Nov. 19th, 2010

melanoman: (Default)
I'd like to reccomend The White Chamber as a quick read worth the time. My response to it is below.

Thanks for this. I hope a long comment from a stranger is okay in these parts.

I disagree on one point
And be forewarned: in all probability, you will never want to talk to this friend again afterward.
I’ve found that by focusing on the disagreement rather than the person, it’s actually possible get though this conversation without cutting someone off completely. Not always, but more often than not. Sometimes it can even strengthen a friendship, especially if the incident leads to a little introspection and change.

The reason I think that is so important is that most white people know, at least subconsciously, than most of their white friends have at least a little of this in them. If calling one of them out means cutting them off forever, then making a habit of it means being ostracized from the white people in their circle of friends. Here is one way the conversation can go well.

Freind: Black people are so loud. Ghetto much? [nervous laughter, looking for reassurance]
You: I disagree with that
Friend: [surprised] What?
You: You just notice loud people more because they are loud. Did you see the quiet black person two blocks back?
Friend: [confused, uncertain] Ummm…
You: It’s an easy mistake to make. It doesn’t make you a bad person. Just think about it.
Friend: [not very convinced] I guess

I know the conversation would be better if the friend converts to anti-racism on the spot, but that wouldn’t be real. That is just too much agenda for one conversation. But think about this — the friend was nervously looking for reassurance, which means she aware at some level that there was something to be nervous about. Offer her instead the reassurance that she can grow out of her racism without it being held against her forever. It won’t ensure that she makes that conclusion, but you don’t control her, so nothing will.

Alternatively, your friend may argue the point. That probably won’t go as well.

Friend: Black people are so loud. Ghetto much?
You: I disagree with that.
Friend: [shocked, maybe feeling a little betrayed] What?
You: You just notice loud people more because they are loud. Did you see the quiet black person two blocks back?
Friend: [controlling] Don’t you think black people are more loud in general?
You: No. I think that looking at group averages leads to mistakes. It…
Friend: [interrupting] What it’s not like I’m in the KKK or anything.
You: It doesn’t make you a bad person.
Friend: [Holds breath. very very silent for a while]

This is real too. You haven’t changed her mind, but you have established a boundary that it is not ok to make racist comments around you. If she keeps crossing that boundary, that will be a problem and this is headed downhill. On the other hand, there will be less racist comments floating around you like farts.


melanoman: (Default)

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