We need to have a discussion about racism. October 22, 2015 6:33 PM   Subscribe

The cultural appropriation thread here went very, very poorly, and I think it highlights a pattern in ways we interact with people of color and talk about issues of race here on Metafilter that create a hostile environment for PoC. I want to bring up some of the tropes we saw in the FPP, and highlight them as specific suggestions as to what I need our community to do and be mindful of going forward, so we don't continue to alienate PoC on this website.

1. Stop calling the honest discussions of PoC "incessant bickering" or accusing everyone of being too sensitive. Understand that this is exactly what is stopping PoC from having discourse on Metafilter - that whenever we try to flesh out nuance between us, our discussion gets interpreted as needless divisiveness.

2. We understand that you think that PoC are not a monolith. That doesn't mean that you cherrypick examples that directly contradict what pretty much every single PoC in a given FPP is saying about their racial experiences, and then conclude "sometimes people cry "cultural appropriation" and "racism" when it's not the case." I don't care what your opinions on cultural appropriation are, and I don't want to rehash that argument here. But tens of PoC mefites in that thread came out to say that this issue was important to us, doing tremendous emotional labor in articulating our viewpoints and pain, and it was incredibly offensive that people kept dismissing our opinions by finding outliers and concluding that our viewpoints were entirely invalid, as summarized by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane here.

As bettafish says here in response to this comment, "This is a really good example of what marginalized people are talking about when they say privileged voices get the priority in conversations about their marginalization. There are many people of different races in this thread talking about how cultural appropriation has a negative effect on them, and rather than engage with what they're saying you pull out an example of a non-Native person making assumptions about what Native people find offensive to prop up your thesis that we're all... what, infantilizing ourselves? Getting a God Complex about our own experiences? What?"

3. Stop implying that PoC who disagree with you have personal identity issues. This is a prime example of a micro-aggression, and honestly even though it was aimed at me, I didn't even flag it because the entire FPP had gotten to that level of repeatedly launching micro-aggressions at PoC at that point.

4. When PoC make suggestions on how white people should behave as so not to marginalize them, stop reaching to hyperbole to suggest that no one can do anything anymore without offending someone (debunked by maxsparber here). When PoC suggest something is racist, stop trying to gotcha them (I really was more gracious in my response here than I should have been).

5. When PoC talk about white supremacy and the disproportionate power that white people have over their lives, stop claiming that we're in the "same camp as racial supremacists" because we consider white people "special." Understand that there are severe power imbalances here that make it really necessary to highlight the disproportionate role white people play in propping up racism.

6. Stop complaining that PoC aren't doing enough of their job to facilitate dialogue (debunked by Deoridhe here). Similarly, stop claiming that white people have the same stake in racism because they're also affected by it, and therefore deserve to be part of this "dialogue." PoC are already doing their best to educate white people, and it's frustrating seeing that literally anything we say is entirely written out of existence just because white people disagree with our message.

7. Don't reduce the systematic and institutional oppression to the "personal feelings" of PoC. Countless PoC have made their voices heard on cultural appropriation as a systematic issue that reaches across a number of racial groups over the past few years, and it's not great that the effort people have been putting into making this recognized as an issue is being represented as a few whiny voices.

8. It's probably a bad idea to suggest to PoC that something that causes them pain in the moment is actually good because it has some kind of abstract, intangible value to them later down the line. It's also a really bad idea to suggest that PoC should be focusing on another completely unrelated issue that white people deem to be more important to them, rather than the topic at hand. White people - you do not get to set our priorities or reaction to racism.

9. Do not erase how PoC are oppressed in North America and other Westernized countries by claiming that they aren't in their own countries, and besides that, there's racism in their own countries too and their countries are historically powerful, so they can't be oppressed within the context of North America. I'm not even going to get into the xenophobia that tends to underlie these arguments - which is a separate but related thing in itself - but this is generally a bad move.

Ultimately, I echo bettafish's comment here, and I think it's great, so I'll just copy and paste that here as a summary of the issues:

I'm definitely not surprised, but I don't know, it would have been nice if it hadn't? I know I personally popped into this thread because I was hoping to talk about some of the finer nuances with other Asian Americans and folks who get appropriated, but the thread has long since derailed into White People Pontificating, if it was anywhere else in the first place, and not only do I not have the energy, it's pretty clear that I'd be yelling into the wind if I did.

A big shout-out to all of the PoC who were trying very hard to make themselves heard in that FPP. We all did a lot of emotional labor there.
posted by Conspire to Etiquette/Policy at 6:33 PM (678 comments total) 265 users marked this as a favorite

Hear, hear.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:41 PM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I would also like to call attention to the really unpleasant derailing that happened in the POC Yoga thread. There was no goddamn reason for that thread to derail into "is Seattle unfairly maligned" and "how do queer people handle allies, also do asexual people count?"
posted by sciatrix at 7:00 PM on October 22, 2015 [49 favorites]


Ugh, yes. I kept waiting for someone else to catch that and redirect, and then it just kept...not happening. It was really disappointing to watch unfold.
posted by Ashen at 7:03 PM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I flagged both of those derails! I flagged the queer one multiple times! And nothing happened, so eventually I quit doing it. It was so disappointing.
posted by sciatrix at 7:04 PM on October 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


One of the things that really annoyed me about the moderation in that thread was that there was a very specific "don't go on about history" mod note, but the other ones were a lot more general -- "stop doing that" and not "don't be so racist by doing these specific things", which gave the impression that the problems were history derails and people getting angry and not people being really racist.

(Maybe the history derail was a problem -- I didn't see it -- but it's not nearly as big a problem as the racism is.)
posted by jeather at 7:09 PM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Re #7, I think it's part of a pattern where systemic issues are depersonalized, the experiences of individuals reduced to data and examples that are assumed to have around the same weight as any other statistical figure until proven otherwise. Thinking in broad systemic terms, a white person may lose access to the nuance of "personal experience" being something more than the parts of it that have been written down. A sort of situational Engineer's Disease.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:09 PM on October 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I would totally kick in actual dollars to sponsor someone who wanted to do the work to sort and quantify the comments in some of the threads singled out on MetaTalk as not going well to see how they really broke down in terms of percentage leaning this way or that. They could sort comments into Position A, Opposing Position B, Unclear, Wafflers, Off-Topic, what have you. I would straight-up pay to help get that research done.

Because me, I sometimes have a different read on how the proportion of Good Awesome People on the Side of the Angels and People Pooping in the Punch Bowl plays out. And in the instances where this happens, I have difficulty telling if I don't see things as being that bad because: a) awesome comments by good people who get it resonated more with me in a given instance; b) I tuned assholes the fuck out; or c) the latter stages of the thread which I might not have read (either because I didn't hang for the whole thing or because I noped on out because of bad comments) went markedly different than the earlier stuff.

I am not in any way to any degree trying to downplay someone else's lived experience who says that thread sucked. And I'm certainly of the opinion that this thread had both people I was proud of and people whose comments rankled the shit out of me. This is a true YMMV moment for me. But can't we check that mileage?

The stathead in me wonders where the tipping point between "that went well" to "that went poorly" is for various folks in terms of ratio of good comments to bad is. And I would love to see that kind of thing bracketed, i.e. 5% shit comments tilts some people's meters, other need it as high as 30% or whatever.

I would sincerely contribute to see that study.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:15 PM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


These strike me as very good suggestions, Conspire; thank you. I try to be sensitive, but God knows I have been guilty of some or all of these in the past, and it helps to have them mapped out so clearly.
posted by maxsparber at 7:20 PM on October 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


But - and please don't take this as me picking on you specifically, DirtyOldTown - this is kind of part of the problem.

People of color initiate a conversation and say, "this is really affecting me and it needs to not happen."

And white people are repeatedly like, "That's nice. Let's make this an intellectual exercise!"
posted by Ashen at 7:20 PM on October 22, 2015 [128 favorites]


That was a really rough thread, but I do want to thank the posters who continued to contribute thoughtful comments amidst the wreckage.

I remain really puzzled at the desire of white male posters to clamber into threads like these and make it about them. Just why.
posted by selfnoise at 7:22 PM on October 22, 2015 [31 favorites]


This is a really helpful post. Thanks a bunch; I know it was probably a pain to write.

If anyone feels like following up -- I keep seeing each item in the list as a "don't do this"; is there some way to rephrase it more positively, in a "do this" kind of way? I often end up feeling like there's nothing I can contribute in these kinds of discussions that won't be somehow wrong. I sympathize, but what (in general, as a guideline or rule of thumb) can I do that will have a positive effect on these kinds of discussions?
posted by amtho at 7:23 PM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


I wish I'd stayed out of that thread, because being in it only pissed me off. So many people are so willing to pull the "I've never thought much about this issue but I assume those of you who have can't have considered X, Y or Z." I wish that would stop.
posted by rtha at 7:25 PM on October 22, 2015 [72 favorites]


It's amazing how making any conversation about someone's lived experiences into an intellectual exercise sucks all the life out of the conversation. Happens every time.
posted by sciatrix at 7:25 PM on October 22, 2015 [36 favorites]


I'll cop to my part in that history derail. I didn't mean for it to get as far as it did, but.

I'll also admit that after a certain point I gave up trying to have a dialogue with the mass of people telling POC that we were wrong because to me, it certainly didn't seem like they wanted a dialogue, what with comparing us to fucking Nazis. I probably should have stepped away at that point, instead of just doubling down on snark and bile, because that wasn't helpful.

Overall, I like these suggestions, but I'll also be honest. I'm deeply frustrated with MeFi, which has often been much better dealing with minority topics--though, now that I think about it, most of those topics that I've not seen problems in have been ones that are by definition non-exclusive to white people (i.e., feminism, LGBT), whereas the ones that end up as tire fires, well...

So, yeah. Honestly, I don't know if I should continue to participate in any of these topics that deal with the relationship of POC vs non-POC.

I like these suggestions though. I don't know if I have enough faith left in the community to see it happen, but I've never been an optimist. At least it's better than a reddit discussion.
posted by qcubed at 7:26 PM on October 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I took one look noped out of that thread and, if the recap above is even remotely accurate, it sounds like it was the right decision.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:27 PM on October 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


DirtyOldTown, what rubbed salt in the wound for me was that after the waves of aggression started quieting down a little, white people kept popping in to comment on how much they learned from us and how insightful we were. Maybe it's true that our comments were a great learning experience for certain people - but the issue is that almost every insightful sharing of experience or fact was done in direct response to racism, as so not to let racism go unchallenged.

So your call for a measure of "good comments" to "bad comments" is exactly what I think LogicalDash is saying when they say that white people tend to have engineers disease around racism. Who does it even help to make a ratio? Maybe instead of thinking of it as a number, consider the following:

- What is good for white people educationally is often very, very bad and emotionally fatiguing for PoC, and drives them off the site.
- If white people did not continuously toss racist shitbombs into discussions about race, PoC would be having very different conversations around here out of not having to expend all of their energy refuting racism, and it would be a different "good" conversation.
posted by Conspire at 7:27 PM on October 22, 2015 [103 favorites]


please don't take this as me picking on you specifically, DirtyOldTown - this is kind of part of the problem.

I'm not asking anyone to turn the nature of the arguments that were made into an intellectual exercise. I'm strictly making a Meta observation (in both the generic and MeFi senses of "Meta") about the backgrounds behind these MeTas. (FWIW, I agree with Conspire. I support the POC in that thread. This isn't a situation where I either disagree or "I agree, but..." Nope, I agree. 100%. )

I'm saying I sometimes come out of those threads more proud of the people who did right than angry at the people who did wrong. And I wonder where the tipping points are for these things.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:28 PM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I would totally kick in actual dollars to sponsor someone who wanted to do the work to sort and quantify the comments in some of the threads singled out on MetaTalk as not going well to see how they really broke down in terms of percentage leaning this way or that. They could sort comments into Position A, Opposing Position B, Unclear, Wafflers, Off-Topic, what have you. I would straight-up pay to help get that research done.

I'm willing to extend the benefit of the doubt here that you're not trying to derail this conversation, but respectfully, this comment really misses the point that people kept making over and over and over in the thread, and I'm afraid it's going to squash what could be a great conversation about racism. Conspire put a shit ton of effort into writing and linking to all the comments; let's not have your point become what this thread is about. Let's have a conversation about the comments in that thread. Let's start with the idea that Conspire isn't some lone wolf. Let's assume that POC in that thread could/would/should/are upset about the way it went down.

Let's not start with "Well, maybe the majority of the people in the thread had no problem with it", because listening to groups that are NOT the majority was the whole point that people kept repeating over and over and over.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:30 PM on October 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


PLEASE DO NOT USE ME AS A PROXY FOR PEOPLE WHO PISSED YOU OFF IN THAT THREAD. THAT IS A SHITTY THING TO DO.

I was not one of them. I 100% agree with Conspire here.

I was strictly speculating on how much poop has to go into the punch bowl for that to be the dominant impression of the party and not all of the dancing, music, etc.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:30 PM on October 22, 2015 [7 favorites]


I'm saying I sometimes come out of those threads more proud of the people who did right than angry at the people who did wrong. And I wonder where the tipping points are for these things.

This honestly sounds like you're either asking PoC to give cookies to the white people who get it for stepping up to argue with the white people who are acting in racist ways in 101 derails, or you're asking us to be happy and gracious that we're spending all of our time and energy personally arguing against these 101 derails. My response to that is that maybe these 101 derails need to stop happening all the time.
posted by Conspire at 7:31 PM on October 22, 2015 [24 favorites]

I often end up feeling like there's nothing I can contribute in these kinds of discussions that won't be somehow wrong.
I've come to the conclusion that when I feel like this, maybe I actually don't have anything valuable to add to the discussion, and the thing to do is to shut up and read attentively.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:31 PM on October 22, 2015 [203 favorites]


I was strictly speculating on how much poop has to go into the punch bowl
Even raising the question, when you clearly know well enough to use this as an analogy is eh...
posted by juv3nal at 7:32 PM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I give up. There were a lot of nice people in that thread I was proud of: Conspire, maxsparber, some others. I came out of that thread proud of MetaFilter. But I saw other people had a different experience and I idly speculated for a second about wondering what proportions of a thread going south changed various people's perceptions of the thread. It was not an attempt at a derail and I am happy to let it go.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:32 PM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


I'm saying I sometimes come out of those threads more proud of the people who did right than angry at the people who did wrong. And I wonder where the tipping points are for these things.

Can you please stop with your wondering? I think it's a distraction from the conversation about racism on Metafilter.
posted by 23skidoo at 7:32 PM on October 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


PLEASE DO NOT USE ME AS A PROXY FOR PEOPLE WHO PISSED YOU OFF IN THAT THREAD. THAT IS A SHITTY THING TO DO.

Sorry, who are you responding to, even? Unless there have been deleted comments, no one in this Metatalk, to my reading, is doing this.

I give up.

And upon preview: I'm responding directly to what you're saying here. I might not have cushioned my statements like Ashen did, but I don't think I'm being unreasonable in my statements about exactly what I find problematic about your suggestions that people should read and pay more attention to the "good" aspects of that thread. It feels very strange that you're reacting to me like this.
posted by Conspire at 7:35 PM on October 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


i'm a woman so this is definitely not whining about how women get their way on this site but i don't. i'm very aware that whatever space feminism has on this site has been difficult to achieve and hard to maintain and that currently folks aren't even happy with where it is. but i think the amount of bullshit round and round we go with whitesplaining in that thread would not have stood in a feminism thread where women were actually participating, reading, flagging (bets are still off if women are not interested in a thread or abandon it in droves bc it sucks).

the thing is metafilter is a white as fuck site. i don't think we have the numbers to make that impact through years of metatalk, years of buttoning and educating and horribleness. maybe one way is to say hey, if you can recognize when a man is doing it in a feminism thread, then think about whether that shit is happening in a thread about race (or anything else really).

microaggressions count. 101 level repeated bullshit counts. someone sucking up all the air in the room and ripping out 10 comments in a short amount of time counts. making bad analogies or coming from an irrelevant pov counts. "hey! i too know history about asia, let's have a dick measuring contest right now!" counts. "you guys are exactly like racial supremacists" fucking counts. FLAG THAT SHIT.

i saw white mefites batting down 101 level questions, but it's too draining to even read it, and then a new user would pop up with the same bullshit, names that quite frankly i recognize. let's do what we do in feminism threads and not go there.

metafilter thinks it's ok about racism, but it feels to me metafilter is mostly voter ID, shooting innocent black people, the drug war and discrimination. that's the narrow band of white people (kind of) understanding issues of race. cultural appropriation is a nuanced thing, and i've already seen stupid shit when it comes to appropriation wrt white people and hip hop (oh so white people aren't ALLOWED to do hip hop now? but music is for EVERYONE, everybody steals from everybody EQUALLY) but this thread was like appropriation, plus

-asians in asia (look at the derail about how japanese people are suuuuuper racist!)
-asian americans (....metafilter just does this badly all over the place)
-from the perspective of someone in the UK (doesn't work for a US crowd where racism has a very specific dialogue that we already do badly).

tl;dr help us flag that shit. also, instead of noping out, please consider supporting PoC by contact form if you see a thread going badly. possibly the mods need to recalibrate what they consider dogwhistle stuff when it comes to race, but they won't know if only PoC make noise.
posted by twist my arm at 7:38 PM on October 22, 2015 [117 favorites]


I'm saying I sometimes come out of those threads more proud of the people who did right than angry at the people who did wrong. And I wonder where the tipping points are for these things.

Why the hell would you think you can quantify this? do you really expect this study you're gonna fund would generate data like."when a thread exceeds 43% shitty comments it.becomes Objectively Shitty, except when the thread contains less than 50 comments, in which case the tipping point comes at 29% shitty comments." What is the point of that exercise, anyway? It seems really dumb. What is the point?
posted by jayder at 7:43 PM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Fascinating that the "Two Asian Americas" thread, which ends up mostly being Asian Americans talking to each other about their own experience, goes just fine.

It's almost like if some white people think something is about them or judging them they feel like they must get involved.
posted by zutalors! at 7:46 PM on October 22, 2015 [30 favorites]


tl;dr help us flag that shit. also, instead of noping out, please consider supporting PoC by contact form if you see a thread going badly. possibly the mods need to recalibrate what they consider dogwhistle stuff when it comes to race, but they won't know if only PoC make noise

This is a great suggestion. I am not great about remembering that we have a flagging system, but it's part of the reason that threads on feminism have gotten (slowly) better, and I will be more alert to flagging racist stuff like this, not just responding or reading along.
posted by Miko at 7:47 PM on October 22, 2015 [26 favorites]


-asian americans (....metafilter just does this badly all over the place)

Yes, Metafilter does this terribly. There's definitely a feeling of since we're not the section of minorities that has major problems with police violence, cycles of poverty, etc, that we shouldn't complain about any micro aggressions and could we just be quiet please.
posted by zutalors! at 7:47 PM on October 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't know to agree agree with Conspire and the others on that thread more than 100%. And I think at best, I misread the room about a boring statistical point and more likely, I positioned said point in such a way that reasonable people could hardly be blamed for taking it for something worse. I apologize profusely and would like to move on.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:51 PM on October 22, 2015 [15 favorites]


Fascinating that the "Two Asian Americas" thread, which ends up mostly being Asian Americans talking to each other about their own experience, goes just fine

Also, there are Asian Americans in there disagreeing with each other because not a monolith etc. But in the appropriation thread, such disagreement is just fodder for white people to say "but THOSE Asian Americans said it's not appropriation! So none of this is real!"
posted by zutalors! at 7:52 PM on October 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


DirtyOldTown:
I think I get where you're coming from. I'm not criticizing you in what follows, not exactly, and I do hope you're not going to take offense at it, but.

I have white friends (yes, I said it), who I find terribly draining to have conversations about race with because, even though they are quite "liberal", and generally "with-it" when it comes to these things, have cavernous blind spots, too. I appreciate the fact that they want to think that, as progressives, that things are progressing in the right direction all the time. And yes, to be honest, they are, slowly, micron by micron, meter by meter, and sometimes, if we're very lucky, mile by mile.

But there's a lot of inertia, too. A huge white wibbly wobbly blobby mass that is comfortable, that hates being uncomfortable, and when POC are trying to push this way or that, with all of our might, combined or not... well, it doesn't always work. And it's so very hard to stay positive, try to look at what's been done when there's still so much more to do.

So whenever something like this comes up, and one of them, innocuously, tries to point to the crumbs of good, and wants to celebrate those, it comes across as tone deaf, at best. It's not exactly a bad impulse to have, mind you, but it's also not necessarily a helpful one--especially if I'm already mad and feel like my point is either being completely twisted, or misinterpreted, or dismissed entirely. It's why I end up talking about these things less and less with people who theoretically should be the easiest "gets" when it comes to something like this--and why MeFi is starting to get to that point, if it's not there already.

I don't know if it's something like diminishing returns, since these are people who would try so desperately to fight racism when they see it and do call it out when they recognize it, but, like sexism, like rape, like most other horrible things, it's becoming less and less the obvious shit that needs to be called out because everyone knows you can't do that anymore without some blowback--but now it's becoming more and more difficult to explain that yes, there are other, more pernicious forms, ones that are much easier to hide behind a polite fiction: "he wouldn't be a good fit", "she doesn't seem creative enough", and so on.

Which is why the whole discussion around Asian-Americans is fraught here and elsewhere. In some ways, we're privileged compared to other minorities. We're not as likely to get shot. We're not as likely to be pulled over by cops. People aren't as likely to talk about us being "criminals" on Nextdoor. But we do face soft bigotry day in and day out, we do get shat on when we step out of line. We do get viewed as provisional Americans, and if push comes to shove, the assumption seems to be that our loyalties are not to the lands of our birth, where our hearts started beating and our lungs started breathing, but the distant lands where our parents' blood first flowed.

I think that's why it's so hard for some of us to be satisfied with the small positives. In other words, we live our lives expecting someone to toss some shit in the punch bowl, and so we've got our eyes on it. And once you see it, well, it's not like you can unsee it. And then you see it happen again and again and again, and after a certain point, it doesn't matter if someone just didn't wash their hands before using the ladle, you're just fucking done.
posted by qcubed at 7:55 PM on October 22, 2015 [77 favorites]


and highlight them as specific suggestions as to what I need our community to do and be mindful of going forward

Some commenters are repeated in your list.
Some of those commenters shitted up a previous thread as well.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:59 PM on October 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


Like, more specifically, if you want to know where the tipping point for me was in that thread, it was when someone flat out said that people sympathetic to the protesters' points were in the same fucking camp as racial supremacists. The simple fact that so many people seem to agree with it...

I mean, at least the mods purged someone else's comment much later in the thread saying anyone speaking out about appropriation was a fucking racial segregationist, but I'd already seen it at that point and fuck me seriously there is diarrhea all over this punchbowl and table.
posted by qcubed at 7:59 PM on October 22, 2015 [25 favorites]


I need to go to bed, but Conspire, this must have taken a lot of time and emotional energy to put together, and I wanted to say I really appreciate it and I'm glad my comments were helpful to you in that respect. And thanks everyone who spoke up in that thread.
posted by bettafish at 8:00 PM on October 22, 2015 [38 favorites]


That fucking "same camp as racial supremacists" comment is possibly the most idiotic thing I have ever read on MetaFilter.
posted by griphus at 8:01 PM on October 22, 2015 [28 favorites]


Yeah, I understand that these discussions are full of nuance and require white people to learn how to maybe be in a discussion without being at the center of it and other borderline-impossible tasks, but I see no reason why we can't have a bright-line NOPE on "Do not compare people of color, particularly in America, to the KKK."
posted by KathrynT at 8:03 PM on October 22, 2015 [40 favorites]


Yes, Metafilter does this terribly. There's definitely a feeling of since we're not the section of minorities that has major problems with police violence, cycles of poverty, etc, that we shouldn't complain about any micro aggressions and could we just be quiet please.

And almost unevitably, someone will toss up the old canard that China and Japan are world powers, so therefore Asian people can't be marginalized in North America because they are powerful! Like, this is the most tiresome shit ever. And I don't think the white dudes going "I once went to China and China is racist against white people" even understand that yes, although East Asian countries are frequently xenophobic and racist, white supremacy and colonism still exerts a massive social and cultural influence on these countries that is not at all analogous to the impact that racial relations within these countries have had upon North America. But this is something I've never had the energy to drive on Metafilter, because trying to point out this nuance would unevitably lead to white dudes peacocking and challenging me on my own culture and knowledge of my own culture, and that is something I do not have the patience to deal with.

So I just roll my eyes at it, keep quiet, and let it become another unchallenged racist microaggression.
posted by Conspire at 8:05 PM on October 22, 2015 [46 favorites]


While we're listing don'ts can we not pretend people from [Asian country of origin] are exactly the same as [American person of Asian origin].

Using Japan as the example:

Japanese culture is not the same as Japanese American culture.
Japanese American culture is American culture.
American culture is not a monolith.
Japanese American culture is not a monolith.
Japanese culture is not a monolith.

Like, really.
posted by zutalors! at 8:10 PM on October 22, 2015 [35 favorites]


Conspire's links to the various comments don't seem, in all cases, to represent accurately what the comments say.
posted by jayder at 8:13 PM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Conspire's links to the various comments don't seem, in all cases, to represent accurately what the comments say.

Perhaps you could illustrate exactly what you find disingenuous instead of just making vague assertions and expecting other people to do the work of disproving you?
posted by KathrynT at 8:15 PM on October 22, 2015 [60 favorites]


And I don't think the white dudes going "I once went to China and China is racist against white people" even understand that yes, although East Asian countries are frequently xenophobic and racist, white supremacy and colonism still exerts a massive social and cultural influence on these countries that is not at all analogous to the impact that racial relations within these countries have had upon North America.

Seriously.

Okay, yes. Asians are hella racist against each other. To paraphrase--I'm sorry, appropriate (*cue eye roll*)--Tom Lehrer here, yes, the Han folks hate the Japanese, the Japanese hate the Han folks; the Hmong hate the Kinh, and everybody hates the [insert any ethnicity here. really].

This doesn't mean shit when we're talking about the Asian-American experience. No racist is going to take the time to figure out that someone's Sikh before gunning them down for not even looking West Asian. They certainly didn't bother to find out if Vincent Chin was Japanese. They're not going to take the time to treat a sister as a woman before saying, "Me love you long time". And that's just the obvious stuff. We're not talking about the subtle shit that "non-racists" will sometimes say, like, "Well, she's Asian, bet she'd make a great worker. Probably not a good manager, but..."
posted by qcubed at 8:16 PM on October 22, 2015 [26 favorites]


I think Metafilter has improved from when I joined, and I do want to give credit to the moderation team for an increased willingness to respond to anti-Asian racism. When I first joined, any discussion mentioning Asians used to be a race to see who could post "ROR" first.

Honestly, it's been years, but I still get really angry when I remember one discussion in which I was told that Asian American men didn't show up on dating sites because they were busy waiting for their arranged marriages, and when I was like "uh, nobody I know has an arranged marriage, and that includes, like, my grandparents' generation", he was all, "Thanks for your anecdata, here's an editorial from the San Jose Mercury News from the 80's which mentions arranged marriage, try bringing some actual sources into this."

I'm glad to see more Asian voices on the site; sometimes I felt like there were only a few, and I actually don't like arguing with people, but I'd almost feel obligated to speak up, because if not me, then that horrible horrible statement about how Asians 'aren't creative' or 'see compassion as a weakness' is just going to sit there (both actual examples). I'm not sure what the solution is, though.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:19 PM on October 22, 2015 [36 favorites]


qcubed, something I've found deeply ironic in my life is that part of the reason why I can't come out to my grandparents as queer is because of colonism and westernization introducing taboos against homosexuality into China... And then white queer spaces in North America then threaten to disown me because I won't come out to my grandparents. It's an interesting cycle that way.

That's just one tiny slice of the reason why "China is racist" doesn't really compare to the massive, massive legacy of colonism and white supremacy exerting effects globally across centuries of history and to this day.
posted by Conspire at 8:21 PM on October 22, 2015 [27 favorites]


I think Ask is pretty terrible for Asian Americans still. In fact I'd recommend South Asian Americans just not use it at all for family/human relations topics or ask questions without mentioning background culture. The assumptions that you must come from an abusive, controlling, sexist, horrid family are just too much.

I also think Metafilter is still pretty bad on Asian American topics, especially with the problem where people don't understand that Asian Americans are not the same as Asians, but I do agree the moderation has gotten a bit better.
posted by zutalors! at 8:23 PM on October 22, 2015 [25 favorites]


Hi, I was the original poster. I posted the link because I thought it said some interesting things about an interesting topic, and I thought - naively, perhaps - that we could have a good discussion about it. It's clear that the discussion turned into something shitty that was painful to a lot of POC members.

I just want to apologize and say that I'm sorry that all happened. I never had any intention of shit-stirring or fostering racist microagressions or anything of the sort. But the thread turned out pretty ugly, and I'm sorry for pain that I ended up causing.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:24 PM on October 22, 2015 [21 favorites]


All right, jayder, since I have nothing better to do, apparently:

1. First link checks out. Second link checks out.
2. First, second, and third link check out. Fourth and fifth do too.
3. This single link, seriously, what the fuck. I've seen shade thrown and I've seen mud hurled. This was the darkest, dirtiest mud flung under the cover of a fucking cloud.
4. First and third link check out. Second one, too. Fourth one didn't need to be so gracious.
5. Seriously, what the fuck do you think that link is saying?
6. Yup, yup, and fucking yep, these links check out.
7. This one too.
8. Yes and yes. Seriously, that second one is the same as saying, "Why talk about unequal pay because women get their clits cut off over there?!"
9. These two check out too, but, hey, dude cops to not actually understanding the discussion at all before he jumped in.

So. Yeah.

What the fuck are you going on about?
posted by qcubed at 8:27 PM on October 22, 2015 [29 favorites]


qcubed, something I've found deeply ironic in my life is that part of the reason why I can't come out to my grandparents as queer is because of colonism and westernization introducing taboos against homosexuality into China... And then white queer spaces in North America then threaten to disown me because I won't come out to my grandparents. It's an interesting cycle that way.

Sigh. Yeah, it's strange, almost like within white queer spaces coming out is viewed as an unequivocal necessity, and the incomprehension when I explain that I'm out here, but not over there...
posted by qcubed at 8:30 PM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


It's not your fault, Chrysostom.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:31 PM on October 22, 2015 [33 favorites]


Speaking as Mr. Maybe-that-comment-could-be-read-more-charitably, I also didn't agree (at least, on first reading) with every one of Conspire's links, but I still thought this was one of the most well-composed MeTa posts I've seen in a while. And on the one hand, KathrynT is right that jayder should be more specific rather than vaguely accusatory. On the other hand, I can't help but foresee a long and nasty thread that devolves into quibbling over specific comments linked in the MeTa-FPP. I actually think that in this case it might be better to not click through to the links and just talk about the points Conspire brought up, not whether the links are the perfect examples to support them.
posted by uosuaq at 8:33 PM on October 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


I never had any intention of shit-stirring or fostering racist microagressions or anything of the sort. But the thread turned out pretty ugly, and I'm sorry for pain that I ended up causing.

You didn't shit in the punchbowl. Don't worry about it. Maybe MeFi isn't yet ready for nuanced conversations on this topic, though. Shouldn't feel bad for expecting more out of the community.
posted by qcubed at 8:34 PM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Here's.just one example since I don't want to click through them all again. Saying "perhaps this is too sensitive a discussion to have" is NOT calling any person or ethnic group too sensitive.

The mods and members here are frequently talking about how Mefi doesn't do certain topics well. That's clearly the spirit in which the original comment was intended.

I'm just saying ... read the linked comments. Several are taken out of context and people should at least decide for themselves.
posted by jayder at 8:48 PM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


I read those linked comments. I participated in that discussion.

I don't see how "perhaps this is too sensitive a topic" isn't calling everyone disagreeing with the original comment as "too sensitive" about "this topic".
posted by qcubed at 8:52 PM on October 22, 2015 [11 favorites]


I'm just saying that will likely go badly, and we could talk about the nine points raised in the original post instead of whether the examples work. Like I said, on my first reading some of them don't work for me. Arguing about the examples is one of those things that we don't do well.
posted by uosuaq at 8:53 PM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, considering that the mod note directly beneath that comment you reference agrees with my interpretation, I'd like to say: you seem to be more interested in rules-lawyering the exact wording of a comment, rather than the impact it has upon a discussion and the tone of a room. I suggest that isn't the most helpful approach you could take in this discussion.
posted by Conspire at 8:54 PM on October 22, 2015 [36 favorites]


Several are taken out of context

This is untrue. Several of the comments used specific, crappy wording without taking into account how other people would react to the word choices they used. That's not taking things out of context, that's Mefites not being aware that comments like "Perhaps this is too sensitive a topic to discuss" implies something about other commenter's reactions.

I mean, the discussion was pretty heated at that point already. If you were involved in a heated discussion with, say, a spouse, and they kept telling you that you weren't understanding something, would you expect "Perhaps this is too sensitive a topic to discuss" to be interpreted positively?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:06 PM on October 22, 2015 [17 favorites]


selfnoise: "I remain really puzzled at the desire of white male posters to clamber into threads like these and make it about them. Just why."

If that's an honest, serious statement, and not just a way of saying "I understand why they do it, but I don't like it", here's my hypothesis:

I think it's that MeFi is a big discussion forum, and contentious topics draw conversation. The majority of MeFites are white, so a big discussion is likely to be full of white posters. Some white posters see a topic about PoC and think "This is a conversation I should not take part in, or only take minimal part in", but the majority consider every thread something that it's okay to participate in equally. So the end effect is that a Star Wars thread or a magnetic ceiling fan thread or a dashing art thief thread is going to be full of white posters, but you won't notice it much because the topic isn't race. When the topic is PoC, it will suddenly become very obvious who is white, and boy, there will be a lot of them. Likewise, when the topic is women, it will become very obvious who is male, when the topic is trans issues it will become very obvious who is cis, etc.

Then add to that the fact that people will be more involved in a post that involves them or their group than one that doesn't. The cultural appropriation thread was about an intersection of white people and Asians/Asian-Americans, so that's going to draw a lot of white people and Asians/Asian-Americans. I've noticed that threads that mention Texas, even if the post isn't really about Texas, have a lot of comments from Texan users who otherwise post little.

So that's the "desire to clamber into threads like these". Then the "make it about them" thing occurs naturally in every discussion, when you express an opinion, and someone disagrees with that position. People rebut, and then rebut the rebuttal, and then rebut the rebuttal of the rebuttal, etc. The more disagreement there is in a thread, the more argumentation there will be, which will make the discussion all about whoever is arguing.

Now, none of that is a justification. I'm not saying that that's the way things should be. You just expressed puzzlement about why it would even be that way in the first place, and that's my guess about why that happens.

From my part, it's not so much "when white people see a topic about PoC they clamber over themselves to make it all about them" or "when men see a topic about women they clamber over themselves to make it all about them", as much as "when white people see a topic about PoC they do what they do when discussing a regular topic, not realizing that this isn't like a regular topic and they shouldn't treat it as one". Same for men, same for cis, same for abled, same for etc.

If you're thinking, "Hey, Bugbread, you're white, and you totally domineered that cultural appropriation thread" -- I probably deleted 90% of the comments I wrote in the comments box instead of hitting "Post Comment". What you saw was my attempt at minimal involvement (and my desire to keep things short and not dominate the conversation ended up with me phrasing myself poorly and not communicating, which resulted in misunderstandings which ironically made the conversation more about me, so I shut down the browser and went to bed).
posted by Bugbread at 9:08 PM on October 22, 2015 [21 favorites]


Why is a PoC topic not a "regular" topic?

I've made this comment online before, but one good example is when I was chatting with my friend's little sister, who am not especially close with, just acquaintances, over Christmas one year. We're both Indian American, and she was telling me about her new job, and mentioned that her coworkers were having trouble with her Indian name and asked if they could call her an Anglicized version instead. She said she told them no, I said "good for you!" and then we talked about our favorite jeans brands.

