How Do We Talk Productively About Racism On Blogs?

Have I told you lately that I love it when you comment on the things I write?

I firmly believe blogging is a conversation, not a monologue. If I wanted no response, I could go talk to my reflection in my bathroom mirror. (If my reflection starts talking back, clearly, I have bigger issues!)

Anyway, my belief in conversation is the reason I try my best to respond to all comments on recent posts. Even if I disagree with you, I still value your thoughts -- unless you're spouting hateful or downright creepy things. That results in comment deletion, which rarely happens. And I love it when you interact with each other in the comments. I really do.

Why am I telling you this? This morning I pulled my BlackBerry out from underneath my pillow (I know, I have issues) and I read the latest comments on my post No, You Can't Touch My Hair.

A couple of days ago, an anonymous commenter said (in reference to the woman who wanted to touch my hair and then went on a racist rant when I said no):
"She may have mental health problems and bad issues? Who knows? Suppose this interaction made her relapse or slip into depression?

It is our calling and duty to educate the ignorant on matters of race and history, she probably was sent as a potential angel that was looking for direction and love- this was probably her only way of establishing connection and conversation? Supposing she had never spoken to a "black" person before and this is her only contact. Perhaps a lesson was missed, she could have been enlightened with love and understanding?

We all possess amazing powers of compassion, fairness, judgement and forgiveness."
Part of my reply back was :
"Mental health issues are always a possibility. I also wondered that. But as far as who slips into depression, not that I don't care about this woman but quite frankly, I'm more concerned at this point with my own mental health than hers. I'm also more concerned about the mental health impact on my children due to their having to hear someone talking about their mother like this.

..."My instincts told me that I didn't need to serve as an educational opportunity for her. I think we need to ask ourselves why is it that black people are expected to be the educators on issues of race."
Some of you also weighed in and disagreed with anonymous' comment:
"Boo effing hoo!! So it is Los Angelista's fault that because she didn't want to be treated like an animal this woman then gets depressed!! Are you serious!"
Such responses led "Anonymous" -- who is not 100% anonymous to me since this person has been reading my blog for many years and, after awhile, I know your "voice" -- to bravely reply, saying in part:
"Race is nearly always a very emotive issue, this is clear in the various peoples reactions. Firstly, I am trying not to judge anyone, secondly, why is everyone so highly strung? Silly question I know but are WE continually going to react in a the same way to these type of acts? Where is our evolution and development? How long has this been happening? Many, many years! matter what, we should always try to show compassion, (check the definition), if we cannot do this then we are not the people we claim to be or indeed want to be."

I am not here to educate people around racism, I am here maybe to show spiritual strength, love, forgiveness and understanding.

**You can go to the comments on the original post if you want to read more than just excerpts.
I found myself typing an incredibly long response, I hit publish, got an error message, and all my words went into a black hole. So I figured I'd start over and share some thoughts that Anonymous sparked, but also some additional things I've been thinking in the days since this happened.

I agree with Anonymous that racism brings out our emotions, and for good reason: It is the most vital and challenging issue facing the United States. Even though mainstream society does its best to deny that racism still exists, or that it exists for only a psycho fringe of society, it keeps bubbling to the surface. No, it's not the KKK riding through town, but racism is as damaging and insidious as it ever was. It causes emotional, physical and spiritual pain on all fronts and we're all suffering because of it, whether we acknowledge it or not.

When it comes to racism, I do have compassion because people are repeating learned behaviors. I believe black people's ability to be compassionate and forgive is an essential piece of racial healing, as is white folks' ability to drop the inherent sense of superiority and be loving. Both are essential components.

However, compassion, forgiveness and love does not, and never will, exclude the need for justice. More justice is undoubtedly needed when it comes to racism in America.

I keep thinking about what happened first on that afternoon, the incident with the old man who said I had "nice tits" (read the original post for context if you are confused).

If he'd instead said, "Nice tits. Can I touch them?" would it be wrong if I didn't care if he got depressed because I wouldn't let him touch my breasts?

Would it be wrong if I was outraged and upset about his actions?

Would anyone think I should perhaps let him touch my "nice tits" because maybe in all his long years on this earth he has never had the opportunity to touch a woman's breasts and maybe he's just curious?

And if I said no, he couldn't touch my "nice tits", suppose he then went and ranted to his child that I'm a bitch because I wouldn't let him. Would I be missing an opportunity if I didn't engage him and explain why his request to touch my "nice tits" is not OK?

Would it be alright if I felt afraid of what he might do to me, or of what I might do or say in response? Would it be OK if I wanted to leave in order to protect myself and my children from such a person?

