Guilt is actually White
When I was a little girl, I had a babysitter who would sometimes take us to her parents house. She took care of a few local kids, some of whom we knew, and one of them was a little black boy who I was friends with.
My babysitters mother once told me that this boy said scrub, scrub, scrub though I might, why will my skin never be white when he was in the bath. I repeated this story to my babysitter, who got very angry with me.
She told me that her mother would never say such a thing, so obviously I was making the story up, and that I was a very bad little girl for doing so. I was so ashamed of myself that I never repeated this story. In fact, I dont think Ive told anyone except my therapist about it to this day.
I wrote an essay a few days ago where I claim all white people are racist, all men are sexist, all straight people are homophobic, etc. Many of my friends disagreed with such assertions, and they were right to. Not all white people are racist??white children, if they are young enough, are not racist. I hadnt examined my belief in the innate racism of white people, of my belief in my own innate racism, until I wrote that story. But, when I think about it, that belief probably traces back to a moment like the one with my babysitter. I was a little white girl, mirroring peoples own racism back to them in the innocent way only a child can, and when they saw their racism in me they refused to take responsibility for it. They blamed it on me, and I believed them. I guess I still believe them.
The indoctrination of white children to turn against their innate feelings has a long history with respect to racism. Nell Irvan Painter, a retired professor emeritus of American History from Princeton, talks about the effects on children (of both slave and master) who witness slavery. She describes the story of a white adult who had learned how to beat his slaves:
John Nelson was a Virginian who spoke in 1839 about his own coming of age and this system of triangles. He says, when he was a child, when his father beat their slaves, that he would cry and he would feel for the slave who was being inflicted with violence. He would feel almost as if he himself were being beaten, and he would cry. And he would say, Stop, stop! And his father, You have to stop that. You have to learn to do this, yourself. And as John Nelson grew up, he did learn how to do it. And he said in 1839 that he got to the point where he not only didnt cry; he could inflict a beating himself and not even feel it.
Additionally complicating this was the fact that, due to the common practice of the household patriarch raping his female slaves, it is highly likely that white children often witnessed the beating of their own family members. In order to maintain the institution of slavery, children had to learn to act out what they were told and ignore what they felt, and so childrearing methods to numb children to their own emotions were developed.
As the culturally established ethics around slavery and race changed, the official message we taught children changed, but the means through which we taught them did not. Both John Nelson and I learned that there are unquestionable rules around race relations that must be obeyed, and these rules are to some degree disconnected from our larger system or logic or morality. Race is treated as an exception, and this perceived exceptionalism stops white people from making deep progress in their emotional attitudes.
Despite being raised in a highly liberal progressive environment, I learned some toxic things around race relations. One was that it was unacceptable for me to state, plainly, my observations or questions around race so I kept quiet on topics that confused me. I learned there were certain things I was allowed to say, and certain things I wasnt allowed to say, and these rules seemed arbitrary. I also learned that white people would say things they werent allowed to say when they were around other white people, but to repeat such things in larger groups was unacceptable and would lead to denial, and attacks on my person. I also grew to feel that I was inherently bad because a) I was personally blamed for repeating racist things from my environment and I lacked the maturity to understand where these ideas were coming from and b) I was implicitly included in groups that were obviously exhibiting racist behavior, so I assumed I was like them.
As I matured, these feelings of inherent badness persisted, but my sophistication with respect to my own denial increased. I realized I was able to fend off these feelings of shame by acting in overtly not racist ways. If I complimented black people, for instance, or expressed outrage at racial injustices, my feelings of shame around my own presumed racism would be lessened.
And, I think thats basically the current state of the liberal community. We have reached the point that many white people are loudly, and vocally expressing their support of progressive stances around race relations. Sometimes when this is highlighted people are assumed to be acting on white guilt but I think that is a misnomer. Guilt implies an understanding of the harm you have caused someone, and a desire to act in a way to mitigate its effects. I think a closer definition, and I mean no offense by this, would be white narcissism. Narcissistic behavior (at least as I understand it from reading the last psychiatrist) is basically defined as behaving in ways to create a positive story about ones self in order to maintain high self image. So, if someone volunteers at a homeless shelter so she can tell herself and others what a good person she is, she is acting out of narcissism. Which, to some degree is fine (shes still volunteering, right?)
However, narcissism is usually a cover for a fundamentally poor self image. Someone who secretly believes she is a bad person will be more motivated to do things to convince herself shes a good person. Additionally, when confronted with evidence that something she did makes her a bad person, she is likely to act out in rage or denial (see narcissistic rage). The big problem with white narcissism, is while it may motivate some positive behavior, it also serves as a massive defense system that preserves subconscious racist behaviors.
To summarize: many progressive white people, deep down, probably worry they are racist due to their upbringing. This is painful to them, especially given our complete societal ostracization of racists, and they dont want to believe it. So, they act in many ways to counter this on a high level (expressing anti racist views, shaming other people perceived as racist, maybe protesting or something, etc.) and then convince themselves that they arent racist. However, if you call them out on behavior that points out that, in some ways, theyre acting racist they will refuse to absorb this information. They will deny it, say they were misinterpreted, get angry, maybe apologize without any deeper understanding of what they did, because it is painful for the to touch that place that secretly worries they might be racist.
What it is very difficult for people acting out of white narcissism to do is empathize with people who have experienced racism. If someone brings up an incident with racism in it, their number one concern (as someone desperately trying to cover their own racism, even to themselves) will be how can I show that I am not like this racist person.
If youll notice a bunch of white-looking people tweets in response to some dude putting up a racist picture of him with a black kid (From searching twitter for #HisNameIsCayden)
I am sick over these racist, evil comments about an innocent child. Further proof that racism is alive and well in 2015.
Racism won't be tolerated. Respect for the companies that took action. If a FB post takes a bad turn, you can delete!!!
It is sickening that racist comment are made in general let alone towards a three year old. Ugh
Youll note that a lot of people are quick to indicate their own disgust and outrage as they try hard to project that they are like not like that. Cuz, you know, #notallwhitepeople or something. But Id wager if you accused any of these people (who clearly have not being racist as part of their identity) of any behavior that was oppressive with respect to race, youd trigger a massive immune response. And, this is a big problem, because were entering a world where the bulk of discrimination will be subconscious, and the only way to get around this will be legitimately connecting with the experiences of people of color.
And, I so get this defended behavior. I dont want to be a racist! I know why they dont want to be a racist! I deeply, intuitively, understand the desire to project this not-racist person to the world. But, this desire with its current strength and intensity, is directly born out of white American emotional numbness around race. It is a weird, inverted, version of the emotional numbness created through slavery. It is still an objectification of people of color, but instead of using them for economic enhancement, we are using them for identity enhancement. We are still trivializing their lived experience and using them for how they can benefit us.
How do we get around this? I mean, I
think people should still go to all their protests, and do
their facebook activism or whatever because maybe it will
have a positive effect. However, we should also understand
the roots of own emotionality around race. If we see that we
are not innately bad, that we have absorbed racist ideology
from a racist system against our will when we were too young
to protest, it might stop us being so defended around our
own racism. Additionally, I think white people should stop
excessive shaming of racists. Once their behavior has been
identified as problematic, we can stop there. Excessive
shaming of other people sets us up to be highly defended
ourselves, because we fear also being called out in such a
way. It is much more important that you are able to fix your
own problematic behavior than it is for you identify it in
Statements White People Make About Race -- and What to Say
Below are some of the most common problematic statements - and what you can say (or not say) instead.
1. "I Don't See Color."
On the surface, this might seem like a harmless statement affirming that race doesn't matter to you one way or another. But what it's really doing is claiming that all of us are the same - which isn't true. Because even though we are all human and are all made of the same stuff, it is our responsibility to acknowledge that, since we do exist within a societal system of racism, the color of our skin can and does dictate the way each of us experiences life.
To state that there is no difference between a white person and a black person is to completely erase the black person's experience of oppression in today's society - and that's not helpful.
What to say instead: "Though I believe every human deserves equal rights, I recognize that people of color have had very different experiences of life than I have, due to the struggles they have endured based on the color of their skin."
2. "All Lives Matter."
Technically, yes - all lives do matter, and if you were to say this as a stand-alone statement, you'd be correct. However, the problem is that most of the time, this statement is uttered as a rebuttal to the unfortunately controversial Black Lives Matter movement.
Here's why it's problematic: by responding to a pro-black statement with an all-inclusive statement, you are effectively derailing the conversation and turning it into something it's not. By pretending that pro-black equates to anti-white, you are taking a discussion about empowering a marginalized group and making it about you.
Look, everyone already knows that white lives matter; that wasn't ever called into question, because our society is set up to recognize white people as the cultural norm. People of color, on the other hand, are most definitely not the norm, and they need these shoutouts. They need the social momentum that the Black Lives Matter movement is gathering. They need a platform upon which to discuss these issues. Would you respond to someone trying to raise awareness about paraplegia-inducing spinal cord injuries by asking, "But what about the people who can walk?" Enough. Just stop.
What to say instead: "Yes, black lives matter." And leave it at that. No 'but's.
3. "If racism is still a problem, how come we have a black president?"
This is basically an assumption that just because conditions have improved for the black community over the course of several hundred years, no one has any right to complain about the status quo. And that is utterly ridiculous.
It's equivalent to time traveling back to the 1950's and telling the people fighting to end segregation to quit bitching already, because slavery has already been outlawed - isn't that good enough?
While there's no denying that we've made a lot of headway since the back-of-the-bus days, there is also no denying that systemic racism still exists in modern society. All you have to do to see it is open your eyes, look past your own privilege, and listen to what the marginalized groups of people have been trying to tell you all along.
Oppression is a spectrum - not an either-or. Just because we have a black president and some high-profile black celebrities and cultural icons does not mean racism is over - and it does not give you license to discount the stories of black folks who have spent their entire lives experiencing racism in its many forms.
We have absolutely no business telling oppressed people what's "good enough" in terms of their equality. After all, the level of racism in this country won't be "good enough" until it's gone.
What to say instead: Nothing - listen instead of speaking. People of color have something to say, and until you can hear it without writing it off because their experience of life doesn't match your own, you have nothing of value to contribute to this conversation.
4. "Reverse racism is real."
No, it's not - and here's why. Look at it as an equation: racism = prejudice + power. While it's true that anyone can hold a set of prejudices against anyone else, racism specifically implies oppression - and white people as a whole are not oppressed.
Prejudice generalizes; it makes judgments that are often premature or unjust. Racism, on the other hand, is a whole system of oppression - a cultural ideology that begins from a position of privilege.
Race-related societal privilege is something black people simply do not have. Therefore, reverse racism is nothing but a myth, created by white people who are unwilling to examine their own privilege - privilege society has afforded them simply because of the color of their skin.
To recap, because this is very, very important: black people can be prejudiced against white people, but they cannot be racist toward white people. Say it with me - reverse racism is not a thing.
What to say instead: Nothing. There is no good way to say this, because the statement is false and inherently damaging.
Happy Black History Month - let's keep
the spotlight where it belongs and instead use our resources
to make strides in the fight against racism.
4 Ways White
People Can Process Their Emotions
This sort of rule is instilled because oftentimes, in other spaces, your emotions, and the emotions of other white people, are constantly centered, nurtured, and coddled when it comes to conversations about race.
Rather than focusing on the lived experiences and traumas of People of Color when talking about racism, the focus is placed on the host of emotions that white people go through when confronted with racism.
Rather than focusing on how People of Color feel on an everyday basis from having to deal with racist institutions, interpersonal relationships, and ideologies, the focus goes to white people just beginning to confront how they benefit from racism on many levels.
As a Woman of Color, Im a pretty big fan of the no white tears rule.
Its nice to be in spaces where I can feel free to say what I want, talk about complex systems of white supremacy, and express my frustrations without having to worry about the feelings of the white people in the room.
