I Can't Wait for my Teaching Evaluations October 3, 2011 2:50 PM   Subscribe

My professor asked the class which of us are racist.

I'm a graduate student in political science and I am a teaching assistant for the introduction undergrad methods class. We were discussing reactivity ("reactivity is a phenomenon that occurs when individuals alter their performance or behavior due to the awareness that they are being observed") and the Hawthorne Effect.

While I previously had not thought of myself as racist, after reading (many) discussions on Metafilter about how racism equals prejudice plus power, I realized that probably applies to me. Based on that definition of racism, which I think is a useful way to think about the concept, it probably applies to me. I would probably even be willing to entertain the notion that all white people are racist. Not to mention, discussions of privilege have largely left me convinced that, as a white male, I have some serious atoning to do.

So when the professor asked who was racist, I gave it a little thought, and then raised my hand. Since he has us teaching assistants sitting in the front row, I didn't realized anything was amiss until he said, "So I guess in a class of 90 people, only one of you is willing to admit he is racist."

I guess what I'm trying to say is, THANKS METAFILTER.
posted by andoatnp to MetaFilter-Related at 2:50 PM (147 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite

Metafilter: Thanks for pointing out I'm a racist
posted by TheBones at 2:56 PM on October 3, 2011 [30 favorites]


OWNED
posted by nathancaswell at 2:58 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


actually, that should be Metafilter: all white people are racist
posted by nathancaswell at 2:59 PM on October 3, 2011 [12 favorites]


I like to imagine everyone then booed you roundly and you ran home crying because I am a buttface.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:01 PM on October 3, 2011 [16 favorites]


I dunno sounds like you're the only honest one.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:03 PM on October 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have some serious atoning to do.

You can start by putting your hat on straight.
posted by jonmc at 3:03 PM on October 3, 2011 [11 favorites]


I hope everyone else is operating by that definition. You don't want to be known as that admitted racist guy.

as a white male, I have some serious atoning to do

I am not so convinced, I did not choose to be born a white male. I was forced into it against my will, I am as much a victim as anyone else. If I had a choice, I would have picked something much cooler.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:05 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


It says here on your profile that you're male as well, and you didn't cop to being a sexist? AGENT OF THE PATRIARCHY!
posted by Artw at 3:06 PM on October 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


How can you tell it's a mail plane?
posted by shakespeherian at 3:08 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


How can you tell it's a mail plane?

It's got a package on board.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:09 PM on October 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


Because it thinks everything is addressed to it?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:10 PM on October 3, 2011 [22 favorites]


How can you tell it's a mail plane?

it never asks for directions
posted by pyramid termite at 3:10 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have some serious atoning to do

If you shake the cartridge really hard, you can probably still use the old one for a while.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:10 PM on October 3, 2011 [27 favorites]


Good for you. I don't think I was able to start addressing my racism until I acknowledged it. It is a part of US culture to this day, and will be until we can all admit to it. And you are an even better person for thinking so carefully about what you read here that you became able to accept and internalize it.
posted by bearwife at 3:11 PM on October 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


Somebody print that comment of mine out and bind it and send it to the library of congress.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 3:11 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Non, nothing to be ashamed of. You looked within yourself. You judged your values against your knowledge. You made the honest call. It's actually something to be deeply proud of.

Without wishing to call out many many people here, I frequently feel a deep disjuncture between folk roundly condemning racism in threads about (eg) public figure saying something racist, and the same people offering tacit or even explicit support for someone who's done something interesting, but persistently characterized the people (of another race) they did it with or amongst as greedy, thieving, corrupt, oversexed, cannibals, etc etc.

We like to think we're not racist because we've got the platitudes down pat. But we don't like to look too closely at what makes a racist. Because that begins to include ourselves.

Well done.
posted by Ahab at 3:12 PM on October 3, 2011 [7 favorites]


> How can you tell it's a mail plane?

Because you can see its little balls!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 3:15 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I donno. You're expected to set an example as a professor, teaching assistant, etc. I donno if you should help society propagate it's useful myths or help deconstruct them. Ain't nearly so obvious as "Jeff shall not wear his 'Raptor Jesus went extinct for your sins' shirt when lecturing" though.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:23 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I realized that I harbored the spark of racism when I noticed that it never seemed odd that my black coworkers all live in different neighborhoods than me.

Then I found out about how my city is one of the most segregated in America and I kind of felt a little sick at my own inattentiveness.

I try harder now, but I accept that it's in me. I just work to not let it define me.
posted by quin at 3:25 PM on October 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


A pal likes to talk about being "embracist." The pillars of embracism are 1) you admit you have unpredictable bubbles of racist feeling, 2) you're willing to cut others a little slack when they stupidly show their own bubbles of racist feeling, 3) you call out obvious racism as shitty whenever you see it, and 4) you try to see the difference between a) laughing at race-related generalizations and b) believing those race-related generalizations to be always true.

There are probably other pillars as well, which will be pointed out to you by people of other races than your own.

Embracism can be complicated, but I like it.
posted by mediareport at 3:25 PM on October 3, 2011 [83 favorites]


Racism is likely a continuum and being born a white male seems rather innocent to me perhaps comparable to being a new-born German today.
posted by Shit Parade at 3:30 PM on October 3, 2011


Racism is likely a continuum and being born a white male seems rather innocent to me perhaps comparable to being a new-born German today.