Would it be alright if I said his words and actions were sexist?

Switch a man for a woman. Switch "nice tits" for "pretty hair".

I ask these questions not just of Anonymous -- I do trust and believe his comments come from a sincere place -- but of our culture as a whole. Am I perhaps a bit sarcastic in my tone? Probably. I try not to be because it's not productive, but I know my sarcasm comes from hurt. This incident with the woman will not be the last time someone tries to touch my hair, tries to violate my physical space out of what I believe is a racial sense of superiority. Racial superiority made her think she had the right to touch my hair, and the right to go on a racist rant about me to her child.

My "naming" what she did as racist and wrong doesn't mean I don't feel compassion for her -- well, moreso for her child-- and it doesn't mean I don't forgive her. In that instance, I did not have the capacity to think of anything else but getting away, protecting myself, protecting my children.

All of this leads me to wonder, how do we productively talk about racism on blogs? I wrote about what happened on this blog because there is pain, but no justice for me and I needed somewhere to put those feelings of hurt so that I can be a somewhat sane and functional parent for my children. I do know justice would not have been me slapping the mess out of her and holding her head underwater. For that reason alone, because I knew I was feeling that urge to do so, it was better for me to walk away. Maybe that is how I demonstrated spiritual strength in that situation.

I know the racial miasma that exists in our current society chips away at my psyche a little bit every day. At night when I say my prayers, and again at dawn when I do so again, I ask God to build my armor back up so I can deal with a world that wants me to believe I'm nothing but a black bitch of little value.

Being exposed to racism is being exposed to a poison. Am I to pretend that poison is not sickening me just because I'm exposed gradually and have built up a tolerance? I think not.

I need to feel I can share freely and honestly about what I observe in our society, what happens to me and my children, not just about doing fun stuff like going to the beach or Disneyland.

If I can't be honest about racism, I might as well shut this blog down. There's enough lying about the subject and pretending it doesn't exist as it is.

However, I want you all to be able to be honest, too. And it's fine if you respectfully disagree with me and each other. I say this because Anonymous also said:
"Why do we judge people in this way? Condemnation and scorn which can be quite virulent. For example you people do not even know me yet you are quick to condemn my opinions in a very robust and defensive way. Defending Liz like she needs defending. This makes me not want to post anymore opininions because the negative reactions scare me. I do not want to upset anyone, I was only joining in a global discussion on a very important issue. I do not have to conform to the status quo's opinion. I do not have to have a shared history or viewpoint or hold the same opinions. This makes me feel unsure about control and conformity and about honest, open, truthful discussion. I do not think like everyone else because I do not want to."
Sometimes I do need defending. I am not so strong that I don't sometimes need protection. I am not so invincible that my heart does not sometimes break. I am not so hard that I don't shed tears when I am hurt.

But, I don't want Anonymous or anybody else to feel that way. It's important to me that we remember that these conversations about the ills that plague our society are difficult even in a room where everyone has known each other for years, loves and respects each other and can read body language.

The Internet is fabulous in that it enables us strangers to discuss anything we desire. But it's imperfect in that we cannot read the sincerity of each others hearts. We cannot look into each others eyes and see our souls crying out for love and understanding. Again, how do we talk about racism on blogs given these constraints?

I don't think I have all the answers. I can only narcissistically share my imperfect thoughts with you. To Anonymous and everyone else, thank you for sharing with me. I hope you continue to do so.


Lisa..... said…
I missed that other blog and all of the comments but I can imagine how frustrating it would be to have people treat you like an object instead a person. Sort of. As a woman we are often treated like objects, but I am not black. I am white. So I can't fully relate to that. But I can listen (or read).

And I strongly feel that it is the WHITE community's as well as others responsibilty to step up and fix things. I think there are a lot of that white people have the race wasn't a problem until the black person came in the room mentality. And those people are the first to deny that it is an issue. But race is a huge problem that runs deep in our society. "No, it's not the KKK riding through town" <---what's worse in some ways is the hidden and behind closed doors racism.

Ok I rambled. I guess if nothing else we're having a conversation. And I work everyday to raise my kids to know that we are all apart of the human race. My faith as a Bahai gives me a lot of strength for this.
Remnants of U said…
I read the original post, and didn't know what to say.

I think the comparison to the weird old man's comment is on point.

I don't know if discussions about racism can always be civil on blogs or anywhere else. Sometimes emotions get too hot. But at least here you try, and that is a great thing.