However, I also think that if youre a white person, it can leave you without the space to fully deal with you emotions. I know many white people who do anti-racism work. They commit endless time and energy to be in full solidarity with People of Color. However, many of them often bury their own emotions or arent taught to fully deal with their feelings about their whiteness.
As a white person who does this kind of work, chances are you have encountered the same kinds of issues. In your work, you might not have had room to confront your emotions of guilt, fear, anger, or confusion.
While its important for all folks to stop centering the emotions of white people in our activism and in our lives, its also important for you, and all white people, to be able to process your emotions.
Because while most of the white activists I interact with know that discomfort is a part of the anti-racism process, they also dont give themselves space to navigate facing their privileges, negative emotions, and deconstructing white supremacy. Chances are that you dont either.
Below is a list of some of the ways that can help you to not center yourself in conversations about race and to process your own emotions.
1. Pause Before Contributing to the Conversation
I had this one white friend who would constantly send me links that would have explicit videos, photos, and commentary about racism.
Sometimes, she would add her own two cents to these links, saying things like OMG! Isnt this terrible! and My aunt said the most racist thing about this article. But sometimes she would just send me the links with no warning, exposing me to incredibly violent and triggering images.
I finally had to tell her to stop sending me articles because I didnt need to see them.
I was already aware of the things that were going on, and even if I wasnt, I didnt need to hear her commentary about how awful things were. What my friend thought she was doing was showing solidarity with me by starting conversations about racism and activism.
She wanted to show me that she was aware of what was going on, and that she actively condemned violence against communities of color. What she was actually doing was making me vastly uncomfortable and making me wonder why she felt the need to constantly prove how not racist she was.
By her always passing on painful content and making sure I knew how she felt about it, it did nothing more but give me negative feelings. At best, I was annoyed because it felt like she was trying to educate me about issues in my own community.
At worst, I had panic attacks and got very angry that she wasnt even thinking about how her actions would affect me.
I see this happen often in conversations, seminars, and other situations. White people will sometimes just continuously share their own thoughts, experiences, and knowledge about a certain issue without ever pausing to see that this can negatively impact People of Color.
I know that you do it in order to prove that youre a good white person, but it comes off as if you are patronizing everyone in the room.
It also comes off as a weird sort of competition where youre trying to prove how much you know about racism, often to the point of speaking over the People of Color in the room.
What you need to do is understand that your voice does not always need to be heard. Part of white supremacy as a larger system is the idea that white people are objective and authorities over everyone else in the room.
This kind of socializing can and does carry over even for white folks who do active anti-racism work. Remember that while your experiences shape your worldview, theyre not the most important experiences in the room.
Anti-racism is a learning process. And when youre learning, its always important to pay attention more to what others are saying and how they are feeling than it is to prove how much you know.
2. Check the Other White People in the Room
A white friend of mine shared something I had written about racialized misogyny on his Facebook page, which I was definitely okay with.
What I wasnt okay with, however, was when one of his white, male friends posted a comment that began with Well, I dont think thats correct, my opinion is and ended with and thats just what I think. I mean, I didnt read the whole thing.
I waited a few hours for my friend to call out this other white person for the many harmful, reductive things he wrote in his post, but that never came.
I know its just Facebook, but Im gonna be real: I felt hurt and betrayed. This white friend of mine is someone who I trust and would label an ally.
But in that moment, all I could think was: Oh, so you can talk a big game to my face, but you cant even defend me or check your white friends? What, is he just waiting for me to go off so that he can like my comment to look like hes showing up for me?
Unfortunately, this wasnt the first or last time Id felt that way about a white person who I know does anti-racism work. Ive noticed that sometimes, white people who do really great work just dont talk to the other white people in their lives.
Its like youre all fine preaching at and talking to and listening to People of Color, but just stay silent when it comes to other white people.
And look, I get it.
When its your family members or old friends or co-workers that say or uphold racist ideas, it can be hard to confront them.
There are many folks in my life, both white and People of Color, that have internalized oppressive ideologies. Sometimes its too hard for me to get into conversations with them, either because Im exhausted or I just cant handle their emotional backlash in the moment.
And thats okay sometimes you just cant handle educating someone in the moment.
But the thing is, as a white person, you have to constantly educate other white people. If you are truly committed to anti-racism work, it has to be part of your everyday life.
I know that whiteness isnt a protection. When you confront conservative family members who are blatantly racist or your liberal boss who totally isnt racist, but, there are consequences. Personal safety has to come into account when talking to people about unlearning and dismantling racism.
But when you dont confront other white people, the onus always and I literally mean always falls on People of Color.
And whether that means we have to constantly exhaust ourselves teaching the white people who are willing to at least half listen or whether that means we become the victims of white people who exert violence on us, we are the ones who have to bear the brunt of white supremacy.
While you might have to have an uncomfortable conversation for a few minutes, well have to deal with racism for the rest of our lives.
When you stay silent in the face of racism, it tells other white people, What Im doing is actually okay, cause if this person isnt calling me out, then it must be okay!
Because the truth is, the system of white supremacy teaches us all that People of Color are too emotional, are just complaining about things, and dont know what were talking about. Many white people just dont, or wont, listen to People of Color when we talk about our experiences with racism.
We need you to put aside your own reasons for not wanting to confront other white people. We need you link to our articles, share our stories, and explain why racism is an actual thing.
3. Excuse Yourself If Youre Having Strong Emotions
A few months ago, I was in a professional setting with a few other folks, some white and some People of Color. We had been discussing police brutality. Many of the Black folks and other People of Color in the room were having a very difficult time. It was a hard but healing kind of conversation.
That is, until one of the white women in the room began to cry.
She began to speak, mentioning that she knows police violence doesnt affect her directly, but that she was having a hard time dealing with everything.
The tone of the conversation shifted. Half of the people in the room went to comfort her. The other half, myself included, began to roll our eyes, cross our arms over our chests, and completely tune the discussion out. The only thing going through my mind was, Why do we have to deal with her right now?
Everyone was having a tough time. I dont want to fault this woman for feeling overwhelmed. But it was also deeply inappropriate for her to be crying in that space.
She took a conversation that predominately affected the Black folks in the room and made it about her white woman tears. It forced half of the room to cater to her, and alienated the other half.
As a white person in an anti-racist conversation or space, its important to be in touch with your emotions. You need to be aware of yourself, especially when you experience strong emotions like sadness, anger, and guilt.
If you find yourself having a strong emotional reaction during conversations about racism and there are folks in the room who experience that violence firsthand, excuse yourself from the situation.
This is especially important if youre finding your emotions manifesting themselves in physical ways including crying, shouting, needing to be hugged, and other reactions. Just remove yourself from the situation. Have a few rituals or practices planned to help you calm down before you reenter the situation.
Your emotions and reactions are valid. You as a person are allowed to experience and work through whatever is happening for you.
But you also need to understand it should not be anyones place to have to comfort you when youre confronted with your own whiteness and white supremacy.
Too often, People of Color are pushed aside so that white people feel safe and calmed. This is racism in itself. So understand where youre at emotionally, gauge the situation that youre in, and think about the ways you can make sure you deal with your emotions in an appropriate setting.
4. Have a Support System of Other White People
A few months ago, I remember a close white friend of mine commenting, I need to make more white friends that I can have anti-racism conversations with.
To be completely honest: I had looked at them incredulously and blurted out, But why?
My friend stared back at me and said, Because I need to talk about my emotions sometimes, and its not things that are appropriate to say to you or my other friends of color.
I had never really thought about that before, but I realized they were totally right. Everyone needs to vent once in a while. Everyone needs to have their emotions validated. Everyone needs space to work through what theyre feeling.
Anti-racism work isnt a one-and-done type of deal. Its a lifelong learning process. Its only natural that youll make mistakes, feel burnt out, or just question why everything feels so difficult all the time.
And the truth is that if youre feeling this way, then thats good it means that youre constantly pushing yourself to understand the ways in which white supremacy is an incredibly violent system.
But feeling those kinds of emotions isnt necessarily good for you personally. What I mean is that your hurt, guilty, or angry feelings are valid. And you need to have room to deal with those feelings in a constructive way.
Unfortunately, you dealing with those feelings by unloading or processing with People of Color can do more harm then good.
When you work through these feelings with a Person of Color, it can be silencing to the emotions that we are feeling.
People of Color should not have to listen to your feelings about racism. Having to do so forces us to put aside our own complex emotions. It is also exhausting because intentionally or not, you unloading on a Person of Color says, My having to face my whiteness and the complex emotions that come with that is more important then the ways in which whiteness is a tool of violence against you.
One of the healthiest things you can do is create a support group of other white people who are going through similar things.
Talking with, complaining to, and brainstorming with other white people helps all people involved. It gives you a sounding board to work through your guilt, discomfort, and uncertainty. It helps to understand that your emotions are valid, and that youre not alone in your feelings.
And it also creates a space where you can recommit to anti-racism work without harming the folks who actually experience racism. It gives you space to brainstorm with other white people and figure out how you can be better allies.
I know this is all hard stuff to process.
These are all small, tangible steps that you as a white person can take to continue your anti-racism work.
Its important to remember that your feelings are valid, and that being anti-racist is always going to be hard work. Showing up as effective allies means recognizing your own limitations and emotions. No one can do good work if they arent taking care of themselves.
But its also important to
recognize that anti-racism work is always going to be hard.
It will make you uncomfortable, and thats okay. This
is all a part of a true liberation process.
If theres anything our fraught national dialogue on race has taught us, its that there are no racists in this country. (In fact, not only do multiple studies confirm that most white Americans generally believe racism is over just 16 percent say theres a lot of racial discrimination it turns out that many actually believe white people experience more discrimination than black people.) Its a silly idea, of course, but its easy to delude ourselves into thinking that inequality is a result of cultural failures, racial pathology and a convoluted narrative involving black-on-black crime, hoodies, rap music and people wearing their pants too low. To admit that racism is fundamental to who we are, that it imbues our thinking in ways we wouldnt and couldnt believe without the application of the scientific method, is infinitely harder. And yet, theres endless evidence to prove it.
For those who recognize racism is real and pervasive, its also comforting to believe that discrimination is something perpetuated by other people, overlooking the ways we are personally complicit in its perpetuation. But fruitful conversations about race require acknowledging that racism sits at the very core of our thinking. By something akin to osmosis, culturally held notions around race mold and shape the prejudices of everyone within the dominant culture. People of color unwittingly internalize these notions as well, despite the fact that doing so contributes to our own marginalization. Most of us know the destructive outcomes systemic racism produces (higher rates of poverty, incarceration, infant mortality, etc.). Accepting that implicit bias is happening at every level makes it awful hard to chalk those issues up to black and brown failure.
Heres a look at just some of the ways our internalized biases add up to devastating consequences for lives, communities and society.
1. College professors, across race/ethnicity and gender, are more likely to respond to queries from students they believe are white males. Despite universities frequently being described as bastions of progressivism and liberal indoctrination centers, a recent study found that faculty of colleges and universities are more likely to ignore requests for mentorship from minority and/or female students. Researchers sent more than 6,500 professors at 259 schools in 89 disciplines identical letters that differed only in the name and implied race/gender of the fictitious student sender (e.g., Mei Chen as an Asian female; Keisha Thomas as a black female; Brad Anderson as a white male). The study found that regardless of discipline (with the sole exception of fine arts), faculty more consistently responded to perceived white males. Two notable additional findings: 1) professors at public institutions were significantly more likely than their private institution counterparts to respond to students of color, and 2) the students most discriminated against were perceived East Asian women, followed by South Asian men. You can look at the numbers up close here.
2. White people, including white children, are less moved by the pain of people of color, including children of color, than by the pain of fellow whites. Three distinct studies support this finding. The first found that around age 7, white children began to believe black children are less susceptible to pain than white children. Another study found that emergency room personnel are less likely to give African American and Latino/Hispanic children pain medication, even when they are experiencing severe abdominal pain. The same study also found that even when the same tests are ordered, black and Hispanic children face significantly longer emergency room stays. A third study found that white people feel less empathy toward black people in pain than they do for whites experiencing pain.
