted from what was done to the First Nations and I am still benefitting.

  • usingmyvoicewell

    It’s easy to point a finger at someone else and say, well, you’re a racist because you say/you do/you look… We are all racists. We all discriminate for one reason or another.

  • I struggled with this post. I agree with you 100% John, but as a black woman these posts make me uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable because I believe that many white people do not see or understand the social and economic benefits they are privy to just because they are white. Those benefits in and of themselves are systematic and do not make a person racist, but they are frustrating to minorities and blacks especially.

    Slavery ended in 1865. 100 years later blacks we’re in a similar boat Gays now float along in. The only difference is the LBGT community can vote and petition, while many black became strange fruit in southern trees. 48 years have last since the Civil Rights movement was winding down is not as long as folks like to believe.

    I have seen white privilege work where my hard work failed. It’s not fun. I have heard co-workers make jokes, comments,and “observations” and been expected not to be so sensitive.

    Being black for me is not a burden. Being black in a room full of less enlightened white folks is. And John, you forgot “one of my closets friends coming up was black” “I bet your a GREAT dancer” and I bet you cook like my nanny (yup, I’ve gotten that one),

  • A

    “All kinds of foreigners, of every color, come to this country and make it. Why do so many blacks fail, when so many Asians, for instance, succeed?”

    In the US, the african american population has had 250 years of slavery along with 100+ years of legal discrimination and 50+ years of “catch-up” or whatever you want to call it. I might have the specific numbers wrong, but the idea still holds. Other groups like the asians mentioned above, however, have the advantage of immigration. Other populations have immigrated with various doctors, lawyers, businessmen, etc in their ranks who are already of a higher socioeconomic status. So you see the people who are already well off and then generalize them to the whole population.

  • Really, Ingrid? You’re black? See, I never noticed that before. Because when I look at people, I don’t see color. I just see people.


    “I’ll bet you cook like my nanny!”!! Man. That’s just … it.

  • I don’t.

  • Elizabeth

    true story

  • LOL! HA! This why I truly love you John!

  • Good post, although it drummed up the sting of some of those things non-minority people have said/believed about blacks. I was born in the seventies, and grew up being told that I missed the worst of it, but that didn’t shield me from encounters going back to my childhood that I still remember. I think a lot of black people were all too familiar with the scenarios the POTUS described today. I don’t consider myself a whiner. It’s not a focus I can afford in my life. I’ve always preferred to see circumstances apart from the race aspect. But to this day, when I hear statements like “get over it”, it makes me feel that we haven’t really come as far as my generation thought. I graduated from high school 21 years ago and still hear some of my own white classmates express sentiments I thought faded away with their grandparents.

    As far as a burden goes, I’m happy to be who I am, but have always felt a burden of disproving negative beliefs on my shoulders. Being from an average, middle-class, two-parent family, with values that included education and strong work ethic, I have on more than one occasion gotten the surprised look (and awkward comments, i.e., “you don’t talk black!” and “is that your hair?”) from well-meaning white folks.

    I will agree with “A” about the catch up. I am a believer, that when a race is oppressed and subjected to familial dysfunction, involuntary separation, absence of one parent, rape, and destitution due to lack of opportunities over the course of centuries, just like other cultural practice/tradition, regardless of right or wrong, it can become accepted and ingrained, and take time to reverse. That would be a strike against any race.

  • n.

    one time i was teaching spanish 101 and a student (i remember him because he was a black libertarian back when libertarianism was interesting) said “how come latinos have so much rhythm and we don’t?” and i said “wait i thought it was you guys that had rhythm and we [white people] were the ones that didn’t”. i said it to remind him that he was paying forward the stereotype, and because he seemed like such a joke would be ok with his sense of humour…

    (in retrospect it was probably insensitive if i misjudged his feeling or if some students took it differently.)

  • Carrie

    I agree completely, and I think the Irish are a great case in point for that. Years of oppression at the hands of their British occupiers have turned many an Irish Catholic neighbourhood into alcohol and drug infested cesspools of wasted humanity, violence, poverty and intolerance.