Oh, and I laugh at BlackBerry under the pillow. Hmmm, that takes up less space than laptop on the bed. LOL
Karina in T.O said…
Let me make something very clear, from a European/Hispanic women's perspective. It is NOT up to black people to treat racist behaviour as a "learning moment" for the ignorant. It is NOT up to women to treat sexist behaviour as a "learning moment" for the men who sexualize us.

There is a little something that as ADULTS I expect adults to have: Civility, courtesy, the concept of do unto others as you'd like done to you. Unfortunately it seems, with learned behaviour some folks get lost along the way. If you've ever seen innocent little kids play they have a sense of almost not knowing different is...I don't know different. Small kids are colour blind - until racism rears it's ugly head.

I've got to agree with what Lisa said's up to the white folks and others to fix the issues.

I thank the lord my family are who they are, my Cuban daddy used to talk about how much he loved my Polish grandparents, and about how they treated him like just another member of the family....not like the brown skinned, Cuban kid with a think Spanish accent amongst the blond Poles in the family.
Liz Dwyer said…
Thanks for commenting. You weren't rambling at all. The links to the original post are in this post if you feel like going back and reading what happened in the first place. I really believe everybody has a role to play in racial healing. I think white people do have a special responsibility to step up and have the conversations with other white folks, conversations that black folks cannot. I've talked before on this blog how I've seen this with my father. It's much needed.

I don't know if I'd know what to say either if I read my post. I'd have to think about it.

Emotions do get hot online when talking about race but I think it's often because folks are too busy hitting everybody else over the head with their "right stick" instead of seeking to truly understand.

BTW, I have a few jokes about the hot, passionate nights I spend... with my BlackBerry. My laptop is jealous, thinks I'm cheating! ;)
April said…
I'm sorry to say that I would not be at all surprised if the scenario with the man and the tits comment had played out as you write here. Racism and sexist attitudes are still very much alive and well.
I have had a woman tell me (in an LA public school - on Multi-Cultural Night of all times) that she was having her child transferred from class because there were only 3 white people in it. I felt sorry for the kid. I felt sorry for her, having to grow up in such a rich cultural environment and yet be shielded from it by her own mother.
You're a better person than I am. I don't have it in me to be compassionate towards those that teach and promote prejudices. I want to vilify them.
I saw Anon's comment the first time around, but I have to say, I am always skeptical of anonymous comments that are so obviously controversial. I don't know whether they truly believe what they say, or if they only say it to get a response. So I choose not to engage.
Liz Dwyer said…
So sorry I skipped your comment while I was responding to the first two!

Civility and courtesy are so lacking in our culture. Yes, kids love and respect people of all colors, that is until we teach them not to.

I really think everybody has to do their part to fix things, not just white folks. But what white people need to do to bring about racial healing is both the easiest and hardest thing to do with the way our culture is. Giving up the sense of superiority and the privileges that come with that is very difficult.

Ugh, I am likewise not surprised you had someone tell you they wanted to move their child. I think once read that once POC numbers get past around 25 or 30%, white parents become uncomfortable about a school environment, which is really a shame.

My first instincts are not always compassion but I think I'm able to come back to it because of still being able to love my father's family despite prejudices that went on in previous generations. So I have some practice. You can't hate what's a part of you.

I don't get too many anonymous comments. I'm glad people are, for the most part, comfortable using their own names. But for these particular anonymous comments -- and gosh, I hope "Anonymous" doesn't totally hate me now because I put his thoughts so much in the spotlight -- they did help me reflect more deeply about what it is I believe or think, and, like I said, that commenter is not exactly anonymous to me. I think I somewhat know his perspective so I understand it, even if I disagree with some parts.
allison sara said…
You provide a space for people to talk and discuss a topic that many people would rather forget, and encourage Anon to be part of the conversation. You remind us that it's an emotional topic, and that you value the contributions of everyone who makes an effort. Thank you.
Lisa..... said…
I think the thing that white people need to do is STOP saying "I don't see color" all the while they whisper about the "increased minority population" in their schools. I think they need to see color because it is not invisible. And I think they need to learn to educate and call out their own (white)community. Instead they look the other way or try to explain it away when it is racism. I oce had a mom tell me that it's a fact that if you have more minorities in your school the API score goes down. "They" are messing it up for our kids. And unfortunately she said it to me because she thought i would relate. Because I am white. She would never say that to some one who isn't white. And that is that closed door racism. So it's my job to let her know that what she said is INNAPROPRIATE, that is not my opinion and yes, it's racist.
Nerd Girl said…
I suppose my problem with anon's comments is that s/he seems to feel as though you shouldn't have had issue with a woman who basically wanted to pet you. I understand his/her point that we need to rise above, etc., etc., however there is no need for you to subject yourself to unwanted physical contact to make someone else comfortable. What type of madness is that? I don't understand why the commenter feels as though you should have subjected yourself to unwanted petting simply to show that woman some compassion.

