I'm in a bind. When white people write about racism, it almost always turns into a post about them and their anguish, nay, their agony, about how awful it all is, and aren't we beyond all that now? When Person(s) of Colour (PoC) write about racism, or call white people out on their use of white privilege to derail a PoC argument, they're called mean and angry, and can't we all just agree that you're wrong and we're right?
The whole thing makes me feel like this, except, as a white person, I can't even imagine that level of anger and betrayal. I get close, sometimes, when I read discussions of rape, and some guy starts talking about how men get raped too, and turns the discussion around so it's all about them, and how they're hurting, therefore, our viewpoint is not valid, and we're all overreacting harpies.
I get a small knot in my chest; I can only imagine that the knot must be much, much bigger for PoC when things turn racist. If you can look through rydra_wong's links and Seeking Avalon's timeline of the blowup, see the discussion that started it all, and not see how the language of white privilege saturates one side of the discussion (academic? Smurf, please), then read it all again, and open your damn eyes.
It's like a Magic Eye picture; if you only look at the surface, all you see is random dots. No big deal, right? But when you change your focus, the picture emerges. And when it comes to the picture that appears in language and conversation, say hello to my big racist friend.
So, I've probably made a lot of you wonder "where is attack_laurel , and who is this person posting?". I'm not haranguing you guys just to make you feel guilty (or outraged, though I'm okay with that), I'm trying, in my white privileged, stupid, fumbling way to say something.
The reason I'm posting all this is because it actually ties into some of my posts on why it's okay to make a scene when something is not right. Low grade (what some call "white liberal") racism relies on the idea that "making a scene" is bad, and PoC shouldn't be angry any more, because see how far we've come? Isn't it awesome? Stop making waves, you're making all of us feel bad!
This is the same bully tactic people use to shut down people who stand up and say when something's wrong in any situation - it's making a scene, and scenes are baaaaaaad. Kill the messenger! We just want to feel happy and pretend that nothing is wrong! And the rot goes deeper and deeper, while everyone paints on bright terrified smiles, and tells each other that nothing's wrong, nothing's wrong!
I say making scenes is good. Make a scene. Do it politely, but don't let racist assumptions go unremarked. It is not mean, nor is it overreacting to point out (for instance) that couching your argument as "academic", therefore implying that your dissenter's opinion is uneducated, and thus worthless, is racist when it is used to shut down criticism of the treatment of PoC in a book. Just as a random example. [/sarcasm]
Fighting racism is everyone's job. Speak up. Speak out. Talk about the elephant in the room, even when it doesn't win you any friends (especially then). The "norm" should no longer be white, middle-class male (a minority). There should be no default that says language should be "white" (English is a living language, and quite capable of changing). Language is everything in our blogs, and it is through language that we must change our focus.
Edit: We're in the middle of a time of change, and I don't know if we'll see it to its end in my lifetime. Change is scary, and people resist it, sometimes with brutal anger. How long has the battle for civil rights been fought, and we've only just now elected a black president? But change is good, even if people react to it with fear. The thing is, when we're in the middle, it can get ugly. Sometimes we go at it full tilt, and sometimes, it's just the time we take to say a word here and there. But those who are willing to speak up need our support.
I'm sorry, but talking about this scares me so much that I am heavily screening comments. I won't be able to get to them until tonight (blocked at work), but speak if you want to speak. No back-pats, please - they make me cringe, because I'm as guilty as anyone of assumption of privilege, and I deserve nothing for simply admitting that. I wanted to say something, even though I am terrified of misappropriating someone else's pain. But I hate that we can even conceive of PoC as "other", not brother.
The intarwebs are great and good, and provide much linky goodness for you to peruse at your leisure. Have a good time.
Edit 2: Here's another good examination of the result of questioning white privilege: http://dont-read.blogspot.com/2007/06/lessons-learned.html