My comment about being a white male was about the "privilege" that I've benefitted from, not racism.
posted by andoatnp at 3:33 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


The difference is that baby Germans today can most likely rest easy in the knowledge that the grim history of their grandparents is, for the most part, well behind them.

Being born as a white male today still means having a disproportionate amount of power, influence, and privilege, and understanding that if things remain status quo, this isn't likely to change.

Where racism comes in is accepting that fact and doing whatever possible to ensure it remains true.
posted by quin at 3:36 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's awesome opportunities for self-indulgent self-flagellation in the place of doing actual social good though.
posted by Artw at 3:40 PM on October 3, 2011 [12 favorites]


*Sits up a little straighter, puts hands in lap, affects calm expression*
posted by The Whelk at 3:41 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


So when the professor asked who was racist, I gave it a little thought, and then raised my hand. Since he has us teaching assistants sitting in the front row, I didn't realized anything was amiss until he said, "So I guess in a class of 90 people, only one of you is willing to admit he is racist."

Wait, the professor didn't even raise his hand? Always wait for the professor to admit to being racist first.
posted by 23skidoo at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2011 [16 favorites]


I hope you had the opportunity to explain what your particular definition of "racist" means.

I've already spoken about my views on racism and the "everybody is racist" schtick; I'm not going down that road again...
posted by 1000monkeys at 3:46 PM on October 3, 2011


No, it's just white people.

Notice the hidden racism in 23skidoo's assumption about the professor there.
posted by Artw at 3:47 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Racism is nice because it comes with a color coded detection system, but it is only a part of the much larger problem of class-ism.

Arguing that a white male born in a trailer to a meth-addicted single mother has power, influence, or privilege is a bit silly. White males stomp down our own just as hard as we stomp down everyone else.

To quote The Peacemaker "I don't care what bitch gave birth to them. I hate them because they are poor."
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:50 PM on October 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


Took guts to raise your hand under those circumstances.

I do think your professor might need to defend himself over whether he put the minorities in the the class in an even more awkward position than he did the whites by asking that question, and whether that was a racist thing to do, in and of itself.
posted by jamjam at 3:50 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


If I can't tell if a conversation is trying to be serious or not, does that mean I'm getting old? I used to be pretty good at it.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:51 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find that definition of racism to be uh, stupid, but hey—good for you and I mean that.
posted by fleacircus at 3:51 PM on October 3, 2011


I dunno sounds like you're the only honest one.

Not really. I don't think many people think they're racist even if they are. Everybody thinks their opinion towards THOSE PEOPLE is totally justified.

While I previously had not thought of myself as racist, after reading (many) discussions on Metafilter about how racism equals prejudice plus power, I realized that probably applies to me

I don't think that means you are racist...unless you personally have power and prejudice. I always understood the "prejudice and power" thing as indicative of systemic or institutional racism, which you might benefit from as a white person even if you don't personally hold racist views or attitudes. Benefiting from systemic racism is not really the same thing as being racist I don't think.
posted by Hoopo at 3:52 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's awesome opportunities for self-indulgent self-flagellation in the place of doing actual social good though.

I agree. Feeling bad or "atoning" doesn't solve problems, at least not if what you're atoning for are artifacts of your inheritance. If you've actually done fucked-up stuff, sure, atone away. You have responsibility for your unearned rank in an unequal structure and for hopefully correcting for it to the best of your ability, but white or male or straight or whatever guilt is an impediment, not a mark of enlightenment.

andoatnp, I'd be interested to know the diversity makeup of the class. Your formulation makes it sound like it is a class of 90 white men; is that true?

on preview: Hey, look, it's my old buddy "it's not race, it's class". Gosh, I've missed you. How are the kids?
posted by Errant at 3:53 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Well I'm racist too. If that makes you feel better. ;)
posted by seanyboy at 3:58 PM on October 3, 2011


I'm not racist and this really makes me not miss college.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:02 PM on October 3, 2011 [12 favorites]


I hope you had the opportunity to explain what your particular definition of "racist" means.

Nope, class moved on. He just wanted to throw out a quick question as an example of how people might not admit certain things when they are being watched, it wasn't part of a larger discussion.

Normally, us teaching assistants just sit quietly in the front of the class during the lecture periods, and while I probably could have launched into a digression about my different definition of racism, I'm not sure my professor would have been thrilled with the interruption, and I was too busy trying to think through what had just happened to think that it would have been a good time for a *teachable moment*.

I don't think that means you are racist...unless you personally have power and prejudice.

Well, I've engage in prejudice before in my life if that means "an assumption made about someone or something before having adequate knowledge to be able to do so with guaranteed accuracy". Actually, it just occurred to me that during our teacher training this summer, one of the presenters talked about how we all stereotype people and that it is better to be aware of this than try to pretend that we don't do it. He then went around the room and talked about the stereotypes that he might make about each of us if he was a student being taught by us. If I have power just by virtue of being a well educated affluent white male, then I have both of those things. On the other hand, I can't think of any times when I've combined my prejudice and power at the same time by taking some kind of action, and that distinction might be relevant.

andoatnp, I'd be interested to know the diversity makeup of the class. Your formulation makes it sound like it is a class of 90 white men; is that true?

