5 Things Not To Do When Accused Of Racism: A Note To Paula Deen And The Rest of White America

scolding

Okay, I know this subject has been beat to death but I need to go there one more time. Why? Because Paula Deen’s crying, pleading, borderline belligerent I is what I is, and I’m not changing play for forgiveness mirrors the way that too many white people react to accusations of racism. And that reaction is no small thing. It’s one of the obstacles to ending interpersonal racism which, as we know, is the justification for institutional racism and the perpetuation of racial inequality.

So, for white people who want to be good allies, here are five things not to do when accused of racism:

  1. Cry. By crying, you make the problem all about you. You know, like you’re such a good and sensitive person that no one was hurt by your racism more than you were. Nice try, but in order to believe that, we first have to minimize the damage that’s done by racism, and that kind of undermines the whole idea that you’re genuinely sorry about anything except how you’re being treated as a result of your racist behavior.
  2. Trot out your (insert racial minority group here) friends. This is an all too common way of deflecting the accusation without just admitting to the racist act. And, it’s bound to backfire, because instead of being an excuse, it only demonstrates your racism by reducing your friend to her/his race and worse, into an object, specifically a shield, to protect you from having to admit to racism.
  3. Blame your age or upbringing. If your age is the problem, it implicates everyone else in your age group in your act of racism, and that’s not a fair thing to do to them in order to protect you. It also blames your racist act on your mother, your father, your teachers, the social climate in the town you grew up in, and every other person or condition that influenced you except, of course, you, the person who had a choice. As history shows us, not everyone was a racist at any time in our history. In every age, every person had and continues to have the ability to choose against racism.
  4. Justify racist acts in certain circumstances as in, it’s okay to turn into a racist if someone is holding a gun to your head. If you manage to hold in your racism when you’re at your best, but react to fear or anger by immediately turning to racism, you’re a racist. In fact, fear and anger are at the very heart of racism.

But, while avoiding the four things listed above will probably keep you out of trouble, they don’t actually address your racism. So, if you’re truly just an accidental racist who sincerely wants to make amends, simply admit to it, take what you have coming to you, learn from it, and do something to make a positive difference.

And that brings me to the 5th thing you ought not do when accused of racism. Dodge. Because what distinguishes the accidental racist from an intentional one is the willingness to simply own up to your accidents and make amends.

 

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94 Responses to 5 Things Not To Do When Accused Of Racism: A Note To Paula Deen And The Rest of White America

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  1. Sue Katz June 28, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    Perhaps 2b might be: Don’t trot out that one time you went to a civil rights demonstration in 1968 or ’88, or the time you read a Toni Morrison novel as proof of your bona fides.

    • Scot Nakagawa
      Scot Nakagawa June 28, 2013 at 9:19 am #

      Love this. Trotting out your bonafides is another common dodge.

  2. Kevin June 28, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Don’t give a commentary about our society and how overly-sensitive and PC people are these days. We don’t need your insights on what others should or should not be offended by.

  3. Chanda June 28, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Since #1 actually happened to me this week, I am really, really appreciating this list right now!!

  4. Todd June 28, 2013 at 11:28 am #

    I find it interesting that this is prefaced with “for white people who want to be good allies.” Doesn’t that imply that white people are the only ones who can be racists? Is that comment itself not racist? As long as I am posting, you tell white people what not to do, and I think the advice offed has some merit, but the only advice you have for what they should do is admit they are racist and learn from it. That also assume or pressumes they are racist. What if the white person is not racist and someone accuses them of being racist (or are you assuming all white people are racist…which is of course racist)? What should that nonracist person do then? Do they admit to being racist just because they are white? What if their family immigrated to the US in the 1990 (equality had been granted to all minorities, laws were in place, the world was well on its way to change), they came from a country where slavery had not existed, they were raised in a multicultural neighborhood, they have reached that final level of equality, apathy. They really don’t care what color someone’s skin is or what religion they practice or even their sexual orientation. They just don’t care (truely liberated mind). But they do something that offends someone. Lets say they go into a store and ask to see the manager and the person they ask is a minority and that person is offended because they believe this white person has decided that because they are a minority they cannot be the manager. The person calls them a racist. How are they supposed to react to that? By saying, “You are right, I should have assumed you were the manager.” The charge of racism is undefendable. The accusation is the crime. The advice being offered here is 1. Don’t be upset that someone called you a racist even if you think that is the worst thing anyone could ever call you, 2. Don’t try to offer evidence that would illustrate you are not a racist. 3. Don’t admit it but then say it was because of the way you were raised because you should not be influenced by your surroundings, 4. don’t justify your actions because they are racist (which we determined they were when someone said you were racist). Just admit you are a racist because after all you are white and someone has told you that you are racist. Let’s change the lable and see if the advice still holds up. Obviously this isn’t going to be a perfect analogy because by their very nature analogies are not the thing we make them analogous to. Let’s say someone calls you a whore. 1. Don’t be upset someone called you a whore. 2. Don’t try to defend yourself by explaining that you have only slept with two people in the last three years and you were raped once. 3. Don’t say that where you come from a place where dating 4-5 people in the same year does not make you a whore. 4. Don’t justify having sex with someone because you were drugged or it was date rape or you were young or this is the way everyone in your community acts. When someone calls you a whore just admit you are a whore and learn from it.

    I am all for getting people to stop being racist, I am all for providing advice to help everyone open a dialogue and learn from experiences. But to say when somone calls you a racist don’t talk back, don’t defend yourself, don’t disagree just admit you are a racist, doesn’t sound like good advice. Offer me advice on this: Someone just called me a racist, but I am not a racist (accept those observations as facts), what should I do?

    • CC June 28, 2013 at 11:43 am #

      Hi Todd- I replied below!

    • Elizabeth June 28, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      Very well stated Todd.

    • bob June 28, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

      YES thank you todd. well said!!!!!!!!

    • hello June 28, 2013 at 4:55 pm #

      hey todd…

      but my best friend is white…LOL

  5. albert June 28, 2013 at 11:30 am #

    Also don’t go running to jesse jackson for counseling like he represents all black people.

  6. CC June 28, 2013 at 11:41 am #

    To Todd- A few quick good reads:

    http://www.stanforddaily.com/2013/04/12/counterpoint-everyone-cannot-be-racist/

    http://acleaneducation.blogspot.com/2012/12/why-you-cant-be-racist-toward-white.html#.Uc3YBzvMAy4

    Simply put- in America, people of color do not have the power to be racist towards whites.

    • zamiracastrojimenez October 20, 2013 at 5:57 pm #

      Thank you for having let this reply. Todd needs to do some soul searching and learning of his own. I honestly don’t think the point of this post was to blame all whites or assume they are all racists. The point is specifically to advise those whites who are racist how not to behave in the face of staunch criticism. And frankly, as a person of color, if I call you out on something such as racism, I have likely mulled it over quite a bit before I throw that accusation out there.

    • TheKettle January 9, 2014 at 5:56 am #

      Even if it is not possible, now. It will be soon enough and we’re already seeing signs of what will be.

    • Jonas Bergkvist July 30, 2014 at 6:11 am #

      By this logic, racism only existing in the institutional form, white people can obviously not be racist either. So what’s the point of this article to begin with?

  7. Kevin June 28, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    I add don’t talk about reverse racism (it’s bullshit anyway) or talk about people clinging to the race card as well

  8. Crystal June 28, 2013 at 12:16 pm #

    Don’t start talking about how much racism and prejudice you’ve endured as a White person. Please. Don’t do that.

    • Sara November 25, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

      While racism may not be felt by a white person prejudices against them for being white can be. Please know the difference between the two terms before you present them. And prejudices against white people do happen.

  9. katdish June 28, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    I’m going to assume by your last name that you’re Japanese, or at least half Japanese–which is my ethnicity. I spent my early childhood in rural Virginia–a fairly good mix of blacks and whites in the community I lived in, but Asians? Not so much. Half-Asians? What’s that? I once shared with a black friend that I understood how hurtful racism could be because I’d been through it myself. Her response to me was that it wasn’t the same; that hers was worse. Really? Being called a nigger is more hurtful than being called a gook, a geisha girl or a chink and any of the other clever names kids can come up with? Maybe. I don’t know, because I don’t know what it’s like to be black, nor do I know what it’s like to white, or even Asian, because I can’t really strongly identify with any one race. And honestly? I think I’m better off this way. Much of the outrage on either side of this issue seems a little forced to me. Everyone seems a little too eager to let us all know what they think about it.

