Whites are about 78% of the American public. According to Gallup, about 19% of whites were opposed to interracial marriage in 2007. That’s a pretty small minority of whites, but in total number, that’s something like 49 million people. There are only 69 million or so non-white people living in the U.S. That means that the number of whites who oppose interracial marriage is greater than all of any one U.S. racial minority group. Why are they so afraid?
I believe what whites have to fear is white people.
When white supremacy was challenged by the racial justice movements of the 1950s and ’60s, white elites pivoted from overt racism and co-opted the language and symbols, but not the substance, of racial justice. By doing so, they were able to position themselves as champions of a new colorblind code of civility that reduces structural racial injustice to an attitudinal problem. This enabled them to block attempts to reorganize unjust power relations while deflecting responsibility for continuing injustice on overt racists who were cast as ignorant, immoral, and backward.
This move caused whiteness to fracture. The dominant faction of elites adopted a strategy of coded messaging and avoidance of obvious racial conflict, while using overt racists as a foil against which to position themselves as racial egalitarians. When whites are exposed as racists, their anger is in part a reaction to the fear that they will be cast out of the dominant faction of whites and marginalized along with old fashioned racists like the KKK.
If you buy that, what we are up against, at least in part, is a factional fight among whites over how best to maintain supremacy. And for people of color to concede to that by avoiding direct attacks on racism is like cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
I think part of what’s catching people’s imagination about this case […] It’s because it’s a young, white woman. It’s not a stodgy old man who feels aggrieved by long-haired kids on my lawn. This is a young woman who is part of a group that by some estimates is most likely to benefit from affirmative action in America. And, you know, It’s important to consider this in a larger historical context and that is that in America, we have a long history of implementing unjust or sometimes inhuman policies and actions in the name of drying up white woman’s tears. And I think we really need to think carefully about that as we’re looking at this young white woman bringing grievance about not going into the one school that she really wanted to.
The thing is though, I think what it still misses in terms of generations of delegates, is that there was a massive affirmative action program, in this country, between about 1945 and 1955. And it was affirmative action predominately for white Americans. It was what created the American middle class. It was social security. It was the G.I. Bill. It was the FHA loans. It was about a hundred billion dollars worth of investments into American human capital, low interest loans, and small businesses […] It was the government saying, “We are going to invest in this group of people who have less.” And the impact is not additive, it’s multiplicative, right? So every decade since that initial investment from which Blacks were shut out, by mostly Southern Democrats, grows and grows and grows. And the new [affirmative action] investments in the ’70s is like that much compared to that much. It’s very very difficult to imagine how in 25 years, or even in a biblical 40, you end up going far enough.
It must be nice to talk about POC lives as non POC, to be able to so “kindly correct” a POC when they get riled up about xenophobic rhetoric that will affect how a lot of Americans are going to view them.
Must be nice not being a perpetual Other. Must be nice to be able to debate this all theoretically instead of like actually living it.
Fuck your Ivy League East Asian Studies degree, you don’t know jack shit about the reality we live in and how we’re murdered in the streets because of rhetoric like Romney’s. remember Vincent Chin and Danny Chen, the thousands of railroad workers driven out of their shantytowns by white men with guns.
How dare you accuse me of yelling racism and acting defensive when for some it means life or death.
But by all means keep studying us and decrying China’s bad human rights policies, we’re just lab rats to you
Lol I responded to this bitch.
I’m going to respond to your last post in kind now. Because I’ve had a chance to think about it, and I have actually come to the conclusion that it was really fucking gross, condescending and pretentious, and I’m going to call you the fuck out on it.
It must be really nice for you, as a white person, to be able to see an angry person of color and to write them off as pointing fingers and calling names, when you have never had to suffer the effects of xenophobic dialogue and racism within this country. When you probably don’t even know who Vincent Chin or Danny Chen are and that they died because of ignorant assholes who didn’t bother to fact-check; they just took some politician’s words at face value and used it to kill innocent people.