Like this stuff is always a topic for PoC, it's just normal, but then when white people are involved it's like "Fraught" and "so sensitive" and "a big topic."

That's not saying white people can't participate or anything, it's just that it's always sort of weird because if i talked about that name thing with white people the room temp would drop 20 degrees and people would either get weird with me for getting "political" or be overcurious about it or argue the point (names are hard to pronounce, it's hard, different culture etc).

We would never get back to jeans.
posted by zutalors! at 9:17 PM on October 22, 2015 [58 favorites]


Saying "perhaps this is too sensitive a discussion to have" is NOT calling any person or ethnic group too sensitive.

Well then, instead of talking about what you claim it ISN'T, let's look at what it IS.

1. "too sensitive" for whom?
2. "too sensitive" by what standard?
3. Who decides what is "too sensitive" and what isn't?
4. What is the stimulus or stimuli to which people have been putatively-overly sensitized?
5. And which people?
6. What is the process by which these people have become so exquisitely sensitized to this stimulus?
7. What is the process by which it has been determined that this level of sensitization is inimical to reasoned discourse?
8. What is the process by which it has been determined that the obstacle to reasoned discourse is the level of sensitization, rather than the level of aggression?
posted by KathrynT at 9:25 PM on October 22, 2015 [32 favorites]


Here's.just one example since I don't want to click through them all again. Saying "perhaps this is too sensitive a discussion to have" is NOT calling any person or ethnic group too sensitive.

Conspire supported their position eloquently with nine distinct points, many with several supporting example comments that back them up, but you're here to point out that "several" are wrong. Of course, you're only willing to devote the time to cite one, because clicking is hard, or something?

Anyway, I assume since you're too busy to click on links to back up your assertions, you'll also be too busy to keep coming back to this MeTa to continue nitpicking.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:25 PM on October 22, 2015 [20 favorites]


So that's the "desire to clamber into threads like these". Then the "make it about them" thing occurs naturally in every discussion, when you express an opinion, and someone disagrees with that position. People rebut, and then rebut the rebuttal, and then rebut the rebuttal of the rebuttal, etc. The more disagreement there is in a thread, the more argumentation there will be, which will make the discussion all about whoever is arguing.

Well, no, not always. It depends on the topic, doesn't it? Because when we have a topic on say, physics, normally what happens is someone will go "I'm totally not a physicist and I only took it in high school and I don't understand the physics here", and then physicsmatt will come in and go "here's how it works!"

But instead, we get to racial topics, and then we get white people contending that they know as much about race and culture as - or even more than - the people of that very race or culture. How many years of experience do you think I've invested in understanding and reading racial theory, collaborating with other minorities, building racial communities, attending events and conferences and meetings on race, developing and holding workshops and community events on race, on top of my own lived experience with race?

So part of the problem is that we devalue the various forms of knowledge that PoC have on race, to the point that we consider the opinions and comments of white people to hold equal weight to them despite having nowhere near the massive bodies of background we have to support our knowledge. White people need to learn some damned humility about their own ignorance.
posted by Conspire at 9:28 PM on October 22, 2015 [85 favorites]


zutalors!: "Why is a PoC topic not a "regular" topic"

Is that a question or a rhetorical way of saying "it's a regular topic"?

If it's a question, I can't say for sure. I'd need to think about it.

If it's a rhetorical question saying "Topics like cultural appropriation are just regular topics", then I'd have to say that the fact that the threads turn into flaming shitwrecks all the time shows is evidence against that. How many people have we had quit MetaFilter in disgust over discussions of race? Discussions of gender? Discussions of sexuality? And how many people have we had quit MetaFilter in disgust over questions of playing metal on banjos? Discussions of Mars exploration? Discussions of Silicon Valley? Whether or not it should be a different category, it is.

If the issue is just that you don't like the word "regular", okay, I totally get that. Probably a poor word choice. Let me replace "regular topic" with "topic which seldom if ever results in MeTas/flameouts/anger".
posted by Bugbread at 9:31 PM on October 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Well, I went on to give an example of what I meant about how something can be regular to some people and totally a wild political idea to other people, but sure just give a think to that one part.
posted by zutalors! at 9:33 PM on October 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


and then physicsmatt will come in and go "here's how it works!"

But instead, we get to racial topics


Dunning-Kruger can be a problem in any situation, but I think it's at its worst when it comes to psychology or humans relating to each other. "I'm a human, heck, I've been one for all my life, I'm sure I know how they work..."
posted by Jpfed at 9:34 PM on October 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


Just want to tell conspire this is an excellent meta that should be printed out and pinned to the wall adjacent to most internet comment-writers' monitors.
posted by ead at 9:36 PM on October 22, 2015 [18 favorites]


Do Japanese people even consider themselves to be Asians? My experience is they do not.
posted by Nevin at 9:37 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, topics like this are different in that they do directly intersect the personal and the political in a way that banjo metal doesn't, as far as I know of banjo metal.

Which brings us back to the points of the MeTa. I would assume it's rare to have people so casually dismiss other people when talking about said banjos, but for POC it's just a regular thing.

And when it happens in a space we more or less like, well.
posted by qcubed at 9:37 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


Do Japanese people even consider themselves to be Asians? My experience is they do not.

What on earth made you think this was an appropriate comment to make here?
posted by Conspire at 9:39 PM on October 22, 2015 [146 favorites]


I also think Metafilter is still pretty bad on Asian American topics, .

Honestly I think metafilter can be pretty bad on anything that's not White American topics, to me as a non American.

There is a huge cultural blind spot here, and it includes the mods and lots of others, I don't mean this as an attack but a statement. This is most starkly illustrated for me in ask.me where a bunch of well intentioned but staggeringly ignorant mefites wade into questions with particular cultural contexts that are routinely ignored.

I think there can be a me-tooism mentality where speaking up in a thread is a right and all opinions are equal etc. But they're totes not. Whilst yakking from ignorance is merely annoying in a thread about say vinyl lps, in topics that people have a real stake in, it's disrespectful and hurtful.

I would note most of the problematic comments came from a few users, some of which have form on this. I think a mod note asking them to leave the thread could have been more effective than the old "knock it off".
posted by smoke at 9:39 PM on October 22, 2015 [21 favorites]


Do Japanese people even consider themselves to be Asians? My experience is they do not.

This comment is like a wrong onion. Every time you peel away one layer of wrong, there's another layer underneath.

and eventually you start to cry
posted by KathrynT at 9:40 PM on October 22, 2015 [91 favorites]


Let me try to say what I think DirtyOldTown was getting at, which is that if you went back into that thread and cut about half the comments, there's a legitimately interesting and useful conversation being had about cultural appropriation that I appreciated reading (and I apologize if I contributed to the derail). Which is not to deny that the other half of the comments were hurtful or ignorant and that made it difficult for people to stay and participate. Nor is it to say that those comments can be ignored - thanks for this Metatalk and all the work that entailed, and to the people in the thread who put in the time to respond to the bad stuff.

But I think the point is that as ugly as some of the comments were, there were other folks at the same time making the same level of thoughtful comments that Metafilter is good for. So, I guess my request (take it or leave it) is if you are putting in the emotional work to read a thread and respond to stuff that is troubling, but you are really in that thread to have a better conversation, please keep trying to redirect to what you initially wanted to say.

And yeah, it's pretty much hard to read any thread in Metafilter when you are actually an expert in the topic discussed, but it's way more problematic and hurtful if the thing you're an expert on is being a marginalized human being. And that's what makes it easier for physicsmatt to fight through the bullshit, but ultimately I think Metafilter benefits when the experts don't just rebut bullshit but also continue to redirect and add something substantive.
posted by one_bean at 9:40 PM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


That thread was painful to read. I'm super anti-confrontational but still couldn't resist making a comment in the thread about how disappointed I was in how the conversation was going. The response to which was: Huh. Well, to lighten things up especially after the licorice comment..

Which was a bit...uh, I dunno. It made me feel like I shouldn't have voiced my feelings about being sad about the way it went. So I decided not to participate after that.
posted by liquorice at 9:41 PM on October 22, 2015 [12 favorites]


Asianness is a weird thing. I understand that Japanese do not. For that matter, it does not seem like Koreans do, either-they are "Easterners", with Asia being the center. Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders are not included in this terminology, but Japanese and Chinese are, though with lots of distinctions, and depending on the generation you ask, curses.

This is, of course, different in the states, where depending on who you talk to, they might view themselves as wholly American with Asian ancestry (such as my brother, who is not interested in these matters), Asian-American (most political activists will lean here), or [specific ancestry]-American (such as my mother, who immigrated here and still views ethnic/cultural boundaries as more important).

Depending on context, I will identify myself as any one of the three. I would wager most do the same, but in my case the dominant identification would be Asian-American, followed by Korean-American.

There's of course the additional wrinkle of south Asians and West Asians and Central Asians.

Big continent, lots of peoples and people. All on another continent that didn't raise their ancestors. It's a much murkier thing than African-American/black identity or Latino/Hispanic.
posted by qcubed at 9:45 PM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


Some white posters see a topic about PoC and think "This is a conversation I should not take part in, or only take minimal part in", but the majority consider every thread something that it's okay to participate in equally.

I think this mirrors what people were saying in the cultural appropriation thread: it's not just as simple as "Should white people wear kimonos or not?" It's not simply a binary thing where either 1) white people shouldn't take part in racism discussions (or participate only minimally), or 2) white people can totally participate in any thread, just like anyone else. But it's not just about "Should I comment or not?", it's more about "How can I comment in a way that treats this like I understand that this is a serious topic that's important to POC?"
posted by 23skidoo at 9:45 PM on October 22, 2015 [16 favorites]


Any mods care to chime in on what the flagging activity was like for the comments in question, or for the thread overall? It seems like sort of a slow burn that started with some questionable but maybe well-intentioned questions, but kept escalating into JAQing off and questioning of individual lived experiences that's usually pretty much out of bounds. Was there just not enough flagging to get more direct intervention in the form of more mod notes and/or deletions?
posted by tonycpsu at 9:45 PM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Conspire: "Because when we have a topic on say, physics, normally what happens is someone will go "I'm totally not a physicist and I only took it in high school and I don't understand the physics here", and then physicsmatt will come in and go "here's how it works!"

But instead, we get to racial topics, and then we get white people contending that they know as much about race and culture as - or even more than - the people of that very race or culture.
"

Yes and no. I think the physicsmatt example differs a bit, because it's an engineering style "correct, verifiable, quantitative answer" type thing. A better example would be, say, art criticism. People who don't know anything about art criticism have no compunction about going into an abstract art thread or performance art thread and arguing with art historians. Or education! Or child-raising!

But I'm not disagreeing with your greater point. I guess I should refine "every topic" to be more like "every non-quantitative topic" or something like that, but I can't think of exactly how to phrase it, and I'm sure even if I came up with something I'd mess up and create confusion. But other than that little terminology quibble, I think we're on the same page, so I'll just stop here.

Nevin: "Do Japanese people even consider themselves to be Asians? My experience is they do not."

Oh, come on Nevin. You and I both know that Japanese sometimes do not consider themselves アジア人, but we're talking in English on an English forum, using the American English definition of Asian, not the Japanese one. I could maybe see some divergence from people in the UK using their slightly different English-language usage of "Asian", but アジア人 has bunk all to have with this discussion.
posted by Bugbread at 9:46 PM on October 22, 2015 [13 favorites]


"How can I comment in a way that treats this like I understand that this is a serious topic that's important to POC?"

A lot of times the comments don't even acknowledge that PoC are the ones with the issue. The holier than thou stuff, the comment in the thread about a "God complex" and deciding what was best for PoC. They think they're taking on the white liberals or something.

And then minorities, I mean why are they complaining if they're not getting shot?
posted by zutalors! at 9:47 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


If it's a rhetorical question saying "Topics like cultural appropriation are just regular topics", then I'd have to say that the fact that the threads turn into flaming shitwrecks all the time shows is evidence against that.

All topics, all threads, contain mostly underinformed idiots yammering on because they don't know any better. A reason people notice more on threads involving race, sex, gender et al is because more people have more information on those topics and the pontificating blowhards stand out more.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:50 PM on October 22, 2015 [2 favorites]


Well, and they mean a whole lot more to people.
posted by teponaztli at 9:52 PM on October 22, 2015 [3 favorites]


"...but ultimately I think Metafilter benefits when the experts don't just rebut bullshit but also continue to redirect and add something substantive."

one_bean: are you suggesting that PoCs standing up for themselves and their experiences isn't substantive, and they should talk about other stuff because it benefits (white) MetaFilter when they do? Noooo no no no, you've got it exactly backwards. PoCs wouldn't have to defend their experiences, and could engage solely in "substantive" ways, if white people didn't constantly undermine, call into question, and attack.
posted by zebra at 9:52 PM on October 22, 2015 [9 favorites]


Why aren't white people all over the Two Asian Americas thread? It's also about intersections between white people and Asian Americans. As said in the thread, there wouldn't be a designation of "Asian Americans" if it weren't for white people's treatment of Asians/Asian Americans.

Is it because the behavior in that thread seems to be something that white people feel they've left behind, where in the appropriation thread it's a new topic about racist behavior they might not be familiar with, so therefore dismiss? Or feel like things must rise to the level of "drive out the Hindus" night to be considered valid?
posted by zutalors! at 9:57 PM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


zutalors!: "sure just give a think to that one part."

Okay, here's what I've got so far:

I'm feeling that it's because of a power imbalance.

1A) Let's imagine you (an Indian-American) are talking with an Indian-American friend about cultural appropriation, and they say something you agree with. Well, that's the end of that. You go on to talk about jeans.
2A) Let's imagine you (an Indian-American) are talking with an Indian-American friend about cultural appropriation, and they say something you disagree with. You might hash it out for a while. You might drop it. But you're on equal footing, so it doesn't create a raft of bad feelings. Eventually you will talk about jeans.
1B) Let's imagine you (an Indian-American) are talking with a white friend about cultural appropriation, and they say something you agree with. Well, that's the end of that. You go on to talk about jeans.
2B) Let's imagine you (an Indian-American) are talking with a white friend about cultural appropriation, and they say something you disagree with. The dynamic here is very different from 2A. They have a different level of privilege, there's a history of conflict, etc. So the disagreement takes a very different course, and the odds of discussing jeans become very low.

That's my guess.
posted by Bugbread at 10:02 PM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


one_bean: are you suggesting that PoCs standing up for themselves and their experiences isn't substantive, and they should talk about other stuff because it benefits (white) MetaFilter when they do? Noooo no no no, you've got it exactly backwards. PoCs wouldn't have to defend their experiences, and could engage solely in "substantive" ways, if white people didn't constantly undermine, call into question, and attack.

Definitely not, I'm sorry if that's how it reads. I tried hard to say that the work people are putting in to rebut the bullshit is valuable and hard. But what I'm reading in this thread is that doing that "101-level" stuff takes time and energy away from the conversation that people would rather have. And so I'm just putting in my vote that people not let the really exhausting stuff get in the way of contributing all of the interesting and substantive stuff.

I really don't mean to pick on anyone, but it's the difference between KathrynT and qcubed responses to Nevin just above. One of those comments makes it possible to rebut and move on, one is a funny and snarky dismissal. I know both have their place on Metafilter. I'm sure it's cathartic and easy to just respond dismissively and/or in anger. And I'm really not trying to tell anybody that they must respond one way or the other. I'm saying "thanks, please keep having this conversation" to the people who were maintaining an interesting conversation in the midst of a shitstorm in that thread and in other similar threads on this site.
posted by one_bean at 10:03 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


(and more than anything I'm definitely not trying to blame anybody for ruining that thread other than the people who were making ignorant and hurtful comments.)
posted by one_bean at 10:05 PM on October 22, 2015


No bugbread, because often the white person, whether they agree or not, now feels like we are having a Big Discussion and it now has to be about their feels.
posted by zutalors! at 10:06 PM on October 22, 2015 [14 favorites]


I mean that was some way whitesplaining, thanks.
posted by zutalors! at 10:07 PM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


I really don't mean to pick on anyone, but it's the difference between KathrynT and qcubed responses to Nevin just above. One of those comments makes it possible to rebut and move on, one is a funny and snarky dismissal.

Well, I'm not sure it's really possible to rebut most of my comment, so obviously it's the funny and snarky one that I wrote...

If I wrote the one that wasn't funny and snarky, though, it's definitely a 101-level answer. And it does take time and energy away from the actual topic at hand, because it's not related to much of what Conspire was pointing out, which, at the time, we were discussing in a meandering fashion.
posted by qcubed at 10:12 PM on October 22, 2015


Well, I'm not sure it's really possible to rebut most of my comment, so obviously it's the funny and snarky one that I wrote...

Sorry again. I didn't mean somebody could rebut your comment, I meant your comment served as the rebuttal and made it easy to move on or redirect back to what you want to actually talk about.
posted by one_bean at 10:19 PM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]


zutalors!: No bugbread, because often the white person, whether they agree or not, now feels like we are having a Big Discussion and it now has to be about their feels.

I mean that was some way whitesplaining, thanks.


Wait, so are you saying your first question was rhetorical? Fuck, man, if that's the case, throw me a bone! I mean, I expressly asked "Is that rhetorical?" Just say "Yeah, it's rhetorical." If you say "Just go think about that one part" I'm gonna assume it was not rhetorical, and was an actual question. Don't then go and ridicule me for trying to answer it.

(Plus, seriously, man, ridiculing me for whitesplaining by telling me what white people really think...)
posted by Bugbread at 10:23 PM on October 22, 2015 [4 favorites]


(Where are the mods on this thread? I appreciate letting the thread breathe so that community members can discuss, but someone asked a direct question about flagging above.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 10:24 PM on October 22, 2015 [10 favorites]


It's not ridiculing to point out that you're whitesplaining.
posted by zutalors! at 10:29 PM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


"And so I'm just putting in my vote that people not let the really exhausting stuff get in the way of contributing all of the interesting and substantive stuff. "

I think I get what you're trying to say, one_bean, and I can hear that you're coming from a place of kindness. I still think you've got it backward though. It's not cool to make any sort of suggestion or request for how PoCs should handle or react to racism, even if what you're trying to say is "I'm very interested in the non-101 stuff you have to contribute!" Ultimately, you're asking PoCs to act in a certain way for your own personal benefit and/or the benefit of the community, which perpetuates racism, even if that's not your intent.

Instead, you can direct that same sentiment at the people causing the problem. For example: "I'm very interested in the non-101 stuff PoCs have to contribute, can the white people in the room shut up so I can hear them" or some version thereof. In this version, you're helping to make space for PoCs and taking a (small, but existent) anti-racist action, which seems more in line with your intent.
posted by zebra at 10:33 PM on October 22, 2015 [19 favorites]


zutalors!: "It's not ridiculing to point out that you're whitesplaining."

You asked a question. And then when I double-checked if it was rhetorical, you told me specifically to think about the answer. It's ridiculous to ask a question, and then when someone answers, to chastise them for answering. And chastising them for whitesplaining by explaining "This is what white people really think" is kinda nuts.

This is what pisses me off about MeFi. I'm agreeing with you, and trying to answer questions you're asking. If you already know the answer, don't ask me. But I guess I'm not agreeing with you hard enough or something. I used the phrase "regular topic" instead of "topic which seldom if ever results in MeTas/flameouts/anger", I said "every discussion" instead of "every non-quantitative topic about something other than STEM fields, European history, or nerd trivia".

Anyway, fuck it. I'm out of this thread. Go ahead and look for a poor word choice in this comment and have a ball.
posted by Bugbread at 10:41 PM on October 22, 2015 [42 favorites]


Well, I went on to give an example of what I meant about how something can be regular to some people and totally a wild political idea to other people, but sure just give a think to that one part.

I'm pretty sure that the part of the quoted comment that I bolded was sarcastic, Bugbread, and that is the cause of your confusion. That's not the first time I've seen your relentless assumption of good faith on the part of other users lead you down a frustrating path. I hope you keep it up, I think it's admirable and it would be good for the site if more posters followed suit.
posted by Kwine at 10:55 PM on October 22, 2015 [22 favorites]


Conversations like this matter a lot to white people, and they matter for different reasons. Some people might just want to be reassured that they're not racist, because they don't want to be or be seen that way. You know, the whole "I'm not racist, etc etc" line of argument.

But I think a lot of people are also genuinely concerned with how they're treating people, and maybe don't get a whole lot of opportunities to talk to people about it. I mean, that's not to say it's OK to use people of color as launchpads for assuaging white peoples' concerns, but I think that's where it's coming from all the same. It becomes a big deal because it matters to one party, and maybe they need to understand that this doesn't give them license to make the conversation all about that one thing. It makes the conversation all about white people in the context of people of color, when it was meant to be something else.

I deal with issues of appropriation all the time in a university setting, and even then it can be tempting to steer the conversation towards what I care about. Actual sensitivity to other peoples needs is a learned practice, and I think a lot of people think it just comes naturally when you care enough about the matter at hand.
posted by teponaztli at 11:14 PM on October 22, 2015 [8 favorites]


Sorry, and I'm talking about white people here in the context of often the white person, whether they agree or not, now feels like we are having a Big Discussion and it now has to be about their feels.

Which is to say, yeah, I see that, and that's a problem.
posted by teponaztli at 11:17 PM on October 22, 2015


Some people might just want to be reassured that they're not racist, because they don't want to be or be seen that way.

It's become clear to me that the worst slur you can ever call a white person is 'bigot'. Many of them take umbrage at it because to them, it's worse than the n-word they love to use when their one black friend isn't around.
posted by qcubed at 11:20 PM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's become clear to me that the worst slur you can ever call a white person is 'bigot'

"the ability to label a person racist represents, in 21st-century America, real and frequently terrifying power."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:44 PM on October 22, 2015 [5 favorites]


Any mods care to chime in on what the flagging activity was like for the comments in question, or for the thread overall?

As of now only three of the comments Conspire links to were flagged at all, and those had only a small number of flags. Other comments (about 15 total) were flagged and deleted. There were five mod notes left in the thread.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (staff) at 11:47 PM on October 22, 2015 [6 favorites]


So, can you imagine having this same conversation, in this same tone, at a Meetup? I can't.

Call me an old-timer (although I haven't been around here in my various incarnations as long as some others have) but I thought we were all supposed to be friends here on MetaFilter, generally speaking, giving each other the benefit of the doubt as we try to, know know whitesplain discuss things on a discussion board as part of an actual community.

A web forum is not designed for listening or lurking. It's designed for participation.
posted by Nevin at 12:01 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I get a lot out of lurking on this forum, you know.
posted by smoke at 12:08 AM on October 23, 2015 [89 favorites]


I find it's generally smartest not to participate and thus to lurk. I get abused enough in other areas of my life.
posted by persona au gratin at 12:51 AM on October 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


A web forum is not designed for listening or lurking. It's designed for participation.

See, anyone who's been lurking in this thread (and maybe the thread we're discussing) without participating for whatever reason* who disagrees with you on this point now either has to participate, to point out that you're wrong (while being forced to do what they were avoiding), or let your point go unchallenged (and remain participation-free as they were trying to do initially). As a fellow old-timer, I am surprised you don't see the value in lurking. Sometimes it's best just to listen and learn and understand.

*Personally: I am learning a lot and have nothing to contribute.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 12:58 AM on October 23, 2015 [73 favorites]


I thought we were all supposed to be friends here on MetaFilter, generally speaking, giving each other the benefit of the doubt as we try to, know know whitesplain discuss things on a discussion board as part of an actual community.

See, here's the thing. You're locating the problem in the objections to whitesplaining - literally locating the problem in the actions and reactions of people of color to being disregarded, ignored, talked over, and insulted.

The problem is the whitesplaining, is the racism both overt and covert, is the dismissal of issues because of their lack of relevance to the lives of the white people being dismissive. White fragility is a real thing. By and large, most of what white people in the US have is because of the death, rape, degradation, and illegitimate use of people of color. Black people formed the basis of vast economies we're still reaping the benefits of. Chinese people built the railroads that are one of the backbones of our economy. Latin@ people make it possible for most of us to eat. Poor people in Asian countries across the world are right now making it possible for us to have cheap things in working conditions which should make us ashamed. White people in the US can dominate politics, commerce, business, education, and all other fields due to the continual, systemic exclusion of people of color which they simultaneously blame on these self-same people of color. By thinning the competition through exclusion of others, white people get more stuff and can pretend we earned it through individual effort.

And we are really, really, really attached to this idea of individual effort. Sometimes I think the entire thrust of US culture toward isolation and individuation is about trying to slough off just how much blood was shed and suffering was endured so that we could advance into an individualistic, modern, civilized society. If we pretend we exist in and of ourselves and have made the things we have through our own effort we can ignore the dead and dying whose privation make our excess possible.

If we want to fix this, we have to acknowledge not just the suffering of the people around us, but also our own culpability in a system which is designed to hurt people so that they can't excel and they won't be competition.

It's the friendly thing to do.
posted by Deoridhe at 1:20 AM on October 23, 2015 [90 favorites]


i have a chip on my shoulder regarding texas/the south which i've been thinking about. if this is a derail, please ignore-- i completely defer to other PoC on this, no problem. metafilter is shit on the south and i find this intersects with racism because to slur the entire region indiscriminately (which is already incorrect, bad for conversation, and needs to fucking end) is, while not the intent, yet another way to ignore PoC.

we've already had conversations about how the south is a scapegoat for white people (but sometimes also non-white people) in blue states and a chance to feel superior while allowing them to ignore less blatant racism. i think that attitude was part of the seattle derail in the yoga thread too.

but saying "the south" or "texas" and meaning "racist white people that vote for conservative politicians" basically denies southern identity to PoC. i've thought about it before, but the helt texas thread reminded me, non-americans that assume the US is just white people being ridiculous, blue staters that think the south is just white people being ridiculous, and racist white southerners who hate PoC and tell us to go home are all doing a version of assuming PoC don't belong under the label american/southerner.

all this happens for different reasons obviously but when white mefites who dominate the site perpetuate this shit in front of, say, europeans or anyone else in the world reading along, it just chips away at nuance which is already sorely lacking. AND your voices are given more weight in the discussion even when you're wrongity wrong. in the reverse, it feels like loljapan threads rely on white expats and white americans nod along like yup, guess that's a fact now, thank you for teaching me about Asian Country.

i thought about commenting in that texas thread because in the US i get "where are you from. but where are you REALLY from. OK WHERE ARE YOUR PARENTS FROM IN ASIA BC I CAN CLEARLY SEE YOU ARE AN ASIAN FROM ASIA JUST TELL MEEEEEEEE." but i get the same thing in europe and isn't that interesting? that instead of "oh wow, but you're not a stereotype of a texan/american" that some white americans get in europe i get the same racist assumptions that i get in the US.

but the appropriation thread had gone to shit and i didn't feel like sharing any more about my life while possibly exposing myself to casual anti-texas circle jerk bullshit on top of it all (and last i checked it was a goofing off thread too so why get all LET'S DISCUSS MAH IDENTITY and rustle white feathers being That Guy, after all i was already being angrily asian in another thread).

whew! these 2 things have been bothering me for sooooo long thank you for letting me pop that emotional zit. i don't want to interject any yelling about the south into the discussion, it's meant to be an example of how white ignorance on complicated identity issues is pervasive and centering white people sets the tone for so many discussions beyond the obvious ones. we could spend forever digging into who we are and really learning about each other on our own terms (i learn stuff all the time bc i'm not a 100% expert on even my own experience and rely on others to help me cobble together this goddamn mess--how many women feel the same about feminism threads?) but predictably we spend most of the time babysitting.

when you see several people saying "man i wonder why white men need to OPINION all the time" like. there should be a voice in your head that says "oh that's referring to me and the correct move is NOT TO TALK" or at least to tread very carefully but instead...
posted by twist my arm at 1:41 AM on October 23, 2015 [61 favorites]


History is written by the victors; the status quo is dictated by the dominant and advantaged.

Let us try to avoid this.
posted by polymodus at 1:44 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


but saying "the south" or "texas" and meaning "racist white people that vote for conservative politicians" basically denies southern identity to PoC.

I really appreciate the clarity of this in particular. It was a shock to me when I realized I thought of the south as white, and how implicitly racist that was.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:09 AM on October 23, 2015 [47 favorites]


A web forum is not designed for listening or lurking. It's designed for participation.

Participating can be listening. One of the best experiences I ever had early on was a very very brave adult interracial adoptee who shared her story with a roomful of tone-deaf prospective parents who were just clueless and hurtful and defensive. But one thing she said resonated with me (white minority anecdote deleted) and afterwards talking to her about our shared experience, and how it hurt as a kid to be ignored about race, and she said something to me that was basically please shut up and listen to us adoptees. Listen and listen when it hurts your feelings and believe us. What saved me from going nuts growing up was my older sister who listened to me when everyone else was telling me to be a happy good asian adoptee. Listen.

You can participate by saying "Wow, thanks for sharing." or "That's something I didn't know and now I get it a bit more. I'm going to look up that person and find out more, thanks for sharing that."

Listening with care can be thoughtful and useful participation. It's not the spotlight, it's not as ego-boosting and it's not going to get as much attention, but in the long run, it'll lead to better and more interesting discussions on metafilter.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 2:09 AM on October 23, 2015 [56 favorites]


A forum is also a good place to ask questions. You might not get answers, and you certainly shouldn't interrogate somebody's experiences, but, my goodness, I've had my experiences as a Jew explained to me by non-Jews on this site, and I'm always like, you could ask me instead of tell me. I can't imagine how much more of this women and people of color get.
posted by maxsparber at 3:26 AM on October 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


Some white posters see a topic about PoC and think "This is a conversation I should not take part in, or only take minimal part in"...

I wonder how many comments by White People Agreeing With Previous Commenters start out from the same impulse as someone who nods along during a conversation, but who knows not to interrupt?

Like, if there was a way for me to post "nodding in agreement but keeping my mouth shut because this isn't my place to talk" in one character. Would it stop me from writing a longer and less helpful comment? Sort of how posting one dot in an obit thread is done, though maybe that's an imperfect analogy.
posted by wenestvedt at 3:27 AM on October 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


twist my arm: metafilter thinks it's ok about racism, but it feels to me metafilter is mostly voter ID, shooting innocent black people, the drug war and discrimination. that's the narrow band of white people (kind of) understanding issues of race. cultural appropriation is a nuanced thing, and i've already seen stupid shit when it comes to appropriation wrt white people and hip hop (oh so white people aren't ALLOWED to do hip hop now? but music is for EVERYONE, everybody steals from everybody EQUALLY) but this thread was like appropriation, plus

Quoted because I can't favorite this hard enough.

This thread was also particularly painful; when the people affected by something are unambiguously calling it racism, reactions like "Prove it." or "Change the channel" are not constructive.

There were some comments there that were a hell of a lot worse and got deleted, which sometimes makes me wonder if we shouldn't let those comments stand, why cover up for people that out themselves as bigots.
posted by xqwzts at 4:01 AM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Like, if there was a way for me to post "nodding in agreement but keeping my mouth shut because this isn't my place to talk" in one character.

I generally use Favourites for this, although I know everyone uses them for different things.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:07 AM on October 23, 2015 [28 favorites]


I'm all about the favourites and shutting the fuck up when people are sharing their life experiences. I never used to be, mind you, but that's something else this place has taught me. Lurking is not such a bad thing.
posted by h00py at 4:14 AM on October 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


yep. i try to lurk more in threads where we're discussing something that affects PoC more than it does me. i'm not great at it, sorry for being one of the derailers in the PoC Yoga thread. i learn a lot by lurking, it's how i operated here for years before i got a membership.
posted by palomar at 5:42 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Thank you, Conspire, for starting this MeTa. And thanks to the very many of you in the original thread for being awesome.

I've thought a lot about that thread and why it went so badly. And it brought to mind how sometime last year, during Icelandic Halloween, I posted this photo on my Facebook of a costume I had seen while on the town, and called it cultural appropriation, and a particularly ugly kind, too ("tomahawk axe"?). What followed was a deluge of Icelanders explaining to me why this isn't racist, how they don't believe in "cultural appropriation", and this one Native American guy who is totally cool with these costumes, and so on. It was utterly exhausting being dogpiled by the whitest people on Planet Earth about why I was reacting the wrong way to racism.

So when this thread came up, I was frankly relieved to see so many different voices coming together to share their stories, to talk about how cultural appropriation is hurtful, and how they respond to it in their daily lives. Then things began to go to shit.

Whether it was the "you are being most illogical" spocking that deanc and others engaged in, the sly insinuations of being "too sensitive", the "yeah but THIS person is ok with it" or whatever the hell it was Tanizaki was doing, it all comes down to one thing: white people lecturing visible minorities on how they're supposed to react to racism. In much the same way that men lecturing women on how they're supposed to respond to sexism is, it's a toxic and silencing way to engage in an honest discussion.

And before someone counters about "allowing different voices", let me just say that the voice which says "you are all wrong and oversensitive and not responding to this thing properly" is never, ever going to be a helpful voice in the discussion. If you see a thread like this and find yourself filling with the urge to pop in to tell people how their feelings are wrong and they're being too sensitive, just keep fucking scrolling. You won't be helping. I guarantee you, that kind of arrogance is not going to be a learning experience for anyone.

I am all for white people coming into these threads to ask honest questions, to listen, to offer support. But if someone is talking about how their background has brought with it a set of experiences such as X, Y and Z, to be from a different background but tell them their personal experiences are wrong, "personally motivated" or otherwise not the proper way to respond is incredibly insulting. That shit needs to be nuked from orbit.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 5:55 AM on October 23, 2015 [61 favorites]


I think the biggest issue here is that the thread was about Japan. There is a large subset of white american (maybe European too? Not sure) nerdery that is obsessed with Japan and thinks they know enough about it to speak authoritatively about Japanese culture and the Japanese perspective--without regard to the differences between Japanese-Americans and people from Japan, not to mention the fact that watching anime or even living in Japan for a few years doesn't give you the right to dismiss anyone from the Asian diaspora's experiences.

My point is: If you consider yourself like a Japan expert and you're not Japanese consider how that comes across before you start to Well-Actually anyone, and maybe like don't.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 5:57 AM on October 23, 2015 [22 favorites]


the majority consider every thread something that it's okay to participate in equally

I would submit that this way of thinking is a direct result of being enculturated into a dominant class.
posted by Miko at 6:04 AM on October 23, 2015 [37 favorites]


Above, Conspire said this:

So part of the problem is that we devalue the various forms of knowledge that PoC have on race, to the point that we consider the opinions and comments of white people to hold equal weight to them despite having nowhere near the massive bodies of background we have to support our knowledge. White people need to learn some damned humility about their own ignorance.

Not only do I agree, but my impression of mod policy is that it does too, to POC detriment. I used to get flak from mods (until I changed my ways) when I spoke too vehemently, too activist-y. I do acknowledge that mod policy in that regard has shifted over the years but I still operate under the assumption that if I write too activist-y I will be asked to move on from a thread. To say that it feels like this mod boundary puts me at a distinct disadvantage due to working at all times under a tone argument is... An understatement.
posted by kalessin at 6:04 AM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


I think the biggest issue here is that the thread was about Japan.

Seemed to me the thread was about cultural appropriation. But I agree on the Japan point: I do not understand why Japanese attitudes about kimono shops and the history of the Middle Ages in Japan or whatever was in any way relevant to the discussion.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:06 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Any mods care to chime in on what the flagging activity was like for the comments in question, or for the thread overall?

