Friday, April 2, 2010

Yesterday was April Fools Day

Just so that there is no confusion, yesterday's post was in honor of April Fool's Day. I was assuming that regular readers of this blog would understand the obvious tongue in cheek nature of what I was writing and that my jester hat was solidly askew in writing what I did, especially given the previous post entitled "I'm a Race Woman." But I also understand for first-time readers, it seemed like an all too common apologia for how we shouldn't talk about race and should only think about race in terms of an "It's a Small World After All" mentality.

So let me be perfectly clear: I was mocking that attitude in yesterday's post. I certainly DO NOT believe that we should not talk about issues that we find problematic, and especially for the theme of this blog I think it is IMPERATIVE that we create spaces to talk about race--to argue about race--to disagree in a respectful manner about race--to be empowered by a discussion of race and how to combat racism and white privilege and white supremacy--and to do so with an awareness of the intersection of other "-isms" that impact our understanding of racial identities and communities.

For regular readers, thanks for putting up with my little prank--and glad you caught on to it! And for first time readers, please read my previous posts--I think you'll quickly catch on to why everything I wrote yesterday was appropriate for an April 1 parody.


david said...

I think it's good that people talk about race as long as it doesn't divide people. Meaning that people can agree to disagree and come to talk another day.

The CLAMShack: said...

i have one question. it may seem like a joke....but is it not. Is it really NOT okay to call someone a racist simply because they notice race? because i went through a situation in the past year, in which i was called a racist and told that I am raising my children to be racists...because i am pointing out different races to them, and we have open discussions on the differences. i subsequently have ended two "long-term" friendships because i felt i was wronged, although these two individuals both vehemently denied any wrong-doing on their part, and in fact both said that they would call me a racist, to my face, again! I've always had a lingering feeling that maybe I over reacted...but maybe you're now telling me that I am not. Advice please.

Jennifer said...

Hi Colby Family,

Hmmmm...this is a big one. I mean, first of all, I'm not sure that I or anyone else could ever tell you whether you over-reacted or not. Without knowing the exact details, I'd say that in terms of your first question: does pointing out issues of race or racial difference means that you are a racist? My vote: no. I have a post that talks about the definition of racism, but I've been thinking of blogging about this once again, because I think it's something that is worth repeating and discussing once again.

Racism, the institution and system or racial oppression, is not caused by people talking about race or racial difference or pointing out racial incidents or situations in which race plays a factor. People who think about race or acknowledge that race is a factor in racism are not racist.

It is tempting and easy to think that if you just don't talk about something it will go away or if you just choose not to worry or concentrate on an issue it won't be a problem. But I think the history of race in our nation demonstrates that this hasn't worked that well.

So if you ended relationships with people who called you a racist because you are having open conversations with your children about how race operates in this country and who wronged you in terms of your values regarding race, I'd say that you acted on your principles. And acting on your principles doesn't seem to be something that is about overreacting, esp. where your children are concerned. That's just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

@david: There is no way to talk about race that isn't divisive or uncomfortable. These are difficult, fraught, heavy issues that are bound to stir folks up - and they should. In my experience, the only people who insist on conversations about race not being "divisive" are white people who want to maintain their privilege - if nothing else, it is a reflection of privilege to expect that you can attempt to control the tone and language of discussions like these, or that you have a right to be unchallenged and comfortable. Racism is divisive. Racism is not comfortable. End of story.

@colby family: I agree with Jennifer. Without knowing the specifics of your story, I'm hesitant to offer this, but I can't help but want to point out that accusing the person bringing up race of being the "real" racist is a frequent tactic used by people to bring conversations about race to a grinding halt. (Probably because they're uncomfortable with such discussions - maybe, like David, they feel that talking about race is itself divisive.) It goes along with the colourblind consciousness that allegedly does not "see" colour, and Jennifer's right: it's a way of pretending that a problem doesn't exist in hopes that it will go away on its own. Unfortunately, she's also right that problems tend not to solve themselves, and personally I think you're doing wonderfully to be educating your children about racial differences and the ways in which race operates in this country.

Whether ending those friendships was "overreacting" or not, only you can ultimately say. I've ended friendships under similar circumstances though, and would do so again if necessary - ultimately because I don't see a point in having "friends" who are only going to cut me down at every turn, on the things about which I feel most strongly. /shrug.

The CLAMShack: said...

thank you jennifer & sarahspeaking.
I was thinking about what you have said, and it's true. I would end those friendships today. And actually, the boys and I have been better off without them, and their narrow ways of thinking. And since the demise of those two friendships, I have made a plethora of new friends that are far more open minded.

Jennifer said...

Colby family,

A plethora of friends who share your values, esp. where anti-racism is considered is a wonderful thing!