some dos and don’ts for white perverts in our efforts to not be racist

Five don’ts:

1. Don’t hire anyone to perform at your local leather bar or event who dresses up as a person of a racial or ethnic background that they are not. Take a cue from the debacle over at the Portland Eagle, which recently booked a blackface drag performer in a prime example of excellent taste in entertainment, particularly appropriate for Black History Month. The short story: people got upset; the Eagle management defended their decision in terribly offensive terms; someone realized this was a bad idea; staff were let go, the incriminating posts were deleted (never a good idea, people—the internets always remember and then you look like even more of a douchebag), the performance was cancelled, and now leatherfolk are having a big online discussion about it (at that link and elsewhere). Which, on some level, is good. The discussion part I mean. But it also seems that a lot of the dialogue is centring on the idea of free speech (really, people? do your homework), on comedy being a place where nothing is sacred (which is a terribly lazy response to a question of racist harm), and on how the Portland Eagle isn’t really a leather bar because it only hosts leather nights twice a week, and therefore… what? That makes it okay? Well, I guess maybe it makes some people feel better about themselves, which… well, doesn’t solve the problem.

Listen. When black leatherfolk are saying loud and clear that a blackface act is racist and not okay, this is not the time to be saying “yeah, but…” At all. Like, just stop. Arguing with that kinda makes you automatically the bad guy. No matter how brilliant your argument, you are simply not going to make a person of colour feel all freshly enlightened by your perspective and no longer offended at racist jokes told at their expense, anymore than you’re going to make me feel like if I just lightened up some I’d think rape jokes were the height of good comedy. At best, be silent and sit with your discomfort and defensiveness and think about why this practice might upset someone, about the history and present-day realities of black people in North America and the world, about how racism affects everyone all the time, about how we are many generations away from being “post-race,” about why, possibly, jokes by white guys at the expense of black women might upset black women and anyone who cares about black women, or people of colour more generally, or living in a kind and just world. Put all the defensiveness on hold, and just think about it as long and deep as you can, until you get past the wall of discomfort and find a glimmer of empathy. Focus on the empathy and cultivate it. If you can do better than that, great, but silent introspection and empathy are a much better place to start than defense.

2. If you are personally accused of racism, don’t half-assedly apologize for your racism by saying how much everyone else is also racist, as if that somehow makes it all right. Yes, even if it’s true that everyone else is also racist. This is what porn star Danny Wylde recently did after being called out for doing yellowface in a porn flick. Don’t get me wrong—if everyone around you is racist, that shit needs to be talked about, and on that count, Danny Wylde has done a great job. It’d be great to see this inspire a broader discussion about racism in pornography, and he really lays out the terrain pretty clearly. But he kinda just seems resigned to being the fall guy this time around, rather than thinking things through at a deeper level or taking real responsibility. This is a missed opportunity. Apologizing is an excellent start, and explaining is (sometimes) helpful, especially when the explanation helps educate, but when an explanation starts to sound like an excuse, not so much. I think he can do better.

3. Don’t dress up as a person of a racial or ethnic background that you are not. Don’t do it for Halloween, don’t do it because you thought it’d be a cool costume for the next fetish night, don’t do it to celebrate your birthday, and especially don’t do it because you think (insert people of a given racial background here) are super sexy and you want to be more like them. If you’re a designer, don’t design kinky clothing lines based on a fetishized idea of a culture not your own, whether that’s African or Asian or any other mysterious, sexy, exciting non-white culture. While we’re at it, don’t design lingerie with this in mind, or bed sheets, or anything else. If you’re not a designer? Cuz, y’know, most of us aren’t, I realize? Well, then, your job is even easier: don’t buy or wear these clothes or lingerie or bed sheets. If you really want to do some work, not only can you not buy them, but you can write to the companies that make them and tell them that their race-fetish product makes you really uncomfortable, and as a result they’re losing the money you might have spent with them.