I am one black woman in this world. I have absolutely no desire to educate every ignoramus I encounter. I don't want to teach men not to be sexist. I don't want to teach racists not to be racist. I don't want to teach ageists not to discriminate based on age. Why should any one person bear the brunt of that?

If the woman who wanted to touch your hair was truly interested in black people's hair perhaps she should start at the library - read a book, scour the internet. Don't walk up to a stranger and say "can I touch your hair" and then get offended when the answer is no.

It is wonderful to suggest that people rise above it all, never become offended, take the high road and all that jazz, but the reality of it is that we are human, we have feelings, we are emotive - and there's nothing wrong with that. You didn't curse Touchy-feely out, you didn't roll your neck, you didn't start cracking on her mama or any of the rest of her relatives. She asked if she could touch your hair, you said no and she proceeded to show her tail. You came home and blogged about it. One of these actions is far more dignified than the other.

I appreciate the topics you broach here, hope that you will continue to do so and hope that anon realizes that disagreeing with his/her opinion is not a condemnation of that opinion.

Okay, I've blogged in your comments! Great dialogue. Thank you.
Mes Deux Cents said…
"..."She may have mental health problems and bad issues? Who knows? Suppose this interaction made her relapse or slip into depression?

It is our calling and duty to educate the ignorant on matters of race and history,.."

It's interesting how Black people are always expected to understand the White world and if we don't then we are cast as ignorant.

Yet Whites are to be indulged when they have no understanding of the Black world even when they have and have had the same opportunities to learn about us as we've had to learn about them.

Unfortunately I believe until Whites are compelled to truly examine race there won't be many real positive changes. And I think they will only be compelled when they see their majority status slipping away. Which isn't too far in the future.
I hope that you continue to blog away about race! I can remember one of the first posts I read of yours - it was about the mom of a little white girl acting suspicious of your son. This resonated so deeply with me - I cannot even tell you. I don't think I left a comment at the time - (I should have) - but it was so touching to read about another mom sharing these feelings that I often have as I watch my own son in the world.

As a white mom with a black son, I often feel like I've been snapped out of the "white privelege" of not noticing racism. However, living behing the Orange Curtain, I often feel very isolated in these observations, because where I live, people want to deny it or not talk about it. Reading blogs like yours, where you are talking about the things that I am experiencing, are SO refreshing.

There will always be random commenters that want to minimize or defend against racist concerns. It happens on my blog a lot, too. Some white people get defensive and want to live in denial, so they argue and rationalize everything that happens. But just think that for every anonymous comment, there may be 20 silent readers who are feeling just a little less alone because you are telling it like it is. I hope you don't stop.
Jameil said…
I don't know that there is a productive way to talk about racism on blogs b/c the internet is self-selective. We gravitate toward people we find most like ourselves and stay away from the rest particularly on matters like racism. I can't say I find myself ever wanting to read the blogs of racists. The one time I tried to have a reasoned commonsensical conversation with a conservative blogger I got an outrageous tirade about how liberals like me (and I consider myself a moderate anyway) are what's wrong with the world. I deleted the comment but I was shocked that we couldn't have a conversation but had to resort to essentially ranting at each other (though I refused to rant with someone who wanted only that). But that's why I try to steer clear of very controversial topics. Probably a cop out but I'd rather not deal with the headache b/c it's also usually the anonymous ones who come out of their faces. BTW I miss your comments on my blog. :(
nick said…
I think in general we should give our honest opinions on a post, and on racism, and not say what we think the blogger wants us to say, or what is polite and innocuous. And we should all think carefully about other people's comments and not just dismiss them out of hand as gormless nonsense. But racism is such a red-hot topic that's not always easy.
jstele said…
Just being honest and sharing your experience in a respectful way is enough to start the conversation. Anonymous was just feeling really defensive. People weren't out to attack him, but more interested in standing up for you. Mass opposition can be hard to take. So he needs to understand that. He was bending over backwards to understand that woman, but not you, so people tried to redress that imbalance.

You had a right to walk away, but it would have been nice to grill the woman, to get her to confront her own prejudices. Then, maybe she would have had some remorse for what she did. It's not your responsibility to educate, but perhaps seeing her acknowledge her own wrongdoing would have been gratifying for you.