I flagged a bunch, I contact formed -- and though most of what I flagged got deleted (I see two flagged comments left), I also stopped flagging because I know we've been told that it's not necessary to flag a lot in the same thread, the mods will be on it, though I think that was probably a mistake in this case.
posted by jeather at 6:06 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


without regard to the differences between Japanese-Americans and people from Japan

As an European, I don't particularly care about Japanese-Americans over Japanese nationals or, say, Japanese-Spaniards. Sorry. As I mentioned, the worst we did to the Japanese was to send Francis Xavier, not to put immigrants in internment camps. I'm getting rather frustrated at the cultural imperialism of supposing that ethnicity X is treated the same and has the same backstory as in the USA when they don't.
posted by sukeban at 6:07 AM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


A web forum is not designed for listening or lurking. It's designed for participation.

I beg you to re-think this dumb position
posted by Greg Nog at 6:11 AM on October 23, 2015 [86 favorites]


Also Bugbread mentioned this earlier, but the CIET thread had a strong component of a half dozen or so Asians (mostly Chinese-American/Chinese) and some allies trying to discuss biased and prejudiced policies in FDA policies and health inspections. That aspect of the discussion did not, in my mind, go well.
posted by kalessin at 6:13 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I beg you to re-think this dumb position

Yeah, I mean, there's a reason they made it Rule 33 of the Internet.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:13 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


One thing to note about the way white people think about Asians, is that we're basically Schrodinger's PoC - we simultaneously hold the position of a racial minority and not, until white people want to evoke us to settle an argument. Then, somehow we always end up being the thing that dismisses racism the most. If we're contradicting another PoC or going "I don't feel this thing is racist", we're most definitely a PoC and our opinions should be regarded as such. If we're talking about our own experiences or racism fighting against the status quo, who are we kidding? We're not even oppressed anymore, we're basically white. So this is how it becomes possible to uphold the opinions of a single Asian man from the UK writing a column for an online publication when he says that Native Americans are just whiny, and then ignore the other twenty Asians going "fuck, that's racist."

This is why we define racism as power plus prejudice. Because if it were just prejudice alone, you wouldn't see these types of highly concerted and methodological methods launched against PoC. And this is also why I never buy the excuse that white people are simply ignorant about racial power dynamics. Let's be straight here - if you were all ignorant, you would have no clue how to leverage these power dynamics in your favor every single fucking time. You were all systematically taught how to play into these power dynamics by our society and culture. This is why whenever you meet a PoC, you instantly scramble to ask us "where are you from"? Because you need to categorize us so you know exactly what fine granularity of specific racism to launch at us to hold thrall over us.

You were also taught that it's in your favor to pretend that you're ignorant. So I'm going to call that out right here - when you say you don't know better when you do something racist, that's a load of horseshit. I see right through that. You know exactly what you're doing, and you know this is why I'm not extending the benefit of the doubt to you. And to the white people witnessing racism - you all know exactly what's up here too. You all know it's in your benefit to say "oh, that white dude was just ignorant, sorry, you have to strike up dialogue and educate him", when you know this isn't strictly the case. Ignorant about culture, about specific experiences of race, about racial theory? Sure. Ignorant about power dynamics? We all know that's not the case.

White people - I'm watching you.
posted by Conspire at 6:17 AM on October 23, 2015 [97 favorites]


A web forum is not designed for listening or lurking. It's designed for participation.

I don't even know what this means. Yes, there's a box at the bottom, but it's not one of those "required fields" you encounter sometimes. It's ok to read to the end and then close the tab. It's a rule of thumb that I recall Matthowie confirming that 90% of users just lurk most of the time. We are still users. Join me and smoke and thousands of others not speaking when we don't have anything useful to add.
posted by Horselover Fat at 6:19 AM on October 23, 2015 [25 favorites]


I read that thread and noped right out again. Clueless white mefites come on now really? Is cultural appropriation really an avant garde concept you've never run across before? If so I'm sorry your education ossified at "be colorblind" or some such nonsense but it's on you to update your narrow-ass world view. A good way to start is by shutting up and listening instead of blah blah blahing your hot take on the subject.
posted by supercrayon at 6:25 AM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


A web forum is not designed for listening or lurking. It's designed for participation.

No, it's really just the most privileged people who think their thoughts are so valuable they must be shared at every opportunity.

The rest of us think before we speak. We have to, in some cases, because it's dangerous. But sometimes it's just not necessary.
posted by Lyn Never at 6:26 AM on October 23, 2015 [45 favorites]


As an European, I don't particularly care about Japanese-Americans over Japanese nationals or, say, Japanese-Spaniards. Sorry. As I mentioned, the worst we did to the Japanese was to send Francis Xavier, not to put immigrants in internment camps. I'm getting rather frustrated at the cultural imperialism of supposing that ethnicity X is treated the same and has the same backstory as in the USA when they don't.

I guess that answers my question of whether there are Europeans who are hopelessly pedantic about Japan eh?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:33 AM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


For a century and a half or so, yeah.
posted by sukeban at 6:34 AM on October 23, 2015


As an European, I don't particularly care about Japanese-Americans over Japanese nationals or, say, Japanese-Spaniards.

No one is asking you to do this. We are asking people to believe that when Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans say that their experience of race is different than those of people of Japanese descent elsewhere, to believe them and not play gotcha using the history of another continent.

Look, I've spent over half my life living outside the US and generally speaking I agree with you that MeFi is obnoxiously US-centric (or rather, as people pointed out above, white middle-class American-centric) and hair-trigger defensive about it. More broadly in my experience across the internet, American PoC have a really bad habit of barging into conversations between PoC in other countries and trying to dictate terms using a model of racial dynamics that doesn't apply, which is really shitty, oppressive behavior.

However, it is also my experience that when American PoCs talk about their experiences as PoC living in America, it's very common for white people from Europe or elsewhere to come into the conversation all, "That doesn't happen in my country!" and then accuse people of imperialism when they're like, "That's great, but we're talking about the stuff we're actually living through right here." Which is also shitty, oppressive behavior.
posted by bettafish at 6:44 AM on October 23, 2015 [62 favorites]


We are asking people to believe that when Japanese Americans and other Asian Americans say that their experience of race is different than those of people of Japanese descent elsewhere, to believe them and not play gotcha using the history of another continent.

Of course I believe them. I am just not American, I do not live in America, and I do not have to ask permission to Americans to mediate my experience of the outside world.

Sheesh. I've been browsing the website of the Japanese Embassy in Spain to see if they had something interesting going, but nothing can be better than this.
posted by sukeban at 6:47 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


What is your point? That you are Japanese-Spanish? If so, what is the relevance of that fact? I think we may be having a disconnect because your responses don't seem to be addressing what we're discussing. Or maybe I'm confused?
posted by Potomac Avenue at 6:50 AM on October 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


No, that Japanese people living in Spain or their descendants don't have the same backstory and the same problems that Japanese-Americans have faced, and I would rather care about their opinion about the things I do than about the opinion of a random American.
posted by sukeban at 6:54 AM on October 23, 2015


> More broadly in my experience across the internet, American PoC have a really bad habit of barging into conversations between PoC in other countries and trying to dictate terms using a model of racial dynamics that doesn't apply, which is really shitty, oppressive behavior.

I've been seeing this a lot, too, and I've been trying to check myself on that. We're not immune to taking the same US-centric approach as white statesiders...at all.
posted by Ashen at 6:56 AM on October 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Well, I'll be honest, I'm kinda glad that Japan isn't supporting FC Barça or Real Madrid. Both of those teams get more than enough international support already.

That said, if we were talking about Japanese-Spaniards, theirs is a voice we would be absolutely criminal in ignoring. But in that thread, we weren't: it was more directly the collision of Japanese, Americans, Japanese-Americans, and Asian-Americans, and each of those identities can be held by the same individual at the same time.

I'm at least glad your contributions in that thread weren't dismissive of the Asian-American context, though. And the tidbits about flamenco were interesting.
posted by qcubed at 6:59 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


No, that Japanese people living in Spain or their descendants don't have the same backstory and the same problems that Japanese-Americans have faced,

I'm not clear on why that needed to be discussed in that particular thread, although I would be interested in a thread about the Japanese immigrant experience in Europe.
posted by maxsparber at 7:00 AM on October 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Well, I'll be honest, I'm kinda glad that Japan isn't supporting FC Barça or Real Madrid.

Everyone knows Tsubasa Oozora plays in FC Barça. Of course, the anime was an immense hit in Spain in the 90s, too.
posted by sukeban at 7:02 AM on October 23, 2015


If you're a member of a privileged group and you would like to talk in public about social justice, complete this simple, two-step process first.

Step one, listen to this show: http://www.showaboutrace.com/episodes-notes/ Start at the first one and listen on up, or start at the top and go down, or listen in random order.

Step two: Feel first very very angry and then very sad whenever "Tanner" talks. Get angry at "Tanner," the human species, and God. Then get sad.

If you can complete both steps of the process, proceed, keeping in mind the mandate, DON'T BE "TANNER." (And when someone kindly points out to you that you're being "Tanner," or when you realize it on your own, bear up and resist the urge to freak out and double down with your "Tanner" crap, just apologize and walk back with grace and humility.) If you can't complete step two, do not proceed.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:09 AM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm not clear on why that needed to be discussed in that particular thread

The thread stems from an essay in a British magazine by a British-Japanese writer. But discussion could only be framed in terms of the U.S. experience of the issues the essay raised. There is a certain amount of - largely unspoken but not undetectable - disquiet regarding this tendency to implicitly exclude non-Americans on Metafilter*, and I suspect that some individuals - rightly or wrongly - considered it an opportunity to express that disquiet.

Given that the two most striking and memorable examples given in the essay were directly referring to America, I'm not sure that it was the best place for it, but looking from outside the U.S. there are certainly other positions which can justifiably be taken on those examples which differ from those allowable within the context of the thread.

*And it might be useful to have a bit of a think about how it might come across before rushing to explain to us that we're not excluded.
posted by Grangousier at 7:32 AM on October 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


As of now only three of the comments Conspire links to were flagged at all, and those had only a small number of flags.

Thanks, gntfi. I feel like part of the solution might be for people like myself who noped out as things went off the rails to try to stick around a little longer next time this is happening and flag these kinds of comments, even if the comments could be charitably read as coming from a place of ignorance rather than malice. Some of the ones Conspire linked to are definitely ones I would have flagged had I stuck around.
posted by tonycpsu at 7:32 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


do not proceed

This is good advice. That said, and as I said privately to Bugbread yesterday, I understand the urge to withdraw and lick wounds when confronted and/or scolded about one's unthinking deployment of privilege, but this itself (this withdrawing to regroup) is a privilege.

The reality is that for PoC, we don't get to withdraw (though on the Internet, we do, if we also shut up and stop expressing ourselves). But in general, with respect to withdrawing, folks will pursue us and harass us in our homes and threaten our families (Gamergate-esque tactics, for sure, but it's a reality for many of us, especially those of us who are especially mouthy), for merely having an opinion and participating in these kinds of discussions.

So from my perspective I would rather see allies who are confronted to handle it well and stay present and involved. I'm not saying that's the easy path, and in no way do I promise that way won't lead to further scoldings. We PoC are not a monolith. I do not have a hotline to keep everyone off your back while you try to do the right thing. And as you try to do the right thing, you are likely to fuck up and hear about it.

But to me the right thing is that folks who are confronted with their privilege do the hard thing. Take it as graciously as possible, maybe apologize (I honestly don't give a shit about apologies - they may be hard work for you, but to me, they're almost like stalling), move on, BUT also stay present and keep trying. That, my friends, is a STAUNCH ally. A licking-wounds ally? That kind of ally I can only count on to quail and flee. What I WANT is staunch allies. People who have the wherewithal to stick around, not fragile privileged snowflake allies.
posted by kalessin at 7:37 AM on October 23, 2015 [35 favorites]


I feel like part of the solution might be for people like myself who noped out as things went off the rails to try to stick around a little longer next time this is happening and flag these kinds of comments, even if the comments could be charitably read as coming from a place of ignorance rather than malice.

I know that I flagged a few. Including this one which, whatever the intent behind it, is so clueless and insulting that I'm frankly very surprised it's still standing.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:38 AM on October 23, 2015


part of the solution might be for people like myself who noped out as things went off the rails to try to stick around a little longer

I know this sounds weird right after my comment about staunch allies sticking around, but one thing I repeat a lot in my own writing is that there is a dynamic to threads dominated by majority/privileged commenters on any medium. This checks out in my own experience and among my friends and is totally about nopeing out.

But I think when threads get too dominated by majority/privileged viewpoints, there's a large chunk of minorities who reflexively nope out. We wouldn't touch those threads with a 13 foot pole. Because after it's dominated by those viewpoints, it's clear that no individual can possibly steer it back to a diversity-supporting viewpoint.

Sure, an argument can be made that, like in functional democracies, we should show up and represent and outweigh the poor direction by sheer force of will. But also factor in that we do this every single day, repeatedly. To enforce boundaries around our own needs and requirements. Many of us come to social media and sites like MetaFilter to relax. We don't always have the energy to do more emotional labor here to do this work again in our off hours, in our rest and relaxation hours.

There has needfully and awesomely been discussion lately about emotional labor, including a reference to the blogger who told white folks to pay for her therapy instead of apologizing. This is why, in part, I think the mods should be more diverse. Because the mods get paid to do this work. Most of us don't. And a more diverse panel of mods would necessarily bring, like jessamyn brought feminist social justice viewpoints to the mod team and thus to the mod policies, and trickling down, to the site as a whole, more focus on diversity and diverse viewpoints to the mod team and thus to the site.

Because not a lot of we minorities have the time or energy to dedicate to swinging this great ship of a site back toward justice, after we get home from fighting those fights all day at our work, our schools, our neighborhoods.
posted by kalessin at 7:48 AM on October 23, 2015 [23 favorites]


"2. We understand that you think that PoC are not a monolith. That doesn't mean that you cherrypick examples that directly contradict what pretty much every single PoC in a given FPP is saying about their racial experiences, and then conclude "sometimes people cry "cultural appropriation" and "racism" when it's not the case." I don't care what your opinions on cultural appropriation are, and I don't want to rehash that argument here. But tens of PoC mefites in that thread came out to say that this issue was important to us, doing tremendous emotional labor in articulating our viewpoints and pain, and it was incredibly offensive that people kept dismissing our opinions by finding outliers and concluding that our viewpoints were entirely invalid, as summarized by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane here. "

I was pointing out that there isn't always a consensus on what is and what isn't cultural appropriation. When you say:

" That doesn't mean that you cherrypick examples that directly contradict what pretty much every single PoC in a given FPP is saying about their racial experiences, "

You're completely misstating my comment. I replied to a comment that said:

"Well, let's note that the kimono thing was Japanese-Americans protesting an American museum."

And so I pointed out that the issue wasn't clearcut asJapanese-Americans were also counterprotesting at the museum as well by saying:

"And Japanese-Americans counter protesting too."

To which I got the reply:

"And hey, there was that black guy who defended the Confederate Flag. CheckMATE, SJWs."

and

"minorities who engage in apologia to defend your point."

Wtf? By pointing out that an issue isn't clearcut by showing that there wasn't a consensus amongst a group about what's considered to be appropriation (harking back to this comment) people started attacking and insulting the counter-protestors because...I don't know why. People later got the point that I was trying to make across that much better than I could've written so that was cool.

Also, the conversation then changed into something that confused me as it was pointed out that Japanese culture and that the culture of Japanese-Americans is different (which is obvious to me) but then it was explained why the Japanese-American protestors were taking offense at the exhibit. However what confused me was that I was talking about accusations of cultural appropriation of Japanese culture by the museum's exhibit. The conversation apparently moved on to more of how cultural stereotypes are offensive and how they might be accidentally propagated. But I wasn't talking about that at all. I was talking about cultural appropriation.
posted by I-baLL at 7:48 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]



*And it might be useful to have a bit of a think about how it might come across before rushing to explain to us that we're not excluded.


My point stands though I think. Unless you are a Japanese person with your own experiences, bopping into a thread to explain that Japanese-Americans aren't the only perspective, ESPECIALLY when your point is that "Oh European or Native Japanese people don't think XX is racist actually" is, in fact, pedantic and entitled nerdery.

As a side note, White Europeans aren't discriminated against ever and the idea that being ignored on a majority US site is equivilent to racism is pure balderdash and tomfoolery. Not that it doesn't suck and I agree we Mercans should ease up on the assumptions. But come on.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:48 AM on October 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I didn't say it was racism or equivalent to racism, I said it was a general situation which causes people a certain amount of disquiet, which they might take advantage of a thread like that to express, perhaps inappropriately.
posted by Grangousier at 7:56 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Wtf? By pointing out that an issue isn't clearcut by showing that there wasn't a consensus amongst a group about what's considered to be appropriation

Since the two comments you're talking about are mine, I'll point out that a number of people explained to you, really patiently I might add, what was wrong with what you were doing there. Such as this:

yes. it turns out, as you tried to point out before, ASIANS ARE DIFFERENT. what this means is that shit is complicated.

what this doesn't mean is that you pick the asians that agree with a stance you've already decided you're not backing away from no matter what and saying THEY'RE RIGHT. using them as props so you can NUH UH other asians is pretty fucking gross. gtf outta here with that shit.


You can also refer to this, far earlier in the thread:

if i'm having a conversation with another asian person about how asian-american identity is a complicated thing to pin down, we can do this type of nuance. if a white person is 'splaining to me about how well actually Asian People Are Not All The Same in order to shut me up about cultural appropriation, that means precisely jack and oh yeah shit to me.

I mean, you use this outlier and then declare "sometimes people cry 'cultural appropriation' and 'racism' when it's not the case." Which completely dismisses pretty much every Asian-American in that thread saying that it was. I guess you either missed those comments or didn't feel they were worth considering. But you weren't doing some "look at all sides" thing; you were dismissing the lived experiences people were sharing in that thread by cherry-picking to diminish the voice of others.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:57 AM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


Thank you, Conspire. Well done.
posted by fuse theorem at 8:00 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I didn't say it was racism or equivalent to racism, I said it was a general situation which causes people a certain amount of disquiet, which they might take advantage of a thread like that to express, perhaps inappropriately.

My mistake! You can see why it might rub people the wrong way then.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:03 AM on October 23, 2015


I know that I flagged a few. Including this one which, whatever the intent behind it, is so clueless and insulting that I'm frankly very surprised it's still standing.

Did you see the one from that poster which was deleted? The mods got to it pretty rapidly but it was still astonishingly terrible.
posted by zarq at 8:03 AM on October 23, 2015


No, I missed that one, whichever it was. But I'm not surprised. Way too many drive-bys.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:05 AM on October 23, 2015


"Since the two comments you're talking about are mine, I'll point out that a number of people explained to you, really patiently I might add, what was wrong with what you were doing there"

With what I was doing where?

Maxsparber's comment was:

"Well, there sort of is. Groups come to a loose consensus about the sort of stuff that can be appropriated and can't, and usually it has a lot to to with objects or expressions of special significance. Jewish people, for example, have a pretty consistent consensus that bagels are not a unique enough cultural expression to complain when McDonald's offers them, there was less consensus about the kabala craze (but ultimately there was little that could be done, as it was Jews who were selling it to gentiles), and I suspect there is a pretty strong consensus that phylacteries are not fashion accessories.

I've never heard a Native American complain about moccasins or fry bread becoming widely popular. But the headdresses have special significance, and anything that makes the native experience look like a costume that can be put on and taken off will get complaints.
"

Then he made this comment:

"Well, let's note that the kimono thing was Japanese-Americans protesting an American museum."

and so I said:

"And Japanese-Americans counter protesting too."

Because the point was being made that Japanese Americans as a whole were protesting the exhibit. My point was, no, they weren't protesting as a whole.
posted by I-baLL at 8:06 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I was pointing out that there isn't always a consensus on what is and what isn't cultural appropriation.

No, you were arguing that the fact that Japanese people disagreed over whether the MFA exhibit was inappropriate cultural appropriation showed that "sometimes people cry 'cultural appropriation' and 'racism' when it's not the case."

In addition to the logical problems with that inference, you were not at all expressing the idea that "opinions differ, and that's understandable," you were suggesting "one side of this dispute is making false claims of racism and cultural appropriation," which is itself a trope used by racists to discredit the idea that racism is worth taking seriously.
posted by burden at 8:08 AM on October 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


I would like it if the next time a mod is recruited the Metafilter Overlords would recruit a moderator of color. I think it would be good to recruit someone who was specifically interested in working out some new racial justice practices for metafilter modding. (That is, not just recruit someone and assume that they'll be ready to do that because they're a person of color.)

I would personally up my monthly contribution to the site if the purpose was to hire an additional mod (in general) but particularly if there was the intent to recruit someone to work on this and provide training for other mods. (Obviously in the long term more diverse recruitment is needed; I'm just thinking of "if there isn't much money and you want to do something right now and you can probably only make one hire".)

Metafilter is capable of change partly because it's a site where people build consensus and build groups within the site, but also because we have mods to structure and enforce behavior.

I think that it would also be great if the existing mods could take some steps [training, getting consultants who mod other POC-led sites, whatever seems helpful] to assist in figuring out how to moderate racial justice oriented threads better. Again, I would also support fund-raising for this specific purpose. I think it would be great if the mods could plan something like this and tell us about it.

I think Conspire's list could productively be linked at the end of the post when people post threads about POC-related topics.
posted by Frowner at 8:09 AM on October 23, 2015 [71 favorites]


By pointing out that an issue isn't clearcut by showing that there wasn't a consensus amongst a group about what's considered to be appropriation

1) The mere presence of disagreement does not mean that there isn't a consensus about a certain topic. You didn't show that there wasn't a consensus, you showed that there was disagreement, and tried to pass that off as there not being a consensus on whether having visitors put on kimonos and take photos in front of paintings of white people dressed in kimonos as orientalist exotica, without providing greater context is cultural appropriation/racist.

2) "Young Japanese-Americans, born in America" and "Older Japanese people, born in Japan" are not the same group, they're not going to have the same experiences, and their different experiences are going to result in different reactions to the way that encourag. Again, that doesn't mean there isn't a consensus on whether whether having visitors put on kimonos and take photos in front of paintings of white people dressed in kimonos as orientalist exotica, without providing greater context is cultural appropriation/racist.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:09 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Because the point was being made that Japanese Americans as a whole were protesting the exhibit.

Nobody made that point.
posted by maxsparber at 8:09 AM on October 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Also,

"I mean, you use this outlier and then declare "sometimes people cry 'cultural appropriation' and 'racism' when it's not the case." Which completely dismisses pretty much every Asian-American in that thread saying that it was. "

I wasn't using this as an outlier. This was an example of a lack of consensus of whether or not something is culturally approrpriative. This is the same example used in the FPP. It was an example to show that there isn't always a consensus amongst groups whether something is culturally appropriative which is what the FPP and my comments were about.
posted by I-baLL at 8:10 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Because the point was being made that Japanese Americans as a whole were protesting the exhibit. My point was, no, they weren't protesting as a whole.

Your entire interaction in that thread seems to imply that Asian-Americans don't know that we have different opinions and experiences.

Yeah, thanks, we know.

Over here, we call that whitesplaining.

Anyway, the faulty premise here is that just because we disagree, that doesn't mean there can't be collective or general consensus, whether local or systematically.
posted by Conspire at 8:10 AM on October 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


I know because of the nature of internet forums in general and MetaFilter in particular there's a certain valorization here of "thinking out loud" and figuring things out through back-and-forthing. The problem is this doesn't work as a community value if we don't prize the act of teaching -- including an acknowledgement of the burden of time and emotional labor -- even more highly than we do the act of learning. Maybe we do for stuff like physics or coin collecting or 17th century French history, but we definitely don't for race.

To me the most upsetting part of that thread after the out-and-out microaggressions and personal attacks was that I and the other people of that thread put a lot of time and emotional energy -- in my case, because of my chronic health issues that make sitting at a keyboard very difficult, actual physical pain that I'm still feeling right now -- into writing reams upon reams of very carefully chosen words to try and convey the complexity of our lived experience while hitting that balance between being forceful enough to get across the importance of the subject without being so forceful that white people started panicking. And in return, the white people we were talking to either ignored us or breezed past 95% of what we wrote and pounced upon the most trivial details while trying to engineer solutions to problems that we had already told them and were continuing to tell them could not be solved by writing the right flow chart. While they were also panicking.

Like I said in the thread, I've been a member since early 2008 and a lurker since before that. As much as I love MeFi I've seen and been privy to my fair share of frustrating (lack of) conversations on structural oppression. It's still been tremendously shocking and dispiriting to have people so steadfastly refuse to listen to me, and to feel so powerless to do anything about it.
posted by bettafish at 8:10 AM on October 23, 2015 [41 favorites]


Because the point was being made that Japanese Americans as a whole were protesting the exhibit. My point was, no, they weren't protesting as a whole.

And what a lot of other people are saying is "but here's an example of someone who disagrees, just, like, putting that out there" is a tiresome thing that happens a lot and sucks as a recurring, inescapable gotcha-like maneuver in discussions like that. You may not have thought of yourself as specifically Doing That Thing, but Doing That Thing is exactly what was going on.

More generally, this is a thing you, specifically, end up doing a lot and which I'm pretty sure we've talked about over email once or twice already: doing some sort of thing where you're just saying, or just asking, or just putting it out there that what if, and then being unwilling to drop it at someone saying "no, that's wrong/sucks/characteristic-of-x-ism" and instead digging in with a bunch of counter-argument stuff. You need to stop doing that. This would be a good time and place to start.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:10 AM on October 23, 2015 [64 favorites]


Consensus doesn't mean that 100% of people agree. It means that most people agree. Showing that some people disagree doesn't mean that there isn't a consensus, it means that you've misunderstood what consensus means.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:13 AM on October 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I'm glad a mod or two has stepped in, if only as a leadership thing and demonstration of interest in the subject from a MetaFilter employee; I found it eerie that none did so last night and am wondering why that is.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:14 AM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I was briefly interested in following that thread because I wanted to read about the opinions of MoC but when it became clear it was only ever going to be about challenging their experiences and telling them they were wrong, I noped the fuck out of there. I wish I had stuck around to at least flag like there was no tomorrow.
posted by Kitteh at 8:14 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


(none did until rather late Pacific Coast Time)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:14 AM on October 23, 2015


"Young Japanese-Americans, born in America" and "Older Japanese people, born in Japan" are not the same group, they're not going to have the same experiences, and their different experiences are going to result in different reactions to the way that encourag.

I happen to live with members of both groups. They do not mind if I wear a yukata (or much more often, a jinbei), but they do take offense if I eat Japanese food, which is a bummer because I really miss sushi.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:15 AM on October 23, 2015


This was an example of a lack of consensus of whether or not something is culturally approrpriative.

To which the only response is "yeah and?" You seem to think "consensus" means "all people everywhere are on totally the same page about a thing". This is never, ever going to be the case, about anything. Every adult knows this. So popping in to say "look, here's people from the same group who disagree" diminishes and dismisses the experiences people are talking about because of course we know there are people who disagree. Your later assertion, again, that "sometimes people cry 'cultural appropriation' and 'racism' when it's not the case" also makes this "i was just throwin' that out there" contention a little hard to believe.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:15 AM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Sometimes, as a white person, I want to express my very white feelings about such topics as cultural appropriation so I write them down. If I feel they're really that important and should be shared, I post them to my Livejournal. This helps me share my feelings without fucking derailing a thread where, really, I have nothing new or insightful to share.

Maybe it's something my fellow white people should consider?
posted by bgal81 at 8:17 AM on October 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


I'm glad a mod or two has stepped in, if only as a leadership thing and demonstration of interest in the subject from a MetaFilter employee; I found it eerie that none did so last night and am wondering why that is.

Just a note, mods were getting a hard time about pushing MeTa threads through the queue and then immediately pouncing with a comment a short while ago. So I feel like we're kind of pushing them to thread the needle right now.
posted by selfnoise at 8:17 AM on October 23, 2015 [32 favorites]


"...people started [sayingthingIdisagreewith/don'tunderstand] because... I don't know why."

Oh, you don't know why? What say you find out why, then? How might you find out why? By talking more? That's what you've been trying so far, is it working?
posted by Don Pepino at 8:18 AM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I happen to live with members of both groups. They do not mind if I wear a yukata (or much more often, a jinbei), but they do take offense if I eat Japanese food, which is a bummer because I really miss sushi.

Fun for you. This is the type of thing that should have probably gone in the original FPP that actually talks about this topic, instead of being tossed here casually as a "hey I'm a white dude and my experiences matter" aside in a Metatalk I made to explicitly center around the experiences of people of color.

If it seems like I'm being unusually aggressive about pointing out this low-level shit, well, I am. Because it happens all the fucking time and no one has the energy to call it out, but I'm going to make a point of showing off how much it fucking happens. See also, Nevin's comment above. Why do white dudes always think their boring, boring derails, opinions, and questions are always welcome and necessary?
posted by Conspire at 8:20 AM on October 23, 2015 [80 favorites]


Like, jesus, just because someone goes "let's talk about this specific aspect of race", that doesn't mean it's an invitation for white people to talk about every experience they've had relevant to race and every question they've had on race ever!
posted by Conspire at 8:22 AM on October 23, 2015 [65 favorites]


one_bean: And so I'm just putting in my vote that people not let the really exhausting stuff get in the way of contributing all of the interesting and substantive stuff.

So, zebra had a really good response to this that I endorse 100%, but also, it's not that what you're asking for puts an additional burden on people of color, it's that it's not actually possible.

There were a bunch of questions, anecdotes, and links to other material sharing other perspectives that I would have absolutely loved to be able to discuss with the other PoC on the thread, particularly since I don't have any other space at the moment where I can do so. I was not able to share them because I knew we would never actually get to discuss the complexities; instead, white people would jump on the least detail to derail, like, "You yourself just said that you thought you were overreacting!" or "Here's a Japanese American who doesn't think the kimono thing was appropriation! QED!"

It's not that we have to hold our noses and wade through the morass, it's that if we try the morass will sweep us under.
posted by bettafish at 8:22 AM on October 23, 2015 [20 favorites]


tonycpsu: I feel like part of the solution might be for people like myself who noped out as things went off the rails to try to stick around a little longer next time this is happening and flag these kinds of comments, even if the comments could be charitably read as coming from a place of ignorance rather than malice. Some of the ones Conspire linked to are definitely ones I would have flagged had I stuck around.

Every time these metas come up, I wonder if there's a way to help people stay in threads who normally nope out when arguments get heated or nasty. I'm often one of those who walk away. But sometimes posts like this one show up in Meta later and perhaps that could be avoided if more of us made an effort. Maybe we can all work to make this place a little less contentious and more welcoming.

To start, vigilant, lurking eyes can help with flagging. Calmer heads can make gentle observations, ask pointed questions or offer defusing opinions to keep threads on-topic. In an ideal metafilter, the mod team would be on top of all contentious threads and vocally defuse arguments, but that's not always possible. Perhaps it would be good to keep in mind that we don't have to be passive participants. Especially if we're not a member of the minority in question. Because one of the things an ally can do to be supportive is to speak up when we recognize certain dynamics happening. We may even have more 'spoons' to do so, so to speak, because enduring casual racism of the exact sort we would call out probably isn't part of our daily life experiences.

---

Conspire, I'm sorry I snapped at you in the fpp. I do recognize where your anger and frustration is coming from, but reacted the wrong way: defensively rather than thoughtfully. Thanks for making this post. Hopefully some good will come out of it.
posted by zarq at 8:23 AM on October 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


Oh - you're quite right selfnoise, thanks. I just found it weirdly silent but if this is the new mod approach (is it?) then coooool.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 8:26 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


However, calling the Asian-American counter-protestors as "minorities who engage in apologia" did bother me quite a bit though as it ignored the point of the article that I posted and was offensive to the counter-protestors as well.

If we're just carrying the discussion from the blue onto the gray, the "point" of the article was duly noted. Because grown ups know not everyone is going to agree on any subject. You explaining to visible minorities that not everyone in said group agrees, and then later casting aspersions on their ability to recognize appropriaton because of this disagreement that you dropped as if it were any kind of retort, was what I found offensive.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:27 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


you were not at all expressing the idea that "opinions differ, and that's understandable," you were suggesting "one side of this dispute is making false claims of racism and cultural appropriation," which is itself a trope used by racists to discredit the idea that racism is worth taking seriously.

YES. THIS.

This: "That sometimes people cry "cultural appropriation" and "racism" when it's not the case" does not in any way read to me as someone trying to point out that opinions may differ among the Japanese-American community. It reads like someone thinks they're Zeus come down from Mt. Olympus to bestow True Dispassionate Knowledge upon us mortals.

Even if it wasn't intended as that racist trope, it was unbelievably arrogant. "Not the case"? Who the hell made you The Decider about what is or isn't appropriation?
posted by soundguy99 at 8:28 AM on October 23, 2015 [32 favorites]


Something that I am trying to do in threads like the FPP, and occasionally succeed at, is use it as an opportunity to amplify the voices of people who actually have the experience we are talking about, and have written about it, and I link to it.

Miko did so as well, linking to her source for that discussion about how the Purple Heart is a symbol that can often be used to get white people to understand cultural appropriation. That was tremendously helpful for me, and came from a Native author.

Actually, Miko provided a lot of good links in there, and that is, I think, a useful way for white people to participate in the threads without just making it about their experiences and opinions.
posted by maxsparber at 8:29 AM on October 23, 2015 [33 favorites]


Conspire, thank you for putting this thing together; it took a ton of work. I'm still clicking links.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:29 AM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Thank you for this detailed write-up. I felt very weird about that thread and didn't feel like it was appropriate for me to really dig into the concerns as a white person, and yet I felt really uncomfortable about all the shit POC readers were having to put up with.
posted by odinsdream at 8:32 AM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


"And what a lot of other people are saying is "but here's an example of someone who disagrees, just, like, putting that out there" is a tiresome thing that happens a lot and sucks as a recurring, inescapable gotcha-like maneuver in discussions like that. "

That is not what I did and I don't appreciate my explanation of what I was talking about being deleted from a metatalk thread in which I'm linked to directly in 2 of the links in the FPP. It's hard explaining myself enough without having to worry about whether or not my comment will appear.

Oh, and soundguy99, see, that's the thing, I didn't phrase my point well enough. I'm not the decider. There is no decider. That was my point. I should probably just copy and paste other people's comments where they phrased what I was trying to say so much better than I have. Like kalessin's comment of: "This need not always be an either-or question with either-or answers. Please give us room for subtlety, and please make room in your mind and your heart for complex answers of your own." That was my point. To me, that seemed to be the point of the FPP as well. That's what I was trying to say but didn't do a good job of saying and that seemed to have lead to completely different readings of my words.
posted by I-baLL at 8:37 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


One thing I saw a lot of from white people in that thread and this one -- and just in general, honestly -- is this whole thing of "I (live in Japan | know a lot of Japanese people | am married to a Japanese person) and my thoughts on the topic are as follows." This bugs me because, OK, that's great, maybe you are well informed, but you are still a white person and probably shouldn't speak for other people, probably shouldn't assume that your read on the situation is the same as theirs would be.

What I almost never see -- and what is a lot more useful and informative, imho -- is "I asked my (Japanese colleagues | Japanese friends | Japanese spouse) about this issue, and the response was as follows." If you really want those people's viewpoints expressed in the thread, don't just guess at what they might be or use their association with you to give yourself more authority -- actually ask them.
posted by KathrynT at 8:38 AM on October 23, 2015 [58 favorites]


But anyway, I'd like to echo what a man of twist and turns said here that a lot of the stinkers who drop aggressive racist shit also tend to be the exact same people who are the usual suspects in threads about feminism and gender relations. This is not a coincidence, and I'd like to suggest to the mods that if someone has previously been told not to engage with FPPs on feminism, that their limit for doing the same thing to minorities whether racial or sexual or whatever get drastically shortened. These issues are all related, and it makes no sense that someone who has repeatedly been hostile to women here would suddenly get a fresh track record on PoC.
posted by Conspire at 8:42 AM on October 23, 2015 [60 favorites]


That is not what I did and I don't appreciate my explanation of what I was talking about being deleted from a metatalk thread in which I'm linked to directly in 2 of the links in the FPP.