I know that the next question on some people’s minds is going to be, “but what if it’s my kink?” Well, if your personal kink involves race play, read up on the ways that people of colour are asking you to think about doing that kind of play (such as Mollena Williams, who kindly provides a list of resources, or Midori), and really do the work to think about it. Then, make some really careful decisions about when and where to do it, and whom it might affect if you are doing it in public, and how to keep the boundaries of your scene as clear as humanly possible. Simply saying “it’s my kink so therefore it’s okay” isn’t good enough. It doesn’t have to be fair that women getting consensually beat on by men is “normal” in the BDSM scene and race play is still “edgy” and so requires a little more care in setting up. Fair is not the right measuring stick here. Harm is.

4. In keeping with that last point, don’t hold a BDSM or leather or kink event that fetishizes non-white cultures. Over my decade-plus in kink communities, I’ve seen far too many events go by with racial themes – geisha night, “Mysteries of the Orient,” ancient Greece, whatever. And I’ve seen way too many kink rituals in which white people straight-up appropriate customs from non-white cultures and turn them kinky. It’s not cool. It’s racist. Just don’t do it. You can be way more creative than that. (Read the post I link to at the top of point 3 for more thoughts on this.)

5. Don’t complain that as a white person, you’re being super constrained by all this stuff. This not dressing up, this not going to see a particular kind of comedy show, this thinking and looking and maybe apologizing, this not buying of clothes and fancy underwear and bed sheets. Anytime you are tempted to complain, go watch Roots, or read Edward Said’s Orientalism, or check out the latest post on Racialicious, or read any current information about who gets most thrown in jail, who is most economically disadvantaged, who has their land stolen, and so forth. In a post-racial society, we’ll all get to say and do anything we want without fear of hurting anyone, but in the meantime, suck it up. Also? POCs get to tell us when we’ve made it to the post-racial society. Anyone who’s not a POC doesn’t get to pronounce that verdict. The end.

Five dos:

1. When racist shit hits the fan, listen to the people of colour around you who have been hurt, and step up in whatever way they say they need you to. In this case, I’m writing this post in direct response to a public request by Lady !Kona, a long-time Vancouver-based leatherdyke organizer, calling on community leaders to step up and make some noise. (Read these excellent posts by Elaine Miller, Radical Accessible Communities and Queer, White & Masculine in response to the same request.) Not every POC pervert agrees with Lady !Kona, as the Leatherati article I linked to above will attest. But I think it’s a good general default to listen hardest and respond most assiduously to the people who are most hurt by something rather than to take comfort in the fact that some people aren’t offended and so that means it’s all okay and you can rest easy. I’d rather not rest easy if it means that some folks are still hurting and now I’m part of the problem.

2. Engage in the conversation about race. Read things, think about things, say things, ask questions, listen listen listen. Note that it’s gonna be uncomfortable and that you will fuck up. No, I don’t have the magic formula for getting it right. I’m sure I’ve fucked up in the past and will fuck up in the future, because gee, guess what, I’m a white person who doesn’t actually directly experience racism and probably has some wrongheaded ideas about race embedded deep in my psyche by virtue of living in a racist culture in a racist world even if my conscious mind is doing a lot of work to challenge all that stuff. I sure do hope that when someone calls me on my inevitable mistakes, I’ll have it in me to respond with grace, genuine listening, and appropriate reparation. It is scary and vulnerable to know that you will probably fuck up, especially in public. Terrifying, really. And it’s important to move ahead anyway.