3. White people are more likely to have done illegal drugs than blacks or Latinos, but are far less likely to go to to jail for it. A 2011 study from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Data Archive found white people were more likely to use illegal and prescription opiates (heroin, oxycontin), hallucinogens, and cocaine than blacks and Hispanics by significant margins. Black people just edged out white people on marijuana and crack use (which incurred disproportionate sentences for decades). Yet, a 2009 Human Rights Watch study found that each year from 1980 to 2007, blacks were arrested on drug charges at rates 2.8 to 5.5 times higher than whites.
4. Black men are sentenced to far lengthier prison sentences than white men for the same crimes. A 2012 study by the United States Sentencing Commission found black men were sentenced to prison terms nearly 20 percent longer than white men for similar crimes. To break those numbers down further, from January 2005 to December 2007, sentences for black males were 15.2 percent longer than those of their white counterparts. From December 2007 to September 2011, that number actually increased, with differences in sentencing growing to 19.5 percent.
5. White people, including police, see black children as older and less innocent than white children. A UCLA psychological study surveyed mostly white, male police officers to determine prejudice and unconscious dehumanization of black people. Researchers found a correlation between officers who unconsciously dehumanized blacks and those who had used force against black children in custody. The study also found that white female college students saw black and white children as equally innocent until age 9, after which they perceived black boys as significantly older by about four and half years and less innocent than their white peers. UCLA researcher Phillip Atiba Goff wrote, Our research found that black boys can be seen as responsible for their actions at an age when white boys still benefit from the assumption that children are essentially innocent. Which leads right to our next stats.
6. Black children are more likely to
be tried as adults and are given harsher sentences than
white children. A Stanford University study uncovered this
sobering information: [S]imply bringing to
mind a black (vs. white) juvenile offender led [white
study] participants to view juveniles in general as
significantly more similar to adults in their inherent
culpability and to express more support for severe
sentencing. That is, when white respondents thought
the child on trial was black, they were more like to endorse
sentencing all juveniles to life without parole when
they have committed serious violent crimes. That might
explain why, of the roughly 2,500 juveniles in the U.S. who
have been sentenced to life without parole, nearly all (97
percent) were male and (60 percent) black. Interesting study
note: for black kids, killing a white person was a good way
to end up behind bars for their entire adult life. For white
kids, killing a black person actually helped their chances
of ensuring their prison stay would be temporary. From the
report: [T]he proportion of African American
[juveniles sentenced to life without parole] for the
killing of a white person (43.4 percent) is nearly twice the
rate at which African American juveniles overall have taken
a white persons life (23.2 percent). Whats more,
we find that the odds of a [juvenile life without
probation] sentence for a white offender who killed a
black victim are only about half as likely (3.6 percent) as
the proportion of white juveniles arrested for killing
blacks (6.4 percent).
Colors changed so the map can be seen by all. Original is below the fold.
There are neighborhoods in Baltimore in which the life expectancy is 19 years less than other neighborhoods in the same city. Residents of the Downtown/Seaton Hill neighborhood have a life expectancy lower than 229 other nations, exceeded only by Yemen. According to the Washington Post, 15 neighborhoods in Baltimore have a lower life expectancy than North Korea.
And while those figures represent some of the most dramatic disparities in the life expectancy of black Americans as opposed to whites, a recent study of the health impacts of racism in America reveals that racist attitudes may cause up to 30,000 early deaths every year.
The study, Association between an Internet-Based Measure of Area Racism and Black Mortality , has just been published in PLOS ONE and has mapped out the most racist areas in the United States. As illustrated above, they are mostly located in the rural Northeast and down along the Appalachian Mountains into the South. How they did it and what it may mean are below the fold.
We already know about the racism that led to Jim Crow, the KKK, and lynchings. We also know about the racism that has become embedded in our justice system, from cops who kill, to prosecutors who ensure that blacks receive longer prison terms than do whites. We know that those sentencing disparities lead to greater disenfranchisement of blacks.
We think we know how racism has injured and killed black Americans. But do we really? There are the obvious cases, like Freddie Gray, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner, but what about the silent killers? The hypertension and the chronic medical conditions that lead so many more blacks to an early grave than they do whites. Could racist attitudes lead to 30,000 early deaths every year?
According to the authors of the study, current research points to a variety of causes for the disparities in health between white and black Americans, many of which can be traced to racial segregation. Many blacks are restricted to high-crime neighborhoods that are lacking in outdoor recreational areas, access to healthy foods, and decent health care. Discrimination in employment leads to lower wages that further impact the ability to enjoy healthy food, exercise, and recreation.
The authors also point out that:
... racial discrimination may also directly impact health by engaging psychobiological mechanisms induced in the stress response
In other words, stress, especially chronic stress, is bad for your health. This isn't really news. Experiences of racial discrimination are often accompanied by a sense of powerlessness, of anxiety, and of anger. These stressors, especially over a lifetime, can lead to negative health impacts. Jon Stewart did not know how right he was when he said, "If racism is something you're sick of hearing about, imagine how exhausting it must be living it every day."
As a source of chronic psychosocial stress, repeated racism may result in a heightened pro-inflammatory state that can have particularly detrimental consequences for the etiology and progression of cardiovascular and other immune disorders. Studies on discrimination have found evidence for adverse consequences for hypertension, atherosclerosis, and their inflammatory mediators. A recent study found that racism-related factors may also be associated with accelerated aging at the cellular level.
Past studies have had problems quantifying racism. They can look at localized institutional racism via housing and employment, or they can rely on self-reported incidents of racism. Of course, self-reported attitudes are difficult to verify and are subject to self-censorship, especially in regard to micro-aggressions and racism without a clear perpetrator, and institutional studies don't actually reflect racist attitudes as much as their results.
The authors of this study have turned to internet searches using the "N-word" for help in finding areas of racist attitudes in America.
This measure, calculated based on Internet search queries containing the N-word, was strongly associated with the differential in 2008 votes for Barack Obama, the Black Democratic presidential candidate, vs. 2004 votes for John Kerry, the White Democratic presidential candidate.
The study authors used the designated market areas (DMA) as defined by the Nielsen Media Research. Residents within these DMAs generally receive their information from common television and/or radio broadcasts and newspapers, providing similar messages that influence racial attitudes. The authors make clear that not all searches for the "N-word" are due to racial bias and that not all residents in a DMA share racist attitudes, but the volume of the available data provides a high signal-to-noise ratio.
Using this information to find areas in which racism is alive and well, they then looked at black mortality rates using data from 20042009, collated by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). They examined four leading causes of death among blacks: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Unsurprisingly, they found a significant association between the racism indicated by the internet searches and an increase in black mortality.
Results from our study indicate that living in an area characterized by a one standard deviation greater proportion of racist Google searches is associated with an 8.2% increase in the all-cause mortality rate among Blacks. This effect estimate amounts to over 30,000 deaths among Blacks annually nationwide.
Racism doesn't just kill with a bullet to the back, it also kills by a thousand cuts, silently and mostly unnoticed.
Was it only a year ago that Ta-Nehisi
Coates made the Case
for Reparations ?
Reparations, hell, how about we stop killing black Americans
first, and then discuss a way to repay them for the massive
wrongs that have been done.
Racial Slurs Are
Woven Deep Into The American Landscape
In the wake of a nationwide backlash against Confederate symbols and President Barack Obamas decision to restore the Native American name of the nations highest mountain, Vocativ used our technology to cross-reference every derogatory term listed in The Racial Slur Database with the 2.2 million official names of locations listed in the U.S. Geological Surveys Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). Vocativ tallied and mapped hundreds of places with names that evoke racial oppression and a legacy of hatred.
Places with derogatory names exist in every state, though the largest clusters are in the West and the South. California has at least 159 place names that are offensive to Native Americans, African Americans, Chinese people and Italians. The thickest and most diverse cluster of racist place names is in Arizona
Hatred Aimed At African Americans
At least 558 place names across the nation include derogatory words referring to African Americans, Vocativs data analysis found. The majority contain the word negro and many of those were originally known by an even more offensive name until former Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall wiped the word nigger off the map in 1962.
The despicable list also includes the slurs Uncle Tom, pickaninny and Jim Crow. Vocativs tally did not include six places named darkey or 45 that use the word spook since it was unclear whether those names were intended to have a meaning other than a racist one.
The list includes 33 places that were originally called Niggerhead as well as many formations and locations named for their association with an African American. Negro Ben Peak was named after a miner known as Nigger Ben McClendon. Dead Negro Draw (originally Dead Nigger Creek) in Texas, allegedly honors black Buffalo Soldiers who died during a battle.
California has 51 place names containing slurs against African Americas. Tennessee has the most place names containing such names per square mile, with 37 places with Negro in the name, including Dead Negro Hollow and Negrotown Branch.
Dehumanizing Asian Americans
In 1974, a federal board replaced all uses of the word Jap on the federal map with Japanese, after the Japanese American Citizens League protested the name of Jap Creek, Oregon. The initiative led to the changing of nearly 200 names. Yet, other signs of anti-Asian sentiments remain on the map.
There are 30 Chinaman place names listed in the federal database. The list had been longer by seven names until individual Chinese Americans and the Asian Pacific American advocacy group Organization of Chinese Americans separately pushed to have them changed. One of the most recent examples was Chinamans Arch in Utah, which was renamed to Chinese Arch in 2004 after the OCA requested the change from the U.S. Board of Geographic Names.
The term Chinaman dehumanizes Asian Americans and specifically Chinese Americans, says Kham Moua, policy and communications manager of OCA. From the 18th and 19th century when Chinese Americans were viewed as less than human and the term was meant to draw a distinction between white Americans and Chinese Americans. Its also linked to the idiom A Chinamans chance in hell which came about because Chinese Americans were tasked with some of the most dangerous jobs, like blowing out tunnels with dynamite, which resulted in thousands of Chinese Americans dying.
When many places were being dubbed Chinaman or some variation on it, most immigrants from China was being demonized as part of a vile race taking jobs that belonged to white people. That may be one reason that none of the remaining locations with the word Chinaman in their name are linked to a specific person. Its as if no one even bothered to distinguish one Chinese person from another.
The Most Pervasive Slur On The Map
The most common slur used in place names across the nation is squaw. There are 828 such locations across nearly every state, from Squaw Rock, Massachusetts to Squaw Valley Ski Resort in California. These names remain though many consider the word to be the most offensive term that can be used for Native American women.
Some historians and etymologists insist squaw is an innocent Algonquian word meaning woman. But many activists and Native Americans argue it is a white bastardization of the Mohawk word for vagina, ojiskwa. The Native American news source Indian Country Today notes the jury is still out when it comes to the meaning of the word squaw. What we can confirm is that in early Western books and films a squaw man was a man who did womens work or married an indigenous woman.
The use of squaw extends to sexist examples too. While squaw is mostly used in generic ways, like Squaw Lake or Squaw Creek, there are a few instances that seem sexually explicit and 11 variations of squaw tit and teat.
The majority of the tit-based names in the federal database are attached to squaw. By comparison, the word nipple is used almost exclusively with names generally associated with Anglo womenas in Mollys Nipple, Susies Nipple and Katies Nipple (sic). Female anatomy in place names is common in the U.S. because the Anglo explorers and settlers who (re)named these locations were usually traveling without women.
The pioneer society, not just going West over the wagon train but also in mining areas, were exclusively male, says Mark Monmonier, professor of geography at Syracuse University and author of From Squaw Tit to Whorehouse Meadow: How Maps Name, Claim, and Inflame. When the geological survey started mapping, they basically sent people into the area to try and identify features and would try to reflect local usage.