  10. Tucker Kapp June 28, 2013 at 2:05 pm #

    Great article. One correction. “out” in the last paragraph should be changed to “ought”.

    • Scot Nakagawa
      Scot Nakagawa June 28, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

      Thanks for catching my typo.

  11. Wendy Jane June 28, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    and, simply, don’t get defensive. I am white and when I read something or hear something written by a person of color that has to do with race, a topic of great interest to me, I often find myself wanting to do something close to your #2 above–I DON”T trot out my “black friend” or my Hank Aaron pajamas, but I do try to show or even think to myself, …”but I’m a cool, empathetic white person…” That is not the point.

    The point is to listen to someone else’s experience, absorb it, believe it, and not try to one up them on your own suffering, or liberal views, or empathy, or defensiveness and proof that you are not racist.

    Thanks, Scot!

  12. Deb June 28, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    i think one thing that should DEFINITELY be added to this list is:

    - when called out for doing something racist, don’t say that the person who was hurt is “being overly sensitive.”

    i get this all the time. i get pissed at some BS that some white person says to me, and when i get upset i get accused of being too sensitive. imagine that.

  13. Khobson June 29, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

    Also, Todd, white people cannot be the targets of racism as racism is part of a system of inequality set up to disenfranchise folks of color. It’s systemic, perpetuated through the interpersonal and institutions. Folks of color can be prejudiced against white people, and in many cases should be, but white people have privilege in systems. It’s not racism or even prejudice because someone calls out whiteness and white privilege–that’s speaking truth to experience and reality. Good article. Joan River’s response to the Paula Deen issue is the most infuriating: “There should be one set of rules for what everyone can say and not say” Really? I’ll buy that when racism is officially “over.”

  14. Dave June 30, 2013 at 11:27 am #

    STOP YOUR DAMN WHINING, ALL OF YOU!!

  15. Douglas June 30, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    I love this self righteous criticism of Todd. Do you know who else relies on the use of convoluted, counterintuitive logic to refute an opposing viewpoint put forth by someone that’s not also a member of the same protected class? The extreme religious right. The author does a disservice to everyone that suffers from legitimate racism by engaging in this weak, pathetic practice. I’ve got an idea for an article: 5 respectable authorities to refer to when you’ve encountered a racist redneck. Should be easy as long as you avoid the self involved, hipster, yuppie, ‘ethnic’ type you find in the author.

  16. Sean July 1, 2013 at 1:08 am #

    anyone can be racist to anyone of any race

    • Meghan September 4, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

      I like the way Beverly Tatum addresses this.

      If being racist is equated to being a horrible person (can’t recall exact phrase), then yeah, sure anyone can be horrible.

      But since we’re operating from an understanding that racism is about systemic privilege and exclusion, then no. Not everyone has the power to exclude because not everyone benefits from the way privilege and power are structured in our society.

  17. Todd July 1, 2013 at 5:40 am #

    Wow, such an interesting discussion. I have really enjoyed reading all of it, both the comments regarding my posts and those not related to my posts.

    CC, I appreciate the links, they were very interesting. There does however still seem to be some disagreement about what racism is. One of the links you sent me defined it as “the structural oppression of non-whites through government legislature, cultural “norms”, representations in the media, etc.” but I could not find that definition anywhere else so I am assuming that the definition was the work of the author of that post. I could not determine who that person is, what kind of background they have to be an authority, etc. So it is a little hard for me to accept it at face value. However, within the article it says racism is power combined with prejudice. That was also insightful to me. But I did a quick internet search to define it and found these two dictionary definitions (and I will be the first to admit they are not couched within the sociological dynamics of whiteness. power, and oppression so they are not inclusive enough): 1. The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as… 2. Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief. These would seem to indicate that we can be racist regardless of color. I would still like to here more arguments and discussion about this.

    Yvonne I found your comments insightful too. They gave me a reason to pause and reflect. The first thing you say is that I broke rule #1 and made it about me. Well I guess I agree with you on that, I did, but the article was written “for white people who want to be good allies.” Despite what Scot claims, I am a white person who wants to be one of the good allies. I am trying to understand. (look at that, I said I four times in response to making it about me, yep no denying it, I made it about me). So wasn’t this already about me and how I should behave? Scot didn’t you make this about me (whites in general) when you addressed it to me? I don’t know that making it about me is wrong in this context. I have not been accused of being racist (Scot alludes to it but doesn’t say it in his response), so I haven’t really broken rule #1 unless you are saying the article claims all whites are racist, which isn’t what I got from it really.

    Yvonne I also admit that I took up the most space. I will admit to being wordy, for that I apologize. But it was an interesting subject for me and I had a lot to share and to learn. I obviously did not learn from it because I am doing it again.

    Your third comment was about the imperfect analogy I made (and I openly admitted it was an imperfect analogy when I made it). But being called a whore isn’t sexist; it isn’t discriminatory against one sex. I have heard men and women referred to as whores by both men and women.

    Kaitlyn I appreciated your comments as well but I don’t think being called racist is as offensive as the racist comment itself. I think that the racist comment is worse. But both of those situations are assuming that the person knows the impact of what is being said. My mother once sharply corrected me for referring to someone as black, she told me they preferred to be called colored (this was in the early 80s). Before anyone leaps to the conclusion that I am a white raised by racist whites let me explain why she said that. In the 1940s and 50s when my parents were farmers they often hired migrant workers (largely minorities) to work our small farm in the Dakotas. Unlike most farmers who did this my parents had the workers eat with them and sleep in the house. It was customary for migrant workers to eat and sleep in the barn (something my father did as an immigrant during the depression). During one of the evening meals they had a discussion about race and language and my mother was told by a person of African descent that they preferred to be called colored. Given that the NAACP was becoming a dominant force at the time that is not surprising. So she is someone who made a racist comment because of the way she was raised but was not racist simply hadn’t kept up on what the most appropriate language to use was. Maybe that does make her racist, I would like to believe that she wasn’t.

    Katdish, I think you make excellent points about how our society views “minority” and how multicultural families are inherently changing the landscape of what race is. Very interesting.

    Khodson provides me with the best insight into the defining of racism in the entire forum. People of color can be prejudice against whites but that does not make them racist because they lack the power to institutionalize it. That makes sense to me. If we define racism with those two criteria (prejudice and power) I can see it. I also agree that one set of rules, while idealistic, isn’t viable because it completely ignores cultural background. It is the downfall of the golden rule, treating everyone the way you would like to be treated means you think everyone should be just like you. But still, it would be god if we could eliminate double standards.

    Doug I didn’t think I was being self-righteous and I apologize if I came across that way. I am not part of the religious right and if I can disagree with you on that point, I don’t think the religious right uses much reasoning at all. They just claim it is what God wants. If that works for them and helps them sleep at night then I am all about letting them believe whatever they want, but I don’t want them pushing it on me. As far as your comment about the “self involved, hipster, yuppie, ‘ethnic’” I don’t think you are talking about me (if you are you are so far off) and I don’t think it is a fair characterization of Scot either. I believe he wrote an excellent article that is generating a lot of important discussion. Name calling isn’t helping us.

    All of that said, and with even more apologies to Yvonne for taking up so much space, I would still like to know what a white person can do if they are falsely accused of making a racist comment.

    Thank you all for a terrific, open, and enlightening discussion.

    • josh gibson July 1, 2013 at 9:13 am #

      Hi Todd,

      let me see if I can give you some perspective. I was born in 1957 in the deep south. Modern America has changed quite a bit from those segregated times. Katdish mentioned her black friend said her racism was worse than that felt by Asians.. That was an emotional, inarticulate response. Of course this true of many responses to racism.

      Her friend meant what her people had suffered through in America was worse. And if she had said this she would be right. However, if Katdish was Chinese and the discussion was about New Zealand her friend would be wrong, because there it was the Chinese and the Maori who faced the type of law based discrimination which marked America before the Civil Rights Movement. So first we must understand discrimination is a world wide phenomenon which affects people in different ways in different cultures.

