Question: So, I am in a group called Dear White America. Someone posted an article saying that white men are the new terrorists. Though I question whether that is something actually new, I agreed with the premise of the article. The comments really bothered me. One woman was saying that white women are responsible for the violence of white men. I totally disagree with that! Though the privilege of benefitting from a relationship with a white male and the attendant privilege is clear, to say that white women are not simultaneously victimized by white male violence is just not borne out statistically, at all. When I brought this into the discussion, I was accused of being a typical white feminist deflecting responsibility for my privilege. Even though I clearly stated that I see a distinction between systemic racism and personal racism. So my question is, how do I handle this? Because as of right now, I am not going to say that women bear responsibility for violence inflicted upon them by men! And though the metaphor is poor, that logic leads to saying that slaves were responsible for the violence inflicted on them by masters. No, I am not ignorant enough to think it’s exactly the same, but the logic employed leads to that conclusion. I am at a loss.
Response: So, I will start to respond to this question by saying, survivors never bare responsibility.
I think an article by Dick Bathrick and Gus Kaufman, Jr., Ph.D. titled “Male Violence and Male Privilege” can help us a bit in this discussion. In it they talk about their research working with cis-male sexual abusers and the impact of male privilege. They say,
To understand how all men “benefit” from battering is to see something of the complicity we all share in the act. While many of us don’t rape or batter women, those of us in relationships with women find that our partners frequently make decisions based on how to avoid subjecting themselves to male violence: decisions like where and when to walk, whom to talk with and what to wear. These decisions are often powerfully influenced by whether or not a man (spouse, lover, friend) is available to accompany a woman on that walk. They have an unspoken agreement that she depends on a man to protect her from being raped or threatened by violent men. So men end up determining if women get to go out and where they go. And we don’t mind having that control. More than once, batterers in our program have noted the irony in their partners’ relying on them for protection from “those violent men out there.” This form of control never gets named. It’s classic male privilege, in all its invisibility, with all its power.
The learning I take from the article is that living in a society which privileges cis-men sets up situations where women and trans people are often not believed and thus at times may feel the desire to have a cis-man to offer protection, physical protection but also as a male witness, since maleness is privileged in our society. Continue reading
Q: Do white people really not have big dicks?!?!?
A: So, I do a lot of sex education in my day-job and I assume that you are a troll and meant this as a joke to see if this site would really answer your troll question. However, this myth of racial groups having different penis sizes is so prevalent that I feel it is worth a couple minutes to answer your question.
Q: Can you recommend some reading or sources regarding current presidential candidates’ thoughts and positions relative to Black Lives Matter (both support and critiques of their platforms/ideas/etc.)?
A: So, this is something you will just have to do on your own. This is not said to be dismissive of your question but, we are still over a year away from the election and the candidates are changing their platforms, positions, etc on an almost daily basis.
What we can do is offer some readings that folks are writing about the candidate pool, about policy and legislative changes.
Q: What are useful guidelines for talking to white friends about everyday racism, when their first reaction is to shut me down for even suggesting that I and they might have said or done something racist?
A: I am sorry to say that there are no set “guidelines.” The key is to keep standing up. Everyday racism is often seen in microaggressions. Microaggressions are little pervasive things in our society that show that whiteness, christianity, able bodies, etc. are valued more than other identities.
The University of California describes microaggressions as, “the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership (from Diversity in the Classroom, UCLA Diversity & Faculty Development, 2014). The first step in addressing microaggressions is to recognize when a microaggression has occurred and what message it may be sending.”
Q: In discussions on race & current events like Charleston, I keep seeing conservatives accuse the media and people of color of race-baiting. I know that is not what the term originally meant, and that it’s used in this context to shut down discussion and silence talk about racism that doesn’t benefit the racist power structure, but how do I explain that to the average white conservative?
Is there any way to get it through to these people that not talking about race can make racism worse and that treating everything as colorblind can help perpetuate racism?
A: White people insist that there’s no reason to talk about race anymore because we like to believe that racism ended with the Civil Rights Movement. In the minds of many whites (and frankly, this is how our schools teach these issues), America’s race problem concluded with the Civil Rights Movement (integration and voting rights, really). So, when the topic comes up, you get accusations of “race baiting” or making “everything about race” or “playing the race card”.
Of course, this is a terrifically convenient way for white people to let ourselves off the hook (Hey, my dad handled the race problem back in the ‘60s!). It also lets us feel superior, because when we see entrenched issues like poverty and income disparity, modern “ghettos” and mass incarceration, we get to yell “Bootstraps!” and not ask the hard questions about why these issues persist.
Q: As a leader of an organization with a mission to serve and represent a community of color, how do I help white members of the group feel valued, yet also address their unease with their limitations of advancement and defensiveness anytime “white” is spoken in a negative context?
A: This question needs a book, not just a post! LOL
A few thoughts. Continue reading
Q: Can you explain a little bit more about the issue of representation in media? I’ve been trying to explain to white friends why a population that is a minority shouldn’t be represented in such a small way, but am having a hard time explaining when pushed. In other words, the question I get is: Doesn’t it make sense that movies would reflect the reality of having a majority white population? Feels very “oy” but I can’t think of a good response.
A: So, I’m not sure I completely understand the question but here are some thoughts.
Yes, movies reflect a white population. The thing is the percentage of non-Hispanic white people in the U.S. population has reached an all-time low: 63%. The NY Daily News reported in 2013 that “Nearly half of American children younger than 5 are minorities, and the number of minorities under 18 is expected to surpass the number of white children by 2019. The total minority population has grown 21 times faster than the white population.” Continue reading
There are many great resources out there for white people to learn about history. Especially for those of us who grew up in predominantly white communities in the US, we were often not taught the truth about our country, about racism, or let’s face it… we were not taught about anyone except the white colonialists, and maybe MLK.
It is our responsibility to learn. It is our responsibility to educate ourselves. Below are a few resources pulled together, specifically regarding Charleston, SC. Please add more in the comments area.
Q: I’ve been invited to serve on a board for an organization focused on POC. How can I best be helpful on the board without feeling like the white person trying to have greater influence or voice in an initiative that is not about me?
A: That is great that you are doing the work and have been invited to be in a position of leadership. As white people serving in organizations focused on work with and by people of color we need to really take care, especially if you are the only white person in the room, and even more if you benefit from multiple positions of privilege. Obviously, as people who benefit from white supremacy we always need to take care; but, if you are a cis, straight, white, upper-middle class, male for example, you will need to really examine the work you do. This is not to say that you shouldn’t speak up or participate, or challenge people or the organization, just that you will need to examine your motives, and how much your voice is being valued/heard.
Q: Why is it that blacks can use the “n” word all they want but when a white person uses it all hell breaks loose?
A: Simply put…White supremacy.