3. Try this practice. Every time you go to a leather or kink event, look around to see who’s missing. Do you see a sea of white faces? Only able-bodied people? Mostly slim, conventionally attractive folks? Mostly people who make a living well above the poverty line? Mostly people aged thirty-plus? Mostly men? Is everyone cisgendered? Once you’ve assessed this, take a look at the structural elements that might have produced this situation. Could the advertising perchance have given the impression that this event was only for people who look like fetish models? Did the price exclude people who work for minimum wage? Do the thirty steps and no elevator mean that anyone with mobility issues quite simply can’t get in the door? Next, think about what you could do to change this situation. Perhaps it might mean approaching an organizer and noting that there’s a situation going on they might not have considered. There’s no need to be mean about it—in fact, the best kind of calling-out is the kind where the caller then offers some support in fixing the problem. But yeah, talking about change and making change can be uncomfortable, so expect some of that along the way. If you’re an organizer, this could mean organizing an event in a way that’s really pretty different from what you’ve known so far. Yep. Sometimes leadership means exactly that.

4. Do invite people of colour to present at your events, or, if you’re not an event organizer, ask the organizers of the events you like to attend to do this. Consider that in order for your presenter list to be less lily-white, you may have to cough up some money to pay your presenters, because the economic privilege that results in the availability to volunteer one’s services as a presenter is often far more common among white people, particularly white men, than among anyone else. This privilege means white men continue to be constructed as authorities on kink. Go read Mollena’s post on this topic, it’s excellent.

5. Think about your privilege, and about what you can do with it to make things better. In 2009, I wrote a two-part post, here and here, about being a white anti-racist and a pervert at the same time. It was a start, for me, and I’ve done plenty more thinking since and surely have much more to come. How about you?

21 thoughts on “some dos and don’ts for white perverts in our efforts to not be racist

  1. “Don’t dress up as a person of a racial or ethnic background that you are not.” I have to utterly disagree with this statement. It is an utterly misleading statement. I did read the linked piece which has a lot of very good points, but my problem is that most people actually won’t read that linked piece and they will read this statement as is.
    In the Kink, Goth, SteamPunk and other alternative culture realms there is a large hue and cry about “cultural appropriation”. It has become almost worse than the actual appropriation in the first place.
    The problem is negative or ignorant cultural appropriation. This is in direct contrast to homage and adaptation. Unfortunately all appropriation, homage and adaptation is being tarred with the same brush, and the lynch mobs are circling.
    To simply say: “Don’t dress up as a person of a racial or ethnic background that you are not,” means that any Eastern or African person cannot wear western clothing as that would be appropriation. Clothing for any activity that is not from western culture, (martial arts, dance, tea ceremonies, etc) and therefore full participation in those activities would be appropriation. Respectfully donning a different culture’s clothing to attend a religious, wedding, or funerary service of that culture would be seen as appropriation.

    I would rather you amend you opening statement to:
    Do not engage in negative, stereotypical or ignorant cultural appropriation in your clothing, your accessories and your activities.
    and then add:
    If you are interested in other cultural clothing, accessories, ritual, activities, etc, approach members of that culture and discuss how to proceed respectfully.
    (P.S. I personally contend that it is even possible to respectfully and humbly appropriate another culture’s image/practice with the intention to subvert it, it all hinges on your intention and approach).

    I want to see Oriental (there are a few types) Tea Ceremonies in my kink space. I want to see Saris, Cheongsam, Kitenge in my SteamPunk and in my kink spaces; I even want to see them altered, morphed, adapted. I want to see people find meaning in rituals and practices that they had never before heard of; I want to see that look of instant recognition in their eyes while observing something that should be alien to them. I want non-white culture celebrated and reflected and explored by everyone. Respectfully, with open minds and hearts, with eagerness and in search for knowledge, for experience for expansion of self.

    Every time I hear something like: “I’d love to wear that, but I cant. People will think I am being rude/insulting… ” right after hearing a compliment on something ethnic that my Lady or I are wearing, my heart breaks a little. In my darkest moments I even wonder if what I am wearing is good enough to comment on, but not good enough for them (rare, but I have thought that). Mostly I am just so sad at the idea that something admired is felt to be out of reach because “they” say it is wrong to do. So I when I hear or read very well meaning people say, “Don’t dress up as a person of a racial or ethnic background that you are not,” it saddens me, angers me, and leaves me feeling like there is more segregation and pain in the world.