This is how I imagine the scenario playing out.

"I am a black bitch because I won't let you touch my hair?

Crazy woman: I'm just curious about what it feels like. Why can't you understand that?

Liz: Am I a petting zoo?

Crazy woman: (Stunned silence)"
Anonymous said…
"Racial superiority made her think she had the right to touch my hair, and the right to go on a racist rant about me to her child."

I do not, for one second, dispute that many white people have feelings of racial superiority and privilege (some conscious some unconscious). However, I'd like to point out one additional element beyond this and even plain old rudeness.

I didn't think of it when I read the original post, but it struck me strongly when I read the above quoted passage: I've seen almost the exact same complaint from pregnant women! What's more, the complaints seem to be mostly about other women, not men, who want to touch a pregnant woman's stomach. Some don't even ask, acting like they have a right to do so.

It's not racial superiority and privilege in such cases. It's not a feeling of superiority by the non-pregnant over the pregnant. At worst, it's rude curiosity; at best, maybe it's a desire to seek connection?

Touching a pregnant woman's stomach is more intimate than touching hair, and arguably as intimate as touching breasts. Pregnant women encountering this get upset and have a right to get upset. You had a right to not want your hair touched and were justified in getting upset (and even moreso over the subsequent reaction!).

I can't judge how much of a role race played in that woman's action and how much was caused by some more general behavior - something other, similar actions like that experienced by pregnant women. If the latter is primary, though, should that change the response? If we are talking about a more general behavior, is there something that can be done about it generally?

If it is a very inappropriate way of trying to establish a connection with others (trying to be optimistic here), is there a way to harness the good part while discouraging the bad?

Just some questions that came to mind when I noticed the parallels...
Jaleh said…
Anonymous - I would agree with you about the initial exchange over the "can I touch your hair?" comment, but not the racist aftermath.

If someone asked a white pregnant woman if she could touch her belly and she said "no", I don't think you would hear that person ranting to her child about that "bitchy white woman," "that's what I get for trying to be nice to THOSE people," etc.

Do you see the difference?

I think the woman was probably totally surprised and embarrassed when her probably-not-well-thought-out hair overture was rebuffed and didn't know how to handle it, so the prejudice she doesn't even realize she has started spewing at that point. My guess is that she really didn't have a clue about what she had done or what she was doing.

If I had to guess further, I'd say she probably interpreted the perfectly understandable response she got as something to the effect of "you're not good enough to touch my hair." If I'm right, then the aftermath was her attempt to reaffirm her own worth to herself and her child at the horrible cost of someone else's - and eating away at the souls of a few children in the process.

This damages EVERYONE. It chips away at our souls, at who we were created to be with each other.
Daniel said…
Los Angelista,
All this around your experience made me laugh about something I had happen last trip into LA.
I’m at the Louisiana Fried Chicken place on Manchester (what’s a trip to LA without at least one visit there, lol). Walk in. There is an older woman (yes, black. What else?) standing there. She’s trying to scrap together enough money out of her purse to pay. I can’t help myself. So I offer to just get it for her. A little bit of chit-chat ensues. She says “Can I kiss you? I’ve never kissed a white man before” Sure, why not. She kisses me on the cheek. Everybody of course staring, lol. It was a great moment, for me. To “reach across”. Because my heart never fails to push me that way. Older gentleman (yeah, you already know it, black) shakes my hand, calls me “Sir”. I leave with my 3-piece (no fries, but 2 rolls, lol) and try to blink back the tears, standing there in the beautiful sunlight. Because I can’t believe we live this way.

Los Angelista, I’ll be real, real honest here. I know it’s a complete function of my white privilege. That I can even BE there and feel fairly safe. Most actually think I AM Police in some form (your Hubby ought to laugh about that), because I get referred to as “Officer” about 50% of the time. I, for one, understand the horrible, institutionalized forms of race separation that seemingly simple reference implies. That the attempt at reversing this exact situation won’t be the same by swapping color’s/location. I understand Los Angelista that the exact same situations in life don’t translate the same for me as they would for you.

But, you know, it takes a lot of years of living so close to it to even start to see it ...
Anonymous said…
"Do you see the difference?"

Oh, absolutely. I don't know how much of a common element might exist in the hair situation and the pregnant situation, but it doesn't exist *at all* when we get to the aftermath — that's all racism. I tried to note a separation between them, but did it poorly. I apologize if I gave any impression that I might be downplaying or ignoring that.

