The Race Card
Dec. 3rd, 2008 @ 07:42 am
I really, really hate the "Race" card. I'm expecting some head-banging from a select few people on my f-list (and/or immediate de-friending) for saying so, but I really do.
It's not really that I have a problem with people of different races... I believe in (and usually do) treat everyone equally... my problem is that The Race Card is like the ace of spades... with the joker thrown in... nothing can defeat it, and when you finally try to convey that you're not a racist, The Race Card magically morphs into another argument and justification for the racist label... frequently including arguments that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand. The people utilizing The Race Card feel so strongly about the issue that, once applied, they find it impossible to say "okay... you're right... you're not a racist... sorry I labeled you ss such."
This has happened to me once at work (a LONG time ago), and a couple of times in non-work life. In non-work, it's usually focused on the fact that I'm not attracted to people of color (although for some reason my attraction to latino boys is growing... I'm okay with that :)). But, if I'm a racist for not being attracted to black or asian boys, does that mean I'm "size-ist" for not being attracted to fat people? ...or age-ist for not being attracted to old people? ...or sexist for not being attracted to women? It's not that I dislike any of these people... it's that they just don't turn me on... sorry... libido defies logic.
The work incident revolved around me trying to convince someone that they were doing something incorrectly (aka, wrong), and after successfully conveying the base idea it suddenly became an issue of me trying to tell them that they were wrong because they were black. What is ironic was that this was over email... I had never actually seen them before in my entire life... yet I was racist and discrimating against them.
I AM NOT saying that there are people that are... and I'm not saying that people of different ethnicities don't get prejudices applied to them... but I do say that I'm not one that looks at people in that way... yet, I'm a racist sexist agist sizeist elitist.
Fine. You can call me whatever You want. Just remember that it's you doing the name calling, jumping around finding arguments to support your apparent need to be right/justified/grasping-desperately-to-that-chip-on-your-shoulder. All I did was say "Sorry... I'm just not interested in you." Everything else you came up with in your mind is a figment of your imagination.
In terms of the attraction, the problem with attraction based on race is that it's usually base don racist notions developed subconsciously. The fact that you're finding more latinos attractive proves this to a degree. You're unlearning a previous position because you're becoming more exposed to latinos and previous stereotypes you may have had are being removed. Plus in our society we are taught that lighter, white features are better so naturally its easily for someone who does not have those features to assume that the other person is racist when this occurs. But again, this is something personal...it's the type of thing that requires personal examination and reflection to really think about why you think/feel that way. I think dialogue is a good thing. Sure you're obviously not going to find every single person attractive, but it's good to know why you can write off an entire group and where that stems from without just taking it as fact.
And in terms of that incident, what sort of tone did you use in the emails? Not saying you behaved this way, but there is a notion that if a white male comes in and tells a person of color what to do there is a bit of "i'm obviously right and you're wrong" perceived in the communication that is deeply rooted in history. Again, not saying you did that but you may want to review the tone you used and maybe ask another set of eyes (maybe from someone who's PoC) to look over the emails and see if maybe you said something that actually wasn't that cool. Could be constructive.
hahaha... I really couldn't have asked anyone to prove my point so precisely. :) It amazes me the huge number of assumptions that have to go into these kinds of statements. I mean, who's to say that I'm somehow un-learning some kind of absolute hatred of latinos such that I'm now okay with being interested in someone that was previously somehow unacceptable? ...it couldn't be because I enjoy practicing my spanish? ...or that white jewish cut dick has just gotten boring?
For the work incident... does it really matter what tone I used? I mean, I didn't have a picture or really any indication of what color they were, and they had no idea that I was white (that I know of). There was no employee directory of pictures to go off of... it was just "You're oppressing me, so you must be white and I'm black and that's why." Period. I would have accepted something indicating that my tone was too harsh, too strong, too anything... but they just took the "I'm being oppressed" route. As usual, this said more about them than it did me.
The thing that always amazes me most is how this situation manages to be so absolute. There's no possibility that the other person might have some OTHER motive for what's happening... and to assume that they know with absolute certainty what's driving the process and perspective... and there's never a questioning of "Do I really know what the other person is thinking?" Again... it's the inability to be open to the possibility that what you think is happening might not necessarily be what is REALLY happening. Then, when the person being accused tries to explain themselves, the supposedly oppressed just keep drilling it in further.
What I dislike are the assumptions that are made on the part of the person playing the race card, the fact that they firmly believe that they must be right, and that there is no possibility of someone somehow proving that they're not.
Well, are you liking latinos because you do enjoy practicing your spanish? And even so, why couldn't you do that with someone who wasn't latino? I'm sure it's a lot of other factors, but when someone says that they're finding an ethnic group more attractive, it leads people like me to think it's because you're changing racist behavior in attraction.
