‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’

Tom Matlack asked his friend Steve Locke to write for us about race. He declined. Here’s why.

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Dear Tom,

Thanks so much for asking me to contribute something to GMP. It has been exciting to see how this project has gone from an idea to a reality.

As much as I enjoy reading GMP and as much as I’d love to be a part of it, I don’t think I am able to write about race.

It’s not that I don’t know anything about it. I was on a social media site and I was looking at the post one of my friends shared. He was lamenting the fact that PSYCHOLOGY TODAY had printed an article saying that black women are “objectively” less attractive than other women. Others of his friends posted on his “wall,” saying that attractiveness was relative and that it was based on symmetry of features and the like. I posted a “sigh” and said that it was sickmaking, in 2011, that someone would even create a study to investigate humans in such a way, that the creation of the study was evidence of a bias, and the notion that peoples’ “tastes” and “preferences” are not affected by 300+ years of racialized bias was ignorant. Also, I have been told that black people are somehow deficient for most of my 48 years and that PSYCHOLOGY TODAY was passing this crap off as research was sad.

A poster responded that he didn’t see any racism in the research and that it was like comparing apples and oranges. He also told me that too many people say things are about race when they aren’t, and that maybe I was upset to be on the “losing” side of the article. He wanted me to explain why I thought the article was racist.

I told him that it is not my job to educate him about the experience of race in his own country, although as his darker countryman, I am called on to do just that. I told him that like most ostensibly white people his age, he wanted to locate a reason for thing in his own experience, probably so he would not have to have bad feelings about history, or have to acknowledge the privileges and benefits that he has received for nothing that he has done.

I am a college professor, however, so I gave him some texts that to read that would take him from Reconstruction to the current moment in culture and history. I told him that these would help him develop an understanding of how the caste system of the United States is racialized, and that the understanding of the American experience is structured through the creation, implementation, and sustenance of the racial boundaries through policy and culture.

Here’s the list:

W.E.B. DuBois BLACK RECONSTRUCTION

Ronald Takaki A DIFFERENT MIRROR

Eric Lott LOVE AND THEFT

Noel Ignatiev HOW THE IRISH BECAME WHITE

Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall AGENTS OF REPRESSION: The FBI’s Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement

Alexander Saxton THE RISE AND FALL OF THE WHITE REPUBLIC

(B)ell hooks BLACK LOOKS

Douglas A. Blackmon SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME

Andrew Hacker TWO NATIONS: BLACK AND WHITE, SEPARATE, HOSTILE, UNEQUAL

The poster advised me that I was being racist by saying “most ostensibly white people.” I advised that I was going solely by his phenotype, which is what people do with me. I also told him to look up “ostensibly” and “racist.”

So you see, it’s not that I don’t know anything about the subject.

Tom, I don’t want to talk about race because it gives weight to a fiction that was created to oppress. It has no basis in biology and is a social construction in this country that was engineered to maintain access to free labor. The fiction created by race distorts the reality in which we live.

Plus, as a black person, I am called on often to speak for my “race.” I can never give an opinion without it being assumed to be that of a multitude. So when a white person asks me my opinion about an issue that can be related to race, I suspect that there is going to be a moment later when that white person is going to say, “Well, I have a black friend, Steve, who says…” And that will be the black authority on the subject.

Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it. Plus whenever white people want to talk about race, they never want to talk about themselves. There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them. As James Baldwin said, “As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.”

When you went to Africa, you said “you were the minority for the first time in your life.” That’s not true. You have been the only adult in a room full of children, the only man in room full of women, the only non-incarcerated person in a jail. In America if you were a minority at a hip-hop concert in Compton, you would still have the privilege that accrues unbidden to persons designated as white, with all of the political, social, and economic access that comes with it.

What you experienced in Africa, Tom, was that the apparatus that supports the dominance of white skin was absent. It has nothing to do with being a minority someplace, you were free of the prison that is whiteness in America. You could have brought all that privilege with you and manifested it when you saw Cole with Protus, but you didn’t. Letting go of that allowed you to show Cole that he can connect with another person independent of the color of their skin.

Do you remember how Clinton was vilified for wanting to have a national conversation on race? People thought it was unnecessary, that he was a “race traitor,'” that it would lead to reparations for slavery, that it would make white people feel bad for things that were not their fault. White people don’t want to hear about race because the don’t want to be called “racists” or they cannot see how they are responsible for something they didn’t do. That report talks a lot about white privilege. It was no surprise to me that it was not widely read and discussed.

Whiteness to me is oppression. And it oppresses not just black people, but people who think it offers them something other than dominance over their fellow man. Poor white people have been sold a bill of goods that offers them white supremacy and takes away jobs and economic growth.

Tom, I have never, not once, thought of you as white. I think of you as a father, a husband, a brilliant businessman, a feminist, a Quaker, and most of all as a friend. You have never treated me as whiteness demands that you treat me. I don’t want to talk about race because if I do, I stop being an artist, an educator, a godfather, a gay man, and most of all, human.

So I appreciate the offer, Tom, I really do. I just don’t think I can write about it. I can write about art if you like. I know a lot about that.

Love to Elena and the kids, and to you, my man.

Steve

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Reprinted with permission

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More articles On Race:

White Boy in a Black Land

Black Boy in a White Land

‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’

Eating While Black

Facing Mecca

Beautiful on All Sides

Race is Always a Parenting Issue

The Race Walk

Poetry In Motion: A Story of Hardship and Hope in Crow Country, Montana

How Travel Made Me Confront White Privilege

I Prefer My Racism Straight Up, Thank You.

Whiteness Is Not the Absence of Racial Identity Any More Than Maleness Is the Absence of Gender Identity

I Ain’t No Whiteboy: A Reflection on Hip-Hop, Misogyny, and Racial Identity

Why We Need to Talk About Race

When Do I Get To Stop Apologizing for Being White?

Tourism Black and Blues

 

How Basketball Helped Me Realize I’m Not White

 

I Talk About Race Because I Don’t Know How Not To

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Image credit:
“the neverending story” 2007

oil and acrylic on panel

12 x 16 inches

Private Collection.

www.stevelocke.com


About Steve Locke

Steve Locke is a visual artist and Associate Professor at Massachusetts College of Art and Design, living in Boston, Massachusetts. Find him at www.stevelocke.com

Comments

  1. David Wise says:

    Amen, brother.

  2. I’m shocked and pleased I’ve actually read one of those books. I guess what adults used to say to me about time and wisdom are true….egads I think I’m an adult now.

    That was a great post . I think even though it was written as a letter to “Tom” I was reading it like a letter to me. Very personal and thought provoking, thank you.

  3. Steve is my friend.

  4. Wow. This is the best thing I’ve read in a long time.

  5. Thank you for your words.

    I too define myself by all my truths, possibilities, and failings before I list the color of my skin. The color of my skin does not dictate with whom I associate, how I talk, how I walk, how I dress, what movies I watch, and so on. How can it? It’s simply the color in my skin.

    It is my hope that the more people who talk about race as a social construct then perhaps a revolution in understanding can happen. I had to learn this truth in college. What a different childhood I would have had if I had known. Thank you for reiterating this truth.

    I appreciate you standing behind your convictions.

  6. I want to thank Steve so much for letting GMP print this e-mail. So much of what he said is often overlooked or simply ignored here in these United States. White people do have privilege, and I can empathize with Steve regarding his experience with the article in PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. However, no matter how much I like the bulk of what he said, the idea that race has “no basis in biology” and is a social construction in whole, rather than in part, is something that I cannot, in good conscience, agree with.

    The way race was defined by biologists many years ago cannot simply be thrown out because of how very small biological differences have turned into rather large social, political, and economic differences. I’m of the opinion that the way philosophers, anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists have treated race has only made issues regarding race become more polarized and more controversial.

    Open up any textbook on evolution, and you will see a lot of talk about “geographic races” in animals (that’s right, race is not specifically human). Geographic races of animals, when isolated from other races of their species, may even become a new species, in time. It is no secret that biopopulations of humans in Europe, East Asia, and Africa had little to no contact for a large part of human history. This was not enough time to make different species, but it was certainly enough time for these biopopulations to develop in a slightly different manner. Every single human is biologically unique, and may differ in major characteristics from close relatives, but races of humans tend to differ from each other in mean differences and even in specific genes.

    Population analysis tells us that the performance of any individual in any racial group can be matched by that of some individual in another racial group. This does not make race go away any more than setting up straw men to beat down will (this is not something Steve did specifically, this is something that those who claim that race is purely a social construct do generally).

    Thanks again, Steve, and I appreciate your contributions to this great website. I would look forward to a piece on art here at the GMP as well.

    • The Wet One says:

      And the biological definition of “race” is how “race” is talked about everyday right?

      Yeah, I thought so…

    • Tom didn’t ask me to write about race as biology. He asked me to write about race as a social experience. I’m sure someone is probably disturbed in their good conscience that I didn’t write about the 50 meter dash.

      Yes, the way people look has some basis in biological formations. None of those biological formations except skin color, be it handedness, shoe size, or hair color have been used as a caste system in this country. I think your conscience would be disturbed more by that than my assertion that the implementation of racial structures in this country has no basis in biology.

      • Barnabas says:

        “Tom, I don’t want to talk about race because it gives weight to a fiction that was created to oppress. It has no basis in biology and is a social construction in this country that was engineered to maintain access to free labor. The fiction created by race distorts the reality in which we live.”

        I must have misinterpreted this part, then, because it seemed to me as though you were saying race doesn’t exist outside of its awful social implications. Mea culpa.

        And I am appalled by the way skin color has been used as an excuse to treat people as though they’re second-class. I thought I made that clear.

        Also: “disturbed” is your word, not mine. Please don’t try to paint me as something I’m not.

        • I wasn’t calling you disturbed. I think you know that.

          And I did say that race and its meaning in American life since Africans were brought to the Chesapeake has no basis in biology, because it doesn’t. There might be a scientific reason for the word “race” just like there is for “species.”

          • Barnabas says:

            Gotcha. Thanks for clarifying that for me.

            And I suppose that last paragraphed belonged in the one before it. Forgive me, I’m exhausted. Thanks again for contributing and for the great illumination on this topic.

  7. A wonderful letter !!! This should be an email that schools and corporate companies send out to their students / employees. Maybe it will be a wake-up call.

  8. I love the part of the letter that states:
    “Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it. Plus whenever white people want to talk about race, they never want to talk about themselves.”

    That’s something I have struggled with for a long time. Being a Black Man and hearing someone spout ignorance, I have always thought I needed to correct or educate the person. As I get older (I’m 32) I find that I just don’t have the energy or time to correct, and/or educate people, and most people already have their minds made up, otherwise they wouldn’t be saying those things. I now just live in my own little world. I feel a alienated and isolated because the field I work in is majority white (law), but at the same time, I just don’t care to try to change people anymore.

  9. Russell Colwell says:

    Thank you, Mr Locke. I thought your letter was insightful, wise, temperate, considerate and humourous, and I enjoyed it for all those reasons.

  10. Mr. Locke and readers…
    Thanks Mr. Locke for the truth. The reality is that we have not progressed well as a nation in understanding the complex issues of racism and privilege. Again it is a man of African descent who is pointing out the ignorance that we live under. I suspect there is a cost for another black man to point this out to us, the privileged, whose privilege is unearned. I hope it is time for us to re-ignite the conversations and confront the illusions that race and racism is just about color, but is much, much more comprehensive. If we are to progress, these conversations must be personal, interpersonal and institutional. I suggest we begin with the personal and interpersonal. With gratitude to Mr. Locke and Goodmen Project for re-starting the conversation. As a white man, I am deeply aware that if I don’t confront this challenge and continue to be blind to my own privilege I am missing an opportunity that is quite profound.

  11. Worthwhile read, and while it so happens I don’t want to talk about race either (in this comment at least), I’m a little curious, why the apparent discomfort with listing her name as “bell hooks” as she prefers?

    • No discomfort. Her name is at the beginning of a sentence, so I used the (B) to indicate that this was a concession to the formatting of the list and not the way she writes her name. As a child, I often slept with a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style. If I was writing about e.e. cummings and his name was the first word of the sentence, I’d use the same convention.

  12. Wow…I wonder what would have been said if he WANTED to write about race.
    Awesome!

  13. fantastic perspective. but i think sexuality and race are very similar and the author should consider removing “gay” from a description. gender difference is all that matters – male, female. anything else is irrelevant because its materialistic and doesn’t speak to the content of the character.

    • I don’t want to hijack the comments and make this about something off-topic, but I’m just curious why you say that “gender difference is all that matters – male, female. anything else is irrelevant because its materialistic and doesn’t speak to the content of the character.”

      Is it because you believe gender difference *does* speak to the content of character, or because on a site about what it means to be a man, you believe contributors should identify the perspective they’re speaking from?

    • “gender difference is all that matters – male, female.”

      I don’t even really get what you’re talking about here. However, there are many more gender identities than just male and female.

  14. Steve – what you said to Tom re who you are and who he is is sufficient in and of itself. When we can all just be actors or engineers or writers or waiters or shoe salesmen and be honorable, decent, kind, trustworthy, loving and ……….. ok enough said – There is a place where this is the common way for people to be – meet me there.

  15. Outstanding piece. Thank you, Steve. I hope to see more like it.

    I have one question. You quote James Baldwin, saying, “As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.”

    I think I understand what you mean here. But as a pale person of mostly Irish decent, I’m curious about the best way to move forward with the “We’re all just human” mentality. I’ve found that trying to stand in solidarity with less culturally-privileged people, to try to take on their movement and struggles as your own, can often be met with a reaction like, “You are not one of us; you cannot understand.”

    I suppose the answer is just to keep trying. To listen and remain open and give a good faith effort. But I’m curious what your advice would be in these situations.

  16. keisha brown says:

    applauds…

  17. CandidCutie says:

    Thank you Steve, thank you so much.

  18. Just inviting those who might be interested to look into my research website on transcending race (www.racetranscenders.edu). The site was created for individuals who are commonly ascribed to the black (or African American), biracial, mixed or multiracial identity groups, but who do not subscribe to any notion of race whatsoever. I am one such person. I am also a researcher seeking to provide a voice for you, if you feel you are a race transcender, to describe the factors and paths that led you to a non-racial sense of self. If you might be interested in talking with me about this opportunity, please review the information in the Race Transcendence Study tab and, if you meet the criteria, please contact me at [email protected] to discuss arranging an interview.

  19. wellokaythen says:

    At some point we as a society need to dismantle these totally ridiculous, arbitrary racial categories instead of reinforcing them.

    It is more common today to find people who identify as “multiracial” or “multiethnic,” but the fact is that if you trace everyone’s roots back far enough, EVERYONE is what we would call multiracial or multiethnic. No one is precisely half something and half something else, not even precisely three-quarters anything. It’s just an arbitrary choice about how many generations to count. As I understand it, most people on the planet today can trace a common ancestor back as recently as 2000 years ago. Statistically, it’s not so weird that Dick Cheney and Barack Obama are eighth cousins. It’s not just a metaphor to say we’re all part of the same family. In a literal sense we really are.

    Not to mention the fact that the categories themselves are always in flux. (In the 19th century U.S., Irish immigrants were considered to be a separate race than Anglos. Signs in New York said “No Negroes, No Dogs, No Irish.” Now, most people put Irish Americans solidly in the “white” category, though in Britain red-haired people still face racial slurs.) And, of course, on most lists of racial categories today, if you’re Arab-American you are technically white, which means you supposedly get treated just as well as any WASP does. Yeah, right. If we’re going to use idiotic kinds of categories, let’s at least get some more nuanced ones.

    These categories just don’t stand up to any attempt to define them or any attempt to use them constructively in any sense, unless you want to do what the Nazis did and make bogus charts about nose size, distance between the eyes, facial proportions, etc. I don’t know what you would do with some of Australian aborigines who have very dark skin and naturally blonde hair. I also don’t know how you can really use these categories in any meaningful way if there is no way to determine that someone is X as opposed to Y. If I say I’m African American and you think I’m lying, how would I prove it and how would you disprove it?

    I think American culture and the education system has come a long way in telling people that racism is morally wrong and unfair, but not enough attention has been paid to how stupid and illogical these racial labels are in the first place.

    I know someone is going to say that we can do away with these categories once people stop caring about them. I suggest we try to do away with these categories as soon as possible and maybe they’ll stop mattering so much. You cannot destroy your chains by polishing them.

  20. TroyJMorris says:

    Brilliantly written.

  21. I am assuming that the problem was that this person did not look one quarter Indian enough for you to decide that they deserved any benefits?
    Amazing.

    • Luke Scioscio says:

      Nobody should get automatic benefits because of their heritage. This is my stated opinion. And Steve Locke, since I see you’ve been responding to comments, even though you specifically have stated time and time again in your e-mail that you refuse to speak of the subject of race, I have a question of my own–actually, I have a lot of questions, but I’ll just stick to the one that concerns me most. You said,

      “White people don’t want to hear about race because the don’t want to be called ‘racists’ or they cannot see how they are responsible for something they didn’t do.”

      What exactly are you trying to get at?

      • “Nobody should get automatic benefits because of their heritage.” –I’m angered when I read this, because it points to a very big blind spot that has existed for generations.