It must be so fucking nice to study all of these things at a purely intellectual level, without thinking about how your generalizations about what goes on in a country as complicated as our own might POSSIBLY influence some ignorant people’s thoughts and attitudes about said country. More importantly so, about how they perceive other people who have NOTHING to do with said country who are living in THIS COUNTRY and have to suffer for it every day, who are constantly being told to GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM and fucking called RACIAL SLURS.
It must be nice for you to be able to ignore the API American community completely and only think about how Romney’s rhetoric applies to the Chinese government and not like, the millions of API people living here. Many of whom aren’t even Chinese, but, like Vincent Chin was, get mistaken for being a different nationality than they actually were and beaten to death anyway. Because we’re all interchangeable, am I right?
I’m only saying this to you because of your tone-policing, condescending post about how GOD FORBID I FUCKING CALL SOMEONE RACIST OR XENOPHOBIC BECAUSE THESE ISSUES IMPACT ME AS AN API PERSON EVERY SINGLE DAY. I almost got into a fucking PHYSICAL ALTERCATION with a catcaller on the street who had the fucking GALL to call me “Chinadoll”, then started almost getting VIOLENT BECAUSE HE THOUGHT HE HAD A RIGHT TO CALL ME SLURS. Like those people who thought they had the right to call Vincent Chin or Danny Chen slurs. The white men with guns who drove out the Chinese railroad workers.
And yet despite all that, you have the fucking nerve to sit there in your ivory tower, fanning yourself with your East Asian Studies degree, and tell ME, an API person, in a “teacherly tone”, that I BEGAN A PERSONAL ATTACK, when I was actually only pointing out that Romney’s rhetoric was hurting people. You then have the fucking nerve to tell me that I’M BEING JUST AS BAD AS ROMNEY. How fucking DARE you tell me that I’m being just as bad as the man who spits out this bullshit and contributes to oppression and further Othering of API Americans, who wants to make sure we know that we don’t belong here and we never will. How fucking dare you.
As a white person, you do NOT GET TO TELL A PERSON OF COLOR WHEN AND HOW AND WHERE THEY SHOULD BE OFFENDED.
take your fancy-ass degree and your tone policing and your condescension and fucking swallow it whole, because I am not fucking having it. Fuck you and have a nice fucking day. Don’t bother responding; I’m sure all you’re going to do is sit there and cry about how some angry Asian girl who has NO idea what she’s talking about has called out out for acting like a douchebag.
Sorry people with race privilege, you can’t whitewash a debate when racism is a living reality for many people.
Fuck white people who are like, “let’s take race out of this”. If I can’t erase racism from my life, you can’t erase it from our conversation.
A racist woman is not a feminist; she doesn’t care about helping women, just the women who look like her and can buy the same things she can. A transphobic woman is not a feminist; she is overly concerned with policing the bodies and expressions of others. A woman against reproductive rights — to use bell hook’s own example, and an issue close to your heart — is not a feminist; she prioritizes her dogma or her disgust over the bodies of others. An ableist woman is not a feminist; she holds some Platonic ideal of what a physically or mentally “whole” person should be and tries to force the world to fit inside it.
Is it unfair to ask Dunham to represent all of womanhood onscreen? Of course it is. But here’s the thing: no one did. We merely asked that she take a step back and question the underlying reason for why Girls looks the way it does.
People of color, women, and gays—who now have greater access to the centers of influence that ever before—are under pressure to be well-behaved when talking about their struggles. There is an expectation that we can talk about sins but no one must be identified as a sinner: newspapers love to describe words or deeds as ‘racially charged’ even in those cases when it would be more honest to say ‘racist’; we agree that there is rampant misogyny, but misogynists are nowhere to be found; homophobia is a problem but no one is homophobic. One cumulative effect of this policed language is that when someone dares to point out something as obvious as white privilege, it is seen as unduly provocative. Marginalized voices in America have fewer and fewer avenues to speak plainly about what they suffer; the effect of this enforced civility is that those voices are falsified or blocked entirely from the discourse.