Not at all, it's probably half women and a large number of minorities (maybe combining to be half the class, as well).
posted by andoatnp at 4:07 PM on October 3, 2011


Guilty of being white
posted by TheBones at 4:11 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know who else was a racist? That's right: Penelope Pitstop.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:17 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm not racist and this really makes me not miss college.

Heh, yeah. I remember my university banned Vice Magazine back in the 90s when it was still on newsprint because there was an ad for "serial killer" brand t-shirts that featured a model with a bit of bush showing wearing a t-shirt that said "serial killer" on it. Because apparently running the ad meant Vice encouraged murdering women. It should be mentioned that the story of my university banning Vice generated a huge amount of publicity nationwide for both Vice and the Serial Killer brand. Say what you will about Vice magazine, but that was some stupid bullshit right there.


Guilty of being white

Ah yes, Minor Threat's dirty little secret. I used to love Minor Threat so much, but always found that song so embarassing. Whatever though, bash them for it if you must but I Don't Wanna Hear It.
posted by Hoopo at 4:19 PM on October 3, 2011


Because you can see its little balls!

I can't believe Horselover Phattie is the only one who remembers that movie.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:33 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am not so convinced, I did not choose to be born a white male. I was forced into it against my will, I am as much a victim as anyone else. If I had a choice, I would have picked something much cooler.

Yeah, I doubt that.
posted by nooneyouknow at 4:33 PM on October 3, 2011


I can't believe Horselover Phattie is the only one who remembers that movie.

I know Three Amigos pretty much by heart but I didn't want to steal someone else's call-and-response joy.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:37 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Arguing that a white male born in a trailer to a meth-addicted single mother has power, influence, or privilege is a bit silly. White males stomp down our own just as hard as we stomp down everyone else."

This is a pretty pernicious bit of misreading — the white male born in a trailer to a meth-addicted single mother has power, influence and privilege relative (generally) to a white woman born in a trailer to a meth-addicted single mother, etc. Also, that they were born in a trailer to a meth-addicted single mother isn't necessarily determinant; it's a bit of classist assumption that you're making.

The problem with arguing that some white males aren't privileged because other white males are better off is that it still defines "white male" as normative, an example of privilege.

(I say all of this being someone who generally believes that class is more important than ethnicity, but I also am a poor white male who lives in a place where there is a visible successful minority population.)
posted by klangklangston at 4:38 PM on October 3, 2011 [10 favorites]


Cortex, the rest of us fired our guns in the air.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:39 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


So to speak.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:42 PM on October 3, 2011


"Aww man, I thought you were asking, 'Who's into Das Racist?'"
posted by klangklangston at 4:43 PM on October 3, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't know if I'd accept anything as clean-cut as racism = prejudice + power. It might be a useful framework for coming to terms with privilege, sure. I'm non-white so it's questionable whether I have power (to the extent whites do), but I still would've unquestionably raised my hand.
posted by naju at 4:43 PM on October 3, 2011


I'm not racist but I love to raise my hand.
posted by mullacc at 4:45 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


I accidentally a MetaTalk
posted by silby at 4:47 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


discussions of privilege have largely left me convinced that, as a white male, I have some serious atoning to do.

Let me guess, you immediately sold all you had and gave it to the poor.
posted by sgt.serenity at 4:49 PM on October 3, 2011 [6 favorites]


MetaTalk: I accidentally a MetaTalk
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:49 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I know that I've become more aware of my internal prejudices and try to not make snap judgments about people/things. It doesn't mean that I'm not making these judgements, but it does mean that I question them and try not to let them skew my thinking before I find out more information. Good for you andoatnp.
posted by arcticseal at 4:50 PM on October 3, 2011


I am seriously entertaining the idea that this post is brilliant satire. I mean, it's too pitch-perfect in its over-earnest revelation that, yes, I am a bad person for being a white man. Thank you, Metafilter, for showing me that I am a miserable sinner. I love that the user profile indicates "PhD in Political Science" - this conforms exactly to my impression of the state of humanities grad schools today, taking great pleasure in discussing how sexist and racist privileged white males are, just for being white males.
posted by Dasein at 5:06 PM on October 3, 2011 [17 favorites]


Nothing's more quintessentially Metafilter than a white man humbly congratulating himself for being enlightened enough to understand how oppressive he is, based on sexist/racist guilt by association and a silly formula like "racism equals prejudice plus power" (which is supposed to sound so meticulously insightful). I don't believe the post is intended as satire, but otherwise I completely agree with Dasein: it couldn't be a more brilliant satire if it were trying.
posted by John Cohen at 5:13 PM on October 3, 2011 [17 favorites]


Normally, us teaching assistants just sit quietly in the front of the class during the lecture periods, and while I probably could have launched into a digression about my different definition of racism, I'm not sure my professor would have been thrilled with the interruption, and I was too busy trying to think through what had just happened to think that it would have been a good time for a *teachable moment*.

Yeah, my hard-earned wisdom about being a teaching assistant is that it's best to act, in classes where you're a TA, like you're not even there.
posted by meese at 5:31 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


IMO that's a bit of a shallow question for a university professor to ask- at least if he/she expected a simple yes or no answer. There could be a great conversation around why people said yes or no, but it has less to do with "reactivity" than about what people understand the world "racist" to mean.