        As a White person of European descent, I get all sorts of “automatic benefits” because of my heritage–a heritage that is overlooked because I’m White.

        (CAUTION: What follows will likely make White people who haven’t considered their own unearned privilege uncomfortable. But discomfort is a sign of where personal growth can occur.)

        I get to drive while White, even in neighborhoods where there are few White people, and not be pulled over by the cops for doing. I get to take out a loan with fewer questions asked and even with iffy credit because of my heritage. I got to go to a certain private college without having to jump through certain hoops because of my heritage–which includes an alum from that college who got to attend because of *his* heritage.

        If I and an African American woman my age participated in the same act of civil disobedience and we were arrested, I’d likely be treated (and sentenced?) in a far different manner from how my social-justice seeking peer would be.

        And when I and an African American friend both talked about racism and how it appears in the world, the White people challenged my friend’s observations but readily accepted mine–because I receive that automatic benefit as a result of my heritage **when I talk with members of the dominant group in power,** which of course are White people.

        So I wonder if what you really are thinking is, “Nobody who looks different from White people should get automatic benefits that I’m not even aware of receiving…”

        One thing I’ve noticed since I started exploring my own unearned privilege is that privilege begets privilege–and the last thing that a person of privilege wants to do is acknowledge being a recipient of unearned privilege.

  22. Anonymous Male says:

    Membership in a native American tribe is a little different than other “racial” categories because there are actual bureaucratic, formal legal institutions involved. For many federally recognized tribes, you can actually be literally a card-carrying member of the tribe. In some cases, the tribe can actually vote you OUT of the membership, which puts an interesting spin on race. Different tribes have different requirements – for some you just need to have one grandparent who was a member, for some just one great grandparent. There’s a private school in Hawaii where you must be at least 35% native Hawaiian to be able to enroll. (Not sure how that works….)

    Technically, the state may just be carrying out a legal agreement with the tribe like the state does with all sorts of institutions – corporations, non-profit groups, donors, etc. “Native American” is a racial category but is also an actual legal category in some ways.

  23. I agree with Steve Locke.

    It is White people’s responsibility to talk about race. I have found that empirical research helps to convince my grad students that racism still exists, so I wld add

    Jack Dovidio’s research on Aversive Racism to Dr. Locke’s list of references.
    Another good book is Beverly Daniel Tatum’s “Why are all the Black kids sitting together in the Cafeteria?”

  24. Richard Aubrey,
    You want people to end affirmative action, that is clear. You think that people use their race to get things they obviously (to you) don’t deserve. That’s clear, too. What’s not clear is why the privileges of people designated as white don’t bother you.

    You choose not to understand my thesis that whiteness isn’t something people ARE, it’s something people choose to DO.

    Talk about how no one deserves special treatment, or “bennies” or assistance all you want. But you never talk about the benefits white people get, do you? The minute something comes along that would stop white people from the benefits they assume every day then it’s a problem. I’m sure it is really hard for you who have to work SO hard to see all these black and brown people getting things they clearly don’t deserve. That canard has been used to pit poor whites against black people since before the Civil War.

    Maybe you could ask yourself why you are so invested in being white? Can I be an American, a worker, a friend, a lover, a golfer, a Rotarian, a vegetarian? If you stopped being so defensive and combative, maybe you would see that what I want is freedom for all people from white supremacy just like I want freedom from sexism for women and men.

    I’m not basing things on race. I was trying to have a conversation about why things are the way they are. That’s clearly not a conversation you want to have. If you want to ridicule what I’ve wrote go right ahead. I know snarky repartee is becoming the language of the internet.

    • Anonymous Male says:

      I get the sense that you and Richard Aubrey are actually more in agreement than you might think. Maybe he wouldn’t call it “white privilege,” but I got the sense he was saying it seems unfair that the person he met gets to double-dip. She gets racist benefits from her appearance plus some benefits for her specific family tree.

      Another way to think about it: one could say what this student was doing is itself a form of white supremacy. Here’s a white person benefiting not only from white privilege but now taking a little bit from the nonwhite population as well. I might even call it theft, if I believed these categories are really sustainable enough to assign property rights to them.

      I think a lot of people would agree that there are ways that white people (and not only white people) can find ways to benefit from racism AND movements to fight racism at the same time.

      [For the sake of readability, I don’t put “white” and “nonwhite” in quotes every time even though they should be. It would be even harder to read if I added the disclaimer that goes with each one, like “white (whatever the hell that really means)” ]

      • I feel I should speak about this redheaded woman who Richard Aubrey feels abused the system. (She may or may not have done so…I do not know how her story.) But I do know this – I’m a redhead with a grandfather who is Native American and if I could have taken federal money to go to college, I would have done so in a heartbeat. My grandfather’s mother had to burn all their papers though so he could go to school because where they lived in Oklahoma, “Indians” were not allowed in.

        He lived an interesting life. The ‘Grapes of Wrath’ book could have been written about him – 10 siblings, all piling into one pickup truck to run to California in the aftermath of the Dust Bowl. They even ended up in Weedpatch, like they do in Steinbeck’s novel. He was dirt poor, was in the Air Force, and worked through college to eventually become a math teacher. Had our government been offering aid (maybe they did? and he just didn’t know?) to people like him to go to college, he *deserved* it, in the way that Mr. Aubrey perhaps might think needy, hard-working people deserve things. And he also happened to be a Native American.

        I did not have such an epic story. But I happened to live in a time where descendants of people with epic stories maybe get to go to school for free. Mr Aubrey probably thinks I wouldn’t deserve that ability, and it would relieve him to know that due to my grandfather’s papers being cinders, I did not get to have that opportunity. Instead, I took out loans, got a bachelor’s and master’s, and now I’m declaring bankruptcy because I was ‘privileged’ enough to put my entire future in hock under the silly belief that what all the adults said at the time was true – work hard, go to a good school, get a good job. I’ve been unemployed since I graduated 2 years ago.

        Why do I say all this? I’m sorry that it doesn’t directly relate to the nice article/letter by Mr. Locke. However, I felt compelled to comment on what Mr Aubrey was saying. And if given the chance, I would do what that redheaded girl did, too. Maybe that makes me an oppressor. All I know is I spent a ton of money on something that ended up being useless, and (yes) selfishly, I wish that if I HAD to make the colossal mistake of going to college, it would make my situation a million times better if I wasn’t thousands and thousands of dollars in debt. If the economic breakdown has taught me anything, it’s that hard work means nothing, who you know means everything, and the class war will continue on and on – with the rich winning every time.

    • Steve,

      There are considerable problems with your arguments.

      First and foremost, there is legitimate academic disagreement about the nature of white privilege. There is a huge gulf between “white privilege exists” and “white privilege is responsible for the majority of observable discrepancies in people’s experiences.”

      Generally, people in the “we need to fight white privilege” camp can easily demonstrate the first, but then do not bother to prove the second. This is the point made by academics like Shelby Steele. This is then covered up with the all-too-obvious smoke screen of “White people are unwilling to talk about themselves.”

      But this criticism could easily be applied to any group. What happened when Bill Cosby suggested that absentee fathers were a problem that the black community had to talk about within itself? When Barack Obama made similar comments, did Jesse Jackson hope to spark a meaningful debate with the “I want to cut his nuts off” comment, or was it more of the “I don’t want to talk about my own group,” mentality?

      Conversations about race have to involve ALL groups being willing to take at least partial ownership for their own problems; it is unhelpful to suggest that whites alone are unwilling to do this.

    • Because they created and earned those privileges: wealth, industry, science, etc…
      You ask for an artificial restructuring.

  25. Why would any of those things be off limits? The idea that there are concepts that are inherently off-limits has hindered any productive national dialogue on race for decades.

    What is objectionable about those subjects is when they get used to confirm so-called racial phenomena that have no necessary relationship with race. No, they result from a host of other factors that culminate in cumulative white privilege.

    Oftentimes, the discouragement to speak gets overgeneralized, either by people who don’t want to have the discussion, or people who tire of hearing concepts being mangled into either racist (race is the only thing that matters) or race-blind (it’s a non-issue because I choose not to see race) issues. Fatigue then sets in, as Steve and others like him feel like they either must rehash the same basic arguments on race over and over again (it doesn’t exist, it’s a social construction, but it has real effects on how people conceive of privilege) without any progress at all, or they must shut up, not talk about it, and continue with the silent charade that is our public discourse on race relations. However, by reading the books that Steve has posted (some of which I myself still need to read), you and I can gain sufficient understanding to approach and talk about race too.

    Finally, to give myself some identity (though I’m reluctant to do so), I’m seen as white. I sometimes without thought assume a white identity, with white privileges. I’m not going to get everything right when I talk about race. However, by starting to talk and listen, if I set aside my own ego, I have a lot to learn and offer.

  26. As I have told you before, your personal experience of doing the “civil rights thing” is evidence of your investment in your own superiority. For some people, the “civil rights thing” is their lives. I never said that class was not an issue in this country and need based aid is necessary.

    I know that people who are designated as white have disavowed their privilege, some of them at the expense of our lives. Goodman and Scherner, John Brown, William Kunstler, the list goes on. They are honored on the Civil Rights Memorial in Alabama. I’m hardly ignorant that there are a lot of people, then and now, who have refused the yoke of white supremacy.

    Affirmative action means that when two people are qualified for a job, the candidate who is not of the majority gets the position. I know you have a different opinion. I won’t address your assumption that non-white people are qualified for their jobs.

    I won’t continue this with you. We can simply disagree. I’m not your problem as you told me. So you can stop commenting on something that you acknowledge doesn’t concern you.

    • Affirmative action is when a candidate without privileged status (white, male, Christian, …) who has faced present day discrimination and the effects of historic oppression and discrimination, still is assessed as equal to a candidate from a privileged group. Given the layers of bias that have been socialized into us so deeply that many – most – white people don’t even acknowledge it, I would conclude that if the candidate without privileged status looks equal, they are likely far superior. Its like overrating your own kids performance on the ball field. When one can say the “other” is equal, it generally indicates they are more than equal.

      Oh yeah, I’m white, male and Christian.

  27. Lois Hetland says:

    I just read the comments and couldn’t keep myself from repeating “no wonder Steve Locke doesn’t want to talk about race with white people.” It has to be wearying in advance to have to address such hostility over and over. Steve, I suppose Tom asked if he could post your private reply to him. Why ever did you say yes? You must still hold some wisp of hope for conversations like these? I’m sorry those were dashed again.

  28. Victor Ganata says:

    You definitely got affirmative action wrong, but I agree it’s not Steve’s responsibility to disabuse you of your misapprehensions.

  29. As a self-realized white man with my eyes fairly open, I share the author’s view that Caucasian folks enjoy a preferred status in American society. What convinced me more than reading books or studying history is the profoundly persuasive article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack” (http://www.uakron.edu/centers/conflict/docs/whitepriv.pdf). Where I depart from the author’s perspective is that all Caucasion people should be indicted or made to feel guilty based on this social structure. There are all kinds of preference-based social structures — religious, social, stylistic, professional, educational, age-related, gender-related, sexual orientation-related, etc. It’s up to us to manage those obstacles and challenges, as many minority groups have successfully done. My encouragement is to recognize these systems, and leverage what you have and who you are to work them. Simply stating they exist, or even just knowing they exist, won’t get you much except an occasional platform here or in PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. Opportunity is earned, not gifted — even if otherwise inherently deserved.

    • That link is fantastic. Thank you for sharing it. I hope the editors at GMP consider publishing something similar.

    • “Where I depart from the author’s perspective is that all Caucasion people should be indicted or made to feel guilty based on this social structure. ”

      Uh, what? Show me where Steve Locke said that. Unless you were talking about the Invisible Napsack essay’s author, in which case… well, I don’t remember anything like that in there, either.

      “My encouragement is to recognize these systems, and leverage what you have and who you are to work them. Simply stating they exist, or even just knowing they exist, won’t get you much except an occasional platform here or in PSYCHOLOGY TODAY. Opportunity is earned, not gifted — even if otherwise inherently deserved.”

      I’m a little confused here, but if you were talking to Mr. Locke in that bit, it reads like condescending white-splaining in the first degree.

  30. Wendell Ricketts says:

    Given comments like Aubrey’s, it seems fairly clear to me why Steve Locke doesn’t want to talk about race. And who can blame him? Aubrey reminds me of many of my undergraduate students, and I’m talking mainly about the 2/3 of them who consider themselves white (almost all of whom are working-class, as are almost all my students in general, and almost all of them would call themselves conservative or Republican). They all assume they know everything there is to know about affirmative action (it’s bad because it’s reverse racism); they all assume they know everything about welfare and all those cheaters who are taking money out of the pockets of honest working people (they’re always surprised to learn that 2/3 of people on welfare are white and that most people who receive welfare also work and, thus, also pay taxes); they all assume those nasty democrats have ruined the economy with too many taxes (and don’t see how cutting tax revenues is connected to the failure of public schools – because, hey, anyone who is serious about learning, will learn, right?). But that’s what we’re dealing with here: people who insist upon living a fact-free existence. Maybe they’ll educate themselves; maybe they won’t. I’d be perfectly willing to have a conversation with my students about affirmative action (just to use that as an example), but when we must start with the premise – the same tired falsehood that Aubrey trots out – that a.a. means giving the less-qualified non-white person the job over the more qualified white person, I refuse because they’re simply too ignorant to have the conversation. Not even ignorant: willfully, deliberately misinformed and unwilling to entertain a different idea. They live in a fact-free universe. I worry that my refusal to discuss certain issues with them is a symptom of a future in which the so-called “culture wars” can only become more divisive and more violent, but the fact is that the right wing of the political spectrum has succeeded in removing facts and reality from many of the discussions that it would be useful for us, as citizens, to have. In a country in which less than 45% of families consist of a man and woman, married to each other and raising children, conservatives still succeed in selling the “destruction of the family” as a reason to oppose gay marriage. That’s life in a fact-free universe. In an economy in which the business people and homeowners most negatively affected are disproportionately black and Latino, but in which the number of black and Latino college graduates is dwindling, we still hear the fevered insistence that white people are being shafted by give-away programs for people of color and that white folks can’t get to good colleges because minorities have taken all the scholarships. That’s life in a fact-free universe. So I’m with Steve, and I’m taking heart from his refusal. I don’t want to play either.

    • Wendell,

      Respectfully, there are several problems with your comment.

      First, you conflate (purposefully?) disagreement with affirmative action and being a Republican, and with belonging to extremist subset of the Republican party at that. It is perfectly possible to disagree with affirmative action and simultaneously support gay marriage (indeed, according to most polls, at least 10% of registered Republicans support gay marriage, so it is also possible to be a Republican and support gay marriage).

      Second, you argue that your opponents are “ignorant” and living in a “fact free universe” and yet I can say with certainty that in my undergraduate experience the “fact free universe” was in vogue on both sides of the political spectrum. According to victim data surveys (i.e. those that control for police bias) non-whites make up a disproportionate number of both crime victims and perpetrators. This fact is virtually never admitted by leftist academics describing race relations: how can any honest discussion of race take place when the link between race and crime is denied from the get-go?

      Finally, while many whites are unwilling to discuss white privilege, there is a complimentary refusal among many members of the black community to discuss race-specific issues openly. As I posted above, we all remember the reaction to Bill Cosby suggesting that maybe black fathers should take ownership of their own abscence. We all remember Jesse Jackson’s reaction when Barack Obama made the same suggestion just a few years later.

      In-group blindness works both ways. Whites may be unwilling to take ownership of the problems associated with white privilege, but many blacks are no more willing to take ownership of their own problems. Conservatives may choose their facts selectively, but no more so than liberals.

      • Assuming your race-based crime “statistics” are even true (I’d appreciate it if you’d cite a source), your use of them is AT BEST misleading, and at worst outright deception — because correlation does not imply causation. If a person checks out some stats where some groups are over-represented, then immediately assumes that means those groups are simply more violent/prone to criminal behavior, that person was probably already assuming that, or at least leaning in that direction.

        And comparing black people taking issue with things Cosby and President Obama said, to whites being unwilling to discuss white privilege, really seems like deflecting to me. You don’t want to talk about white privilege, so you bring up some things that some black people have objected to and act like A) this MUST be comparable to white privilege and B) that’s what we should talk about *instead* of white privilege. Seems a pretty obvious (and quite dishonest) strategy there.

    • If this was FB, it would be liked. If this was HP, this message would be F & F. So, I’ll just say 20 thumbs up!