I left you a really direct "you need to cut it out" note shortly upthread, and then you didn't drop it. You not wanting to drop something even when you should is basically the thesis of that cut-it-out note. Not conditionally if you feel like it: just, full stop, drop it. Even if it injures your sense of personal justice, even if you want to keep arguing. You need to be willing and able to do this, and sooner, because not doing so has become a conspicuous problem.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:42 AM on October 23, 2015 [33 favorites]


Every time these metas come up, I wonder if there's a way to help people stay in threads, who normally nope out when arguments get heated or nasty. I'm often one of those people who walks away.

Right, and I'm often one of the people who's gotten in trouble for being too fighty in the past, which is an impulse I've put some work into trying to control more recently. It definitely did not seem like a dynamic where me commenting would have improved things, but continuing to follow the thread was just pegging my rage-o-meter, so I stopped following it, figuring folks had things under control, and if not, the mods would step in if things got out of hand. Clearly, those assumptions were wrong, and it's worth my time to at least scan recent comments in these heated threads for flaggable comments, especially now that flags are supported on the recent activity page.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:44 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Seconding KathrynT's point. I see that happen a lot in threads about Asian culture. I mean, my husband married into a family where the entire maternal half is Mexican but he wouldn't presume to know how any of them felt about the subject in question. He would ask them first and answer appropriately if it was at all applicable to the circumstances at hand.
posted by Kitteh at 8:44 AM on October 23, 2015 [25 favorites]


It definitely did not seem like a dynamic where me commenting would have improved things,

That level of self-awareness is excellent. I wish I were better at it myself, honestly.

Even though I quoted your comment, what I said wasn't intended to be a direct response or criticism of your participation. I was thinking out loud, using what you said as a jumping off point. Don't want you to think I was lecturing you or anything.
posted by zarq at 8:47 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


zarq: Every time these metas come up, I wonder if there's a way to help people stay in threads, who normally nope out when arguments get heated or nasty. I'm often one of those people who walks away. But sometimes posts like this one show up in Meta later and perhaps that could be avoided if more of us made an effort. Maybe we can all work to make this place a little less contentious and more welcoming.

One thing I think allies can do to be helpful even if they don't have anything substantive to contribute is just to take on some of the work of shutting down derailing tactics and keep redirecting back to the people trying to make their voices heard. You don't need to have a complete understanding of every detail at hand to learn how to recognize Engineer Syndrome, for example, or to point out to a commenter that their "but-what-about?" has been addressed three times already so they should really either actually engage with what people are saying or move on.

It may not necessarily salvage the conversation -- we had several white allies doing their best to do exactly what I suggested, and I appreciated it, but it didn't do much in the end -- but at the very least maybe we won't feel quite as invisible.
posted by bettafish at 8:49 AM on October 23, 2015 [26 favorites]


Tripling KathrynT's point. The other thing I want to add to this is that it really grosses me out especially in the case of a white spouse speaking for an Asian woman, because it reinforces racist and misogynistic tropes against Asian women where their opinions and voices are deemed to be unimportant and in some cases, even assumed to be non-existent or blank slates. See the stereotypes that Asian women are "submissive", "quiet", "womanly", "feminine", etc. If you are a white dude (or woman or non-binary person!) married to an Asian woman, you need to try very, very hard not to give off the impression that you're speaking over your partner - and dominating, commodifying and representing her culture is NOT the way to do it.
posted by Conspire at 8:50 AM on October 23, 2015 [52 favorites]


I'm not the decider. There is no decider.

That sometimes people cry "cultural appropriation" and "racism" when it's not the case.

If there is no decider how can you say that it isn't 100% of the time ALWAYS the case.
posted by juv3nal at 8:50 AM on October 23, 2015


I'd like to suggest that deleting Tanizaki's comments is what allowed him to deliberately promulgate untruthful information in the past, and maybe you should not do him that favor yet again.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:51 AM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


TBH I think we're past the point where anyone needs undeleted proof that most of his, ahem, contributions are just showing his ass to the rest of us.
posted by griphus at 8:54 AM on October 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


[Comment removed. Tanizaki, you need to cut this "I'm bored and here's a MetaTalk, so..." behavioral shit out once and for all, you've more than worn out your good will on that front and I'm sick of it.]
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:57 AM on October 23, 2015 [28 favorites]


One thing I think allies can do to be helpful even if they don't have anything substantive to contribute is just to take on some of the work of shutting down derailing tactics and keep redirecting back to the people trying to make their voices heard.

Just want to boost bettafish's suggestion here because it's so practical. I'm still trying to figure all this out as a white person and frequently get it wrong, but this is something I could focus on, giving the conversation a gentle nudge in the direction of "hey, can we get back to where POC were talking about their experiences just now."
posted by thetortoise at 8:58 AM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


I would like it if the next time a mod is recruited the Metafilter Overlords would recruit a moderator of color. I think it would be good to recruit someone who was specifically interested in working out some new racial justice practices for metafilter modding. (That is, not just recruit someone and assume that they'll be ready to do that because they're a person of color.)

Are all of the moderators currently white?

I did think it was strange in light of the recent focus of Metafilter on marginalized communities and ethnicities that when Matt announced his stepping down, the big announcement was that he was passing the torch to ... another white male. Seriously, the most qualified person just happened to be another white man? Not a woman or POC? But I figured as many moderators as there are, there was at least one moderator of color.
posted by jayder at 9:05 AM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


bettafish: One thing I think allies can do to be helpful even if they don't have anything substantive to contribute is just to take on some of the work of shutting down derailing tactics and keep redirecting back to the people trying to make their voices heard. You don't need to have a complete understanding of every detail at hand to learn how to recognize Engineer Syndrome, for example, or to point out to a commenter that their "but-what-about?" has been addressed three times already so they should really either actually engage with what people are saying or move on.

Yes! Thank you. Great advice.
posted by zarq at 9:05 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think that it would also be great if the existing mods could take some steps [training, getting consultants who mod other POC-led sites, whatever seems helpful] to assist in figuring out how to moderate racial justice oriented threads better.

I'd donate to that cause, too.
posted by Banknote of the year at 9:07 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


when Matt announced his stepping down, the big announcement was that he was passing the torch to ... another white male. Seriously, the most qualified person just happened to be another white man? Not a woman or POC?

congrats to jayder on figuring out the hottest new troll for 2015!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:08 AM on October 23, 2015 [52 favorites]


I want to highlight bettafish's excellent comment here. I'd much rather read the kinds of discussions they're talking about, and I think that the hostile environment full of people who are derailing contributes to an environment where those discussions really can't exist. It's very difficult to unbend and delve into the complexities of a topic when clueless privileged people keep coming in and trampling all over sore spots and then demand that you carefully nurture their emotions about how they've fucked up if you tell them to move the fuck over.

One thing I'm wondering about. I've tried in the past to head off derails and re-center conversations for people of color to have, but I don't want to contribute to exhaustion by putting PoC on the spot either. Is there a good litmus test for when a white person who is trying to be helpful should pile in and push back against problematic comments, and when white people should be quiet and back up people of color who are trying to make a point? I like maxsparber's suggestion upthread to cite relevant, non-white perspectives elsewhere when making detailed points pushing back against this sort of thing; is there anything else like that which would be helpful?

And--one thing I worry about with respect to asking questions like this. Do they tend to derail nuanced discussions on race as badly as the pontificating derails and just straight up threadshitting comments we're discussing here? I really, really want to figure out how to make it possible for the interesting nuanced conversations that bettafish mentions to happen, because I find that reading them is an invaluable learning experience for me although I try not to comment. Plus they're just straight up interesting. But it's hard for that to happen when the people with the most relevant experience to discuss them are trying to wade through an environment that makes them emotionally exhausting to have. So how can we as a community improve the situation?
posted by sciatrix at 9:10 AM on October 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


....and on preview, I see bettafish has made another very helpful comment about exactly that. Thanks!
posted by sciatrix at 9:12 AM on October 23, 2015


My only criticism of KathrynT's point is that I don't know how helpful "I talked to my japanese wife/husband about this, who said..." it reminds me of those sexual harassment threads where guys would go, "I asked my hot girlfriend and she said she NEVER gets catcalled so you guys made all this up."
posted by zutalors! at 9:14 AM on October 23, 2015 [24 favorites]


I think anyone tempted to go that route should just have the actual person type out the response or keep it to themselves.
posted by griphus at 9:15 AM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


Seriously, the most qualified person just happened to be another white man?

Your credibility on these issues is zero, and I feel bad for anyone who wastes their time assuming there's any good faith behind this comment.
posted by tonycpsu at 9:17 AM on October 23, 2015 [40 favorites]



I think anyone tempted to go that route should just have the actual person type out the response or keep it to themselves


Not only that, but said representative actual person would probably need to read the whole thread in order to have some real context.
posted by zutalors! at 9:17 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Unless it's just something strictly factual that the other person has expertise in. If I'm offline and somebody asks me what shalom means, I can give a pretty dependable response.

But, then, so can Google.
posted by maxsparber at 9:19 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I've pulled that a couple of times, but I always make sure to include direct quotes in quotation marks when I can... and really, it's much better to have that sort of thing stand as a conversation with that person inspired by the Metafilter conversation that maybe informs your perspective than it is to haul an uninvolved minority person into a conversation they haven't been following. I know that when friends have contacted me as an "expert minority perspective" on an argument or discussion they've been having, I often more or less nod and go "mmhm" and don't necessarily give enough of a shit to bring a nuanced perspective TO it. Who's got time, you know?
posted by sciatrix at 9:20 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


There's emotional labor, again.
posted by kalessin at 9:26 AM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


sciatrix: But it's hard for that to happen when the people with the most relevant experience to discuss them are trying to wade through an environment that makes them emotionally exhausting to have. So how can we as a community improve the situation?

This is a constant problem, and unfortunately, it's not restricted to topics relevant to PoC. Disabilities, poverty, women's issues (including civil rights), lgbtq issues, science, economics, minority religions, politics in countries outside the US etc., are all topics where people who either have direct, lived experience or expertise have found themselves fighting ignorance, stereotypes and other problematic assumptions.

In the past, change has happened when complaints were made in metatalk. To varying degrees of success. We're still seeing people be nasty to women, or dismissive of women's rights, for example. But it is happening less. Since it's not a unique problem, we can learn from ways it has been tackled in the past.

Making people aware that there is a problem that needs to be addressed is the first step. Sometimes, that means a bit of gentle education for the mods. Teaching them what is and isn't problematic is the next. Then, banding together to help. Encouraging people who are not personally affected to listen rather than rush to comment (as you and others have said).

Commenting with 101 information: articles, links, videos, explanations, can often help steer a thread when minorities are being questioned about their experiences. Because those resources represent concrete, outside, definitive authority. Sadly, people are sometimes less likely to argue a point if it's presented as an outside source, instead of the personal experience(s) of a person participating in the same thread.
posted by zarq at 9:27 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Zarq, I love you, but I really wanted perspectives from PoC on this one.
posted by sciatrix at 9:28 AM on October 23, 2015


No worries. Will stop talkin'. :)
posted by zarq at 9:29 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Your credibility on these issues is zero, and I feel bad for anyone who wastes their time assuming there's any good faith behind this comment.

Your credibility as one of the main whitemansplaining ideologues in this and similar threads is similarly suspect.

But anyway, fortunately, a question isn't an assertion, so where does credibility come into play anyway? Regardless of who asked the question, the answer to the question of why Mefi MUST be helmed by a white man would be ... interesting.
posted by jayder at 9:44 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Extremely Good Faith Poster Here, And Not To Derail But I Just Have a Simple Question,
posted by Greg Nog at 9:46 AM on October 23, 2015 [83 favorites]


I am, like, genuinely in awe here
posted by griphus at 9:48 AM on October 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


Jayder, your history here is bad enough that it colors the context of any question on topics of diversity that you ask. Sit the fuck down or convince someone else to broach the topic if you want it to be taken seriously.
posted by sciatrix at 9:49 AM on October 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


I want to know how I can find this universe where who The Asker is doesn't matter at all and every question can float in a void completely detached from the long history of the person asking. Must be a lovely place to live. I bet they've perfect FTL travel there, too.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 9:49 AM on October 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


Impossible you say ... But what if it isn't?
The Grinder Rests.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:51 AM on October 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


Oh, the fuck with all that, jayder. The frustrating thing about that weird little gambit on your part is that "finally just drop the hammer and tell jayder we're done and he's banned" was on my todo list for this morning, but I've been too busy putting out fires and catching up on this thread to get to that. And so now we're in this weird spot where it ends up looking like you're getting banned in response to saying some shit to/about the mods instead of being already cued up to be banned for just not shaping the fuck up after way too many chances.

So, yes, to be clear: whatever kind of conversation is worth having some time about the history and future of hiring on our tiny moderation team (and my assumption is nobody really wants me going into depth on that right here and now to be the direction that this thread suddenly goes), this is not you getting banned for a hot take on my white maleness, this is you getting banned for a long history of crappy behavior and shitty sexist/misogynist apologetic bullshit with which no one should have to put up further in the future.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:52 AM on October 23, 2015 [125 favorites]


whitemansplaining

That word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
posted by soundguy99 at 9:52 AM on October 23, 2015


The man whose MeFi user icon is literally Melody Hensley with the word "triggered" under it wants to let us know he's here for the marginalized.
posted by griphus at 9:53 AM on October 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


Now that thew distraction has been appropriately banned, can I ask that we return to the subject of the thread, as Conspire's suggestions at the top of the thread are now unencumbered by that astonishing derail.
posted by maxsparber at 9:56 AM on October 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


There's a place for devil's advocate in discussions, and I say this w/r/t some of the posters in this thread.

But sometimes, being devil's advocate is less about viewing things in an alternate, and possibly illuminating light, but perverse, insulting mental masturbation where the fetish is spewing shit all over other people while being contrary.

Which, no doubt, is some people's thing. But when we're talking about people's actual experiences, it's not exactly welcome.
posted by qcubed at 9:59 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Regardless of who asked the question, the answer to the question of why Mefi MUST be helmed by a white man would be ... interesting.

Lol. Are you fucking kidding? I don't love cortex like all of Mefi loves him. But I don't think it's cool to be calling him out for no reason.

Damn. Can we make him a part of a protected class because I think this is the second time I'm saying 'hey, leave him alone, even if he is white. It's not his fault, he was born with a banjo.'
posted by hal_c_on at 9:59 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


If we're talking about positive steps that white people can do to make race-related threads less burdensome for POC -- I would very, very much appreciate it if more white people would explicitly self-ID as white in threads about race.

I mean, there is the political point of fighting the idea that white = default and standard and what you should assume everybody is unless they self-ID as something besides white.

There is the emotional point where it's very othering (for me, at least) where the only people in a racial thread who say what their ethnic/racial background are POC. Everybody else gets to talk in generalities or link to stuff on other websites. But POC who want to push back on racist comments have to ID themselves and put their personal identity out there, because suddenly and only for them, their ethnic/racial background is relevant? As if being white didn't influence on the opinions that you have about race-related issues?

But there is a practical element, too. A lot of people in this thread have emphasized the importance of making sure that POC voices get heard. POCs have talked about how they look forward to having actual discussions with other POCs on a thread. But sometimes after reading a comment, I'm not sure whether it was by a POC, or a white person, particularly so if the person posting the comment has a Metafilter handle that is drawn from a language spoken by non-white people, or if their Metafilter profile isn't explicit in some way about it. It affects how much weight I give the opinion. It also affects how and whether I respond -- what do I talk about? How pointed should I be? How much knowledge and familiarity with the topic should I presume? Figuring out whether a comment was made by a white person or a POC gets tiring after round 100123849734.

There is also the idea that if allies are going to do more work to fight derailing/engineer's disease/JAQ -- well, when are you pushing back against white ignorance, and when are you whitesplainin' to a POC with lived experience who just happens to have a different opinion/perspective?

So, yeah, personally, if there were more of a site culture of white Mefites in race threads being like, "I'm white, and here is my opinion," I think it would be helpful.
posted by joyceanmachine at 10:00 AM on October 23, 2015 [70 favorites]


One thing that bugs me in general about these questions is that I often try to specifically ask for the opinions of directly affected people... And then get the same well meaning ally lists that I could have composed myself. (I'm not trying to call you out, Zarq, and you're by no means the only person who sometimes does this.) I think it can really stifle discussion and inclusion, and I think it's a thing I'd really love our more frequent posters to keep in mind.
posted by sciatrix at 10:00 AM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Oh man, joycemachine, I consign that so hard. As, to be clear, a white lady.
posted by sciatrix at 10:02 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


One thing that bugs me in general about these questions is that I often try to directly ask for the opinions of directly affected people... And then get the same well meaning ally lists

For whatever it's worth, it wasn't at all clear to me from your comment that you were only asking for opinions from PoC folks. A reading comprehension failure on my part. Will try to be mindful of it in the future.
posted by zarq at 10:11 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


My cynical opinion is that the reason a lot of pontificators on race/minority threads don't say "I'm white, and here is my opinion..." is that it would indeed encumber the effect of their arguments, so a lot of folks don't make the next cognitive step, which is, "oh, if my being white would make this argument weaker, maybe I should step back and reassess."
posted by kalessin at 10:12 AM on October 23, 2015 [26 favorites]


I'm not trying to call you out, Zarq, and you're by no means the only person who sometimes does this.

Yeah, I do this too. I think it comes from an impulse that says white people need to take responsible for educating each other, and not expecting people of color to constantly be on call to answer questions about their experiences, but I could probably hang back and make sure no person of color wants to answer he question before jumping in.

I mean, they're going to get the answer right in ways I never will be able to. But emotional labor and all that. It would probably help as well if I continued what I suggested above: Link to people of color who have already answered the question.
posted by maxsparber at 10:13 AM on October 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


...I would very, very much appreciate it if more white people would explicitly self-ID as white in threads about race.

I can see a problem with this only that it further drives certain conversations into very US-centric territory because as far as experiences as a marginalized individual are concerned, you can't map "white" onto the experiences of a bunch (most?) of people outside of the US who may otherwise have a relevant perspective in some way. But then again, like kalessin says, maybe that should be a hint to such people to seriously consider how relevant their perspective is that they're chiming in, or in a conversation that is US-centric whether their personal non-identification as "white" (but general outside identification as "white" by people of color in the US) would hold in the, uh, venue of discussion.
posted by griphus at 10:18 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


Being of mixed heritage, appropriation and how much is too much and whether there are healthy ways to share stuff between cultures is something I would really, really love to have useful conversations about... but it's very hard to do so when it feels like most of the white people just want us all to understand that their love of some thing is pure and true and... well, that's never the point, is it? When dealing with non-Hispanic cultures, I have totally had the feeling that I need to defend that I just like the taste of sushi, that my love for Jewish folktales comes out of my aunt's ex-husband being a Jewish storyteller and he was a big part of my childhood... please, please, let me be legitimate, please don't disapprove of me. I wonder if it's sort of a social anxiety thing? But at some point when dealing with friends who had things much harder than I do, I realized that it's like... when you're in constant pain, it's going to make you cranky. If I'm carrying a much smaller burden of that than you, it's my social responsibility to learn to tolerate the discomfort that you might be unhappy with me for something that might not actually be capital-W Wrong if it existed in isolation.

I'm not perfect and never will be, but it's become a helpful question to ask. Is my discomfort really more than I can bear? Do I need to defend myself, or can I just take this, right now? I wouldn't call myself particularly resilient, but it turns out I can handle more of that than I would have thought. If a trans friend says that gender dysphoria is harder than other body image issues, the point is not whether that's factually accurate and I don't need to argue the issue, because I'm doing okay right now. If that same friend, who wasn't at the time coping great but was managing day-to-day, made that same comment to someone currently in inpatient for an eating disorder and self-harm? Then the tables would be turned. But I'm not that person and it was not that conversation.

It seems like a primary element is just taking the time to stop, have a deep breath, and ask whether the thing I feel defensive about is really what we're discussing, and I wish other people would do the same about Hispanic/women's/queer issues where I can similarly get upset because I've had a lifetime of hurts. I'm trying to get better about not always needing to be the one who has to fix the fact that someone was wrong on the internet.
posted by Sequence at 10:22 AM on October 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


Hey, RESPECT to Conspire!

I didn't have to time to read that whole FPP or this whole MeTa, but I really appreciate Conspire spending the energy to point out a lot of bullshit that I see come up in these discussions that I leave alone because I feel I have to get ready for war and neglect my various other wars.
posted by ignignokt at 10:23 AM on October 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


I would very, very much appreciate it if more white people would explicitly self-ID as white in threads about race.

hahaha. so much this. "well i [AS A WHITE PERSON] considered and weighed the evidence [FROM POC] and [AS A WHITE PERSON] i don't see a problem with this. i'm not saying you [AS A POC] are wrong i just [AS A WHITE PERSON] disagree. sometimes that happens in life that, unavoidably, [WHITE] people disagree and it doesn't make [WHITE PEOPLE] racist."

this would go over like a lead balloon. it's hard to be forced to acknowledge your own unmarkedness and like Conspire said earlier, i'm guessing there's a snooze button that people hit when your internal alarm goes off. cuz y'all know what you doin'.

and, adding onto what kalessin just said, i bet it would horrify you to see

white male
white male
white male
white male
white male
etc

all agreeing on the same thing, all disagreeing with PoC or women. i'm sure there are other reasons this is a bad idea (it makes me uncomfortable too), but as a thought exercise you should do this. this is how i read threads (cue the eyerolling of people who already hate the sj stuff-- YES I AM SO BIASED WITH MY RACIAL GENDER LENS) and there's times where i'm wrong but man sometimes you know someone is speaking outside of their experience.
posted by twist my arm at 10:24 AM on October 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


A few random thoughts from my own high-albedo blindingly-white noggin, in no particular order:

- in a larger meta-moderation frame, the derail just now is another exhibit of the need for Team Mod to continue recalibrating why problem actors are so frequently allowed to escalate to the point of proclaiming bad faith through vuvuzelas. I know the mods dislike, for understandable good reason, the perception that problem actors finally being shown the door only happens in big MeTa threads...but here it is again. I know there's a balancing act to navigate from an administrative and moderation viewpoint, but there has got to be earlier buds to nip that are clear in retrospect.

- the justly-maligned "forums are for participation, not listening!" nonsense up yonder really is at the core of so much noise, literally and figuratively. The notion laid bare in it that listening and participating are separate things is just toxic.

- Some of the gender-related threads that have recently ended up going very well indeed (emotional labor, a recent one on the cost and burdens of blah-level sex, etc) are proof of just how good things can go when people just shut up enough to let others talk and be listened to.
posted by Drastic at 10:28 AM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


I know that when friends have contacted me as an "expert minority perspective" on an argument or discussion they've been having, I often more or less nod and go "mmhm" and don't necessarily give enough of a shit to bring a nuanced perspective TO it. Who's got time, you know?

sciatrix, to answer your question from my point of view:

I said earlier that I generally don't talk to people about racial things. Well, white people. Even with my closest friends, because while they mean well, all too often it can get fucked fast. For instance, just recently:

A friend had suggested I watch The Martian again with him and his husband, and I said I liked it, even if Ridley Scott made many expected and awful changes to the movie. When pressed, I mentioned that Ridley Scott has a habit of excising people of color from his movies because he's a well-meaning white liberal who doesn't see his own racism, and he hires more of the like. (Actually, I stopped after the "excising people of color".) I pointed to the fact that Mindy Park, satellite controller extraordinaire, was suggested to be Korean-American in the book, but in the movie, she's some blonde lady. Vincent Kapoor is definitely Indian, but he's portrayed by the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor who's Nigerian-British, and they explain it with a throwaway line about how he's half. His response? "Wasn't it okay he was half-Indian?" and "Isn't the implication just from their names?"

No, no it isn't okay. There's a lot more at play than just this movie, bro. I've told you a million times, and I don't know how many times I can say it again, these are all linked. I know you like being contrary, I do too, but this isn't one of those times where being contrary actually illuminates things.

And that's just one thing we're talking about, something factual and provable and something anybody can point to and see if they're willing to. This isn't personal experience. It's not like translation of languages, which is a difficult enough task, and with that you at least can hint and shade with cleverness and context and literal translation, but with experiences? What have you got but my word and the word of everyone else who deals with it?

So when I get asked what it's like to be x, I once used to actually try and explain, back when I thought dialogue was a real thing, back when I thought white people who asked really wanted to listen. I don't anymore. I give short answers that don't explain all that much, I only shoot down things that are completely wrong. I don't try because at this point I have a little less than absolutely zero faith.

Yeah. It wasn't the racists that made me give up on this sort of thing. It was people who in good faith try to be allies and just fuck it up so much without intending to.
posted by qcubed at 10:28 AM on October 23, 2015 [67 favorites]


.
posted by kalessin at 10:50 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm white, and here is my expression of gratitude for all of the PoC who trudge through these threads and help clueless people like me gain meaningful perspective on race, even though they don't have to, even though I don't deserve it, even though so many of the well-articulated points that are made have been made countless times before and it must be exhausting to articulate them yet another time, even though it probably seems sometimes (most times) like progress is not made and that the effort expended was in vain and that the emotional labor was more or less forced by the ignorance and arrogance of those who have quite literally no skin in the game and so what's the point. I've probably been one of those people, and I apologize and endeavor not to be.

Their commentary is edifying by virtue of its very existence and it is tragic for multitudes of reasons when the hostile environments of these threads causes people to nope out. I hope very hard that the future of Metafilter brings more lived experience of PoC and far less derailing by white people, because that - the lived experiences of people who are Not Like Me - is, at least for me, one of MetaFilter's most valuable resources. Thank you to everyone who has shared.

And for people who get bent out of shape when told to Shut Up And Listen: if you come to a topic you are entirely unfamiliar with and bring to the table a bunch of ill-informed preconceptions and then spend your time defending those preconceptions instead of listening to what people are actually saying, you will not learn anything and you will impede the learning of others in addition to making the lives of those with something to contribute more difficult. It is in everyone's best interest - especially yours - for you to just listen. There is a world of difference between listening to what people say of their own accord and metastasizing that information vs. demanding that someone explain something to you.
posted by grumpybear69 at 10:53 AM on October 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


I hear you, and I'm glad you took the time to answer, qcubed. Thank you.
posted by sciatrix at 10:54 AM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


(could i just point out, i wish i'd edited my comment and taken out the kneejerk negativity. i love joyceanmachine's comment and the idea because that is exactly how i feel all the time. i think my reaction is at least partly from the learned attitude of downplaying our own needs and all that shit. "i could NEVER ask white people to do it, and also they won't! i mean can you imagine?? up is down black is white!"

so. apologies for all that. it would really change the dynamic of these conversations and my brain was not prepared for even the possibility.)
posted by twist my arm at 11:02 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


God damn, qcubed. Reading that was like a punch in the gut. I've had similar moments myself, albeit where it concerns immigrants. I get tired of responding to the same questions and musings of people who are probably well meaning, maybe even friends, because they cannot get their heads around the idea that if you are an ethnic minority in this country, you actually don't have the same level of opportunity as the native-borns, that you get met with a series of microaggressions every day, and that there really is a thing called institutionalized xenophobia. Each time I bring any of this up there's always someone ready to let me know I am being too sensitive, or need a sense of humor, or should stop trying to see the worst in people, or whatever other mental acrobatics are necessary to avoid admitting xenophobia exists, and is rife, and can fuck with your thinking even if you consider yourself a tolerant person.

I haven't reached the point where I've stopped pushing back, but man do I understand it, though I say that recognizing that it's still nothing compared to what PoC have to contend with every day. My small taste of constant background radiation is more than enough.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:02 AM on October 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


"I pointed to the fact that Mindy Park, satellite controller extraordinaire, was suggested to be Korean-American in the book, but in the movie, she's some blonde lady. Vincent Kapoor is definitely Indian, but he's portrayed by the brilliant Chiwetel Ejiofor who's Nigerian-British, and they explain it with a throwaway line about how he's half. His response? "Wasn't it okay he was half-Indian?" and "Isn't the implication just from their names?"

I had this EXACT conversation with my normally-allied-liberal white friend except it devolved into "well where does it say in the book Mindy is Asian, it's conceivable that someone named Park is Asian" and him completely missing my point of EVEN if there was no direct reference to Mindy being explicitly Asian, it's not a hard get for them to cast an Asian actress in that role.

Then when you reverse the argument and say "well the same lack of explicit racial description goes for Mark Watney, what's the problem with casting an asian male in that role" then people REALLY get confused and sometimes even mad trying to reason out of it instead of just saying "you know what, you're right."

that being said I am happy they got Bruce Ng right and Mindy Park in the movie turned out be to a significantly different/weaker character than the book Mindy Park so I was ultimately okay with the Movie, though I still think it should've been a no brainer on the casting.
posted by Karaage at 11:07 AM on October 23, 2015 [15 favorites]


My friend Roger, whom I've known for almost 25 years, swept into a thread about racism on my Facebook and whitesplained how silly we all were. When I confronted him about it, he made me choose. Either buy into his bullshit tone-policing "You're angry. I don't talk to angry (non-white) people. Don't talk to me until you're not angry any more." or lose him as a friend. I haven't severed the cord yet - is it 25 years of knowing him and knowing him not to always be an asshole that stays my mouse-click finger, that stays my finger on the phone's control? Or is it that I'm still angry about it and I want to hurt him over it before I kick him to the curb? I simply don't know.
posted by kalessin at 11:07 AM on October 23, 2015 [22 favorites]


A belated P.S.: This thing with Roger is typical of my relationships with white folks (the majority of my friends are white - it's what happens when you get raised assimilated). It's not something that stands out except that Roger chose to make our friendship of 25 years die on that hill. But this kind of thing happens so regularly that it's not even worth speaking about, mostly. I only do it here because it's directly topical.
posted by kalessin at 11:10 AM on October 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


I mean I've been here 15 years, and have been a citizen for the last 7 of those. I have worked as a journalist for many years, and even held a political office for a short time. And yet when I wrote a column calling for our racist former Interior Minister to resign, what was the headline the news went with the next day?

"Immigrant Demands Minister Resign" And that article was written by one of my strongest ideological allies.

You can't integrate here. I wish I could warn everyone hoping to move here who entertains the delusion that they will some day blend in. Just forget about ever being seen as one of the crowd by these people. You're always going to be on the outside. Make your peace with this, and life will be slightly less stressful. But only slightly.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:10 AM on October 23, 2015 [30 favorites]


And, hey, per recent discussions about mod responses, I want to verify that we'd been trying to stay more hands off in this thread initially especially given that it wasn't framed as a "hey mods!" thing at all and the ensuing conversation generally wasn't either. Which will vary and be a balancing act depending on any given thread, obviously, but wanted to acknowledge that it is something we're trying to think about.

A note on the thread on the blue in question: it was bumpy and I didn't like the way it seemed to keep trying to go in a various ways, and regret that that day (I was primarily on shift for the first chunk of it) was as otherwise busy as it was. On a day where only that thread needed attention, I'd like to think I'd have been able to dig in faster and deeper on stuff and help steer away from some of the things that ended up sticking around. Busy days happen, unfortunately, but that doesn't make anything less crappy when it's crappy and I'm sorry it was a mess.

I appreciate Conspire putting this together and all the folks who've been constructively discussing it, especially the folks sharing their specific concerns and experiences and ideas from a personal perspective as someone actually living with this shit as a person of color. Conversations like these always leave me intensely aware of being a lily-white homebody dude who doesn't have to deal with, and so often lacks perspective on, a whole panoply of shit that for others is just everyday, inescapable, draining routine.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:11 AM on October 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


Also, this is embarrassing, but double-checking this morning I have figured out that that "incessant bickering" comment lived through a misclick somehow, because I very much thought I had deleted it. Just straight up mechanical human error there.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:13 AM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


- the justly-maligned "forums are for participation, not listening!" nonsense up yonder

In all fairness to my comment (and I should have explained this) I was making that particular comment in response to the utterly unfriendly, unpleasant nonsense that drove bugbread (we share similar experiences) from this Meta thread.

I find a lot of perspectives in this thread pretty American, which I guess makes sense, but people commenting from an American perspective (and perhaps from the perspective of never having lived anywhere else in the world) should realize there are, as griphus alludes to, different kinds of people on MetaFilter, all with different kinds of experiences.

It's not a white:PoC binary on MetaFilter.

I have witnessed my own children being the victim of systemic racism and being called names on the street and so on. My wife is also the recipient of racism and "micro-aggressions."

However, it seems like this thread is just about the American experience, which is fine, I don't need to comment or whitemansplain or whatever.

My main point is that MetaFilter is supposed to be a community, and it is not nonsense at all to suggest that we can discuss things here in MetaTalk in good faith.
posted by Nevin at 11:15 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I am pretty sure this is not an Americans Only thread.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:18 AM on October 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


Every time these metas come up, I wonder if there's a way to help people stay in threads who normally nope out when arguments get heated or nasty. I'm often one of those who walk away. But sometimes posts like this one show up in Meta later and perhaps that could be avoided if more of us made an effort.

I'd stay longer if clicking the "offensive/sexism/racism" flag was accompanied by the sound of a laser going "pew pew pew" or a machine gun going "rat-a-tat-tat" or the sound of a toilet flushing. I have to leave threads where people are saying racist or sexist or otherwise -ist things (including south-ist, rural-ist, texas-ist) because they make me sputtering mad, and the only release valve for me other than going full-on ballistic in a comment (which often isn't the appropriate reaction) is to walk away. Flagging is obviously the right thing to do, but I'd be a lot more likely to hang around in the stink and flag more if flagging came with some sort of catharsis other than simply clicking the flag itself.
posted by mudpuppie at 11:21 AM on October 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I can see a problem with this only that it further drives certain conversations into very US-centric territory because as far as experiences as a marginalized individual are concerned, you can't map "white" onto the experiences of a bunch (most?) of people outside of the US who may otherwise have a relevant perspective in some way.

I agree with joyceanmachine, but I also hear what you're saying here and it's really important. Half of my racial heritage is "unmarked white person" in the US and "ew scary wrong kind of white person" in Europe, whereas my other half is "Asian" in the US and "Asian, but one of the right kind because they've assimilated because they were forced to because colonialism", and I find it very difficult to even try to discuss this with American PoC who've always lived in the US. They don't necessarily get that in some circumstances I've gotten more overt flak for being part Eastern European than part Vietnamese, and that even in the US presumption that my white half is "default American-born WASP," while not actually racist, has amplified the racist microaggressions faced by myself and my mother. (Has actually resulted in me being used as a racist microaggression against my mother. Yay!) I wish I could talk about this stuff without worrying about derailing or being told that I'm derailing even if I'm not.

So I definitely don't want to be like, "Even though you face ethnic or racial oppression in your own culture, you'd be unmarked white in the US, so GTFO!" to someone. Definitely not. And I want to caution fellow American PoC to be mindful of this kind of thing, because I've seen people get that kind of treatment and it is oppression.

On the other hand, I did notice in the thread on the Blue and here that some of the people who explicitly mentioned being from outside the US did not or took a long time to identify their racial background, all the while derailing if not accusing American PoC of being culturally imperialist. I don't want to take a hard line and say that everyone HAS to out themselves because it's not always that simple, but given the very, very different contexts I outlined above about American PoC dominating other PoC conversations versus white non-Americans derailing American PoC, that makes me uncomfortable. And I'm starting to share kalessin's cynicism on the matter, to be honest.
posted by bettafish at 11:21 AM on October 23, 2015 [28 favorites]


"Immigrant Demands Minister Resign"

Assuming this isn't the U.S. (what with their being a minister and all) this sort of thing happens plenty in the U.S. as well, and it's when the white/non-white delineation gets really hairy, which is why I'm a little nnnghhhh about the whole "white people tell us you're white."