    They too have been systemically taught to expect less, succeed less and accomplish less. They too face employment and educational barriers. After many years of poverty and oppression, many of them are unable to rise above the discrimination and often ‘live down’ to the stereotype imposed upon them.

    The psychology of subjugation is complex, and, while it only takes one generation to destroy a people’s dignity and identity, it can take many generations to repair the various layers (familial, social, economic) of damage that result.

    In America, those lines are drawn between colours. In Ireland, those lines are drawn between faiths. The end result is the same: one people viewed by their oppressors as being deserving of their oppression.

  • Carrie

    Well said. You should struggle with this post. It’s a difficult post. We, as women, also get to see male privilege succeed where our hard work fails. Our work – while equal and sometimes superior, is still only rewarded with an average of 80% of male pay.

    I guess my point is that many of us are discriminated against in various ways – wealthy discriminate against the poor, white against black, black against latino, working against indigent, Christian against Muslim, the list goes on and on and on….

    Ultimately, we all fight for the right to have good lives, be respected, and be viewed as equal – which is what we were intended to be in the first place. I don’t say this to diminish your experience as a black woman. Your experience is valid and one that I, as a white woman, can’t understand. But we, together, can understand and share the experience of being women in a world of male privilege, which is something a black man can’t share with you.

    We are all part of the kaleidoscope – the shapes comes together and come apart and make new patterns whenever the wheel is turned and new patterns are formed. We are discriminated against on some levels, and we ourselves discriminate on other levels.

    It reminds me of a picture I saw in the seventies: a woman at an equal rights rally, burning a bra, wearing a t-shirt that said: “MY equality is not YOURS to grant.” No human’s equality is anyone else’s to grant. But every human has a right to demand respect and has the obligation to pay respect to their fellow human.

  • I agree with some of what you say Carrie. However, my mother’s point is valid. A black woman in this world has to deal with being a black AND a woman. We are often seen as angry, belligerent, unapproachable, and oftentimes cast in roles that require our “hood” side even if we’ve never lived in the hood.

    I agree women of all ethnicities should stick together. The problem for black women remains that in addition to our own issues we are tied intrinsically to those of our black men. Be it mandatory minimums that put our kids in jail for longer because the weight they sold was rocked up rather than powdered. Be it the lack of police force shown when our kids come up missing in our neighborhood even if we call the cops. (I live just outside of Cleveland). Be it the fact that we really do teach our kids about being some places after dark lest you be mistaken for a criminal (Trayvon’s death isn’t new tragedy). Or simply because no matter what a white woman faces in the workplace as a white woman you’re at least going to get you 80 cents on the dollar. Its not quite so cut and dry for me and black men are less likely to get the opportunity unless they are exceptional.

    I’m not sure where the black against Latino comes in, because my experience has always been blacks and Latinos are in the same boat as the vast majority of brown people in America. Maybe that’s a regional reference.

    My reason for being uncomfortable with race related posts stems from any argument or comment potentially being looked at as me casting my race as the victim. Immediately there is a sympathetic comment that tells me they understand, but everybody is discriminated against. Which I find odd because no one makes those comments when discussing gay rights or religious freedom. Every time some one makes those kinds of statements I feel like they are saying get over it already.

    Yet, I see white privilege daily. At work. At school. At my daughters school. At Walmart. When I want to order pizza or Chinese. I have learned to live with it. Most black folks have. Because at the end of the day we have learned that most white people don’t see “white privilege” as only thing other than American opportunity and if we say anything about it we are either whining or calling them a racist. So we grin and bear it and behind closed doors we tell each other the rules of navigating in this country.

    There is a online show that comes on YouTube. It’s called the unwritten rules. If you have a moment you should watch it. It think there are 14 episodes about 5-8 minutes a piece. It’s funny and brutally honest.

  • ME

    I’m hoping each generation will move farther away from the racist stereotypes. That list hurts because I have, indeed, said that I don’t judge people by the color of their skin.