    1. “If you are interested in other cultural clothing, accessories, ritual, activities, etc, approach members of that culture and discuss how to proceed respectfully.”

      I’m feeling like this is a bit off…I think there’s a need to mention that there needs to be a lot of care put into who you approach, because no one member or even group of members of a culture that you happen to be able to approach can represent the entire culture and its population. For some, perhaps many, people of that culture, there will be no way to proceed respectfully. Is that acceptable?

      1. My reply was written at 5 am, and under medication, so after reading it I can see it is has more than a few holes. With respect to the phrase you pulled out: Yes it is a bit off, also not practical. If you wanted to explore Polynesian culture, how many Polynesians do you see walking around in Canada?
        I believe I am trying to find a polite way of saying: Do your research, think about it, avoid stereotype, proceed with respect AND with knowledge.

    2. “As bad as sexism, racism and homophobia are, it’s even worse for a straight white man to feel accused of any of them.” — The Internet

    3. Let’s be clear that as the title indicates, I am directing this post quite specifically at white people. The intricacies of cultural appropriation between non-white people would make for a great blog post, but that’s not mine to write.

      As my linked post discusses, I hear you on the idea that inspiration and homage and other such things have their place in the way that human creativity works. And note that I didn’t say, here, not to do that. “Dressing up as” isn’t the same as “inspired by.”

      But to address the substance of what you’re saying, Sher Khan, I think there are two elements at play here. One is intent – which can range from ignorant, hateful and tasteless to respectful and even reverent. The other element, though, is effect. That one’s a lot harder to manage, regardless of intent. And while I absolutely get what you mean when you’re talking about wanting to see a proliferation of adaptations, homages and riffs on cultural expression, unfortunately no matter how shiny-clean a given person’s intent, and even if its effect on you might be one of delight, its effect on someone else might be to make them feel disrespected and as such essentially excluded from kink space. So as a white person, I have to ask myself, not “will the POC police jump down my throat for this outfit,” but rather, “is it possible I might be conveying a racist message I don’t intend by wearing this outfit?” And as long as the answer to that last one is yes, or quite possibly, or even maybe, I really need to ask if that’s worth it.

      I am reminded of when I first encountered the concept of “two-spirit.” It was many years ago, at a workshop in Montreal given by two First Nations women. It was the first time I’d ever heard of a concept that brought sexual orientation, gender and spirituality together in a single term, with the understanding that they are fused and not separate. I was floored, and felt like I’d finally found a word that would express who I am. So when the workshop was over, I asked the two facilitators whether “two-spirit” was a term they thought was appropriate for a white person to use, or if it was specific to First Nations people and traditions. One of them was super excited that I’d come to this realization about myself in her workshop, and said as far as she was concerned, it was a term anyone could use if they felt it was meaningful them. The other woman said she felt differently – that white people had been appropriating First Nations ideas, rituals, costumes and terminology for so long that she really felt it was best for white folks to lay off already and just respect that some traditions aren’t theirs to use. My conclusion was that avoiding disrespect to the second facilitator (and those whose views she represents) was more important than using that term for myself, even if I could have done so with the full blessing of the first facilitator.

      So, I am not two-spirit. I am a white gender-fluid queer person with a strong spiritual philosophy. And you know, I don’t feel deprived. There’s nothing stopping me from reading about two-spirit identities and practices, and being inspired by them in how I understand the world. But choosing not to self-identify that way, or take on the material expression of such an identity, means I can rest easy knowing that my pursuit of self-understanding isn’t going to come across as a slap in the face to a First Nations person. My ancestors have trod on First Nations territories and rights for generations now. Canadians continue to do so now. Deliberately or otherwise, I’m doing that right this very minute, by simple virtue of sitting on Canadian soil. Really, when it comes to this two-spirit thing, I can suck it up. I can also use that constraint as a motivation for creativity – how, exactly, do I describe myself or pursue my path without that word? So far, so good. 🙂