      Read the Dred Scott decision and you will see where it specifically states Negroes have no standing in US courts according to the Constitution because they are not citizens. The original document construed us as property.Hence the need for the 13th amendment. Fast forward to Plessy v Ferguson where the court declared separate but equal to be a credible application of the 14th amendment’s equal protection clause. The opinion noted Chinese and Mexicans were protected from being converted into slaves by the 13th amendment. Justice Harlan noted in his dissent the constitution should be colorblind, setting the stage for twentieth century court battles.

      In Korematsu the court deemed race to be a suspect classification, but established the doctrine of compelling interest by saying this US citizen of Japanese descent could be banned from his property because of the Second World War. Dred held that Native Americans were members of a separate sovereign state. I say this to let you know black was illegal, yellow was virtually illegal, and red was seen as a nation apart until the 1950s.

      So in 1913 it was the Irish paddies, the Italian Wops, and Jewish Kikes who suffered under the lash of what I call inclusive discrimination. And they were just as angry as the yellow, brown, red, and black who have taken their places on the American Totem Pole. And the reason they were able to assimilate is because Negroes, Native Americans, Mexicans and the Chinese and Japanese had cleared a path for them to do so.

      Of course these people who are now considered white would have perfectly understand why modern minorities chafe under this racism of inclusion.

      Harlan called white the dominant culture and could not foresee a time when this would not be the case. He was shortsighted. America is multicultural on its assimilating margins and pluralistic in its mainstream center. The assimilating groups are right in their assessments about racism right now. This will not always be the case. Be patient and understand what we value above all else in honesty.

      My grandfather was a college graduate, a school principal and a landowner. This did not prevent him from being shot in the chest with a shotgun for having a dispute with the white town fathers in a small south Georgia city over the plans for the new black high school. He did not survive. No one even looked for his killers. We don’t live in that America anymore, but can you understand it might be possible racism by itself is not as important as racism combined with the power to dominate.

      The days of exclusive discrimination may be gone, but that doesn’t mean that discrimination is gone. In the deep south of days gone by blacks had what they called their good white folks. These were the white people who looked out for you. They cared deeply for about their darkies, but this doesn’t mean they weren’t racist, because they were. Once again, you can have a Vietnamese friend and still be a racist. Human beings are complex.

      Hope this helps.

  18. Todd July 1, 2013 at 10:06 am #

    Josh thank you for your response, a lot of good information in there, references to court cases and decisions that I am ashamed to admit I only have a passing knowledge of or recognize the names but could not tell you the content. I am deeply sorry for impact racism has had on you and your family. It seems to me that humans (almost regardless of race) need to have someone or some group to subjugate. Whites have done it to whites (the Irish in America during the industrial revolution for example). Christian missionaries were often captured and sold into slavery by whites and blacks alike. While we would like to believe we have moved past the age of slavery today we are telling ourselves lies if we are willing to face the harsh reality of the human sex trafficking that occurs in nearly every country around the world.
    I am beginning to understand the argument that racism is about the combination of prejudice and power. I can see that it is the institutionalization of prejudicial views that causes racism. But then I have to contrast that with the idea of a racist comment, by one person, being racism. I can see that because I am white I feel I have the right to make certain comments. Okay, I guess that is white privilege (or the tip of that iceberg). I would like to believe that in today’s cultural climate everyone is free to make comments but I can’t make that claim because I am limited by my white privilege background. Despite the fact that I was born to an immigrant who was disabled in WWII and raised on what many would call a dirt farm and my family was not wealthy (we accepted government assistance in the form of Aid to Dependent Children to make ends meet), I recognize that I probably had advantages over non-whites in similar situations.
    So in part I have become more aware and enlightened as a result of this discussion. But my main question goes unanswered: What is a white person who is falsely accused of being racist or making a racist comment supposed to do? How can I respond to a charge of racism when what I have said is not racist? Or are we saying that I am racist because I am white and therefore if someone says I have said something racist I need to agree and apologize? Because if I am guilty because of the color of my skin and I can be fired for being a racist or making racist comments (and I can be), I would say that all races have power and I think we can all agree that there are prejudice people in all colors (just like there are abusive parents, alcoholics, geniuses, artists, athletes, drug addicts, thieves, and good Samaritans of all colors). If racism is prejudice and power then it would appear all races have it in the US. So, what should a white person who is falsely accused of being racist or making a racist comment do?

    • Scot Nakagawa
      Scot Nakagawa July 1, 2013 at 11:37 am #

      If a white person is wrongly accused of racism, it’s not like being wrongly accused of murder or something. You’re not going to prison.

      The only thing that’s happened here is that someone misunderstood your intent. My suggestion would be to think about the problem not as one of you/he/she being wrongly accused, but in terms of the hurt that was caused by the mistake. I mean, sometimes we don’t mean to hurt someone but we do. At those points, don’t you generally say sorry and whether the thing you did was intended to be hurtful or not, avoid doing it again in the future?

      Even in the Deen situation, if she had simply said, “yes, I said that a long time ago. I believe honesty is the first step toward reconciliation so when I was asked if I said it before, rather than lie, I admitted to it. But that admission wasn’t an endorsement. I understand that racism is hurtful and that the history of racism in the South includes things like slavery, lynching, Jim Crow, and a criminal justice system that for generations imprisoned black people in order to make them slaves of the state, working on chain gangs. So, when someone uses a word that invokes the social norms that allowed these things to happen, it’s deeply offensive. And I know it trivializes the harm that racism has done to try to suggest that this is just about words. It’s about the social climate that made that word one that was so popularly used when I was younger. I apologize to anyone I hurt through my past racist behavior. I’m trying to do better.”

      Then, she could have used her considerable communications operation to do something positive to educate her fans about the evils of racism and move on. I’ve a feeling that this would not have ended up blowing up as it did if she reacted in that way.

      But the key to the whole struggle to understand why these things matter is accepting that racism isn’t just about words. Racism is a political system that organized the economy of the U.S. for most of it’s history, and continues to shape the way we live because of de facto structural racism. The words are just about bigotry and, as you pointed out, there’s all kinds of bigotry, and anyone can be guilty of it. But racist bigotry supports structural racism by creating the climate in which it is perpetuated across generations.

      When you’re called out for racism, you’re being called out for contributing to a social climate in which is it more difficult to address structural racial inequality. It’s not just about people being offended. A good ally responds to those situations by understanding that you’re not the enemy, but structural racism is, and ask honestly after how your behavior is aiding and abetting the enemy. If you disagree, you can argue back, but at some point, the considerate individual accepts that harm was done even if it wasn’t intentional, apologizes for being part of that harm, and moves on because they know that it’s not all just about them.

      • Rosie Eisenstein July 1, 2013 at 11:46 am #

        Thank you for this: “When you’re called out for racism, you’re being called out for contributing to a social climate in which is it more difficult to address structural racial inequality. It’s not just about people being offended. A good ally responds to those situations by understanding that you’re not the enemy, but structural racism is, and ask honestly after how your behavior is aiding and abetting the enemy. If you disagree, you can argue back, but at some point, the considerate individual accepts that harm was done even if it wasn’t intentional, apologizes for being part of that harm, and moves on because they know that it’s not all just about them.”

  19. Todd July 1, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    Scot you are a wise man and I respect what you have written and appreciate the fact that provided a springboard for this discussion. While I still don’t know what to do if someone accuses me of being a racist (and I have no means by which to prove I am not because no one can look into my soul to see the truth), I do have a much better understanding of the issue. Thank you. I guess for now, if someone calls me a racist I will just have to plead guilty without trial and apologize. I won’t go to jail, you are right. But off the top of my head I can’t think of anything I would be more offended by being called than racist. I guess I will just take that hurt as payback for what the system has done.
    Ironically, I will have to convince myself that words don’t matter.

    • Scot Nakagawa
      Scot Nakagawa July 2, 2013 at 6:12 am #

      Todd, I think part of the issue here is that you find little else less offensive than being referred to as racist, which continues to make the issue about you, and not about racism. What we’ve done to ourselves over the last few decades in order to overcome legal racial codes is to make racism into something completely unacceptable to many people – good people like you – by presenting people like Bull Conner, who used attack dogs and fire hoses on children who were peacefully demonstrating to end segregation, as examples of the kind of bigotry that black southerners were facing. And, the racist became, in our minds, these monsters whose images we used.