    So here is a very sincere question: My eight-year old daughter described her friend the other day as “you know, Beth – she has brown skin and curly hair and always laughs really loud.” I consider that a description (in my mind, she might as easily have said freckles and red hair). Educate me! Would this be considered racist?

  • Nope me. That was perfect! Children know what they see. It is innocent and exactly the way we all should look at our world. We are different and variety is the spice of life. If you teach her to appreciate the person and to at least try to ignore the labels you’re headed in the right direction.

    My daughter for the first 5 years of her life described people the way they looked. Her grandmother (who has a fair complexion) for years was beige with brown dots (my mom also has freckles).

    It wasn’t until elementary school that race became an issue for her, but she still says when talking about friends I may not remember. “You know mom, the dude on the basketball team with the mohawk.” Because seeing race is different than using it as a definition. When we define someone by race is when the problems come in. Hopefully our kids will get that. I try my best to teach and live it.

  • Greg

    John: I love you. You’re my favorite writer in the world. I think you’re a genius.

  • Carrie

    I will watch that – and yes, I’m sorry if I made it sound like I was saying ‘get over it’ or minimizing your experience. That wasn’t my intent at all. The black/latino reference wasn’t regional or specific, I merely used it to illustrate some of the race divisions I saw in Los Angeles. I considered those divisions to be a direct result of not only white privilege, but wealth privilege. People who have power maintain it by withholding it from others – which often results in those outside the power structure turning on each other because they can’t get at their real oppressors.

    Most of Africa is a great case in point – the poverty and violence in most African nations is a direct result of white colonialism or post-colonialism. It’s the same here in North America – the poorest neighbourhoods are the most violent. Poverty is an excellent way to subjugate a people – it keeps them too focused on mere survival to actually focus on tearing down the power structures that enforce poverty.

    Like I said – I don’t mean to minimize the race issue at all – I see it as one facet of a class issue. Those with wealth prefer to keep it from others for their own gain. This is accomplished by creating and maintaining boundaries around who can succeed and who can’t. Extending slightly more privilege to the people you use to subjugate another for personal gain. Divide and conquer.

    I am well aware of the privilege extended to me for being white, and I would never minimize the obvious discrimination. Nor would I pull the condescending ‘you poor victim’ card either. I can’t know because I don’t live it. But I’ve seen it in action many times.

    I’m lucky to work in an industry where whites are a minority – and for a company that promotes based on ability and ability alone, so I live in a pretty cool little bubble of actual equality, not theoretical. Very few of our upper management are white because very few of our workforce are white. This suits us all fine – because everyone who works here is very good at what they do.

    By citing the examples I cited I wasn’t intending to minimize your experience. That would be presumptuous and condescending. My intent was to point out that race-based, religion-based, AND gender based conversations need to happen. They need to piss people off. They need to challenge all forms of discrimination – no matter what its basis. Whether it’s a Sikh being shot and killed after 9-11 because someone thought his turban meant he was Muslim, or black kids in college avoiding hoodies because they’re afraid of being mistaken for gangsters.

    We also need to challenge ourselves to actually SEE those subtle (and not so subtle) forms and shout them from the rooftops. Ignorant white people took years to abolish slavery in a legal sense, and it’s going to take many more years to abolish the unspoken slavery that still occurs. This means that this isn’t over. No matter whether white folks think you’re a whiner or bitter or they think you need to get over it. The evidence of discrimination is there – it’s there in numbers of black versus white CEOs, managers, upper salaries, the whole lot.

    I do the same for women’s rights, because that’s MY thing. And, while your struggle is a greater challenge than mine because the system discriminates against you on more levels and for more reasons, the fact remains that we both struggle in our own way. Because we HAVE to. People with power don’t willingly give it up if it costs them their privilege. We have to TAKE it. And that means pointing out every layer, every subtlety, EVERY time.

    I’ll do it as a woman. You’ll do it as a black woman. But we will do it. And we hve to KEEP doing it until the scales are balanced fairly for everyone.