This is the press release from This American Life about their retraction.
First off, I’m impressed by the actions of This American Life, WBEZ Chiacago, and Public Radio International. They realized their mistake and are completely upfront about it, dedicating the entire upcoming episode to the lies and errors in the original story. This transparent honesty restores my faith in journalistic integrity.
There are obviously huge problems at Foxconn, in Shenzhen, and in Chinese factories and manufacturing as a whole. Any time we can bring awareness to human rights abuses across the world is important for combating such violations. But these stories and reports need to be honest and factual in order to bring any real justice to the issue.
In a way, this “Mr. Daisey and the Apple Factory” debacle reminds me a lot of the “Gay Girl in Damascus” hoax from last summer. Although both stories deal with different countries, cultures, human rights abuses, and political issues, they are both rooted in the fundamental problem of a third-party—in both cases, a white, American man—taking it upon themselves to advocate for the powerless, oppressed peoples of the “third world”.
There are differences, of course, between the two stories. While I haven’t heard to the extent to which Mike Daisey fabricated his story, from what I do know, I do not find his actions and lies nearly as vile as Tom MacMaster’s. This is Daisey’s response to the retraction:
I stand by my work. My show is a theatrical piece whose goal is to create a human connection between our gorgeous devices and the brutal circumstances from which they emerge. It uses a combination of fact, memoir, and dramatic license to tell its story, and I believe it does so with integrity. Certainly, the comprehensive investigations undertaken by The New York Times and a number of labor rights groups to document conditions in electronics manufacturing would seem to bear this out.
What I do is not journalism. The tools of the theater are not the same as the tools of journalism. For this reason, I regret that I allowed This American Life to air an excerpt from my monologue. This American Life is essentially a journalistic - not a theatrical - enterprise, and as such it operates under a different set of rules and expectations. But this is my only regret. I am proud that my work seems to have sparked a growing storm of attention and concern over the often appalling conditions under which many of the high-tech products we love so much are assembled in China.
I believe Daisey when he says he’s proud of his work. And he has some reason to be. After his monologue aired on This American Life, I saw the internet more worked up about labor issues in China than it has ever been. Although with any sort of awareness campaign, interest wains quickly and the effects of such awareness may not be so long-lasting. But Daisey did do a pretty good job in getting people to talk about issues that are rarely on their minds. And unlike MacMaster, Daisey did not directly endanger the lives of the voices he was trying to represent.
Yet there is such an ethical dilemma when activists (or “activists”) take it upon themselves to twist the facts or completely invent stories for the purpose of “raising awareness”. When human rights advocates are not honest in how they relay the suffering of other human beings to the public, they are not advancing the cause. Misrepresenting what life is like for an openly gay woman to live in Syria or what working conditions are like for thousands of factory workers in southern China is irresponsible at best, contemptible and evil at worst. When people are loose with the truth to turn a story into a smoother narrative or make activism more interesting, they undermine other people’s actual experiences. When people like Mike Daisey literally have a stage to share unheard voices, the voices and stories need to belong to the people and not to the storyteller.
That is not to say that there is no room for Daisey’s own thoughts or reflections, but there actually is no room for meddling with the truth to make human rights more marketable. When you add an anecdote about something that never happened or happened differently to the story you tell to raise awareness about an issue, you change the focus of that issue from real experiences to invented details from your third-party imagination. Here’s the thing, though: residents of Shenzhen are not working long, tiring hours at Foxconn so that Mike Daisey can talk about it. They’re working at Foxconn to make a living, support their families, pay for their children’s education, etc. These goals are many of the same reasons American residents work at their jobs. Taking liberty with the truth and adding in pieces about meeting child workers and an injured man who calls the iPad “magic” further victimizes these workers who are already caught in the incredibly complicated relationship between industrial development, worker’s rights, and economic mobility. If Mike Daisey couldn’t make his case compelling without greatly embellishing on the truth, maybe he should re-think his approach to raising awareness.
