Thursday, July 31, 2008

May I be offended on your behalf?

All of us who suffer inequalities related to race hope that one day the mainstream will "get it." We want them to get institutional bias. We want them to get the nuances between funny and offensive. We want them to get their own privilege. We want them to get our cultural differences, while also getting that we are individuals apart from cultural markers.We want them to understand these things, but there is a fine line between developing an awareness of bias and arrogantly believing that you are so enlightened that you "get" all there is to know about being a person of color. If I am honest, I want white people to "get it," but I don't want them thinking they "get it" better than me--a black woman who actually lives with race bias.

A little over a year ago, I was discussing with a white woman a portrait of a famous black figure, painted by a black artist. Now, this woman is a vocal progressive who views herself as a champion of equality. She sniffed at the image, which I was quite fond of. She said she found the artist's portrayal stereotypical, that the subject's features were exaggerated and--this is the part that really got me--that any black person who saw it would be offended. Except that I am a black person and saw nothing offensive. I bristled at the woman's privileged arrogance--that she would presume to lecture me on what black people think.

I was even more annoyed recently when, on "The View," Elizabeth Hasselbeck started blubbering over the "N word" as two black women looked on in consternation. I thought: "How dare you co-opt the pain of black people. How dare you make this issue about your feelings and not those of the people who have been demeaned by racism. How dare you attempt to "school" two people of color on the perils of racism."

But am I being fair? As white people learn to recognize racial prejudice, don't we want them to call out these injustices when they see them? I mean, that's the point, right? And what about me? As a black woman who understands how race affects my people, what latitude do I have to speak on what is or isn't offensive to Japanese or Native American or Puerto Rican people?

Late last year, when I was writing more pop culture/race stuff, I was tempted to write a post about the Korean American comedian Bobby Lee, who is a cast member on Fox's "MADTV." I have long found Lee's shtick on the show offensive. The way he consistently plays female characters...the running gag that has him pining for his white, female co-stars (never the lone black woman) who treat him with disgust...it seems like the actor is participating in the typical Western emasculation of Asian males (All this aside from his cavalcade of other stereotypical Asian characters). I never wrote that post, though.

See, I don't know how Lee is received in the Korean or larger Asian community. I may be missing some cultural nuance that makes the comedian's work satirical or brave or something. I mean, as much as I am not a fan of Tyler Perry's "Madea" plays and films, it bothers me that white film critics review Perry's work through the lens of majority culture, not understanding the cultural touches that attract so many African Americans to the work. I may agree with the critics that, say, "Madea Goes to Jail," is an abysmal film, but they get the cultural reasons why it is crap all wrong. And that offends me as much as Perry's poor portrayals of black women. With this in mind, I don't even know if I am right to be offended by Bobby Lee.

There is also maybe a less rational reason I have avoided pontificating too much on offenses against other people of color. I recall a middle-aged white guy, who in an attempt to make conversation with me, brought up how he hates that "the black movies" always portray African Americans as loud and ghetto...and fat. WTF? Actually, once he went on to name some recent movies of the time ("Norbit" and some other stuff), I sort of understood and agreed with his point, but coming from this guy (Who, by the way, isn't known for his racial tact.), the message felt icky. (Never mind that this conversation had fuck all to do with anything. It was one of those "Hey, you're a black person. Let me search for something 'black' to talk about" things.) I felt instinctively on some level that I, as a black person, have the right to critique these things, but his criticism made me want to defend...my people...black actors...something.

It's complicated, no?

I recall every time a non-black editor has changed my use of "black" to African American, "because 'black' is offensive"...I recall every time I have been challenged, overruled and lectured about the feelings of my own community in particular and people of color in general...and I don't want to be the person who does that. About the Bobby Lee post: In the end, I decided that I don't have enough information to dissect Asian stereotypes in popular culture, and I certainly have no right to discuss how a Korean man's acting choices affect his cultural community. I left the topic alone.