When the Boston Marathon bombing happened, I remember all the news details about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev super-well because of the way the media immediately ran it as FOREIGN BORN BROWN MUSLIM IMMIGRANT WITH WEIRD NAME WE'RE ALL GONNA SPELL DIFFERENTLY KILLS GOOD AMERICANS. I mean go around asking how many people think he's white and you're going to get a lot of different answers but I bet most of them are "no he's definitely not white he's from Foreignia and he's a Muslim!"

Except the thing is that I have in many ways a very similar background as he does and, well, if things were different (very, very different) I could easily see myself put through the Non-White Wringer like he was just to distance me from Regular Good Americans because I did something horrendous.

MetaFilter is awful at ethnicity as a rule. American people don't understand it because the relevant lens is "race." Non-Americans are often raised among ethnic nationalism where it's totally okay to say stuff about different ethnicities that people would be aghast if it was said in an American racial context instead. And, like, don't even get me started when the concept of Jewishness is thrown into the mix because jesus christ.

I'm not sure exactly what point I'm trying to make here but I guess if you want me to be white to give you a hand because someone else is being shitty to you because you're not white, then I am glad to be white.
posted by griphus at 11:22 AM on October 23, 2015 [30 favorites]


On preview, I'm also going to add that at this point being able to automatically presume good faith from other MeFi posters, as opposed to making a strenuous effort to do so and hoping you won't get hurt by it, is in and of itself a manifestation of privilege.
posted by bettafish at 11:23 AM on October 23, 2015 [21 favorites]


I have witnessed my own children being the victim of systemic racism and being called names on the street and so on. My wife is also the recipient of racism and "micro-aggressions."

You would think that this would mean your first contribution to this Metatalk would be something more racially sensitive than "Do Japanese people even consider themselves to be Asians? My experience is they do not."

For someone asking for good faith, you're sure trying incredibly, incredibly hard to burn every iota any PoC would be inclined to give you.
posted by Conspire at 11:23 AM on October 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


For me to assume good faith, I'd have to not hear the sarcastic air quotes you put around micro-aggressions.

I mean, even the friend I talked about here re: The Martian doesn't do that shit.

In case I'm not being perfectly, unambiguously clear: when you put quotes around a concept like micro-aggressions, which are something PoC and minorities everywhere encounter every single day, you're dismissing it as if it's not a real thing. That's what quote marks do. When a döner place pimps its "real" meat, you're not sure it's actually real meat. When someone says they're a "legitimate" businessman, you're going to assume that they're not legitimate at all.

So when you say "micro-agressions", you're clearly saying you don't think it's a thing.

And that means I don't think you're asking in good faith.
posted by qcubed at 11:40 AM on October 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


I ripped the bandaid off with Roger. From what I can tell, we're probably ex-friends now. But at least I have one fewer racist tone policing "friend".
posted by kalessin at 11:42 AM on October 23, 2015 [42 favorites]


For someone asking for good faith, you're sure trying incredibly, incredibly hard to burn every iota any PoC would be inclined to give you.

There is another pattern of behavior, where a fairly small group can be counted on to chant "remember good faith" directed at the people who are sick-and-tired of the same crew coming in to dismiss, disregard, downplay, and deny (D4) claims from users about their own lives, while rarely doing so against the D4 crew.

This is part of what Conspire gets to here, where in addition to the routinely enacted power-enabled bigotry, there are people who of course will never do such a terrible thing themselves, but will bend over backwards to defend, shelter and excuse people who routinely do so.

"Not racist, but #1 with racists."
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:44 AM on October 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


I ripped the bandaid off with Roger. From what I can tell, we're probably ex-friends now. But at least I have one fewer racist tone policing "friend".

Heh. Each time I've had to do that, I hear the voice of my mom. "Well, if they were really your friend they wouldn't X, so good riddance." Easier said than done, though, I know, especially given how long you've known each other. My sympathies.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:44 AM on October 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


It wasn't the racists that made me give up on this sort of thing. It was people who in good faith try to be allies and just fuck it up so much without intending to.

YES this. I expend so much emotional energy on trying not to freak out on people who I know and like and care for and who are trying what they think is their best, and it's so exhausting. I was way upstate last weekend with a friend who is agitating for me to move up there, and I said that it felt really strange to go for so long without seeing any POC. Her response was to insist that the community was "incredibly diverse" by listing a bunch of white european nationalities, and she really just Did Not Get that this wasn't the same thing.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:46 AM on October 23, 2015 [32 favorites]


"We got both kinds, country and western!"
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:48 AM on October 23, 2015 [27 favorites]


I ripped the bandaid off with Roger. From what I can tell, we're probably ex-friends now. But at least I have one fewer racist tone policing "friend".

Well, when he does finally come out of the closet as a racist, at least he can't point to you as his one PoC friend.
posted by qcubed at 11:49 AM on October 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


"We have all the blondes represented. Swiss. German. Scandinavian. Norwegian. Swedish. Very diverse."
posted by zarq at 11:50 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


The point about American ideas of whiteness not mapping onto other places is super well made, and I appreciate people pointing it out.

(Also, yeah, I'm somewhat cynical about how many of the turds in the punch bowl on the appropriation thread would've used the self-ID as white thing, because some of those comments were so nasty that I don't know if I want to read them as being in good faith. Like. REALLY? REALLY? YOU'RE WHITE AND YOU CALL YOURSELF LIBERAL AND YOU GENUINELY BELIEVE THAT?)
posted by joyceanmachine at 11:52 AM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm actually wondering if it would be worth it to have a RES-like extention that sits atop this site--where if you've flagged enough comments from one person, it just automatically hides all of their comments from you in the future.
posted by qcubed at 11:57 AM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


The article for the FPP was profoundly dumb in the way it attempted to refute a straw man by collapsing the nuance out of a really complicated topic. Pretty much everyone responded by then over-simplifying and increasing the rhetorical stakes in their comments.

I do want to thank Conspire for doing the work of posting this MeTa. I don't agree with him about all of the points he raised, but I don't want to get too far into the weeds on that because I do think that unfortunately that dynamic turns into requiring that people who are harmed by the larger dynamics of MeFi's ethnic/racial obliviousness be perfect in their arguments in order to have their broader points be heard.

I do think that assuming good faith is a really helpful communication skill here, and that some general familiarity with two-part communication models can reduce the friction over the recurrent tendency to assert that what someone was saying was REALLY this other thing, but something that I've noticed over the last several iterations of the same "Should we treat $minority like humans?" discussions is that the calls for good faith too often come from folks who don't want their (best case) attempts to interject nuance or complication read as "black Confederates" without recognizing that the obligation of "good faith" also requires them to recognize that they're not being told, to paraphrase an example, that as white people they can't have any opinions.
posted by klangklangston at 11:58 AM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


sorry, Roger will both claim you as this asian guy he knew (pretty well actually), and also an example of how sensitive people can be (throwing away a 25yo friendship just like that *shakes head*), depending on the necessity of the situation. there's no statute of limitations on how long you can use your oppressed friend/acquaintence/person i met at a party this one time for anecdotes and cred.
posted by twist my arm at 12:01 PM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


"There is another pattern of behavior, where a fairly small group can be counted on to chant "remember good faith" directed at the people who are sick-and-tired of the same crew coming in to dismiss, ignore, minimize, and deny..."

Yeah, there are issues upon which we can point to a cultural history of bad faith and on those topics (like racism or cultural appropriation) the remaining pool of goodwill / good faith is going to be smallish and brittle and may tend to snap if it is stretched too far. For good reasons.
posted by puddledork at 12:03 PM on October 23, 2015


"Remember good faith" is the deflector shield raised when you want to fire Tone Argument lasers at people.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 12:05 PM on October 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


I am pretty sure this is not an Americans Only thread.

Seen what happened in Sweden yesterday (and what some people in Sweden think every day), it damn sure isn't. I'm reading...
posted by Namlit at 12:14 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


And, like, don't even get me started when the concept of Jewishness is thrown into the mix because jesus christ.

Actually, yeah, Jewish identity is something I should have immediately mentioned in my previous comment, particularly since I've witnessed people using anti-racist vocabulary as a cloak for blood libel levels of antisemitism. I apologize for not doing so before.
posted by bettafish at 12:35 PM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


"...a recent [thread] on the cost and burdens of blah-level sex"
What?! Where!?
posted by Don Pepino at 12:35 PM on October 23, 2015


Here!
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:41 PM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I would very, very much appreciate it if more white people would explicitly self-ID as white in threads about race.

This extremely white person tries to do that but often forgets. Thank you for the feedback that it actually does help, and for the reminder.

I've learned a lot from Metafilter about shutting up and listening; if it doesn't show, then you can only imagine what the effects of growing up in lily-white enclaves must have been before.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 1:04 PM on October 23, 2015


Okay, I am probably one of the few actual Japanese-Americans on this site, and I've also spent a reasonable amount of time in Europe and Asia, so I think I actually understand the crux of this debate pretty damn well, but boy, oh boy, did I nope the hell out of that thread. I shared some of my thoughts on this issue awhile back, but every time the topic comes up, it's generally the same mostly white crowd yelling at each other, and it feels really awful trying to wade into that mess as one of the relevant PoC. I'd like to participate more sometimes, but it's hard when I feel like I'm trying to scream over the din.

In a lot of ways, the relative anonymity of the internet is nice, and I really love Metafilter for the most part, but I also feel like because there are so few actual PoC around here, conversations on these particular topics feel like a lot of empty, angry posturing. It's like everybody is talking about me, but nobody is willing to talk with me, and I don't want to always have to stand on a chair and say, "Look at me! A real life Asian!" in order to be taken seriously.
posted by Diagonalize at 1:31 PM on October 23, 2015 [46 favorites]


Is there a reason white people like to frequently point out how white they are? It is beyond just acknowledging the privilege of whiteness, in my mind.

It's weird to me and reads like some prophylactic measure to innoculate people who say it from criticism for saying stupid shit ("I just TOLD you how white I am!" is sometimes how it reads to me). Or maybe what irks me about it is that it feels like it somehow qualifies one to participate in a conversation that maybe they should consider not being part of, as if an acknowledgement of turning the Whiteness Volume up to 11 buys you some credibility in a discussion where the best input is coming from POC. Would anything be lost if we stopped doing this?
posted by MoonOrb at 1:36 PM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think it's just a way to emphatically state that you are not making any claims to any type of POC identification, so your opinion should be read from that context. Like, to differentiate yourself from all the people who say "I'm white, but my uncle is half - X" or whatever.
posted by Think_Long at 1:42 PM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


I'm thinking gold stars.
posted by clavdivs at 1:50 PM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I know for my part, the more I read "As a white person, [OPINION]" in comments (so many comments!), alarms go off in my brain. It's fast becoming the "I'm not a racist, but..." in terms of sentences that can't end well.

To me it often translates to, "As a white person, I know I lack the crucial information and first-hand experience to weigh in on this nuanced, difficult topic in which I don't know what I don't know, but at least I'm acknowledging that before delving into my opinion, so don't crucify me! *sheepish grin and look around the room before continuing* Anyway, [OPINION]"

It absolutely is a way of self-inoculation against criticism. Well, if you know that you lack the required perspective and experience to talk about this subject, and you're able to acknowledge it, maybe take the next step and consider refraining from being a part of the discussion! This is a tactic that's totally worked on me in the past, but I'm losing patience for it.
posted by naju at 1:50 PM on October 23, 2015 [19 favorites]


I'm also not super-thrilled by the push for white identification. Trust me, that is usually super obvious without saying anything. I really and truly believe people's hearts are in the right place most of the time, and I understand the impulse, but to me, "As a white person" just feels a hell of a lot like the race-equivalent of "I'm not a doctor/lawyer/theoretical physicist, but..."
posted by Diagonalize at 1:59 PM on October 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


If I'm carrying a much smaller burden of that than you, it's my social responsibility to learn to tolerate the discomfort that you might be unhappy with me for something that might not actually be capital-W Wrong if it existed in isolation.

This is something I've been really trying to internalise over the past while. Thank you Sequence for spelling it out so clearly.

So far it usually involves me just shutting my mouth and biting down my defensive reaction and then thinking about the situation and my privilege in it later when my brain is more clear. I'm not sure if this is the best way, but at least I've managed to stop myself saying some dumb things occasionally, so it's a start.
posted by shelleycat at 2:00 PM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


It sometimes feels like it goes beyond simple identification. Just saying "I'm white" doesn't necessarily feel weird, but people often escalate beyond that into emphasizing how extremely, overwhelmingly white they are. It seems to me like a way of evaluating race as a measure of how white vs non-white a person is, rather than just white being one among many identities.
posted by parallellines at 2:05 PM on October 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


I feel like I've probably said before that I'm super white or something, as a shorthand way of trying to state that I have zero familiarity on a personal experience level with whatever issue was being discussed that disproportionately affects the lives of PoC. I can't speak to anyone else saying that they're white, but I know that's how I've meant it. Realizing now that I probably just come off as an ignorant asshole is humbling, so. I guess that's something for me to work on, huh. Sorry. I didn't realize, now I do.
posted by palomar at 2:08 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm maybe being a little overly harsh about it too! It's certainly sometimes well-meaning and harmless. I just think it's worth being conscious of.
posted by naju at 2:13 PM on October 23, 2015


I suspect it's worthwhile to think about whether you're identifying being white as a way of shielding yourself from criticism or of indicating that you're open to correction, and if it's the latter (which I would hope would be the case) to make sure it doesn't sound like the former.
posted by jaguar at 2:16 PM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


There is a huge difference between saying

"As a white person, blabla" (Or even "I'm white, but blabla")

and

"*reasoning*
(for the records, I'm white)"

I don't say that there needs to be a difference in intent, but there will be, in coming acrossness. The first two versions are too closely related to the "I don't want to be obnoxious here but *writes something obnoxious*" Of the latter, in all its guises, one could imagine wanting to see less.
posted by Namlit at 2:17 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think that when I've said I'm white in comments, mostly it's been when I've been talking about what I notice white people to do, and I haven't wanted to give the impression that I think I am not like other white people, since I know that there's that whole thing of white people being "white, people, they are so awful, amirite" as a way of seeming cool or whatever. Mostly I worry about being given a pass - since there's formal ambiguity - unless I make it clear that I am white.
posted by Frowner at 2:17 PM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I mentioned I was white, though it was in response to Conspire asking "Is this what white people think?"

I can appreciate the sentiment of self-identifying as a means of providing the caveat of context; that in discussions about PoC, your point of view and your intersections just don't carry the same weight. I became even more aware of this once I moved to a new country and got to experience the wonder of being treated the way the status quo typically treats immigrants, and then compared that to how immigrants of color were treated - so you get to have a little taste of what the smallest, eensiest degree of what xenophobia feels like, find it wounds and angers a great deal, and then consider just how much more shit so many other people are having to eat every day, and the mind boggles.

I really hope this doesn't come across as me being "no really guys I know what ignorance and xenophobia feels like; I feel your pain". Because I can't fathom having to deal with that much stupidity and hate every day. But these circumstances did help make me listen more closely, and consider a little bit more before responding. I hope I can continue to learn, and help, the best I can, even though this privilege gives me plenty of blindspots that I'll keep working on overcoming.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 2:22 PM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


"first two" equals "the latter" in my last writ. It's getting late, sorry.
posted by Namlit at 2:24 PM on October 23, 2015


It makes me feel awkward when white people go on and on about how white they are, how pale they are, how pasty they are. It misses the whole point of why I sometimes self-identify as Black
posted by Aranquis at 2:28 PM on October 23, 2015 [6 favorites]


I self-identify as Black to give context, by the way.
posted by Aranquis at 2:31 PM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am probably one of the few actual Japanese-Americans on this site, and I've also spent a reasonable amount of time in Europe and Asia, so I think I actually understand the crux of this debate pretty damn well, but boy, oh boy, did I nope the hell out of that thread.

Diagonalize: Maybe I'm the other one? Even as someone who lurks 99.4% of the time, I noped pretty hard out of that thread super early. In re: to your linked comment, I feel all that, too. I have this intense inner conflict every summer because I am involved in our community Obon festival and it's just...so many white people in (what feels like) Japanese cosplay and ehhhh. All the Japanese-Americans are in shorts and t-shirts unless they're dancing odori and I am constantly suppressing the urge to ask white people if they really think geta are more comfortable for walking around all day than flip-flops.
posted by komlord at 2:36 PM on October 23, 2015 [22 favorites]



It makes me feel awkward when white people go on and on about how white they are, how pale they are, how pasty they are.

This, and also "I'm a nice white lady" or "as a sweet little tiny white lady" stuff when discussing violence against minorities. It's mimicking social perception but it reads as reinforcing those stereotypes.
posted by zutalors! at 2:40 PM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


if people would consider putting this info in their profiles it would be there for people that want the context, without having to worry about exactly how and when you add it to a particular comment.
posted by andrewcooke at 2:49 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


it's generally the same mostly white crowd yelling at each other,

I agree with you on the not feeling heard part, but I'm not sure if it's fair to characterize things as white people yelling at each other, because there are PoC in those threads saying things but it's just hard for the part that you write about being a PoC to get noticed and engaged with.

I wrote in this thread about "regular" vs "PoC" threads and gave an example of how for PoC some topics are regular and it's just, like, an alternate worldview people might want to think about instead of race topics being a big huge deal or something white people use as a way to look cool or holy or something. And then the person i said it to whitesplained about why race is a big deal to white people and it's a big deal if I talk about race with a white person.

Like, personally I think if white people want to help, they could do more than just favorite posts from PoC that push back on whitesplaining and racism, they could actually engage with the parts of the comment that are about PoC experience, even to say "interesting, I hadn't thought about that" or "yes, that is a different worldview, it's interesting that people would talk about racial identity and then clothes, because those are both things some people have to deal with every day,and it doesn't even feel like a tragedy." Or whatever.
posted by zutalors! at 2:51 PM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


As a white person, when I lead up a comment in a thread about PoCs with "as a white person," a thing that, as far as I know, I've never done before, I feel considerable trepidation because I suspect the prefacing information will result in strong suspicion on the part of everybody else in the thread that whatever I'm going to say in the comment is going to be useless. I'm reminded of an incident thirty or so years ago when as a white person I explained to my PoC college boyfriend about my feelings and experiences as a white person--something I was sensitive to his need for education about because as a PoC, he would naturally know nothing of my complicated and nuanced experience as a white person. My boyfriend had invited me, a white person, to a College Nation of Islam meeting or something like that, I forget what it was but it was some activist thing we were doing but for once not marching for abortion rights but an event likely to be attended by a lot of people who were not white women of 19 to 22 years of age. Maybe it was merely a Spike Lee joint, who knows, but I clearly remember patiently explaining that I was deeply honored but also a little bit nervous about it because, I said, gently, earnestly, probably taking his hand in mine, "Can you imagine how uncomfortable and unnerved I'll feel?"

He said, "Uh-huh, yeah, I can probably get that imagined pretty easily."

I was always setting my foot in it. I am still always setting my foot in it. As a white person I have a foot, it's white, and I set it in things with a dismal and dispiriting regularity.
posted by Don Pepino at 2:53 PM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


*solidarity fistbump to komlord*

I'd invite you over for tea, but that might be weird given the circumstances.

I used to love the Obon festivals when I was a kid, but now it feels kinda like a cultural zoo exhibition for white folks. The last time I was home for Obon, I was waiting in line for some sata andagi behind a trio of blonde girls in yukata, and they were chattering away about their cute "senpai." They were just kids, and I know they meant well, but my jaw just about hit the floor.
posted by Diagonalize at 2:56 PM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


In retrospect, I wish I would have chosen a different time to ask that question. This is a good thread with good points and it could have done without me opening up the floor for white people to talk about white people stuff, although I do appreciate the responses.
posted by MoonOrb at 3:16 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Same, sorry if I contributed to that MoonOrb.
posted by naju at 3:24 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Well, it was valuable in that now people like me know we need to shut the fuck up even harder with regards to race, and that we're really not doing any good when we talk about our whiteness. So that helps. I'm sorry that having that discussion here is a drawback and I don't know what else to do but keep saying I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm sorry.
posted by palomar at 3:32 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


Like, personally I think if white people want to help, they could do more than just favorite posts from PoC that push back on whitesplaining and racism, they could actually engage with the parts of the comment that are about PoC experience, even to say "interesting, I hadn't thought about that" or "yes, that is a different worldview, it's interesting that people would talk about racial identity and then clothes, because those are both things some people have to deal with every day,and it doesn't even feel like a tragedy." Or whatever.

I just wanted to chime in to say that I could easily see situations where I would totally find white people saying this to be patronizing ("you're just like regular people!") So this sounds similar to the discussion we just had a little upstream about how some PoC would find white people self-identifying to be helpful, while others would find it a huge red flag and expression of privilege.

I bring this up not to disagree with you, because I think I could also totally find situations where white people comment on my worldview like that to be reassuring as well, depending on the context, but to state that I think that the answer to these things is always going to be context dependent, dependent on the tone of the room, dependent on the moods and politics and experiences of PoC you're interacting with. So in some respects, the only thing you can do is anticipate that, read that, and react and adjust to that in the moment. But even then, it's possible to get it wrong, and that's why it's important to do more emotional labor than less when you're uncertain and when you're on the loftier side of the power dynamic - couch your language, exercise good faith and try to stop yourself from leaping to defensiveness, check in if it's okay to say or ask something, speak from the personal, express uncertainty about your own statements. And even then, yeah, people might still not react to you well, but that's honestly something people are going to have to accept without trying to blame others for their honest reactions.
posted by Conspire at 3:40 PM on October 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


The thing I'd like to see MetaFilter confront head-on is that those usual suspect types are relatively few in number, and they're pernicious, but that there's a more pervasive and entrenched problem with basically all of the rest of us. In one way or another, we assume that we're one of the good guys and so we don't make an effort to be aware of when we're throwing our privilege around and being fragile and reacting defensively.

We see this most broadly here with racism -- progressive white people take tremendous comfort in identifying cartoon racists as the problem and so behave the way we do in these difficult threads dealing with race and are (suspiciously) oblivious of the fact that in the long run, this is the biggest part of the problem. Explained so eloquently in qcubed's comment that concluded with:
Yeah. It wasn't the racists that made me give up on this sort of thing. It was people who in good faith try to be allies and just fuck it up so much without intending to.
Especially white, cishet male progressives like myself do this, but basically everyone does this when we are in a situation where on that axis it's we who have the relative privilege. People spend a lot of time and anger telling other people to think about their privilege and behavior but apparently spend very little time telling themselves to do so.

The problem is most acute and pervasive and relatively uncorrected here on MetaFilter with regard to racism, but it's a pattern that's prevalent everywhere. Someone upthread talked about the things that we've improved about, and listed sexism and LGBT stuff, but I immediately wanted to correct that to "LGBTQIA" and point out that basically it's just sexism and LG we've improved about and that's all. MetaFilter is basically just about as bad as the rest of the culture about everything else. Except that since we're progressive and educated, we think that this can't be the case and that we don't have to think self-critically about how we engage.

Honest to god, almost every other day of reading MetaFilter I see someone do this basic fragility, defensiveness in response to criticism, making it all about how they feel (in all its variations, including "I really want to learn, so please spend a bunch of time educating me"), tell someone that they're oversensitive, spock into abstractions in response to someone's attested experience, where in another context they're the ones who recognize this behavior and fight aggressively against it.

I work very, very hard to be aware of privileged behaviors, but (obviously, inevitably) it's in the few cases where other people's privilege is working against me that I feel this most acutely. At least half of the threads dealing with disability here bring me to angry tears (or nearly so) and make me hate MetaFilter and, sadly, individual people who I otherwise like and respect. I think, dammitshitfuck, those people are so aware of how wrong are the kinds of things they are saying when it's in the context of, say, a man responding to a woman's anecdotes or discussion of sexism. Why the fuck can't they recognize that they are Doing That Thing?

Clearly, it's those of us who are progressive white cishet men who bear the biggest responsibility for this -- I mean, wow, even though it's bad here, I remain eternally surprised and dismayed elsewhere on the web at how obnoxiously [x-ist] progressive white cishet men can be because they're so sure that they are the good guys and it's white Republicans in Texas who are the real villains.

But the same way that these progressive white cishet men fail to think about their privilege and assume that their good-intentions and not being mustache-twirling villains mean they needn't be self-aware and oughtn't be criticized (and when they are criticized IT'S THE END OF THE FUCKING WORLD), basically everyone does this when they're in a situation where they have the relative privilege.

And so it seems to me that the issue here isn't that someone else needs to learn to understand and avoid what's going on in the examples that Conspire lists, but that we need to learn to understand that we do this, and learn not to. Especially progressive white cishet men, to be sure, but everyone. Okay, it's a general problem, but racism is endemic and MetaFilter is very white. So at the very least, could all of we white people internalize that we're all implicated by Conspire's list and we all have a responsibility to think about how we're engaging in all threads involving race. All the time, regardless of how sure we are that we're not "racist"? And then maybe learn to generalize this about all participation that comes from a position of privilege?
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:56 PM on October 23, 2015 [42 favorites]


I think that the answer to these things is always going to be context dependent, dependent on the tone of the room, dependent on the moods and politics and experiences of PoC you're interacting with.

This is very much my feeling, which is why I haven't commented, even after I read all the way to the bottom of the thread. I don't really have anything to add, except thanks to Conspire for starting this MeTa. I don't think we are anywhere near great on issues of sexism and transphobia, but I feel like some of the contentious MeTas made some headway in laying out the problem for people of good will to grapple with and thus maybe do better at least some of the time. Maybe this thread can do some of the same for racism (although, heaven knows we've had contentious racism MeTas, too).
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:57 PM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'll be honest. I don't know if white people "shutting the fuck up" about race is exactly what's needed so much as white people not being dismissive, derailing, or defensive, trying to excuse every little thing and insist that everyone is participating in good faith or that everyone is trying.

This isn't to say to jump in and keep talking, because if you think you have something to contribute, a) no, you probably don't, b) someone already said it, and c) if you actually do, you're probably not coming from a position of authority so don't pull that "well actually" shit, or JAQing off, or devil's advocate shit.
posted by qcubed at 4:04 PM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


I just received what I have to emphasize was a very kind and politely-worded MeMail about my participation in the thread on the Blue, and in this MeTa here. The sender raised some good points, that I'm not going to quote out of our policy of not quoting private messages directly, but I felt I should address those points here in case others had the same point of view.

I want to apologize, first of all, if my participation in the thread on the Blue came across as me sounding like I was speaking authoritatively as a PoC. That isn't the case, of course. The thoughts I shared arose from my own point of view on the subject of cultural appropriation, which is a subject that I have invested a lot into on an emotional level, from conversations I've had with friends and enemies on the subject, and from the work I've done and continue to do. If I sounded like I was pretending to be someone I am not, I can assure you that wasn't my intent.

Second, the user name. It's no secret here that there's a lot of aspects of modern Japanese culture that I enjoy, just as there are aspects of many other cultures I enjoy, but I do try to do so with a level of understanding and respect. This particular user name is born from the fact that this person has had to deal with some unbelievably ugly and sexist backlash, but smacked it down deftly, and has continued to produce awesomeness driven by her seemingly boundless levels of talent. I have talked about her story as an example of some of the horrible double-standards, paradoxes and axes of oppression talented women have to face. Her particular success against misogyny is something I find really inspiring, and I think she could likely succeed in this universe or any other. Ergo, the user name.

I know that I can sound condescending and arrogant when getting on the subject of appropriation in particular and racism in general. At least that's what I've been told. I try to sift through tone arguments to take in the truths in the feedback about how I engage. I appreciate the sender of that MeMail for the sincerity of their message, and hope I've cleared the air to whatever degree for anyone else with the sender's concerns. I will try to be vigilant in my communication and intent, as always. Much thanks everyone.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:10 PM on October 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


two native american threads in recent memory that got fucked up in places. the white people with mysterious cherokee ancestry and the one about the professor who said it's not technically a genocide.
posted by twist my arm at 4:20 PM on October 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


And so it seems to me that the issue here isn't that someone else needs to learn to understand and avoid what's going on in the examples that Conspire lists, but that we need to learn to understand that we do this, and learn not to.

Yeah, this. I think this is right.

I'm mixed race, half white and half Middle Eastern, raised in a predominantly white environment. I don't talk about racial issues with anybody much because I am so consistently disappointed - kalessin's story about Roger resonated very much. I've been following this thread since it started, and struggling with what to even say. It makes me mad enough that it's hard to be coherent, civil and helpful, and I was hoping to manage at least one of the three before hitting 'post comment.'

I think Ivan has expressed what I've been grappling with all day better than I might have, though: shutting up isn't really the answer so much as being aware of our privilege and trying to think about how we come across to marginalized populations rather than making everything about ourselves. I think it's true in threads about PoC, women and any other marginalized population.

Like... when I step into a discussion about a marginalized population that I do not belong to - women in particular - I try to keep in mind that I am not an expert, the stakes are lower for me, and that I am basically a *guest* in the room, not a guy leading a panel... and I try to remember that that's not merely okay, but for the best. The room will flow better if I hang back and let it breathe, and be mindful of people when I do open my trap.

I don't want a cookie, nor do I know how well I succeed - my username is literally a joke about my abrasiveness - I bring this up solely because that's the sort of effort I personally wish for from white people whenever discussions like this come up. I don't expect everyone to always succeed - we're all human - I just want people to remember that they're guests rather than panel speakers when they're not in the group in question.
posted by mordax at 4:25 PM on October 23, 2015 [16 favorites]


Also, nthing thanks to Conspire for bringing this topic up, and for so many people contributing. Much as I love Metafilter, it's not the sort of place I would feel comfortable discussing a number of things that matter to me, and I wish that were different. So... yeah. Thank you for all that work.
posted by mordax at 4:27 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a white woman, I have nothing substantial to add this conversation. But I'd like to say thank you for the post. I have conflicting feelings about hitting Post Comment. I do try to be aware of my privilege, but reading this was a learning experience for me. So, just, I hear you and duly noted. I didn't participate in that thread, but I can always do better. Thanks for all the comments that helped me on my way.
posted by Ruki at 4:30 PM on October 23, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am... Not entirely thrilled with this push for self identification. I think I would rather, and I know viscerally that this is an "it's never gonna happen" feature request but I propose it solely as a thought experiment, be able to see a statistical breakdown of user participation on the thread than have folks individually self-identify.

I think this is interesting for me to fall to this position on the spectrum of opinions for two reasons:
1) not that long ago I seriously clashed with Conspire over thinking he was a trans person based on how he was writing on behalf of other trans users based mostly on the idea of voluntary self identification of trans folks on a thread trying to establish a June By QUILTBAG/your choice users.
2) I generally support the fully autonomous self-labeling philosophy. I think self identification should always be optional and I think forced identification sucks for a variety of reasons including but not limited to the limitations of binning and statistical analysis, the idea that if we I'd ourselves there's always the possibility that fascists will use it against us, and the absolutely terrible precedent in that regard that medical science has made with respect to how it generally uses and leverages demographics data.

Also, to be perfectly honest, seeing a vast majority of white users commenting and self identifying will be a sure fire impetus to me to nope the hell out, regardless of the thread's comment quality.
posted by kalessin at 4:43 PM on October 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


I (a white lady) struggle sometimes to determine when adding my voice would be helpful and where it would be detracting from the voices of people who are more qualified or have a more vested interest. It pisses me the hell off when, for instance, men come into conversations about abortion with the attitude of "This is an interesting theoretical problem," and I try to be mindful about not doing that with threads about racism. I was upset by the thread in question, and started and deleted about 10 versions of a comment before I decided that my input wouldn't add anything of particular value to the conversation. In general, I try to balance that by favoriting liberally (amplifying voices rather than talking over them), but I understand the point made up thread that sometimes it can be helpful to have a white person saying to other white people "Take a step back and listen to other perspectives. You are being offensive." I'll work harder at figuring out when that time comes in a conversation.

I'm not sure if this is accurate or not, so bear with me, but I'm realizing that my interactions with racism are very low stakes as far as my mental and physical health and safety. Like, this is not a microaggression that I experience, so I should be OK with speaking up more readily against things I observe which are racist, particularly if it's a conversation with a lot of white voices. This isn't a conversation I am forced to have (because I am white, so people are not going to be racist at me) and it is a conversation that I have the privilege of ducking out of when I don't want to participate. SO I should step up on more of the basic "Yes, that is a thing that is racism" 101 type stuff to relieve the pressure from people who do experience this on a daily basis, who are fatigued and hurt by microaggressions, and have many more incisive and interesting conversations to have about this topic (in life and on Metafilter) than "But wait, is cultural appropriation racist?" And then I'll do what I can to step back and let those conversations happen.
posted by ChuraChura at 4:51 PM on October 23, 2015 [11 favorites]


So at the very least, could all of we white people internalize that we're all implicated by Conspire's list and we all have a responsibility to think about how we're engaging in all threads involving race. All the time, regardless of how sure we are that we're not "racist"? And then maybe learn to generalize this...

Yes. If I was going to try to get all the other white people on the thread to consider a moral to take away, that statement would be "the more privileged I am, the more overconfident I am that my opinion must be worth posting." (Or worthy of everyone's time and admiration, even though I'm often shooting out thoughts about things I haven't lived or studied much.)
posted by puddledork at 4:53 PM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Regardless of who asked the question, the answer to the question of why Mefi MUST be helmed by a white man would be ... interesting.

I've just been reading-not-talking, but I just wanted to mention that this was almost entirely just a seniority and timing thing. In case people were curious. I think there are many people who could do a good job running MeFi, but I think cortex being in charge makes total sense for a number of reasons. Thanks for making this post, conspire.
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 5:03 PM on October 23, 2015 [10 favorites]


(Or worthy of everyone's time and admiration, even though I'm often shooting out thoughts about things I haven't lived or studied much.)

Or as Craig Ferguson put it:

1) Does this need to be said?

2) Does this need to be said by me?

3) Does this need to be said by me now?
posted by soundguy99 at 5:05 PM on October 23, 2015 [25 favorites]


It seems like for most white dudes the answer to all three is always going to be yes. Until the day they realize that they aren't the precious snowflakes they think they are (while complaining we think we are), well...
posted by qcubed at 5:18 PM on October 23, 2015 [13 favorites]


Yeah, I wrote a comment last night that kind of failed all three criteria. I thought it would help to bring up the problematic white thought process, but I think it just wound up being whitesplaining - not necessarily because of what I said, but because of how and when I said it. I made the mistake of thinking that the thread was about white people doing stuff badly, when it was really about the needs of people of color. The difference being that one makes it about my experience, and one is about the experiences of other people.

In the light of day, I don't see the value in talking about how white people are scared of being racist, because the point is that it doesn't matter what their thought process is as long as they keep doing stuff people have asked them to stop doing. Bringing that up was a mistake, and I only mention it now to make it clear that this stuff can get through to people, and that they don't always just go away thinking they were right and great and awesome.
posted by teponaztli at 5:31 PM on October 23, 2015 [8 favorites]


Speaking for myself, I'd say it's not just about learning when not to weigh in, but also being prepared to accept any criticism when I do without doubling down. When I say the wrong thing, or even if somebody just reads it in a way I hadn't intended, that shit's on me, no matter what my intentions were, and it's also on me not to further crap up a thread defending myself to the death. If it's not about me then it's not about me. Period. I might clarify once so people don't think I'm just dropping a turd and running, but that's all I'm giving myself anymore.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:36 PM on October 23, 2015 [37 favorites]


I am interested to know how mefites of color, if folks would like to volunteer their thoughts, feel about comment deletion (specifically) as a moderator tactic for making these conversations less fucked-up. From my perspective it has always felt like heavy deletion, while well-intentioned, actually allows community problems around race (and otherwise) to continually lie just under the surface because it becomes almost impossible to point back to recurrent problematic behavior and say "see, this is the bullshit we're dealing with". But, as a white person, I don't experience in any real way the microaggressive aspect of these comments' simple presence, so I'm not in a place to say how the two considerations should weigh against each other.
posted by threeants at 5:47 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


As a white person, when I lead up a comment in a thread about PoCs with "as a white person," a thing that, as far as I know, I've never done before, I feel considerable trepidation because I suspect the prefacing information will result in strong suspicion on the part of everybody else in the thread that whatever I'm going to say in the comment is going to be useless.