And yes your tone does matter because obviously that person thought that you came off as oppressive so you probably said something one way or another that offended him. I'm not saying it validates the use of the race card, but you may want to look over how you phrased things.
I think the race card can be used, however it does entirely depends on the situation. And sure, that person probably jumped the gun quite a bit by saying it was entirely based on race, but here's an even more important question. Let's say hypothetically he was right and you did subconsciously or not use your white privilege and authority and did oppress him over email. Knowing that, what do you plan to do in order to change how you communicate with others?
I don't think someone's physical attractions require justification. Do you ask someone to justify their being into bears, feet, piercings, 3somes, asians, or anything else? Moreover, why do we have to judge people at all for what they are/are not interested and say "hmm... interesting... hope you find it!"
It wasn't the fact that my tone was oppressive that bothered me... like I said, I could have come off in a lot of ways... and I was senior with my team had been there for 8 years, so I did have a good idea what I was doing.
...do you find it at all interesting that it's my responsibility to introspect and try to find my hypothetical white prigilege exertion? I never put forth "white privelige"... I put forth my knowlege, skill, and experience... and I find people with more knowledge, skill, and experience and hope to learn something. At no question does white or not ever factor into the equation. What's interesting is that in an environment where race was never discussed, mentioned, or even available... I was obviously racist.
With bears and piercings, those are things that can be modified i.e. a person can shave their hair and lose weight (or gain that) and remove or get piercings. 3somes are something people do for pleasure, adrenaline, etc or to think outside the norm. But race is not changeable. We're taught since birth about it usually subconsciously about what's deemed attractive and what stereotypes are associated with each race. So yeah, that does cause questions to be asked because it's something that cannot be changed and since we are a country built on racism, it makes that question even more obvious.
Yes I do think it's your responsibility to introspect. It doesn't matter if I and a bunch of black people tell you that you're behaving in a racist manner unless you think about what you're actually doing. I think it's important to call it out though sure so that process can happen, but you should draw your own conclusions instead of letting someone else tell you how to feel.
And again I'm not saying you were wrong in the situation and the person pulled the card too soon, but as someone who has white privilege, you have to be aware of how you come off to others. Just as you could hypothetically make the assumption that a latina who's new at your job only got the job because of affirmative action, the same could be said of others looking at your race.
As I was thinking about it I came to another perspective. It's so incredibly easy to blame other people for our perceptions... to say that it's someone else's fault that we feel a certain way. We may have history and experience that leads us to these conclusions... but if we rely on them too much, to the point that no other perspective seems even possible, we eliminate our own ability to accept that our perceptions might possibly be wrong.
I think this is my problem with both "the race card" and the arguments presented. It's incredibly easy to believe that we know the cause of a line of thought or action and expect or even demand a change in the other person based on those beliefs. Actions speak louder than words... but our perspectives can influence our preceptions to the point of invalidating the simple reality of the situation. We grow to trust our beliefs to the point that we no longer question our assumptions.
The situations in this entry don't start with race... yet somewhere along the way someone applies their perspective and assumes they know where I'm coming from... and then demands action or change based on those perceptions.
I think my point is that it's not my responsibility to prove to someone else that their assumptions are wrong. I'm not saying I shouldn't occasionally question my behavior (in fact I frequently do). Rather what I would hope that when I say that race isn't a driving force in how I interact with the world, that someone actually take me at face value and just move on.
My problem is that once the race card gets pulled, that never, ever happens.
But the thing about race is, it shapes how we interact with everyone, jsut like every other part of our identity. So I think a bigger question to ask is, "How do I see myself?" and "How do I see you when you interact with me based on our respective identities?" It just involves larger questions to be answered.
...and perhaps more important than either of those is, "How do I know that what think I'm seeing is true?"
Again... I'm not saying it doesn't happen... I'm just saying that someone labeling me based on their perceptions and not the simple face-value of the situation is what is really wrong.
True...but can't you say the same of how you feel about guys of color? I'd view it as really wrong that you find so many of them unattractive based on your perception of a few that you have seen and apply that to an entire population. Instead, maybe you could also stand to look at the simple-face value of the situation as well in those circumstance.
haha... maybe... but it's ironic because I don't think there's anything I could say that would make you go "You're right... I don't think you're driven by race." Even if I did such stereo typical things as to say I have friends of various races or have dated people of various races, I would still be accused because of the simple fact that I noticed someone's race at all.
It's a lose/lose for the person that the race card has been pulled against. It's like asking someone to prove that there is or isn't a god. No matter what one side does, the other simply refuses to believe that the other person just might possibly be right... and the evidence to each side is so heavily based on perception that every action to demonstrate one side is percieved so differently by the other side that from their viewpoint their perspective is just as justified.