  31. jeffery heil says:

    I am never surprised to see that many people refuse to see that we live in a racist, classist, sexist, homophobic society. For most of our major social categories (race, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, SES, age, language) there is one group that is the dominant group and everyone else is the subordinate group. It is the dominant group who makes the rules, creates the vocabulary, defines ‘normal,’ and stands as the paragon of that category for society. In terms of race in this society, white is the dominant group and everyone else is in the subordinate group. I guess it should be no wonder that, if I only look at the world through a dominant lens, I can’t see the issue in any real way. That’s what leads to the type of comments that I frequently see whenever anyone, especially a person of color, attempt to point out this inequity. That is also how, we can have this debate about race even though there is no biological basis to argue race. Race is a social construct, and as such, race and racism are real. I agree with Steve Locke (who ironically shares the surname of John Locke, who believed our natural human rights contain, “Life, Liberty, and Property,” which was adopted by Thomas Jefferson, who switched “Pursuit of Happiness” for property as to not have to give that right to all Americans) when he says white is an oppression. The same could be said for male, heterosexual, Christian, etc. I also understand that, unless you try and see the world through an oppressed group’s eyes, you will never truly see our society for what it is. Even if we apply the principal of charity and assume that the oppressor has no clue he is oppressing or receiving societal benefits, an unconscious oppressor is still an oppressor. As a white man who is afforded a large amount of unearned privilege in this society, I can hope that I can offer a small amount of insight into the issue from my perspective and take an ounce of weight of the shoulders of Black men and women from having to speak for an entire race to a group who largely doesn’t want to listen anyway.
    Peace.

  32. Caste system? What country is this guy living in? I work in finance and half my colleagues are first or second generation immigrants. Our higher education system is entirely merit based. We have a black president. Yes, there’s still racism, but viewing every interaction, article, and institution through a racial lens only perpetuates the role of race in society.

    • Finisterre says:

      ‘Our higher education system is entirely merit based’, yet ‘There is still racism’? That seems genuinely miraculous. I would be very interested to hear how, in your opinion, higher education has managed to escape the racism that you accept exists in society. Perhaps we could extrapolate this fantastic success.

      As for ‘viewing every interaction, article, and institution through a racial lens’, it is a manifestation of your privilege that you are able to NOT do this. People perceived as non-white, and, incidentally, other minorities and women, are *never* allowed not to be aware of their marginalised status.

      • Your confusing the existence of racism with its fictitious omnipresence. Are there some racist people? Of course. Are the effects of past racist laws and institutions still being felt today? Of course. Does Harvard discriminate against a black applicant with stellar grades and standardized test scores? Of course not. Quite the contrary. The best schools and the elite companies engage in various forms of affirmative action quite energetically.
        It’s sad that you won’t let women and blacks just be people. Sure, some blacks marginalize themselves every moment of every day. Then again, you have successful black engineers and black entrepreneurs for whom the “black” has no bearing on their professional work.

        • Ari,

          Respectfully, I think you may be missing the point.

          Even if racism doesn’t factor into each decision made by each person, the fact that it exists at all means that the playing field is not even. Its existence makes it significantly less likely that “a black applicant with stellar grades and standardized test scores” will make it to a point of applying to a school like Harvard. Certainly many do so, and/or succeed brilliantly in various other ventures. And EVERYONE who works hard to achieve their goals, academic or otherwise, deserves great respect and admiration. But the structure of society is such that the odds are stacked against some demographics, in lots of ways both obvious and subtle, throughout their lives.

          Just my $0.02

        • I agree with mm, and I just wanna add my 2 cents to theirs here. Ari Paul , you said:

          “Does Harvard discriminate against a black applicant with stellar grades and standardized test scores? Of course not. Quite the contrary. The best schools and the elite companies engage in various forms of affirmative action quite energetically.”

          In addition to what mm said, I’d like to point out that there is still lots of systemic racism in “the best schools and elite companies”, despite affirmative action.

          “It’s sad that you won’t let women and blacks just be people.”

          Pointing out bigotry makes one a bigot? There ARE real inequalities. I don’t think bringing up systemic oppression is the same as stereotyping. I mean, it COULD be stereotyping to bring up inequalities *in the wrong context* — *anything* can be nasty in the wrong context. But they are not the SAME thing. And I don’t think this is the wrong context.

          “Sure, some blacks marginalize themselves every moment of every day. Then again, you have successful black engineers and black entrepreneurs for whom the “black” has no bearing on their professional work.”

          So you think that the onus is on black people to… not be marginalized? I’m confused.

  33. Finisterre says:

    Incidentally, to Steve Locke, I have bookmarked your list; thank you for the pointers. I currently have bell hooks’ ‘Ain’t I A Woman? Black Women and Feminism’ on my to-read pile, and am reading WEB DuBois’ ‘The Souls of Black Folk’, and will endeavour to read some or all of your list once I have finished that.

    I am female and mostly perceived as white, but I strongly believe that we will never put an end to one type of discrimination while others remain. I hope and try to be an ally to *all* marginalised human beings.

  34. College professor or not, it’s disingenuous to insist that there is no biological basis for race.

    If that were true, it would not be heritable, and black parents would be bumping out white babies all the time.

    If that were true, black albinos would look like white people — instead of having clearly distinct facial, hair and bone density features.

    The first step to honest dialogue about race is to stop making up fictions about it. Whether those are horrible racist fictions, or equally racist horrible “anti-racist” fictions, is irrelevant.

    We need to stop lying about it.

    • I think it’s necessary to draw a distinction between “phenotype” and “race.” I’m over-simplifying here, but…

      Phenotype describes the attributes of an organism and is determined by the interaction between genotype and environment.

      Race is a cultural construct. It is used to categorize groups of people, assign them a general range of expected phenotypes, and appraise them within a given domain (athletics, ethics, intellect, etc.) and value system.

      Racism is a cultural reality, with real impacts on individuals and groups.

  35. Richard, your definition of affirmative action is incorrect. In all the hysteria over the “reverse racism” that AA engenders, it’s been forgotten that for many Black people, qualifications have actually been irrelevant – that is, how prepared/educated you were meant NOTHING. The fact that you were Black meant you wouldn’t even get in the door. AA was to ensure that color did NOT sift out people who were qualified, while unfairly giving advantage to people who may or not have been qualified – solely because those persons were White. If White people hadn’t decided that whiteness provided an automatic “boost” when it came to employment – well, no, we wouldn’t be having this conversation, would we?
    As for the “obnoxious racist” whom you decided to cut a break because his father had been murdered by Black men – it’s nice to know that you’re so understanding. Because there are a few thousand Black people out there (who can tell even creepier stories of family murders, drownings, lynchings, torchings, or what have you) in whose shoes you might wish to walk a few miles. But of course they don’t get cut a break—they just get labeled Angry Black People.

  36. Skipping all the virulently racist (yep, because it is. Like Steve said, look it up folks.) flaming “comments,” I’ll just say THANK YOU, STEVE for writig out what so many people of color think and experience. As a black woman in the arts and academy too I know every bit of this argument so well and yes it is, as one commenter said, wearying to have to deal with white supremacist defensiveness at every turn. I too for the most part refuse to discuss race — not because the discussion isn’t important, but because most people do not *really* want to have an honest discussion and often have noninterest in dismantlig their own privilege and investment in oppression, etc.

    So yes, thank you Steve for speaking plain and thank you Tom for printing it.

    Now… Let’s talk about art, yes?

    • Honestly, this kind of comment seems entirely hypocritical.

      On the one hand, there’s a supposed desire for an “honest” discussion.

      But on the other, anyone who disagrees is immediately labeled ignorant (hence the “look it up” comment) or straight-up called a racist.

      There are many views of race in America that are not “white supremacist” and still oppose the points made by Locke in this piece. As an example (and also posted above) I would encourage people to read something by Shelby Steele, a fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institute, who is also, *shock* a black man. For a short piece, I would recommend “I’m black, you’re white, who’s innocent?” it’s a quick read at about 9 pages.

      An “honest” discussion can only take place if the side represented by Locke and his comments admits that there can be disagreement. Calling your opponent “ignorant” or rushing out with the label “racist” are not part of an “honest” discussion. Please do not say you want an “honest” discussion if you are not actually prepared to deal with opposing views.

      • “anyone who disagrees is immediately labeled ignorant (hence the “look it up” comment) or straight-up called a racist.”

        Not true. I’m sure it’s possible to take issue with this piece without being racist/ignorant, BUT there are also many ways to disagree that ARE racist and ignorant, and unfortunately those opinions have been heavily represented here. Plus, many of these comments have been answered *without* calling anyone racist or ignorant.

        “Please do not say you want an “honest” discussion if you are not actually prepared to deal with opposing views.”

        The comments you’re talking about are not honest themselves, including your own. There’s been lots of trolling and trotting out of racist stereotypes (such as “affirmative action is stealing from white people!”, an “argument” which has been countered several times). And it doesn’t seem like your side is considering opposing views at all, either. So, no, not honest at all. Just closed-minded, slippery, unaccountable, privilege-denying, and smug.

        • So, let me get this straight: you believe it is possible to disagree without being racist/ignorant, but when I say I disagree you immediately label “my side” as racist and ignorant?

          I never said that affirmative action is stealing from white people (though it often steals from Asians, see UC admissions pre- and post- 1996 for evidence), nor have I discussed racial stereotypes.

          Yet here you are telling me this is “my” opinion, and that I am “closed minded” for an opinion I don’t have.

          Who is actually being closed-minded and smug here? (I’ll give you a hint, look at yourself)

          • Sorry for the very late responses — I’ve been having a lot of trouble concentrating (if you respond to this, my next response might be late also).

            I assumed you were aligning yourself with everyone who disagreed here, given the way you put that before (“anyone who disagrees…”). My apologies.

            Anyway, I think that in the first place the only way you could possibly be correct in saying that anyone who disagrees is labeled ignorant or racist is if Samiya was referring to every single disagreement here. If so, than I was wrong about that. BUT, even if Samiya WAS saying that, I still stand by my statement that I’m sure it’s possible to disagree with this in a non-ignorant, non-racist way, but that racist and ignorant disagreements are heavily represented in these comments here. What you don’t seem to be aware of is that, just as disagreeing with this does not inherently make one a racist, disagreeing with this does not inherently make one NOT racist, either.

            And you HAVE pushed stereotypes. Earlier, you brought up what you call “the link between race and crime” (/#comment-41843), and assumed (and expected us to assume) that A) the stats were correct and B) correllation equals causation and oh, gosh, I guess now we have to talk about the OBVIOUS link between race and crime that’s so OBVIOUS [/sarcasm].

            “… [affirmative action] often steals from Asians, see UC admissions pre- and post- 1996 for evidence)…”

            I’ll admit I don’t know a whole lot about this, but from what I *have* read, it seems at the very least more complicated than you make it seem here.

            And my smugness is intentional. I don’t feel obligated to argue with you in a polite tone — even now that you say you’re not “with” the other people in disagreement here, you are quite smug yourself, and you argue dishonestly.

  37. “Gotta go and enjoy my privilege…”

    You’re already enjoying it, you’re pushing stereotypes and whining endlessly about non-existent problems. Problems you believe in because you won’t admit that maybe you’re not the only one whose POV and opinions matter. What makes your experiences and knowledge any more valid or believable or worthy of respect than Steve Locke’s and those of everyone else who disagrees with you here? You act like people should respect your word, your [alleged] lived experiences, but you will not respect theirs. Which means you’re not really arguing, you’re just whining for the sake of whining, and deserve no respect yourself.

    “…such as paying taxes for Indians who have no financial need to get tuition.”

    Going by what you’ve said here (you keep saying stuff like she had no *discernible* disadvantages), you probably don’t even fully know the redhead’s situation. Plus, your whole story about her… I mean, if you won’t respect anyone else’s experiences, why should anyone believe what *you* say you’ve experienced? What you say is so propaganda-grade, after all.

    “Now, if you don’t get me to admit my privilege and get all sloppy about apologizing for it, you lose, right?
    You lose.”

    Ha ha, you think of this as a game (do you play Racist Minesweeper, too?) and you’re more interested in “winning” than actually saying anything worthwhile.

  38. One thing white folks need to get over, once they recognize the privilege they hold, is the whole “guilt” thing. Look, y’all didn’t invent racism or slavery–it was created many generations before you. That also means that you can’t solve it–it will take many generations after you. So stop blaming minorities for making you feel guilty. If you resent the fact that you have to feel guilty for something you didn’t create, then place the blame where it is due–on those who came before you in history. And stand up for the honor of white folks when you see one of your own doing something that promotes racism and allows that history to continue into the present. You can’t do much more to assuage your guilt, but at least do that much. And if that’s all you ever do, that’s okay. All of us are privileged in some way or another–the important thing is to understand where it comes from and who is really to blame. Don’t project your anger at the system onto minorities–we didn’t choose for things to be this way any more than you did.

  39. anonymous male says:

    Shelby Steele’s own brother, Claude, doesn’t agree with his position and they are identical twins so maybe Richard Aubrey should think about diversifying his authors list. Regardless I really like the way the sociologist Louis C.K. talks about race and white privilege: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TG4f9zR5yzY

  40. Mr. Locke,

    I just want to say thank you for writing this letter. A friend sent me a link after I posted a note about the discussion of race. I was very upset and confused by her message and I responded to her in a note. After I stated my piece, I felt at peace and i was through with the discussion. I absolutely agree with you… I’m tire of having the discussion with people who are too closed off by the topic (ethnicity and race do not matter, as most people just don’t want to discuss it anymore). Everyone agrees that racism exists, but no one wants to take responsibility for it…nor create solutions to eradicate it. I try my best…I’m an artist and will be attending grade school for the educational portion, but I feel discouraged by much of the rhetoric. If people are not ready to accept their portion of the responsibility, then we cannot truly have a discussion on race…only the “Blame Game”.

    Thank you, Tom, for posting the letter. I’m glad this was posted and I wish you both the best in all of your endeavors.

  41. Great article. I’m still digesting it. And thanks for the reading list.

    • Leona Beasley says:

      Wow! Thank you Steve for you poignant words.

    • Ridiculous babble from the college campus.
      Whites have it better than blacks. It is not for a lack of attempts to help blacks. We prefer not to acknowledge uncomfortable truths. Tortured mental gymnastics ensue to construct alternate explanations.

  42. Robert Alvarez says:

    Tom, I cannot thank you enough for such a brilliant letter and Steve, I cannot thank you enough for reprinting it. I AM moved. Enough said. Enchanted Empress Blessings, Robert Alvarez, the Psychic Witch, and the Empowered, Wild and Free Afro-Cuban Gay Man.

  43. Outstanding.

  44. Hear hear…

  45. “the privilege that accrues unbidden to persons designated as…” (Emphasis added)

    A privilege that was not asked for, and cannot be refused, obligates someone to educate themselves about the origin of such privilege. Why is it not the case that the hard-won advantages of the educated caste do not contain the obligation to make education accessible to those who are oppressed through ignorance?

    • I’m sorry, I’ve been a bit foggy lately… could you please elaborate? I’m sorry if I’m the only one here who’s not getting this and/or it’s super entitled of me to ask.

    • I actually kind of agree with what I think Decius is trying to say. (Is it a correct interpretation to read that double-negative in the question as an accident? Is it meant suggest something along the lines of “the educated caste is not currently obligated but maybe should take some responsibility to make education accessible to those oppressed through ignorance”?)

      And I think, to answer the question, the reason is because for a lot of people, that’s tantamount to socialism: the idea that some authority can take MY resources and tell me what to do with them. And they believe any hint of socialism must be avoided at all costs. They see it as punishment for their success.

      Then add to that the attitude that those less fortunate should “pull themselves up by the bootstraps.”

      And the fact that even social-justice-minded people, who feel a personal responsibility to make things better because they believe we’re all in it together (rather than following some kind of mandate from on high), have to choose how best to apply their efforts and resources and necessarily neglect some injustices they might like to address. Especially with something like this, where it’s over-arching and systemic and no one really knows how to fix it, though many continue to try in whatever tangible ways they can find.

      And the fact that a lot of less-privileged people are insulted by the idea of being “saved” by those with more power.

      So, it’s complicated. I see what you’re saying though, and I kind of wish more people would at least ask those questions and try to do what they could.

  46. There are tons of white people talking about whiteness, unpacking its history, whiteness as a social position, whiteness as a social construction, etc…

    You even cited a book by a white guy, talking about the history of whiteness (“How the Irish became white” by Noel Ignatiev).

    Try searching “whiteness” in google scholar next time before accusing “white people” of never talking about race.

    • I think he’s right about the vast majority of whites. There are a few white people who are willing to discuss race, but most do not, or do so dishonestly and/or dismissively (which I really doubt actually counts as a discussion). So I don’t think it was an uncalled-for generalization. Do you really think that the whites you’re talking about represent the majority of whites, or even a substantial fraction of the majority? And that’s [very optimistically] assuming that all the ones you’re talking about ARE discussing race and whiteness honestly in the first place.

      Also, very disturbingly, you seem to be implying that Mr. Locke’s decades of personal experience do not count for anything.

      • * Also, you’re implying that Mr. Locke has not done any additional research outside of his own experiences. I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that, either.

        Why do so many people act like everyone must specify that “oh not ALL [members of privileged group] are like that”? White people are not oppressed in the US for being white, so please don’t act like saying “white people [do this]” is some sort of oppressive stereotype.

    • I think you missed the point of the James Baldwin quote.

  47. I thought this was a lovely and heartfelt letter, and it made me feel good to read it. I was surprised to hear a number of other people respond as though they had been personally attacked by what you said. It goes to show how sensitive the subject matter still is. Nonetheless, I for one enjoyed this very much. Thank you for writing it.