      But, the reality is that while all systems of oppression are ultimately kept in place by violence (think rape, domestic violence, political dictatorships, etc.) and the vile people like Bull Connor willing to commit these acts, violent enforcement can only take place in the context of a certain amount of consent. The kind of denial of which my example, Paula Deen, are guilty, are part of that context.

      I don’t know what’s in your heart. What’s in your heart isn’t what’s at issue. It’s the result of what you did, which doesn’t require a racist intent, that matters. By simply conceding to the idea that harm may have been done, we contribute to a climate in which talking about racism and doing something about isn’t such a high stakes game. When people react with horror to being called out, it contributes to a climate in which those who see racism don’t call it out for fear of creating a commotion and eliciting anger, even violence.

      I encounter racism everyday. Not just racism directed at me, but racism casually expressed by others. When I encounter racism, I have to ask myself, “is it worth it?” before I respond. The reason is that in my experience, the possibility of real damage to me is involved in bringing these acts to light. And that’s true because people react as if I’ve compared them to Hitler, when all I’ve actually done is demonstrate that I respect them enough to ask them to be as good as the people I can see they are.

  20. Gina July 1, 2013 at 2:26 pm #

    How about, treat people the way you want to be treated, no matter the color of their skin. I may not agree with the KKK but at least I know where they are coming from. I also don’t agree with what Al Sharpton most of the time, but same applies, I know where he is coming from. In the end, a word is just that, a word! How you decide to respond, or what power you give to a single word is what makes it good or bad. Personally I think these rules are a bunch of bullsnot. In the end we are all racist to a point, just some more than others.

  21. Kikaida July 1, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

    First time here, great commentary Scot, Hilarious comments regarding so called reverse discrimination. I guess if you can get Americans to believe in trickle down economics you can basically get them to buy into anything. Much scientific deduction stems from studying situations which are not the norm, eg why don’t wolves in certain parts of Ukraine not run in packs, where they do everywhere else? Point being studying the exception provides certain insights not found by looking at the default behaviour.

    the Ukrainian wolf in the reverse discrimination discussion is the only state in the US where whites are a clear minority, my home state of Hawaii.Nobody who’s lived here for long screams bloody murder about reverse discrimination, kill haole day, or other less than positive views towards white people. Local people here roll on simple common sense unlike anybody else in the country. why the animosity towards haoles, because they’re “different”? Obviously a function of their past and present behaviour, not much difference between the 2 time frames save for less transparent and more diabolical ways of of expressing it. Caucasians who have lived here for generations are among the most vocal critics of haole ways. Anybody talking about racism has a legitimate forum here, anybody talking about reverse racism or race card playing will get laughed out of here in a hurry. Guys like “Todd” would definitely leave our state missing a few teeth. Right dude, “me racist?” of course not. matter of fact I only date hot asian babes. Seen a million “Todds”, give me a frickin break.

  22. pumpsix July 1, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

    Why do the majority of commenters here argue that only white people can be racist? That itself is a racist viewpoint.

    • Scot Nakagawa
      Scot Nakagawa July 2, 2013 at 8:12 am #

      I think what they are trying to say is that racism isn’t just bigotry. It’s bigotry combined with the political wherewithal to shape economic priorities, and public policy to reflect that bigoted worldview.

      So, if I can address this to another instance of oppression, women can hold prejudices against men just as men can against women. But, men’s ideas about women have a powerful impact on public policy, and, among other things, contributes to the continuation of a gender wage gap that is a plague on our country at a time when single parent households are commonplace and far more likely to be headed by women.

      What men have that women lack is representation at every level of government, and a near monopoly of power above the level of the glass ceiling that many women run up against as they rise in the private sector and in government. So even while women are the majority of people in the country, the evidence all around us seems to indicate men have the upper hand.

      And because of this, when men denigrate women, those actions have a dynamism and force that the actions of women who denigrate men lack. Basically, sexist men are contributing to a culture that justifies a patriarchal political situation that disadvantages women, while women who hold a grudge against men actually are defying patriarchy.

      But can women be sexist? Yes. Women are sexist when they support views that denigrate women. Same is true of people of color. When people of color hold views that denigrate people of color, I call that racist. But when they hold those views about white people? I call that bigotry. The difference is not a moral one. The difference is political.

      • pumpsix July 2, 2013 at 10:06 am #

        The problem I have with that definition of racism is that it does not work.

        Just say that we define racism as “bigotry combined with the political wherewithal to shape economic priorities, and public policy to reflect that bigoted worldview.” Who then is a racist: The top 1%, 5%, or 50%? The average citizen simply doesn’t have that sort of money or political sway.

        Since the issue is over power; the next question should be: who holds the power? From where I sit it would be those who are able to destroy the career of a woman who once said something thirty years ago. The College professors and students who are able to control the debate through the collective shaming of individuals. I am a bit cynical. I think the very notion of “racism vs bigotry” is an attempt to gain power by feigning dead.

  23. Todd July 2, 2013 at 7:51 am #

    Scot, again, thank you for taking the time to help me understand. I was talking with my son about this last night and he made one of the points that you talk about, that we only have one word to describe a wide range of acts from lynchings and firehoses to a presupposition of power in interpersonal relationships. Racism would seem to have as many shades as the color blue but we only use the one word to lable it: Racist. You are correct, that I find few things worse than being called a racist and I do understand that makes it about me. I guess I do have a hard time seperating me from the issue. I see it as a personal attack which leads to me reacting personally and selfishly in some ways. I don’t know that I am that much different than the vast majority of people in that regard.

    I also think that there is a general assumption that if a white person is accused of being a racist there was grounds for it. That is the same mentality that is allowing for the police of NYC to stop primarily African-American men for no real reason and ask that they present ID and submit to a pat down because they look suspicious. Obviously, that is more extreme but based in the same ideology. I was a college professor for 25 years and I once had a student come to my office and tell me she was failing my class because I was a racist. We had only had two grades in the class, one was a worksheet from their book that she received zero out of ten points on because she completely misread the assignment and openly admitted that she did that and that she didn’t desrve any points for the assignment. The other grade was a failing grade on an all multiple choice test. I asked her if she thought I graded her paper with a different answer key or if she believed other students with the same answers didn’t lose points but she did. She said no. I asked her if she believed any of the test questions were racially biased and she said no. When I asked her to explain how my being a racist (I didn’t even try to defend myself against the charge of racism) impacted her grade she said because I was white and she was Puerto Rican and because nobody else in the class was Puerto Rican and no one else was failing. Those statements were all true (there were also Asians and African-Americans in the class) but unrelated. That was 15 years ago but it has stuck with me. She and I eventually reached an understanding and she did end up passing the class with no special treatment or help on my part (I may have reviewed a paper for her before she handed it in but I often did that for students).

    In a situation like that I am offended that I was called a racist. My actions were not racist, my intent was not racist, and my attitude was not racist. But the same lable we hang on Bull Connor was hung on me. I was lumped in with people I find repugnant. I do agree that it is in part because we lack a vocabulary to adequately distinguish between behaviors. But I also think that there is a tendency to lump the person with the behavior. If I say have said something you (the universal you not an individual on this forum) found offensive, I think you are more likely to bring it to my attention by calling me racist than by saying that what I said offended you or that what I said was racist. By focusing on the person we make it personal, by focusing on the act we provide an opportunity to learn and grow together as one human race rather than grow apart based on a divsion of the races. Again, thank you for everyone who is trying to help me understand and move this very important conversation forward.

    • Rosie Eisenstein July 2, 2013 at 8:10 am #

      Todd, I have a couple of thoughts as a fellow academic. One is that we both know that students often say hurtful and nasty things when grading isn’t going their way. I’ve had students say all sorts of ridiculous things, and I’m in the physical sciences, where there are definitely right and wrong answers to homework problems, no subjectivity involved at all. As you know, it’s important to have a thick skin and when it’s clear that a student is just lashing out, to see it as that. Based on the facts you offered, it sounds like that’s what your student was doing. It’s also possible that she was feeling pretty isolated either in your class or at school in general because of her ethnic background, and it might have been worth talking to her about why that came up for her.