      I suppose in some ways this is limiting, and perhaps is even damaging – it sounds like the idea I’m trying to get across is pretty upsetting to you. Fair enough. I can see how, taken to its furthest logical conclusion, my POV here might get kinda ridiculous, and be terribly limiting – even if I’m not preaching extremism. And honestly, I don’t expect my take on this to resonate with everyone, regardless of ethnicity. Perhaps, in a sense, my refusal to culturally appropriate is even cowardly – in that here, in this area, I’m choosing the “safe” route instead of taking a risk and possibly doing something awesome and progressive and creative. But every time I worry about this, I also think about the Rastafarians who’ve said “Please, white people, lay off the dreadlocks,” and the Chinese people who laugh at white people who have Chinese characters tattooed on their skin, and the Indian people who are appalled at how Western Tantric practitioners have twisted up their belief system, and I feel just fine about choosing that “safer” route because it means I am listening.

  2. I get that this post is motivated by good intentions, but it is what I would call a sort of midway position on the way to dealing with something I would call intolerance rather than racism. Intolerance is about one group irrationally attributing negative characteristics to an “other” group. The roots of intolerance are likely strong fears that the “other” group can harm the first group. The spectrum I see goes like this, from worst to best:

    1. Sever, violent, legalized prejudice – (Jim Crow laws, lynching) unacceptable

    2. Just below the surface prejudice (you can be at school with, but not date my daughter) acceptable in that it isn’t enforced by physical violence

    3. Tolerance – low emotional antagonism, resigned to, but not accepting the “other” barely acceptable

    4. Acceptance – One group accepts the “other”, does not discriminate or disparage them, but isn’t knowledgeable about or interested in them either. more acceptable than tolerance

    5. Appreciation One group learns about the “other” and begins to enjoy the positive aspects of their culture, food, music, art, etc. At that point the first group starts to see the “other” as people and friends, and fear of the “other” cannot persist.

    This post starts off with an intolerant assumption, that racism resides only with “white” people (whoever they are) and people “of color” are tolerant of “white” people, but just wish they would deal with their annoying racism. Poo! Most if not all ethnic cultures have an “other” culture they are intolerant of.

    And the upset about cultural appropriation is poo, too. Cultural exchange is the arch enemy of intolerance. One of the main themes of my life’s work has been to expose American subcultures to each other in order to foster appreciation of one group by another. One only has to look at the musical cultural exchange that took place during the Civil Rights Movement to see a strong example of this.

    In the ’60’s there was bleating by a few white folks about how white people shouldn’t play the blues. But I saw old, black blues musicians happily teaching young white students. One Texas musician told me he was getting a lot of white students driving down from Houston to take lessons. I asked him if he was at all worried about their parents. He said that it crossed his mind, but when he asked them if their parents might not like it, they answered, “We’ll take care of our parents.” That’s the kind of progress against intolerance that cultural exchange brings.

    I could go on, probably write a book, but you get the idea. Too much self flagellation about one’s own intolerance can become intolerable.

  3. I’m not particularly kinky or into leather but thought your article was thoughtful and respectful and hope you get a good audience for your point of view

  4. I love kimono. I love sari. I love kimono as kimono, complete with obiage, inro and netsuke. I love the ritual of the tea ceremony. So like Sher Khan, I have to agree that its saddening to see the idea of cultural practices or clothing undergoing forced segregation, rather than celebrated. Its the raiment equivalent to being kept to the back of the bus, to keep only Asians wearing Asian garb.
    And while I thought I was comfortable with my kimono until today, now I have questions. Is Gor slave wear to be foregone because it is suggestive of harems and female oppression, are Burton’s translated and sensuous Arabian Nights no longer to be part of our nights? Are Loli outfits now inappropriate because they originated in Japan, along with tiny top hats? If I had no ancestors who wore upper crust Victorian attire, is a silver-tipped walking stick disallowed?