Some states have renamed squaw locations. Phoenixs Piestewa Peak, for example, was until 2003 called Squaw Peak and according to local historians was probably known as Squaw Tit before that. A Navajo state representative and an activist group tried to change the name in the 1990s to no avail. Governor Janet Napolitano finally succeeded in renaming the mountain after Lori Piestewa, a Hopi woman from Arizona who was the first Native American woman to die while serving in the U.S. military and the first woman in the military to die during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The 12 Men and Women Who Change Names
When President Benjamin Harrison created the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in 1890, topographers began exploring the country, asking local whites what they called every rise and chasm that surrounded them. Upon their return, theyd hand their notes over to engravers who copied their illustrations backwards onto copper plates, dipped them into blue, black and brown ink, and stamped them onto sheets of paper. Over the years more details and hues filled out maps. Electronic printing replaced engravers and aerial photography replaced gazetteer foot soldiers.
The role of the geographic name board evolved until a 1947 law solidified its current form. The board is comprised of 12 voting members who represent the Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Government Publishing Office, Library of Congress, Central Intelligence Agency, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Department of State and the Postal Service. Once a month these scientists, scholars, civil servants and service members convene in the Department of Interior Building in Washington, D.C., and review about 20 proposals for place name changes. About five percent of those are for names that someone considers offensive, according to Louis Yost, the boards executive secretary.
The board is a reactive body, Yost said. Someone needs to receive a proposal to change a name and you have to make the argument, give your reasoning for why you want the name change and then we contact the local governing authority. Thats usually the county board of commissioners and the state board on geographic names
Name changing is fairly easy if theres a suitable replacement. New names have to meet several rules. Places cant be named for someone whos been dead less than five years, and if they are named for a person, that person is supposed to have some association with the place. New place names cant cause confusion with another place in the state and they cant be too long. Three words is pushing it.
Once the board reviews all the research on local history and local opinions, they vote.
We give all proposals benefit of the doubt, give them their due diligence and present them to the board members, Yost said. The board prefers not to change names that have been in longstanding verbal and published use unless theres a good reason to do so.
The GNIS database is then updated within 36 hours. State and local governments, as well as National Geographic and other cartographic organizations, use the information in their next maps. Google may make its own changes when it performs periodic updates to its maps and other geographic records.
Racist Road Trip
To get an idea of what an offensive landscape looks like, Vocativ took a road trip through Arizona, the most toponomically racist region in America. For historical context on each location, we met with Arizonas official state historian, Marshall Trimble.
Things that were more acceptable before arent anymore. Whats politically correctthat all really started growing in the 70s or 80s and you wonder sometimes where its going to stop, Trimble said, before referencing a concept coined by historian William Manchester. He called it generational chauvinism, where each generation likes to judge and condemn the past historical people and events by the standards or by the wants and needs today, and they reinterpret history.
Trimble pulled out a large sky-blue book from his shelf, Arizonas Names: X Marks the Place. Thats the Bible of place names, Trimble said. That particular version of the book, published in 1984, has many derogatory terms that werent listed in the GNISincluding Niggerhead Mountain, Nigger Wells, Chinamans Canyon, Redman Mountain and nearly 30 listings with squaw.
In the morning we visited Negro Head Spring, named after a nearby dark rock and Negro Ben Peak, named after the miner. By noon we were at the sloping domes of Squaw Tits. All of these stops were in wilderness areas that required a bit of hiking or off-roading. All of them took us through some of the most scenic, remote areas of the state.
The U.S. Geographic Names Board only changes names in wilderness areas if there is a strong overriding need, so many offensive place names are in federally owned boondockslike Chinaman Spring, where we ended the day. The spring is in the heart of Arizonas Coronado National Forest and is the setting of one of the U.S. Forest Services recommended hikes in the area, Chinaman Trail. The name is said to have been given to the area because of Chinese workers who dug a trail, tunnel and water ditch to aid miners.
Hiking the trail its hard not to
imagine troves of poorly paid Chinese men swinging picks
into the earth and lighting dynamite, clearing a path for
white men searching for mineral riches.
A 'Parks and
Recreation' star's blunt description of how race works in
In a Q&A session to promote his new show "Master of None," the actor and comedian used the opportunity to speak out against racial quotas on TV...
...as reported by Samuel Anderson in Vulture:
"When they cast these shows, they're like, 'We already have our minority guy or our minority girl.' There would never be two Indian people in one show. With Asian people, there can be one, but there can't be two. Black people, there can be two, but there can't be three because then it becomes a black show. Gay people, there can be two; women, there can be two; but Asian people, Indian people, there can be one but there can't be two."
There's lots more in the interview, including thoughts about white actors playing South Asian characters in "brownface," television's history of offering one-dimensional, stereotypical roles to Indian-American actors, and why "Empire" doesn't mean racism is a thing of the past.
You should go read the whole thing.
Ansari isn't the first to speak out about Hollywood's race problem.
TV mega-producer Shonda Rhimes, "Fresh Off the Boat" creator Eddie Huang, "Selma" star David Oyelowo, and many others have recently called out the TV and film industry for selling actors of color short and promoting stereotypes on screen.
The numbers back them up.
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A 2014 analysis by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA found that, in 2011, non-white actors were underrepresented on film by a factor of 3:1 when adjusted for their share of the population. The same analysis also found that more than 50% of films that year featured casts that were less than 10% non-white.
Why does it matter?
Representation matters, and it matters from a very early age. When characters of color are either not represented at all or portrayed as sidekicks, buffoons, and assorted other one-dimensional stereotypes, kids internalize those stereotypes and the notions that "That's how the world I live in sees me" or "I don't count."
It's hard to overstate the value of seeing someone who looks like you realized as a full human being on-screen. And right now, for people of color in America, that's not happening nearly enough.
What can be done?
Thankfully, the landscape is changing thanks in large part to shows like Ansari's, "The Mindy Project," "Fresh Off The Boat," and "Empire," which feature characters of color who are front and center rather than tokens in the background, and three-dimensional people rather than stereotypes.
Giving creators who are people of color a chance to make entertainment is the quickest way to make the industry more inclusive. Hopefully, the success of those shows will help convince Hollywood that doing so can be a winning bet.
As for shows that aren't built from the ground up by people of color...
Inclusion should be the goal, not a byproduct of the process.
Earlier this month, in an interview with NPR, Lorne Michaels was discussing diversity on "Saturday Night Live" when he said something extremely revealing:
"Chris Rock called me about Leslie [Jones] ... said, 'She's the funniest person, or one of the funniest people I know, and she's either going to end up working for you or working for AT&T, so.' And Leslie was 46 and was not in any way what I was looking for, but when I saw her and she just destroyed and she's, aside from being incredibly funny, she's a wonderful person, and lovely and you go, 'Right, OK, you join.'"
Here's the thing. It's not like no one knew about Leslie Jones.
Lots of people knew about her, in fact. She had been doing stand-up since 1987. She toured with Katt Williams. She was good enough that Chris freaking Rock knew about her.
But Michaels didn't.
He didn't know about her because he scouts talent from a few well-worn comedy establishment theaters many of which predominately attract white (and male) performers. If Chris Rock hadn't gotten in his face about it, Michaels never would have known. And crucially, "Saturday Night Live" would have been not just less diverse, but more importantly, less funny as a result.
For Lorne Michaels, the moral of the story seems to be that talent is talent no matter where it comes from. And that's true! But that's not the real lesson here.
The actual moral of the story?
Look harder. There's lots of talent out there. It just might not be in the places you always look.
And if you don't snatch them up, they
might just leave you behind.
Its not about
mental illness: The big lie that always follows mass
shootings by white males
I get really really tired of hearing the phrase mental illness thrown around as a way to avoid saying other terms like toxic masculinity, white supremacy, misogyny or racism.
We barely know anything about the suspect in the Charleston, South Carolina, atrocity. We certainly dont have testimony from a mental health professional responsible for his care that he suffered from any specific mental illness, or that he suffered from a mental illness at all.
We do have statistics showing that the vast majority of people who commit acts of violence do not have a diagnosis of mental illness and, conversely, people who have mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.
We know that the stigma of people who suffer from mental illness as scary, dangerous potential murderers hurts people every single day it costs people relationships and jobs, it scares people away from seeking help who need it, it brings shame and fear down on the heads of people who already have it bad enough.
But the media insists on trotting out mental illness and blaring out that phrase nonstop in the wake of any mass killing. I had to grit my teeth every time I personally debated someone defaulting to the mindless mantra of The real issue is mental illness over the Isla Vista shootings.
The real issue is mental illness is a goddamn cop-out. I almost never hear it from actual mental health professionals, or advocates working in the mental health sphere, or anyone who actually has any kind of informed opinion on mental health or serious policy proposals for how to improve our treatment of the mentally ill in this country.
What I hear from people who bleat on about The real issue is mental illness, when pressed for specific suggestions on how to deal with said real issue, is terrifying nonsense designed to throw the mentally ill under the bus. Elliot Rodgers parents shouldve been able to force risperidone down his throat. Seung-Hui Cho shouldve been forcibly institutionalized. Anyone with a mental illness diagnosis should surrender all of their constitutional rights, right now, rather than at all compromise the right to bear arms of self-declared sane people.
Whats interesting is to watch who the mentally ill people are being thrown under the bus to defend. In the wake of Sandy Hook, the NRA tells us that creating a national registry of firearms owners would be giving the government dangerously unchecked tyrannical power, but a national registry of the mentally ill would not even though a sane person holding a gun is intrinsically more dangerous than a crazy person, no matter how crazy, without a gun.
Weve successfully created a world so topsy-turvy that seeking medical help for depression or anxiety is apparently stronger evidence of violent tendencies than going out and purchasing a weapon whose only purpose is committing acts of violence. Weve got a narrative going where doing the former is something were OK with stigmatizing but not the latter. God bless America.
Whats also interesting is the way The real issue is mental illness is deployed against mass murderers the way its deployed in general as a way to discredit their own words. When you call someone mentally ill in this culture its a way to admonish people not to listen to them, to ignore anything they say about their own actions and motivations, to give yourself the authority to say you know them better than they know themselves.
This is cruel, ignorant bullshit when its used to discredit people who are the victims of crimes. It is, in fact, one major factor behind the fact that the mentally ill are far more likely to be the targets of violence than the perpetratorsevery predator loves a victim who wont be allowed to speak in their own defense.
But its also bullshit when used to discredit the perpetrators of crimes. Mass murderers frequently arent particularly shy about the motives behind what they do the nature of the crime they commit is attention-seeking, is an attempt to get news coverage for their cause, to use one local atrocity to create fear within an entire population. (According to the dictionary, by the way, this is called terrorism, but we only ever seem to use that word for the actions of a certain kind by which I mean a certain color of mass killer.)
Elliot Rodger told us why he did what he did, at great length, in detail and with citations to the redpill websites from which he got his deranged ideology. It isnt, at the end of the day, rocket science he killed women because he resented them for not sleeping with him, and he killed men because he resented them for having the success he felt he was denied.
Yes, whatever mental illness he may have had contributed to the way his beliefs were at odds with reality. But it didnt cause his beliefs to spring like magic from inside his brain with no connection to the outside world.
Thats as deliberately obtuse as reading the Facebook rants of a man who rambled on at great length about how much he hated religion and in particular hated Islam and deciding that the explanation for his murdering a Muslim family is that he mustve just gone crazy over a parking dispute.
Now weve got a man who wore symbols of solidarity with apartheid regimes, a man who lived in a culture surrounded by deadly weapons who, like many others, received a gift of a deadly weapon as a rite of passage into manhood.
He straight-up told his victims, before shooting them, that he was doing it to defend our country from black people taking over. He told a woman that he was intentionally sparing her life so she could tell people what he did.
There is no reasonable interpretation of his actions that dont make this a textbook act of terrorism against black Americans as a community.
And yet almost immediately weve heard the same, tired refrain of The real issue is mental illness.
Well, mental illness never created any idea, motivation or belief system. Mental illness refers to the way our minds can distort the ideas we get from the world, but the ideas still come from somewhere.