  • Carrie

    Oh – and a post script: Don’t grin and bear it. Don’t discuss it behind closed doors. Fight. Nelson Mandela fought. Mahatma Ghandi fought. Gloria Steinem fought. And we are all better for their courage. Don’t worry if people see you as bitter or as calling them a racist. That’s THEIR problem. If the fear of what people will think of us keeps us silent, we make THEIR problem OUR problem.

  • DR

    You treated an incredibly damaging experience for many with flippancy (FYI “Driving While Oriental”). And with all due respect, while habits are hard to change, saying so and admitting that you’re a racist doesn’t really matter if you don’t apply a sense of urgency to changing. And a sense of urgency isn’t generally accompanied by joking about something and then 24 hours later, saying “sorry. didn’t mean it”.

  • Matt

    Right on, DR. I would say that every white person (including me) is racist, first because we don’t have to deal with the everyday negative effects of racism, and also because we are brought up in a system where we are considered “better-than.” We are considered as individuals, not as a walking stereotype. It’s not our fault the system is this way, but it doesn’t let us off the hook. It starts with us; we have to identify and challenge our racist thoughts each and every time. I may never have killed someone non-white, but my thoughts and actions if left unchecked contribute to a very racist system that would consider an unarmed 17-year-old black kid at fault for his own murder.

  • fwiw (and certainly no offense to you, friend Matt; I of course understand what you’re saying), I’m white, and I’m absolutely not a racist, in any way, shape, thought, inclination, practice, history or form. i think lots of people really, really aren’t racist, at all.

  • Anakin McFly

    I think everybody is racist, though, not just white people. I’m Chinese and fully admit that I’m racist, including towards my own race, same as how I’m also sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist and so on. I try as best as I can to counter those attitudes in myself, and if I fail, to at least keep them to myself, but it would be lying to claim that I am completely free of prejudice, because it’s an inherent part of growing up in a prejudiced society. These things get subconsciously ingrained, whether you like it or not.

  • Not always, apparently. They didn’t in me. And I wasn’t raised in any particularly enlightened way.

  • Anakin McFly

    With all respect, I doubt that, especially the lots of people part. Most (decent) people probably aren’t consciously racist, and/or explicitly anti-racist, but subconsciously it’s a different matter.

    Out of curiosity, do you know about Project Implicit? It’s an online test from Harvard University that tests your subconscious racism and other prejudices. I did pretty horribly on it, and so do most people I know who did it, even those who are otherwise extremely committed to fighting against those injustices in the world.

  • I’m not going to argue with you about this. But the idea that every person must be racist is absurd.

  • Anakin McFly

    Why apparently?

  • Anakin McFly

    “PC is just another name for sensitivity and good manners, in my opinion.”

    In some/most cases yeah, but I’m not sure that’s always the case; because there’s the question of how far we should go before making another person comfortable involves making ourselves uncomfortable, or being impractical. Or there are instances where it’s literally impossible to please everyone. Using a race-based example, there are some people who find ‘African-American’ to be an offensive term and prefer to be called ‘black’; likewise, there are those who think the opposite. Given an audience including people from both groups, what term do you then use in order not to hurt anyone? (not just a hypothetical, since I’ve been in similar situations, went with the option that would hopefully offend the least people, got bashed by the smaller group in question, and just had to apologise.)

  • Anakin McFly

    I fully agree with everything except: “But really – why say that you work “like a slave”? Do you even know anything about slavery? …”

    I doubt that’s what Beth intended. ‘work like a slave’ is an expression, and one that has become so common that most people just use it as a whole. It’s how language works; people generally don’t try and break down every single word or phrase they use and consider its origins before they use it. Chances are, even if I were speaking to a blind person, I might at some point use the phrase “see what I mean?” without intending to be insensitive, because it’s just a common part of language; and there’s a possibility that the blind person in question might not even notice, for the same reason. So I think the thought process here is similar. I’ve had many moments of etymological epiphanies regarding common English words and phrases I’ve been using for years without thinking.

  • Anakin McFly

    agreed in this case, but then extrapolating from there… where do you draw the line?