      All of that said, your hyperfocus on “unfair accusations” reminds me of people who hyperactively focus on false accusations of rape. All of the studies I have seen indicate that people (women) almost never lie about being raped. The highest percentage was 8%, which was still less than the frequency with which people lie about their car being stolen (from FBI stats, I believe). But the average of the statistics was more between 2-5%. So basically, it happens, but almost never. It happens so infrequently that unless you wouldn’t believe the person if they said their car was stolen, you should believe them about rape. I think the same is likely true about racism. False accusations occasionally occur, but more often than not, it’s not a false accusation.

      The amount of space you have used up talking about false accusations reminds me a lot of people who use up more space talking about false accusations of rape than they do in talking about how to end rape culture. The latter is so, so much more important than the former. Sometimes there are things more important than your indignant feelings. And if we can resolve these structural issues, it’s a lot more likely that people will not feel the need to label (and occasionally mislabel) people’s behavior as racist. So, it’s in your best interest in the long run to focus on the structural issues, trusting that these other things will work themselves out if we are all feeling safer.

  24. Todd July 2, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Rosie you make excellent observations and points. I truly appreciate them. Many people posting here, including myself, have used analogies to articulate the problem at hand. Scot said being called a racist is not like being called a murderer, you don’t go to jail for it. Yvonne pointed out that I used a false analogy. You point out that focusing on the few who are falsely accused distracts from the real issue. Kikaida suggests I should have some teeth knocked out for what I have posted. I find some of those posts more constructive than others. But my initial question has gone largely unanswered. What I hear Scot saying to me is “Todd it’s not that big of a deal. It’s not like being called a murderer. Shrug it off.”
    But isn’t this whole discussion kind of about the power of words? I value equality. I am sure that no one here is interested in the fact that I am raising two gay sons, or that my first wife was disabled and in a wheel chair for the last eight years of her life, or that I am a first generation American, or that I had a brother in prison, or any of my hardships or any of the proactive steps I have taken on campuses where I have worked to provide safe havens for students of color, members of the LGBT community, and women. It is irrelevant that I have spent the bulk of my life helping college students who come from nearly every socio-economic class, from a dozen countries around the world, of just about every ethnic background you can name, and helped them come to terms with their sexual orientation and religious beliefs. I did all of that without judging them, without pushing them in a given direction and by treating each of them as an individual not as a member of a race or group. I am not just talking about students I have had in class, I worked closely outside of class with students because of the positions I held on campuses. I get invited to their weddings years after they graduate, I get pictures of their children, many of them attended my weddings, and my first wife’s funeral and comforted and took care of me in the weeks and months that followed, I shared my life with them and they with me. None of that seems to matter because I am a white male. Scot is right, it is not like being called a murderer because his article told me I can’t do any of the things a murderer could do in his/her defense. I can’t bring in a character witness or claim self-defense, or even mental illness (The closest thing I could think of for being raised by racists or raised in a time when racism was commonplace and accepted). Rosie you say my comments are like those who focus on false rape charges and that distracts from the important issue of a culture of rape. So would you give those who are falsely accused of rape the same advice Scot gave whites accused of racism? Don’t bring out character witnesses, don’t show us instances of when you were actively involved in women’s rights activities, and don’t blame your situation or upbringing, just plead guilty and apologize for a rape you didn’t commit? No of course you wouldn’t. You wouldn’t say to one of your college students “Don’t try to defend yourself against a rape charge because if you are exonerate it will weaken the push to prevent a culture of rape.” Because if you did he would be sent to prison where male rape is commonplace and we do almost nothing to stop it because they are prisoners.
    We have so many problems and we are trying so hard to fix them. We have changed things structurally with regards to race and gender. We are making strides with issues of rape and domestic violence but not nearly enough. Not to further distract from the issues we are talking about but there are lots of issues we don’t talk about because they largely impact men. We don’t talk about male rape even though while only about 1 in 7 women report being raped; only 1 in 10 men report it. Shockingly small numbers of charged rapists are found guilty. But of those who are found guilty 91% are guilty of raping women, only 9% are guilty of raping men. So there is disparity there as well. Our structural rules have taken steps to make it easier for women to rightfully prosecute predators who will get a woman drunk and rape her. But now if two college students meet at a party, get drunk – mind blowingly drunk – wake up in bed naked with a used condom, he is a rapist even if she was consenting at the time because she suffered from diminished capacity. He, who was equally drunk, cannot claim diminished capacity. But that isn’t the only disparity. Despite federal studies that showed almost exactly half of domestic violence is mutually combative (equal abuse from the male and the female) and males abused females only 2-3% more often than females abused males, many states still defined domestic violence as something a man did to a women and had laws in place that said if police responded to a third domestic violence call for the same couple, the male, regardless of circumstance, was to be put in jail. If you question my claims read Philip Cook’s book “Abused Men: The Hidden Side of Domestic Violence”. He reports women are far more likely to kill their significant other than men are. Women are more likely to use an implement like a baseball bat, knife, or gun and do so when the man is asleep or incapacitated in some way. Men are FAR less likely to report it. We are not talking about “burning bed” reverse abuse. These are not women who snapped after being abused for years. These are just women who beat their husbands, beat them hard and hurt them in the same way some men beat and hurt the women in their lives. When they do report it police officers will often laugh at them, ridicule them and rather than taking them to a shelter will take them to jail for being abused. Would you suggest to these men that they not report abuse because it takes away from the attention to abused women? No of course not.
    Before I get a barrage of posts telling me I am being defensive let me just admit that I am. But I am feeling attacked because that’s how people react when they are attacked. How should I react when someone says if I go to their state I would get my teeth knocked out? How should I feel when Rosie (and Rosie I could not have asked for a nicer, kinder, more thoughtful response than the one you offered to me and I truly mean that) suggests that I should just shrug off being told I am a racist so as not to distract from the problem of racism?
    I am quite sure many people reading these posts have already decided I am a racist with a white hood in my closet. For those of you who chose to believe that there is really nothing I can do. I can’t prove a negative. All I ever wanted to know was “What can I do or say if I am falsely called a racist?” Why does that question scare and offend so many people? It is almost like there is a group of people who are afraid that a white person might not be racist, might not be bigoted, and might not be filled with hate toward everyone who looks different. Why? Isn’t that the person you want as a neighbor? Isn’t that the kind of person you want teaching in your schools? Isn’t that what we want our country to be like? Why am I bad because I want to know, not just what I am not allowed to do when being called a racist, but what I can do when being called a racist?

  25. Katie July 2, 2013 at 3:24 pm #

    Scot, as someone who is constantly working to be a white ally, I really appreciate this article and your follow-up comments and conversation. Todd, I also really appreciate your brave, reflective reading, rereading, and questioning. You may be interested in this TED talk by the most excellent Jay Smooth, “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race.”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbdxeFcQtaU

  26. Todd July 3, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Katie– A very interesting video, I really enjoyed watching it, very enlightening. I thought he made very good arguments and had a unique position from which to speak. I don’t know that it answers the question of what to do when accused of being racist (because I feel I have both a right and an obligation to respond and that might be because of my white privilege but I feel the same is true of anyone accused of being or doing something repugnant). But I like his idea of focusing on the act that was considered racist (as others on the forum have suggested as well) rather than the racist person. I was also very interested in his idea that racism is a temporary state: Like having clean teeth rather than having your tonsils out. The Avenue Q song “Everyone’s a little bit racist” popped to mind when he was talking about that. The idea of non-racist being the homeostasis and periodically saying or doing something that could be considered racist as an aberrant behavior makes sense to me. I will admit that I think of someone who does or says racist things as a racist (Albert Camus’ idea that a man is defined by his actions). So someone who is not “a racist” can say or do something that is considered “racist.” That lends credence to the “shrug it off” approach to responding to being called a racist. My concern is that we, as a society, have worked hard (others far more than I) to make “racist” and “racism” shameful. If we develop a “hey, it happens” attitude I think we are moving backwards. But maybe that is what we need to do to move the dialogue forward. Maybe we pushed the shaming of racism too far and now we need to rein it in to make more progress. That would seem to be what I can take away from the discussion. I would be concern that the approach will lead to a “little boy who cried wolf” mentality. I know, and care to know, very little about Paula Dean. I know she has some kind of cooking show, that’s it; not a mover and shaker, not a policy maker, but someone who needs to be an aware member of society. Honestly I don’t even know what she said. But I do want to know what I should do if I (someone who is working to be part of the solution, not part of the problem) is accused of being racist. I think the answer provided here in a number of ways has been “Shrug it off.” Okay, I will try to do that. It goes against my desire to find Truth, but maybe it is the best course of action.