It's just too easy to move from being aware to being offensively presumptuous. And, I have to say, as someone who runs in liberal circles, progressives do offensively presumptuous like no one else. There has been a rash of the problem of late. In discussions of sexism vs. racism, the Michelle Obama lynching illustration on Daily Kos and the scandalous New Yorker cover, a lot of progressives have been eager to explain to black people why they should or should not be offended about a thing. My most jaw-clinching encounters have been with white liberals who have done anti-racist work or academic work on a group of non-white people. (African studies, Asian studies, Native American studies, etc.) Sometimes I want to shake these folks--allies who generally mean well--and explain that studying a people, visiting message boards or really admiring a cultural group, isn't the same as being a member of that group.

I guess what we all want is that allies will be sensitive and intolerant of race bias, but that they will keep their privilege in check and remember that the voices of the marginalized should be the loudest ones. The victims of an "ism" must take the lead.

Am I right? Or, can I be offended on someone else's behalf?

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a classic one. I am not holding out much hope at all that most people will really "get" anything. Men don't get sexism, and liberal men are the absolute worst at taking away my anger over sexist incidents.

Black men don't get sexism, black people don't get Asian Americans, and on it goes. Hey dogs don't get cats, but cats DO get dogs for some reason. :-)

The basic is this: the person who is the minority or is the maginalized is the expert on her or his life, period. If a black person says it's racist, it IS racist. Period end of it. Simple.

Since men get sexism and its intsitutional forms wrong 93.7% of the time, I think it is getting to the point of pure laziness on their part.

It's why white men always complain about political correctness -- they hate being silenced and think they have the right to degrade everyone but themselves. "Hey can't you take a joke!"

Black men degrade black women. 2 points for Obama for getting down on ludicris-- guess he's still trying to get Hillary supporter's votes--cynical me speaking here.

So when we honor the people speaking for their own lives, and when the Hasselback's of the world stop lecturing right IN FRONT of black women, well, that will be progress.

Each group has its own understanding of itself. Being of the more exotic species known as radical lesbian feminist punch men in the face Amazonian heritage, I think men and straight people are clueless 97.6% of the time. But they try to make me invisible and pretend I don't exist, and thus rarely say anything to my face at all about me and my group.

This will never change. Change will happen when the majority listens to the minority tell its story, and the correct answer is:
"Yes, it is racist because you said is was!" Then there will be a discussion of what amends need to be made. "I'm sorry" just doesn't cut it for me anymore!

heartsandflowers said...

I would have liked to read your post on Bobby Lee. The difference with others making comments and speaking for poc is they assume they know what they're talking about and that they know better. If you're offering your opinion why you think something's offensive and allow for comments and feedback that isn't the same thing. You've built a certain reputation for yourself and are still willing to analyze your motivations so I personally think it's ok. We have a 6 Flags commercial that airs in CA with an Asian actor that I find offensive. I'm not sure if it's trying to be send up of over the top Japanese game shows or if it's stereotypical. I know that if it had been substituted with a Black male I would have it too reminiscent of Stepin Fetchit. I don't see that many discussions of these issues amongst poc as we've been fragmented too often.. Brownfemipower does some writing though. I think we should be able to delve a little deeper.

Donna said...

I also think you would have done a great post on Bobby Lee, because you would have had that respect to defer to any Korean reader who had a different perspective and not insist that you are right.

I am not black, but I have on occasion objected to something that I viewed as racist against blacks even if done by a black actor/comic, but I think it has to do with the way it is handled. If it's on my blog I will ask for any black readers to speak up and tell me if I am missing something. I think you would do the same with your critique.

And sometimes there isn't a "right" answer. That's a big problem there for our white allies, they want a straight out rule book of what they can and can not do, what they can and can not say, but we aren't all interchangeable. We don't all agree with each other. It is complicated and nuanced, just like all people are complicated and nuanced.

whatsername said...