  48. This has some answers to some of the questions that have developed for me over the past two years here: I’m from Britain, where, though racism exists, it is much less acceptable and much less prevalent (though perhaps on the upswing with certain nationalist movements). Here, what I experience is people who would loudly deny being racist and yet subtly maintain white privilege through the way they talk about race, community and stereotypes. Not only that, the media, especially TV is, to my eyes, strikingly supportive of this subtle, yet very real racism. It’s something that I want to talk about with everyone I meet here, and I wonder if the reticence on the part of white people to engage with it, is the fear of exposing shame. I would love to see something of a restorative movement based around the question of how to begin to make things right.

  49. That non response was a great response.

  50. Wonderfully articulated and joyously appreciated. Thank you.

  51. White privilege does not exist. Most whites came to the U.S. poor but managed to reach positions of relative wealth through hard work. Other groups who came to the U.S., who have practiced the same determination (such as East Asians), have attained the same degree of wealth. If whitey is what kept blacks down, parts of Africa would now look like Europe (considering the goldmine on which they sit, namely its mineral wealth).

    • Khaddafina says:

      Hullo Joe,

      I’m afraid the whole “if whitey is what kept blacks down, parts of Africa would now look like Europe” notion is very faulty. Speaking truthfully, Africa’s problems are the making of African societies and African leaders. But to speak historically and factually and with perception Africa’s problems are also the making of the Europeans or the “whiteys” as you so eloquently put them. I would explain why but just like the brilliant man that wrote this brilliant article I won’t bother. Google “Richard Dowden”; Google “The After effects of Colonialism”. Google whatever you want but please just go and educate yourself.

      As for the idea that Africa is just sitting on its mineral wealth- well it just proves that you know little of our goldmine of a continent. You sure do sound pretty confident though and that’s really funny. By the way you are right- whites reached positions of wealth via hard work. They also reached those positions by oppressing and enslaving others. So again, your historical accuracy isn’t quite…accurate.

  52. Well said! I’m going to print this out and give it to some of my friends!

  53. dan cucich says:

    President Obama said we need a national conversation on race. He did not however say a national lecture on race.

    For a guy who doesn’t want to talk about race, the gentleman seems
    to have a lot of strong opinions on the subject, and he has written volumes>

    I am glad he declined the invitation.

  54. Awesome, thank you. And thanks for the reading list… I would also add to it “Learning to be White” by Thandeka.

  55. I think Steve Locke is part of the problem. Cro Magnon and Neanderthals existed at the same time and interbred so there is no reason to doubt it won’t happen again with the human race. People need to acknowledge the differences instead of pretending they don’t exist. The intellectual honesty prevents Steve from discussing race while he blows smoke up your ass knowing you will accept his piss-poor excuse without complaint. Unless you’re a condesending racist, you will see through his bullshit and demand that a dialog be opened. If not, you just don’t ever see black people being up to the task and allow them to always claim incompetence.

  56. I think Steve Locke is part of the problem. Cro Magnon and Neanderthals existed at the same time and interbred so there is no reason to doubt it won’t happen again with the human race. People need to acknowledge the differences instead of… pretending they don’t exist. The intellectual honesty prevents Steve from discussing race while he blows smoke up your ass knowing you will accept his piss-poor excuse without complaint. Unless you’re a condesending racist, you will see through his bullshit and demand that a dialog be opened. If not, you just don’t ever see black people being up to the task and allow them to always claim incompetence.

  57. Vicki Showalter says:

    I will talk about race. But, there is always a but. Most people, at least the white people I know won’t discuss racism with me. They insult me with verbal racism, and threats, but will not sit down and talk wit me about it. I am white, and my son is bi-racial. I have gotten it from both sides since the birth of my son 26 years ago. I have moved, and moved, to get a way from it. I am a terrifying situation right now, because of white racism. When will this country and these people stand up and try to solve some of these issues. I am so tired of bearing the brunt of their hatred, from both sides. all I want to do is live my life in some sort of peace, but, I have come to believe, I never will have any peace, because of the difference in my beautiful son’s skin color, and mine? Thank you, Vicki Showalter.

  58. Steve is a man I respect.

  59. For a person that doesn’t want to write on race you sure wrote a lot on race.

    The Psychology Today study was a scientific analysis of beauty among the races. Beauty can be measured in one respect through symmetry and all that. I’m not an expert on it but I do think it’s legitimate.

    So this person looked at the research and found that black women had lower marks (via this scoring system) than white women or asian women or hispanic women. Presumably he didn’t start out looking for ways to prove black women were ugly, he just crunched the data and wrote the article.

    I’m not saying you should automatically agree with it but you have explain why his methodology is faulty which you didn’t do, you just refused to believe it, got mad then cited “300 years of racialized bias”. The study was based on symmetry of the face and all that it wasn’t a survey given to men on which race they thought was hotter so how can it be “biased”?

    “I don’t want to talk about race because it gives weight to a fiction that was created to oppress. It has no basis in biology and is a social construction in this country that was engineered to maintain access to free labor. ”

    Then why are black men as a whole better at certain sports like basketball or running? Why are chinese people shorter on average than africans? There is a basis in biology on differences among the races. The reason nobody wants to talk about it anymore is because it was used for evil things like colonization, racism and ethnic cleansing. That doesn’t mean the science is invalid but it was misused to justify evil things.

    “Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it. ”

    Never was it claimed otherwise. I’m not sure what the context of this statement was. Do white people constantly ask you questions about race or are they disagreeing with a statement you made? Because if you’re going to say something about race that somebody disagrees with you have to back it up with reason and logic, you can’t just go “go read 20 books from authors that share my point of view”.

    • ‘Tis the problem with most correlative studies done: People read it, don’t understand that correlation does not equal causation, and draw a ton of their own conclusions supported by only their own biases, just like the OP has done…

  60. This really echoed with me. I would never first and foremost define myself as a woman. The label ‘woman’ comes far down on my list of things that I am. I’ve had many an argument about gender quotas being introduced in government elections. I am strongly opposed to the idea, much to the bafflement of some of my feminist friends. However I would never vote for someone on the basis of something so superficial as genitalia. Just because a politician and I share the same gender does not mean she represents me or shares my views on the economy, international relations or even feminism and women’s rights. Human’s seem programmed to divide people into groups. These groups, unfortunately, are usually based on insignificant traits such as race, gender or age. These particular traits usually come top of the list when defining a person, yet they tell us absolutely nothing substantial about that given person. I think it is counter productive to look at a group of politicians or workers in a firm and seeing a certain ratio of male politicians to female or a certain proportion of white workers to black, even if it is only to point out inequalities. I feel we should try to take every human at face value and ignore labels that make no difference to the type of worker or politician someone is. I feel the more heed and attention given to these labels the more pronounced the gaps become. This is why “affirmative action” repels me so much. This is probably naive of me and I know it is impossible sometimes to ignore the inequalities between different races and genders. However these inequalities first came about by the segregation of these groups and I feel further discrimination and segregation, even to counter past discrimination, does not help. If we are ever to get to a stage where all humans are truly equal we must first obliterate unnecessary and insignificant labels.

    Sorry that turned out to be a bit of a rant. Great article though!

  61. This is why there isn’t rational conversation on the subject: “Whiteness to me is oppression” and after that I would agree that there is nothing left to say. By his definition I am oppressive solely due to the color of my skin. Note how that conflicts with MLK’s dream.

    • he didn’t say that “kurt is oppression”. he said “whiteness is oppression”. there may be nothing left to say but i respectfully implore you to pick up one of the texts he recommended.

      • He didn’t have to say it. If “whiteness =oppression’ and “kurt = white”, then the logical conclusion is that “kurt = oppression”.
        I tend to agree with the author that there is nothing left to say about race because, as a young, white working class man, anytime I hear an upper middle class person lecture me about all my white male privilege my first instinct is to say tell them to go fuck themselves and the Diversified Multicultural Horse they rode in on.

        • Thabo Mophiring says:

          Extreme logic failure.
          Whiteness is a social system designed to oppress.
          White is the social construct upon which it is based.

          Kurt (it seems to me) is more than a mere social construct, he is a human being,
          The only way for me to make your logic work is to strip Kurt and you of your humanity and reduce you completely and only to the social construct (White). I prefer not to do that.

        • “anytime I hear an upper middle class person lecture me about all my white male privilege my first instinct is to say tell them to go fuck themselves and the Diversified Multicultural Horse they rode in on.”

          Eric as working class black male I have to agree with you. It’s not that there is no such thing as white privilege but that does not trump class privilege, education privilege, opportunity privilege and any other that leads one to a cushy job writing about ones opinions on society. The poor are seen and not heard and poor whites even more so because they get the ‘hey their white’ treatment from the left. If you’re a male on the left you get the ‘hey your male’ treatment where male problems are seen as unimportant unless they some how impact women.

          The blogging hipsters on the left have devolved into bigoted lazy thinkers who know how to repeat what they heard but don’t understand the spirit or promise of the civil rights movement. Instead they feel these issues are just another means to berate political or ideological opponents. We need to resist stereotyping any ethic group or gender. The left needs to get it’s act together. The moral authority they casually toss around is a hard one inheritance, not a birth right.

    • Hi, Kurt!

      You and I interpreted that phrase in completely different ways. I took it to mean that white people are just as oppressed by ideas of race as anyone else: “whiteness is oppression.” I assumed, hopefully correctly, that Mr. Locke meant that there is no supremacy in whiteness, but only oppression by the same racist system that created eugenics, slavery, the Trail of Tears, and internment camps. If whiteness is defined by being opposed to blackness, then both are equally troubling and/or equally triumphant.

    • @Kurt

      He’s not talking about white-skinned people having a predisposition toward tyrannical behaviour. He’s talking about the social construct of whiteness playing a master narrative in our dialogue about culture.

    • I know this is old, but I was browsing and could not help but peek at the comments. I HIGHLY suggest reading Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. It is enlightening. My knee-jerk reaction to dialogue about white privilege used to be very defensive. When I read Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack I got it almost instantly. There are inherent privileges that come with being a majority, and while it isn’t easy to accept, it is our civic duty to recognize when we hold a position of power and either use it to move forward or backward.

      Here’s the essay:
      http://ted.coe.wayne.edu/ele3600/mcintosh.html

    • I understand where you’re coming from, but the author wasn’t saying that white people = oppression, so much as the idea/concept of whiteness = oppression…more as a social construct. And that construct = oppression b/c it forces both those who considers themselves white, based on that imposed social construct, and “others” into particular roles or boxes that replicate themselves; as you cannot have one without the other. You can’t have a slave without a master or a host without a parasite. The construct becomes the relationship by which people define themselves, unable to exist therefore without keeping the counterpart in their role…and that becomes oppressive.

    • You’re missing the point. He doesn’t care to experience people in terms of race. You are not a white person, you’re a person to him. You and he viewing yourself in the context of race put limitations on the way you can see each other. Whiteness is oppression, blackness is perpetual victimhood. He’d prefer the blank slate. I don’t blame him. By the way, you actually proved his point.

  62. Kurt –

    You missed the point of the article. He’s saying that whiteness is not a biological concept but a social category in which we place ourselves. In other words, simply having pale skin is not sufficient to make an individual “white”; that person must affirm that they are a white person, including all of the historical and cultural baggage that comes with it. The construct of “the white man” (taken as a whole) is one that depends completely upon its context in history in order to determine who is included by it. For instance, for many years, it applied only to the WASPs for which New England is so well known, excluding Southern and Eastern Europeans as well as the Irish. Gradually, the category has expanded into the incredibly-amorphous “Caucasian” which signifies little about what unites those groups, but it is still assumed to be a coherent category, not to mention one that stretches back into the the entirety of history. In reality, whiteness is an extremely problematic category, upon which Other racial categories depend, and when we acknowledge that, it is a step to fracture the entirety of the racial system. I think if you reread the article, you will find that Dr. Locke is in fact extremely critical of the racial essentialism to which you ascribe him.

  63. I don’t want black people to talk about race either. In fact I wished that everyone would shut the fuck up about it a long time ago. So its one thing we can agree on. Then lets dismantle affirmative action, diversity training and the rest of the left wing anti-racist institutions and we can call it a day. As for the whole whiteness==oppression….I thought you were going to stop talking about race!

    Keep that promise.

    • assman, for real??? ill shit don’t go away by not talking about it. more importantly, taking some real action. might you consider taking any real action, friend?

    • TrollHunter says:

      Lo! I have found thee, ye ol internet troll!
      Do not feed this ghastly being!
      Flee! Flee!

  64. D. R. Barrington says:

    I was offended somewhat by parts of Steve Lockes’ letter. Then I read the latest comments. And it started to sink in. I’ve known that I don’t know what it’s like to be hated for the color of my skin. I can never really understand how that wounds and shapes a person. I’ve always known that it is wrong. I read “Black like Me” in high school, Eye opening for a teenager. Found it in the library. It wasn’t a required book. Beat another kid to the library in grade school to get the only book on Martin Luther King for my book report. I’m a big fan. But I can only TRY to undertand, because I am white. My life experience in the U.S. is not the same as a black person’s experience. I’m sure of that.

    And that’s what I understood from Steve’s letter and the comments. Talking about it won’t change it. It’s ugly and persistent. And it’s what I have come to understand myself. If we all continue to take an “us versus them” stance, whether with race, politics, or anything else other than football, we’ll never see that we are all in this together.

    I like to think I avoid the whole ‘I’m white-you’re black” thing by the way I view myself and the world. To me, and it’s always been this way, we are all brothers and sisters. (I am a liberal Christian and yes, you can be one. Just let others live their life the way they see fit and leave it between them and God.) What’s funny is that the latest research leads us all back to some initial early people, right? I’m fuzzy on the specifics to repeat here, read it awhile back. When it came out, I laughed. I always knew we were brothers and sisters or related. But THAT is how one can avoid getting stuck in a role. Step out of it. The whole world is my family. They don’t know it. It’s not given back to me, necessarily. Not everyone i meet treats me like a family member. But that doesn’t change my view of you.

    So much for short and sweet. Quick story: Went to California with my friend, Lisa, in 1990. Great trip, drove up and down the coast, Hwy 1, all that. Upon returning home, the pictures came back *before digital cameras* and I shared them with my family. One of the first things out of one of my family member’s mouths was, “You didn’t tell us she was black!”

    “Oh, I forgot.”

  65. This is the best article about race that isn’t about race I’ve seen in a long time. Beautiful post.

  66. Cameron says:

    he wanted to locate a reason for thing in his own experience, probably so he would not have to have bad feelings about history, or have to acknowledge the privileges and benefits that he has received for nothing that he has have done.

    what is this?
    your a college professor?

  67. “As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.”

    Well, I only meet about 20 of the 134 criteria for being White on the Stuff White People Like List, so I’m obviously not white. Guess I’m good to go! No privilege, no guilt, just freedom!

    • wellokaythen says:

      Just like every other human being on the planet, 99% of your human ancestors are from Africa, so you’re African just like everyone else.

  68. I love this, this is a very universal concept. The privileged are oppressed by themselves and their own social construct. Correct me (writer) if you do not feel this way. But this is how I feel.

  69. I am married to an indo Canadian, recently a now ex friend said “surrey is run by Hindus and that’s only one of the things wrong with it”. He didn’t see what was wrong with what he had said. In my mind he just made a slur towards my family my kids, and my wife. This is the type of person who in the next breath will say “racism doesn’t really exist anymore”. So I understand why one would not want to talk about racism because the whole premis around hate is closed minds. You can scream at a brick wall to move all you want, it’s not going anywhere. Great article thanks

  70. This is the most beautiful, loving piece about race that I have ever read in my entire life.

  71. A little history: White on black racism rose to prominence as a direct result of rich whites’ attempt to misdirect poor whites’ class angst. All whites against all blacks redraws the lines so that the rich folk didn’t have to address economic inequity. Completely stupid, and there it is.

    • wellokaythen says:

      A big part of the history of racism, in a nutshell. In the late nineteenth century in the South, the same policies that kept black people from voting took away the votes of some poor whites as well, and then told those poor whites that black people were the enemy. Divide and conquer, baby.

    • Anonymous says:

      And this is the thing about racism that is so befuddling to me. The social construct of “whiteness” actually has people voting and acting against their own best interests. Our current economic system absolutely could not survive without racism and it’s hurting people of all races. But we were divided long ago, and the wealthy elites have been using this division to concur ever since. As long as we are divided along racial (and class, gender, etc) lines, the wealthy will absolutely keep the stronghold they have over this country, and world.

      • But how are the wealthy able to do this when they are so totally ignorant and blinded by their privilege? I’m very confused now. Are the elite evil geniuses, or are they ignorant morons?

        If they’re ignorant morons, what does it say about the rest of us that we keep falling for their schemes?

        • ogwriter says:

          @Steve: I am not quite sure what exactly is a mystery. It would to seem be clear, given the financial debacle of ’08, that the system is rigged to favor elites. It has always been thus. Read the Constitution; it is evident that the people who wrote it were concerned primarily with preventing the overthrow of the system or put another way, with maintaining privileges of their class. America is a class system, some are on the top and some are not. The L’Enfant founders put a system in place that would give preference and advantages to themselves first. The truth is, poorer, less connected white people, who can’t afford lobbyist and aren’t connected to power get used against others like minorities, in a battle for what is left over. And so it goes.