I just hadn't seen anyone point out the interesting parallel and wanted to bring it up - and say that I think it's more than just a "people are rude" parallel. I'm not even sure how strong it is, much less how large of a role it's playing. I suspect that it may be sparking the initial impetus to touch (I can't quite see that stemming directly from racism itself - I don't see the connection). Racism might give white people a sense of having a right to touch, which makes the encounter go down hill faster. At the same time, I have read pregnant women complain about others acting like they have a right to touch. Where does that come from?

I just can't relate.

"the aftermath was her attempt to reaffirm her own worth to herself and her child at the horrible cost of someone else's"

I don't doubt this for a second because we see the same sort of behavior in non-racial contexts. People build themselves up by putting others down — especially if they feel "down" because of something that the "others" have done, justified or not.
Heidi said…
I was an Institute for the Healing of Racism almost 15 years ago. There was one black(Joan) and one white(Joy) facilitator. Joan commented that when she hears white people say that they can never understand what being on the receiving end of racism is like she disagrees. She asks them to think of times they have been prejudged, mistreated and disrespected. That has stuck with me and made it a human challenge and not a "race issue". That our country is mired in an obsession with judging people according to skin color is beyond sad. We miss the gifts. We miss the opportunity to fully meet each other. How can this translate into a respectful discussion on the internet? I don't know. I just long for the day when someone's favorite color is of more interest to other people than their skin color. Then we are beginning to get to know each other. "Favorite color" is obviously a symbol for all sorts of things that make each of us the unique person we are. When we can, as Americans, think, as we pass another on the street, only of pleasantly greeting each other, meeting each other, seeing each other as rich, noble beings with varied tastes, opinions and gifts, then we are in a good place. Anything short of that is disrespect. Until then it is so important for us to know our limits. As a mother of 2 boys the same ages as yours, I understand the need to protect your children and find a safe place to calm down. So maybe on blogs we need to look at each other as one individual or another and seek information before offering suggestions. Maybe we need to encourage and support each other as human beings first and then later maybe tackle solutions. Racism is a strange and elusive beast. I know I haven't really offered anything new to this discussion, I just couldn't keep quiet.
Jaleh said…
I have no idea why people want to touch pregnant women's bellies or strangers' hair. When I was pregnant with my kids, I must have been sending out "touch me and you will lose your hand" vibes because no one tried it. (I can't remember any strangers ever going after my hair either, but I am white though my parents are from different cultures.)

I don't get the pregnant belly thing either, but I wonder if it has something with how children (especially girls), are raised when it comes to physical boundaries - tickling, "kiss creepy Uncle Stan goodbye", etc. Think of all the ways that children's sense of touch boundaries are undermined. In some cultures (like my father's), girls' cheeks are regularly pinched by men because they're just so darned cute. I remember literally hiding behind my mother at events so strangers wouldn't have access to my cheeks. My mother protected me, but I didn't feel I had the right to say "no" and have that "no" respected.

I doubt that these touching issues happen to grown men very often - it seems to be children and women who experience it, right?

(Sorry if we're veering too far from the OP here!)
Liz Dwyer said…
Thanks for saying so. I think everybody needs to have a voice -- as long as folks aren't calling names and insulting each other, I think it's really important for folks to have that voice. That said, sometimes I feel like our society is so focused on everyone having their say instead of really acknowledging the truth.

We all see color for sure. It's what actions and thoughts we have after we see it that make the difference between the positive and negative.

So true about schools and the API. Glad you are not just letting it slide under the rug.

Nerd Girl,
""She asked if she could touch your hair, you said no and she proceeded to show her tail. You came home and blogged about it. One of these actions is far more dignified than the other." -- ZOMG! SO true!

I do think Anonymous was coming from a good place, that turn the other cheek place. But turning the other cheek doesn't mean letting yourself be stomped on.

That future is already here in California -- and really worldwide if we just look at numbers. But the distribution of wealth and power is still so concentrated in the hands of a very few.

There is a great deal of indulgence, a great deal of not knowing how to navigate around people of color, which is funny because gosh, we're people, too!

Thanks for sharing. That sort of situation with the mom acting suspicious of my son has happened a couple of times in the past month. It's really hard to address. How many times can my son say that people shouldn't be afraid of him?

I'm sure your experiences with your son down behind the "Orange Curtain" are really something. What kind of support system do you have?

So true. I can't read blogs coming from certain perspectives because they give me a headache. I'm sure some folks feel the same when they come here! -- I need to come over and read your blog more than I do. I love it so much. I've been bad about reading blogs as of late.

A lot of wisdom in your comment. I don't want to just have people agree with me all the time because how boring is that! I think there's a lot of value in Anonymous' comments, even if I disagree with some of them.