I dunno... I'm a white woman and I was totally offended by that performance on the View. It was stupid not because she was making an argument against the use of the N word but because she wasn't fucking listening to the black women sitting there with her trying to share their experiences, which are far more personal and valid than hers, with the word.

Yah it's a fine line to walk, but, I do think it's all in the execution of it.

Anonymous said...

Very good reporting on this "not getting" it phenomenon, and also the problem with liberals who "think" they know about ________ (fill in the group).

I don't know if there is a solution, and I personally don't think the mainstream really wants to get out of its comfort zone.

Kind of like religious people are worse than those not contaminated by churches...

Sharon Cullars said...

Speaking of the stereotypical Asian guy from the Six Flags commercial, I did blog about it and quoted Angry Asian Guy's blog. So I took it upon myself to be offended on another race's behalf, but I made sure not to totally co-opt the matter. I didn't tell Asians how they should feel; I simply commiserated, as I would hope other races would commiserate without co-opting when confronted with negative black stereotypes.

Unfortunately, when only speaking up for one's own, it's usally a "preaching to the choir" moment. I want to reach outside those boundaries.

AZ said...

The mainstream may not want to go out of its comfort zone, but plenty of us individuals do.

It seems to me that there are a couple issues being conflated here. There is the question of whether a person can be offended on behalf of a person who is different from them, and the question of whether it is offensive for people to act like they understand the plight of people in a different minority group. From my perspective, the answer is yes to both questions. I am completely offended by the media's treatment of Michelle Obama. It doesn't matter what color I am, I can recognize unfairness (or worse) when I see it.

On the other hand, I don't pretend to understand what it means to be black. Paying attention to the evolution of Barack as candidate and the discussion of race that it has created has only made me understand more and more how LITTLE I understand what it means to be black. But at the same time, that same discussion is giving me insights I've never had before (for that alone, thank you, Obamas!)

I am a woman, and don't think a man can ever understand what it means to be a woman in this world... but I also can never fully understand what it means to be a man. Understanding that, I can only believe that the way to pave the way to greater understanding is through patient and fair-minded communication -- between the sexes, between the races, between straights and gays, between any groups that can't inherently understand each other without a little effort. But at the same time, we must understand that not everybody is articulate, not everybody is sensitive to all aspects of these issues, and hell not everybody has even thought about this stuff before. So in the spirit of valuing the conversation more than moments within the conversation, I propose we all try to reserve a small well of forgiveness in us for just these occasions. Education is the key to evolution of thought, and it is much harder to educate people when you are pointing out the barriers between you. So give the offending person the benefit of the doubt, address the comment/attitude if necessary, and move on with the conversation. We will all benefit in the long run.

AZ said...

The mainstream may not want to go out of its comfort zone, but plenty of us individuals do.

It seems to me that there are a couple issues being conflated here. There is the question of whether a person can be offended on behalf of a person who is different from them, and the question of whether it is offensive for people to act like they understand the plight of people in a different minority group. From my perspective, the answer is yes to both questions. I am completely offended by the media's treatment of Michelle Obama. It doesn't matter what color I am, I can recognize unfairness (or worse) when I see it.

On the other hand, I don't pretend to understand what it means to be black. Paying attention to the evolution of Barack as candidate and the discussion of race that it has created has only made me understand more and more how LITTLE I understand what it means to be black. But at the same time, that same discussion is giving me insights I've never had before (for that alone, thank you, Obamas!)

I am a woman, and don't think a man can ever understand what it means to be a woman in this world... but I also can never fully understand what it means to be a man. Understanding that, I can only believe that the way to pave the way to greater understanding is through patient and fair-minded communication -- between the sexes, between the races, between straights and gays, between any groups that can't inherently understand each other without a little effort. But at the same time, we must understand that not everybody is articulate, not everybody is sensitive to all aspects of these issues, and hell not everybody has even thought about this stuff before. So in the spirit of valuing the conversation more than moments within the conversation, I propose we all try to reserve a small well of forgiveness in us for just these occasions [note that I say a small well- sometimes people really are just too offensive to forgive]. Education is the key to evolution of thought, and it is much harder to educate people when you are pointing out the barriers between you. So give the offending person the benefit of the doubt, address the comment/attitude if necessary, and move on with the conversation. We will all benefit in the long run.