Ok, I don't mean this with hostility, but if placing "as a white person" before a comment makes it sound suspiciously useless, consider that the comment may well be useless.
posted by threeants at 5:53 PM on October 23, 2015 [31 favorites]


Re: deletion, i'm kinda in favor of hiding/collapsing them even though it's not really possible on MeFi as it stands.

This way I know who to avoid/ignore, and if I really want to subject myself to it and ensure I maintain my lack of faith, I can.

Outright deletion is okay if there's no other option, but then you can't collapse the wave function on Schrödinger racists.
posted by qcubed at 7:04 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Here’s What Happens When You Try to Explain Privilege to Well-Meaning, Clueless Allies. (via Clutch online magazine; starring SNL's Sasheer Zamata; courtesy of ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project)

Worth it (IMO) largely for the brown paper bag test (which in this context is perhaps an example of cultural appropriation).

there are so few actual PoC around here

Not calling you out, asking a sincere question: how could this possibly be known if every poster/commenter (or lurker who generally doesn't post) doesn't disclose their race? I've long been curious why this gets said/assumed on Metafilter, I guess simply on the basis of the post topics and types of comments.

From my perspective it has always felt like heavy deletion, while well-intentioned, actually allows community problems around race (and otherwise) to continually lie just under the surface

This is something I continue to mull over about Metafilter and the way it's moderated, and I haven't yet reached a conclusion. However, as example, I'm mystified by things like when several attempted FPPs about Rachel Dolezal got deleted but when she seemingly got some validation via Vanity Fair (arguably a magazine mostly aimed at Whites), then it was apparently okay to do an FPP based on that article. I get that in at least one of the bigger threads (before it got deleted), comments which were trying to conflate Dolezal's situation with Caitlyn Jenner's were problematic. However, I think those comments could have been moderated out. They apparently were in the FPP that did get posted successfully, one whose source came from a Vanity Fair issue which had Jenner on its cover.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:23 PM on October 23, 2015 [14 favorites]


From my perspective it has always felt like heavy deletion, while well-intentioned, actually allows community problems around race (and otherwise) to continually lie just under the surface because it becomes almost impossible to point back to recurrent problematic behavior and say "see, this is the bullshit we're dealing with".

I'm pretty sure that the mods have some form of recordkeeping on who gets a lot of comments flagged and/or deleted, and are thus already aware of the recurrent problematic behavior and the bullshit that other users are dealing with. FIAMO works a lot better than digging through someone's comment history because you remember their handle but can't find the shitty comments because they were deleted before they shit up someone else's day.
posted by Etrigan at 7:29 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Dolezal posts that went up when the story first came out and the whole world was freaking out over it, were deleted because we thought at the time, given the state of the coverage about it in the world at large, it didn't seem possible for MeFi to have anything approaching a workable thread about it - and that was tested because one of the threads lived for a while before black and trans members were asking for it to be closed. Then we had a long MetaTalk about the reasoning there (which I think it's probably better not to rehash in here since it's its own huge thing).

Then time passed and the general culture-wide freakout died down some. The post that survived was a month and a half after the initial flurry of interest, and required intensive modding even then.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 7:34 PM on October 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


fuse theorem, that video is pretty much going to be bookmarked for a while.
posted by qcubed at 7:35 PM on October 23, 2015


"...the comment may well be useless."
on the blue such a comment is almost necessarily useless. I think white people need to think more than twice before speaking up in PoC threads on the blue to prevent the threads becoming a blizzard of white yack and driving away the very people who actually have useful things to say. But whiteperson efforts on the gray to problematize whiteperson yack on the blue could potentially be useful in that they could take on some of the emotional labor load to keep PoCs from having to do it so that they can talk to one another and it can be like the holy grail emotional labor thread where it did not devolve into boring binary argument and new and amazing things kept getting said and it was great. (Whenever Ivan Fyodorovich and other men speak up thoughtfully in an effort to help quash sexist yack, it's a major relief and it helps a lot--just as his thoughtful comment here helps.)

So on Our National Conversation about Conversations about Race, I keep wondering if "Tanner" is performance art. He so perfectly models the problem behavior, and he's so infuriating. I sometimes think it's on purpose--to make it easy to identify "how not to talk if you're privileged" and "how to soldier on and not die of annoyance when you get buttonholed by a clueless privileged person who wants to Explain It To You." Anyway, so there's "Tanner" being "Tanner" professionally and making a living at it and selling books, just doing a bang-up job of being an annoyingly clueless liberal white guy with an enormous lot to say about race relations: there's no need for the rest of white America to perform this service for free on Metafilter.
posted by Don Pepino at 7:39 PM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


Like, personally I think if white people want to help, they could do more than just favorite posts from PoC that push back on whitesplaining and racism, they could actually engage with the parts of the comment that are about PoC experience, even to say "interesting, I hadn't thought about that" or "yes, that is a different worldview, it's interesting that people would talk about racial identity and then clothes, because those are both things some people have to deal with every day,and it doesn't even feel like a tragedy." Or whatever.

I just wanted to chime in to say that I could easily see situations where I would totally find white people saying this to be patronizing ("you're just like regular people!") So this sounds similar to the discussion we just had a little upstream about how some PoC would find white people self-identifying to be helpful, while others would find it a huge red flag and expression of privilege.


I hear you on this, I just feel like I see situations like this often, like when I tried to explain some situation related to my experience and some white person just pulls out the bit they feel is related to them personally and goes on about it, and I get favorites for my comment or whatever but the meaning is lost. And I put some thought into those comments, and they get lost because some white person doesn't feeling confronted when they think they were being exemplary.
posted by zutalors! at 8:37 PM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Nevin: My main point is that MetaFilter is supposed to be a community, and it is not nonsense at all to suggest that we can discuss things here in MetaTalk in good faith.

I'm getting very frustrated with the combination of "People of color / indigenous people / less privileged people are causing problems by not taking the perspectives of other people into account enough" and "MetaFilter should be a community." Assuming PoC/IP/LPP are causing problems by speaking up about their experiences is, in of itself, degrading the community. Assuming that saying "this thing here is kinda racist" is not a good faith statement is, in and of itself, undermining the community. Saying "but we're a community" to silence part of the community is both wrong and another example of racism - the assumption that PoC/IP/LPP will silence themselves in order to maintain the illusion of equality.

I would like MetaFilter to someday be a place where the rhetoric of community, good faith, and friendliness is not used to silence less privileged people, but instead where it supports them. Part of that is more privileged people doing the work to reflect, change, and practice humility.
posted by Deoridhe at 8:41 PM on October 23, 2015 [55 favorites]


I mean, I feel like this nebulous concept of "good faith" really isn't enough. I've pointed out examples where it's clearly insufficient, other POC have too, and we've pointed out signs that make us think something isn't really in "good faith".

Maybe every last one of us is wrong and "oversensitive" in "good faith" parlance, but I find it hard to believe that when POC say "This doesn't seem like 'good faith'" that all of us are somehow wrong.

Talk about "good faith" all you want, but it's hit semantic satiation and doesn't feel like it really means anything anymore other than a fig leaf for white fragility, ignorance, and continued dismissal.

Why should we assume "good faith" when there is less evidence for it than extraterrestrial intelligence?
posted by qcubed at 9:55 PM on October 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


Wow. I'm really late to this thread, but since you quoted me in the post, I'd like to clarify that my comments were meta to the discussion of cultural appropriation and orthogonal to the other part of my comment that referenced a quote directed at you.

My comments with regard to the form and character that these discussions take, and from which you quoted, I absolutely stand by 100%, but they were not directed at you specifically or your contributions to the thread.

Because I disagree with you on this or any point, doesn't mean I disrespect you or am being disrespectful to you.

These are hard topics, and I appreciate that it's especially sensitive for you, but I'm surprised this warranted a MetaTalk.
posted by echocollate at 10:18 PM on October 23, 2015 [1 favorite]


"I'm surprised this thing bothered you, when it wouldn't have bothered me" is one of those sentences that it's good to really pause and reflect on, especially if you're white (I don't know if you are) and especially also if there are, say, hundreds of comments about the reasons this stuff bothers people.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:22 PM on October 23, 2015 [60 favorites]


Sure, but that's not what I said at all.

Listen, if every time we have a thread about race or gender or ethnicity, it's expected that everyone agree about everything, that there be no difference of opinion, then what the fuck are we all doing here? Seriously? Just patting each other on the back?

Go back and read that thread. There was disagreement, but nobody was hurling insults. Nobody was really being disrespectful. This whole Meta is basically saying, "You didn't empathize with my point of view to the point of deferring entirely so eh."

Come on.
posted by echocollate at 10:29 PM on October 23, 2015 [5 favorites]


A lot of people have explained what bothered them in the approaches people were taking in that thread. The writeup of this post contains descriptions of what bothered Conspire. One of the things that bothers people is when someone ignores and dismisses explanations like this. Please don't do that. Consider what people are saying in here.

When we say this is a community, this is the thing we're saying. Listen when people are saying something bothers them, even if it's not something that bothers you - especially if there's an obviously salient difference between you and them (namely if you're on the advantaged side and they're on the disadvantaged side of some split, they probably know things you don't know and have experiences you don't have).
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:33 PM on October 23, 2015 [34 favorites]


All these petty skirmishes to circumscribe and consolidate claims to moral authority just to have or express an opinion? Fucking good luck with that. I'll be over in the corner with the conscientious objectors doing something else.

what i don't get from this comment is someone who appreciates that something is especially sensitive for someone. making it about Conspire taking it personally is a ridiculous read on the situation. you disrespected everyone who felt they had a stake in the topic.

it might be a good idea to stay out of threads where you think people are wasting their time doing and saying things you disagree with.
posted by twist my arm at 10:38 PM on October 23, 2015 [12 favorites]


So, like, when people say that talking about appropriation makes us no different than racial supremacists, that's not insulting or disrespectful?

When we're told that the topic is too sensitive and that we're too worked up about it that's not disrespectful?

When someone throws shade at a POC and hints that they have identity issues they need to work through, that's not disrespectful or insulting?

Such good faith. Much wow.
posted by qcubed at 10:40 PM on October 23, 2015 [31 favorites]


I mean, maybe respect between white people is of a different tenor and expectation than respect between non-whites and between whites and non-whites.

Please, do educate me more about white respect. I'd love to learn more about this exotic culture.
posted by qcubed at 10:44 PM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hm, I guess all the conscientious objectors must have left that corner, leaving echocollate with no choice at all but to take the fight to this MeTa.
posted by tonycpsu at 10:47 PM on October 23, 2015 [4 favorites]


We've talked about the difference in approach, where some people want to treat threads on every topic like interrogation/debate club, and others want a more conversational/sharing experiences approach. This is one of those times when the debate club/question everything approach is unsuitable and ends up at best tonedeaf. Coming in to this thread after 300 comments without acknowledging any of the points made, to assert that this is about mere disagreement is a bad way to engage if you want to be part of a community.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:57 PM on October 23, 2015 [38 favorites]


Ok, one comment deleted. Take a day off and read then.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:06 PM on October 23, 2015 [18 favorites]


So, given all of the experiences above, how can we prevent posts like this from going down a bad road?

It seems just yelling at the bad actors doesn't work, especially because even if they get educated, there's an essentially infinite new supply of people from the broader world who come in and start again. Also possibly because "bad actor" is sometimes a bad description- problematic comment can come from people who are unaware, and thus can't self police. So we can't rely on posters to self regulate (even though they *should*, of course; it's just not working at this point). (I will say though that the treatment of women on the site *has* improved- and there were sure as heck some really contentious metas that got us there- so maybe I'm wrong, and yelling at each other in MeTa does eventually work-- but slowly, painfully, and with lots of emotional labor on the part of the people who aren't privileged in the first place -- so I still think it's nonideal).

We can't rely on the mods to be able to read 100% of the site 100% of the time, there simply aren't enough of them. And even if there were, the mods only represent some perspectives, and though they are caring and good mods, won't necessarily catch everything that could be problematic.

Not having topics that might cause some people to make ill-considered comments I suppose would work but YUCK. I really can't advocate for that.

And this thread has highlighted to me that we can't rely on flagging always to alert the mods to a problem, either. There's a couple of issues with flagging:

1) The flag reasons are sometimes insufficient. E.g. there's no flag for "inappropriately playing devils advocate" or "paraphrased my comment really badly" or whatnot. Maybe most of the troublesome comments in this thread could have gotten "offensive/racism/sexism", but "it breaks the guidelines" has always seemed so generic as to not have content.
Yes, I know that the mods don't always look at flagging reasons, mostly at volume--- but if I just have a moment, I often don't flag, because I can't pick *how* to. And if I just have a moment, there's no way I have time to drop something into the contact form.

2) People have gotten the idea that flagging a thread too much isn't useful (is this true? what is too much? why isn't it useful? that seems in direct conflict with some of the mod comments in this thread regarding lightly flagged comments being left alone.)

3) People who might best know *what* to flag are not even in the thread anymore, because they had to nope out due to ... things that should be flagged and removed. Several commenters above mentioned thinking they should have stayed later, but is that really reasonable to expect? If it isn't worth the stress, it isn't, and it's not reasonable to rely on a particular community to dive into a personally obnoxious thread in order to flag which comments are a problem.

4) Relying on # of flags thrown might also cause some more rare minorities on the site to not be heard.

So, what can we as a community do to make it better? Is there a way to actually improve these sorts of problematic threads? I don't have answers, but I think there's still a problem.
posted by nat at 11:07 PM on October 23, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think it would really help to have a link to the contact form as part of the flagging system. So that when you have a problem with a comment but can't quite match it to any of the flags there's a low friction way to tell the mods what's bothering you.

Since part of the problem seems to be that not enough information is reaching the mods I suspect the solution has to involve making it easier to give them useful feedback.
posted by Proofs and Refutations at 11:14 PM on October 23, 2015 [7 favorites]


"Listen, if every time we have a thread about race or gender or ethnicity, it's expected that everyone agree about everything, that there be no difference of opinion, then what the fuck are we all doing here? Seriously? Just patting each other on the back? "

So, when I talk about oversimplification…

Is there "difference of opinion" in the thread, exclusive of the disagreements? Well, yeah, clearly, unless you conflate "difference" with "opposing."

And what are we doing here? We're finding cool shit on the web and then writing about it.

Go back and read that thread. There was disagreement, but nobody was hurling insults. Nobody was really being disrespectful. This whole Meta is basically saying, "You didn't empathize with my point of view to the point of deferring entirely so eh."

Dude, thread's full of people saying essentially that they feel disrespected. Just asserting that "nobody was really being disrespectful" is bullshit. If nobody was being disrespectful, it's what, all in the heads of a lot of different people? Do you think reframing that as being entirely about a lack of due deference is a "good faith" reading?

Communication is reciprocal. A "good faith" reading requires that you presume that these are sincere complaints from people invested in the community, at the very least.
posted by klangklangston at 12:45 AM on October 24, 2015 [17 favorites]


Listen, if every time we have a thread about race or gender or ethnicity, it's expected that everyone agree about everything, that there be no difference of opinion, then what the fuck are we all doing here? Seriously? Just patting each other on the back?

Maybe we are doing something more subtle and sophisticated than that. Stay awhile and listen.
posted by polymodus at 12:56 AM on October 24, 2015 [27 favorites]


Re self-identification - I've done it on occasion, sometimes to frame a shared personal experience, or even, yes, as a disclaimer, because I can only approach the subject of race through the reported experience of people I'm close to, and things I've read, or by reflecting on my privilege, or by thinking through my experience of ethnicity. Which I know isn't anywhere near the same as racialized experience, but all I can do try to reach for some kind of understanding through analogy. Which will always be a failure, because no one can get at the feeling of anyone else's life - even when the constraints are very similar, or nominally the same - but the hope is to get close, I guess. I can't think of another way to apprehend a different kind of experience than your own than to try to relate it to something known. That is probably better fuel for private thoughts than public statements, most of the time; too many ways to be hurtful by getting it wrong.

When I've got a dog in the actual "fight" (not in threads related to race), I don't always feel like self-identifying or dredging up my past. I'm certain I've "spocked [or more likely goofed] into abstraction" on occasion. But sometimes I just haven't communicated that there's related experience behind it. Partly because I sometimes want to just straightforwardly express an idea or question without having to provide and contextualize my biography (and I wonder, is it always owed?), sometimes because I probably wrongly assume that some of it might be known by some, having leaked bits out here and there (and totally wrong to assume that). I think personal disclosure usually helps with being understood, though.
posted by cotton dress sock at 2:18 AM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thank you, Conspire, for one of the best framed MetaTalk posts I've seen in my 10 years here.

*deep breath* Granny talks.

I don't normally bother with race threads much on this here website beyond the occasional one where I have something relevant to add from my own experience. I can be as tonedeaf and clueless on this topics as any other privileged person. However, reading every comment in a thread like this raises my consciousness and makes me aware of nuances of power, control, race and gender and how they impact and play into things that don't often make much sense to me in the wider world but for a fleeting sense of having been spat upon.

I've learnt a lot here, today. Will I do anything with it on this website? I don't know. I'll watch and wait and see what the new generation brings to the table and the changes that occur in the tenor of the threads before making a change in the way I choose to opt out or not of such topics. Only too often, you enter a thread to see some whitesplaining going on that diminishes your experience and expertise and you're like, whatever, this is your stage, I'll make my own.

HOWEVER, this thread's tone and tenor have made me consider the fact that I too might have a responsibility here, to bark like that dog on the internets that I've been for the past 20 years. That this thread might be the tipping point - just like that wonderful EL thread - for the more diverse members of the community to out themselves as the fringe.

I am almost 50 years old. I am her, she, a woman. I am an engineer, a nerd, a geek. I carry an Indian passport. I had US permanent residence from 1998 until last week when that card expired. I have Finnish permanent residence. Since I joined Metafilter as a paid up member, I have lived in Chicago, San Francisco, Singapore, Helsinki, Nairobi and Wageningen (with some rinse repeats). I have GCE O levels from London University and an American high school diploma as well as that cliche, an engineering degree from Bangalore.

My work takes me to some of the most underprivileged, ignored & talked over parts of the planet, and my interest area is the informal economy.

I use an old Nokia candybar with Opera, and a Lenovo with a full size design award keyboard. I can touchtype. I first used a computer in Sept 1983 and went online with Pine in 1995. I love science fiction. And I relax by playing Age of Empires.

Here are my observations and reflections on this thread's topic:


If we want to fix this, we have to acknowledge not just the suffering of the people around us, but also our own culpability in a system which is designed to hurt people so that they can't excel and they won't be competition. Deoridhe

I recognize my privileged position when I see the challenge that young Africans face, more so, women, in being taken seriously in a world who prefers to see them as hungry eyed distended bellies with their hands out.

I could see it but I could not recognize it until I saw this comment by Deoridhe. Thank you.

On the other hand, it also helps me distinguish between contexts where the system isn't specifically designed to hurt PoC though it inadvertently may do so. However, the language and the concepts shared in this thread are what offer me the tools to dismantle and deconstruct that.

This is what tells me that conversations like this are SO VERY POWERFUL and EMPOWERING in a way that all the bullshit in the world about "empowering women from teh third world" doesn't do.

tl;dr: We need MOAR of this here.


The rest of us think before we speak. We have to, in some cases, because it's dangerous. But sometimes it's just not necessary.

It is dangerous to speak is the lesson that the world and society teaches many many many of us in our different cultural contexts. but now its made worse by the panopticon of the internets as well and the paranoia that drives a global demonisation of the other.

that makes it all the more critical to have corners of sanity like this thread where peoples of different backgrounds and locations can come together with the trust that at very least there's a hot white male with a banhammer around er you know hot take on my white maleness, whatever... the point is that increasingly people are giving up on talking to each other and there's increasing isolationism and protectionism and walls. We need this space here, today created as an air bubble in a vacuum, by this thread, to expand further and the walls of the bubble strengthened and the oxygen poured in. for our collective future.


More broadly in my experience across the internet, American PoC have a really bad habit of barging into conversations between PoC in other countries and trying to dictate terms using a model of racial dynamics that doesn't apply, which is really shitty, oppressive behavior.

THIS. This is a problem.

Why is this a problem? Because even as I am trying to learn the language and form for deconstructing and redefining systemic barriers for less privileged or PoC or the other or whatever, every context is different. There is no silver bullet. And while American discourse is among the most advanced in the world in the nuances of race and identity and gender, its context and history are different from other locations and this makes it difficult to have the conversation. The need for stronger louder voices "fighting for justice" may not be quite the same elsewhere and then what I see happening is that the stridency itself turns off people completely from the conversation leading us back to square one. I don't know if I was able to articulate this minefield well enough but I can attempt to expand upon it with examples in a separate comment if anyone asks.

I have found that different locations and contexts require different approaches - cultural nuance and understanding helps a lot.


*And it might be useful to have a bit of a think about how it might come across before rushing to explain to us that we're not excluded.



You can't integrate here. I wish I could warn everyone hoping to move here who entertains the delusion that they will some day blend in. Just forget about ever being seen as one of the crowd by these people. You're always going to be on the outside. Make your peace with this, and life will be slightly less stressful. But only slightly.


So I definitely don't want to be like, "Even though you face ethnic or racial oppression in your own culture, you'd be unmarked white in the US, so GTFO!" to someone. Definitely not. And I want to caution fellow American PoC to be mindful of this kind of thing, because I've seen people get that kind of treatment and it is oppression.

You see?

there are so many different expressions of pain, exclusion, othering...

tl;dr

*inarticulate* MOAR threads like this, even if initially its just protected threads for safe conversations just like the EL thread. Its time. Its necessary. And only MeFi can do it on the globally inclusive way we need it right now.
posted by infini at 4:21 AM on October 24, 2015 [40 favorites]


With respect to comment deletion as a possible mod tactic to quell thread shittiness that supports the racist status quo, this strongly harmonizes with a dynamic about mod policy that keeps initiating a vicious cycle for me personally which culminates in me taking long breaks from the site and weighing heavily whether I will return.

The dynamic is that MetaFilter's identity as a liberal leaning site, I think, clashes significantly with the mod policy of letting deeply and profoundly offensive comments stand if enough time passes for some threshold of replies to happen. The mod policy does enforce something sort of unique about the site: the strength of narrative and the conceit of the thread as a developing conversation.

However, it also lets stand some comments that are the equivalent of or first cousin to hate speech. I know that as the site grows and changes, as it is even now with this thread, mods are getting better about this. But I also think it's at root an insulting and disingenuous policy that strongly echoes the dynamics of a typical tone argument. The excuse for letting some kinds of shitty comments stand unchallenged is that they've stood too long. And folks who are pissed off about that are told to deal, because the conversation is king.

I have always thought there exists at least one middle ground: the mod note in-thread. Say that whatever shittiness it is is not okay or against site policy or whatever the appropriate phrasing.

Because what does not thrill me is that the site benefits from our emotional labor (we create content and ads are served to folks viewing that content) and this site claims a liberal-leaning position in the political spectrum but the mods continue to seem to remain unconvinced about this social justice thing, because in some cases they will let hate speech stand unremarked.

I understand that it's also mod policy to give each bad actor a fair amount of benefit of the doubt (unless, I note, they break the rule of revenue, by promoting their own products here) and give these bad actors a number of chances to prove themselves as bad. But I think that gives bad actors a lot of opportunities to be shitty, as individuals, to minorities and marginalized members during this run-up to banning. And it also tacitly supports the racist status quo.

In combination with letting some deeply problematic and insulting comments stand, it's hard to be a minority and feel respected around here.

For me, one of the core planks of the liberal and liberal-leaning agenda is full support for social justice and civil rights. The fact that this isn't the default answer in mod behavior and policy really fucking irritates me. And I periodically get so pissed off at this dynamic that it takes a long break to reset. (Note: my breaks usually culminate in my writing privately to the mods about this dynamic so they know and this comment should not come as news to them)
posted by kalessin at 5:44 AM on October 24, 2015 [22 favorites]


Listen, if every time we have a thread about race or gender or ethnicity, it's expected that everyone agree about everything, that there be no difference of opinion, then what the fuck are we all doing here? Seriously? Just patting each other on the back?

I want to address this because it's a sentiment that arises a lot, usually from people who are part of the status quo in race, gender, sexual orientation or what have you.

This attitude seems to come from the notion that discussions on Metafilter are supposed to be some kind of debate. That there are essentially two states in the Metafilter Thread Binary: agreement and disagreement. Disagreements run the gamut from healthy and spirited to shouty and ugly, but agreements are all the same: people "patting each other on the back" and not saying anything useful and leaving our debate team captains to wonder "what the fuck are we all doing here?"

I guess if you go looking for some kind of debate in every single thread you pop into, it can be pretty disappointing to see people just, you know, talking about the subject at hand. Sharing different points of view, showing new angles and intersections, giving other people plenty to learn about in terms of how Subject X applies to people from different backgrounds. How frustrating it must be to come rolling in with your yellow index cards, all ready to take to the podium and engage in some serious Lincoln-Douglas drubbing, only to find that the debate is actually being held a few threads down.

Because not every goddamned thread needs to be a debate. Some threads really don't need someone to don the Helm of the Contrarian. Sometimes, people of various backgrounds sharing their experiences and inner worlds on a particular subject can be incredibly enriching and have a lot to teach. I have learned so much from threads such as this. You actually can, as hard as it may be to believe, agree with one another on the fundamentals of a particular subject and still have not only something to talk about but something to learn.

This "you're all just agreeing with each other this is boring" attitude refuses to see any of this, and reveals a lot about the speaker's attitude about the nature of marginalized groups and their allies - this attitude only stops just short of calling them a monolith. Although instead of everyone looking the same, they're all thinking the same. Even when they are demonstrably not. It's diminishing, ugly and shows a poor understanding of the positions this person wants to argue with.

There are any number of threads on the front page right now where I'm sure you can find plenty of places to be contrarian and have a raucous debate. It's not like there's a dearth of places on Metafilter where you can scratch that Well Actually itch. But not every thread needs to be like that. And if your bringing a debate to a discussion ends up turning the thread to shit, don't scratch your head and wonder why everyone else in that thread has some kind of problem.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:35 AM on October 24, 2015 [92 favorites]


This rhetorical conflation of being polite and respectful to each other with some idea of mass-think or echo chamber is a typical rhetorical gambit usually deployed by folks who don't want to be burdened by the apparently crushingly heavy emotional labor of having to be nice to people. It's kind of antithetical to the assumption of good intent that I am constantly reminded I should be doing around here.
posted by kalessin at 6:45 AM on October 24, 2015 [65 favorites]


Some threads really don't need someone to don the Helm of the Contrarian.

Most threads.
Nearly all threads.
Definitely all threads if the self-appointed Contrarians get vicious and nasty.

Because typically, they're not simply playing devil's advocate and being 'contrarian.' Instead, they're voicing ugly and wrong sentiments about [fill in the group here].

For example: The Tramp Stamp thread had comments about women that revealed a great deal about the posters' misogyny but added nothing but unnecessary strife and bad feelings to the thread. And while the argument could be made that the linked article created a jumping off point, the thread quite clearly would have been a better discussion without them.
posted by zarq at 7:21 AM on October 24, 2015 [30 favorites]


Yes. To be clear, I cannot think of a single thread - on Metafilter especially - where I thought, "Boy all this respectful discussion is soooo boring. I wish some straight white dude would drop some serious Devil's Advocate knowledge on these chumps."
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 7:32 AM on October 24, 2015 [79 favorites]


I think of the emotional labor thread as a good example of one where most contrarianism was ushered out, allowing participants to progress a really enlightening discussion by sharing and contributing perspectives in exactly the way Aya Hirano describes above. Not only was it not boring, it was one of the most interesting, informative, and valuable threads of the past year or so. It is a great example of what can happen when contrarians and those of ill will step out of the way and let people talk about their interests and experiences at a more advanced, less 101 level than what would be possibly if every elemental point, including the basic legitimacy of people's views, were challenged.
posted by Miko at 7:35 AM on October 24, 2015 [45 favorites]


Listen, if every time we have a thread about race or gender or ethnicity, it's expected that everyone agree about everything, that there be no difference of opinion, then what the fuck are we all doing here? Seriously? Just patting each other on the back?

It's just funny that people keep claiming that, because PoC here, including myself, have repeatedly asserted that we'd be a lot more amenable to discussing the nuances of our experiences and the differences in our opinions about things if it meant that white people wouldn't use any dissent we expression to quash the opinions of other PoC, and if it meant we wouldn't be endlessly henpecked to death if we said something slightly objectionable.

Like, what I'm asking for is exactly what you want. I don't see how a "yes it does no it doesn't" discussion is better than a "I agree with this this and that but this part runs contrary to my experiences" or "here's a novel angle from as aspect of identity you guys might not have considered" or "let's flesh this out in even more nuance", like, at all.
posted by Conspire at 7:38 AM on October 24, 2015 [30 favorites]


this thread is about race but I'd just like to add that I'd have left more or less a similar comment if it had been about gender as well. one size doesn't fit all is the crux.
posted by infini at 8:04 AM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


I think this is where that MeFi-specific notion of "reading the room" in a thread is crucial. If people are talking about personal experiences in a way that can make them vulnerable, try to exercise a little caution and sensitivity in contributing to a thread; if you're not a member of a marginalized group currently being discussed, that absolutely goes times 1000. I am a woman(ish person) and have experienced my lot of sexism in life, but I chose to hang back and listen in the emotional labor and sex blah-tivism threads because I felt that contributing stuff like "nobody expects me to do emotional labor because I am bad at it" and "my sex life is great; good thing I only have sex with women!" would be actively harmful to the thread and make it harder for people to speak on the subject. Just because something is your own experience and real and valid doesn't mean it is 100% needed in the conversation right this moment. This is something I'm still learning.
posted by thetortoise at 8:11 AM on October 24, 2015 [24 favorites]


It's not like there's a dearth of places on Metafilter where you can scratch that Well Actually itch.

Yes. I've been thinking (wistfully) that people on Mefi have sort of learned not to say "Well, actually I don't think that IS racism..." but the itch is still there and the temptation to say "Well, actually I don't think that IS cultural appropriation..." was tempting to some people in the last thread. And because the Japanese-British author of the piece was the one decrying the kimono protest, that gave a lot of cover for white people to make "yeah, this isn't a big deal" type claims.

I don't think the poster of thread was wrong, but I do have some criticism of the author of the essay, Yo Zushi. I think the perhaps axe-grinding and point-scoring emphasis of this essayist framed the cultural appropriation debate in an unfortunate way. (For one thing, he picked a contested and complex example of cultural appropriation, rather than one that's accessible to a newcomer. I think he picked a difficult example on purpose. The essay author also compressed and distorted the substantive disagreement on the issue and just quoted the click-baity protest sign about "yellow face". And his article didn't contain links to background information about the museum exhibit and the subsequent protests. I'm glad that links were provided by MeFites later in the thread, but I think the lack of accessible background information eroded the quality of the discussion. Some people know this stuff already and some don't.)
posted by puddledork at 8:16 AM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


Listen, if every time we have a thread about race or gender or ethnicity, it's expected that everyone agree about everything, that there be no difference of opinion, then what the fuck are we all doing here? Seriously? Just patting each other on the back?

I know other people have called this out already, but it's so willfully obtuse that it should be called out a bajillion times more. There's obviously room for disagreement: the main article in the cultural appropriation thread was about disagreeing that cultural appropriation was a bad thing. I don't think the article does a really good job of it: it's kind of all over the place, it says things and it doesn't really back them up, etc.

But what it doesn't do is attempt to suggest that cultural appropriation isn't even real. The article makes it clear at least that the author has listened to and can understand the point of view of people who he disagrees with. That kind of disagreement is healthy: if the conversation had been about the content of the article, we could have had an interesting discussion about the nuances of cultural appropriation.

No one is saying you can't disagree with people about things like cultural appropriation. If after reading all of Conspire's links, if that's you're summary of what you think he's trying to say, then it'd probably be best to just stay away from threads like that. Staying away will allow people who want to respectfully discuss the nuances of a complicated topic to do so. If you just want to drop into a thread about cultural appropriation and imply that it isn't even real? That's not disagreement, that's just you talking about something you don't understand, and it ruins threads.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:19 AM on October 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


I don't see how a "yes it does no it doesn't" discussion is better than a "I agree with this this and that but this part runs contrary to my experiences" or "here's a novel angle from as aspect of identity you guys might not have considered" or "let's flesh this out in even more nuance", like, at all.

I wish this could be watermarked on all the site pages, but sadly I think the answer is that people with privilege who are afraid of it being taken away or shared in any way - or people who think everyone else here is imaginary, a computer chess opponent to be beaten - need to "win" or be "right" and can't have nuanced conversation because they don't believe it's in their best interest.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:22 AM on October 24, 2015 [21 favorites]


This attitude seems to come from the notion that discussions on Metafilter are supposed to be some kind of debate. That there are essentially two states in the Metafilter Thread Binary: agreement and disagreement. Disagreements run the gamut from healthy and spirited to shouty and ugly, but agreements are all the same: people "patting each other on the back" and not saying anything useful and leaving our debate team captains to wonder "what the fuck are we all doing here?"

There is also the reality that there can be debates going on that any given member can't participate in because the debate is at a level of nuance that is beyond them or, occasionally, because their opinion doesn't matter. This thread, for example, has people of color disagreeing on points (e.g. whether white members should identify themselves as such when commenting in threads on race). Once a thread has reached that level of focus, trying to bring the discussion back to the "debate" of "is that racism or not?" is a) disrespectful, b) at best a derail, and c) almost always from a person whose opinion really doesn't count because of their privilege.* There is nothing wrong with reading and learning. Hell, I am quite the blabberfingers in social justice MeTas, and yet, here, where I have the privilege, I have resisted the urge to comment except on a very broad and general point like this. I've spent a lot of time on racial issues, even in a professional capacity, but that doesn't mean I have the experience necessary to participate in this particular thread to any great extent.

Obviously, this dynamic doesn't just exist in social justice threads -- there are loads of FanFare threads, for example, where members automatically realize that they have nothing to say because they haven't experienced the movie/episode/podcast/whatever -- if they think they might be interested, they can read through threads and see if they can learn enough to tell them whether they want to see out that particular entertainment (at the risk of spoilers, of course). Asking for the same level of attention and behavior is threads on privilege and oppression is on obviously not asking for some incredible forbearance that have never been experienced in the history of MetaFilter.

OK, back to reading.

* And also because, as Andrew Ti of Yo, Is This Racist? reminds us, "if you have to ask, you know the answer."
posted by GenjiandProust at 9:39 AM on October 24, 2015 [39 favorites]


Blabberfingers

Excellent
posted by zutalors! at 10:05 AM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


There is also the reality that there can be debates going on that any given member can't participate in because the debate is at a level of nuance that is beyond them or, occasionally, because their opinion doesn't matter.

Seconding this. I was interested in the kimono/cultural appropriation discussion because I hoped to see some discussion that would enlighten me. I noped right out because the discussion was binary yes-no on some really basic stuff that I found frustrating (and if I did, I can only imagine how people who actually deal with appropriation of their own culture or their ancestral culture must have felt).
posted by immlass at 10:11 AM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


These are hard topics, and I appreciate that it's especially sensitive for you, but I'm surprised this warranted a MetaTalk.

Ok, this is driving me fucking crazy. I have literally never had a heated conversation with a person of color about cultural appropriation, not once. I have disagreed with people of color about cultural appropriation, and I have been on both sides of a disagreement with other people of color about whether or not something is appropriative, and it has never, ever been a fight, or hostile, or anything other than civil and respectful. This is because most people of color understand that appropriation is a real thing, that it is really harmful, and that people are not crazy stupid whiners for seeing it happen or worrying about it.