          The writing of the Constitution wasn’t an egalitarian affair. It was written during recess by a few hands and minds.
          Therefore, no matter how much some try to say the Constitution is a document of fairness,freedom and equality it isn’t true. Freedom and equality are in conflict.in American culture, always have been. They are conflicted in the Constitution The people who wrote it NEVER believed that you or me, a person color, were equal to them. So, are they morons, on some level, yes. Why? Because when you create a system that produces dynamics that are damaging to the culture, it’s pretty moronic. Are they evil? No, they are just unreflective, ego centric, humans, like us.

          • Believe me, I get the idea that an elite wrote the Constitution to favor their own interests. That actually seems pretty obvious to me. This narrow elite put quite a bit of thought into it and created a pretty sophisticated power tool with it.

            Now, that suggests to me that this elite wasn’t really all that ignorant or stupid, despite the blinding power of their privilege. They really did understand something fundamental. They created a long-lived system that continues to find new ways to keep many of the same people on top. That seems quite prescient on their part. A work of genius, to some degree. Certainly a bit of genius when it comes to maximizing their own interests over the long-term.

            My point is that white privilege must be founded on a whole lot more than illusions and ignorance. There must be some sort of intelligence at work. By intelligence I don’t mean goodness or fairness. That’s why I brought up the phrase “evil genius.” If the people in power are deluded by their own ignorance, one would think that would give a big advantage to the people who are NOT deluded. The truth is supposed to set people free. Why hasn’t it done so?

            I guess the rub for me is where passive verbs tend to appear. For example, when you write about how the system “is rigged.” FOR whom is pretty clear. But BY whom? Someone must have done the rigging, and those people must have had a pretty clear idea how the system works, because they made a system that’s highly effective at it. Maybe we’re getting into something like an argument about “intelligent design” or something like that.

            I guess I’m wondering how to reconcile two things that seem to be at odds with each other:

            1. The multifaceted, incredibly durable way that whiteness has consistently given advantages to some people at the expense of others. It’s so powerful and so insidious that it’s invaded everything and disguised itself in a hundred ways. It’s even disguised oppression as freedom. It exhibits the greatest political, social, economic, and cultural manipulation the world has ever seen.

            2. The people most responsible for maintaining it are blind and ignorant. They don’t even know that it exists, so they can’t really even defend it. The people most harmed by it are the ones who understand it best. Whatever the sophistication of its creators, its beneficiaries today have no idea how it works.

            It’s like this incredibly powerful, complicated, tyrannical machine that’s supposed to have been invented by clueless idiots. Maybe white people way back when created this system by accident? That seems highly unlikely. Yet, apparently white people today benefit from it without being conscious of it. So, did white people understand the system at one point and then lose that understanding at some point?

            Is white privilege created by intelligence or is it a product of ignorance? If it’s made white people so brainless, then it should be pretty easy to trick white people into giving up their privileges. Br’er Rabbit tricks stupid, privileged Br’er Fox every single time, because Fox is so arrogant in his own superiority, so why not on this issue as well?

            If the answer is that some white people understand white privilege and others don’t, then that needs an explanation. What I’m hearing here is that there are two groups of white people: the elite who really do understand how to create privilege, and the majority of whites who don’t see their privileges. But then I hear that the poorer whites don’t really have the same privileges anyway?

            • ogwriter says:

              @ Steve; OMG. You need to go out get drunk man, get laid or maybe both, This mental masturbation thing, this Looney intellectual circle jerk is a joke and maybe covering some latent aggressions. Get out of the house!? Damn!

  72. wellokaythen says:

    I hope this will catch on. I doubt it, but here goes:

    I suggest we do for race what we’re doing for gender. Racial categories have even less connection with objective reality than gender categories do. Gender can be linked partially to sexual characteristics, which has some biological existence, but “race” has no biological reality at all, so it should be even more fluid.

    Let’s create cis- and trans- categories for race, and let’s fragment, challenge, and subvert the pre-existing categories just like we do for gender. I am now going to identify as “cis-white.” I haven’t decided what I will transition into. Perhaps I will be trans-African American and trans-latino at the same time. Or perhaps I will change it depending on the context. The U.S. Census lets me mark more than one for myself, and I can mark something different every ten years.

    I don’t see why I should be stuck with my racial designation when people are not bound by their gender designation. Just because I was ‘raised white’ doesn’t mean that is my true nature. Perhaps I am an Asian woman trapped in the body of a white man. Maybe I’ve always known deep down that I was a person of color, and it’s horrible that my parents chose my race for me. I will embrace the rainbow by seeing myself as all the colors.

    Besides, it should be much, much easier to change my race label than my gender label:
    1. No change in which bathroom I use. (not anymore, anyway….)
    2. No documentary proof required, e.g., no doctor’s note required.
    3. No psychiatric evaluation needed.
    4. My Equal Opportunity survey is supposed to be confidential, so no one would know.

    If we have the freedom to self-identify, and you have to take my word for what race I am, then I’ve decided to shop around.

    • Adam McPhee says:

      I brought up this theory of mine to some of my social work classmates. I felt that if gender was considered a social construct, and that’s why it was easy to accept the notion of transgendered, and that if race was also considered a social construct, then the same should be able to be applied to it.

      The best example I gave for the existence of this concept was Grey Owl. Grey Owl was a British man who took on an Aboriginal identity in his adult life.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grey_Owl

      • wellokaythen says:

        Thanks for the reference. A fascinating case.

        From what I understand, many Native American groups traditionally had a somewhat open membership policy. You did not have to be born into a group to be a member of the group. Many had forms of adoption for both children and adults. Some of the most powerful native groups were made up of lots of people with mixed ancestry – the Seminoles took in escaped African slaves, Anglo criminals, you name it. They didn’t seem to care very much about what your heritage was.

        It’s really not until the U.S. and Canadian governments got involved that the concept of a racial “tribe” became the norm, and you have to have a particular ancestry to become a member. “Native American” didn’t really become a “race” until European Americans got involved.

        It’s odd to me that anyone would say he “doesn’t count” or was “putting on an act” or was “not a real Indian.” That’s not necessarily how the Ojibwe would have seen it.

        And, I keep thinking as a practical matter what difference it makes if the person’s self-identity seems “false.” If someone claims to be of a particular race and I disagree, what can I really do about? I don’t think I should be allowed to do anything about it, really. If there are supposed to be consequences for “lying about your race,” then who decides, what’s the burden of proof, and what’s the standard of proof?

        (In the case of federally recognized Native tribes, there are actual bureaucratic rules governing who counts and who doesn’t. In some cases, no matter what your heritage, you could actually be voted out of the group. You could be a “full-blooded” Cherokee and be kicked out of the Cherokee. So, what’s your race in that case? Native American but unaffiliated?)

    • Uh, just putting this out there. While I agree with the sentiment of the article, there are some things that we will want to differentiate on, literally for someone’s safety. Different types of races and their respective populations are at significantly different risks for certain types of cancers, and medical practitioners will look at this and based on probability will have a much better shot at specifically identifying an ambiguous case of cancer. While i’m good for dismantling social constructs, yeah, totally, there are physical realities. I think the difference here is that I feel they don’t matter, at all (generally, with the exception of cases like the above. I wouldn’t mind being looked at on a race basis if, gee, well, they could find my cancer more effectively and make sure I didn’t die in the event that I had it.), or at least they shouldn’t in a “fair” society, which is something we’re all aiming for.

      • Ah, but such medical ‘studies’ are rooted in fallacies, so your medical treatment would not be improved, it would miss critical issues. For example, if you had a doctor who believed only African Americans were at risk for sickle cell anemia, and you were Greek and had i,t because a high percentage of Greeks do historically, then your doctor would miss that diagnosis and you might die. Sickle cell anemia has nothing to do with being African American and everything to do with the geographical area from which your ancestors hailed. If there was a prevalence of malaria in that region, you have a decent chance of inheriting the gene.

  73. I understand completely where he is coming from. He is talking about whiteness as a concept not as a color.
    I loathe having to explain said distinctions to people who have not deemed my experiences and therefore beliefs and values as important to the overall dialogue; whatever that happens to be at the time. For instance, there was a spirited debate about body issues for women. When I brought up the fact that for men of color, larger women were more likely to be seen as attractive. The nice woman I wrote the comment to had not even considered that she had bought into a concept of beauty that wasn’t universal in America.
    More importantly, as a result, she never thought to herself that a reasonable alternative to the old broken body image values system was available. She had not even considered that she was excluding the opinions and feelings of an entire group of people. Feeling and values and possibly relationships that would hold her and how other women look in high esteem. Not only did she not recognize this but no one else on the thread did either. I didn’t pursue any further discourse on the subject because it is TOO burdensome and draining.You can lead a Camel to water, but it WILL spit in your eye if you try to make it f drink.

  74. I love this article. Lots to think about and digest. One thing I don’t completely understand: “As James Baldwin said, ‘As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.'”

    Part of what I’ve learned from reading and talking a lot about race is that it’s important for white people to learn that they are white and not just some default non-race in this country, and that that is a part of accepting that they are privileged as white people in this country. I’m not sure if Mr. Baldwin’s quote contradicts this or how it fits in exactly.

  75. For me, the piece was more about friendship than race.

  76. Notice of typographical error.

    “I told him that like most ostensibly white people his age, he wanted to locate a reason for thing in his own experience, probably so he would not have to have bad feelings about history, or have to acknowledge the privileges and benefits that he has received for nothing that he has have done.”

    “Has have done”

  77. A thought provoking read that had me reflecting on my own existence and behaviours. I realised that I rarely think of myself in terms of physicality (that includes skin colour). I cannot remember a time in recent history that I though “I am a white woman”. I tend to think of myself in terms of “I am creative. I am striving to be a more rounded person. I am fortunate”.

    So what does this say about me?

    Thanks to your letter I shall explore that question a bit more and maybe find some insight into myself and possibly even a deeper level of connection to my fellow men.

    • You don’t think of yourself as white because this is the privilege white conveys. Those of us who are not, must constantly remember we are not in order to walk the halls and streets.

      • wellokaythen says:

        So, that means that there is no way to disprove white privilege. It exists everywhere, and a lack of empirical evidence becomes proof of its existence. That’s a very airtight way of seeing things, but that’s kind of hard to support as an objective explanation.

        Is it possible, just possible, that I fail to detect a bit of white privilege because that little bit does not exist? Not just because I’ve been blinded by the privilege?

        It’s like the old idea that “the greatest trick the Devil ever played was convincing people he didn’t exist.” That’s not proof that the Devil exists. I believe that’s called “begging the question.”

        • wellokaythen says:

          The more I hear about white privilege, the more I’m amazed that white people ever got so much power. The more I hear about white privilege, the more I hear how totally deluded, ignorant, and stupid white people are, and how wise, grounded,and informed people of color are. It’s like people of color understand reality and the real world and the way that society really works, and white people have no idea what the real world is like. How did these Clueless Caspers ever maintain their power when they have no idea how anything works? Seems like they’d be really easy to fool.

          • ogwriter says:

            @wellokthen: What surprises me is that anyone thought that America cold degrade a people for hundreds of years, then degrade them some more, “free” them, but give no rights for an additional hundred years; create laws to dehumanize them -Jim Crow, the ultimate expression of white privilege and allow them to be hunted, burned and lynched by a terrorist organization, would expect said people to be normal. How fucking stupid is that!? You may not think that viciously and legally denying opportunities to one group, and giving them to another doesn’t create privilege for the latter. You may not think that straight people, because they can legally get married anywhere and gay people can’t doesn’t constitute privilege for straight people. This is why I don’t discuss race with MOST white people either; They are too ill informed.

            • wellokaythen says:

              “What surprises me is that anyone thought that America cold degrade a people for hundreds of years, then degrade them some more, “free” them, but give no rights for an additional hundred years; create laws to dehumanize them -Jim Crow, the ultimate expression of white privilege and allow them to be hunted, burned and lynched by a terrorist organization, would expect said people to be normal. How fucking stupid is that!?”

              Very true. I agree. The more we look at the history of racism, the stupider it looks.

              Let me be clearer, then. I am quite familiar with the horrible things done in the name of white supremacy. I assume there are others that I am ignorant about. Let me stipulate for the sake of discussion that there were even more and even worse atrocities committed against African Americans than the ones I know about. I agree with you. I don’t believe the real difference between your perspective and mine is a case of my ignorance of the past.

              So, we are actually in agreement that white people have done some incredibly illogical, stupid things and that white people are often in total ignorance of reality.

              My question was not challenging how bad racism is and has been. I was asking a question about the mechanics of white privilege. I was asking about how such blind people could ever stay in power so long. Let me rephrase it.

              How can people who are totally divorced from reality, totally ignorant, completely stupid, and blinded by their own fantasies (white people) hold in submission people who are wise, informed, realistic, and strengthened by their experiences (black people)? It feels depressing to discover that knowledge is not power after all. In fact, white privilege theory almost seems to suggest that ignorance is power. The stupider the understanding about racism, the more privilege the person maintains, while the most underprivileged understand the most. The depressing, discouraging part of this is that understanding the history of racism has apparently not made much difference to those who are the primary victims of it. At least the way that I understand white privilege theorists explain it.

              I freely admit there’s something I’m just not getting here. There’s a step in the explanation that I’m missing. The more clueless white people seem to be, the harder it is to explain how they’ve been able to stay in power so long. Seems like the smarter people, the people of color, should have been able to take over by this point.

              I’m not looking to throw out the concept of white privilege. I don’t consider it a useless or false way to look at things. I don’t consider this an all-or-nothing question. But, there are some problems with the theory that need to be addressed which could make it a better, more sustainable theory.

              How the hell did brainless, crazy maniacs totally blinded by their own idiotic fantasies manage to seize power and maintain it over so many smarter, saner people?

            • ogwriter says:

              @wellokthen: Good god, really. I gotta tell you talking to you is like trying to drag a Tasmanian devil up hill made of quicksand. This is exactly what the author was talking about. This level of ignorance is frustrating. You are stuck in a black white narrative that is sham, a farce, a deception.
              Let’s see, when the elites seized power, Native Americans resisted and were killed, hacked to pieces, burned, shot, scalped, raped, humiliated, had their land-America- stolen…and oh yeah THEY were called savages. And millions of dumbass (too many) white people across this country, most of which and encountered a Native American in their wretched little lives, believed that lie.

            • wellokaythen says:

              Now we’re getting somewhere. So, stupid, ignorant white people maintained power through force. Their use of force, fear, and coercion was enough to offset the weaknesses caused by their own ignorance. Ignorant people can be far more powerful than wise people. That I can understand.

              So, understanding the truth about race is no real guarantee of equality. What people of color need to do is to seize more real power, not just try to educate white people about the reality of white ignorance.

            • ogwriter says:

              @wellokthen Who said that knowing the truth about race was a magic bullet? Steve’s point, I believe, was that he didn’t want to waste time educating some white people because they don’t give a fu5k I think trying to convince arrogant, ignorant people of anything is a waste of time. Which is obvious and ok.

          • I think I see what you’re saying. Here’s how I see the white privilege logic playing out:

            Assumptions:
            People of all races are equally capable.
            There is nothing that a white person can do that a black person can’t.
            Black people are better at some things than white people are.
            Black people understand racism better than white people do.

            Conclusion: Logically black people are somewhat superior to white people, at least in terms of knowledge of the world. Or, the two at least equal in their capabilities, except that white privilege makes white people more ignorant than black people.

            That does raise the question of how inferior people have managed to stay in power over superior people for so damn long. Assuming that the superior but subordinate people don’t want to be subordinate any more. What is it that keeps stupid people ruling over smart people for so long?

            How did superior people wind up being subordinate?

            • Steve Locke says:

              I just want to say the article contains a great many texts that explain and explore the reasoning I have set forth. I would ask those curious or dismissive of my reasoning to at least read some of the books or investigate some of these thinkers. This demand for explanation is odd considering that thinkers much wiser than I have addressed this subject. As I said, a list of them is above. I don’t think it is incumbent on me, or on people of color, to explain this to people. That work has been done. It’s a choice not to access it. If you truly want to understand “how inferior people have managed to stay in power over superior people for so damn long” (not my terminology for certain), I really urge you to do some reading and stop demanding an explanation.

            • I see what I think are some flaws in the logic and argumentation of a particular article. The response is to give me a list of books of people with excellent academic pedigrees?

              I believe that’s called an “appeal to authority,” which is a kind of logical fallacy. (There seems to be an assumption that if I read these works then I would agree with them. I’m actually familiar with most of them, and I see a lot of validity in their interpretations. That doesn’t mean I’ve turned off my critical thinking skills.) Maybe it’s ignorant of me to use the phrase “appeal to authority” because it’s a phrase created by a white man.

              Then again, I was warned about this, so I should have known better. A month ago I attended a White Privilege Conference. One of the presenters explained to us that one key characteristic of whiteness is that members of the more privileged group have a tendency to overthink things. They are overly reliant on rationality, logic, objectivity, evidence, and academic forms of intelligence. She contrasted this with the “ways of knowing” of indigenous people and people of color, which are more holistic, more connected to emotions, gut instinct, and other things besides rationality.

