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Zer Netmouse
June 7th, 2009
06:14 pm

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Skip trying to prove you're not racist

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From:troubleinchina
Date:June 8th, 2009 12:23 am (UTC)
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That's odd. It really seems that your focus is on how being called racist is bad.

But, why does that have to be the focus of the conversation whenever race or racist actions are brought up? Why is the focus so rarely on how these racist things/actions/words have caused harm to people?

I think that's what netmouse is talking about here.
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From:cathshaffer
Date:June 8th, 2009 12:35 am (UTC)
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"That's odd. It really seems that your focus is on how being called racist is bad."

Yes, it really is odd how people don't like being called unpleasant names.
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From:troubleinchina
Date:June 8th, 2009 12:39 am (UTC)
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Is this a conversation we should bother continuing?

I don't feel that someone saying "That's racist" is a bad thing, and I get the very strong impression you do.

In which case, we're probably just going to irritate each other, rather than have a conversation. Or so is my thought - I may be entirely off base.
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From:cathshaffer
Date:June 8th, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
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It depends on what your purpose is in saying "that's racist." If you would like to educate someone and help to give them some insight, then maybe you want to exercise some diplomacy. If you want to vent, if you are angry and you are looking for support from likeminded people, then you can't expect the person you're criticizing to take it gracefully, but you can expect a lot of sympathy and support from those who have been through something similar. Sometimes that's enough. You can't have it both ways.
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From:troubleinchina
Date:June 8th, 2009 01:01 am (UTC)
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But that puts the onus on the person who's been insulted to be nice about it.

It reads to me like "the problem isn't this racist thing I said, it's that you noticed it and pointed it out. If only you hadn't pointed it out in this tone of voice, I would listen to your complaints."

I've seen this play out with disability-related issues. If only I hadn't pointed out that the person giving the talk about disability issues kept dividing the world into "people with disabilities" and "people who vote", I wouldn't have offended him so. Except, you know, he was the one saying that PWD aren't people who vote, which was rather insulting at a forum for people with disabilities on issues in our upcoming election.

He insulted us first, but I'm the bad one for pointing it out.

I see this happen a lot in discussions about racism. Someone says something racist. Someone else points out this racist thing was said. And then the person who pointed it out is expected to be nice about it. Why? The racist thing was the initial insult.
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From:cathshaffer
Date:June 8th, 2009 01:14 am (UTC)
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Well, personally, I think it is always better to be the bigger person when you're insulted and not escalate things, whether the insult is a racial one or whatever. That said, being the bigger person does not always mean being nice. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is to give someone a correction and get out of the way while they deal with it. Is it even more insulting when you share your feelings with someone and they make it all about them? Sure, it is. I get that.

Sometimes people do need to be told they have done something wrong, racist, whatever. In that case, you are 99% likely to get an ungracious response. Why ask why? Maybe they don't hear anything after you say "racist." Maybe that is all they *can* hear at that point. If that's the case, it's not wasted. That is what they are able to hear and what they need to hear at that time. Maybe the kneejerk response is "I'm not a racist," but perhaps it will sink in later. Or perhaps not. Maybe it will take a little more admonishment from others. People are very seldom converted to a new viewpoint instantly, but the angry denial and missing-the-point tirade doesn't mean that the message didn't hit home. It just may have been put in a pile on the coffee table with a lot of other unopened mail. What I hope, when talking to difficult people, is to make them curious to go through that pile thoughtfully at some time, and give them a face-saving way to apologize later, when they need to. In my personal opinion, using the culturally loaded word "racist" makes it all of that less accessible for the average white person.
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From:troubleinchina
Date:June 8th, 2009 01:19 am (UTC)
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I'm really glad we talked about this, because now I have a much different opinion about what you initially said than what I did when I first responded. I really appreciate the time you took to explain your POV. I don't agree with all of it, but a lot of what you said, I nodded along with.

I'm going to bow out now, though, because I'm irritated at Unrelated Things On The Internet, and that usually means I can no longer have adult conversations with people. Rather than risking saying something thoughtless to you, I'm going to look at pictures of ponies.
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From:cathshaffer
Date:June 8th, 2009 01:23 am (UTC)
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This exchange was valuable to me as well. I think I am missing some context for this post, since I haven't been participating in the same discussions that netmouse has. I can certainly imagine that it may seem as though I am coming in on the side of someone who has been really tiresome in some other forum.

Thank you for mentioning the ponies. Next week I will be camping with my family on Assateague Island, home of the famous wild ponies, so I am very excited about all things pony right now.
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