    Yes, blackface is as inappropriate as the Movie White Chicks. It is never funny nor comedic to make fun of any race or group. But harem pants? I think that passes the limits of reasonability, and at that rate, everything in the world is racist if it doesn’t originate with your race assigned at birth. I cast off the idea of assigned races and cultures and vote in favor of celebrating cultures. I will participate in Cinquo de Mayo if it speaks to me, and in support of new Americans who celebrate it. America is a stew of such amazing varieties of peoples that should rejoice in having so much to share with each other, not a bento box separating each dish so that your foods dont touch. Finally, with the barrage of questions that this ‘to each culture must stay only their own culture’ concept raises, the final one becomes ‘Who can make these decisions for me?’ I have to trust that I’m the only one who is able to do so, because there are as many opinions as their are assholes in the world.

    In short, there is a line that must be drawn, but it also must be reasonable and inclusive, not exclusive.

  5. I agree with your conclusion but not with how you got there.

    I think there’s a very dangerous precedent when we define “harm” this loosely – most especially when it comes to our play, even our play in public spaces. I’ve been out of the active scene for a while, but surely we still teach that “if a scene you’re watching scares or upsets or offends you, it’s up to you to go look at something else, rather than trying to have the scene changed.” (Don’t we? Please someone reassure me?) I, for example, am terrified of fireplay and deeply squicked by play that involves kicking – and when I see such things going on in a dungeon, I leave and go do something else. If I’m interpreting you correctly, and you’re defining “harm” as “hurting feelings” or “triggering uncomfortable emotions” or “reminding someone of something they’d rather forget,” then you are precluding probably a quarter of all the scenes I’ve seen in my life: all the ones with overtones of rape, or child abuse, or slavery, just to start. As Patrick Mulcahey has pointed out elsewhere, a public entertainment (e.g., a standup act in a leather, or leatherish, venue), is not the same thing as a consensual BDSM scene, and we walk a very very slippery slope when we start to try to apply the same criteria to one as the other. Let us remember that one of our most cherished icons is in fact a symbol of a disgusting and degrading institution that has done hideous harm to millions of human beings. (In case anybody isn’t sure what symbol I’m describing here, it goes around your neck and rhymes with “dollar.”) We know that many non-kinksters are deeply offended and upset by its use. Must we then stop using it because the sight might do harm to these people?

    I also have some serious questions about the whole issue of cultural appropriation. While I understand in principle that people from marginalized cultures resent the majority adopting their iconography because it’s “cool” or “hot,” the fact is that *all* art and *all* language, with very small and limited exceptions, evolve in that way; I’m not sure it’s stoppable. Rock and roll evolved from music made by black performers; huge swaths of contemporary art have evolved from African and Asian influences. The very slang terms “cool” and “hot” started out as terms used by, yes, black jazz musicians. Mainstream culture *always* looks to marginalized cultures for the next big thing, because mainstream culture tends to be kind of boring and marginalized cultures much more interesting. If wearing a kimono as fetishwear is not-OK, is wearing zentai, equally Japanese in its origin, also not-OK? If not, why not?

    The default these days seems to be “find someone who belongs to the marginalized group and ask them” – and as a short-term solution it’s not bad, assuming that they want to take the time to educate you – but I have my concerns about it as an overall solution. How small a minority is allowed to control the actions of the group? I’m old enough to have been an “usherette” (yes, we were really called that) in the theater that debuted “Blazing Saddles” in my town, and I can remember people stomping out in a fury, deeply offended. Should the film not have been made, or shown?

    The distinction has been drawn elsewhere between the “Shirley Q Liquor” act that triggered all this upset – which I absolutely agree was an appalling act that should never have been booked – and Robert Downey Jr.’s performance in blackface in “Tropic Thunder.” The difference is quite clear: “Liquor” makes fun of black women; Downey was making fun of the kind of people who wear blackface for “artistic” reasons. Yet a blanket statement like “blackface is racist” would have eliminated a hilarious, smart anti-blackface performance.