Evan Carden said...

Two things. One is a guy, a full, tenured, extremely white professor, who is under the impression that he's a minority, because...he married an asian woman and he once taught at a historically black college. He actually tells people that they 'confered blackness' on him. Something I think has to be the epitome of someone not getting the joke.

Second, in my very limitted experience, as a white guy, the best thing you can do about sexism or racism is try to get someone to put it in writing. You just call them on it and you're 'oversensitive' or 'don't get the joke,' or whatever.

Brief true story. A couple of years ago, there was a case of fairly blatant sexism in hiring at a university I was attending. We're talking a difference in paygrade of about ten grand for two people with exactly the same qualifications. The woman sued and won. For some reason (mostly as I understand it, due to the department head wanting to move over to university administration) the department decided to help the administrators who'd screwed her. He decided to edge her out, cancel her classes, claim there was no interest, nasty academic politics.

Anyway, seeing as I was interested in her area and knew this story, I decided to do a directed study with her. I'd get a good class, she'd get some proof that students were interested.

Now universities basically never turn down directed study requests so long as the professor agrees, because they don't pay the prof for them. It's a good deal for them. So, after finishing the paperwork, I turned it in. They informed me that it wouldn't be possible. I did about sixteen (exageration, more like four) rounds of very polite, 'why not.'

Finally, at the point when I suggested getting someone outside the department involved, who could explain it to me, they gave it up. About half the people who'd been in her class last quarter did directed study with her that quarter. After that the head basically had to give it up.

In other words, I can help, but I don't know what that must have felt like. To be treated as less than...

I can imagine, but I can't know.

Brother OMi said...

I can't knock Hasselback about how she felt about the word. that's her opinion

I think she was more shocked that the black women on the show defended the use of the word.

While I agree that Hasselback was bugging on the emotional tip, at least it sparked conversation and thought.

if we all want to get rid of most of the ugly racial epithets, stereotypes, and depictions of people, we all have to chip in though.

Anonymous said...

I didn't see the Hasselbeck/View thing, and I have never seen Bobby Lee's schtick, but I hope you write that Bobby Lee article b/c like others on here have said, you *would* be respectful of the fact you aren't privy to every nuance of Korean culture.
I was like "wtF?!" after seeing "Lost in Translation" (and I'm not Asian, but black/white) and finally found online an article by an Asian anti-defamation org. that *totally* expressed everything I was feeling. So I think once in awhile, you know, your perceptions of racism in media can be similar even though you are from a different background.

One thing I thought was wierd, to add to this whole list? When Renee Zellwegger played the part of the mixed race women in "Cold Mountain". That made the cast of the film entirely white. In the book, the character is mixed race, which of course spins the tale in so many different and interesting ways and is more historically accurate about post-Civil War South too. I didn't even know this but a (white) friend enragedly tols me the whole deal, actually. (I'd mentioned I wanted to see the film.) Anyways, but Zellwegger played it. Then what happens? Halle Berry (a mixed race woman) wins best actress at the Oscars and NO ONE is *sobbing* harder than Zellwegger! They zoomed in on her face. Then I felt sort of like a jerk for being so irked at Zellwegger for taking that role and erasing every shred of blackness from that story. But I got over it, and am back to annoyance with that whole movie.

Jennifer said...

Tami,
This is really a tough one, although so many have already made points I would have--as heartsandflowers said, a post on Bobby Lee would be appreciated by your blog readers because we KNOW you, because we know you would welcome our feedback, and because we know that you would not shut out the voices of Asian American (and Korean American in particular) people who might disagree with you. But I also know, being a regular reader, that you would not be preaching to us--and you would not specifically be preaching to Korean Americans by telling them why they should be offended.