The irony is that I consider race so rarely that I just don't feel the need to justify my lack of perception of it. In truth, this post isn't even really about race itself... it's about people accusing me of something I really don't think I'm guilty of.
But if you consider race so rarely, why are you not attracted to guys of color?
Do I have to be in order to not be accused of being racist? What quota exactly should I be aspiring for? Exactly how much more attention should I pay to color in order to justify not paying attention to color?
In general, I'm not attracted to the heavy, old, fuzzy, pierced, kinky, multi-racial... but I have dated members of every single one of these groups.
...but here I'm allowing myself to be sucked into the lure of the race card... justifying my behaviors or viewpoints where I really don't think they need justification... but apparently others do... so when I recieve a card that lets me keep track of my racial interest quotas, I promise I'll pay more attention. :P
Well in all honesty, I think it's foolish to try to live in a colorblind world. it's not possible. For me, I want my friends to know I'm black and recognize it, but don't go out of their way to recognize it. I think the same could be used for you. No one said that noticing race was a bad thing. It's when you notice it to an extreme that it's a problem.
hmm... okay... so I should notice race, but not too much? I should recognize race, but ignore it for consideration at all? ...more lose/lose ambiguity.
Again though... this post wasn't truly about race. Race simply happens to be the most severe example. It's about people being so focused on their own perspectives and issues that they can't accept that maybe those preconcieved notions (prejudices?) may not apply to everyone.
I don't think they apply to me... and I would really not having them brought up in otherwise irrelevant conversations.
I know it's not about race but the other points brought up made me think about it as such. And it's not lose/lose. Sure it requires different training in perception but ultimately it will make for more positive relationships.
And while these preconceived notions people may have may not apply to everyone, can you be so sure that you're exempt? Again, perceptions of identity change per person and you, as a white male, do not know the things that a black male, a latina woman, or even another white woman go through. So while you may think you're exempt, you should probably take a step back and think of it from the viewpoints of other to see if that theory still holds.
how is it not lose/lose when it requires a balance that can never actually be attained? ...or is so specific to the individual that common ground can never be identified? It's lose/lose as long as everyone expects everyone else to conform or meet the demands of their own perceptions.
...can you be sure I'm not? Can any of us understand the experiences and difficulties of all others? Do we not all have our own difficulties with prejudices... but having them and having to deal with those of others?
When a white person is rude to you, do you immediately think it's because you're not white? ...is it your first thought or your last? Does the other possibilities of "Maybe they're just having a bad day" or "maybe they're just in a hurry" or "Maybe they're rude to everyone" go through your mind, only to be invalidated immediately? It's THIS mental pattern that I find to be a problem.
Do I have to spend every minute of my day considering the exact intonation of my "Hello" and whether I say it more uplifting or monotone based on whether I'm talking to a woman or a man? Do I have to ask myself every time I say thank you whether I say it more clearly to someone that's white vs. asian vs. latino vs. egyptian vs. african?
Or is so absolutely important to people that accuse others of being prejudicial that they be right that they can't see through the possibility that they might not be?
How, EXACTLY, does someone that's not driven by race prove it to the accuser? It's impossible.
All I'm saying is that I'm not throwing brick walls up for anyone. I would really appreciate it if people would stop slamming my face into them.
C'mon, man, just introspect a little and I'm sure you'll start liking women. No one said that noticing vaginas was a bad thing. It's when you notice them to an extreme that it's a problem.
I would have to agree with you Chris. I feel the same way. Although I do have a latin boy thing going on myself lately that I don't quite understand...lol
|Date:||December 14th, 2008 12:04 am (UTC)|| |
No Win Propsition
Perhaps I'm strange. You may have said that before, Chris. :)
My hormonal interests parallel Chris' and have. Typically - in strictly physical terms - the bodies of asians can be very much what I tend to like. The clash is more often cultural and while my sexual exposure to black males is nearly non-existent, there have only been a couple of them that I have found both attractive and interesting.
Why I mention this is more preface to something else. I've gotten used to the racist card. Given that politically speaking I'm anathema in the Bay I'm surprised I'm not accused of roasting children for snacks.
Colorblind may be a goal. I belive MLK's "I Have a Dream" speech said it pretty well. The challenge of that goal is the personally expressed doubts are impossible to answer with facts. I do not see Sharpton/Jackson/etc as having equality of opportunity as driving motive, more personal enrichment. Unfortunately the "main stream media" does not exactly have a clean reputation for dissemination of ideas, so it will be very hard to have a rational debate.
In professional terms, if you strive to base your decisions on factual, objective questions of ability, skills, etc, than you're meeting the spirit of things. Legally/political defnese is not so straightforward nowadays.