  27. Farmer Ama July 3, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

    this is one of the most valuable, honest and interesting discussionsre Evolving and Growing Up As A Human Race, RIGHT NOW.. and YOU are helping. Thank you. God Bless. May Each One Teach One Until We Reach ONE!

  28. Scott Garner July 3, 2013 at 5:45 pm #

    If I might redirect the thread ever so slightly, I’d like to add this point:

    We don’t seem to have any narrative of the Changing South or of Changing Racial Awareness, and this piece and some of the comments serve to reinforce lines between ideologies rather than opening gates. I can’t take the current media hooha too seriously, but I’ve lived in the South my whole life and seen members of my own family transformed by real-life experiences. My great uncle had a repertoire of N-jokes straight out of the KKK Handbook, but in his 60s and 70s his black neighbors and the wonderful relationship he forged with them and their children led him to not just embrace one family but to admit he’d been wrong and callous and unthinking in the past (this isn’t #2, but rather being transformed by one set of folks to review how one has viewed an entire race). Yet he can still say — unintentionally — misguided and racist things. I would hesitate to categorize him as a racist now, though. If you can point out his error (and he has a low level of education, so sometimes it takes a little ‘splaining), he’ll be contrite and alter his behavior going forward.

    We need room for the narrative of Trying To Be Better. Not an award or effusive praise, but a tacit acknowledgement of folks looking for ways to do better. Liberals cannot assume every white person who makes a racially ham-handed statement is a racist any more than conservatives can assume that any minority on public assistance is Welfare Royalty. It is not an either/or situation in every case. We absolutely need to find the common ground of forgiveness and understanding. For the “white allies,” the goal is to move forward. This piece addresses a core component to moving ahead: owning your ignorance, prejudices and past, then growing and evolving. We can help these nascent allies not by crucifying their every failing but by honoring their intent and helping them stay on the path forward to more understanding.

    “God has created the world as one–the boundaries are marked out by man.” –Abdul-Baha

  29. jeremy July 3, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    dude if someone calls you a racist and you aren’t, you don’t have to do anything.

    if they call you a racist and you are committed to actually challenging racism you will think about your behavior or learn why that was directed at you or whomever else, and then change. period. not mouth off on a racial justice website.

    todd i didn’t read everything you wrote – i read the first, parts of the novel in between, and your last post. it was too much. way too much. your first example re: whore was challenging and offensive in and of itself.

    i do not know if you are a ‘racist.’ i know you are benefitting from male supremacy and white supremacy. that’s probably why you think you have a platform to talk as much as you do. because of the way YOU have been socialized. the mouthing off and explaining/re-explaining is indicative of male socialized folks being treated as if they know more than they actually do. you don’t know more, get over it.

    maybe you are racist. maybe you should read some bell hooks and chill for a second.

    step 7. stop talking and just listen. and i am identified as a white cissexual dude. please think about how much shutting up and listening would benefit us all. it has helped me a thousand times over – not just learn, but also to become a better listener, and to acknowledge that white cis dudes, and heteros taking center stage (or center comment) can even in itself be a trigger for folks because it can reinforce the problems or trauma that the racism or even misogyny created in the first place. we have enough dudes explaining, mansplaining, screaming reverse racism and reverse sexism, bullcrap coming at it from every angle – if you are really concerned about being accused of being racist and are committed to racial justice then act like it. act like it in real life and online.

    stop making it about yourself or your particular scenario. nothing anyone does to you or i – in calling us racist – comes close to what white supremacy enacts on folks daily. please start challenging white supremacy. you can do that even if you are ‘not racist.’

    • Patriot Sam July 3, 2013 at 6:45 pm #

      “dude if someone calls you a racist and you aren’t, you don’t have to do anything. ”

      If you had stopped right there this would be the best post on the board.

  30. Patriot Sam July 3, 2013 at 6:41 pm #

    “Thank you. I guess for now, if someone calls me a racist I will just have to plead guilty without trial and apologize.”

    Sorry, this is stupid. Why would you plead guilty without trial and apologize? If words don’t matter than your perceived racism wasn’t offensive and there is nothing to apologize for. It is a double standard that is illogical.

    The very idea that you are guilty simply because you are accused of an action is counter to the laws of science and nature. This guilt by accusal is only accepted because of a perceived social pressure to accept that deep down inside all members of the majority are racist.

  31. scraggyjack July 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

    The power and prejudice of racism are founded on the notion of stereotypes, that simple ideas can characterize large groups of people. Once someone is thinking in terms of a stereotype, they cannot see the true nature of individuals. Often the stereotypes are used to maintain positions of privilege, or illusions of superiority. They can creep into the thinking of even the fair-minded because of their repetition in culture as explanatory. We need to be aware of them in our own thinking, and speak against them when we can.

  32. Allie July 4, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Hi Scot, I just wanted to say thank you for this article. As a youngish white person raised in a predominantly white area, I find that I sometimes avoid interactions with people of color for fear of saying or doing something ignorant. I think the idea that there is a correct way to respond to those situations — listening and learning — can benefit all of us.

  33. Patricia July 4, 2013 at 11:25 am #

    Hi Scot, you are awesome! I was told a long time ago that blacks and whites see things totally different when it comes to race and that point has been proven time and time again. White people get on forums like this and write missives justifying why they aren’t racist, not understanding that this is why they probably are: keep the focus on ME, I have something to say of interest and let’s disregard what the folks of color say! Honestly, I couldn’t even read those long, drawn out posts because they were too annoying. As a black woman, NO, I do not think all white people are racist but whenever I hear one proclaiming loud (and LONG) that they aren’t, my “BS radar” goes up. Let your behavior do the talking, not your damned mouth.

  34. Farmer Ama July 4, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    Scot, i really really want to thank you for making and holding this space. This discussion could save America from mass psychotic bloodshed.. I’m not kidding.
    Get these opinions and this discussion OUT THERE.
    May you live long, and Prosper.
    One World One Race One Love.

  35. RA July 4, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    Scot, I was hoping you might want to respond to these two speakers..

    Racist Like Me / Why am I the only honest bigot? :
    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/high_concept/2004/08/racist_like_me.single.html

    TEDxHampshireCollege – Jay Smooth – How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Discussing Race :

  36. gregm91436 July 5, 2013 at 10:41 am #

    “Plead guilty without trial”? A bit overdramatic, don’t you think? You’re not “on trial.” You’re not being accused of a crime. You’re not going to have to get a lawyer. There won’t be anything on your permanent record. And there’s no danger of either a criminal conviction or a civil fine. What’s the worst that could happen? Things are slightly awkward and you apologize?
    You’ve taken a general blog post and made it *all about you.* And it’s not. There’s so much victimization wrapped up in that one little phrase I have no idea what to do with it. You and I are both white. As white people, the danger that we will ever be pulled over and given a $300 traffic ticket–without having broken any laws–is miniscule, and if we did get one, we’d know it wouldn’t be about our race. We’ll never be followed around in stores, suspected of being future shoplifters. We don’t have to worry about accidentally getting shot by trigger-happy cops if we’re out late at night. Given all the BS that people of color frequently have to put up with, is it really that big a deal to apologize if someone else is offended, even if it wasn’t our intent to offend anyone?

  37. Uncle Flash July 7, 2013 at 6:30 pm #

    The way I see it, only white people can be racist. Because they are the group with all the power that continues to promote it. I use the example of our president, when in the history has there been such open disrespect for the office? Never. Now political racism fashionable and thriving in America.