One of the highest-profile cases of full-blown schizophrenia in history is that of John Nash, who, unlike the vast, vast majority of mentally ill people, really did develop a whole system of delusions entirely separate from reality. And yet even then the movie A Beautiful Mind whitewashes what those beliefs actually werewhen he came up with an all-powerful conspiracy that was monitoring his every move, that conspiracy by sheer coincidence was a conspiracy of the worlds Jews.
Was it just sheer bad luck for Jewish people that a random genius random fertile imagination made them into demonic villains? Or did he get that idea from somewhere?
Misogynistic rants that exactly match Elliot Rodgers are just a Google search away, if you have a strong stomach. So are racist threats that exactly match Dylann Roofs. Are all those people mentally ill? And if so is there some pill you could distribute to cure it?
Dylann Roof is a fanboy of the South African and Rhodesian governments. As horrific as Roofs crime was, the crimes that occurred over decades of apartheid rule were far, far worse, and committed by thousands of statesmen, bureaucrats and law enforcement officials. Were all of them also mentally ill? At the risk of Godwinning myself, John Nash wasnt the only person to think the Jews were a global demonic conspiracy out to get himat one point in history a large portion of the Western world bought into that and killed six million people because of it. Were they all mentally ill?
Even when violence stems purely from delusion in the mind of someone whos genuinely totally detached from realitywhich is extremely rarethat violence seems to have a way of finding its way to culturally approved targets. Yeah, most white supremacists arent crazy enough to go on a shooting spree, most misogynists arent crazy enough to murder women who turn them down, most anti-government zealots arent crazy enough to shoot up or blow up government buildings.
But the crazy ones always seem to have a respectable counterpart who makes a respectable living pumping out the rhetoric that ends up in the crazy ones manifestodrawing crosshairs on liberals and calling abortion doctors mass murdererswho, once an atrocity happens, then immediately throws the crazy person under the bus for taking their words too seriously, too literally.
And the big splashy headliner atrocities tend to distract us from the ones that dont make headline news. People are willing to call one white man emptying five magazines and murdering nine black people in a church and openly saying it was because of race a hate crime, even if they have to then cover it up with the fig leaf of individual mental illnessbut a white man wearing a uniform who fires two magazines at two people in a car in a bad neighborhood in Cleveland? That just ends up a statistic in a DoJ report on systemic bias.
And hundreds of years of history in which an entire countrys economy was set up around chaining up millions of black people, forcing them to work and shooting them if they get out of line? Thats just history.
The reason a certain kind of person loves talking about mental illness is to draw attention to the big bold scary exceptional crimes and treat them as exceptions. Its to distract from the fact that the worst crimes in history were committed by people just doing their jobscops enforcing the law, soldiers following orders, bureaucrats signing paperwork. That if we define sanity as going along to get along with whats normal in the society around you, then for most of history the sane thing has been to aid and abet monstrous evil.
We love to talk about individuals mental illness so we can avoid talking about the biggest, scariest problem of allsocietal illness. That the danger isnt any one persons madness, but that the world we live in is mad.
After all, theres no pill for that.
Source: Arthur Chu, www.salon.com/2015/06/18/its_not_about_mental_illness_the_big_lie_that_always_follows_mass_shootings_by_white_males/?utm_source=zergnet.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=zergnet_584936
Approach To Racism
PREFACE "Baby, I've been thinking"
The song "Society's Child" was written by Janis Ian, a 14-year-old girl, recorded when she was 15.
It is about a high-school girl who tries to have a relationship with a black boy in 1966.
In the first verse, she beckons him to come to her door, tenderly saying, "You know that you look so fine." Her mother calls him "boy" and won't him inside their house: "But honey, he's not our kind." The girl lets the boy know "She says I can't seen you anymore, baby."
In the second verse, walking to school, her fellow students don't see or hear her, except to say "Why don't you stick to your own kind." Her teachers "all laugh, their smirking stares, cuttin' deep down in our affairs," all the while preaching messages of equality - yet unable to simply let this couple be. She lets him know "They say I can't see you anymore, baby."
In the last verse, she proudly asserts that "One of these days, I'm gonna raise my head up high...one of these days I'm gonna raise up my glistening wings and fly." Then the music halts and she sings, a capella at first, "But that day will have to wait for a while. Baby, I'm only society's child. When we're older things may change, but for now this is the way they must remain," her voice pushing through the strain of her anguish, on the last two words. And, in sorrowful resignation, in the end - worn down and defeated by parents, teachers, and society - she herself finally pushes him away. This time, she tells him "I say I can't see you anymore, baby ... no, I don't want to see you anymore, baby." The song ends with a haunting organ riff that chills the spine. Earlier on in the day I'm writing this, I was playing it on the piano for my friend and I started crying - and had to stop playing altogether - at the point in the song when she herself finally becomes the one to shun what she most desired.
As the song (whose full title is "Society's Child (Baby, I've Been Thinking)" moved up the charts -- eventually reaching #14 in the U.S. - it ignited controversy from coast to coast, resulting in the burning of a radio station, the firing of disc jockeys who played it, and a generation hungering for the truth. [Click Here For Lyrics]
As the lyrics progress from "She says I can't see you", to "They say I can't see you", to "I say I can't see you", and finally "I don't want to see you", at 14, Janis Ian was to foretell, in a way, what would happen in the decades that followed in America. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed his dream of little black kids joining hands with little white kids, and for a moment in the Sixties, a younger generation linked arms, black and white together. In the Seventies, that generation began to move its focus away, tacitly saying "One day we'll come back and deal with this," in fading echoes of the aftermath of the Sixties. Movement leaders walked away from being instruments of societal change and into corporate life. The vision was to fade in the background, save those few who have kept the conversation alive. In the end, the "good fight" having replaced "race relations" with the "politically correct" theme of "diversity" - America swept this under the carpet (pun intended, for now).
Here the main article begins...
In this article, I share my primary personal experiences with prejudice and racism, followed by some learnings. I don't claim to have all the answers, or all the solutions. This article is written from the perspective that I am a white man ... and I own what I say as being from that perspective. And, as always, these are my observations and judgments.
I judge that I'm taking some risks that I might ruffle a few feathers with some of what I say here. One risk has to do with speaking about races as collectives. When I use generalizing language, such as "white people" or "our world", my intention is not to suggest that every individual who is a member of a group I describe exhibits all the characteristics sometimes associated with that group. (The one exception to that is where I discuss "institutional pull", and hopefully that exception will make sense and be clear.) I hold the perspective that we are unique individuals (with individual psyches) as well as constituent members of a number of collectives (each with a single collective psyche).
Note that what I write here is about race and prejudice in the United States. I acknowledge that the ways in which issues of race play out can and do vary greatly throughout the world.
My childhood experiences of race and prejudice
I am a 54-year old white straight man, born Jewish. I grew up, from the ages of 3 to 10, in a white middle-class WASP neighborhood and, from the age of 10, in a white upper-middle-class Catholic neighborhood. Like a great many white children, I had no exposure to what children of color experience, growing up in white-dominated America. I was, in part, raised by our "cleaning lady", Louise, a black woman with a family of her own, with whom my brother and I spent more of our time at home than with our parents. Many American Jewish children growing up around that time were raised similarly.
When I was 6 or 7 years old, Louise had planned to take us to Marshall Hall, an amusement park a little way down the Potomac River, on the Virginia side. (Many, many years later, I was to become aware of how that river is really the modern-day dividing line between the North and the South, rather than the Mason-Dixon line.) A boat known as "The Wilson Line" took folks down the river to the park.
We were unable to go because they didn't allow "coloreds" onto the boat. (The amusement park itself didn't have that restriction, just the boat line.) I didn't understand why we couldn't go. It didn't make sense and no one explained it to me. (Quite possibly, no one could explain it.) I was confused and disappointed.
The only other moment I can recall from childhood involving race was that one day my grandmother choose where to sit, so as not to be near 'schwartze', the Yiddish word for black. I recall asking her "why not", and her response was that they were dirty. And thus began a subtle suggestion that black people - colored people - were dirty people.
When I was 11 or 12, I heard about racial unrest and the civil rights movement. But these were only distant images that were on the television and radio news. In the course of my childhood, I never learned cognitively about racism.
As I grew up, I was sheltered from the matter of skin color. I went to junior high and high schools with kids from many ethnic and cultural backgrounds - black, asian, hispanic, middle eastern - mostly children of a parent who worked for the state department or an embassy. I attended a public high school that was jokingly referred to as a "country club" because it was mostly upper middle-class and lower upper-class. In junior high school, I heard my friends call each other names ...'spik', 'wop', and 'kike', but they just sounded like those silly nonsense words that young kids make up I never knew that these were racial.
I had my first clear awareness of prejudice at 18 when I had my first black friend, Chuck.. On the walk to my house, Chuck said he was afraid that some white lady would come out and threaten him. He said it to be humorous, but it seemed a nervous sort of humor, and I felt that it was a smokescreen for a genuine fear beneath the surface. My mother was never comfortable about Chuck being around. And he didn't strike me as being any dirtier than anyone else I'd met. My second exposure to prejudice was at 19. Upon hearing that I was attracted to a young German woman, my father suggested that I not tell my mother if she and I dated because my mother couldnt handle that. Again, this made no sense because, though that young woman was German, she didnt hate or kill Jews.
Most of my adult life, Ive seen myself as progressive and color blind. I never saw race as an issue when it came to offering opportunities or choosing the people to have in my life. When I was 25, I hired the first black person in the company I worked for. I hired him, not because he was black, but because I liked the methodical way he worked. And when I was 33, I had an Asian lover, and at 34 or 35, a black lover. In the things that were important to me, race simply wasn't a factor.
A more recent story
Moving ahead to nearly two years ago ... while I was 52, I spent several weeks in the San Francisco Bay area. (At the time, my home was Washington, D.C.) While I was staying at the home of my friend Brian, he arranged for me to take a workshop at an ashram (spiritual center) and spend the weekend there. On that Saturday morning, he dropped me off at the ashram. Just as Brian pulled out of the driveway, I was told that the workshop wasn't happening and that they couldn't provide a place for me to stay. I tried to call Brian but he had turned off his cell phone. I was several miles from public transportation, and I had no money with me, for why would I need money in such a place? I had been at many retreats in remote places where I left my money behind, knowing that my basic needs would be provided for, and that if anything happened to any of us, the community would rise up in support.
I was told that there would be a brief meeting of a few activists that I was welcome to stay for, but that I wouldn't be able to stay into the evening. I attended the meeting, and at the end, I made a request for a place to stay. A black woman asked me a couple of questions and then said that she could put me up, not just for the night, but for two weeks, so that I could stay in California longer.
I was driven to a meditation center that included living quarters for the teacher/spiritual director and her assistant on the main floor, and three residents on the lower level. The teacher is black, the assistant is Asian, and the residents below were a black woman and two men, one black and one white. In addition to the racial and ethnic variety, all the women were Lesbians. While I had lived among gay men before, I had never lived among Lesbians. And of the two or three dozen regular members of the broader meditation community, there were only two other white people, a straight white man in his early twenties, and a Lesbian about my age.
So I took up my regular stance. As a progressive color blind white man, I talked about how skin color wasn't a factor in my life.
During the next few months, I was to go through an arduous (and often charged) growth and learning around issues of race - growth and learning that irreversibly altered my perspective. There were many times where one of the residents would, referring to my behavior, say, "Of course, what can you expect, he's a white man." Sometimes it was true, only I didn't know it. But as I became more aware of the dynamics, it was increasingly obvious to me and to the teacher that the community wasn't able to differentiate between my behaving a particular way because I was a white man and behaving that way because I was Cal, with all of my individual idiosyncrasies.
One day, during a council, the white woman about my age said "You're blind to this. You have to be. You're a white man." I became enraged at her, and I shared what I was feeling. I am not prone to violence, and yet my words were perceived as violent by the women there. (It didn't help that I was the only man in the circle.) The following week, the community shipped my ass off to do a workshop called "White People Confronting Racism." When I returned, there was clearly a rift in our relationship. Yet no one asked me to leave, and in the weeks and months that followed, we slowly and painstakingly worked through this. I was told, "There are going to be people who come through these doors who are going to be angry with you, and some of them will be angry simply because you're white ... and you're just going to have to sit there and take it, and even though it might not seem fair, you'll have to be the one to begin to make changes."