The preaching part--that seems to be a key difference. Because in the examples you give of your two white acquinatances, there seemed to be an element of telling rather than sharing/getting feedback.

It'd be so different if they were able to have a conversation WITH you where they acknowledged discomfort with some racial stereotyes that portrayed African Americans in a certain way and then asked for your opinion.

Of course, this is also difficult, because you don't necessarily want (nor should) be the "black" expert--but I do think that there are times when this happens naturally--these kinds of conversations, and even when they don't happen naturally, if people are honest I think that can go a long way (not that this excuses one's ignorance, but someone who is really trying gain a different perspective, I'll have a lot of patience with).

Finally, as a bonafide Asian American, I can say that by all means, please be offended by racist depictions of Asians! (I am now being tongue-in-cheek Tami!) Seriously, I think that we need more allies--and if you want to rip into Bobby Lee, I won't stand in your way (although I do also have to say that it's hard for Mr. Lee to be doing comedy as an Asian American man--there are a lot of stereotypes that he has to conform to--and Asian American men haven't made nearly any headway in terms of multifaceted charicterizations in mass media, so partly I think he's just trying to make a living. But I'm not saying this to excuse Bobby Lee's portrayals (I don't actually watch MAD TV, so mainly I am familiar with his work through the small bits he gets in films and reading about him in Asian American newspapers and blogs), I think if they seem offensive to you, they are more than likely offensive to many others (including Korean/Asian Americans).

Leticia said...

Hi - new here -- just followed the link from MichelleObamaWatch. What a great post!!!

Here's my take. Getting white people to recognize prejudice is absolutely key. (As is getting men to recognize sexism, one people of color to recognize offenses toward other poc, etc.) And not just to recognize it, but to call it out. Because I believe that racism, bias, bigotry of all kinds only stands a real chance of changing when people from the majority group call each other out. How many times have men heard from women some version of, "That's sexist!" and brushed it off, either overtly or with the patronizing condescension of the "enlightened" male. Imagine how much differently they would be forced to respond if they consistenly, sincerely, and convincingly be called out on sexist behavior by their fellow men.

So I think that it's good for people to be offended on other people's behalf. Just because a person is a particular race, doesn't mean they might sometimes miss -- or excuse -- some prejudiced behavior committed against their group. But -- and here's the key thing -- the trick is that just because you think you've "gotten" it, doesn't mean that you are right, and that you have the right to ignore input right in front of your face from people who actually are of that group. So you should share your opinions, but realize that you may be missing something, and we need to be willing to reconsider our position based on what those with more experience share with us.

Here's an example. I am a Latina woman, and my partner is a Black man. We had a discussion once on the N-word, in which I was stating my discomfort with the banning of the word altogether. In short, I was saying I don't think anyone should ever use it as a term of abuse, and I'm not particularly in favor of its casual use between friends (though I understand it), but I thought it was silly that every time we refer to someone using it abusively, we have to say "He/she called someone 'N-word'." There's just part of me that felt that completely banning the use of the word, even just to neutrally report what was said in a certain situation, was both a little bit Orwellian, and, moreover, risked camouflaging the real, hurtful impact of the word. My partner disagreed with me on the last point, and at one point he said something to the effect of, "It's hard for me to explain, but I just get even a physical reaction, just to hear a white person use the word, even neutrally. I flinch." His comments made me think, and I tried to think of an analogous situation for me. I finally came up with what I'll call the "c-word" (also known as what McCain lovingly calls his wife < /snark>). And I realized that I get a similar physical flinch when I hear people use that word, and I realize that in both cases, it's hard to hear the words, as completely neutral. The whole conversation made me rethink my position on the use of "n-word", which is now my only way of referring to it.

Anyway, the point of that whole little story was to say that yes, you should be able to be offended on someone's behalf, so long as you still realize that you're still doing it on someone else's behalf. You're not that person, and if someone starts to correct you, you have to be open to learn.