In fact, I’m getting pretty sick of this type of storyboard activism where real people’s lives are molded to fit a 20-minute video about hardships in developing countries. Full disclosure: I have yet to watch the Kony 2012 video and I have no plans of watching it in the near future. I have, however, read a lot of criticism on the campaign and can surmise the content of the video from there. This isn’t to say I don’t find value in diving into the microcosm of large-scale political problems and relating personal stories to the public at large. In fact, I find it incredibly useful to show how issues that often seem removed from the personal sphere such as war and widespread political oppression affect people on an individual level. But there needs to be an appropriate amount of fidelity given to an individual’s story.
People aren’t suffering hardships and fighting for their rights and freedoms all over the world so that Western, white men can make a name for themselves advocating on behalf of the “downtrodden”. If you really want to call yourself an activist, an ally, you need to value the lives of other people more than the story you can tell (or sell).
Don’t do it. You may be subjected to a non-sequitur about how Jews (who control the media) make movies about Black people so they can talk about antisemitism.
When a college friend told me that I was “cute for a black girl,” her statement had weight. It was spoken to a black woman on a campus with a 2 percent black population, in a state where black people were equally scarce, in a country where race bias is still pervasive. She was speaking in a culture where her own white features were prized and considered beautiful and mine were not. She was speaking to a black woman on a campus where black women often went dateless, because the majority white male population was indifferent to us and the small “of color” male population often was, too. She was speaking to me–a woman who had come of age in the 70s and 80s rarely seeing people who look like me in magazines, on television and film, etc. She was speaking at a time when dark skin and big lips and broad noses and nappy hair were regularly mentioned as insults in school yard fights. She was speaking in a town where there was not one salon that did African American hair and no drug store that carried beauty products geared toward black women. Had I offered that she was “cute for a white girl,” it would have been plenty offensive, but would have different context and far less weight. She had racial privilege; I did not. The fact is that black people face microaggressions regularly. (And not just in tiny backwaters and Southern towns.) To ask that we not speak about them, or that we focus on “something more important,” is to erase our lived experiences and to ignore the ways the accumulation of little things can add to the weight of racism.
I’m not surprised Gay Girl in Damascus was fake. It still pisses me off – that a straight white guy thought it was his place to tell someone else’s story. That he dated women (ick, it’s like a pseudo-lesbian straight guy fantasy), that he INTERVIEWED FOR CNN as a fictitious person. And then he had the gall to compare himself to Harriet Beecher Stowe, who was an active abolitionist and made it known that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was fictional. This whole thing reinforces everything I believe about privilege and entitlement. I didn’t really think too hard about the possibility that Gay Girl in Damascus could be fake because I wanted so badly for it to be real.
I didn’t read GGiD regularly – I only discovered it after “Amina” was “kidnapped” and before the guy came forth. And by “discovered” I mean “I read the quotes people were sharing on Tumblr in solidarity.” But even the few things I read felt… off. First of all, the characters Amina and Raina sound exactly the same. Second, one would expect at least one mundane “meh I don’t feel like writing so here’s a cute animal” post because people can’t be erudite and intellectual all the time. And then there’s the writing itself. There was one quote that was being spread around that was something like “I’ve never been harassed in Damascus for being a lesbian but I have been harassed in America for wearing hijab.” Even when I read it – before the blog was revealed to be a hoax - I thought that was bullshit. I live in a place where homosexuality isn’t outlawed, and in fact between an hour and two hours away from a part of the country where gay marriage is legal, and I’VE gotten shit for being gay. And that’s not a place where homosexuality is illegal and actively punished. In fact, every other account I’ve read and heard from LGBT folks in various parts of the Middle East have suggested that it’s kind of terrifying – or at least significant - being a sexual minority (and especially an activist) in that area. I can’t imagine an actual queer person who has lived in the US and Syria brushing over it like that. It just reads like a Western white person defending Islam to a Western white audience, which is exactly what it is.