This is a hard topic for white people. The people who are sensitive about it are white people. This is only a fight when white people start fighting about it. The conversation is always fine until white people jump in to question the very fabric of reality, like, would it be all right if we go back and lay the basic foundations of cultural criticism for each of you once again from the beginning, so that you can argue every first principle based on your own ignorance? Go back and look at that thread and see where it goes wrong. It's not people of color who start shit. It's not even an hour before we get our first "well, not all Asians agree, so cultural appropriation isn't real" garbage nonsense, and it's not two before we get our first "anyone who believes in cultural appropriation is a white supremacist" idiot shit.

White people jump into a topic they don't know a fucking thing about, they start shitting all over the place because every unexamined white opinion is nevertheless a law from on high, and then they mock of people of color for being "too sensitive" about a "hard" topic. The topic isn't hard for us. It's hard for you. People of color aren't too sensitive. White people can't deal with this conversation and don't know the first thing about participating in it. That's your problem. Stop pretending it's ours or because of us.
posted by Errant at 11:31 AM on October 24, 2015 [144 favorites]


These are hard topics, and I appreciate that it's especially sensitive for you, but I'm surprised this warranted a MetaTalk.

This sentiment is pure dogwhistle and respectability politics and tone policing. People of color, in particular, are never allowed to show any passion, emotion, concern, or interest without being clucked at for being so angry, why do you have to be so angry, why can't you just have a rational discussion about this huh? You're scaring me, you're being ridiculous, I can't take you seriously when you're so oversensitive about this trivial topic.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:41 PM on October 24, 2015 [39 favorites]


This is a hard topic for white people. The people who are sensitive about it are white people

Yeah, exactly.
posted by zutalors! at 12:52 PM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I'm Canadian. We have this Charter of Rights and Freedoms that I'm still getting educated about, mainly because, lucky me, my particular rights and freedoms are generally not that threatened, certainly not viscerally so.

One thing I've learned recently about this charter is how, by its very nature, it seeks to examine ALL rights and freedoms, pit them against each other as it were. Because such is the nature of various rights and freedoms, they do tend to trip each other up, get in each other's way. My right to be free and dance to LOUD trance music at 3am versus your right to not have BASS pumping up through the floor boards at 3am.

Anyway, I'm white and male. And thus, according to the stats, one of the freest people who's ever lived. And the thing is, I think I've been pretty good at it. I think. Making the most of this precious freedom, being creative with it, not being an ass.

Except I'm human so I can't always get it right. I must be wrong some of the time, and likely more often than I realize, because such is my privilege, folks don't always feel comfortable telling me as much. Or I'm being too obtuse to catch the hints.

So anyway. Metafilter. This topic. This particularly excellent discussion which I've just taken a few hours to browse through. Do I even have anything to add to it?

Yeah, I guess. Something to do with those right and freedoms we all strive for and how they can't help but trip each other up. For instance ...

This is a hard topic for white people. The people who are sensitive about it are white people

I can only speak for myself here, but the thing that can get under my skin is the assumption that I'm just being testy because I'm white and privileged and I don't like that that being tested, criticized, whatever. Maybe some of the time. But other times (hopefully most of them), it's the freedom itself I worry about, the ability to just freely feel-think-say things out loud without running them through a series of filters which can't help but neuter them somewhat, so that what ends up coming out is so neurotic and homogenized that ... well, why bother? It's like the processed cheese version of the original passionate thing.

That's a lot to give up. And not just on my account. On everyone's account. Because the whole community is diminished when any one of its members can't find a way to freely express a genuine feeling-thought-whatever.

Which gets us back to that loud music at 3AM analogy. Maybe it's just a case of being present enough to read each situation as it comes. Would I encounter the same rage if I cranked things up at 3pm? Probably not. Or if I only did it once or twice a year at 3AM? Or ... ?
posted by philip-random at 1:33 PM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I hear ya, philip-random. I'm also going to point out something Don Pepino said in her comment:

...an event likely to be attended by a lot of people who were not white women... I clearly remember patiently explaining that I was deeply honored but also a little bit nervous about it because, I said, gently, earnestly, probably taking his hand in mine, "Can you imagine how uncomfortable and unnerved I'll feel?"

He said, "Uh-huh, yeah, I can probably get that imagined pretty easily."


So when you say, "...the whole community is diminished when any one of its members can't find a way to freely express a genuine feeling-thought-whatever. ", and this entire thread has numerous POC pointing out that they don't feel like they can freely express a genuine feeling-thought-whatever because whenever they do, white people (#NotAllWhitePeople) come in and tell us we're wrong, or we're oversensitive, or but-actually-this-is-what's-really-happening us...

I mean, I'm sorry if you feel like you have to run everything through filters that neuter your thoughts, but I said it above, and so many other POC stated similar things: we live our entire lives running everything through a filter, because if we're upset about something, we're the assholes. If we point out something isn't cool, we're the buzzkills. If we say that something is racist, we're the the ones with the problem.

So, yeah. I can understand your point really easily. And I can also say that the community is already enormously diminished, with a pasty white pal{et|a}te with little color and no spice.
posted by qcubed at 1:47 PM on October 24, 2015 [55 favorites]


it's the freedom itself I worry about, the ability to just freely feel-think-say things out loud without running them through a series of filters which can't help but neuter them somewhat,

Other people, marginalized people, don't really have this freedom, they have to trim their sails and refrain from tipping people who already want to beat them down into beating them down. Simplest case: I'm a white woman. I can't just tell a white guy who is bothering me to fuck off. People of color are forced to be extra nice to not just police officers, but coworkers and other people they encounter on the job. (My brain is fried and my examples are weak here.)
posted by puddledork at 1:48 PM on October 24, 2015 [14 favorites]


I can only speak for myself here, but the thing that can get under my skin is the assumption that I'm just being testy because I'm white and privileged and I don't like that that being tested, criticized, whatever. Maybe some of the time. But other times (hopefully most of them), it's the freedom itself I worry about, the ability to just freely feel-think-say things out loud without running them through a series of filters which can't help but neuter them somewhat, so that what ends up coming out is so neurotic and homogenized that ... well, why bother? It's like the processed cheese version of the original passionate thing.

The last time I checked, expecting to be able to spew unadulterated verbal diarrhea by saying whatever the hell you want without giving any care to whether it's empathetic, intelligent, or even coherent, and then expecting it to be received by everyone else as if it were liquid gold, is a privilege exclusively held by white men.

In other words, substitute every instance you've written "freedom" here for "privilege", and now I'm having a hard time seeing why your distinction here is at all even distinct.
posted by Conspire at 1:48 PM on October 24, 2015 [52 favorites]


This is a hard topic for white people. The people who are sensitive about it are white people.

It may be a hard topic for those white people who live to verify this very assertion by yelling about it and fighting battles over it. But in this very discussion, the occasional "ok, I'm still reading"-(white) person has posted, too. There are indeed those who are willing to listen and learn, and who aren't all petty defensiveness.

Not being on the receiving end of racist behavior every minute leaves us with no clue about how that actually might be like; we can intellectualise it, but we likely won't ever be able to actually feel it.
And unless we make a real effort, we won't even see that it is a real problem (a problem of actual reality of life) for very many people on an everyday personal level. So we may end up thinking that not having to deal with racism on such a personal level is normal, and that having to deal with it is--while bad--is the exception.

In such a world of white oblivion, the topic is not "hard"--it is invisible. And that is what eternalises the problem of marginalisation: not the heated discussions of some few yelling people (white ones, if you will) that can't handle the situation (psychologically, intellectually, or because they just like misbehaving), but the fact that even as a more thoughtful person, one first has to actually train oneself to see that there is a persisting problem with racism, a problem that doesn't simply go away only because one identifies as "thoughtful."
posted by Namlit at 1:53 PM on October 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


Like, seriously, this is the third time in this Meta that I've had to shut down a white dude just vomiting out literally anything that comes to mind when someone says the word "racism". Do you all really think saying the first thing that comes to mind without any iota of critical thought or empathy is actually a virtue? Because in all actuality, it just makes you all say very stupid stupid stupid things that make you look like socially stunted fools, and if I were in your shoes, I would be embarrassed about the sheer stupidity of all of the stupid stupid stupid things that I was constantly saying and want to stop, even barring the massive wreckage effects the stupid stupid stupid things are on having on minorities.
posted by Conspire at 1:56 PM on October 24, 2015 [32 favorites]


I don't really agree with the "but what about unfiltered freedom" argument because I think that, yeah, that's often functionally a bid to avoid having to face criticism for saying shit that bears a critical response for in the best case thoughtlessness or cluelessness. But I also think that e.g. "vomiting out literally anything that comes to mind" is kind of a crappy-to-the-point-of-being-counterproductive way to frame someone talking about that sort of thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:00 PM on October 24, 2015 [15 favorites]


it's the freedom itself I worry about, the ability to just freely feel-think-say things out loud without running them through a series of filters which can't help but neuter them somewhat, so that what ends up coming out is so neurotic and homogenized that ... well, why bother? It's like the processed cheese version of the original passionate thing.

Even bona fide lone wolf geniuses of the white-man-will-win-an-Oscar-for-the-biopic variety need to get outside perspectives. If your "passionate thing" can't survive a few basic mental filters, I guarantee you it was already Easy Cheese.
posted by bettafish at 2:02 PM on October 24, 2015 [32 favorites]


The topic isn't hard for us. It's hard for you. People of color aren't too sensitive. White people can't deal with this conversation and don't know the first thing about participating in it. That's your problem. Stop pretending it's ours or because of us.

I didn't think a favorite was enough, so I just wanted to say "YES" to this.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:02 PM on October 24, 2015 [21 favorites]


It seems like I timed my comment about "thoughtful" badly. Goodness...
posted by Namlit at 2:02 PM on October 24, 2015


But other times (hopefully most of them), it's the freedom itself I worry about, the ability to just freely feel-think-say things out loud without running them through a series of filters which can't help but neuter them somewhat, so that what ends up coming out is so neurotic and homogenized that ... well, why bother? It's like the processed cheese version of the original passionate thing.

If you feel like you need to run your thoughts through a series of filters in order to avoid saying anything racist, sexist, or generally hurtful to people who AREN'T cis white men, then I would gently suggest that you challenge your own opinion that you are "pretty good at not being an ass."
posted by KathrynT at 2:07 PM on October 24, 2015 [43 favorites]


I can only speak for myself here, but the thing that can get under my skin is the assumption that I'm just being testy because I'm white and privileged and I don't like that that being tested, criticized, whatever. Maybe some of the time. But other times (hopefully most of them), it's the freedom itself I worry about, the ability to just freely feel-think-say things out loud without running them through a series of filters which can't help but neuter them somewhat, so that what ends up coming out is so neurotic and homogenized that ... well, why bother? It's like the processed cheese version of the original passionate thing.

That's a lot to give up.


What ends up coming out isn't processed cheese, what ends up coming out is a planned, thoughtful recipe. We don't have and we shouldn't have the freedom "to just freely feel-think-say things out loud without running them through a series of filters which can't help but neuter them somewhat". If your thoughts are going to shit up a thread, you SHOULD neuter them somewhat. What you're describing doesn't produce high-quality cheese, it produces an inedible combination of ingredients that nobody wants to eat.

Asking people to think before they hit Enter is not asking too much at Metafilter, and the suggestion that that's how it was, that's how it is, or that's how it should be is ignorant, untrue, and hurtful. Boo-hoo, you have to consider other people's reactions BEFORE you say something.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:07 PM on October 24, 2015 [18 favorites]


Oh, come the fuck on, philip. I censor myself all the time, because what if I offend someone with more power than me; what if I piss off MRAs with my Twitter account and I become a target of harassment? what if I'm too honest about my politics and it fucks over my precarious economic situation? what if I accidentally out myself in a context attached to my real name and it makes me unhireable?

If you've never had to consider your words before you say them in case someone gets pissed off and says angry things back, or in case you face consequences for those words? Damn, man, you are indeed a lucky bastard! Would that the rest of us could be so fucking lucky, but that's pretty well exclusively the provenance of white dudes. The rest of us have to pause before we speak, whether or not it puts a cost on our creativity or whatever.
posted by sciatrix at 2:09 PM on October 24, 2015 [63 favorites]


Except I'm human so I can't always get it right. I must be wrong some of the time, and likely more often than I realize, because such is my privilege, folks don't always feel comfortable telling me as much. Or I'm being too obtuse to catch the hints.

Heh, okay, in case you're being incredibly honest:

Right now is one of those times when you're wrong. I'm comfortable telling you this. In case you're obtuse and think I'm merely hinting, nope: RIGHT NOW IS ONE OF THOSE TIMES WHEN YOU ARE WRONG.
posted by 23skidoo at 2:12 PM on October 24, 2015 [20 favorites]


Cortex, all due respect, but that's ridiculous. If someone is being pushed to speak outside of the community norms -- whose existence I generally agree with -- the person being counterproductive is the one who shoved him. The X-Men are not real; marginalized people are not superhumans. We can't always react with grace under pressure, although I think Conspire has been pretty damn graceful this entire time.

Of course, it would be a lot easier for us to keep our cool if we knew we were in an environment where the mod team consistently had our backs, instead of pulling this elementary school principal "but did you ask him to stop nicely?" nonsense.
posted by bettafish at 2:16 PM on October 24, 2015 [31 favorites]


That's a lot to give up.

Is it though? Filtering our thoughts and self-censoring is something we all do, to different degrees depending on context. You do it every single day. So it should come as no surprise that it's also something you need to do in a conversation that you admit is going to be contentious. Especially as a white person, when having a discussion about race, with PoC.

Nothing is lost by pausing to think about how to put your thoughts together before expressing yourself. Nothing is lost by doing some reading on a thing before offering an opinion on it. Nothing is lost by considering that maybe your part in some part of the discussion is more about listening and reading than it is about talking and typing.

Self-censoring is what some people call tact. We all have to exercise it to some extent. And some people have more freedom to not exercise it than others.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 2:20 PM on October 24, 2015 [19 favorites]


"But I also think that e.g. 'vomiting out literally anything that comes to mind' is kind of a crappy-to-the-point-of-being-counterproductive way to frame someone talking about that sort of thing."

I'm another white guy and philip-random's comment made me want to throw something across the room. So I can't help but think that Conspire's response was entirely justified, appropriate, and potentially educational.

What philip-random was saying is that he's not accustomed to needing filters and experiencing boundaries and he thinks his experience is what's normal in the world. It's not, it's what it's like to live with privilege. And now he's all ruminatin' on the loss of open, liberal discourse when that discourse only really exists for him and people like him (and me). Even after reading this thread and all the others like it, even after reading what people of color and others with less relative privilege experience, he doesn't hear that and continues to assume that the world's a better place when his bubble of privilege hasn't been punctured.

It's this utter failure of empathy and the immersion in entitled obliviousness -- even when there are people right here talking about their experiences -- that just blow my fucking mind. And the arrogance of the whole white guy pontificating about the lost virtues of a classically liberal society that make me want to go punch all the white guys who used to write for The New Republic, over and over.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 2:22 PM on October 24, 2015 [85 favorites]


Maybe some of the time. But other times (hopefully most of them), it's the freedom itself I worry about, the ability to just freely feel-think-say things out loud without running them through a series of filters which can't help but neuter them somewhat, so that what ends up coming out is so neurotic and homogenized that ... well, why bother? It's like the processed cheese version of the original passionate thing.

That's a lot to give up


§27.Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: This Charter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the preservation and enhancement of the multicultural heritage of Canadians.

You're not giving anything up. Your own charter requires that you use this one filter in your very thinking about freedom.

Full disclosure: I am Canadian as well.
posted by polymodus at 2:25 PM on October 24, 2015 [13 favorites]


We can't always react with grace under pressure

And I'm coming nowhere near suggesting anybody should or saying that failing to do so is somehow the equal of someone spouting racist bullshit, because they're not at all. But that doesn't make every overt response to someone saying something tedious automatically great, and if even a little gentle and otherwise-agreeing pushback when it feels like it's getting a little over the top is out of line then we're out of community discussion territory and into something else that's less workable.

There's a space between someone saying "honestly I worry about [this thing that's not really a worry on par with what folks are actually dealing with]" and aggressively vomiting into a discussion or actually saying the crappier things we can imagine being defended on those terms in some other situation where those crappier things are actually being said. Even if it's a tonedeaf thing to say, in a discussion about tonedeaf things. Even if it's something totally worth calling out as flawed or problematic or missing the point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:26 PM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think this thread may be experiencing the dynamic where there are probably a lot of white people reading along who have gotten the memo and as a result they're not talking. And as a result the participation of "but I have a thought" white people is disproportionately represented, and that may (?) be striking people as disheartening or like lots of people aren't getting the memo -- but I think it sort of suggests the opposite, that lots of people are getting it and shutting up.

For the white folks - part of what privilege is, is: believing that everybody has the same privileges as you (us) when it's not true. And part of what's weird and disorienting about discussions of privilege is starting to realize, oh shit, not everybody gets this baseline level of respect that I'm used to, not everybody gets to feel like they're welcome to pipe up, not everybody gets to feel like problems are often improved by me talking. So my piping up, my pitching in, is actually an expression of the very thing being complained about. Which of course is tough, because it means the helpy response is to clam up.

One of the rubrics I've been using lately is, could my comment be followed by "of course, that's easy for ME to say"? Because if it can, maybe I should think twice about posting it.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 2:35 PM on October 24, 2015 [52 favorites]


"Yes. To be clear, I cannot think of a single thread - on Metafilter especially - where I thought, "Boy all this respectful discussion is soooo boring. I wish some straight white dude would drop some serious Devil's Advocate knowledge on these chumps.""

I can think of more than one thread where people angrily defended a consensus that turned out to be wrong; two off the top of my head are the Census Worker Suicide and Balloon Boy.

"Ok, this is driving me fucking crazy. I have literally never had a heated conversation with a person of color about cultural appropriation, not once. I have disagreed with people of color about cultural appropriation, and I have been on both sides of a disagreement with other people of color about whether or not something is appropriative, and it has never, ever been a fight, or hostile, or anything other than civil and respectful. This is because most people of color understand that appropriation is a real thing, that it is really harmful, and that people are not crazy stupid whiners for seeing it happen or worrying about it."

Due respect, but I've seen this lots of times, over a variety of issues — like, screaming match or fist fight level antagonism over whether or not something was legitimate appropriation. I've seen it happen over drag culture, over several different Asian-American/hip hop arguments, over Chicano culture (including deaf Chola culture), even over regional slang. People regularly get defensive about the authenticity of culture they feel ownership in, and people regularly disagree over whether that ownership is legitimate. While I don't doubt that people of color are less likely to be cluelessly defensive, this is a common enough thing in my experience that I'm kind of surprised that you haven't seen it. Maybe you have a classier milieu, where you are less likely to see disagreements get hostile?
posted by klangklangston at 2:36 PM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


There's a space between someone saying "honestly I worry about [this thing that's not really a worry on par with what folks are actually dealing with]" and aggressively vomiting into a discussion

Frankly, a much smaller one than you seem to believe.

Look, I'm not saying that a microaggression to the face is free license to be an asshole, but what Conspire said was not actually more violent than what philip_random said. He was just blunter. Yet philip_random you responded to with vague, waffly disagreement and Conspire's behavior was called "crappy" and "counterproductive." It's a huge double standard.
posted by bettafish at 2:37 PM on October 24, 2015 [28 favorites]


I think this thread may be experiencing the dynamic where there are probably a lot of white people reading along who have gotten the memo and as a result they're not talking.

I can confirm this!

Also, I think a lot of the frustration vented at the "right to offend" interlocutors comes from the fact that this idea has appeared on Mefi and MeTa many, many, many times.
posted by selfnoise at 2:38 PM on October 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


Honestly, what philip_random said is a racial dogwhistle. Does he speak to his boss without thinking about how his boss might respond to the content of his message? To his mother? Yet, when it comes to PoC, why is he asking that he be allowed to say whatever he wants, without considering how his response will impact the people around him, or whether his response is informed by any actual knowledge or experience, lived or otherwise? It is dehumanizing towards PoC.
posted by Conspire at 2:41 PM on October 24, 2015 [66 favorites]


> That's a lot to give up. And not just on my account. On everyone's account. Because the whole community is diminished when any one of its members can't find a way to freely express a genuine feeling-thought-whatever.

Does "everyone" include those of us who are subjected to the ignorant blatherings of these unfiltered speakers of free thoughts? It is fucking tiresome to hardly ever get to have a nuanced discussion about complex topics like this because someone who doesn't know anything thinks their ignorant ramblings need to be shared with everyone in the room. As noted by many in this meTa, those ramblings actually prevented a number of people from participating. But hey, freedom from filters!

On the other hand, I guess in the responses to your comment, you get a demonstration of the consequences of your freedom to say what you like, where you like, when you like, without any of that inconvenient filtering.
posted by rtha at 2:42 PM on October 24, 2015 [41 favorites]


That's a lot to give up. And not just on my account. On everyone's account. Because the whole community is diminished when any one of its members can't find a way to freely express a genuine feeling-thought-whatever.

So, like, I'm wondering if you really did take a few hours to browse through the thread, because when you get down to it, it seems like you missed a lot.

The ability to "freely feel-think-say ideas" is a lot to give up, and was on stunning display in the original thread because so many of the POC just did that. I mean, if you don't think the whole community was diminished because POC, specifically, the two Japanese Americans, Diagonalize and komlord, who fucking posted in this very thread saying they didn't want to get involved in the original one, who pointed out examples of appropriation that makes them feel uncomfortable, then I don't know what to say.

This whole thread is so full of POC pointing out that we don't feel like we can really "freely feel-think-say ideas" out loud most of the time, and every last one, to a person, points out exactly why: whitey comes in, assumes what they have to say is revelatory, novel, and unique (when none of it is really true), and then dismisses, denies, and denigrates the ideas of those POC. Kinda like what you did, with your "but what about the freedoms" argument.

If we assume what you were typing out was in "good faith", then do you understand, even for a moment, why POC don't think "good faith" really matters anymore? You've done nothing but essentially say, "#NotAllWhites" and "I really want to talk about this!" while saying "If I think before I talk, things will suck!"

No, no things won't suck. If you think before you talk, if you read and understand what people have said and tried to see some of it instead of barging on through like whitey has done so many times before with boats and cannons into people that did not want them... I mean, I don't know.

I get it, you don't want processed cheese, you want warm camembert. And you're so focused on getting that warm camembert that you don't care about the fact that people have stopped bringing koha, doenjang, and stinky tofu because whenever they do, people would tell them to bugger off. And to worry about not having the right cheese being the only thing that's diminishing...

It's not about your right to be free and dance to loud trance music at 3AM. It's about the fact that while you feel like you can do that, and have the right to, we feel like we have to listen to our music with headphones hidden away all the goddamn time so it doesn't look like we're ever listening to music.
posted by qcubed at 2:42 PM on October 24, 2015 [47 favorites]


empathy is actually a virtue and everyone needs a hug.

I came in to say, in response to philip random's comment, before the pileon, that the word we're all reaching for but haven't seemed to have found, is self-awareness.

I don't read philip's comment in the way a hotheaded younger man with hormones still coursing through the bloodstream might and I've also favourited philip's comments numerous times. I think we need to step back and give breathing room to those who are coming in here and exploring out loud (we are all bean platers iirc) what it actually means to have to think twice or thrice all the fucking time for the reasons sciatrix articulates so well above. hell, I'm always afraid my true opinion will bring a drone down on me seeing as how I'm a brown non US person

but I don't see his comment in the "why are you hurt" category that errant responded to so well.

If we bite off everyone's head we won't be able to get this bubble expanded beyond our little corner.
posted by infini at 2:42 PM on October 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


The ability to just freely feel-think-say things out loud without running them through a series of filters

Errant's point, which I think was very clearly stated, is it's only people in positions of privilege who get to have these considerations ("I think filtering myself is limiting and I would prefer not to do it sometimes") at all in the first place. Part of what living in society is is filtering to a certain extent because of status, because of manners, because of obligation, because of responsibilities…
posted by jessamyn (retired) at 2:45 PM on October 24, 2015 [28 favorites]


Because the whole community is diminished when any one of its members can't find a way to freely express a genuine feeling-thought-whatever.

Do you have kids? Because speaking as a parent, this is like fully half of what I have taught (and will teach) my kids once they've acquired the ability to speak. Part of living in society is not freely expressing every single genuine feeling-thought-whatever. We don't say to a stranger sitting next to us on a bus "Man, I can't wait to get home and evacuate the waste I have accrued over the course of my work day out of my bowels. I suspect it will be incredibly smelly when I do because I ate some vaguely ethnic food at lunch."
posted by Etrigan at 2:48 PM on October 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


Yet philip_random you responded to with vague, waffly disagreement and Conspire's behavior was called "crappy" and "counterproductive." It's a huge double standard.

I'm not by far the only other person in the conversation, and a bunch of people were doing a really good job of responding to philip-random, better than I was likely to at the moment. He's been clearly and well responded to, and people are continuing to do so, and I think that's a good thing. I thought a couple comments were getting a little bit hot but otherwise agreed with the response, and it's my job to sometimes say "hey, this is getting a little too hot" when that's happening, even if it's to someone who I think is on the right side of the larger discussion it's happening in.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:49 PM on October 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


For the white folks - part of what privilege is, is: believing that everybody has the same privileges as you (us) when it's not true. And part of what's weird and disorienting about discussions of privilege is starting to realize, oh shit, not everybody gets this baseline level of respect that I'm used to, not everybody gets to feel like they're welcome to pipe up, not everybody gets to feel like problems are often improved by me talking.

and yes, I learnt something new, yet again.
posted by infini at 2:51 PM on October 24, 2015


bunch of people were doing a really good job of responding to philip-random, better than I was likely to at the moment. He's been clearly and well responded to, and people are continuing to do so, and I think that's a good thing. I thought a couple comments were getting a little bit hot but otherwise agreed with the response, and it's my job to sometimes say "hey, this is getting a little too hot" when that's happening, even if it's to someone who I think is on the right side of the larger discussion it's happening in.

Perhaps. But the thing is, the mod comment is "Conspire, calm down" -- it was the first mod comment after the one by philip-random, and it was "well this is a way to avoid criticism but Conspire you're being a jerk" and again that comes off as tone policing POC for being angry about racism and letting other things slide. I'm sure I will hear about the intent again, but: I can't read the mod's mind, I can only read the notes.
posted by jeather at 2:58 PM on October 24, 2015 [25 favorites]


I'm a philosopher. Counterexamples are what I do. I've spent 25 years training in, "yes, I understand, but I think you're wrong, and here's why." In threads on the Blue where people are being vulnerable, I always check the urge to tell someone why their wrong. Not just because I myself may be the one who is wrong, but, more important, because it's far less important to get agreement/consensus/correct views in those threads than it for people to be able to share safely. If there is a chance I'll come off as insensitive or a jerk, I keep my mouth shut. Because making my point really isn't all that important, especially if it comes at the expense of someone else feeling not heard/unsafe on an issue that is deeply important to them.
posted by persona au gratin at 2:58 PM on October 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


we live our entire lives running everything through a filter, because if we're upset about something, we're the assholes. If we point out something isn't cool, we're the buzzkills. If we say that something is racist, we're the the ones with the problem

And it's on display in this thread and in that thread, when POCs respond to comments and say that certain thoughts/phrases/ideas are problematic, there is often a softening, qualifying opening statement designed to really try and emphasize how you're framing this in a way that isn't personal or judgmental.

(I wrote like three versions of this comment, each time taking out softening, qualifying opening statements like "I know not everyone responded this way" and "I'm not judging different communication styles", ha)
posted by 23skidoo at 3:01 PM on October 24, 2015 [15 favorites]


I understand that response, cortex, but I think where we disagree is that what philip_random said was merely something tedious rather than something aggressively racist - even if unintended. That's why I called philip_random's comment a dogwhistle, and it might be worth considering that sometimes the racist implication of a statement might entirely fly under the radar of white people. I've had the same blunt shut-down response to people who complain about "thugs" or "inner city neighborhoods." Quite frankly, when I do this, I'm not very much interested in considering whether white people recognize the dogwhistle and consider my remarks reasonable or not. But since this is the moderation team we're talking about, maybe it'd be good to recognize that this occasionally might be a blind spot.
posted by Conspire at 3:01 PM on October 24, 2015 [18 favorites]


So my piping up, my pitching in, is actually an expression of the very thing being complained about. Which of course is tough, because it means the helpy response is to clam up.

Yes. It is tough, so I have a little reminder for myself. I'm not going to claim I'm great or even good at doing it, but I do try, and that's to follow the But Rule: When it comes to something I know nothing or little about, BUT still feel the need to BUTT IN or say something that essentially begins with BUT, BUT. . . then chances are I'm being an ASS and should shut the hell up.
posted by barchan at 3:03 PM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


Is it though? Filtering our thoughts and self-censoring is something we all do, to different degrees depending on context.

And, really, "filtering" in writing is called "editing," and it's priceless when done well. There was an article linked in some FPP a while back that argued "we don't need more great ideas; we have plenty of ideas; we need stronger implementation of the ideas we have." And implementation/editing/filtering is a critical skill. This is a reason why I now require myself to read all the way to the bottom of a thread (especially a contentious thread) before commenting. I have a bunch of ideas, but, as I work my way down, I often discover that others have addressed those points, answered the questions, or that the conversation has moved on, and my brilliant ideas aren't the best any more. Additionally, I have spent a lot of time typing and retyping comments just to discover that I really can't state my views with enough nuance, either because I haven't thought about them enough or because this isn't the time or place or because it would take 10,000 words to get the idea across and I wont subject you to that (besides, I have grading to do).
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:07 PM on October 24, 2015 [14 favorites]


Although, at the risk of commenting too much, before I go back to grading, I think this thread has reached one of those MeTa plateaus where the forward movement of the discussion has paused for a moment, and there is significant risk of derails and somewhat-detached fightyness. Maybe a general withdrawal so the main line of discussion can be reasserted might be a good idea?
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:11 PM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


What jeather said. Cortex, the statements of mods have weight that the statements of ordinary users do not have, whether or not you think so. You need to think about where you want the ultimate, "official" judgement on the tone of discussion to stand. If you only intervene to point at users you mostly agree with who are maybe being a bit harsh, but let users who are fouling up slide because other users are taking them to task, the overall effect is the feeling that the mods are more concerned with overt tone than with users who, intentionally or not, come in and foul the conversation.

Worse, that makes the payoff from the emotional labor that PoC do to keep the conversation good feel that much more hollow, reducing the incentive to put in more emotional labor and more soothing-white-folk's-feelings comments in the future. I mean, why bother when the mod is only going to shut you down if you lose your temper, but not check the guy who is actually causing the problem?

I know you are trying to reduce the comments that mods make in MeTas like this in accordance with previous discussions, but maybe think about that when you do comment?
posted by sciatrix at 3:11 PM on October 24, 2015 [31 favorites]


I feel like the problem is very simple and can't believe there's so much navel gazing about it. If something isn't a personal experience for you, and just an intellectual exercise, you're going to have more difficulty empathizing with someone for whom it is a more personal experience.

This is why I don't try to sit around and theorize about what it must be like to have chronic pain, or be trans*, or having been in war, or to be over 60, or to have kids, or lots of other things that are not a personal experience. You don't even have to struggle with white privilege to get it.

Also, I'm starting to think we need some mods of color to make some of this worthwhile going forward.
posted by zutalors! at 3:13 PM on October 24, 2015 [10 favorites]


In case anyone's concerned, I am listening. That wasn't just a driveby.
posted by philip-random at 3:17 PM on October 24, 2015 [14 favorites]


This is why I don't try to sit around and theorize about what it must be like to have chronic pain, or be trans*, or having been in war, or to be over 60, or to have kids, or lots of other things that are not a personal experience.

Or to be more clear, if I do theorize about those things I don't write impassioned comments about it thinking I must be right.
posted by zutalors! at 3:21 PM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


@philip-random,

I'm not going to apologize for Conspire's tone, because i can't do that and I don't think he needs to. But can you at least see where such a reaction is coming from?

Day in, day out, sometimes unthinkingly, even with the best of intentions, POC deal with this random shit. We just saw it in this thread. Nerves are rubbed raw, then twisted, then just shredded so there's always this low-level background agony, and all to often, someone with "good faith" and good intentions (who may not be merrily paving a road to hell without knowing it) will come in and do something that sets it off. Maybe it's turning on the lights during a migraine situation. Maybe it's stepping on a foot in a crowded corridor. Maybe it's tapping the sore spot that isn't healing.

And so if that POC snaps back, they're the bad guys. I know cortex wasn't meaning to spotlight Conspire, because everything they've done so far has been in "good faith". But surely you've seen variations on what you'd written before, not just in this MeTa thread, but in the original Blue. You didn't add anything really new (which, no worries, it's not like I've said anything new in this thread either, mostly because I'm just repeating myself), but you did start trying to rehash something that was already extensively prosecuted.

But it was Conspire who was told to chill. There wasn't malice behind it.

But he didn't run his filter. He chose to freely feel-think-talk. And that's what happens.

At least this was just online, where nobody can get shot.
posted by qcubed at 3:27 PM on October 24, 2015 [37 favorites]


If you only intervene to point at users you mostly agree with who are maybe being a bit harsh, but let users who are fouling up slide because other users are taking them to task, the overall effect is the feeling that the mods are more concerned with overt tone than with users who, intentionally or not, come in and foul the conversation.

That was one of a handful of comments I'd made to that point in this thread, the rest of which fall squarely in very, very different territory as far as who is being addressed and about what. The characterization of only intervening to point criticism at users I mostly agree with is deeply inaccurate, even with me making an effort to keep my interactions in this thread to a relative minimum and let other people do the substantial talking.

That said: I hear and appreciate the idea that it's uncomfortable having a mod tell someone who is otherwise on the side of right and contributing a lot of good to a discussion that they are fumbling something. It's something I do only with significant reservations, in part because I know it's an uncomfortable situation in general, and I probably often don't get it just right and I'm clear on the fact that several folks feel didn't there, and I'll take it into account.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:31 PM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


I don't read philip's comment in the way a hotheaded younger man with hormones still coursing through the bloodstream

infini, you are absolutely welcome to your own opinion and your own reactions, this is not the PoC Lockstep Brigade, but this is really unfair and dismissive. I mean, I'm neither hotheaded nor a dude (I do have hormones). I'm usually really reluctant to call "tone argument" because I've seen it weaponized too often by fake social justice advocates who really just want to get away with bullying. But I thought Conspire's frustration was totally justified. If you disagree with us, absolutely disagree away, but please don't tell us we're being irrational.

I'm not by far the only other person in the conversation, and a bunch of people were doing a really good job of responding to philip-random, better than I was likely to at the moment.