Now, having said all that, I will concede that, for me, at least, things are somewhat more trickier when the issue is white people being offended on someone else's behalf, just because so often they tend to spin off into Elisabeth Hasselbeck territory. Privilege matters. And guess what, little girl, in a room -- at a table!! -- with two Black women sitting 2 feet away from you, you're not the expert on what is offensive here. I saw the clip on YouTube, and I can't even describe the rage I felt at Hasslebeck actually bursting into tears over the conversation.

And, final comment, you are absolutely right that it is always the so-called "enlightened" white people whose "sensitivity" leads to the most jaw-clenching moments. As we are fond of saying in my house at such moments, Lord save us from the friends of the colored people...

Anonymous said...

This is a really thought-provoking post, and very interesting. These are often tricky situations. For example, I wonder: what is the right way to speak up if someone says something I think is racist, and I'm with a member of the potentially offended minority? I certainly don't think the latter person needs me to "defend" him or her, but if I don't say something, does it seem like I'm providing tacit approval, and therefore compounding the situation?

I know I'm not the expert in most of these types of cases, and that depending on the speaker and the context, the words may well sound different to someone else than they do to me. But how do I know how they're hearing them? Perhaps they have a different take on it, and perhaps they don't. I can't read anyone else's mind, but does that mean I should totally discount my own reaction? I don't mean this in a flip way at all--I genuinely wonder about this, and don't know the answers to these questions.

Adrienne said...

Tami, I'm confused about your comment regarding whites studying a non-white culture (African American studies, Asian studies, etc.). I would want to encourage everyone to pursue knowledge of other cultures in a formal education setting. I'm a white woman and I received a degree in Latin American Studies. I don't presume to know what it feels like to actually be a member of that culture, but I know a lot about their culture because I studied it formally.

I think people of all races could benefit from taking a proactive approach at learning about other's race and culture. I would not want to dissuade anyone from doing that no matter what their race.

Tami said...

Adrienne,

There is nothing wrong with someone of any race studying other cultures. I was simply commenting on a tendency I have seen of some academics feeling that studying a culture is similar to being a member of a culture. See Evan's comment about the prof who felt blackness had been conferred on him.

Thank goodness not everyone allows privilege to make them think this way.

Anonymous said...

"Two things. One is a guy, a full, tenured, extremely white professor, who is under the impression that he's a minority, because...he married an asian woman and he once taught at a historically black college. He actually tells people that they 'confered blackness' on him. Something I think has to be the epitome of someone not getting the joke. Second, in my very limitted experience, as a white guy..."

Evan, Let's take another apocryphal example of conferred blackness, this one about a Trinidadian professor of mixed-race (from a culture that's: Indian (South Asian) 40 percent, African 37.5 percent, Mixed 20.5 percent, Other 1.2 percent, and Unspecified 0.8 percent) and let's give him: middle-class parents (one a radio announcer, the other a telephone operator), an Indian last name and a mother whose last name is Portuguese, "black" hair, and an accent that sounds like an Americanized version of V.S. Naipaul's British Trinidadian English (as opposed to the recognizable "lilting" black Trinidadian English accent), and let's say he attended the same private secondary school as Naipaul.

In addition, let's say that in 1965 -- shortly after independence when the immigration quotas to U.S. are eased and State Department scholarships become available to the deserving middle-class, while at the same time a nasty power struggle ensues between the two largest ethnic groups, neither of which he belongs to -- he emigrates to the US becoming a 24-year old undergraduate at an Ohio college, followed by postgraduate studies in the Ivy League where he subsequently forges a career in the nascent Black Studies department.

