Monday, February 17, 2014

Stand Your Ground Post-Jordan Davis Michael Dunn Colorblind Racist Talking Points: Are 'Big White Men' 'Stereotyped' in the Same Way as 'African-Americans'?

Colorblind racism is marked by false equivalences and lazy thinking which attempts to collapse the particular experiences of black and brown people with white supremacy into a huge and ill defined morass that includes "unfairness" and "prejudice" as experiences had by all groups and individuals in the same way.

In all, one of the consensus bargains of post civil rights America was that to begin acknowledging white racism and white supremacy as central and defining facts of American history meant that fictions of anti-white "discrimination" and "reverse racism" must also be acknowledged as real. Black justice claims were marginally granted. Manufactured fantasies of white racial disadvantage were part of that bargain.

When a person of color--African-Americans in particular--is a clear victim of white racism the natural defense for many white folks is to suggest that "race doesn't matter" and "such things happen to me too". The first deflection is oriented at invalidating and undermining the humanity and lived experiences of people of color. The second claim is based on a false type of empathy, one with the ultimate goal of trumping our experiences with a smothering blanket of white privilege. 

Together, the two scripts generate the following narrative. Black and brown folks are overly sensitive, did not experience what we thought we did, and if some type of white racism was operative, we are exaggerating it somehow and ought to learn how to deal with white people's "logical" and "rational" fears of, and biases towards, us.

As Americans (and others) try to sort out the bizarre verdict in the Michael Dunn-Jordan Davis trial and how "Stand Your Ground Laws" are a de facto license for white folks to shoot and kill black people at will, the strategy of using false empathy as a means of deflecting conversations about white supremacy will be in full play. 

Here is one such example. Do you think this is a white racist troll who is developing a new talking point online script? Or is this a sincere person who is unaware of how racist and absurd his supposed story of black "racism" sounds? 

I tend towards the former.
If I don't shave or shower or I dress scruffy, I get very negative reactions from people publicly that somewhat mirror the author's anecdotes. However, if I merely do those things, voila, no problem. I am always aware of my size and maleness around women in situations where they might feel vulnerable. I use body language and maybe a shy polite smile to signal that I'm not a rapist and it goes a long way. The fact that I'm white is still the most profound identity marker about me in public interactions with strangers. I can think of a dozen situations just off the top of my head that would have gone badly for me if I simply hadn't been a white male. The author is a naval officer and professor and White House Fellow. That I should have some kind of advantage over a man like him in everyday public interactions should be astounding. But it's not: it's depressingly believable, isn't it?
I was in love with a beautiful dark skinned woman once. Her mother had been a Jet magazine model in her youth and my girlfriend was possibly even better looking.
There were three factors at play in the public reactions we got as a couple:
A) She was not only beautiful, she was frankly very sexy. Women of any race with large breasts are by very many men just assumed to be hyper-sexual.
B) She was black. That is to say, she was 1/4 Irish, 1/4 Cherokee, and 1/2 African American. She was neither very dark skinned nor very light skinned (I despise the term 'high yellow'), but she was not seen as multi-racial. Just black.
C) She was with me.
Occasionally, we'd run across just the sort of disgusted reactions from stereotypical redneck white people that you'd expect. Most white people politely stared or made an obvious point of not staring. Some of them got really nervous and way overcompensated with hyper friendliness. To a substantial number of white people, including my friends, there was no reaction to her being black--just her attractiveness. Somehow I was supposed to feel appreciated by their voiced approval of her good looks. Somehow. Because maybe if she was white they'd have correctly interpreted the look on my face as the beginnings of a jealous rage and stopped talking. I ended a few friendships.
The reactions of white people to a multiracial couple where the man is white were obliquely instructive at best of what people of color experience every day. They certainly told me nothing about what life would be like walking around as a black man.
But by far--and remember this isn't my opinion this is a reported observation--the most intolerable reactions in public we received were from young black and hispanic males. Not all young males from these groups behaved negatively towards us, of course. But the ones who did are seared into my memory.
I can't begin to relate how grossly improper, how in-my-face, how utterly debasing towards the humanity of myself and my girlfriend, were these reactions. Just remembering them now I'm beginning to shake with anger. I'm just recording my thoughts as I type here, and it would probably be appropriate for me to write specifically what happened during some of the worst of these encounters, but I find I can't do it. I should also say that the young black and hispanic men who knew me were all fine with our relationship. It was only strangers that we had problems with, and even then just a subset of those strangers.
I was in love with this woman. The kind of love that never really goes away. I lost her. There were a lot of reasons. We were young. I had some growing up to do emotionally before I was ready to understand the work a relationship requires. All the usual stuff. And then there was the pressure from all sides from people who didn't want to see a mixed race couple. We obviously didn't care about that pressure, and for the most part had no trouble ignoring it. But more than a few of those hispanic and black males got right in my f^kln6 face when we were together. She made it clear that if I ever followed my instincts in those situations, we'd be through as a couple. So I took it. I swallowed it down. And it ruined so many trips to the park, lunches and dinners, nights out. I don't blame those encounters for why I let one of the loves of my life slip through my fingers. But it added pressure to a situation that was already touch and go. I was on the cusp of learning how to uphold my end of a relationship. I was almost there. If we'd managed to stay together six more months, I might be telling you about our kids today.
Last I heard she was with some Hollywood directer. And before you get too impressed, the dude directs documentaries.
I doubt very many of the people who really need to consider how their ignorant behavior affects the lives of others are reading The Atlantic right now anyway. I started this post thinking I had a point of view about public reactions in America to immutable aspects of identity that would be worth sharing. Now I don't know if all I've done here is wallow in an old hurt.