Sometimes I feel like there has to be some sort of relationship already established for that sort of conversation to take place. Maybe it would've worked to try it though. I don't know.

I do think Anonymous meant well in offering his thoughts. I just think he has a different context since he lives outside the States.

Anonymous 6:42
I've thought about the pregnancy thing since I experienced that when I was pregnant and have heard lots of soon-to-be moms say that. But then the baby is born and you're not pregnant anymore, whereas my skin color and hair texture aren't going anywhere. At least I hope not!

"If someone asked a white pregnant woman if she could touch her belly and she said "no", I don't think you would hear that person ranting to her child about that "bitchy white woman," -- very well said. I do think that is fundamentally the difference.

I probably did embarrass her and I'd guess you're right in her acting on an impulse. Certainly had that sort of vibe.
Liz Dwyer said…
I think that's very sweet and gentlemanly of you to get her food and if you were feeling the moment and wanted to "reach across" (love that term) and let her kiss you, then I think that's a beautiful thing. The fact that you even know what a Louisiana Chicken is and that you're down on Manchester in the first place, as your authentic self, not as someone trying to front, that means something good. It does a lot to change perceptions of white men for folks who've had many more years of reasons to not trust white men.

I don't think such a sweet and classy lady would've cursed you and made racist statements about you if you hadn't agreed to let her kiss you. I'm trying to think if I've ever kissed a white man... hmm, other than my dad on the cheek, nope. I guess I'm gonna have to wait till I get old to ask a stranger if I can! :)

I think that belief that you have the right to touch others comes from folks not acknowledging the inherent nobility of others. If there's no respect for someone, it's going to go downhill very quickly.

You make me think of how even in situations like a racial healing workshop, those are some TOUGH conversations! Yes, encouragement and support is needed, not blanket assumptions or statements.

I don't mind you all talking about pregnant bellies at all! I think you're on to something with children/girls being raised with few physical boundaries, and that leading to the belly touching.
Anonymous said…
Liz, your response to my posting was class and I thank you for enlightening me somewhat. Sorry if I caused any contention, my views are sometimes inappropriate or way off the mark. I am a bit confused to my learning outcome but at least I enjoyed the discourse. It seems that my comments caused some kind of reaction that I did not quite understand or fully appreciate. I am not the stereotypical human being, I am probably an alien from another planet!
But then again your music choices aren't of this world, (for a black woman), get some Jay Z on!
Fasting, prayer and humility.
Anonymously yours.
Liz Dwyer said…
It's all good. After all, the great Dale Carnegie once said, "Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving."

No music will ever top Depeche Mode in my heart. I can do soul music like Maxwell but no Jay Z! Nooooo. No No No!
Maria said…
Forgive my quick response after not reading the entire post... work prevails and something made me want to chime in, and I too missed the other post.

On the hair touching - my biracial daughter has ringlets that defy gravity and people are awed by them - people of all races. Older women just go and touch - and as much as I am put off by strangers touching my child - it is in the most innocent of ways - curiousity, and amazement.

I see your hair the same way - it is amazingly beautiful - I'll admit I'd like to touch it but my Mom did teach my some courtesy and manners!

I want you to know that the most magnificent thing I've ever seen is Michealangelo's Pieta

When you see this it looks warm - and your mind knows it is marble - it is amazing - and people TOUCH it for that reason - that they can't believe it can be marble - they need to FEEL it to appreciate it more.

Maybe it's my being Italian, or a very tactile person - but I am guilty of touching my daughters hair all the time.

I'm not so sure her wanting to touch your hair was racism but possibly curiousity with a splash of jealousy.

The reaction after the fact - well, that is another blog...

As for discussing views on race - I have tried, and I have been jumped all over elsewhere, so I don't try anymore. That in itself is sad. There is something to be learned from everyone, and you can disagree without emotion if you try - and the subject is SO emotional that it takes great effort, and text editing. I hope you can create a forum for discussion where people feel safe to be open - it would be wonderful.
Maria said…
p.s - I took a moment to peruse a few comments and I wil be honest and say it saddens me to be lumped into the "white people" comments, and knowing the response of many to what I just said will be "good!" is one of the things that make "white people" uncomfortable about discussing things.

No one person is defined by their color, race, or nationality. As much as I repect the hate for white priveledge, I can only speak for myself when I say I can't be responsible for society and the past, but I can make efforts to change for the future, and for the betterment of society, my children - and yours.