Since I’m not sure if I’m articulating this well, I’m going to compare it to Eve Ensler. Ensler is a white American feminist playwright and author writes stories “inspired by” real person’s stories. And it’s obvious, upon reflection, that her background colors her perspective in writing these stories. For example, the stage directions for reading the “Coochie-Snorcher that could” piece in the Vagina Monologues are “Southern, woman of color.” Now, I know a few southern women of color (even more if you consider Maryland “the South”) and they all speak differently. Which one am I supposed to imitate? Ohhhhh! She meant a stereotype of a black Southern woman! That’s easier, then.
The problem with Eve Ensler’s depictions of characters of color (and many privileged people writing about marginalized experiences, for that matter) is that they try so hard to be “authentic” that their characters come off as stereotypes. And when I say authentic I mean, of course, authentic through a white gaze. For example, I read Eve Ensler’s book “I am an emotional creature: the secret life of girls around the world” because I wanted to see Ensler’s works outside of the Vagina Monologues. It was a bad decision. One of the stories (keep in mind – not real people, just written by her and inspired by things she has heard) was about a teenage girl who was pregnant and considering an abortion. Interesting, right? Ensler leaves clues in most of these stories about the ethnic background of the narrators (unless they’re white, I guess?). Her family was “super-Catholic.” Her boyfriend was named Carlos and he loved rap music and she was afraid he would end up in jail or be lazy not pay child support. Her best friend Juicy and she made a point of talking “ghetto.” She has “bad hair” and big thighs and goes to a nurse who looks “just like J Lo.” Within a few lines of this piece, it became obvious that she was talking about a Latina chola-style girl. I don’t know any Latinas like this, by the way, but I do know that that’s how Latinas are shown in white programming, so I knew what “clues” to look for. That was the only Latina girl in the book: a pregnant chola-type with no nuance.
Eve Ensler further demonstrates this “white gaze” by using her characters to further her own agenda. For example, she wrote another story in this compilation about a Chinese child-laborer who works at a Barbie-making factory. This girl says, after discussing her working conditions,
“I have never been anywhere else but I do not think anyone really looks like Barbie. She is so skinny. I heard she can’t even get her period. And my cousin who lives in America told me that Barbie makes the girls who own her stop eating because they try and look like her.”
Okay, really? Would a girl who, by her own admission, works in a factory 12 hours a day making things that probably all look the same by now talk about Western beauty standards? And that’s ignoring the fact that her cousin apparently has enough money to go to America (but she doesn’t) and is able to keep in regular contact and TALKS ABOUT THINGS LIKE BARBIE PERIODS. I have no doubt that there are people with eating disorders and body image problems all over the world, but the fact is it’s one of the foci of white Western feminism. It’s simply not something that’s as centralized in other parts of the world in other feminisms. People in different situations have different priorities. So Eve Ensler uses this character, who would in real life probably have vastly different problems than Barbie on the other side of the world, to talk about problems that are relevant to HER feminism. That’s the point at which I stopped reading this book. It just became so obvious that it was a white woman using marginalized experiences to talk to other white women… Which is exactly what the guy from Gay Girl in Damascus admitted to doing.
I don’t have a real way to end this and I should have probably left for work, like, 10 minutes ago so I’ll end with a middle school style concluding sentence. Eve Ensler and the Gay Girl in Damascus guy both are inauthentic in their presentations of “the other” through the “white gaze” but Eve Ensler is less of a douche because she at least admits her characters are fictionalized. There.
Rachel gets it. (Bold mine)
we're screw-ups. I'm a screw-up and I plan to be a screw-up until my late 20s, maybe even my early 30s.
24-year-old new england women's college graduate with a laptop and no original thoughts.
currently attempting to make something of my life after screwing around in france for a few months.
my friends and I also like to post photos of food+beer.