Essentially, she was saying that I was embarking on a journey to take on institutional shadow, and that the first step was for me to have to make changes in myself. It was the beginning of my learning that I was entering a world that was not "my world"...and how things were done in my world didn't matter much to them. Even though it was emotionally painful, I took on learning more about this. I found myself in an environment where it was not acceptable to say "I don't want feedback now", where saying that would terminate the possibility for being offered feedback from that point on. The work I had done to speak truthfully and not withhold, to hold boundaries to keep myself safe, and the work I had done on relationship and on collective dynamics...all this had to be put on hold for quite some time. It was like being in the first moments of Friday night of a NWTA for a year! Finally, after more than a year, it became easier for there to be open conversations about race and gender, and I can now participate in those conversations. What a lengthy initiatory process!
My learnings about skin color
In essence, racism is about power differentials. In the world of humans, people in power don't have to be concerned about their impact. Why would they need to be concerned? Those who are not in power don't (or can't) directly affect them. (Or so it might seem.) This accounts for "white obliviousness," a state of blindness wherein white people are oblivious to the race dynamics or walk through the world with a consciousness of power differentials.
I've learned that, while most people today are aware, to some degree, of racism or prejudice, race doesn't figure prominently into the lives of a great many white people. For some, it only shows up when we are afraid to go into certain neighborhoods, and we can usually just steer clear of those places if we so choose. For others, it has no conscious effect whatsoever.
For people of color, it's doesn't work like that. Essentially, most white folks live in "our world" - the "white world", where white is normal, standard, or superior. In contrast, people who are not white have to live not only in "their world" but also in our world. For them, this means that, consciously or unconsciously, they are ever-vigilant of their surroundings and of the presence of white people.
During the last two years, every person of color I've met has helped me understand, in one way or another, that issues of race and class affect them every day. They just don't talk about that with white people ... and this happens at an unconscious level.
If you're white, one possible response you might have to reading this is the desire to jump down my throat and say "I know people who aren't white, they never talk about this, and they don't seem focused on race." If you have such a desire, I offer you the possibility that they aren't likely to bring these matters up to you. You may be familiar with the notion that women act differently when there are only women around than they do when there's even a single man around. I invite you to consider a similar notion when it comes to people of color when they are around white folks. I'll come back to this later...
I've also learned that saying that I'm color blind infuriates many people of color. It's a way of not acknowledging the differences, and is often seen as an indicator of white obliviousness. Why do white men tend to have this blindness that people of color can see quite clearly? One reason I see for this is that the attention of white men tends to focus on individuals and, by extension, small immediate family units, while women and people of color tend to be oriented around community and collective. Many white men tend to develop a sense of fierce independence, striving to not have to rely on anything or anyone else, while more women and people of color lean towards a sense that they are inextricably tied to their collectives, and on some level, know that they can't survive particularly well independently. While white men can and do have the experience of being oppressed as an individual, they are unlikely to have the experience that their entire racial group is oppressed. This presents little to no context in which to develop an awareness of institutional oppression, in contrast to daily awareness that a person of color is more likely to have.
And I've learned that, regardless of how hungry and open I might be to learning about issues of race, people of color have been living in the white world for hundreds of years, futilely trying to teach or influence people who were unable, unwilling, or uninterested in grasping these issues. They are tired of doing this, and most are no longer willing, claiming "it's not our job to teach you that."
Some groundwork about individual and collective psyche
This section may seem a bit heady. Bear with me and I'll try to be brief. Since racism is an institutional matter, I find it useful to explore the relationship between individual psyches and collective psyche.
Most everyone knows that each of us has a individual psyche, consisting of conscious and unconscious, with a set of patterns and dynamics that determine what we are and do. According to Jung, every collective likewise has a single psyche, with the same sorts of patterns and dynamics that are found in individual psyches. So, in addition to being a unique individual, we individuals are also members of the psyche of any of the collectives of which are a member. For example, I am connected to the collective psyche of the white race, the collective psyche of males, of white males, of the U.S., of the San Francisco Bay area, of political liberals, of my clan wave, of an I-group...you get the idea.
Much is available about the workings, dynamics, and patterns of the individual psyche. Unfortunately, how collective psyche works hasn't been explored that much, and the underlying energetic dynamics that operate in a collective psyche are almost never taught or dealt with. And rarer still is an exploration of the dynamic relationship between the individual psyches of constituent members of a collective and the single psyche of that collective, which I find essential to an understanding of anything societal or institutional.
First, let's look briefly at the architecture of the individual psyche. I often visualize an image of the ocean...
Note: Admittedly, using the ocean as a model is limited. To represent this in scale, our ego, at the surface, would be seen as nearly infinitely small, and the bottom of the ocean as infinitely vast. Also, the boundary between individual and collective psyche is more complex than the membrane-like boundary between our individual conscious and unconscious. Further, a psyche is both multi-layered and multi-dimensional; therefore, our ability to visualize in only two or three dimensions makes it impossible to visually represent the relationship between collective psyche and cosmic psyche (also known as the universal psyche), and the relationship between our individual psyche and the universal psyche, which to would require at least a four- or five-dimensional model to illustrate ... and even that would still be crude. This is where we run into the limitations of the mind, and why the mind must simply get out of the way for us to have any sort of relationship with the universal psyche. Okay...enough of that...back to racism.
How racism works in the psyche: Collective unconscious and institutional pull
Because our unconscious shares borders with the psyches of whatever collectives we are a member of, a collective psyche can exert subtle, yet powerful, unconscious influences on the individual psyche of every member. I refer to this effect as "institutional pull". (If you've ever seen an entire group get "swept" like in mob behavior, that's an example, albeit a less subtle one, of institutional pull.) This means that, even if we personally have no direct history related to race, because our psyche is linked to collective psyche at an unconscious level, we are nevertheless affected by, and have a part to play in, the dynamics of race.
This is not about labels or categories, but rather what influences and shapes the dynamics between members of different races, regardless of whether this plays out consciously or unconsciously.
Here are a couple of examples of how institutional pull can show up:
For my first example, many people of color, when encountering a white person, will show undue respect, treating white persons as superior, more important or worthy than persons of color. In addition to the respect being given regardless of whether the person has earned their respect as an individual, this respect is given automatically, most often unconsciously, and different from how they would treat a person who is not white.
When I first began to see this, I began to chalk it up to a cultural difference wherein their culture trained them to be more respectful of people. However, while more respect is given to white people, far less respect is often afforded to people of their own race or people who are of another non-white race. Among both black people and people from India, there are hierarchies based on skin tone. The lighter the skin tone, the higher percentage of white blood the person has - and the higher that person is in the hierarchy.
This differential in respect - either granting undue respect to a white person or having less respect for someone who is not white and of darker skin tone - can even happen among the best of friends, though sometimes it's quite a bit more subtle, so as not become conscious.
For my second example, I'll go back to something I said I'd come back to - the tendency of people of color to not talk about racial issues when talking with white people, even good friends who are white. This may not be a conscious choice. Hundreds of years of oppression at the hands of white people, followed by more than a century of white obliviousness, has trained them well. There are societal patterns that go back generations. For example, because of the control that slave owners exercised over slaves, often not allowing them to speak unless spoken to to survive and to connect with each other, slaves had to develop communication mechanisms that they could detect among each other but that were specifically designed to be so subtle that the slave owners would not see.
This still resides deep within the black collective unconscious, and continues to play out today. It shows up in the collective dynamic between the races. For whites, this is amplified when dealing with many Asians, whose facial expressions are so sublimely subtle that white people who did not grow up with certain Asian cultures have virtually no chance of seeing them. (Even white people who are highly skilled or trained facilitators arent likely to pick up on them.) And yet, black and Asians have no difficulty in sending and receiving clear messages. Its as if they communicate on a different frequency than white folks. This difference is all the more stark when taking into account that white men tend to see words as the clearest form of communication, and therefore rely on verbal communication as our primary form...even though verbal communication makes up only seven percent of our communication. The people of color I know put much less credence in the words someone says...they have more trust in the body language and the underlying energies that they sense. And many women often don't remember the words...only the feeling states or body sensations. We get our information through different channels.
Because there is institutional pull for everyone, as a white man, I play a part in the dynamics of race, including the two examples above. For the most part, as of now, white people have traditionally not taken any accountability for these dynamics. If you're white, have you paused to consider, or even detect, when you are receiving undue respect? And if you are aware of this, have you considered your accountability in these situations?
I don't intend to make anyone wrong or deficient in any way. Institutional pull happens at the unconscious level, and has to do with collective energetics, a body of work apart from work we do on ourselves as individuals. Rather than writing another 5 to 10 pages about collective energetics here, I'll return to that topic in a future article.
How this shows up
As a member of three different MKP regional communities, I have the opportunity to read and take part in many discussions on a variety of subjects. Here are some of the notions and concepts I've heard or read from MKP men, and my comments on each:
The shadow angle
At the beginning of this article, I wrote that the issue of race plays out differently in many other cultures. In some Latin American countries, blacks, whites, and mixed-race people associate, become friends, and marry, without judgment from society, and without race ever being an issue. (In those countries, sexual orientation may be the issue.) And for a contrast, in some African countries, the races are even more severely separated than in the U.S.
But rather than believe that some other nation's model is the correct one for us, I sense that what is happening in the U.S. is happening for a reason. There's something being offered to the American psyche for our growth and learning that we just can't seem to be able to see.
My brothers, we live in a "new age." But that new age isn't an age of "peace, light, and harmony," where there are no power differentials and violence doesn't exist. It's a new age in which we are called to realize that we can't actually get rid of anything. Remember that a fundamental principle of shadow is that anything we try to get rid of will just bury itself in the unconscious. (From my first article for the Journal in June 2005: "That which is disowned will continue to operate from the unconscious without our awareness.")
This is why it appeared that we were making progress 40 years ago with the Civil Rights Movement, but then we tried to sweep the idea that we are different under the rug (I won't say "carpet" here!). And so racism buried itself in the collective unconscious, only to puppet us from a hidden place, lurking until it was time for it to rise back into our awareness. And this time, I hold out the possibility that we might not just try to make it go away again, but learn what it is, and find ways that this collective dynamic can serve us.
I also wrote: "Part of my intention here is to reduce the tendency to make the shadow something wrong or bad, and to dispel the notion that we can get rid of anything that's in it. All parts serve ... it's a question of how they serve. Anything that's disowned is likely not to serve what we consciously want or intend." It seems that, the more we try to "solve" racism, the worse it gets. In order to be able to change anything this entrenched, the first step is to acknowledge and understand how it serves. So instead of taking the position that racism is a problem to be fixed or eliminated, I invite us (a) to be curious, (b) to open to how such separation and power differential might serve, and (c) to learn how differentiating people along characteristic lines might serve...all in a way that doesn't produce undesired results. That's a radically different approach to racism.
In the San Francisco Bay area, some of the Zen centers are oriented around a theme of diversity. Of those that I know of, all but one operates from the premise that everyone is the same and that race doesn't have a place in spirituality. I refer to this as "A soul is a soul." Any place, or organization, or region that embraces diversity must strive to see, acknowledge, and endeavor to understand differences, rather than make difference a non-issue.
What to do
So how do we do work on a collective matter?
Last month, in my article about 9/11, I wrote: "...while we have already begun doing individual projection work, very little collective work is done in our society." Before we can embark on that work, the journey begins with questions.
Here are some questions that I've begun to ponder (and I invite you to do the same):
People of color consistently say to me that "the only thing we want from white folks is to get your act together." In the last year, a number of black folks have said to me that they don't want us to try and compensate for centuries of imbalance and injustice...that simply can't be done. They don't want us to take care of them or be responsible for them. Fundamentally, they want us to be responsible for us.
