November 2017
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narcissism keeps people racist


So last week I got an invite to a local queer party called "PocaHotAss," with a description encouraging people to dress up as "pilgrims and indians." I responded saying that it was racist,* and an explosion of reactions followed. Someone saw it and shared it with the Atlanta queer community, and a group of us posted trying to explain why it was racist and harmful, offering educational resources (and for the most part, remaining very civil). Responses ranged from "but my _____ friends [of color] think it's funny and aren't offended" to "stop name-calling! we're not racist!" to 'jokes' about gambling, drinking, and infected blankets. At that point we decided to get more active and notified local press as well as contacting the vendors, venue, and supporters of the event. After some of the vendors and supporters left the event, the event planners started listening a little more -- offering an official "apology" and changing the theme and name of the event. But privately they kept making jokes about the dissenters (including Native Americans who protested against this mockery of their culture) -- so while our efforts stopped the party from being racist, it didn't seem to have much effect on the individuals. In fact, many of the individuals seemed to get more virulent about their racism.

Here's an example of how I tried to explain: "Racist" does not mean "hateful" -- it means having power over people of other races and believing in stereotypes (prejudice). As a person with white privilege, I was given power and taught prejudice. Unlearning prejudice and working against my unfairly-given power is a lifelong task. Privilege is not a choice. There are different kinds of privilege, sure, and you can have white privilege without having male, non-disabled, heterosexual, cisgender, neurotypical (etc) privilege, but that doesn't change the fact that the system gives you privilege whether you want it or not. Privilege is automatically connected with passing as white, regardless of what you want or how you identify; you're going to get more of the good stuff and less of the bad.

I think most of these people have the capacity to understand, but their narcissism is blocking it. They're more concerned with looking in the mirror and seeing someone "good" (which means, among other things, "not racist") than they are with actually BEING good -- which means, among other things, actually working on their racism. I've seen again and again, people show amazing compassion in some cases, yet when confronted with the fact that their actions were hurting people, be so resistant to seeing themselves as "bad" that they caused more harm and showed no compassion at all. The compassionate response would be to say "these people are being hurt and it hurts no one to create a new theme, so let's do that." It's not the effort that stopped people; it's their unwillingness to see themselves as racist and/or products of society.

* if you don't understand why, here are some resources:
Open Letter to the PocaHotties and Indian Warriors this Halloween ::: Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots ::: "my culture is not a trend" tumblr ::: a short intro to the understanding of white privilege ::: "Playing Indian" by Professor Philip J. Deloria ::: "Myths America Lives By" by Richard T. Hughes ::: "Racism Without Racists" by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva


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Comments
minnesattva ══╣╠══
Your post reminded me of a blog post about how we differentiate the concepts of "doing/saying something racist" and "being a racist".

"If I tell myself "I'm not a racist" because I don't resemble or act or speak like the Platonic Racist, I conclude that this means things I do or think or say must not be motivated by racial prejudice. I can provide rationalizations and explanations of why they're not racist, if I'm pressed. But the real reason they're not racist is that I did or thought or said them, and I'm Not A Racist. To be A Racist is to be a bad person, obviously, and I'm not a bad person, so I must not be A Racist, so whatever I did can't have been racist."
minnesattva ══╣╠══
And I've seen a disappointingly huge amount of race fail in the kink/queer/etc communities around me, so it's definitely true that lacking some kinds of privilege is no protection against abusing others.

It's kind of disappointing how these "scenes" are so monoculture (white, educated, middle-class, "geek", "goth", on and on) and how few people care or even notice.
aerialmelodies ══╣Milky Way╠══
I caught wind of this when you tweeted about it and ugh, what the heck were the event promoters thinking...? Good for you for sticking to your guns and getting the word out about it and at least trying to educate a few. I know the last couple of years I've become more aware of things like this around me, so hopefully you're leading more people down the path of self-awareness. It's not always about being PC; sometimes it is about respect. So good for you - the world needs more people like you in it. <3
sombermusic ══╣feminist╠══
Saw an article this on Creative Loafing earlier, and I particularly liked their writer's point about how it's especially inappropriate given the sky-high rates of sexual assault among Native American women.
basric ══╣Basric yin gig╠══
First the idea of the party was racist and their "people of color' friends are not Indians. Wonder if they had a 'black face' party those friends wouldn't have a problem?

Good for you to stand up and say no and not bend over for peer pressure. Great topic, great writing.
barrelofrain ══╣╠══
sweeny_todd ══╣greetest╠══
well said. Good on you for speaking out and pursuing it!
elionwyr ══╣╠══
Yipes.
Interesting post, and I applaud your efforts.
magenta_girl ══╣╠══
This was very insightful. And I also applaud you for speaking out.
rumplebuttkins ══╣╠══
That's a great message and I'm happy that you and those you worked with were able to make a stand like that.
noodledays ══╣Emile!╠══
great job on fighting against something you knew could cause hurt and damage. and you worked into the prompt effectively. :)
midwinter ══╣cauldron╠══
I am very glad you did this, and that at least the organizers were given education to sit with. Maybe years down the line they will be able to hear it.
zeitgeistic ══╣[activism] racism isn't cool╠══
I grew up with very racist grandparents, and it took me a long time to realize my white privilege. I'm sorry to say that it wasn't until high school that I figured out that just because I had ~black friends, didn't mean I wasn't racist, if I was still willing to laugh at racist jokes my other friends made.

Great post. (Here's an appropriate icon for it.)

PS, I'm from Atlanta, too. :D
phoenixejc ══╣╠══
It's awesome that you spoke up instead of ignoring them!
roina_arwen ══╣╠══
I run into quite a lot of this where I work - not with my coworkers for the most part, but with the clientele. Nothing they do is ever "their" fault, it is always the fault of someone else!
lawchicky ══╣╠══
Really what were these people thinking?!?!
pixiebelle ══╣╠══
Well said! I grew up in a racist family (my extended family, most of which I don't claim for the most part). I worked hard to overcome that ignorance and to treat people fairly. Part of that means not accepting demeaning stereotypes to be passed around again and again. Good job!
whipchick ══╣╠══
Fascinating, and I appreciate your distinctions between "being a racist" and "being hateful" - you're right, privilege is so often taken for granted we don't even realize we have it, or have the power to unconsciously deny it. You've read the "invisible knapsack" essay, right?
baxaphobia ══╣╠══
Well done and very thought provoking.
medleymisty ══╣╠══
I know this is an older post, but I really wanted to comment on it.

I've never really been into mainstream culture and was raised very much outside of the mainstream, so a lot of the times I feel like an alien and like I can't understand humans at all.

And this is one of those things that I can't understand, where people see the term "racist" as some horrible thing, like someone calling them a monster, and they go into ego-defense mode and refuse to even think about how what they're doing/saying is racist.

Maybe it would help, if, like, we did some species-wide shadow work. Of course, how is that even going to happen?

I guess all we can do is work on our own shadow and hope that others around us follow our example, and it spreads that way.

But then this is the part where I wasn't socialized by mainstream middle class white Americans (even though I am white and towards the top end of working class) and so I have trouble understanding why people would deny their flaws and subconscious assumptions when instead they could just unflinchingly stare at them, because I think that's way more fun. ;)

Anyway - I loved this post, and it's so awesome to see that I'm not the only person who thinks about stuff like this.
on communication, social justice, intimacy, consent, friendship & other relationships, spirituality, gender, queerness, & dreams. Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.
Expect to find curse words, nudity, (occasionally explicit) talk of sex, and angry ranting, but NEVER slurs or sexually violent language. I use TW when I am aware of the need and on request.