    I’m also a writer, and have often found myself stuck for a word because the only options I could think of were all offensive in some way (be it in their origins or otherwise) to some group of people. The English language in particular (at least it’s the one I’m most familiar with) is so full of ingrained prejudice and bias such that if you stopped using all the problematic words, you’d be left with very little, and possibly to the point of it preventing effective communication. So many times online in social justice circles I’ve written paragraphs that I looked through and revised multiple times until I thought they were completely innocuous, only to have multiple people be offended and point out all the problems in my word choices and wording and send me hate messages. It made me write less, using more acceptable words, but then that impaired communication and in some ways made me come off as even worse.

    So a while ago I decided to just forget it and instead work on creating good, ethical, responsible content I could stand by, even if the language used to describe it was not the best. The alternative was effectively to stop writing, and I couldn’t bring myself to do that.

    I’m now slowly getting myself to re-insert problematic words into my fiction and non-fiction which I removed out of fear of offending someone, changing the meaning of the text as a result. Because sometimes, some things are just stupid and need to be described as such, even while acknowledging that using words like ‘stupid’ in a derogatory way reinforces a social system that praises intelligence – an unchosen trait – and conversely stigmatises those who are intellectually disabled (another problematic term without a better alternative with the same meaning).

    Sometimes it feels that attacking vocabulary is just attacking the symptoms rather than the cause, and is just counterproductive while making things harder for everyone. :/ I like to think that, for instance, if we reached a stage of true equality and dignity for all humans, our language would then evolve accordingly in a painless manner.

  • Elizabeth

    Hi Anakin. I’m not trying to butt into this conversation. I did go to Project Implicit. I’d never heard of it so thank you! My data suggested little to no automatic preference between European American and African American.

  • Anakin McFly

    “If I find that the offense taken is unreasonable, or hypersensitive, then I move on.”

    But how do you define ‘unreasonable’ or ‘hypersensitive’? Aren’t those very subjective standards?

  • Anakin McFly

    whoa, that’s awesome. *jealous*

    I went back to do a few of those tests for the first time in years, and got the same result for that particular one:

    “Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for White People compared to Black People.”

    But in another test, surprisingly:

    “Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for Asian American compared to European American.”

    I’m Asian, but always thought that I subconsciously preferred white people. but apparently not.

    and: “Your data suggest a strong automatic preference for Straight People compared to Gay People.”


    /pile of fail

  • Sarah

    I saw someone – apparently with absolute sincerity – they they approved of immigration to Europe as long as it was only white people, because non whites can’t get their own countries in order, so obviously letting them in to one’s own country is to invite a failure.

    I mean seriously. I don’t know if this person directly claimed “not to be a racist”, but it was clear from the tone of it that she didn’t consider what she was saying racist, even though she specifically said “white is all right”… Basically, ignoring every injustice, inequality, or instance of poverty the non white prospective immigrants have faced, or the fact that much of that was foisted on them by white people.

    I see stuff like that and I despair. I sometimes see the whole “why shouldn’t we have white pride” or “why shouldn’t we have straight pride” and think to myself, what the hell have those of us in the straight, white majority done to be proud of?

    I’m rambling. It’s sad. It’s really cool, though, to hear that there are pockets of real equality out there. That’s heartening.

  • edie

    I have read all the comments and agree with them. I also believe that how we behave leads to stereotypes that lead to prejudices. We all need to look at how we behave, what we actually DO, and see if that is reinforcing others’ beliefs about us.

  • Elizabeth

    So, ‘minorities’ should walk on eggshells while I get away with murder because I’m white and blonde? Once people decide you’re a stereotype, one can do very little NOT to reinforce it. It’s no way to live.

  • Oh, Elizabeth, don’t be so obtuse. All Sheri is saying is that black people, for instance, should be careful not to ever eat fried chicken, enjoy watermelon, play basketball, talk in the movies, or tap their feet while music is playing–the same as Chinese people should never be good at math or science. What’s the problem with that?

    [Joke, people. This was me joking.]