When they say "get your act together" - what they are referring to is our relationship to the world outside of ourselves, people who are different from us, our relationship to our environment. This means doing our work. Yet, while doing work on ourselves as individuals, may be part of setting the stage for relationship, doing individual work, in and of itself, does not facilitate relationship. Let me repeat this: Doing work on ourselves as individuals, in and of itself, does not facilitate relationship. To imagine so is to maintain a fantasy. If we want to effect change on this scale, we must do our work, not only as individuals, but we must learn to do work in collective ways as well.
I want white men to stop acting like the best thing is for racism to simply be eradicated. Unless we can understand how it came to be, how it has transformed into what exists today, and, most importantly, relate to racism, just as it is, we have no possibility for changing anything.
Rather than trying to include people of color in "our world", as white men, it's up to us to join them. And the first step is to learn about their world. And the step after that is to enter that world...?
With fierce love, Cal
(C) 2006-2017 Cal Simone
Cal Simone is a
Jungian mystery scholar, shadow coach, teacher, writer, and
public speaker. He explores and enjoys the patterns of the
unconscious, and he had dedicated his life to bringing to
consciousness that which is in the unconscious. Before
leaving Washington D.C. in January 2005, he organized
face-to-face gatherings between liberal and conservative
voters. He has spoken on the impending end of the oil age,
from the perspective of the American collective psyche, and
on our relationship to powerlessness. He continues to speak
and teach in the Oakland/Berkeley East Bay cities on such
topics asimpact and perception in relationship, how
projection works, and the nature of a man's life purpose. He
is on the initiation design team for the Tribe of Men in the
SF Bay area. In the past two years, he has written more than
a dozen pieces for the New Warrior Journal, as well as the
Culture Change Letter and Open Exchange magazine.
I have to admit that when my phone rang, I felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety and nervousness that I haven't experienced in years.
Am I really going to conduct this interview? Can a white supremacist truly be reformed? Do I really want to hear his story?
Maybe this would be a complete waste of time, but I took a deep breath and listened to everything because I knew it was possible I could learn something from him.
The first thing I learned: The path to joining a hate group doesn't always pass through a dramatic moment.
Arno Michaelis was born in Milwaukee. He described himself as "an angry, bored teenager with a habit of provoking people." Similar to how some misguided inner-city kids turn to gangs, Arno began to embrace the white power narrative because it made him feel powerful.
"The swastika appealed to me because everyone else was so repulsed by it," he told me. "As a bully who lashed out at other kids rather than face the suffering I felt growing up in an alcoholic household, I distanced myself from my family and familiarized myself with hate and violence. The white power narrative gave it all a heroic context."
Arno was introduced to the white power skinhead scene through music; he listened to bands that preached racial hate. He received an adrenaline rush from participating in antisocial behavior and quickly became addicted to the movement and its mission. Not long afterward, it came to define him.
In the world of white supremacy, this man could put his resume up against anybody.
He was a founding member of the Northern Hammerskins, which went on to become part of Hammerskin Nation, "the best organized, most widely dispersed, and most dangerous skinhead group known," according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that tracks hate groups. He was also the lead vocalist for a white power metal band called Centurion, a group that sold over 20,000 records in the mid-1990s.
It seemed as if his life would be nothing but a cesspool of hatred and bigotry.
Then one moment changed him: He was thrust into single fatherhood.
"I was with my daughter's mother for about six months before we decided it was our duty as white people to bring white children into the world," said Arno, who was 21 when his daughter was born. "By the time she was a little over a year old, my relationship with her mother ended," he said.
"That's when I made the decision to be a good dad first and foremost. Living a life filled with hate just wasn't possible if I wanted to do that."
Shortly thereafter, he felt a strange emotion that he never experienced before.
He became more in-tune with the feelings of his fellow humans. In doing so, he acknowledged that he was causing pain to others due to his own pain.
"I knew what I was doing was wrong all along, but I poured all of my energy into suppressing that knowledge," he said. "At the time, all I was doing was fleeing a fire I lit, leaving a trail of gasoline behind me. It was a soul-exhausting, self-created hell. Raising my daughter helped me come to grips with that."
In addition to the love for his daughter, the immense power of empathy also came to the rescue.
"I realized we are all human beings, entirely capable of engaging each other outside of the construct of race," he said. "Once this connection happens, it becomes contagious. When we see ourselves in others, hate and violence no longer make sense. Understanding and love take over."
The healing process started. He would evolve into a man his daughter would be proud of.
But Arno wasn't done.
A depraved act of hatred moved him to speak out against his old life.
On Aug. 5, 2012, a mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, rocked the community and the country. The shooter, 40-year-old Wade Michael Page, was reportedly a member of the Northern Hammerskins, the skinhead group Arno helped create.
Feeling inspired to do something positive, Arno contacted Pardeep Kaleka, whose father was the last person murdered in the shooting. They were both members of a network that is against violent extremism, and they decided to meet in person.
Arno said they both experienced some anxiety at first, but it soon dissipated after they found common ground as dads. They both have children and found plenty to talk about. "We sat down for dinner and talked until they kicked us out an hour after the place closed," Arno said.
Although the two men began to build a bond, how could Pardeep forgive the people in the white power movement who were responsible for his father's murder?
It wasn't easy, according to Pardeep.
"It has taken me a while to get to the point where I am today," he said. "Forgiveness is a way for me to take the power back from the ones who tried to take it from me.
He said his Sikh faith helped him cope with the tragedy, including the philosophy known as Chardi Kala, which he translated as "relentless optimism." At the same time, he wants to be proactive about stopping hate. "We'll either create the world that we want, or one will be created for us," he said.
Pardeep now describes Arno as his "friend, brother, psychiatrist, and teacher." With a combined passion to improve the world, this unlikely team runs Serve2Unite.org, an organization that Arno described as "created to defy hate and violence by bringing people of all backgrounds together."
Serve2Unite students and educators have created community art projects and block parties, book drives for incarcerated people, and peace-themed PSAs. Regardless of the task at hand, the goal of the organization remains the same: Bring people together by celebrating our similarities.
And the young men and women they lead are completely on board with the mission.
What message does a former white supremacist have for other racists (overt, closeted, or otherwise)?
"I've lived as they have," he said. "What they're doing isn't living. Racism sucks. It's a crappy excuse for existence, and completely unnecessary."
As I listened to Arno tell his story, one thing kept coming to mind: Empathy is the key to stopping racism.
Anyone has the capability to feel empathy if they choose to for everyone from our tactless neighbor to psychopaths and narcissists. But we have to keep it real with ourselves about what the absence of empathy looks like.
A lack of empathy leads people to dismiss Muslims as extremists bent on harming our country when the reality is the overwhelming majority of them are peaceful and loving (and homegrown extremists have caused more deaths in America since 9/11 than any other extremist group).
"We'll either create the world that we want, or one will be created for us."
A lack of empathy leads people to believe that minorities constantly whine about being victimized by society, when the reality is many of us (minorities) feel hopeless and crave understanding.
A lack of empathy leads minorities to believe that white people are clueless, blinded by their white privilege, when the reality is many of them empathize with us and want to end racism, too.
We can use empathy to eliminate the us-versus-them mentality that plagues our society.
If a former white supremacist can teach us anything, it's that we are way more similar than we are different, and it's time to embrace that.
After speaking with Arno, I'm sold that a person with his dark past can be reformed. 100% sold. This man is intelligent and charismatic, and he's now dedicating his life to ending racism and bigotry. He's the kind of man I would want to be friends with. (Editor's note: He's the kind of man I would like to be.)
And that's definitely not what I
What Stands in
Soon afterwards, the mayor of Ferguson declared that Theres not a racial divide in Ferguson. One of the great myths in this country is that if we say that everything is fine loud and long enough, the problem will go away. This is perhaps because as someone once said, When the truth becomes too hard to bear, we create another.
So what kinds of environments, attitudes, and behaviors create a racial divide? First of all, having an almost all white police force creates an ethnic vacuum that shields the white officers from ever having to see outside their white bubble or to get feedback on their actions and attitudes from someone who is non-white. Another is never interviewing officers prior to hire to see if they possess any racial prejudices towards any particular group of people and how that might heighten their perceptions and feelings of distrust and fearing for their safety. This may explain why so many blacks are shot repeatedly, sometimes over twenty times.
In my latest documentary film, If These Halls Could Talk, one of the white students talks about seeing people of color as less than human. Throughout the history of the United States, this perception of people of color as animals plays itself out in on the contemporary stage in terms of Guantanamo Bay and cartoon caricatures of the Obama family as chimpanzees and apes. Even Serena and Venus Williams, when they first came onto the tennis scene, were described by one New York radio commentator, My god, look at how big they are. Who would ever want to date those two gorillas? With these types of stereotypes of seeing people of color as animals, how might that affect a white officers perception of safety in times of a crisis or confrontation? As one black resident of Ferguson said, There is an attitude here where we are seen as the enemy.
So what can be done to bring about a
greater sense of community and understanding? By having
community dialogues where grievances can be shared, heard
and acknowledged. Where there is environment of curiosity
and a desire to look at ones own attitudes and
behaviors and how that impacts our actions and inaction. As
James Baldwin once said, If I love you, I have to make
you conscious of the things you dont see.
But for the religious right, the battle lines have been drawn. 2016 presidential contenders like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Ben Carson and others have all rushed to defend Indianas legislation, as a number of state legislatures continue to debate enacting similar measures. In Louisiana, one Republican lawmaker is introducing a narrower bill specifically taking aim at marriage, with the intent to allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex weddings and deny benefits to employees in same-sex marriages.
In all of these examples, religious belief is invoked to justify a right to discriminate. Proponents argue that constitutional protections for religious freedom are insufficient, and these new lawsaimed at granting businesses themselves exemptions from laws based on the invocation of religionare necessary. Its no surprise that these laws are proliferating around the same time marriage equality is slowly becoming the law of the land in most of the country. However, cries of religious liberty and a religious-based right to discriminatory and harmful behavior are not new. For centuries, religion has been used and abused as a shield for harmful behavior, to justify everything from slavery to sexist violence to racism in the Jim Crow South.
Slaverys Religious Supporters
In todays history books, the righteous deeds of abolitionistsmany of them devout Christiansare rightly documented, showing how the Gospel was used to liberate millions of human beings who had been subjugated by slavery. However, while the abolitionists did use scripture to make their case, many of their pro-slavery opponents also invoked biblical traditions
In 1852, the writer Josiah Priest published a book titled Bible Defence Of Slavery: And Origin, Fortunes, and History of the Negro Race. The publishers preface points out the belief that the institution of slavery received the sanction of the Almighty in the Patriarchal age; that it was incorporated into the only national constitution which ever emanated from God, that its legality was recognized, and its relative duties relegated by our Saviour, when upon earth.
Priest quotes liberally from scripture, citing numerous examples of enslavement being sanctified in the Bible. He writes, If God appointed the race of Ham judicially to slavery, and it were a heinous sin to enslave one, or all the race, how then is the appointment of God to go into effect? . God does never sanction sin, nor call for the commission of moral evil to forward any of his purposes; wherefre we come to the conclusion, that is is not sinful to enslave the negro race, providing it is done in a tender, fatherly and thoughtful manner.
Priests interpretations of the Bible were particularly popular in the American South, with the Southern Baptists championing religious justifications for enslavement. Prominent Baptist minister Richard Furman helped polarize southern white Baptists to support the institution of slavery; he wrote to the governor of South Carolina explaining that the right of holding slaves is clearly established in the Holy Scriptures; he specifically cites the Israelites [being] directed to purchase their bond-men and bond-maids of the Heathen nations; except they were of the Canaanites, for these were to be destroyed. And it is declared that the persons purchased were to be their bond-men forever; and an inheritance for them and their children.
It was not until 1995's Southern Baptist Convention that the organization issued an apology for its former stance on slavery.