              My immediate reaction to this was that this is an incredibly patronizing way to look at people of color. But hey, what do I know, because I’ve been blinded by my white privilege. Maybe I should take her warning at face value. Perhaps my whiteness has made me too rational to have a discussion about race?

              If so, I apologize. I’ve made this mistake plenty of times on this site. I go in thinking there’s a rational discussion getting started, so I try to engage in rational debate, only to discover I’ve completely misread the nature of the discussion.

            • Steve Locke says:

              @Steve
              The point is the same. I think it is fine if you don’t believe me. I am not trying to insult your intelligence or claim ignorance on your behalf. I’m also not saying that reading those texts will make you agree or disagree, nor am I asking you to turn off your critical faculties. I am saying that this discussion, where white people ask black people to explain race, racism, whiteness, and yes, privilege, is one that I and a lot of black people aren’t interested in having anymore. And you still demand to have these positions explained for you.

              And I think an “appeal to authority” is appropriate when someone knows more than I do. I never claimed to be an authority which is why I provided a list of people, much smarter than I am, for people to address. The call in my letter wasn’t for a discussion. It was for people to avail themselves of all of the tools of thought and discourse around race for themselves and stop asking black people to explain this for them.

              Since I wrote this article, I get mail from people demanding that I clarify, explain, or define things for them. I find it fascinating and saddening.

  78. All Steve, talked about was “race”.

    Interesting perspective – food for thought.

    • Great article…although many may not agree with his perspective or explanation as to why he did/does not want to talk about race, just look back at the Presidential election, and the last 4 years of President Obama’s Presidency, and then you will (maybe) understand why Steve did not want to talk about race. As much as people may want to deny that there aren’t any issues or privileges, just remember how many times President Obama’s citizenship, education, and religious beliefs (just to name a few) were challenged – not based on fact, but purely rooted in his ethnicity. He was asked, and in some cases, demanded to prove things about himself that his predecessors were not.

  79. ogwriter says:

    @Steve: OMG; You need to get laid get drunk or maybe both. This mental masturbation, this intellectual circle jerk you are engaged in is a joke and is maybe covering up some latent aggressions. Get out of the house man! Damn!

  80. Chris Langton says:

    What a refreshing article. I truly believe the day we all stop ‘mentally’ noticing each others ‘colour’ will be a truly liberating day for humanity

  81. ” I don’t want to talk about race because it gives weight to a fiction that was created to oppress. It has no basis in biology and is a social construction in this country that was engineered to maintain access to free labor.”

    I agree with everything in this sentence except, “has no basis in biology”. Categorically false, unless you can explain sickle-cell anemia and other clearly genetic traits another way. Racism is absolutely a social construct, but that is different than saying race itself doesn’t exist.

    • The artificiality in this case is the division between the ‘races’, not the fact that there are biologically distinct ethnic groups. ‘Black’ consists of a myriad of different African (and sometimes South Asian or Australasian) tribes, with no or some degree of white or Native American admixture. No one is claiming that a person of Polish decent has the same genes as a person of Yoruba descent, only that to label one ‘white’ and the other ‘black’ is a social construct. To say that race is biologically determined is to argue that there is a clear genetic line where someone stops being one race and starts being another, which is false.

    • Sickle cell anemia comes from areas that were inundated with Malaria. Mediterranean and Western Africans regions are those areas. It’s not based on race, it’s based on geography.

    • Actually, sickle-cell is not limited to people we classify as black. That’s a myth. And your reference to “clearly genetic traits” reveals more about your lack of experience with — and the diversity among — people we classify as black. Those traits most commonly attributed to being “black,” by the way are genetically non-concordant. Talk to a geneticist and you’ll learn that the word “race” doesn’t even apply, in a scientific sense, to our species. It is a social construct, as the writer indicated.

    • Contemporary genetics, along with almost a hundred years of other scholarly material, establishes that biological race is a culturally constructed category: it never existed. Google the Genographic project for more information than anyone can digest. Biologically, race does not exist. Sickle cell anemia examples are the refuge of those who stubbornly insist on not examining the science and history of race. There are millions of ‘white’ people around the world who are genetically predisposed to sickle cell anemia because their ancestors lived in malaria prone areas. The high rate of sickle cell in the USA African American population has to do with a huge number of slaves originating in malaria infested areas of Africa. The majority of Africa and Africans do not live in malaria infested areas. Had slave traders gone to a different part of Africa, sickle cell would not likely even be an issue in our population except for Greek Americans who also are genetically predisposed. Do your research, the majority of people here have done so already. The horrible truth about race is that it was always and remains to this day a complete invention.

    • Tom Crisp says:

      Ah, well, modern science tells us that the deviations genetically between between one group of humans and another are so small that they don’t begin to define separate “races”. We are one race. Do we have genetic traits both hidden and visible that owe to ancient isolation or mixing of people of different regions (isolated by geography or culture) ? Yes. But we need to drop race as a physiological construct, where at most it is minor, and understand it as a cultural one, where its impact has been huge – and devastating to our species.

  82. ogwriter says:

    Kevdog Actually sickle cell has nothing to do with race and has everything to do with how humans adapt to different environs.There are “white” people who also carry the trait.

    • Okay, I have to intercept that one and say that sickle cell does indeed affect African-Americans in much higher numbers than other races. It’s also a genetic disease. According to US News: “It is a genetic disease, the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States, where it occurs most often in African-Americans and Hispanics. Some 120,000 infants are born with SCD every year worldwide. In the United States, approximately 1 in 500 African-Americans and 1 in 1,200 Hispanic Americans are born with SCD. Some 2 million Americans — including about 10 percent of the African-American population—carry one gene for SCD, the “sickle cell trait.”

      • ogwriter says:

        Well,it is considered a genetic disease here because it doesn’t serve a purpose.It is a genetic adaptation,not a genetic disease. I know that African Americans carry the gene in more significant numbers.Their lineage can be traced to Africans who were exposed,over generations, to sleeping sickness caused by mosquito bites.People with sickle shaped blood cells are immune to the disease.Hence,it is an adaptation brought about to resist the sleeping sickness.

        • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which I consider one of the most helpful and credible health sites, refers to it as SCD, and the “d” stands for DISEASE. People with sickle cell TRAIT (SCT) are ones who have the sickle cell gene from one parent and not the other. The larger point is that it is prevalent within the African and African-American community, therefore, we cannot brush it under the rug as “nothing to do with race and has everything to do with how humans adapt to different environs.” It indeed does affect certain races more often and is genetic depending on both parents. Carry on with the conversation about race and his article. I solely commented on your post to educate those who are unfamiliar with the DISEASE and the TRAIT. The above poster who mentioned it initially was correct.

        • Sickle cell is not tied to black folks. it only occurs in people who have ancestors from some region in the world where there is or was once malaria. Sickle cell is the recessive of a trait that gives resistance to malaria. Carriers of sickle cell are more resistant to malaria.

          So, it appears in people from the Mediterranean region (greece, turkey, north africa, etc.) and also from parts of Africa, and India. That’s why it occurs often in people of African descent. But it is very common in those other folks too.

          • Definition from Merriam Webster: “Tied: something that serves as a connecting link.” If 1 in 500 African-Americans get sickle cell disease,” there IS a tie. If we’re still getting it while in America, there is a TIE to those who have ancestors from those other regions. I never said it wasn’t happening to other people. Scroll up. I also mentioned how it is most often with African-Americans and Hispanics. This ridiculous denial about something that we can educate ourselves on serves absolutely no purpose. Hell, I had an African-American friend who had sickle cell disease growing up. It happens. None of this back and forth goes against KevDog’s point about genetic traits. It’s GENETIC because of ancestors but it can still happen wherever you are if both parents have the trait. At this point I’m repeating myself. MOVING ON…

            • Genetics has nothing to do with race. You can keep tabs on an individual’s genetic likelihood to have sickle cell or whatever condition without race. Race is made up. You can even recommend that people of a darker skin color be checked for sickle cell anemia and NOT be utilizing racial categories. Nobody is denying that people of African descent are more likely to have sickle cell. They’re just also saying it has nothing to do with the construct of race. They are not mutually exclusive ideas.

        • Ogwriter , sleeping sickness in not by a long stretch of the imagination , caused by a mosquito. It is caused by a Tsetse fly, malaria on the other hand is caused by an anopheles (female) mosquito. Most people whose origins are from malarial places have a trait of sickle-cell though it doesn’t affect their health ….they should check their cell shape and will find that it is slightly curved.

          • ogwriter says:

            Magaret You are right.I mixed up African insect borne diseases.Nonetheless,my point remains the same.Though some blacks have sicklecell-like my sister-it is not a race based illness.

    • Jesus, that didn’t take long to pop up. No wonder Steve Locke didn’t want to write about race…

      • James Spader says:

        The social construct concept, although entirely true, is so counter-intuitive that it strikes uneducated people as prevarication, who in turn feel they are owed a dishonest “point” of their own. This is the source of these classically racist disease prevalence arguments which keep cropping up.

  83. The true path to equality is to not think about race at all when interacting with other people. I don’t have “black friends” nor do I have “white friends.” I have “friends.” Some are black, some are white, some are other mixes and all sorts of things if you really want to get down to it… but all I have are “friends.” Some are wealthy, some are poor, but all are “friends.” If everyone looked at everyone else this way, that we are all just humans and race doesn’t matter, things would be great… but as long as anyone sees and speaks along the lines of race, racism will exist.

    • It is not logical to me to want “race” to not exist at this point and time with America’s history. That wish is a shot in the dark with no bullets. I have had male friends and female friends. I look at them as friends, but I’m well aware who has what genitalia. I have had black friends, white friends, Asian friends and Latino/a friends over the years. I’m well aware of what race they are and can easily talk to them about race the same way that I would easily talk to my guy friends about their advice on men, knowing full well that they are indeed MEN. But at no point and time do I look at my male friends and think all women are better than them. That is the distinction between race and racism. I can look at someone different and not feel like I’m better than them based on physical attributes. I do SEE race and I don’t believe people when they say they DON’T see race. If you did not see race, you wouldn’t know that you had black friends or white friends. To say someone shouldn’t speak along the lines of race makes no sense. I would never hide who I am as a proud BLACK WOMAN. I am as proud to be one as I am the other. If someone told me they didn’t see me as black, I’d tell them to seek an optometrist immediately. Now should that person tell me they think black women are worse or better because they are black, THAT’S when racism comes into the equation.

      • Chaveevah Ferguson says:

        Maybe I came late to the dance; but I had the impression that the point to be made here was that the presence of sickle cell DISEASE and/or TRAIT were not sufficient to classify its carriers as an entirely different RACE. Many ethnicities exist, as do many physical characteristics that identify us as “different”, in some ways, from each other–but we’re genetically all the same RACE, not different species…I thought that was the crux of this discussion. And for anyone who gets just plain TIRED of “speaking along the lines of race”, I feel you–it’s not about ignoring/not acknowledging/subverting who you are ethnically and culturally; for me, it’s about having no more patience to keep repeating the same thing once it’s already been said hundreds of times, or accommodating folks who are too lazy or set in their ways to put effort into RESEARCHING things for themselves. A mind “already made up” to believe/accept/espouse falsehoods [read: willful ignorance] is a tough nut I have no patience to crack

    • By ignoring race, class, gender, sexuality or any other defining factor you erase and ignore the struggles that these individuals go through and why they go through them. We are not all the same. We do not all have the same struggle. There are reasons people are oppressed; racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and classism are a very few. These systems of oppression dont prevail because we talk about them, they continue to live because we dont. We choose to ignore it. And thats something that needs to stop. We NEED to continually address and educate ourselves on these matters. As a white person, and now knowing that racism is running rampant, find out what is happening so we can find out what to stop

      • Good point, Bernie. I just don’t see the point in ignoring why people are different (race, gender, class), etc. Being in denial about it serves us not a bit of good. By denying our identity, it looks like we’re ashamed of it, too. If someone told me they didn’t see me as a woman, I’d think that was the absolute dumbest comment to say to me. I feel the same way when someone says they don’t see my race. Centuries ago, that whole not seeing race thing could’ve worked but at this point it’s too late. May as well embrace it and learn from the diversity of it instead of trying to turn a blind eye to it.

        • Maroonsista – you explained my thoughts on this perfectly. It is unrealistic to remove race, gender, sexual preference and a myriad of other cultural, genetic, physiological, and social factors from the equation. And, why would we want to? What happened to embracing and being proud of who we are and who others are? To simply recognize that someone is gay, white, black, obese, thin or otherwise does not make one a bigot or a racist – to judge them based on those factors or to perceive oneself as superior, or even to fail to recognize the historical struggles that any of these groups has gone through is a far different story. It seems that our problem is that we cannot differentiate between these two cases and this is the greatest problem …then again, that may be exactly the point that Steve is trying to make.

  84. This was a really good article. I saw this on Twitter and when I read it, it reminded me of a recent piece I saw in the Tribune from Clarence Page called “Are blacks more racist than whites?” I sincerely believe people REALLY overuse the term “racist.” There is a difference between being proud of your race as opposed to believing your race is superior. I have had to give people the Merriam Webster definition more times than I can count. (I usually end up doing this to people who think BET is racist for highlighting African-Americans in award shows and music but see nothing wrong with St. Patrick’s Day honoring Irish people, but anyway…) As a black woman, the Psychology Today study doesn’t bother me because the first thing I think of when someone does a study is, “How diverse were the panelists?” If you interview enough like-minded people, you will already come up with the same self-fulfilling prophecy you wanted to to begin with. If the study was done by all black men, I’d take the results more seriously than I would other groups (considering black women still tend to be the least to participate in interracial dating so I’m guessing that’s whose responses they’d want to know the most).

    Studies like that get tricky though. If you put a photo up of Ian Somerhalder and one of Ne-Yo and ask me who do I find more attractive, I’m going with the vampire. That does not mean I don’t think black men are more attractive (or vice versa). It just means that particular person was more attractive to me than the other. I’m going to look up that study though.

  85. ogwriter says:

    Maroonsista Well,well,well,you are back?! I thought you gave up on us knuckledragging-lower lifeforms?

    • Don’t make it deeper than what it is. I’ve ALWAYS been reading articles from this site before and after the article you’re hinting at. I don’t comment on every article I read. My point was just to correct the issue about sickle cell. I’m very interested in topics about health so your comment caught my attention. I think people who may be dealing with the issue of sickle cell or unaware of that would want to know these particular stats. Please carry on with the conversation.

  86. Thank you for allowing this to be reprinted. In the absence of wanting it to you ended up telling the truth in an issue that is overcomplicated by many factors.

  87. ogwriter says:

    Well,it is considered a genetic disease here because it doesn’t serve a purpose.It is a genetic adaptation,not a genetic disease. I know that African Americans carry the gene in more significant numbers.Their lineage can be traced to Africans who were exposed,over generations, to sleeping sickness caused by mosquito bites.People with sickle shaped blood cells are immune to the disease.Hence,it is an adaptation brought about to resist the sleeping sickness.

  88. Dear Brother Locke,
    I, too, am at the point that I am disgusted with the Race discussion. But, take heart from this news. I am an African-American, retired and living in South East Asia. Are you ready for this? Some, not all, of the people here feel that Asians are superior to Westerners and they act on it. I don’t know how many times I read and hear from Caucasians that they are being subjected to racism here. The word racism fly’s like rain. I find it very, very humorous, and I tell them that they are not hallucinating. What they are experiencing is truly racism. Then I say to them welcome to the club! You, now, know, what my people have been dealing with all over the world for at least 400 years. Their racism lesson is not just coming, it is already here.

    • ogwriter says:

      Lionel Could you tell me please of your experience living in Southeastasia?I am seriously considering moving to another country.

  89. ogwriter says:

    bernie For me I choose not to discuss race with most white people because they are uninterested and fairly ill informed. Secondarily,the isms you mention are not all rooted in institutions. For instance,ancient Rome was far more tolerant of sexuality,even though Christianity bacame the state religion,than American culture.These isms are not the always a reflection of state politics.

  90. Mike Wilboon says:

    Race is not at all biological. It really bothers me that people don’t understand how race is just a change in skin melanin pigment through countless years of minor evolutionary changes. I doubt Americans would call very pale people from Scandinavia an inferior race. Yet it is through the exact same logic ignorant people for far too long would call African-Americans inferior. Living in different regions of the Earth yield different “biological” permutations amongst groups living together. All humans are unique, but equal. God bless.

  91. “There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it.”

    Well said, Steve Locke. I agree emphatically.

  92. ogwriter says:

    Magaret You are right.I mixed up African insect borne diseases.Nonetheless,my point remains the same.Though some blacks have sicklecell-like my sister-it is not a race based illness.

  93. for someone who didn’t want to write about race, he very affectively wrote about race.