A better question would have been "Who masturbated last night?". Why? Because it's bad to be racist, but not bad to masturbate. Almost everyone masturbates, but it can be embarrassing to admit to a bunch of strangers that you jerked/whatever'd it last night.

It's too simply to conclude that your fellow students didn't raise their hand because they're dishonest. I'm sure that there is so much more going on in their minds besides "I don't want anyone to know that I"m racist, I'd better keep my hand down!!"
posted by beau jackson at 5:33 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I mean, it's too pitch-perfect in its over-earnest revelation that, yes, I am a bad person for being a white man.

Who died and made you King Smug?
posted by shakespeherian at 5:34 PM on October 3, 2011 [5 favorites]

Not to mention, discussions of privilege have largely left me convinced that, as a white male, I have some serious atoning to do.
They've left me convinced somebody is plotting to take my stuff.
posted by planet at 5:35 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


I masturbated last night.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:52 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Nothing's more quintessentially Metafilter than a white man humbly congratulating himself for being enlightened enough to understand how oppressive he is, based on sexist/racist guilt by association and a silly formula like "racism equals prejudice plus power"

I'd say mocking somebody who is earnestly trying to understand how he might accidentally benefit from entrenched systems if power, rather than engaging or contributing to the discudssion, is also the quintessence of MetaFilter, if there is such a thing. It's common enough.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 5:55 PM on October 3, 2011 [9 favorites]


If ever there was a real-world opportunity for the slow clap, this was it.
posted by odinsdream at 5:57 PM on October 3, 2011


Quintessence means fifth element.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:05 PM on October 3, 2011


The fifth element is white guilt.
posted by rocket88 at 6:09 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Are you saying that white guilt is love?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:11 PM on October 3, 2011


Why would Ma'ti have the white guilt ring
posted by silby at 6:13 PM on October 3, 2011


Plato didn't see color, man.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:13 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


So, when is MeFi going to reform the privileged, professional, racist white background?
posted by vidur at 6:21 PM on October 3, 2011


The racists were all in the other class.
posted by michaelh at 6:40 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


clever
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:41 PM on October 3, 2011


Keep away from me, Smith.
I’m an agent of Goldstein.
I didn’t know it myself.
Thoughtcrime is so insidious.
It just creeps up on you.
My daughter found it out.
Very proud of her.
Very grateful I’ve been discovered before it’s too late.
They won’t shoot me, will they, Smith?
I know I could be very useful in a labor camp.

posted by Brian B. at 6:50 PM on October 3, 2011


I masturbated last night.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:52 on October 4 [1 favorite +] [!]


Strictly speaking, you should have favourited this yourself.
posted by arcticseal at 6:52 PM on October 3, 2011 [8 favorites]


I love it when you speak strictly!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:53 PM on October 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I learned everyone's a little bit racist from Avenue Q.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:10 PM on October 3, 2011 [2 favorites]


In other news..WTF??? That's like robbing Santa, you asshole.
posted by jonmc at 7:16 PM on October 3, 2011


Yeah, Im a white liberal in a decent neighborhood, so obviously if have something someone of color doesn't, I'm the man, keepin a brother down.. The guy I buy my weed from is younger than the underwear I have on, and he he is black and has a nicer car than me. Piss off matey.
posted by timsteil at 7:53 PM on October 3, 2011


Yeah, Im a white liberal in a decent neighborhood, so obviously if have something someone of color doesn't, I'm the man, keepin a brother down

I am curious as to who in this thread said this about you. I don't see it being said at all.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 7:59 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Strictly speaking, you should have favourited this yourself.

I can't believe anyone favorited that.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:11 PM on October 3, 2011


Those would have been 'thank you for posting that gag so I didn't have to' favourites. Probably. Either that or you have admirers.
posted by motty at 8:34 PM on October 3, 2011




I also masturbated cjorgensen last night.
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:53 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


You broke Rule 34!
posted by Horselover Phattie at 8:56 PM on October 3, 2011


Refresh my memory...
posted by 1000monkeys at 8:56 PM on October 3, 2011


I am credentialed in lame jokes.
posted by arcticseal at 9:03 PM on October 3, 2011


You know who else was racist?
posted by mccarty.tim at 9:08 PM on October 3, 2011


ur mom
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:21 PM on October 3, 2011


Okay, I'll buy the definition of racist=prejudice + power. I'm assuming sexist, and other such terms pretty much have the prejudice + power definition.

But what term is appropriate for the Black Americans I know who have totally messed up opinions of East Asians, Whites, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Native Americas/First Nations, Latinos, other Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists , LGBTQI folks, or people who are defined as immigrants or foreigners, including Africans of all shades?

Does it make a difference that several of them, but not all, have enough funds to have attended a host of fine institutions of higher education where they ought to have learned better? Others did not, but regardless of how much power you have in any form, how hard can it be to make the connection that if you don't like it when that non-Black person called you the N word in public, that the non-Black woman who accidentally jostled you on the bus yesterday doesn't appreciate being called the C word? Or that guy over there doesn't like perfect strangers calling him the F word.

That said, I did just read read about the Cherokee Freedmen controversy, so I'm a little disappointed in minorty populations across the board right now. And don't get me started on the bake sale at UC Berkeley. We all seem to have an equal propensity to act like jerks, it seems, regardless of experience.