  38. Todd July 8, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    Jam–
    When you say “he made it about white people in general” are you referring to me (Todd) or Scot? Scot addressed his article to White America. It seems to me that the original article that has prompted all this great discussion was about white people. I don’t think I ever suggested that it is racist to think someone is racist because of one racist act. However, I would go so far as to say that we are defined by our deeds, so if someone knowingly commits a racist act they are being racist and that makes them a racist. I think I need to justify the “knowingly” part. A few years ago Southwest Airlines was sued because a flight attendant who was trying to get everyone in their seats for an on-time departure got on the speaker and said “eenie, meenie, minie, mo, pick a seat we gotta go.” She had no idea that she was parodying an old rhyme that used the n-word rather than the “tiger” that most of us grew up with. I would consider that to be unknowingly racist at best/worst. Finally, I never claimed there was absolutely no way to defend the accusation. I just wanted to know what way(s) to defend against the charge when it is inaccurate would be acceptable and appropriate. Eventually what I was able to glean from the discussion was that I should shrug it off. It is an option I don’t like, but I am sure if there were a good answer, given the number of excellent observations made by people on this site, someone would have shared it with us.

  39. Todd July 8, 2013 at 2:04 pm #

    Uncle flash– I had far more disrespect for the last president than the current President. Heck, despite Bill’s scandals I had more respect for him than for GW. To be honest Richard Nixon was a much better president than GW and treated with more respect than GW. GW added several words to our language and at the top of that list was Bushism. It general meant some inarticulate babble. Whether you consider that disrespectful or just accurate you have to admit it is not respectful. I think we have lost our respect for our political officials in general. What I have noticed in the last ten years is a shift from policy bashing to personal bashing. That is the direction the Republican party has to head because Obama’s policies have been largely effective when he can get them through the House and Senate. I don’t think it is about President Obama being non-white as much as it is about him being non-republican and the republican propaganda machine is opperating at full tilt. The last big “scandal” was a Marine holding an umbrella for the President. Nobody made a fuss when it was Bush, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, etc. It is just something those Marines sometimes do. It is part of their job. But they manufactured a scandal to discredit him and his party.

  40. Mal August 1, 2013 at 11:44 am #

    Mal

    Get back to basics people and start again.

    Educate–
    To develop the innate capacities of, especially by schooling or instruction. See Synonyms at teach.
    To provide with knowledge or training in a particular area or for a particular purpose: decided
    To provide with information; inform: a campaign that educated the public about the dangers of:
    To bring to an understanding or acceptance: hoped to educate the unknowing to the need for others benefits.
    To stimulate or develop the mental or moral growth of.
    To develop or refine (one’s taste or appreciation, for others).

    An insult— is an expression, statement (or sometimes behavior) which is considered degrading, offensive and impolite. Insults (sometimes called “cracks” “remarks” or one-liners)[1] may be intentional or accidental. An insult may be factual, but at the same time pejorative, such as the word “inbred”.

    Racism– is usually defined as views, practices and actions reflecting the belief that humanity is divided into distinct biological groups called races and that members of a certain race share certain attributes which make that group as a whole less desirable, more desirable, inferior, or superior.Racism and racial discrimination are often used to describe discrimination on an ethnic or cultural basis, independent of whether these differences are described as racial. According to the United Nations convention, there is no distinction between the terms racial discrimination and ethnic discrimination, and superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere.

    Nasty–*Morally offensive; indecent. check out Synonyms at offensive.
    *Malicious; spiteful: “Will they say nasty things to me, about me, at them, about them?”
    *Very unpleasant or annoying: nasty weather; a nasty trick.

    cruel–wilfully causing pain or suffering to others, or feeling no concern about it: a cruel remark causing pain or suffering.

    wrong
    adjective
    1.not in accordance with what is morally right or good: a wrong deed.
    2.deviating from truth or fact; erroneous: a wrong answer.
    3.not correct in action, judgment, opinion, method, etc., as a person; in error: You are wrong to blame him.
    4.not proper or usual; not in accordance with requirements or recommended practice: the wrong way to hold an opinion, complaint or accusation.
    5.out of order; awry; amiss: Something is wrong with the situation.

    Multicultural society has many levels of knowledge and ignorance. Everybody has difficulties with learning including the most experienced and knowledgeable.

    I presume dealing with the facts best deals with what is and what needs to be in an ideal environment.
    Or survival of the fittest or richest if not.

    Over to you!

  41. Ali August 18, 2013 at 8:37 am #

    Being cognizant of another person’s perceptions, another person’s experience, another person’s position, is an attempt to accurately recognize, understand and empathize. However It is not mandatory to ‘demonstrate a specific form’ of recognition, understanding or empathy because someone suggests not to do so makes them indifferent, deficient or derelict. For one to determine an acceptable degree and an acceptable manner of how another is to reason in this matter is opinion held up as requirement. One’s opinion is not ultimately qualified or entitled to determine for another the dimension of their focus, their level of recognition or perception, their experience or their empathy – its definition, its degree or its outcome. Control and marginalization take on many forms not the least of which is the form of judgment used.

  42. Lew December 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    I’m hapa too. But I grew up in a totally multi ethnic community. Everybody in America who is not black is cautioned against using the N word. Not so with the words you used. Ask any Asian kid in grammar school. We are seen as easy targets, the ones who only cry and never fight back.

  43. Lew December 3, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    The average citizen DOES have power to mold our society in racist ways. Think about how people choose where to live or whom to hire, whom to date or whom to marry and breed with. Those aren’t the 1%ers, are they?

  44. fdgfg sadgg January 21, 2014 at 8:32 am #

    I love the people saying people of color can’t be racist toward whites. Sorry but that is not the question.

    The question is, are people of color human beings? Because if yes, that means they/we can wrongly accuse someone of something, shut down a conversation, use an accusation to defend something they/we have done, show poor judgement, be mistaken, or take advantage in a situtation.

    Racism is a huge horrible thing, there are legitmately militant, powerful anti-racist viewpoints and traditions out there that do not have to use cult-like language or break all the rules of debate, logic, and intellectual honesty. You will not find them among the author or her/his defenders and their use of “privelage theory” to explain society.

    When people who know less about the experience of white supremacy than you are beating you in arguments, it is because something is wrong with what you are saying.

  45. Joanna March 16, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    I’ve been dealing with this sort of BS over a TV show (“Once Upon a Time”) the last few months as I recognized they were pandering to people that have been accusing that show of being racist. (When it’s actually not and I swear, these people need to actually WATCH the show.) I have been called racist and even homophobic because I have not agreed with some moves the showrunners have made. What they fail to realize is that I’m upset over the radical changes they’re making to the DISNEY characters that they should NOT be doing. I had no problem with Toni Braxton playing Belle on broadway, but that was because they wanted her because she was famous. But giving a racelift to a character because ‘fans’ are griping over racism and to spite their ACTUAL racist casting director…no, that’s not right at all. And yet the unenlightened still feel they have to call me names instead of seeing what’s going on.

    The only types of people I don’t like are JERKS. And that transcends just about EVERYTHING. But I’m not apologizing to people who won’t even see where I am coming from and let their own ignorance do them in.

  46. Anna August 29, 2014 at 5:51 am #

    Erm… what if you’re actually not being racist? Like if you’re a disabled person requesting to be allowed to bring a piece of assisstive technology, and then told that the mere suggestion that such a disability exists is racist and that you’re like Adolf?

    Sorry, all your advice is great for someone who actually did do something racist, which I am sure is unfortunately quite common, but not all accusations are justified, and I came looking for advice on such a scenario where someone is using the accusation of racism to cover up their own ablist ideology.

  47. yvonne June 29, 2013 at 12:24 am #

    todd: you pulled a couple of classic moves that well meaning white people often do when confronted with what people of color feel about uncomfortable situations having to do with culture clashes and bigotry.

    1. you made it about you. you basically broke rule #1 of this blog post and complained about being a white person beset upon by charges of racism or bigotry. it would have been better to just read the article and respond in the context of the article, instead of focusing on yourself and your whiteness.

    2. you took up the most space on this page as a commenter. i realize that we all can get carried away and want to delve into our deepest feelings when we communicate in forums like this, but it was simply too much. be more aware of what this space is for.