    • Correct. He doesn’t seem to be cognizant, however, regarding the level of intermarriage and interacial melting plot taking place in the world today or have factored that in thediscussion. Even the references he provided are deeply rooted in what was, and not what will be. “Black and Whites” are only two groups among others in the Human race and the general trend (it has always in been this way, actually but now finally people are getting it) is a blending of people. There is really own one race,and it’s history rolls back through the ages for hundreds of thousands of years. Most probably it will continue forever, hundreds of thousands of years more. To lament and focus so much on one particular scenario and time where two groups of the human race where diametrically opposed for a time and place is to deny oneself the deeper history and longer future and broader context. lamenting racism in America? A more healthy attitude would be to piss at it, ignore it, overcome it, or give it the finger. Trying to reason with an essentially unreasonable ugly bias is an exercise of an intellectual who has thrown away challenge and embraced defeat by staging such a contest. One doesn’t reason with racism; one flips it the bird and mouths,,,”**** you”.

      • Steve Locke says:

        That sounds great, Dante. But let me let you in on a little secret: Black people in America ignore race at the peril of their lives. That “healthy attitude” of giving it the finger doesn’t work unless you have the privilege afforded a white skin. Neither I, nor any of the books I listed are “lamenting racism in America.” If anything, the writers are trying to prevent people from dying from it.
        I’m an American, so I focused on the experience of my country and the texts of its thinkers. I don’t have any information about race before it was invented in the Chesapeake in the USA.
        If you think this is about what was, then, I have no idea what to say to you.

  94. ogwriter says:

    Tom Amen brother.The persistance of the use of racial categorizations as immutable gospel has cost humanity dearly.

  95. “I told him that it is not my job to educate him about the experience of race in his own country, although as his darker countryman, I am called on to do just that. I told him that like most ostensibly white people his age, he wanted to locate a reason for thing in his own experience, probably so he would not have to have bad feelings about history, or have to acknowledge the privileges and benefits that he has received for nothing that he has have done”

    My sentiments.

    • Kate the Great says:

      This is an excellent letter, and I definitely sympathize with the author. But, while I agree it’s not anyone’s job to school another human being on their prejudices, it sure can help. For example, most people have no idea what institutionalized sexism and racism are, and some of them actually do care to find out. Not everybody thinks to pick up “A Different Mirror” or “My Gender Workbook” on their own. I’ve had friends who couldn’t see their privilege–be it white, male, middle-class, American, whatever–and shifted their perspective after we started talking about truly understanding other people’s experiences. Of course, this has been in real life without the exquisite pleasure of dealing with internet trolls and Facebook bravado.

  96. ogwriter says:

    Kate the Great I can appreciate your sentiments,however,they are expressed with naivete of a twentysomething,white feminist. All you have to do is scope out some of the other posts that deal with racism and you see that talking about racism rarely helps to change anything.Having a conversation with someone about their privileges,especially white women,changes little.If it were that easy to do racism would have been functionally eradicated hundreds of years ago. So,the gee-golly-wow atittude only chaffs and irritates. I mean feminism STILL struggles to erase racism from its ranks.What does that say about your theory?

  97. I’m up for the debate.

  98. noixdekk says:

    Steve, I don’t know you, but I wish I did. You sound like an amazing person with an incredible mind, a large heart and a spirit that sees both the challenges and the potential for us as individuals and as a country. I hope you inspire others to have the same said about them, and I hope I do credit to my own mind and heart and one day earn the right to have the same said about me.

  99. I often am told I have priveledge for being white… While I consider myself to be progressive and most would consider me extreemly liberal, I also had a lot of disadvantages thrown at me for being gay in a small town in texas, where despite my trying, it was just as obvious as any skin tone that i was a “fag”. My family never benefitted from slavery, they immigrated from northern france after the civil war and were pretty broke until the 1940’s when some company found some minerals on their land. Even then the furthest they reached was middle class, and when I was born my parents were what would be considered lower middle class. My dad was the only one of my parents that had a “privileged” life meaning he always had clean clothes and shoes and a decent house. My mom was not so lucky and was raised pretty much dirt poor, working at a fast food restaurant and saving for three years before she could go to university to bring herself out of poverty. When I went to college, I went to university on scholarship because of my hard work, not because of the color of my skin. I graduated in the height of the recession and being white didn’t help me at all. I still spent two years looking for any job, and working any shitty sales job i could. When someone tells me i am privileged because of my race I tell them to go sit on it. I have taken nothing from my black friends. I work hard and to say I am only successful because of my skintone is bullshit. I am not responsible for something white people did in the past. Just as modern germans are not responsible for shit their grandparents did. Yes there is racism still and the problems associated with inequality still exist. But don’t tell me I have white privilege and I was given everything. I lost out on a lot because I just wasn’t good enough or because I couldn’t afford it. Racism in america has little to do with the color of your skin and more to do with your socio-economic status. I think the older generation focuses too much on the color of skin and not the socio-economic aspects. The problem with racism today is that its more about classism.

    I find this argument very similar to the one we face in the queer community. The older generation of gays and lesbians thinks that younger queers are ungrateful or ignorant of the plight they fought over the last 50 years. They were fighting for us to be equal, they wanted us to feel normal. And while there are many places where this fight goes on, the majority of young queer people don’t see what the big deal is with being gay. Just as many younger people have softened the tone on the issue with race. Yes we should discuss it, and yes we should fight it, but a big problem lies in the generational boundaries. I was brought up in a world of cultural diversity that was encouraged by every bit of media I was exposed to in my childhood. Perhaps thats why I often find myself so confused when older professors and influencers tell me I have white privilege or should be mad about something that doesn’t really apply to me or my black/asian/latino/white friends.

  100. I find all the talk about genetics interesting, I do a lot of work with genealogy and there’s all sorts of incredibly minor genetic things that define physical characteristics that have historically been lumped together to form racial profiles. Blond hair/blue eyes for nordic people, extra skin over the eyes for asians, etc. All yes geographic adaptations, but they do form the basis for what is commonly known as race. You can’t just write them off as insigniicant, the genetic difference between humans and our closest primate relatives is less than 1%, so you can’t say that that’s insignificant. You just have to take all this genetic diversity in what we’re really talking about as just like .01% of our genetic code and just take it for that. It’s society that gives all the baggage to race. That gives weight to talks about understanding history, world struggles, etc.

    • wellokaythen says:

      It’s just a matter of perspective, maybe even a little bias, to say that epicanthic folds in many Asian populations are “extra skin” aorund the eyes. Perhaps non-Asians are actually “missing normal eye skin.” Calling it extra skin is like saying black people are white people with extra color.

      In any event, I agree with your message. The genetic things people are talking about are arbitrary, miniscule, subjective points that people lump together without any good reason. Whatever genetic differences there are, racial categories can be TOTALLY invented based on nothing whatsoever — Hutu and Tutsi in Rwanda, for example. People absolutely indistinguishable from each other committing genocide based on totally invented categories.

  101. ogwriter says:

    John What is there to debate? Most ethnic groups:Slavs,Germans,Italians,Irish,Scots-Irish,Hispanics,Native Americans and many others have all experienced racism in America.There is nothing good or beneficial about racism.It is an indulgence of hate we can ill afford.

  102. salazane says:

    Why I dont want to read or talk about race? It seems to me that this topic is always as a black and white issue. Like others non-whites or non-blacks exist? This issue includes other groups as well. It is not a white and black thing.

    • Nichole says:

      I think that you are missing one important point of this piece, that race is a social construct. This article was just written from the perspective of a “black” American.

      • I’m a short man. Is that a social construct?

        • your height is a scientific fact – thinking 1.2m given you raised it.
          short is a relative term – the relation is social not the 1.2m
          Construct is a very deep term.

          • If I’m shorter than 85% of adult American men, I wouldn’t say my short stature is horribly :relative.”

            • why are we comparing race to height anyhow?…..
              this seems so obtuse.

            • common sense says:

              Relativity is based on perspective that things seem to be one way as opposed to another. If you’re 85% shorter than most people than you are short. But to the people shorter than you, you are tall, which means you can neither be “short” or “tall” but both.

              Your height as being “short” or “tall” IS relative. What is NOT relative is the actual measurement of your height. How we percieve it IS what is relative. “Longer” and “shorter” on the other hand, is different.

              Racism is relative. What was built from this art of oppression has had a measurable affect on people and society. The “oppression that has occured” is not relative, but “oppression” in general is. This case is a little harder to explain than “black and white” though because, while perspective subjects “oppression” to be relative, there are still noticable, repeated and measurable changes that are the effect of oppression. Then there’s history depicting the ways people were treated and targeted for different tasks.

              You can argue the semantics all you want, but when you are tired of arguing what things mean, take notice that our world has a problem with “White supremacy” whether it’s a few or a billion+ (relative or not, the problem exists to some). We call that inequality. Inequality is a fact.

        • Like the professor says in the letter, it is no one else’s job to educate you on race in your own country.

          Your attempt to compare the idea of race being a social construct to height not being considered a social construct is misguided, when all you have to do is Google “social construct” and understand the difference.

          I attempted to explain the difference, but caught myself, thanks to the quote in the article…like, no, it is not my job when you clearly have Internet access and can look it up: “the social construction of race”

  103. ogwriter says:

    Josh I absolutely understand your feelings,but you are missing an important point.It is about relative conditions.Of course,poor many whites have suffered in America.This suffering has been used as a wedge issue in the south to get poor whites to fight against their own self interests.However,for blacks and some others,their legal status put them underneath poor whites.This sophisticated stratification of society is unknown and therefore not understood by poor whites.Remember,the poor Irish who came here didn’t benefit from being white either until an immigration reform recalibrated racial categories in America,effectively expanding definition of white in America.This reform was designed to exclude Asians.This info is easily accessible?!

  104. ogwriter says:

    Josh I absolutely understand your feelings,but you are missing an important point.It is about relative conditions.Of course,poor many whites have suffered in America.This suffering has been used as a wedge issue in the south to get poor whites to fight against their own self interests.However,for blacks and some others,their legal status put them underneath poor whites.This sophisticated stratification of society is unknown and therefore not understood by poor whites.Remember,the poor Irish who came here didn’t benefit from being white either until an immigration reform recalibrated racial categories in America,effectively expanding definition of white in America.This reform was designed to exclude Asians from American life.This info is easily accessible?!

  105. Alex Bodensieck says:

    I completely agree with Steve’s decision to not talk about race but I believe acknowledging race in any form is racist. To identify a person because of color gives an inherent ranking to race. I appreciate the non-discussion view of a racial discussion but the true non-discussion of race would simply be a colorblind discussion of humanity.

    • That is a very slippery slope. The “hierarchy” of race has already been established and deeply ingrained in society. While “a colorblind discussion of humanity” sounds all well and good, it often leads to the continued dismissal and ignorance of people of color. Often, ignoring race includes ignoring a person’s present struggles and history and is just code for “people of color, just assimilate to our ways and THEN race will no longer matter!” I, for one, am angry that I was robbed of my history, both good and bad, growing up in typical public schools all over the country. It makes one feel so unimportant; this still continues for all children of color.

  106. I have been engaging people in dialogue about race for 7 years join the discussion color Struck s a powerful play that opens people u to discuss what we need to discuss. how we can move forward ite

  107. Joe Watson says:

    Race, well when I was 19 years of age I ventured from a eastern province in Canada to the heart of our country Ottawa in Ontario. I remember how scared I was when I got off the Greyhound bus in Ottawa, I felt surrounded by Black people and yes I was scared.

    Now for some more information, I went to school with a population of 300 or so and one black kid. I had no black neibours in my area of hicland. So being in such a diverse enviornment freaked me out but why? My grandmother married a black man before I was born and he raised my father in Ontario. I loved my grandfather greatly and enjoyed being with my uncles whenever I had the chance. I was close to this man and had great sorrow when he passed but yet I was terrified being among black citizens in Ottawa….again I ask why?

    these two emotions caused great distress internally for me and due to this I have been on a voyage for the last 20 years trying to figure out why. I have realized over the years that white people (like me) are programed to fear black people, in school and in our media experiences. The one fact that caused such a deep revolution within was two words, #1 love and #2 people. I asked myself how could I love this black man (grandpa) so much but fear other PEOPLE that looked like him. Well the answer lies in our education and media. When I take the Race equasion out of the mix I did not fear people…so to me in my mind I was crazy.

    I stayed in Ottawa and planted roots there for years, I concluded I can’t be crazy and explored myself. I don’t see a change in our petty belief systems until we adress the two main factors that get to all of us. How can we encourage media and education to embrace all of us as people, not blacks or whites or indians ect, ect?

  108. Beautiful, thank you.

  109. Muffy Sinclair says:

    The Good Men Project leads the way in men addressing issues of sexism (along with many other important topics – you’re multi-dimensional). Men schooling other men on when they’re being creepy sexist dirtbags carries more weight than women calling it out. It’s too easy for men to dismiss the women’s voices; harder to ignore when your bros tell you you’re being an asshole.

    How great would it be if the GMP also led the way by asking a white guy who is studying white privilege to write about race instead of a man of color. Get someone who is trying to unpack that invisible knapsack, unearthing the ways being a person of privilege in an inherently racist society has instilled racism within him, despite him not consciously choosing it, not wanting it, and finding it repulsive. White folks calling out other white folks when we’re being ignorant, privileged assholes will carry more weight than when a person of color does it; it’s too easy for the willfully ignorant to dismiss the person of color.

  110. Christopher Holvenstot says:

    bravo, steve! love you,

  111. Uzi Peretz says:

    some good points and perspective “…my black friend steve…” for example.

    this one though…”Plus whenever white people want to talk about race, they never want to talk about themselves.” eh…i am truly sorry if your experiences with white males has led you to such an incorrect conclusion.

  112. No one ever talk about the asians… lol. We don’t even appear on the statistics. White, black, hispanic, native american indians. Lol, it’s as if we don’t even fucking exist.

  113. Thomas Watkins says:

    You might think race is a social construct, but I’m glad that people doing the organ transplants don’t.
    http://www.musc.edu/humanvalues/pdf/Transplantation-the-organ-gap-and-race.pdf
    “A variety of factors contribute to differences among races: biological, medical, social, and
    personal.”

  114. Brilliant Article.
    To those who have and are experiencing the historical truths of this ‘construct’, we are no doubt in an Advanced class of Racism 401. I urge you all to read the books on the list at the bottom of the article … this will at least get you more deeply imbedded in the ‘curriculum’ and framework. To be fair, many ‘Black’ people should read them as well.
    Then lets meet in the classroom … and talk.

  115. @ Hai True but you gotta admit Asians don’t make much noise.The market place of ideas is a warzone.

  116. Misha James says:

    “I told him that it is not my job to educate him about the experience of race in his own country, although as his darker countryman, I am called on to do just that. I told him that like most ostensibly white people his age, he wanted to locate a reason for thing in his own experience, probably so he would not have to have bad feelings about history, or have to acknowledge the privileges and benefits that he has received for nothing that he has done.”

    Steve Locke,
    I hope that you also reminded your student that your personal beliefs and the theoretical underpinnings of your beliefs explain how and why you believe things are in the USA, but that you are not describing how and why things necessarily are, in point of fact. in the USA. Facts and perspectives are not the same thing. Personal experience, however profound, can be contaminated by, among other things, cognitive bias. Correlational studies can help lend some support to a theory, but, no matter how compelling a correlational study may be, a correlational study can never establish causal relationships. Even if one could demonstrate that a White Male Patriarchal structure existed in the USA, one could not use correlational studies to demonstrate that such a structure does, in point of fact, cause the negative life outcomes of some or all members of a sociologically identified racial group. Your beliefs may explain things as you imagine things are, but not necessarily how things actually are. If your student cannot tell the differences among your perspective, theory, and a fact, your student is missing out on some serious learning, in my opinion.

    -Misha James

    • @Misha I couldn’t help myself,i had to comment..In the mashup of ideas over racism,responses like yours,however intellectual,are profound excuses. One doesn’t always need to prove something scientifically in order to legitimize its’ existance.Motherwit has its place in the discussion.I think it is fair and correct to extrapolate, based solely on relative human experience, that if one group or person-regardless of race- abuses another for a long enough period of time,dysfunction in that relationship and persons will likely occur.Its just common sense, backed by history, that doesn’t require statistical analysis to prove.

    • whatIhavetosay says:

      I had a long post agreeing with you Misha but it completely disappeared as I was writing. Thank you for this.
      Briefly, many black people I’ve known have been upset by Korean store owners following them around the store. I would nod my head because it was obviously racist. Then I moved to Korea for several years. I learned that this is the way businesses are run. The store owner greets you & follows you around in case you have a question or need something. It wasn’t racism in most cases, it was cultural misunderstanding.
      While I was there I experienced racial animus directed toward me. I was refused service in restaurants several times in modern Seoul. One time we were chased out by a screaming man waving a cleaver. We clearly weren’t wanted. I have several examples like that, including cabs refusing to stop for us.
      These were my experiences. They did not make me believe that the country was inherently racist. It did not make me call all Koreans racist & if they objected, I did not tell them that they just don’t recognize their own racism. I did not try to convince them that even the poorest among them had “Korean privilege” because they certainly didn’t feel privileged.
      People DO have different experiences that effect how they interact with others. My grandfather was a sharecropper,he moved to Detroit for work. My mother was a teenager with two children by two different fathers. My father was barely around but paid no child support. My sister’s father was in prison. I have had experiences with nearly every race, creed & orientation. It does not make sense to say that no matter what, only white people are racist, that only the US has had slavery, ignoring the slavery taking place today so we can continue to focus on just the US. The world is much larger than North America.