PS: *I will accept the term 'poopyheads' as a possible answer*....(.....and prepares to sigh that someone may find that term racist, because poop is often brown, though Black people aren't always black, and poopy heads come in all colors, shapes and sizes.)

I'm going to end my rant now and get a cookie. Thanks for sharing, andoatnp.
posted by anitanita at 9:36 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh gawd I hate teachable moments.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:52 PM on October 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're going to be marking the papers of students of color, it would probably be good to talk about this in your section meeting, or touch base with your prof about whether you should. If I were a student of color and my TA raised his hand for "are you racist?", and then class moved right along with no further comment, I would be raising an eyebrow and waiting for clarification.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:59 PM on October 3, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would probably even be willing to entertain the notion that all white people are racist.

I would suggest that you might also consider being willing to entertain the notion that this is sinister bullshit peddled by a particularly unpleasant type of self-hating, middle-class mentality that likes, quite mistakenly, to imagine that it represents a form of liberalism.
posted by Decani at 11:56 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


Congratulations. I'm also a white male who has learned (mostly via metafilter) that I definitely have some racism going on. I think, well, everyone does. I just try to stay conscious of it. Be polite and kind to every stranger you meet, is the best I've got. But out of a class of 90, you were the bravest and most honest.

So, you know, you're welcome.
posted by Navelgazer at 11:56 PM on October 3, 2011 [3 favorites]


WTF does this have thread have to do with metafilter?

Don't you understand?

This will lead to grad students doing lots and lots of this.


ZOMGGGGGGG!!!
posted by hal_c_on at 12:24 AM on October 4, 2011


Since we're making generalizations...In my experience Arab and Chinese males have been the most racist people I've known. At least in an openly I don't give a fuck who's listening kind of way. Yeah, as a white male I can definitively state that Arab and Chinese males ain't got shit on me...If we're making generalizations that is.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:42 AM on October 4, 2011


Wait am I being racist? Or just meta? Or how many levels of meta can you incorporate into one post?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 12:43 AM on October 4, 2011




I would probably even be willing to entertain the notion that all white people are racist.

That may or may not be a racist formulation, depending on the power relationship between the person saying it and the white community in that person's neighborhood.

I prefer the version that has had all traces of racism removed, which simply says that all people have unconscious biases that make us empathize more readily with people we perceive as more like us than with those we perceive as less like us. This is not a statement about morality; it's a testable hypothesis.

The accompanying moral question is whether or not we ought to recognize these biases and work consciously to counteract them. Personally I think we should. Radio Rwanda notoriously took the opposite position.
posted by flabdablet at 2:14 AM on October 4, 2011 [8 favorites]


Nothing's more quintessentially Metafilter than a white man humbly congratulating himself for being enlightened enough to understand how oppressive he is, based on sexist/racist guilt by association and a silly formula like "racism equals prejudice plus power" (which is supposed to sound so meticulously insightful). I don't believe the post is intended as satire, but otherwise I completely agree with Dasein: it couldn't be a more brilliant satire if it were trying.

Well, that and then a bunch of armchair critics dismissing, without engaging with, his concerns.
posted by litleozy at 2:15 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


This armchair sucks. The arms are not far enough apart, so the whole chair sticks to my arse when I stand up. I'm thinking "lawsuit".
posted by flabdablet at 2:43 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree that "all people" probably have racist biases of some sort, and therefore the proposition that "all people are racist" could be a defensible one.

The rush to criticize the OP on his comment about white people doesn't make sense to me, though. In particular "the notion that all white people are racist" would not preclude the notion that other people, including Arab and Chinese men but also African American women or Guarani intersexed persons etc etc, might be racist too.

But the OP, a grad student in the US teaching in what (statistically, at least outside California) was probably a majority-white classroom is in a context where white people have occupied a particular, privileged position in the history of race relations. What is so wrong--or difficult to understand--about paying particular attention to white attitudes in that context?

(What makes it difficult is, I suspect, the fact that "racist" has come to mean "Klansman or at least just generally awful human being" rather than something more like "intentionally or unintentionally acting in ways structured by a particular set of entrenched and racially-marked economic, social, and political inequalities".)
posted by col_pogo at 2:53 AM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Metafilter: there's awesome opportunities for self-indulgent self-flagellation.
posted by Segundus at 3:29 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a black dude, I'm pretty meh about this post and its comments. I can sympathize with the OP, as hanging around this site has opened my eyes a bit more about the subtler aspects of sexism and Americanism.

But I can't say that saying one is racist/sexist/whateverist really sits right with me. The meaning is understand i.e. all people have biases and messed up thoughts. But actions, or the lack there of, strike me as more important on these issues. Think whatever you want, but choose to do things that matter, even if they're small things. Saying, even to yourself, that you're racist is nice, but taking steps to be less racist would be nicer.

Does any of this make sense? It's early and I haven't had coffee yet. Mostly, I think I'm just full of despair over how threads about racism seem to go on Metafilter, namely no place good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:20 AM on October 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


Did this actually happen or is this post some kind of joke?
posted by J. Wilson at 6:11 AM on October 4, 2011


That does make sense, Brandon Blatcher.

Over the years I've really come down to the idea that how you act with others and what you do about things are way more important than what goes on in your own head. We all have messed-up thoughts of one kind or another, I know I do. But though there are some mental processes, like below-conscious prejudice, that really resist tinkering, we all do have the power to choose what we do.