Black Studies is a ghettoized academic department whose hiring practices seem particulary vulnerable to accusations of non-compliance with diversity regulations. Its constituency, predominantly white and affluent, is not paying Ivy League prices to study with a white Black Studies professor, so in a kind of reversal of Candadian multiculturalism, white faculty constitute a "visible minority" who "strain the absorptive capacity" of the system, thereby privileging non-white foreigners, who, although not "black" in their native lands, can come to America and thanks to hypodescent and the One-Drop Rule, reinvent themselves as historically and unambiguously "black" and marry an African American woman (from somewhere in Florida, let's say, like "Kiki" in "On Beauty."

Although not particularly athletic, having lived his first twenty-some-odd years in a cricket-playing country has prepared him for his labor of love: a full-scale political biography of a black baseball player born into segregated Georgia in 1919 (and lists Toni Morrison in the index).

Next up, his two-volume hagiography of a gay writer of Harlem Renaissance, notable for its disclaimer that unlike Alain Locke, Countee Cullen, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, Richard Bruce Nugent, and Carl Van Vechten, the author just could not find any evidence that his subject was gay.

Followed by a hideous identity-politics hatchet job on another major African American writer who didn't go along with that nice young man LeRoi Jone's black cultural nationalism which ended in 1974, born 1913 in the segregated South Central US, whose inability to complete a second novel is attributed to a supposed lack of connectedness to his own culture and race. That seems like white paternalism of a worse variety than Father Pfleger's own? Of all the possible interpretations, he has to go with the most racist one.

Leticia said...

Hi Tami, I'm back here again. I just saw this post on the NYTimes Olympics blog, "Rings": Spanish Ad Spurs Charges of Racism, which immediately put me in mind of this discussion on your blog.

To me this is an excellent example of what I was trying to say in my comment above. That is, just because a person is of a particular race, doesn't mean they might sometimes miss or excuse some racist/prejudiced behavior. This ad discussed in the NYT blog is a case in point.

In short, the Spanish basketball team did a print ad for one of their sponsors that consisted of a photo of the team in which all the members have their hands to their temples, holding their eyes in a "slant" position. As I read it, the NYT article suggests it might not be racist, basically, the argument goes, because "the Chinese aren't complaining".

I for one find the photo quite offensive. I can only imagine how the team might be posed if the reference were to African features, or Jewish, or any number of other groups. And my response to the image is independent of whether a spokesperson from China has objected to it.

Tami said...

Leticia,

I'm offended by that ad, too. And I think that is okay. I didn't mean to imply that it is wrong for us to recognize race bias directed at other people of color. It's just that I need to own my OWN feelings about the image and not transfer my feelings to Chinese people. I have never met anyone who is a better judge of the benefits and challenges of being a black, Asian, Latina or Native American person, than someone of that race. I have a right to my opinion about the Spanish team's ad, but I don't have a right to be the "expert." I think to do so would be paternalism at its worst.

DomaMama said...

Nice post. You're right: it's complicated because people within the same groups feel offended at different levels, so it's hard to even assume solidarity within a particular group.

As a multiracial person of Asian descent, I find that I sometimes disagree with what other Asians find offensive. A lot of this probably has to do with things like age and hometown/country. I grew up in small-town Hawaii, where people openly talk about race as a way of making connections but also divides. And the lines between group grudges there are drawn in history and passed on as stereotypes and assumptions that might not make as much sense on the mainland. So my sense of offense is quite different than that of an older Asian American who grew up in, say, lily-white Oregon.

At the end of the day, I guess, it's hard to speak for anyone else's experience in the world but your own.

Anonymous said...

It's not only white people who appropriate.

I get appropriating from black women bloggers. I've experienced black women telling me I'm racist because I don't respond to something that I don't think is racist just because they, black women, have told me I should. I'm Metis, (half-breed, aboriginal), Cree/Iroquois/Ojibway/Dene/French. Canadian.

I'm not American or black. Some black bloggers, without knowing anything about me, make Disney movie racial slurs about my 'great great Indian princess grandmother'. I have to kind of stand in awe watching them make racists of themselves.

People who are not white, are not all the same. And some of us get it in the neck from both white and black.

Hi Donna.

Pony

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