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Friday, August 27, 2010

Get over it, part 2

Elon James White on racism being over. A couple of highlights:
White privilege, institutionalized racism all just disappeared, you know, just like the oil in the gulf. Actually, it's exactly like the oil in the gulf, you know, even though we can't see those huge plumes of racism - I mean oil - right beneath the surface, you know, we all know it's still clearly there.
Oh, how I love to be told to get over it, you know? It's like the smell of fresh-baked bread in the morning, ha ha. If that bread was being baked by an unpaid negro and then later on they were going to have to go pick cotton.


  1. So, I've been debating with myself about whether or not it is appropriate for me to comment on this post or not. I finally decided that just the fact that I felt the need to do so is racist. I mean, why shouldn't I be able to comment on it?

    As a kid, I had no concept of race or social standing. Everyone in my public school classes were my friends, regardless of skin color or the kind of car their parents drove or house they lived in. My parents worked really hard to make sure that the racism so prevalent in the South wasn't part of my psyche.

    As an adult, I'm horrified to hear racist and/or classist remarks come out of my mouth, and unfotunately they do so on a fairly regular basis. I find myself thinking in terms of "thug" or "trailer trash."

    At what point did I become a racist/classist? How did it happen? Actually, I think I'm more of a classist than a racist, if that makes any sense. I find myself having contemptuous thoughts for people that aren't well-read or well-spoken; it crosses color lines. For instance, I don't think of you and Marti as black or African American or any of those labels. I think of you as old friends. On the other hand, when I'm behind a white girl at Walmart with three bratty kids and paying with the Louisiana purchase card, I think "trailer trash."

    I'm trying not to view people in such terms, but doesn't the fact that I have to work at it imply that I have a problem? Argh. It makes my head hurt thinking about it.

    And yes, in direct response to the video, institutional racism is alive and well in the South. The most blatant example I've seen was in Winnfield, LA, home to the Longs, Huey P. and Crazy Uncle Earl, so maybe that explains it, lol.

    A group of us were going to lunch at the local Mexican dive and invited a black co-worker to go with us. She hesitated for a minute and then said, "You know I can't go there. They don't serve black people." My draw literally dropped to the floor. It was 2004 for God's sake. How was this possible? How is it that the area of Winnfield where most of the African Americans live is referred to as "The Quarters?" As in, "the slave quarters." Unbelievable.

    I'm sorry if I've rambled on too long...

  2. Wow. I cannot believe that there's a part of town referred to - even indirectly - as the slave quarters. I just can't even really process that. I was annoyed enough that Russell Edgington referred to something as the slave quarters, AND HE'S NOT REAL.


    Here's the thing: I believe that everyone has prejudices. We all make generalizations, we all make assumptions, and I'd go so far as to say that we are all, at some time or another, guilty of an unfair bias for or against someone or something. It's how human brains work. We group, we simplify. Sometimes it's a good tool (think family), sometimes it's not (think racism). I, for example, am more than a little bit elitist. I don't believe for a second that my education makes me better than anyone, but I do have to remind myself that there are other things to do with one's life, and that those choices aren't automatically lesser ones.

    I think we all have prejudices, but I do think it makes a difference what your prejudices are and, perhaps more importantly, what you do with them. The fact that our minds are drawn to group and to (over)simplify doesn't mean we have to let those generalizations stand, and doesn't mean that we have to act based solely on those generalizations. And that's the key - it's crucial for people to be reflective enough to realize that their mental furniture might be in disarray, that their beliefs might be ill-founded, that their vision might be clouded. There are obviously biases I think we'd be better off without, but I don't think they're going to just disappear. For that reason, I think it might be more important to be able to see that you've got them and to confront them. It's the only way anything ever changes...