I'm not sure, even if I were in this class, that I would accept this opportunity to identify as a 'racist'. The teacher used a provocative tactic, and he's probably aiming to shake people out of complacency and challenge their own definitions of racism. That's all well and good, as is acknowledging the way racism functions as part of identity and lives in corners where you don't always notice it. But I'm not sure that acknowledging the racist tendencies most of us have should be the same as identifying as or aligning with racists.

Something about the word 'racist,' outside of technical classroom definitions, always implies to me an intent and a lack of apology for one's prejudicial views. If you're committed to doing something about racial prejudice, you don't want to align with that lack of apology. I especially agree with what LobsterMitten said about finding some opportunity to clarify your position, whether or not you have students of color, because just raising your hand, to some less schooled individuals, might look like "Whoa, my TA is legitimizing racism."
posted by Miko at 6:14 AM on October 4, 2011 [9 favorites]


Did this actually happen or is this post some kind of joke?

Yes, this is actually happened. If anyone is desperate for proof, drop me a memail.
posted by andoatnp at 6:24 AM on October 4, 2011


I just made a post on the blue about tacit racism, and then came here and found this thread. Check out some of the recommended readings on that page. It's a really interesting topic.
posted by painquale at 6:28 AM on October 4, 2011


Wow, there are some really good resources in that post. This article on changing the culture of sexism in philosophy was pretty fascinating and has some strategies for how to bring about cultural change. I should go say so in the actual thread.
posted by Miko at 6:53 AM on October 4, 2011


So would you raise your hand if he asked "Who's a suck-up?".
posted by Ideefixe at 7:53 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think that's a good point Ideefixe. There are other social pressures at work here other than "I don't want to admit that I'm a racist".
posted by beau jackson at 8:22 AM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are other social pressures at work here other than "I don't want to admit that I'm a racist".

Completely. And it has "this is a rhetorical trap" written all over it.
posted by Miko at 8:24 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I just walked into the break room and noticed that the analog clock on the wall looked really wrong for some reason.

I finally figured out that it was the little hand pointing to eight that was bugging me. I *never* see analog clocks with the little hand pointing to eight any more. Seven, sure when I'm working a little late. Nine, most days when I come in.

But eight? Never.

This has nothing to do with racism but I thought I would share.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:26 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh man, I had a psych/sociology prof, day one of the quarter, tell the class in an "I'm asking you a question but we all already know the answer" sort of way that no one would just get up in front of the class and sing. And I was all like "yeah, I'd do that" and she was all, uh, well, huh. Do it.

And I did, and it was a bit weird partly because I didn't normally sing any of my stuff a capella, partly because it was such a weird context to be singing when nobody came here to hear me sing, and partly because of the shear on-the-spotness of the whole thing.

But mostly, it was uncomfortable because I was aware and I think everyone in the room was aware that my doing so was pretty much a conspicuously-subverting-the-intended-lesson thing that didn't so much prove anyone right or wrong in a meaningful sense as it proved that I was willing to take a dare that in context clearly wasn't intended to be taken, just to make a point of doing so. I was coming out of my shell a lot in general at that point in my life so I was glad I did it as an exercise in proving to myself that I could just say fuck it all and do something unusual, but it's still hard to figure out the balance between that sense of pride at being a little daring and the sense of derailing a class for a few minutes just to unsettle a professor by pulling at the seams of a pat lecture plan.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:50 AM on October 4, 2011 [13 favorites]


I took the wrong classes. I would have done it, and I would have sung the long version of Bat Out of Hell, motorcycle noises included.
posted by SpiffyRob at 9:05 AM on October 4, 2011 [5 favorites]


Clearly the proper thing to sing in that context is some Philip Glass solfège from Einstein on the Beach for like twenty minutes.

Do si do si do si do si re mi re mi re mi re mi
Do si la si do si do si la si do si

posted by shakespeherian at 9:13 AM on October 4, 2011


It feels like a revival meeting in here. I am with my brother Brandon, I do not see how having this discussion for no particular reason will help us as a community.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:14 AM on October 4, 2011


I am with my brother Brandon, I do not see how having this discussion for no particular reason will help us as a community.

I don't see any problem with someone thanking Metafilter for having opened their eyes to a particular issue. The thing that doesn't really help us as a community are the mocking LOLHAHA WHITE PEOPLE AREN'T PRIVILEGED and LOL LIBERAL ARTS responses that this sincere post has gotten. I mean, I suppose it's par for the course for Metafilter to be all, "Oh, you're coming here sincerely? Well FUCK YOU AND ALSO I LOOKED AT YOUR USER PAGE AND OMG YOU'RE GETTING A PHD IN POLITICAL SCIENCE? HAHAHA GO WORK IN THE FIELDS AND GET A REAL JOB" but I don't think that it's really the fault of the person talking sincerely to the community that a lot of people around here are assholes.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 9:19 AM on October 4, 2011 [11 favorites]


this conforms exactly to my impression of the state of humanities grad schools today

Political science is a social science, not a humanity.
posted by andoatnp at 9:21 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Woah, brother. You seem to be the only guy shouting in all caps here so far. And your bullshit strawmanning kind of backs up my point - no, there is nothing wrong with thanking the community for bringing them into the light, aside from the unclean ones still in our midst. It almost makes me want to say bad things to you, but that would also further fuck this all up worse so I'll just bow out.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:24 AM on October 4, 2011


UNCLEAN
posted by Horselover Phattie at 9:29 AM on October 4, 2011


I'm not sure that carrying privilege provided by race is the same thing as being racist at all.