    3. you made a false analogy and compared being called out on bigotry to being called a “whore.” sexism and racism are not the same thing and should not be equated. being called out on your prejudices or your bigotry is not as simple as being called a name. it’s about your BEHAVIOR and how you’ve treated someone, based on racial prejudices.

    you need to read this blog article again, because you clearly did not get it.

  48. Scot Nakagawa
    Scot Nakagawa June 29, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    Um, Todd, as you yourself pointed out, the tips are addressed within the post specifically to white “allies.” As your comments make it apparent that you are neither in that group nor are seeking membership in it, I suggest just not taking the post so personally.

    Thanks for commenting!

  49. stevie June 29, 2013 at 1:12 pm #

    #6 don’t deflect blame onto all the other people that you think are racist too. Just sayin’.

  50. Kaitlyn July 1, 2013 at 3:39 am #

    -I agree with you whole-heartedly, and I am a minority myself.
    -I also believe that there is a difference between racism and ignorance which is influenced by the environment you were raised in.
    -Also, one thing that annoys me is that a great amount of minorities believe they cannot be racist just because they are a person of color. I hate that if this person is trying to achieve racial justice, they fail to recognize the other side
    -Being called racist is just as offensive as the “racist” comment that was said if the person truly believes he/she is not racist. They have the right to cry and defend themselves whole-heartedly. We have a mouth. We live in a country with the freedom of speech.

  51. Jessica Pimpson July 3, 2013 at 1:37 pm #

    #6. Don’t write a defensive 10,000 word comment using false analogies, whorephobia, and “but POC are racist too” type statements.

  52. Jessica Pimpson July 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    Alsooooo derailingfordummies.com

  53. Jam Illustrator July 6, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    brilliant man, just brilliant! But i think the the best advice is right there in you comment. Apathy, If you truly aren’t a racist, then you can’t be bothered when someone else thinks you are. It’s one of the lessons from Toltec wisdom, “don’t take anything personally.” Someone accusing you of being racists is them projecting their own racial biases onto you. Being racist, and accusing someone else of racism are both forms of prejudice.

  54. Scot Nakagawa
    Scot Nakagawa June 29, 2013 at 10:23 am #

    You rock! Let’s be friends:)

  55. Gina July 1, 2013 at 2:12 pm #

    You just assumed Todd was white

  56. fdgfg sadgg January 21, 2014 at 9:10 am #

    Yvonne,

    It doesn’t matter if Todd is an ignorant racist or not. He wins because he more or less was able to point out the circular logic at work here. The reason you don’t see your 3 points at work in any tradition of serious conversation from any continent is because they completely avoid the claims the person makes through ad hominem and conversation ending accusations.

    I honestly beleive you are totally unaware of the disingenous reasoning you use here, because you see it as a justified in the fight against white supremacy. Ironically, you like most here, impiclty deny the agency and subjectiviy of non whites by acting like non whites can’t lie, be mistaken, make an excuse, or get mileage out of being non white in rare situations when a race card can be played. Everyone has a personality. To admit this would not be to reject that our societies are still brutally white supremacist.

    Not to pick on you, your words are representive of much of the crowd here. This whole line of reasoning of privelage and therepatuic psychobable prevelant today comes from the deafeat of serious anti-racist struggles in the past and their replacement by careerist, feel good, liberal, lobbyist NGOs that have not advanced equality one but, just an orwellian political correctness that gives the right wing plenty of fodder.

  57. pumpsix July 1, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

    That’s a privileged thing to say. My parents fled from a country where you can be pulled off the street and assaulted for being white. Why are you so insensitive?

  58. Patriot Sam July 3, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

    Why is comparing sexism and racism a false analogy? Isn’t treating someone badly because they are of a certain sex just as bad as treating someone badly because they are a certain race? For years we’ve been told homosexual rights is the new civil rights battlefront. Where does anti-homosexual stances fall in the pecking order?

  59. Jam Illustrator July 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    No Yevonne, he made it about white people in general (the word I is barely in his comment) and about how it’s racist to just assume a white person is racist based on one seemingly racist act, and how according to this article, there is absolutely no way to defend the accusation. I think you need to read his comment again.

  60. Justin July 5, 2013 at 11:11 am #

    What kind of evidence can you present to show you are not racist?

  61. Jam Illustrator July 6, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    This is truly brilliant. Now my previous response to Todd about being apathetic seems sort of ignorant now. I wish you could delete comments here. I was talking more about personal bigotry than systematic racism. But, If by mistake your unintentionally bigoted remark is contributing to that system of inequality, and someone does you the service of alerting you to that, then you should apologise, listen, and try to reform.

  62. Lance Desker July 7, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    by not being racist and by avoiding using the overused words you know are bound to get you the accusations you so richly deserve. By treating people fairly, and by not reacting defensively. Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s the adult thing to do.

  63. Michelle July 12, 2013 at 2:59 pm #

    Katie,
    Thank you so much!
    (It’s 10 days after you posted, but maybe you’ll come back and see this some day.)
    Monday, on another blog, I got into a heated back and forth with 2 people calling me racist. They never explained *why* or *how* my comment to another person was incorrect, just insisted that I am racist and kept attacking me. I neither knew if they were correct, nor how to have a useful conversation with them. I am still bruised and confused.

    It is so hard to find much non-accusatory information on the topic of recognizing whether someone is blind to their own prejudice.
    The hyperlink you’ve provided is *by far* the best info I’ve yet seen on this issue, and I will look for more of Jay’s work.
    Thanks

  64. bintalshamsa July 14, 2013 at 12:07 pm #

    No. Telling someone that they are engaging in racism is not a form of prejudice. It’s an act of love. It’s giving them the opportunity to address their bigotry and make changes in their life or remain a racist. Please don’t try to co-opt the spirituality of Indigenous Americans in order to make your silly point. That’s cultural appropriation and it is really, really unethical.

  65. bintalshamsa July 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    Wrong. It’s privileged for you to assume that we should try to make amends for any suffering experienced by white people. YOU are the one who is being insensitive. This isn’t about your parents and where they fled from. The point is they came and illegally colonized the lands that belonged to someone else.

  66. bintalshamsa July 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    Nope. Todd just proved that he was white. Often, white people don’t really know how much they reveal about themselves when they write or say something. However, it’s crystal clear to people of color. Have you noticed that Todd isn’t claiming that he isn’t white? Why do you think that’s the case? Hint: It’s because Yvonne was right.

  67. bintalshamsa July 14, 2013 at 12:18 pm #

    Please learn the difference between racism and prejudice. Instead of making foolish assertions that “a great amount of minorities believe they cannot be racist”, you could make informed and factual statements.

    It doesn’t matter whether the person “truly believes he/she is not racist”. Their actions determine what they are. If a man called you a b*tch or a c*nt or a wh*re but he truly believed that he’s not sexist, does that make his beliefs more important than his actions? You are what you do, not what you’d like to imagine yourself to be.

    Yes, people have the right to cry and defend themselves. That’s what white privilege makes possible. White people are always welcome to exercise it. Just don’t be surprised when we use our “freedom of speech” to point out how much of a bigot you are.

  68. bintalshamsa July 14, 2013 at 12:27 pm #

    I’m going to point out that I’m a Black/Blackfoot/Crow/French/Irish Creole and my sister is Japanese. Your friend was right. Being called a nigger is more hurtful because that word is associated with the kidnapping, trafficking, rape, torture, and murder of MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS of Black people. When the folks who called you “geisha girl” or “ch*nk” or “gook” start kidnapping, trafficking, raping, torturing, and murdering MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS of Japanese people, then you’ll have some claim that what you experienced is somewhat similar to what your friend goes through. Thankfully, my sister understand this and never engages in the derailing silliness that you’re attempting here. She understands the fact that there are VAST differences in the way that white America judges Asians compared to Blacks.

    If the outrage seems forced to you, it’s because you’re choosing to participate in the system of white privilege that also places you at nearly sub-human status. You were quite eager to tell us all about your heritage and your complaints, but you think that other folks are “a little too eager to let us all know what they think about it”. You epitomize the kind of people you’re talking about. You couldn’t engage in more projection even if you turned yourself into a Drive-In Theater.

  69. Katie L. July 15, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    Hey! Glad you liked the video, Michelle! J. Smooth is also worth following on Twitter, if you haven’t already: https://twitter.com/jsmooth995

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