Thursday, January 24, 2008

Anti-Racism Revisited: Is Racism "Hatred"?

Cont'd from The Rage of Minorities

hatred and racism aren’t the same. racism can include hatred but it doesn’t have to. this is why, for example, I can be racist but have white friends and be romantically interested in white people. indeed, there are black racists who have white friends and white racists who are married to a member of a racial minority group. people who really do hate white people will not have white friends, date white people nor even talk to white people unless they can’t help it…and the same is true of whites, Asians or Latinos who hate based on race.

I think this is another reason so many people don’t realize they are racist or why stereotypes and generalizations are racist. hatred is not necessary, although it certainly is sufficient, to be a racist. see, definitions of racism can entail thinking you’re better than others on the basis of race, or thinking something with a racial association is better on the basis of race. well, the truth about racial stereotypes and generalizations is they are usually thought and/or said with an underlying connotation of disapproval of the stereotype/generalization with a simultaneous preference for whatever that means for others not of that race (i.e. at the very least, approximating a race-related superiority/inferiority mindset).

for example, I don’t talk about how I perceive young whites as alcohol-happy, young white women as too interested in their physical appearance and looking/feeling sexy or Asians and Latinos longing for white approval just to make a point or to state “the truth,” just like whites don’t admit that they perceive blacks as hip hop lovers from broken families who don’t care about education just to state “the truth.” I’m holding the fact that I don’t perceive blacks, Asians and Latinos as shallow, slutty alkies or alkies-in-training up as race-related characteristics that somehow make us better than whites, even if only in that one way while we perceive other things about whites that make them better than us in another way. similarly, I tend to think blacks are better than Asians and Latinos because I generalize that blacks don’t thrive on white approval like Asians and Latinos do (also a generalization), even though I know there are some blacks who do thrive on white approval, Asians who don’t, etc. Just as there are people in my family whom I feel better than, that doesn’t necessarily mean I hate them. The difference, though, is my feeling better than them doesn’t have anything to do with race.

sometimes stereotypes/generalizations about certain races have a positive connotation; however, that still suggests an accompanying negative, disapproving connotation for people from groups perceived as not fitting those stereotypes. this is most evident with examples about Asians, such as intelligence, hard work and a polite demeanor. in turn, it is suggested that other racial groups are, at least, not as intelligent (and possibly not intelligent), not as hard-working (possibly not hard-working) and not as polite (possibly not polite). my observation has been that when people engage in this deceptive exercise, they are applying the “good” stereotypes/generalizations to whites and/or Asians, leaving blacks and Latinos to be the ones associated with their negative counterparts. these are examples of being racist even if you genuinely don’t mean to be, and that makes it difficult to recognize that you are not, after all, someone who has never engaged in racist behavior or thoughts.

I can already see, for example, someone arguing that generalizing that all blacks like rap music is not racist because it doesn’t imply anything negative. Though not each and every stereotype/generalization results in a negative connotation, we’ve all no doubt engaged ones that do…and even so, a generalization as simple as “all blacks like rap music,” particularly when put together with other simple generalizations, tends to lead to, what I call, “degree 2 racism,” i.e. making decisions that alienate others based on race or in race-related ways. A very good example of this is, when explaining why one does not have friends of another race or doesn’t date people from a certain background, responding that you tend not to have anything in common with them. The generalization itself leads to ruling all people with a certain race out, even if you argue that you’d be friends with or date someone from that background with whom you do have something in common…because you tend to use the generalization to decide who you’ll get to know in the first place or to conclude that you and this person probably have nothing in common.

There are also people who like or can tolerate some differences but not others, and this can also be decided on the basis of race, i.e. Asians, but not blacks, being fine for/to whites, based on stereotypes. And there are people who actually value differences that mean you have less in common, which also signals to me that, sometimes for people who don't value those differences, feeling like they don’t have something in common with someone hints at disapproval and, thus, inferiority of the other person because of their interests/personality/etc. Commonality is a common “excuse” among all races, but especially whites, for whether or not they associate with certain races. So, imagine the number of relationships people of these races who spend most of their time in predominantly white environments are able to cultivate, and the ease with which such relationships come about, as compared to whites in that environment.

I raise the difference between hatred and racism because many people think Kim is hateful and, thus, racist (or racist and, thus, hateful). in her case, she likely is both. I just felt the need to clarify the difference between the two. Obviously, hatred can exist outside of racism, and, as I explained, racism can exist independent of hatred. To me, Kim is not of the “holier than thou” group like I believe the majority of people are. It’s possible she hates white people, and I don’t think that’s an unreasonable charge. It’s just, like I said, we don’t tend to care about the “wrongness” of hating whites, and many minorities don’t think in terms of “racism is wrong” regardless of whom its towards.

I also am not sure anyone nowadays ever really "hates" people “just because of skin color” as whites tend to describe it. Usually when hatred or anger towards whites arise, particularly from minorities, it relates to characteristics attributed to whites based on experiences with whites. That doesn’t mean she’s not racist. But the closest I would come to believing that moves beyond “personality and experience” into “anyone with a certain skin color” is when a racist refuses to have anything to do with people of that skin color, which is not what the majority of people do. Many of us simply ignore others from certain backgrounds, but we wouldn't completely reject them.