At least by the generally accepted definition.

It's ideological.
posted by Stagger Lee at 9:35 AM on October 4, 2011


bullshit strawmanning

Huh? Here is a comment from just upthread:

I love that the user profile indicates "PhD in Political Science" - this conforms exactly to my impression of the state of humanities grad schools today, taking great pleasure in discussing how sexist and racist privileged white males are, just for being white males.

I did not strawman anyone. This (heavily favorited) comment is exactly LOL LIBERAL ARTS with a heaping helping of LOL HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT WHITE PEOPLE ARE PRIVILEGED, and it's not the only comment in this thread with that tenor. Unfortunately, this kind of supremely assholish comment underlines why we do need to continue having these kinds of discussions as a community.
posted by Frobenius Twist at 9:44 AM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I did not strawman anyone. This (heavily favorited) comment is exactly LOL LIBERAL ARTS with a heaping helping of LOL HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT WHITE PEOPLE ARE PRIVILEGED, and it's not the only comment in this thread with that tenor.

I can handle being sensitive on grounds of race, sex, religion, body shape, gender identity, and probably some others. But I refuse to give up my LOL LIBERAL ARTS.
posted by pseudonick at 11:16 AM on October 4, 2011


I refuse to give up my LOL LIBERAL ARTS.

Laugh it up, radioactive rat pee boy.
posted by Hoopo at 11:43 AM on October 4, 2011 [3 favorites]


Poli Sci is a social science, thank you very much.
posted by oinopaponton at 11:49 AM on October 4, 2011


That word "racist," like "feminist" and "Christian" and "fan," is used to identify oneself and others as part of some group, but otherwise changes meaning to fit the context. In this case it's sometimes said that everyone is racist to some degree or other. Not as a figure of speech, either; some people consider the least little cognitive bias for or against some genetic marker to be racism as practiced by racists.

Is there anything wrong with that? Not really, not if you get your point across. Saying "everyone is a racist" in a discussion about racism has the effect of shifting the subject to that of internalized-categorical-type racism rather than institutional-systemic-type racism, or violent-retribution-type racism, or any of those. The vagueness does, however, make it the wrong sort of word to use when you're trying to do statistics, or get a policy enacted, or otherwise require a large group of people, beyond those present in this particular conversation, to agree on much of anything.

It's likewise fine that the OP has learned to interpret the word in a particular way by default; it'll probably result in some surreal misunderstandings down the line, but that's just life. Until recently I thought that the word "paranoid" was commonly used to mean "very careful". Turns out that's a rather specialized usage.

I don't know what the professor was thinking, using a term like that. Surely, as a political scientist, he would know how slippery the language is. But even the more socially-conscious MeFites occasionally defend one particular interpretation of a word as being its one and only meaning. I suppose humans just tend to get attached to languages; maybe that's part of what makes us good at them.
posted by LogicalDash at 12:33 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


Great post, andoatnp.

I wonder if it's occurred to you that by making this post you might be said to have essentially recreated your professor's gambit here on MetaTalk, only with significant variations (improvements, I'd say).

You have removed the professor as an authority figure and eliminated any motive to please or rebel against a person who may be able to use his power to harm or help anyone who responds or does not; you have avoided asserting any moral superiority over anyone else the way your professor did-- an act of foolish arrogance, in my opinion; you have given everyone who was offended the chance to vent their displeasure at you (very revealingly, in general), and responded equably; and you have taught me a lot-- a thing beyond the reach of your professor, I suspect.
posted by jamjam at 12:47 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


So would you raise your hand if he asked "Who's a suck-up?".

This reads as mocking the poster. If that's how it was intended, how do you think it contributes discussion? Do you think the poster earned it, and, if so, is this community bettered by your mockery?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:48 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This (heavily favorited) comment is exactly LOL LIBERAL ARTS with a heaping helping of LOL HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT WHITE PEOPLE ARE PRIVILEGED, and it's not the only comment in this thread with that tenor.

After reading this, I went back and favorited those comments to register my dissent. This statement implies that either we accept indulgent self-congratulation for our "awareness", or we are deniers of white privilege and probably racist.
posted by AlsoMike at 12:52 PM on October 4, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't understand why this is on Metatalk. It's chatfilter disguised by a thin veneer of "thanks Metafilter."

Nice to see you can get away with it, though.
posted by spitbull at 12:57 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


After reading this, I went back and favorited those comments to register my dissent.

I have truly learned a lesson this day

except

I JUST FAVORITED YOUR COMMENT! NOW WHO'S FAVORITING WHOM?
posted by Frobenius Twist at 1:37 PM on October 4, 2011


Yes, this is actually happened. If anyone is desperate for proof, drop me a memail.

Dude, seriously. This is one of those times where peripheral vision training in football would helped in class.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:53 PM on October 4, 2011


Nice to see you can get away with it, though.