I hope this comes accross in the way it was meant, and I will not be anonymous - I want to be honest.
Liz Dwyer said…
I think it's great that you touch your daughter's hair all the time. After all, you're her mom so what would be more natural than that! :) I guess I can respect curiosity about my hair, but sometimes curiosity can be borne out things that aren't exactly positive. And when combined with the great "isms" of our society (like racism or sexism) I find that controlling ones curious urges is of paramount importance.

I confess I didn't really understand your second comment. Despite the fact that there are ways of thinking that large groups of white people in this country have historically tended to adopt (Slavery & Jim Crow as a good thing, for example) no, not all white people think the same about everything.

That said, in this nation you don't hear many people of color saying they don't see color, because their color sure as heck gets seen.

So no, I don't necessarily think there's such thing as a white comment despite the fact that pretty much all white people, whether they agree with it or not, benefit in some way from white privilege.

The really funny thing is that Anonymous is not white, so take that for what it's worth. Thanks for sharing. :)
Maria said…
My second comment - about the Pieta? Of course you couldn't understand it because like an idiot I didn't finish my point (not enough coffee in the world) When you see the Pieta, (mary holding the body of Jesus) The marble that forms his foot is worn away by people wanting to touch it over and over - for many reasons, but I think some people, Italians in my family for sure are such tactile people they have to touch everything - and it's another sense - touch and it that culture that is showing respect or love of something - to touch. Of course - they now have it behind glass so people won't touch it... I don't know if that clears it up. The problem with the written word is you don't have the benefit of my memories and thoughts to clarify things.

As for Anonymous - again - what I typed didn't at all read as it should. (s)he could be purple for all I know but they are discussing an alternate view as I am - and I often wonder if I should remain anonymous if I am not agreeing with the masses.

More important I owe you a thank you. I discussed the hair touching topic with my husband last night and we learned a great deal more about each other, our families, and how to be parents to our children. He discussed his family (black) and how they were NOT affectionate, and my family - OVERLY affectionate - Italian, and a huge Irish family where everyone babysat everyones kids and we were a "village" growing up. My husband told me about the bus ride when he was 11 and a white girl on the bus rubbed his hair and told the rest of the girls to do the same because it felt "so cool". He told me how that made him feel - similar to your comments about the woman at the pool. After I explained to him that I may have done the same because in my touchy-feely family, and the way I grew up in my neighborhood - it wasn't uncommon for us to feel each others new clothes, hair cuts, etc. It was a sensory thing - a learning thing to "us" and as he explained - not in his family, or neighborhood. So for us, my husband and I - the difference of opinion is culture more than racism if you would allow me that - I did understand more about your run in with that nut-job at the pool after discussing it with him. (and the bitchy comment would have pushed me way over the edge after her being so rude)

Of course, I realised that there is a boy in my daughter's class who I adore - he's such a nice kid - I play games with them afterschool sometimes - and I owe his Dad (and maybe him)an apology - he got his head shaved and yes, I touched it along with 20 other kids. He thought it was funny - telling people to do it, his Dad came in while I was telling him how much his new haircut was like my husbands - and his Dad gave me quite a look. It wasn't until last night that I realised that I probably offended the Dad - and I certainly didn't want to be the equivalent of the school bus girl in my Husband's past.

SO - I learned. This Italian - tactile girl will keep her mitts off - and apologise to the Dad.

So thanks for allowing me to learn.

Sorry about the length..... :-)
Anonymous said…
Great post that I really needed to read today.

I have had difficult conversations about race on two of my blog posts this week. One wasn't even about race!

The other ended up spilling onto other posts.

After a lot of really emotionally draining arguments and being called a racist at the end of both conversations (I am a white woman and both commenters are white women, by the way), I was reeling. But, I couldn't help but think, hey, I can walk away from this. I can pretend racism isn't my problem and ignore it. I don't have to write about race on my blog.

I can only imagine how hard this is for someone of color. Someone who can't choose to ignore racism. Someone who is expected to a patient educator who always takes the high road and watches her "angry" tone.

So, then I signed on Facebook and saw that my little brother, chairman of the local Young Republicans club, thought this chart was oh so funny and accurate.

I didn't comment, yet. The chart was posted on a third party's page, one that I am not friends with. So, I am in limbo, thinking I have the valid option of "staying out of it."

And, I am feeling sorry for myself for walking around with arguments against it in my head, and my fingers itching to type them, and my heart heavy for the hatred in America and my stomach in knots because some of this hatred is coming from my own family.

But still, I can, to a certain extent, still be separate from the fray by choice. And all of this frustration and unease I am feeling, it is not anything compared to what people of color must be feeling in this culture of racism denialism.

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