Weaponizing the Bible For Sexism
The Seneca Falls Womans Rights Convention of 1848 was one of the major gatherings of the womens movement, and is considered to have been one of the turning points for suffragists in particular. In the Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions the activists there compiled, they specifically included a provision condemning those who would use the Bible to suppress their rights: Resolved, That woman has too long rested satisfied in the circumscribed limits which corrupt customs and a perverted application of the Scriptures have marked out for her, and that it is time she should move in the enlarged sphere which her great Creator has assigned her.
Clinging to verses in the Bible that gave unequal status to men and women, opponents of the suffragists justified their beliefs with religious teaching. Who demand the ballot for woman? They are not the lovers of God, nor are they believers in Christ, as a class. There may be exceptions, but the majority prefer an infidels cheer to the favor of God and the love of the Christian community. It is because of this tendency that the majority of those who contend for the ballot for woman cut loose from the legislation of Heaven, from the enjoyments of home, and drift to infidelity and ruin, intoned Justin Fulton, a prominent reverend in 1869.
The religious-based bigotry against women was so intense that Elizabeth Cady Stanton actually wrote The Womans Bible to directly challenge religious oppression of women. The books critique of using religion to justify discrimination against women was considered so controversial it not only was denounced by sexists, but also by the National American Woman Suffrage Association, which saw the book as a mistake for the movement.
Jim Crows Holy Defenders
Other than the Christian rights modern-day campaign against gay rights, the most recent use of scripture and religious liberty to justify discrimination was the 20th-century defense of Jim Crow. ThinkProgresss Ian Milhiser notes that Democratic Senator Theodore Bilbo used his religious faith to justify preventing integration of the races.
[P]urity of race is a gift of God . And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed, wrote Bilbo in the book Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization.
Segregationist governor George Wallace invoked God 27 times in his famous speech that came to be known as segregation now, segregation forever. Georgia governor Allen Candler said that God made them negroes and we cannot by education make them white folks; following the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that mandated desgregation of schools, Senator Harry Byrd took to the floor and quoted Genesis and Leviticus to justify continued segregation of the races.
Harming Church and State
None of this is to argue that
religious values cant inspire individuals to do good.
Towering figures such as the Reverend Martin Luther King,
Jr. and Mother Teresa improved the lives of millions and
used scripture to liberate people, not oppress them. But a
cursory review of the history shows that invoking religious
preference to justify discrimination and oppression is a
common tool. Thats why although the Constitution
guarantees your right to practice your religion as you see
fit, it also prevents the government from using it to deny
people rights. The current debates over religious liberty
are hardly new, they are simply new cover for using religion
to deny people rights, an old routine that harms both the
church and the state.
Change: GM Bruce Allen Says 'There's Nothing That We Feel Is
"There's nothing that we feel is offensive," Allen said. "And we're proud of our history."
Opposition to "Redskins" has gained momentum following last week's symposium at the Smithsonian that was heavily critical of the use of the word, citing its history as an offensive term. Local columnists and commentators have called for the team to change its name in recent days.
The Redskins have responded with website postings featuring interviews with officials from the 70 high schools they say still called themselves "Redskins." (Interesting that their research is 70 racist high schools versus talking with First Nation's people about how it feels to be called a racist name like Redskin. Are names like Chink, Wop, and Dego okay too? I've called the team the Washington Bigots for years. In the same camp, the Atlanta Braves are so proud of their nick-name that I understand they are bringing back the "Screaming Savage" as their logo. So 60's of them.)
Speaking at the ceremonial groundbreaking for the team's new training camp facility, Allen also told reporters that Robert Griffin III was "progressing well" in rehabilitation from knee reconstruction surgery, but that the team doctors will ultimately decide whether the franchise quarterback will be ready in time for the start of the season.
Allen said the Bigots are still fighting the $36 million salary cap penalty levied by the league last year for excessive spending during the uncapped 2010 season. The first $18 million was docked last year, with the other $18 million hit coming when free agency starts next month.
"I think the penalty was wrong and it was unfair," Allen said. "There are plenty of things we can do."
He declined to go into specifics.
Allen also said the team is coming up
with a plan to improve the Bigots
stadium field, which was torn up by the end of the season
and prompted criticism from opposing players. He said the
team missed an opportunity to re-sod during the season and
would plan differently this year.
This is the racist crap Indians have to put up with because
Dan Snyder is a stubborn wretch
The sentiment of the human who put up that sign is illustrative of the pervasive attitude toward us Indians. Every time something like this happens, it's a reminder that while certain racial slurs have been abandoned, in public at least, others are still handed out with no consideration whatsoever of the pain they cause.
To its credit, the corporate office of the Sonic fast-food chain responded with a straightforward, no-hedging apology, a rare thing these days:
Patrick Lenow, vice president of public relations at Sonic, told NBC News that the sign was created by an employee who is "known for creative use of his signs," but that this sign was done "in poor taste."
"The remarks posted on this message board were wrong, offensive and unacceptable," Lenow said in a statement. "In a misguided effort to support his football team an independent franchise owner allowed passion to override good judgment. The owner has reinforced with his employees the boundaries of what is acceptable and unacceptable. On behalf of the franchise owner and our entire brand we apologize for the offensive remarks."
For more on the history of American Indians and their fight against ignorance in sports, please read below..
For decades, the National Congress of American Indians, the National Coalition on Racism in Sports and Media, the American Indian Movement, the Oneida Nation, and other Indians of various tribes have sought with considerable success to get high school, college, and professional team mascots, caricatures, and nicknames that denigrate Native Americans changed. Now, the biggest holdouts with the worst examples of these are the Cleveland Indians' Chief Wahoo, who is to many Indians what Little Black Sambo is to African Americans, and the Washington Redskins, which might just as well be the Washington "Niggers," "Chinks," "Spics," "Kikes" or "Ragheads." How about the "Washington Bigots" which says it all. Click here if you like Pro-Football and the Washington Bigots or the Kansas City Savages. - Editor
But, despite growing opposition to the name, owner Dan Snyder continues to claim the name is all about respect and he will "never" change it.
As a consequence, the American Indian Movement issued a manifesto on Oct. 16 threatening a class-action suit against the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins if they don't change. Why not the Kansas City Chiefs and the Atlanta Braves to and even the Chicago Blackhawks? An excerpt from the manifesto:
It is illegal in the United States to discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, physical difference or gender preference. We, the Indigenous People of America, are victims of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin and institutional ignorance. While many indigenous people choose to live their lives with pride and independence from the negative influences of institutional racism, it remains necessary to assert our equal rights as citizens of the United States through education and legal action.
& Racism with Your Black Friends: Dos &
DO LISTEN MORE THAN YOU SPEAK.
DONT MAKE THE CONVERSATION ABOUT YOU.
99% of movies, TV shows and books are about White people. It is okay if this one conversation is not about you. Youll be fine.
DO TREAT YOUR BLACK FRIENDS LIKE EXPERTS ON THE SUBJECTS OF RACE AND RACISM.
DONT ASSUME THAT BECAUSE YOUVE NEVER EXPERIENCED SOMETHING, IT DOESNT EXIST.
DONT SUGGEST THAT THE PERSON YOU ARE TALKING TO MIGHT BE BLOWING IT OUT OF PROPORTION.
If we say something is racist, just take our word for it. You have never experienced racism, so you are not an expert on the topic. So when you say things like, Why do Black people make everything about race? That situation didnt have anything to do with race until you made it that way, you sound really dumb.
That would be like me telling a new mother, Are you sure childbirth hurts? Maybe youre just sensitive. I dont think it hurt as much as you thought it did. Are you sure you even had a baby? In order for this analogy to work, you have to know that Ive never given birth to a child.
SO I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THAT EXPERIENCE IS LIKE.
DO EMPATHIZE WITH BLACK PEOPLE ABOUT THEIR FEELINGS.
DONT SYMPATHIZE BY SAYING YOU FEEL THE SAME WAY.
Empathy sounds like, Im sorry you feel that way; that must be really hard. Here, I baked you a giant cookie. I hope it helps you to feel better. Sympathy sounds like, A similar thing happened to me once, Im afraid of the cops too. Stop. No it didnt, and no you arent. Comparing an isolated incident to systematic oppression is trivializing (even when it comes from a place of wanting to sympathize).
Black and White people have very different experiences in this country. That is just true. If we pretend it isnt true, we cant fix it. Also, no one wants to hear about how your hair gets reeeeally frizzy when its humid, too!!
DO ACKNOWLEDGE OTHER PEOPLES TRUTHS, EVEN WHEN THEY MAKE YOU UNCOMFORTABLE.
DONT DERAIL THE CONVERSATION.
The devil does not need an advocate. And we already know that not ALL White people are racist. You dont need to point any of this out. Just because we are talking about race doesnt mean we are calling YOU racist.
Unless you did something racist.
If you recognize yourselfor something youve donein a statement or behavior that is being called out as racist, maybe take some private time to think it over before automatically yelling about how you couldnt possibly be racist. If you live in America, there is a possibility that you have absorbed some racist ideas from the racist atmosphere. Just like if youre a fish, you probably absorbed some water from living in the ocean. Admitting it is the first step to recovery.
DO CREATE SPACE FOR BLACK PEOPLES EXPRESSIONS OF EMOTION BY AVOIDING STATEMENTS LIKE CALM DOWN OR DONT BE SO ANGRY OR DONT ATTACK ME FOR ASKING A QUESTION.
Ok, I guess it sounds like Im contradicting myself. Because I am. But seriously, nothing is more annoying than when White people cry during conversations about race. I know this shit is sad. But try to hold it in. When you cry, you are basically asking that we stop our conversation about an important issue to take care of your feelings. And then someone will probably send you a gif of Kermit the Frog sipping your white tears from a mug, and that shit will make you feel foolish as hell.
Also, for the record, a Black person maybe not being as polite as youd like in an emotional conversation about race isnt an attack. The word attack is more correctly used to refer to something like, oh, I dont know, getting shot at by a police officer when you are unarmed. Something like that.
DO AMPLIFY THE SIGNAL.
DONT CHANGE THE SUBJECT.
Riots Revolutionary actions happen when a community has exhausted all other options in trying to find relief. People have been fighting this fight for years and are now using last resort tactics. We need White allies to help us fight because, to be blunt, if only Black people care about this, it will never change.
But pleaselet us define the conversation. Dont change the subject. Now is not a great time to point out to us that maybe if some of us dressed differently, or listened to different music, or asked the cops nicely, maybe they would stop killing us. God help you if you use the term Black on Black crime right now. Please do not change the subject to looting. A few isolated instances of looting AFTER the police killed an unarmed teen doesnt mean we shouldnt talk about the part where the police killed an unarmed teen as part of a growing trend where police have killed or beaten unarmed Black people in the past couple of months forever.
To put it another way, the looters were arrested, and will stand trial, before a jury of their peers (aka us) to determine if/how they should be punished for committing a crime. That is how justice is supposed to work in this country. That is going exactly as it should (kind of, historically Black people receive much harsher sentences than whites for the same crime but well talk about that later. Baby steps). Our time is better spent right now talking about police officers who are appointing themselves judge, jury and executioner before citizens are even charged with a crime. Those out of control officers are denying you your constitutional right to be a jury of peers. And that is something we should all be very concerned about.
Now is a good time to come together to talk about what we can do to ensure that our country finally begins to live up to the promises and protections of its constitution for all of its citizensequally.
Source: Ashley Nicole Black
(@ashleyn1cole) recommends reading The New Jim Crow
by Michelle Alexander and Ta-Nehisi Coates The Case
for Reparations. secondcitynetwork.com/discussing-race-racism-black-friends-dos-donts/
to challenge what people saw when they looked at him.
Clearly, his getup did the trick.
from our founder Gordon Clay
We stand with those who are uplifting their communities, using their voices, and exercising their rights to change these unjust systems.
If you are struggling for any reason,
please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting
SOS to 741741, or call the National Suicide
Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.
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Racism comes before religion in the dictionary but in real life I think it's the other way around. - Gordon Clay