Its because he's white.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:54 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not mocking the poster, I'm mocking the prof. Frankly, I'd tell the old fart where he could stick his loaded coy little assumptions, but I'm not part of the gold star generation.
Did it never occur to anyone in that classroom not to play the little game? Or to anyone here? Fight the power!
posted by Ideefixe at 3:08 PM on October 4, 2011


And where is it appropriate for you to put your coy assumptions?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 3:44 PM on October 4, 2011


In the coy pond.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 3:54 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Koi veh.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:57 PM on October 4, 2011


Its because he's white.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:26 PM on October 4, 2011


Its because he's white.

And a man.
posted by Meatbomb at 4:27 PM on October 4, 2011


but I'm not part of the gold star generation.

Since the "staff" markers rolled out, nobody is.

*sob*
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:31 PM on October 4, 2011 [2 favorites]


I always claim racism. Well not always, just when there's a lull in the conversation. Never saw a black person until I was 18 and I'm wary of them in the streets at night. Leads to a stimulating conversation rarely but some good comedy racism depending on the company.
posted by fraac at 9:23 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


Think whatever you want, but choose to do things that matter, even if they're small things. Saying, even to yourself, that you're racist is nice, but taking steps to be less racist would be nicer.

Does any of this make sense? It's early and I haven't had coffee yet. Mostly, I think I'm just full of despair over how threads about racism seem to go on Metafilter, namely no place good.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:20 AM on October 4 [+] [!]


I feel like understand this sentiment and then on the other hand I feel like saying (a little embarrassed, I guess, and full of self-doubt, as a white person who grew up in a place where there was I kid you not exactly one black person in the entirety of my community and school system, and he was adopted) that steps will never be taken by anyone who hasn't first had some kind of come to Jesus moment about their own racism. It may be tedious to observe a white human in 2011 having that realization, really for the first time, that yes, this is a real thing going on today and I am part of it. But it could lead to something... while I have a hard time believing all the snotty jocular smack on full display in this thread is likely to lead to anything, useful, much.
posted by nanojath at 9:51 PM on October 4, 2011 [1 favorite]


This might be the thread for this observation - I'm in a service apartment complex in Nairobi and there are about 4 or 5 couples with tiny Kenyan toddlers, either waiting for the adoption paperwork to be completed or bonding with their little ones.

Thinking about this thread and all the discussions on MetaFilter made me aware enough to wonder whether anyone has ever looked into the impact of racial differences on mixed race adoptions, or challenges of integration for the babies once they're back home wherever? What happens when they stop being cute little toddlers?
posted by infini at 10:32 PM on October 4, 2011


infini - relatively brief googling turned up some results (1, 2, 3)

Those are of course pretty much just abstracts, but if you want to read full articles your local library can probably get ahold of them one way or another. The abstracts seem to suggest that at least as of the 1990s, no one had found any negative impacts significant enough to warrant a greater emphasis on cisracial adoptions.
posted by kavasa at 12:20 AM on October 5, 2011


One study: "Racial socialization and NOT focus on culture or ethnic socialization decreased adoptees’ sense of marginalization (and by extension—low sense of self worth), and resulted in greater self esteem. The study sample included 100 adult and adolescent transracial adoptees."


Some bloggers are writing about this topic:

"Feeling good about yourself as a transracial/international adoptee can be easier when you’re surrounded by others like you, and that is a benefit to these kids whose parents are involved in culture keeping. But it doesn’t help them when they’re at their majority white school and “friends” are telling racist jokes. . . ."

From a Mixed Race Child: Tips for a White Parent

"I've often wondered how many would-be white adoptive parents already have true Asian or black friends. Do they operate in any kind of cultural context that gives them the support and knowledge they need to understand the nuances of what it's like living as a minority in this country?"


Oh hey, tooling around that Love Isn't Enough blog, I found this entry that reinforces LobsterMitten's caution to andoatnp:

"A student from my class—white, male—has asked for my head. His charge is that by admitting to racism, even though I described it as a problem that had to be named in order to be solved, like any other problem, I could only have been trying to recruit white supremacists. In his letter, he compares me to Hitler."
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 12:49 AM on October 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


thank you for all the links

here's a snippet from the comments of cybercoitus' first link:

We live in a multicultural community but I worry about the racial issues my Guatemalan Indian son will face. I don’t know how to “teach their children how to deal with racial prejudice and discrimination, and prepare them by helping them to develop positive coping strategies.” Can anyone suggest resources?


echoing that letter to the adoptive parents snippet.

If you've always been privileged where do you begin to understand your child's challenges in the greater world outside? One wonders then what was the previous experience of those who did these studies?

The abstracts seem to suggest that at least as of the 1990s, no one had found any negative impacts significant enough to warrant a greater emphasis on cisracial adoptions.
posted by infini at 1:26 AM on October 5, 2011


I remember my Sunday School teacher, of all people, sat us lily-white kids down one morning before church and let us know that all of us--lily-white teacher included--were prejudiced. Not necessarily racist, but most certainly prejudiced. Against anyone who was different in some way. So probably racist, too. The problem, he said, is that people tend to lie to themselves and justify othering other people with some mask, some convenient excuse. ("It's not that he's black, I just don't like his attitude.") Kids do it, adults do it, and deep down, if we are honest with ourselves, we know the truth of this.

I was about ten and that really changed the way I look at the world and everyone in it.
posted by zardoz at 12:10 AM on October 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


You don't think the giant head and the guns went a bit far, then?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:25 AM on October 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's racist.
posted by Riki tiki at 6:26 PM on October 8, 2011


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