  117. GREAT post! Thank you!

    There is a BIGGER ISSUE here.

    We are all under-privileged unless we are Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie (white, hot, rich, talented, healthy and famous). But I tell ya, I bet even they don’t have full freedom. People probably bug them everywhere they go and ask for money. Most people probably treat them with the agenda of what they can “gain” from being around them.

    I am NOT comparing their “discomfort” to racism. The little I understand about oppression is this: people not being given or allowed the same opportunities, respect and kindness due to their perceived “lack” or “not measuring up” (based on cultural and multi-generational patterns).

    But I need to take this out of the RACISM BOX to make my point.

    If a homeless person approaches us at an outdoor restaurant where we are happily dining, do we not feel uncomfortable? Possibly, even the writer of this article would feel this. When we are met with someone’s need we CAN’T MEET, it makes us uncomfortable. If we’ve never been homeless or hungry we will NEVER understand what it feels like to be that guy. And his existence, RIGHT IN OUR FACE, will make us uncomfortable.

    The problem I see with ALL OF US (myself included) is this: We take our oppression, our pain of being rejected for not measuring up and make it OK to judge someone else. We DON’T use it to develop compassion for OTHERS WHO ARE OPPRESSED or under-privileged in different areas. We walk around talking about HOW WE HAVE BEEN wronged/oppressed/abused, etc.

    IF A BLACK PERSON ONE DAY, says to an Asian guy, “It’s gotta suck being invisible. I can’t even imagine what it’s like to be stereotyped for my academic skills and not be taken seriously for your art or in sports”.

    Or unless a man says to a woman, “Gosh, what is it like growing up and everyone being after your pussy and playing every trick in the book to get in your pants and not treat you as a human being with a heart?”, then WE WILL ALL TRANSCEND PAIN. Unless that happens it is all about me, myself and I.
    Our pain is just pain and we will spend our lives justifying and talking about it UNLESS we turn it into compassion for everyone on this planet and a desire to make the world a better place. I HAVE NOT arrived there myself.

    I am originally from Turkey. Even though my English is very good, I have a “slight” accent. I sometimes feel people underestimate me because of this. I am very confident in my intelligence and am smarter than most the people I meet or talk to (this is true) but I still get judged. I don’t care because I know the truth about who I am, though I don’t throw my intelligence in people’s faces and make them feel less. I also know that they are just conditioned and leave it at that. WE ARE ALL CONDITIONED. Because we are human. I get that. But If they attack me verbally, they will not know what hit them. But if they don’t and just judge me silently (I feel it energetically), I let it roll off my back and continue to make magic. :)

    My ten cents….

  118. Sharma Dhiran says:

    I have never been race biased, unless if they dont use languages which i dont understands & getz bullied for no reasons, why not ppl speakz in english ? we all understand n can improve our grammars time 2 time

  119. austen wagner says:

    READ WHITE BY RICHARD DYER, I THINK THATS WHAT WAS MISSING FROM THE LIST

  120. Okay, here’s the problem I have with this article. I am half white and half hispanic but i only look “white” to most people. I was raised in San Francisco, where many racism issues have been more or less resolved, and where they are not, there are thousands of people out there trying to fix them. It is so that I have not really encountered much of racism until I started going to college in Santa Cruz. I have since been faced with people being prejudiced towards me because I look predominantly “white”. People have called me “rich white girl”… I am middle class. Yes, SF is wealthy, but I live outside of the city in South SF, which is significantly cheaper. So no, I am not a “rich white girl”, my parents have to work hard for their money just like everybody else, we have received no privileges. So it frustrates me when everyone says whites have it easy, being white will blind you, you are racist because you’re white… So far the only racism I have experienced has been towards me. This is one of the reasons I will most likely never leave SF for more than a few years when I’m out of school, because that is the only place where I have not been judged for simply being white. I don’t own fancy clothes, I only have enough of my own money to buy coffee, and I’ve had to work just as hard as everybody else to get where I am today, I’m not even full white. So don’t say all white people are the same, all white people don’t want to talk about race. I will happily talk about race when everybody stops making it all about white people being evil. I openly accept any arguments people have against my views, and I will listen. But just remember to take me out of that “white” category before you make your statement, because “white” is a label that comes with judgement. Don’t be the prejudice you hate to see in the world. Peace.

  121. It is easy for white men to say such opinions are silly, because honestly, they don’t have to deal with it.

    While I’m not black, I am a woman (a group who has been oppressed in almost every race for thousands of years)

    Women are also constantly told we are “deficient”, often times because it was “ordained by God”

    It is tiresome, and one grows tired of defending why they, as a human, are just as human as the person they are talking too.

  122. Being biracial, I would love to talk about race. I get to marginalize everyone. How much does the job pay?

  123. In my job I’ve learned, as I suspected, that while it’s true that experience is valuable, it’s far from being the only criterion for expertise. In fact, it can be a detriment. The best indication that someone will do a good job is intelligence and attitude. I think it’s the same for issues of social justice.

    What I think you may have not considered is a common human fallibility: that is that people feel the need to justify their own value and importance by contrasting themselves with others. If that justification fails, they will use any reason to justify their failures. Both tendencies are logical fallacies, and socially destructive, but most if not all humans do it. So, take oppression. It is most likely brought about by an attempt to succeed at the expense of those that can be taken advantage of. Men are generally physically stronger than women: before there were any rules, men, if they weren’t empathetic, could often use that strength to force women to be subservient–socially destructive. Rules arose to help society function in a more civil manner, but women were not given much ultimate control for many reasons, most of which were (at least in my opinion) also socially destructive–but were “justified” due to assumptions involving obvious natural differences between men and women.

    With the movement for women’s rights and equality, women (people) have rightfully campaigned for equal opportunity and voice within society so that their subjugations could be addressed and overturned: all good. But what happens then, because of women are human, and not every woman can be as notably successful as Amelia Earhart or Oprah, they want to excuse their failures according to the newly established and academically accepted issues of feminism. And in general, it’s reasonable to assume that these issues have a substantial effect on whether any individual woman is successful. But then that only works up to a point. Because most people aren’t so internally strong, they will tend to take advantage of the issue as an excuse to blame away practically ALL of their failings and frustrations. Their identity becomes almost consumed in their activism, justifying bitterness and vindictiveness toward, in the case of feminism, men. And individual men don’t deserve that; even if society isn’t ideal, it’s not their fault, they’re generally on board with equality, and they have issues of their own (many of them with women, who under traditional society, were not without their own underlying influences in the social/gender dance). So, yeah, they pushback, and they want a voice in the issue when the tone becomes accusatory and the complaints unbalanced and unfair. And their words, like anyone’s, should be judged by the content of their character, and not by their sex or race; because there’s a real chance that their empathy will bring their argument closer to the center of true equality than someone who has experienced oppression and whose opinion is colored by bitterness.

    That said, racism, particularly toward Native- and African-Americans, has more to consider. That Native Americans have endured genocide and African Americans have endured centuries of slavery has had a profound psychological impact in a more direct and malicious way, leading to generations of recovery. In addition, existence of these groups has largely been separate from their oppressors. Without the interplay that has always existed between men and women, a feeling of “us vs. them” is much more legitimate. There’s much less opportunity to address the racism in person on a regular basis, to dispel the myth of inferiority/superiority, and to find and embrace the acceptance that does exist from many of their “oppressors.” Also, the differences between races is almost certainly more superficial and baseless than differences between men and women, so counter-arguments have very little if any traction. I still think the same dynamics exist overall, but I think the issues in this sense have more weight. So as a white man, I would defer to experience a little with sexism, and a little more with racism, but I will not defer to vindictive reasoning borne out of personal weakness.

  124. “Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say.” Yet, somehow, you manage.

    Whites can’t help the color of their skin anymore than blacks can. They are born that way. Is it right to make them feel ashamed of who they are? By the way, I am neither white or black but Indian (“dot, not feather” to clarify). Once, my daughter’s teacher told she was “safe” because she was Indian. The same teacher told the white children they were evil and racist. This black/white racism gets really old. How can we evolve when we continue to point fingers and make people feel ashamed of who they are?

    • Madeline says:

      At no point in this article does anybody, in any way, attempt to make whites feel bad for being white. That is your perception, and perhaps you should examine why that is your reaction, and acknowledge how counterproductive that is. Oh and by the way, I am white. Not that you should need to hear this from a white person.

  125. huh. I’m going to assume you had his permission to publish this letter about race that specifically states he didn’t want to publish anything about race..

    I have a few other things to say. But it’s 8 am. So give me a few hours.

    • Never mind. Clearly I totally missed who published this article… 8am. I will absolutely contribute something of value in a few hours.

  126. Yes, I would love to read what Steve has to say about art. Please ask him to write about that!

  127. So unfair and tiresome that people of color are constantly subjected to hurtful ignorance. They shouldn’t have to stand up and fight every time a white person says something stupid. White people – time to stand up and fight it and educate ourselves and our children and stop acting like racism is “over” – it is not over because we *feel* like it is over.

  128. Professor Locke, I saved your list of good books to read about black history. Not a single one of these authors — not even W.E.B. DuBois — is listed in the e-Book online site of our public library. Also, now that I come to realize this — if there are any librarians other than white ones in the library building itself, they are not very visible. I generally scope out a workplace or place where I go or trade, and I would have been aware of the any racial or ethnic minorities working as librarians in our public library. I do realize that the black population of Portland, Oregon, is extremely small, but there are plenty of our darker toned brothers and sisters around — lots of black folks in the apartment building where I live, for example.

Trackbacks

  1. […] asked Steve Locke to write on race and he refused. He had the courtesy of telling us, “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race.” So we printed his […]

  2. […] Why I don't want to talk about race Black people can’t talk to white people about race anymore. There’s really nothing left to say. There are libraries full of books, interviews, essays, lectures, and symposia. If people want to learn about their own country and its history, it is not incumbent on black people to talk to them about it. It is not our responsibility to educate them about it. Plus whenever white people want to talk about race, they never want to talk about themselves. There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them.  (tags: race usa) […]

  3. […] As a policy, I don’t usually talk about race.  It’s too difficult.  But as I said, Tom is my friend and because he asked me to, I figured I would tell him, in an unvarnished way, why I don’t want to talk about race. […]

  4. […] process is explained well in a reply by Tom’s friend Steve Locke when he points out: When you went to Africa, you said “you were the […]

  5. […] 5.  Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race […]

  6. […] apparently, there are quite a few people who “don’t want to talk about race”, nor about socioeconomic disparity when it comes to educational […]

  7. […] along with his, but Steve declined. Steve’s email explaining to Tom his reasons why was titled “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race.” It was so eloquent, honest and heartfelt that we asked if we could run his email. To that, Steve […]

  8. […] “There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them. As James Baldwin said, ‘As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.’” – Steve Locke, “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” […]

  9. […] Steve Locke wrote an incredibly on-point and heartfelt piece for The Good Men Project about why he was tired of talking about race. Locke, a talented artist […]

  10. Blog says:

    […] Steve Locke wrote an incredibly on-point and heartfelt piece for The Good Men Project about why he was tired of talking about race.  Locke, a […]

  11. […] 1. “Why I Don’t Want to Talk about Race.” The Good Men Project Blog […]

  12. […] Steve Locke wrote an incredibly on-point and heartfelt piece for The Good Men Project about why he was tired of talking about race. Locke, a talented artist and […]

  13. […] Steve Locke wrote an incredibly on-point and heartfelt piece for The Good Men Project about why he was tired of talking about race. Locke, a talented artist and […]

  14. […] friend Stephen Locke, an African-American artist, wrote a compelling piece about why he doesn’t want to talk about race. That’s his right. He’s been on the receiving end of racism all his life. But I do want to talk […]

  15. […] Steve Locke wrote an incredibly on-point and heartfelt piece for The Good Men Project about why he was tired of talking about race. Locke, a talented artist and […]

  16. […] Steve Locke wrote an incredibly on-point and heartfelt piece for The Good Men Project about why he was tired of talking about race. Locke, a talented artist and […]

  17. […] people, is what Tom’s friend Steve Locke explained months ago on the GMP in his letter, “WhyIDon’tWanttoTalkAboutRace.” Locke says to his friend, in essence, Tom, we’re friends, but […]

  18. […] For fourteen years, I don’t think Steven and I once talked about race. There were more important things to discuss: my family, his art, how we each were doing. And then I asked him to write something for GMP about race and he replied with his now well-known letter back to me that he allowed us to turn into a post, “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race.” […]

  19. […] “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” by Steve Locke […]

  20. […] “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” by Steve Locke […]

  21. […] discussion” and “social movement” bullshit of the blame whitey niggers and cunts. Oh look, one of their own “blame whitey” writers already talks about “having a nat… (The nigger even cites Ward Churchill—-Ward-fucking-Churchill—-as a reputable […]

  22. […] davon schreibt, dass sie keine Lust mehr hat, für Selbstverständlichkeiten zu applaudieren; oder Steve, der in einem Gastbeitrag für das goodmenproject erklärt, warum er aus der Position eines […]

  23. […] NOTE: Steve Locke is a one of our favorite contributors, his post “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” has gotten hundreds of thousands of pageviews. But his real passion is painting, he is as […]

  24. […] –Steve Locke, “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” […]

  25. […] Tom Matlack asked his friend Steve Locke to write for us about race. He declined. Here's why.  […]

  26. […] Tom Matlack asked his friend Steve Locke to write for us about race. He declined. Here’s why. Show original Rate this:Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestTumblrGoogle […]

  27. […] “There needs to be discussion among people who think of themselves as white. They need to unpack that language, that history, that social position and see what it really offers them, and what it takes away from them. As James Baldwin said, ‘As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.’” – Steve Locke, “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” […]

  28. […] Why I don’t Want to Talk about Race @ Good Men Project […]

  29. […] about the most difficult parts of manhood—like race, rape, addiction, parenting, porn, divorce, depression, guns, prison, war and suicide—have a way […]

  30. […] It is not up to black people to fix racism, just as it is not up to women to fix sexism. We cannot expect black people to be the only ones talking about race or the only ones doing the educating. We want them to be spokespeople for their race and explain to us how and why racism still exists. The problem is that they have been doing this for years already and nothing has changed. The ball is in our hands now. History has taught us plenty about prejudice and discrimination (whether or not we actually listened and learned is another story). We cannot expect the feminist movement to be successful without the participation of men. There needs to be some sense of accountability among people of privilege in order for us to make any sort of progress. And I say all of this as a person of privilege. I don’t need to apologize for being white or for being thin – but I do need to recognize my privilege and think critically about what it means for people who have different experiences. […]

  31. […] Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race by Steve Locke […]

  32. […] Locke, Why I Dont Want To Talk About Race (via […]

  33. […] ‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’ […]

  34. […] speaking as a straight, ostensibly white male it is important for me to at least try and account for some of the blind spots in this […]

  35. […] 11, 2011, The Good Man Project ran a letter by Steve Locke to GMP founder Tom Matlack titled “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race.” The post quickly went viral, gathering well over a quarter of a million pageviews. It continues to […]

  36. […] Locke – “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” (via […]

  37. […] My Frustration WIth Talking About Race […]

  38. […] Tom Matlack asked his friend Steve Locke to write for us about race. He declined. Here's why.  […]

  39. […] ‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’ […]

  40. […] Yoga is a Textbook Example of Cultural Appropriation“. Coincidentally, the open letter “Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race” also showed up in my news feed last week. Reading these two pieces in close proximity really […]

  41. […] your friend, Tom, I empathized with your passion regarding  race I felt need to respond to your “Why I don’t want to Talk about Race” with my counter statement of “Why I Must Talk about Race.”  You see Steve I am a white man, […]

  42. […] ‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’ (Steve Locke, The Good Men Project) […]

  43. […] Being of Chinese descent in Britain is exciting in many ways – but sometimes white people can’t seem to get enough of enforcing their race privilege. A couple of years ago this report was written by a group of academic researchers about the racism ‘Chinese’ people face in Britain – there’s a handy 1-page summary on page 10.  Speaking of white privilege, there is an EXCELLENT and mind-blowing article about it online, called ‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’. […]

  44. […] just because you haven’t experienced them doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You understand why members of oppressed groups are pissed and tired about these issues and having to teach people like you over and over again that they are […]

  45. […] ‘Why I Don’t Want to Talk About Race’ […]

  46. […] is their relatively small size.  So, just by sheer numbers, they cannot challenge inequality alone.  Allies are crucial.  But, this need is not merely a matter of numbers.  Allies, by virtue of […]

  47. […] Tom Matlack asked his friend Steve Locke to write for us about race. He declined. Here's why.  […]

  48. […] is reserved for people of color, silencing, and tone policing; which is why many people of color shut down and refuse to engage any further, because we feel as if our voices are being stifled, we aren’t truly being heard, the […]

  49. […] not get much done in the work of saving our species from extinction. Voices like James Baldwin and Steve Locke are not saying, “stop oppressing me, person of privilege,” they are saying, “Stop […]

  50. […] is their relatively small size.  So, just by sheer numbers, they cannot challenge inequality alone.  Allies are crucial.  But, this need is not merely a matter of numbers.  Allies, by virtue of […]

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