    I guess what I’m saying here – and I know it’s anathema to many reading this – is that I’m not sure it works to let the oppressed be the sole authority on the nature of their oppression. Certainly, those of us outside any given group owe our gravest and most sensitive attention to what they have to tell us – but in the end, the conversation must be collaborative.

    1. You’re talking as if this is a matter of who gets to decree that something is not-okay. But blackface is not wrong because someone *says so*, it’s wrong because of its *actual consequences out there in the world* (not just “hurting feelings”, but in some small way perpetuating deeply harmful and oppressive patterns of representation, etc etc).

      1. I gave an example of blackface which was demonstrably not harmful and in fact potentially constructive. So the problem is not blackface, per se, but the intent and context behind it. Blackface used to mock the already marginalized is demonstrably harmful, but the act of putting dark makeup on the face is neutral.

      2. In response to ethicalslutthebook, since I can’t thread deeper than three levels: your example of blackface was “demonstrably” not problematic? You certainly haven’t said anything to convince me of that, but let’s set that aside. The point is that the okayness or not-okayness of a particular text depends on how it actually functions out in the world, whether it in practice works to subvert or reinforce its cultural context of minstrelsy… and not at all on the author’s ~intent~.

    2. “I’m not sure it works to let the oppressed be the sole authority on the nature of their oppression.” Well, you certainly are correct about this statement being an anathema, at least to me.

      How does one collaborate with an oppressor? Particularly when the oppressor doesn’t (or doesn’t want to) recognize the oppression? The oppressed can certainly collaborate with sympathetic allies who have power to oppose the oppression, but those allies can only know what work needs to be done by listening to the oppressed.

      If you deny that authority to the oppressed, you deny the validity their oppression, perpetuating it.

  6. Thank you. I’m an Black woman and this post shows me that you get it. And I appreciate you offering this up for folks to try to also get it.

  7. There’s a common and understandable mistaken assumption in your reasoning.

    White people DO experience racism directly. Every time a white person engages in a racist action, whether consciously or unconsciously, they experience racism directly. They are participants. This does harm them, in a different and insidious way to how it harms the people they are racist against.

    There’s a second, and very hard to grasp or accept, statement that belongs here. We are ALL racist, white, black, purple, whatever color or ethnicity.
    Racism happens in the social matrix. It is our job, our duty, to recognize it in ourselves and to cut it out like the cancer it is.

    Somehow, miraculously, I came out of a childhood in Montana in the 1960s without being as much of a racist as most. I attribute that to having been bullied, and seeing how racist assaults and bullying are strongly related in the human psyche.
    I flinch when my parents spew some random racist rant, and I tell them directly or indirectly to stop, because it’s irrational. It’s hatred, fear, and the sticky, smelly greasy layer of laziness and habitual slander. It’s based in ignorance, selfishness, and the unwillingness to see “the other” be successful or proud or happy because that somehow takes away from one’s own success, pride, happiness.

    And I’m still racist. I had to fight my way past the habit of using “Oriental” as a general name for Asians. (It’s more specific than that.) It took a Filipino friend telling me outright that HE found it offensive, to realize that it’s based in a regional, imperialist world view that became embedded in common language.

    We do experience racism when we are racist. It harms us because in administering the poison to other souls, it drips into our own.

    1. Your comment does not recognize power differentials. White people ARE NOT harmed by racism, people of color are. Also, society is racist, not *only* people. As a Black person, when I say White people are racist, that is the effect of a racist society that benefits White people.

      And although people of any race can be racist, White people are advantaged in thee racist system. The racist socialization does affect people of color and can at times create opportunities for them to be complicit in the same racism they experience.

      The understanding of “racism” in this post depends on the concept of inequality, in which one group is not harmed by inequality. Certainly, White people can be individually harmed by racism, such as in the way that youu point out. But that doesn’t mean that White people experience the same things that people of color do in a racist society. They do not.

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