Myshkin the Idiot said...

I would tend toward the latter, the unaware but unable to understand his own issues with race. However, it may be a bit of both.

johnhanson said...

Duncan Tweedy's got 1355 public comments from which it's the easiest thing in the world to ascertain his sincerity.

DeVega's got countless comments and posts from which it's the easiest thing in the world to ascertain that he's a neurotic asshat projectively whining about whitey.

Myshkin the Idiot said...

seriously? John Hanson?

chauncey devega said...

They love black and brown folks retail not wholesale.

chauncey devega said...

That is priceless. I am sure there is some version of the above as a penthouse letter.

kokanee said...

Smart comment.


Michael Dunn had two non-US citizen Columbian wives. No doubt so that he would have authority over them and be able to control them.

Learning IS Eternal said...

Scripted. The good kind too. That Mona Scott, VH1, 2 reunion special, REAL... This another story that seeks empathy from whites while promoting hatred for the black male simultaneously which is 1/2 of the compound systematic racism.

If you buy into this BS then you will never believe your grandmother generations prior was ever raped & that the red-bone, high-yellow populace is a result of Sally/Thomas love affairs...

Myshkin the Idiot said...

Scapegoating black people for the country's problems for centuries (Lincoln: "It is the presence of the negro race in our midst that is the cause for all this calamity. It would be best if we could repatriate your kind elsewhere).

Also, corruption scandals from local black politicians often make headline news (Detroit, Marion Barry, Jesse Jackson Jr., everything Obama has done), I can't think of any white mayors or state officials involved in corrupt politics getting headline attention (not without quickly being dismissed or getting sympathy from large numbers of the population; Rob Ford, TEA Party/IRS scandal).

The 'corrupt black politician' line goes way back to the overthrow of Reconstruction governments and even further to abolitionist politicians.

Jane Laplain said...

I don't understand the objection to the commenter's story as posted here. He could be trolling I suppose, but mostly he sounds to me like he is a white dude who is maybe beginning to buy a clue about race, but will never truly get there, because of his own sexism.

I have been the black girl on the arm of the white dude, and from my own experience, it's not for nothing that he would say that the most openly hostile comments on the white man/black woman pairing very often comes from men who happen to be black or latino.

I see a golden opportunity to unpack the sexism and misogyny expressed by the commenter along with his racial cluelessness, Take this comment:

"She was not only beautiful, she was frankly very sexy. Women of any race with large breasts are by very many men just assumed to be hyper-sexual."

As "commonsense" as this comment may seem, it's also pretty telling of how he views women and how he viewed his girlfriend. The objectifying language he uses to describe his alleged "lost love" is, at least to me, indicates his unthinking sexism just as much as it indicates his unthinking racism.

I guess my point is that it's not so hard for me to believe that this guy is being on the level, because I've been the girl he's talking about. But maybe it takes being that girl to see how racism and sexism AREN'T exotic bedfellows tailor made for penthouse tall tales, they are two sides of the same effed up story that happens everyday.

chauncey devega said...

As you have most certainly hinted at in your smart comment, racism, sexism, and misogyny overlap with one another.

How did black men treat you? I am legitimately curious. Total strangers would come up to you and harass you? I have dated many women who are not black, I have gotten some looks from black women and could frankly care less. Just being honest. The one time there was a direct confrontation where some black women with poor home training and even worst manners and class were disrespectful to my girlfriend who happened to be Asian. I will not repeat the mix of insults she responded with at which point the skulked off like the debris they were.

Jane Laplain said...

For the record, most people, man and woman alike, minded their own business. But there was alot of side eye from white people and black people in a few places, particularly when we visited the small town my husband was from.

But if I have to quantify it, the people who were most vocal and in our faces were black men. Some joked like "C'mon sistah come on back!" Making a flirtatious joke of it, tho I couldn't help but think they wouldn't have dared if he had been black. In fact I doubt they have noticed me at all if he had been black too.