As many times as I feel like having nothing to do with all whites, I, personally, find it impossible to carry out, not really because I can’t not interact with whites, but because I genuinely like whites who illustrate to me—even if they don’t realize they’re doing it—that they don’t have those personalities and wouldn’t re-enact such experiences with me that some minorities associate with whites. This is why I can count three whites among my best friends, including a white male (the main group of people I have negative thoughts about). However, there are some people out there whom, no matter how much any person with a certain skin color “proves” him/herself, they don’t like that person. That is "hating" people just because of their skin color.

sometimes you can sound like you hate people when you’re really just angry and venting, even people you care about. as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know why people point out anger and bitterness as if they are negative feelings that should not be expressed in regards to racism. I understand that many whites feel Kim is angry at [all] whites, not that she shouldn’t be angry about racism. I don’t know what’s so unacceptable about this (see discussion below about “some” and “all”). I think this is just another one of those things that whites should just accept an explanation from minorities about, even if they don’t understand or agree with it, and is something that demonstrates their lack of racial understanding.

“interjections” (on Livejournal) was simply not clear enough in expressing that when you experience a lot of racism you are pretty much bound to become angry and develop difficulty viewing whites as individuals (not that I think anybody ever goes through life without viewing people as a group regardless; I don’t) and that she was likely interpreting people’s responses to Kim’s anger as saying they find it unwarranted and unacceptable, disapprove of it and completely disregard Kim's works/ideas because of it.

I think Kim’s anger is normal and should be understood. I don’t think whites, even if they have experienced racism, understand because, as I’ve said, social racism towards whites tends to be spotty rather than ongoing and ongoing systemic racist against them is non-existent. I would imagine that whites get angry about racism towards them when it occurs and when they think about it…but minorities who recognize ongoing social and systemic racism against them never stop thinking about it because it is ongoing…and, thus, they never really get a break from being angry about it. If white people don’t want to think about racism or race, they generally don’t have to; we do. Sometimes, we can be angry (and angry at you, even you, in particular, haven't done anything) that we never get a break and you do.

people also say she acts superior because/and as if she understands race and racism better than whites do. In truth, so many minorities are like this. I just think this is, yet, another silly thing for whites to gripe and argue with minorities about. It somewhat goes back to thinking racism is racism is racism, regardless of the race its directed towards, not recognizing there are two major types of racism—one of which whites don’t experience and the other being a type they usually don’t experience as often as minorities usually do—and whites feeling attacked. To me, it’s obvious that the more experience you have with something, the more you understand it—which is why I not only consider whites “naïve” but minorities who haven’t really experienced discrimination or don’t recognize it “naïve,” as well.

That part shouldn’t be offensive to anybody. I can understand having an issue with feeling superior because of it. But many of us just do, as I explained in the "Reflections on Anti-Racism" post, feeling superior just for being the ones to survive more racism in the first place and [some of us] still get things that are more easily obtained by whites and are really meant for whites only despite racism. Not understanding these kinds of things, in and of itself, demonstrates, to me, that whites don’t usually understand race and racism as well as minorities do. We're not necessarily saying it to look down on you or say you're stupid, although I think many racial minorities and queers still somehow expect members of their counterpart "majority" groups to "get it." My take is there is no real way for you to "get it," unless you make the conscious effort to go out and learn about it, so there's no sense in acting like whites or heterosexuals are just exasperatingly dumb when they inevitably don't "get it." I save that for other minorities.

People also point out that she generalizes, as if this is something we don’t all do, especially when it comes to race. As I’ve mentioned before, implicit in generalizations is that there is a missing but understood word (like the “understood ‘you’ when giving someone a command), and that missing word is “some”…not “all,” as people interpret generalizations. people who understand that understand that she is not attacking all white people. it’s a simple concept to me, something I understood even before I started applying to law school—I say that because if you get LSAT study materials that are decent enough, you’ll learn about words such as “some,” “all,” “most” and “majority.” For your info, “some” can mean as few as “one” (though it usually doesn’t) and “majority” can mean as little as 51%, and that’s how I utilize these words in my blog (“some” meaning more than “one” when I use it) and how I would prefer for people to interpret other pieces they read anywhere. It's rather difficult to have these kinds of discussions otherwise.

As for me, I identify with Kim’s anger. However, having read a little bit about how she grew up in her piece about transracial adoption, I can see that’s an experience that outdoes, I think, all of my racist experiences. Therefore, I think she’s angrier, and I don’t blame her. because some people don’t seem to get it, from reading responses to Kim’s pieces…usually when I write in this blog, I’m not angry or writing with the intention that anger come through. I’m writing to be honest and let people know how some blacks, at least, and/or some queers think about an issue that I either don’t feel is discussed enough or tends to generate the same opinions/responses repeatedly while less popular viewpoints fail to be expressed.

Although I’m angry about how I’ve been treated and really resent whites, I’ve reached a point where discussing discrimination is similar to reporting, for me, mixed with critical analysis. Usually if I’m cursing quite a bit in a post, I’m showing some emotion (though not necessarily angry). But these Anti-Racism pieces, for example, that I've written are not with anger, which is important to say considering the piece about minority rage. Writing about race as a minority doesn't always mean you're doing so to express anger or lay fault.