One time a black dude actually crossed the street to scream at us that I should be ashamed of myself and that I was nothing but a gold digger and a sell out. Funny that I had to physically restrain my husband, and yet this dude didn't seem to notice him, he was so focused on me. Honestly, that seemed to be the main theme of my negative experience with black guys. They were obviously reacting to my being with a white guy, but they weren't directing their anger at him, only at me for being with him. Like I had personally betrayed them somehow, even tho I didn't know them from adam nor they me.

bozhidar balkas said...

can we deem discrimination as the root cause for all ills that happen to us on personal, gender, ethnic, religious, racial levels?
i do start thinking from it. i consider it also mother of all racisms, ethnophobias, homophobias, inequality on political level...
alas, discrimination is institutionalized and legalized also in US.
all elites or uncles toms, sams, pedros, ivans, giovannis, pierres, alis, joshuas also lok down on ?all non-elitists.
if we could legally abolish the practice of discrimination just on political level, we'd improve also our lot quite a bit!

Veri1138 said...

I am in a mood... so please forgive me... I love the black female to. Just not interested in that way, of the black male.

As far as equal rights and treating people with respect and dignity... I'm all in. Unless you are rude, ignorant, or.. etc... then it doesn't matter what your skin color is.

kokanee said...

Hey Bozhidar,

This will help you here:
In sociology and psychology, a common view distinguishes prejudice from racism, holding that racism is best understood as 'prejudice plus power' because without the support of political or economic power, prejudice would not be able to manifest as a pervasive cultural, institutional or social phenomenon.
Some sociologists have defined racism as a system of group privilege. In Portraits of White Racism, David Wellman has defined racism as "culturally sanctioned beliefs, which, regardless of intentions involved, defend the advantages whites have because of the subordinated position of racial minorities". Sociologists Noël A. Cazenave and Darlene Alvarez Maddern define racism as "...a highly organized system of 'race'-based group privilege that operates at every level of society and is held together by a sophisticated ideology of color/'race' supremacy. Sellers and Shelton (2003) found that a relationship between racial discrimination and emotional distress was moderated by racial ideology and public regard beliefs. That is, racial centrality appears to promote the degree of discrimination African American young adults perceive whereas racial ideology may buffer the detrimental emotional effects of that discrimination. Racist systems include, but cannot be reduced to, racial bigotry,".

Some sociologists have also argued, with reference to the USA and elsewhere, that forms of racism have in many instances mutated from more blatant expressions hereof into more covert kinds (albeit that blatant forms of hatred and discrimination still endure). The "newer" (more hidden and less easily detectable) forms of racism—which can be considered as embedded in social processes and structures—are more difficult to explore as well as challenge. It has been suggested that, while in many countries overt and explicit racism has become increasingly taboo, even in those who display egalitarian explicit attitudes, an implicit or aversive racism is still maintained subconsciously. --

kokanee said...

agree with you. Without individual discrimination there would be no cultural racism. Without cultural racism there would be no institutional racism. They all feed and reinforce each other. The only thing we can control with certainty is ourselves:

bozhidar balkas said...

yes, look at the seed before planting it.
if you want to grow tomatoes or wheat and reap them, make sure you plant the right seed.
if you want to rule people [be a master of them] plant the right seed-- in this case, the discrimination.
however, before you can plant that seed, you first MUST manufacture and then forever wage ignorance, poverty, fears, etc .
so, i should have said that the discrimination is a mere effect of ignorance/fears.
and i have often said that but not in my present posts on alternet. it skipped my mind!

kokanee said...

The state deliberately pits one group against the other in order to acquire more and more power. And the disenfranchised group becomes a cheap labor source for the ruling class. Dare I say that capitalism (money) is the root of all evil?

Veri1138 said...

The State can do nothing. The State is run and staffed by people who act as Agents of The State. The State is neither good nor bad. The Agents are either. The State is also influenced from outside by non-State actors or agents of other power blocs. Wall Street, for example, through money.

It is erroneous to lay blame upon The State and more accurate to lay blame upon those who act as Agents of The State.

Blaming The State also relieves or shifts responsibility away from people or agents whose actions create injustice. The term is 'accountability'.

For accountability to exist, you must be able to punish a real entity, such as a person, as a legal fiction can not be held accountable. How do you hold an abstract idea accountable? By replacing it? Abstract ideas do not feel and would not know it is being punished. Any punishment of an abstract idea is futile and wishful thinking.

And even if you do destroy the idea as 'punishment', the people who abused their status as agents could and do go unpunished, free to create mischief in whatever system replaces the previous.

kokanee said...

That's a good point. But there comes a time when everyone is "just doing their job" and no one is doing anything malicious or evil. And yet the system as a whole is evil.

Your same arguments can be applied to corporations. Corporations, like governments, are man-made constructs that are neither good nor bad. Yet, corporations gladly pay their fines while no board members are held accountable for the corporation's crimes.

Veri1138 said...

Ah, you are describing bureaucracy, which becomes self-perpetuating and territorial, according to the desires of those who work their. Or are placed in charge to warp it.