On preview, jeather/sciatrix/qcubed have this pretty well covered, but I do want to add:

1. I respect and empathize with your awkward position here because you're simultaneously Top Dog on the site overall but not someone who should be putting himself in a place of authority in a discussion about racism. I do appreciate that you've clearly been reading along while trying not to threadsit or throw your weight around.
2. However, once you did throw your weight around -- what you said to Conspire was not "hey it's getting a little hot" or anywhere equivalent to it. If you're going to stand by your original response, please at least be fair to us and own the words you actually used instead of trying to walk it back.
posted by bettafish at 3:31 PM on October 24, 2015 [18 favorites]


Threads like this should be more heavily moderated, IMHO, since as many people have noted the same derails keep happening and diverting the focus of the conversation towards indignant or confused people of privilege and forcing PoC to do yet more emotional labor explaining what should be, to anyone that has been paying attention, outrageously obvious.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:33 PM on October 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


And, you know, I've got a fucking cold and that's not helping anyone out and so I'm going to return to that concerted-effort-to-not-comment thing here in the interest of not distracting further from the useful conversation with my Sudafed-addled ass.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:37 PM on October 24, 2015


filter free

These last day's comments are really hitting home and I feel disoriented and unbalanced by the revelations and information from this thread. Privilege is not just the privilege of colour. The real issue is that of disparity of privilege and its benefits, which then, depending on context, transfer or accrue, based on gender, ethnicity, class and caste. And when one is taken out of context, then one is unbalanced. I've only really ever started dealing with facing the fact that I am a WOC as far as the world is concerned, and the attendant BS that comes with that, along with the rage that one feels at the abusive situation one helplessly finds oneself in, in the past 3 or 4 years or so. I can see both sides, as I have experienced both sides, if that helps explain what may come across as confusing in my observations. And I don't think I'm a coconut either. There's a difference, I'm discovering, between growing up as a first class citizen and not.
posted by infini at 3:39 PM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


infini, you are absolutely welcome to your own opinion and your own reactions, this is not the PoC Lockstep Brigade, but this is really unfair and dismissive.

Yes. In light of what I'm learning, that was indeed unfair and dismissive. Or rather, patronizing the young with the superiority of my aged wisdom. Sorry.
posted by infini at 3:42 PM on October 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


We're cool, infini. Appreciated.
posted by bettafish at 3:43 PM on October 24, 2015 [5 favorites]


Another person chiming in to say that philip-random's comment was completely infuriating and that my reaction to cortex's comment was, "Great, y'all have been mostly absent from this discussion, but now you come in just to defend the aggressively clueless white guy? Fabulous."

I realize you just said you had a cold and are doped up on Sudafed, cortex, and I know there have been competing requests about mod involvement in MeTas that further complicate things here, but I want to at least register that your comment didn't feel just slightly off, it felt like a major dismissal of the concerns in the thread.
posted by jaguar at 3:56 PM on October 24, 2015 [18 favorites]


Errant's point, which I think was very clearly stated, is it's only people in positions of privilege who get to have these considerations ("I think filtering myself is limiting and I would prefer not to do it sometimes") at all in the first place. Part of what living in society is is filtering to a certain extent because of status, because of manners, because of obligation, because of responsibilities…

I've started to wonder whether push-back against the idea of more careful filtering sometimes serves to obfuscate the fact that there are hidden springs of motivation (perhaps hidden even to the one pushing back) that believe/feel that others aren't in a place of authority/legitimacy to ask for carefulness in what is said or expressed, and as such, it becomes instinctively dismissed off the radar as something important to watch out for or even give much attention to. The push-back can be presented like it's protecting rational discourse on the surface; but when I care what my boss thinks, I filter my language. When I care how my children perceive me as a father, I filter my language. When I want to show respect and deference, I filter my language. When I see myself in a position that is socially advantageous, I may bristle, even without thinking, at the idea that I am being told what to do and have my freedom limited. It's an ivory-tower disconnect that poo-poos "lower" concerns that are believed to have no real power to upset a socially advantageous position. It's an ugly internal disposition that is hard to look at honestly, but it can poke its head out in ways that try to suggest that it's academically disconnected from our feelings; but perhaps it's not always.

Lack of carefulness in speech can be an expression of not caring deeply enough due to social disconnect, but also having a lack of practiced social humility and empathy. Perhaps not always the motivation, but the reasons should be personally sussed out when a response to a request to simply be verbally courteous is knee-jerk and has to happen right now before taking time to listen thoroughly and with empathy. Because when we know we need to speak carefully in cases where there are social consequences, it definitely says something about those times when we instinctively feel that we don't have to. I have no idea whether this is always the case, but I know when I'm feeling overly defensive about being asked to take someone's heartfelt feelings and hard-won reasons into account at the expense of me simply being more careful, I have to double-check if the underlying motivation is inappropriate in ways that sometimes comes disguised as something more legitimate.

I've gotten to the point where if I don't have some level of genuine empathy before taking a rational opinion about social issues, I feel like I'm missing something vital to establishing the legitimacy of that rationality. In those cases, I should probably have a healthy dose of skepticism about my own conclusions and do a lot more listening first.
posted by SpacemanStix at 3:58 PM on October 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


or actually saying the crappier things we can imagine being defended on those terms in some other situation where those crappier things are actually being said

The thing is though, the idea "We all have the freedom to say anything without thinking, and that's a good thing" is pretty crappy all by itself. I don't need to imagine it's a crappier version. The crappier version isn't "We all have the freedom to say anything (whoa, anything, okay, so, yes, anything, which must include overtly and inadvertently racist things) without thinking", that's just the actual SAME version. Anything means ANYTHING.

I mean, I can Assume Good Intent till the cows come home, but I can't Assume Anything Means Not-Anything. Just because someone says "I value the freedom to speak unfiltered" doesn't mean they've said something innocuous - the "anything" they value includes some horrible, nasty stuff - even if that's not what they meant when they typed something in before thinking about what they meant.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:04 PM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


a major dismissal of the concerns in the thread

I hear the objection to cortex's comment, and he hears it too, but I also feel like the mod comments in this thread have been overwhelmingly aimed at addressing/stopping specific bad behavior, in direct support and recognition of the concerns raised in the thread.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 4:10 PM on October 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


I think we're asking for regular conscious awareness of how it gets dished out and then what all we have to swallow, just to keep a thread's tone alive. I remember a recent one of my own. That unfairness of being silenced all your life is now made visible in this thread's ironic context, doubling it down.see the consistent pattern of everyone speaking up about how nice it would be to have more mod diversity.

only in this thread I can say that once I lost my temper and made a clear comment about the whitesplaining and that was shock and horror flagged and deleted. you see how it goes? so if a thread isn't explicitly about racism, we can't talk about it when we see it happening.
posted by infini at 4:24 PM on October 24, 2015


I'm not saying I should be allowed to be rude but because I post a lot of Africa threads, I see a lot of bullshit that would be a derail.
posted by infini at 4:31 PM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


the objection to cortex's comment...etc.

...also, cut him some slack, he's got a fucking cold (we hear). I think this discussion is only potentially helpful without a GRAR MODS disturbance also taking place.
posted by Namlit at 4:37 PM on October 24, 2015


...also, cut him some slack, he's got a fucking cold (we hear). I think this discussion is only potentially helpful without a GRAR MODS disturbance also taking place.

I hear you, but I think it's also super important that we talk about racial blind spots in mod policy now that the conversation has turned that way, even if the mods usually do great on this stuff. I'm finding it really helpful to think about how mod comments might be reinforcing the pressure on PoC to police their own expression, at least, and I don't want to see that dismissed.
posted by Conspire at 4:52 PM on October 24, 2015 [20 favorites]


I don't want to say grar mods, but I do want to say again that I think this conversation highlights a need for more mod diversity.
posted by zutalors! at 4:58 PM on October 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't want to say grar mods either, but yeah, more mod diversity would definitely help, and that can't just be adding one mod who is a POC, because that leads to the problem of The Only One In The Room. I get that money is a thing, and adding more mods may not immediately be possible.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:02 PM on October 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


flag more for blatant commentary, if nothing else, it would help the mods be aware of such.
posted by infini at 5:14 PM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I get the money thing too, and think the current mod team is great overall and etc. But usually when you ask the question "would more diversity be good here?" the answer is like 100% yes. That's all.
posted by zutalors! at 5:15 PM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also: this was the tail end of cortex's next-to-last comment: "...I probably often don't get it just right and I'm clear on the fact that several folks feel didn't there, and I'll take it into account", so I don't think that people respectfully pointing out that they think mod action wasn't the best has to be a bad thing, and it seems like cortex doesn't think so either?
posted by 23skidoo at 5:22 PM on October 24, 2015 [1 favorite]


"...it was Conspire who was told to chill. There wasn't malice behind it.

But he didn't run his filter. He chose to freely feel-think-talk. And that's what happens."

Just repeating that, because it was exactly right. Also exactly right and exactly what was needed was the Conspire comment that caused the "chill" command in the first place. It's a great thing that he chose to freely feel-think-talk because what he said was not crappy. It was the opposite of crappy. It was exactly what needed to be said. When I said to my black boyfriend at the majority white university, "I will feel uncomfortable being the only person who looks like me in the room, do you understand?" that was me saying something stupid. The word to describe what I said is not something gentle like "unfortunate" or "unconsidered," the word is stupid. It's the opposite of kind to use euphemisms for stupid. When I'm stupid, I want to know, so I can stop being stupid, stop embarrassing myself, and stop hurting other people. That's what builds community. Thank you, Conspire. People like you make this world possible to live in.
posted by Don Pepino at 5:41 PM on October 24, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is not fucking GRAR MODS. Folks who've had feedback for cortex have been exceedingly patient and polite about the feedback and I don't appreciate this characterization of that feedback. Yes cortex has a cold and is on cold medication. There is still constructive criticism to talk about.
posted by kalessin at 6:08 PM on October 24, 2015 [14 favorites]


One of the things about mod involvement is that it's always possible someone will have a cold, or any number of reasons they may not get involved in the right way. I know money is an issue, but people keep citing jessamyn as the reason this site was able to come around so well with regards to women, and I don't think that's incidental to her gender identity. Cortex and the rest of the mods have worked very hard to understand people, but to me it looks like this site would really benefit from having people on the team who will get it even when they have a cold, or whatever.

I've got a splitting migraine and I'm having a hard time articulating this, but I'm a white guy and I'd feel iffy about being on an entirely white team that was supposed to make decisions on behalf of people of color, even if we all listened intently and took copious notes.
posted by teponaztli at 6:17 PM on October 24, 2015 [29 favorites]


I've seen many MetaTalk threads where it's a couple of days in, most of the points have been made (even if they haven't necessarily been absorbed) and then suddenly everybody starts tearing each other to pieces and the thread ends prematurely with a couple of posters buttoning out and no feeling of resolution.

I have a feeling that this is about to happen again and I really don't want it to. Can we not do it this time please?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:22 PM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


teponaztli i think that was perfectly said and hope you feel better.
posted by zutalors! at 6:24 PM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Oh, come the fuck on, philip. I censor myself all the time, because what if I offend someone with more power than me; what if I piss off MRAs with my Twitter account and I become a target of harassment? what if I'm too honest about my politics and it fucks over my precarious economic situation? what if I accidentally out myself in a context attached to my real name and it makes me unhireable? "

This seems like a reframing of philip's point. Is it fair or just that you have to censor yourself on twitter to avoid MRA harassment? or that if you're too honest about your politics or identity it could fuck your economic situation? That's neither fair nor just. That the current kyriarchy entails this as a trade-off isn't a good reason to argue for that self-censorship — it's implicitly ascribing to a model of privilege that asserts that no one should have these privileges, rather than as many as possible.

Children and bosses are both bad examples because they rely on exceptions to the general maxim that being free to express ones' self is a social good, and rely on weird power differentials to explain why they're exceptions.

A better reason is thinking about the tact we exercise when around someone whom we know just suffered a loss or tragedy — it's why "sucks to be you" is pretty universally recognized as a dick move. Filtering is good insofar as it minimizes reinforcing harms others experience, but none of you are my boss or my child, and it's reasonable to find that approach presumptive.
posted by klangklangston at 6:34 PM on October 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


Unless things have dramatically improved, money isn't just an issue, it's THE issue. There's no money for another mod. A PoC mod requires a current mod to leave - or per ArbitraryAndCapricious above, TWO mods to leave.

This is not in any way to say that a more diverse mod team isn't a goal to work towards. But given the size of the team, and the financial situation, I think we need to consider alternatives. Someone earlier mentioned diversity training, which might be valuable. Or maybe some kind of advisory board? Just trying to think of other paths that are fiscally possible.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:37 PM on October 24, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think a good place to start is lots of flagging, even if you're kinda not sure, and also sending notes to the mod team if something is questionable to you - and don't forget to do this in Ask, too. Like I said, Ask is horrific for Asian American human relations questions. I've written to mods about some of them, it would be great to get some support.
posted by zutalors! at 6:48 PM on October 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


I have strange empathy metaphors on offer for both 'sides'.

A. Trying to comprehend how your privilege distorts your own reality is like trying to read a sentence tattooed on your own lower back. (Without a mirror. Although maybe other people are sometimes holding up a mirror and we need to not just bat it away.)

B. When people are trying to work against oppression, it's almost like they are trying to roll a boulder off their own feet. Don't push it back down at them! Don't oppose their work. If your arms are itching to do some pushing, find something worthwhile to exert your efforts on, not something anti-worthwhile.
posted by puddledork at 7:18 PM on October 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I want to make sure I am clearly hearing in this discussion what has been delineated as helpful for white people to do in threads about race that are being crapped up by other white people (aside from shut up and read, which is my default). I hear that flagging and/or dropping a line to the mods about problematic comments is a good thing. Also jumping in to do the emotional labor of addressing 101-level is-this-even-racism comments so people of color don't have to.

What I am not clear on, either lack of reading comprehension on my part, or lack of consensus - is it helpful to identify myself as a white person while rebutting those who leave obnoxious or racist comments? Or does that come across as cookie-seeking or white(literally)-knighting? I can see myself doing a "you're wrong, and here is why, and what you said made me angry and I am white and don't have to deal with comments like yours every day." more than the "As a white person" framing, but I would rather use my leverage as helpfully as possible, if it is helpful at all.

This is asked with the clear understanding that it is Not The Job of any person of color to even answer me. I have been learning from this discussion, and am grateful for it.
posted by Vigilant at 8:28 PM on October 24, 2015 [6 favorites]


I don't think there is a consensus on "as a white person..." right now. Personally I don't care for it, and especially not "blindingly white" "super pasty white" etc.
posted by zutalors! at 8:50 PM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


Vigilant: my take (as a woman of color who is sometimes/often read as white) is that sometimes it's helpful and sometimes it's not. Sometimes this kind of self-ID will be read as sensitive and sometimes it won't. Sometimes you (we) will do something we think is the right thing to do and it is (for some) the wrong thing to do. Sometimes you (we) will just have to say sorry, I apologize for stepping in it.
posted by rtha at 8:55 PM on October 24, 2015 [11 favorites]


If someone could reach an incorrect conclusion about you because of your comment you should either identify as white or reconsider making the comment.

That seems to be sort of where people have come down, with a strong emphasis on "if IDing as white would ruin your point, delete and do not comment." like, it's not so much actually writing it and posting it as using it as a tool for considering if your voice is needed. But, like all tools, it can be abused if you're using it as a get out of jail free card or not really being introspective.

There's not a simple monolithic answer for every situation. People are being asked to slow down and use judgement.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:05 PM on October 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


It goes without saying, that is merely my distillation of what I've drawn from the nuanced discussion above. It could be wholely inaccurate or missing vital nuance. And, yeah, the qualifiers about how white someone is are really ick.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:09 PM on October 24, 2015 [3 favorites]


thank you, zutalors!, rtha, and stoneweaver.
posted by Vigilant at 9:31 PM on October 24, 2015


Children and bosses are both bad examples because they rely on exceptions to the general maxim that being free to express ones' self is a social good, and rely on weird power differentials to explain why they're exceptions.

A better reason is thinking about the tact we exercise when around someone whom we know just suffered a loss or tragedy...


Other examples of filtering oneself are spoiler alerts and trigger warnings, albeit cases of still saying what you wanted to but demonstrating the capacity to take into account other people's feelings.
posted by XMLicious at 10:04 PM on October 24, 2015 [4 favorites]


I am regretful of answering that question. I think one of the ways conversations about race go wrong is the desire for things to be basically easy.

Because people keep asking for a guidebook and a set of rules where if you do XYZ and refrain from ABC you're on the side of angels. Which probably comes from a good place, but is fundamentally lazy and dismissive. For nuanced things like the linked thread there's not a sound bite answer. Just like the question of whether people should signal their whiteness.

So this question that keeps coming up because people want to demonstrate they're on the right side, is an example of the problems Conspire highlights. This is a critique of the question because it's pretty obvious from reading the thread that different people have different opinions. ANY "definitive" answer is going to get trotted out and used as a way to silence POC voices in the next thread like this. It's going to be used as a shield for bad behavior by someone, and I totally acted as an enabler.

The collapsing of all POC voices into One True Way is essentializing and othering. It sets up the situation where a dissenting voice can be used as a gotcha (point 2 in the original post) because each person is being treated as a representative of the entire group. So one voice is just as weighty as a whole lot of people saying the opposite. It's like the cultural version of climate change deniers, and it's just as intellectually dishonest.

To be clear, I think Vigilant was trying to make sure they hadn't missed something, not that they are trying to do this. I, on the other hand, totally contributed to this by not just saying "There's no conclusion. Read that section of the thread again and appreciate all the different places people are coming from on it, and address those more substantial concerns instead of getting hung up on a question with a yes/no answer. "

Stop trying to strip nuance out of a discussion and get to the bottom line. I thoroughly regret having contributed in that. Bottom line thinking contributes to approaching conversations as debates, because it gives something to refute.
posted by stoneweaver at 11:03 PM on October 24, 2015 [32 favorites]


I hear you, stoneweaver, and I think you have a very valid point. On reflection, I do think my attempt to find one answer was reductive. Thanks for articulating that. I'm going to re-read again.

Apologies for the derail, all.
posted by Vigilant at 11:14 PM on October 24, 2015 [8 favorites]


I just typed up a long comment and then deleted it because I realized it was not helpful. That is the third comment I've totally abandoned in this thread, and I also did a lot of editing on my last comment to make it as relevant and helpful and non-problematic as possible, so it took me about 20 minutes to write a few lines.

I am a white person participating in a discussion about racism. That amount of work doesn't even register to me as "unreasonable," or a burden. That's like the best-possible exchange rate for all the privilege I have due to my race, that I have to delete some ill-formed comments and edit a few others, because it still ends up with my public persona seeming all compassionate and understanding and erudite. Anyone arguing that thinking a bit about what they're saying is an undue burden needs to (a) think about what an undue burden actually is, because for nonwhite people in the U.S. it generally involves incarceration, lower pay, or death, and (b) realize that actually thinking about what they're posting will likely result in better comments, because "I should be able to post anything I want!" is a fairly anti-intellectual stance to take.
posted by jaguar at 11:18 PM on October 24, 2015 [22 favorites]


Louis CK is encumbered with a lot of problems and criticisms but occasionally he is brilliant and on point. His skit on "I'll take White! If White is an option again, I'll take it!" is brilliant. I say this as someone who is a minority in many respects but also has privilege in others. One of the things we were almost in danger of doing in this thread very recently was forgetting how multiphasic privilege can be for some folks (like me) - where we have privilege in some realms and not in others.
posted by kalessin at 12:05 AM on October 25, 2015 [6 favorites]

History is not just facts and events. History is also a pain in the heart and we repeat history until we are able to make another's pain in the heart our own.

Julius Lester
posted by y2karl at 12:57 AM on October 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is not [fucking] GRAR MODS. Folks who've had feedback for cortex have been exceedingly patient and polite about the feedback and I don't appreciate this characterization of that feedback. Yes cortex has a cold and is on cold medication. There is still constructive criticism to talk about.

Okay, this was a late-at-night comment of mine. I guess what I had in mind was less the discussion that had taken place than the turn I perceived it to be taking. I may have been wrong though.

On a theoretical plane, mod diversity being better is a bit of a no-brainer from where I'm standing. Having followed the ups and downs of Mefi staffing and finances over the last years it seems to me that practical issues have been too much of a worry for people to really engage with that thought. Maybe this discussion is a good nudge in that direction nevertheless.
posted by Namlit at 3:50 AM on October 25, 2015


Namlit, I don't think this can be true:
"In such a world of white oblivion, the topic is not 'hard'--it is invisible. And that is what eternalises the problem of marginalisation: not the heated discussions of some few yelling people (white ones, if you will) that can't handle the situation (psychologically, intellectually, or because they just like misbehaving), but the fact that even as a more thoughtful person, one first has to actually train oneself to see that there is a persisting problem with racism, a problem that doesn't simply go away only because one identifies as 'thoughtful.'"

People who are not white are not invisible. It's not that "the topic" is invisible, it's that white people refuse to look. White oblivion is deliberate. If the situation changes it will be because white people stopped indulging their propensity to run awwaaaaay from the horrible feeling of admitting you did something self-indulgent or said something self-indulgent, or just stood around being something necessarily self-indulgent, all at the expense of disadvantaged people. Yes, that is some prickly icky-feeling horribleness. It feels bad. It is not just sometimes but often necessary to feel your very own badness your very own self in order to not plop your burden of feeling bad on somebody else. Look at the topic, listen to the topic, understand the topic, stop for the love of god saying you can't understand the topic. You can't keep fending it off forever; after a while it becomes clear you're jamming your fingers in your ears and yelling anything you can think of so as not to have to look, listen, or understand. "La la laaaaa." "Quaaaaack quaaack!" "Huh, what? Sorry, I'm on suda."

How many times does this have to happen:

Angry Honest Person: "What you said was stupid!"
Mod: "Angry Honest Person, cut it out."
Flurry of commenters: "Hay, wait, Angry Honest Person was right, comment was perfect, why'd you delete perfect comment instead of shitcomment that inspired perfect comment?"
Mod: [three or four defensive interjections]
Blizzard of commenters: "stop picking on the exhausted mods" "Quick, close this before anybody else says anything angrily honest!"
Repeat multiple times across multiple threads.
Angry Honest Person buttons.
posted by Don Pepino at 4:52 AM on October 25, 2015 [17 favorites]


What can I say? I am giving an example, you give two other examples. Stuff coexists, no?
posted by Namlit at 4:58 AM on October 25, 2015


whut.
posted by Don Pepino at 5:00 AM on October 25, 2015


I mean, I feel we don't even disagree.

I tried to write up how the following comes about:

...unintended "white oblivion"-type of marginalisation, by means of not really understanding how all-embracing the problem is for people, who find themselves on the receiving end of racist behavior...

...as seen from the inside perspective (mine) of someone who acknowledges that he has to learn and keep learning about these issues.

I am saying that that I believe that this kind of invisibility is so solidly built into the system of "privilege versus non privilege," that it--even from my position, who self-identifies as someone who always, even as a kid, has cared for questions of cultural diversity and individual equality--requires continuous work to overcome. This is a self-analytical and self-critical viewpoint, brought up here to illustrate how unintended marginalization works, for some of us (white, not angry) people.

You come with examples that illustrate other phenomena that exist too:

1) White people who refuse to look and for whom white oblivion is a deliberate device. Those people do exist, and some of the more disagreeable things I have read above do come from that corner. I totally agree.

2) Shitty mefi interactions that ought to be made less shitty. Well, obviously.

I'm on board with that, really.
posted by Namlit at 5:46 AM on October 25, 2015


So, for example.
One of the things Kalessin's contributions here in this thread have taught me is that my own personal (general, just f i) tendency to find the humor in things, even in difficult things, is problematic here:

Since the discussion goes about the very real concerns of a group of people who's patience is wearing thin for very real reasons, the fact that I have humor-reserves to spare, because my patience is not wearing thin (because I'm not in their position and don't share their set of problems) is actually a perfect demonstration of how inequality manifests itself. If I add insult to (unintended but still) injury by also keeping a light tone, I'm doing the issue that I care for a shitty service.
One example of white oblivion that was not deliberate, and of how to deal with it, from my standpoint.
posted by Namlit at 5:57 AM on October 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I know what you're saying. Oblivion takes work to overcome. I'm saying the opposite. Oblivion takes work to maintain.

Both are true.

Since overcoming oblivion feels bad and maintaining oblivion feels good, people lucky enough be able to be oblivious are liable to put the hours in on the maintaining-oblivion task, not the overcoming-oblivion task. All who can do that will do that. I did it recently on facebook in a comment thread about trans issues. I just did it in the "can I eat this" thread. You're doing it in this thread. Perpend:

I hear you saying you've been working at not being oblivious (actually, kalessin did the lion's share of your most recent job of work on that see your above comment), but I also hear you saying "It may be a hard topic for those white people who live to verify this very assertion by yelling [emphasis mine]... But in this very discussion, the occasional 'ok, I'm still reading'-(white) person [that was you] has posted, too. There are indeed those who are willing to listen and learn, and who aren't all petty defensiveness." But were you really willing to listen? Not to everything PoCs were saying, only to the things that didn't personally sting. As soon as something hits home, it's "Cut him some slack, he has a fucking cold, this is only potentially helpful if we don't criticize" the good white people, like me, I'm a good white person who does not have to feel bad, all.

That right there is you working to maintain oblivion. Effort expended on defense against criticism of your identity "as someone who always, even as a kid, has cared for questions of cultural diversity and individual equality" is counterproductive. Your wanting to think of yourself as good is preventing you from becoming good, because you can't hear feedback "hey, this is something you need to work on to become actually good." Being good is very hard and probably impossible. Feeling good is pretty easy--so we're gonna mostly go for that one... which just might explain why I'm doing this instead of grading papers right now.
posted by Don Pepino at 6:55 AM on October 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm always amazed by how, in my personal experience, fast I get feedback for dissenting. I could easily pass for all kinds of privileged statuses. If I would just shut up and stop articulating differs forms of, "Hey, this seems unfair to me." Or "Hey, that seems hypocritical."

If I somehow couldn't perceive it or could somehow inure myself to injustice I could probably be really happy, like Cypher/Mr. Reagan in The Matrix, profiting off the backs and the suffering and the disadvantage of others.

Because while I am a member of a shitload of minorities, I have passing privilege for all but the very few.

I see this as a great deal like how privilege and passing privilege works in others. Something keeps them from seeing what privilege is hiding from them.

But the good news is that folks are seeing through the veil. I had the pleasure of meeting em in May and GenjiandProust's visible cues would put em squarely in the typical oblivious, privileged categories. But as we know, e is a staunch and solid participant in many a minority-relevant thread around here. I have no way of knowing how e came to be so competent and committed, but it's lovely to see folks, who, like me, might have chosen to pass and pay for privilege with the labor and misery of others, instead and encouragingly not doing so. Being intentional about it and seeking instead, real justice. Not just justice in our obvious comfort zones.
posted by kalessin at 8:00 AM on October 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


Don Pepino:

The excerpts you quote, for you to demonstrate that I am "working to maintain oblivion": Why I put these into my comments was to demonstrate that oblivion is there, and (indeed) that (no matter on what level one chooses to white-wash one's conscience), oblivion takes work to overcome. I did not, and do not, claim that those examples of a "good white people" (your words, shortcut for me)-position, are positions I complacently should occupy and feel good about. I have tried to say this. I'm not out after feel-goodness; I'm trying to illustrate how one, from where I stand, can go about trying to get a grip about racism, inequality and privilege.

I took the risk of being read as if I needed posting these bits in order to feel good about myself. I don't feel like I need this kind of reassurance for myself, not on this level of discussion. I also can live with feeling that not everything I tried to say here has come across as intended.

Then again, ultimately both are true, you say it. If you delve deep enough in anyone's thoughts, the moment when the defences go up will come. That should be obvious, and in that I will agree, too.
posted by Namlit at 8:03 AM on October 25, 2015


On that subject of whether to self-identify as a white person, my earlier comment immediately struck me as overly strident and lacking the proper amount of qualification. I regret it, and not least because there's the implicit assumpton that my views would somehow be representative of all people of color, and would somehow be used as a rhetorical weapon against the POC in this thread. I wrote it in a hasty sort of "I'm going to lay my feelings out there and not apologize or equivocate for them" way, and I feel bad about it.

After that I ended up writing a memail to someone apologizing and telling them I love them as a poster. Then that felt weird. Then I regretted doing anything at all.

Which is to say: just another example of how people of color have about a dozen additional ways in which they need to filter themselves, think before they act, think of their voices as potentially representative, and have a default reflex to soothe and not ruffle feathers, etc. which non-POC don't often need to be burdened by. When you're speaking your mind as a white person in a thread about race, you're just speaking your mind as an individual, you can't and won't be fettered by anyone, man. You get to be 'counterculture' without burden or reflection. We don't all have the same luxury, it seems.

One of the many takeaways from this thread is that we're not all participating in discussions with the equal set of coins and experience points, and that can have major ramifications on how things go. Being conscious of this, and knowing when it's right to speak up and when it's not to, is a skill that's hard to acquire. There's no magic set of rules for it. You might not have been aware that it's even something you should be considering. Others of us are used to tamping down our frames of mind to not hurt or confuse the dominant majority so often that we're no longer even conscious of it.

And if you refrain from commenting when you don't have the proper experience or nuance to contribute in a helpful way -- there's no validation you get. That's the kicker. You don't necessarily feel good and no one congratulates you. If there was some mechanism to accrue arbitrary points for not commenting! But alas.

Anyway, this is a disjointed wandering comment, but I hope we're all being more mindful of this stuff in conversations going forward. I'm liking that I'm seeing more comments from people who seem to be thinking more carefully about what they're saying, and wondering if they should be refraining in certain discussions, and working out that calculus for themselves. Something we should all be thinking about.
posted by naju at 10:40 AM on October 25, 2015 [20 favorites]


Japanese American mefite #3 checking in late here. Thank you Conspire for making this MeTa, and thanks to the usual suspects (qcubed, rtha, peacheater, others) for helping our voices be heard in a thread that I really just did not want to deal with.

This sucks, because the main reason I started posting to Metafilter as much as I do was because I was sick and tired of watching it be (at the time) sweetkid vs. the world in every single thread on Asian American issues, and I thought the site could benefit from having another poc voice. Not in the sense that I'm personally so great and my opinions must be heard, but seeing threads like that full of white people taking about people like me, I did want to add my voice.

The last time we had a thread about cultural appropriation (which was also about the kimono exhibit), I felt really kind of unwelcome. I feel kind of whatever about the exhibit itself, white people in kimonos in certain contexts makes me uncomfortable but it's not a hill I'm willing to die on. But the disrespect and mockery toward the very idea that this was something Japanese American people might be concerned about was really kind of breathtaking. It reminded me of nothing so much as the street harassment threads, where women would be saying that being approached in public made them uncomfortable and men would be all "So you're saying I can never talk to a woman ever? How will the human race propagate? I don't mind it when women talk to me! Why is it such a big deal, blah blah blah." Just the unwillingness to listen, and the ridiculous strawmen. (Like people were literally saying "OMG so you're saying I can't eat SUSHI????" Um, no, that's not what I said.) I almost always assume good faith when I see white people walking around Japantown in a kimono, or whatever, because why not, right? It doesn't really hurt me. But seeing the nastiness in that thread made me wonder if I shouldn't. If they're just all secretly waiting to put me down and tell me what I should care about based on what some Japanese people in Japan think.

I have so much more to say but I'm on my phone. I just didn't want to let this pass without commenting.
posted by sunset in snow country at 12:52 PM on October 25, 2015 [64 favorites]


I looked back over that thread when it was linked in the current one and I couldn't help but notice many of the same offenders on the whitesplaining side.
posted by bettafish at 12:58 PM on October 25, 2015 [11 favorites]


As an European, I don't particularly care about Japanese-Americans over Japanese nationals or, say, Japanese-Spaniards. Sorry. As I mentioned, the worst we did to the Japanese was to send Francis Xavier, not to put immigrants in internment camps. I'm getting rather frustrated at the cultural imperialism of supposing that ethnicity X is treated the same and has the same backstory as in the USA when they don't.

I know this was roughly a million comments ago, but something about it is still nagging at me, and it's not just that it completely erases the 2/3 of interned Japanese Americans who were U.S.-born American citizens. (Yeah, I know you're not American and don't care, but so much about the internment was about our supposed lack of Americanness and the history is so forgotten and poorly understood that after 70 years it still stings.)

The thing about cultural appropriation is, the Japanese don't care. As many have pointed out, if anything they enjoy seeing white people dress up as samurai or in kimono or whatever because it's funny/interesting to them. But it matters to some (not all) Japanese Americans. I don't think it's cultural imperialism to ask for those people to be treated with some amount of respect. The way you've set it up, being respectful towards Japanese Americans means showing unearned respect to Japanese nationals, but they're two completely different groups with different concerns.
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:15 PM on October 25, 2015 [38 favorites]


Put another way, I don't think I'm special because I'm American, but I am a member of this community, and there were already a lot of people in that thread telling me my opinions don't matter.
posted by sunset in snow country at 1:23 PM on October 25, 2015 [21 favorites]


I looked back over that thread when it was linked in the current one and I couldn't help but notice many of the same offenders on the whitesplaining side.

Which rather puts the lie to both the idea that these people are coming into these discussions looking to learn and have their thoughts challenged, and the idea that if you treat these people kindly and respectfully enough they will become enlightened and join the side of right.
posted by KathrynT at 2:26 PM on October 25, 2015 [31 favorites]


That Japanese-Spaniards comment was nonsensical bad faith given the point of the OP was Japanese American reactions to an event in America.

Given how much pushback Asian Americans get just for trying to claim being American (But where are you REALLY from), it's pretty insulting to get called out for being too American about our own American experience.
posted by zutalors! at 2:50 PM on October 25, 2015 [18 favorites]


The Japanese-Spaniards comment struck my European ears as pretty tone-deaf. Though the FPP and this MeTa might look like US-centric, the more I think about it (thanks, Conspire and all the Conspirators here), the issue of privilege is just that much more subtly couched in culture over here, and I think we're sorely due a lot of the same schooling/untangling that's being attempted/outlined here.
posted by progosk at 3:00 PM on October 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


I know this was roughly a million comments ago, but something about it is still nagging at me, and it's not just that it completely erases the 2/3 of interned Japanese Americans who were U.S.-born American citizens.

I know, it's just one of the many things that could have been expressed better. I apologize, English is my second language and I was feeling very tired. This issue is not one of my best contributions.

The thing about cultural appropriation is, the Japanese don't care. As many have pointed out, if anything they enjoy seeing white people dress up as samurai or in kimono or whatever because it's funny/interesting to them. But it matters to some (not all) Japanese Americans. I don't think it's cultural imperialism to ask for those people to be treated with some amount of respect.

I am perfectly aware of Japanese American attitudes re: cultural appropriation and in my latest (I hope last) post in the blue I detailed how I am interested in kimono and how I am probably not dressing in public in one ever. But I am not American, and Americans dictating how the rest of the world should behave rankles me immensely. Relationships between Spain and Japan have always been cordial (last year was the 400th anniversary of the Keicho embassy, and there is a community of descendants of some of the embassy staff who decided to remain here still living in Coria del Río. During WW2 Spain was aligned with the Axis, even). There is a huge number of Japanese national people interested in Spanish stuff and even a theme park in Mie prefecture. Japanese economy is quite a bit larger than the Spanish one, we have never had open conflicts, our mutual relationship has been mostly commercial from the Sengoku period. Immigrants from Japan do inevitably get shit for being Asian, but they are expats from a first-world nation. I seriously think the situation of Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Spaniards can't be compared.

(With the discussion about flamenco, I ended up browsing a bit on YouTube. There are a few videos from Canal Sur, the Andalusian regional TV station, about the relationship of Japanese people with Andalucía like this one which has interviews with Japanese flamenco fans living in Spain, but they are evidently in Spanish without English subtitles. I just can't link information in Spanish here.)
posted by sukeban at 3:10 PM on October 25, 2015


I seriously think the situation of Japanese-Americans and Japanese-Spaniards can't be compared.

Good thing no one else is making that comparison.
posted by zutalors! at 3:21 PM on October 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


Bad thing nearly everyone in this thread is assuming American race relations and the conception of race are universal and apply equally across the world, then.
posted by sukeban at 3:26 PM on October 25, 2015 [4 favorites]


Bad thing nearly everyone in this thread is assuming American race relations and the conception of race are universal and apply equally across the world, then.

PoC talking about their experiences and perceptions of racism should never be chastised that their experiences are not global enough. Similarly, you being from another country is not a free card to say things that the PoC that you're directly interacting with have directly said to your face that they find it hurtful and offensive, just because you claim PoC in your own country wouldn't be. That's not American PoC taking over the world's reactions to race, that's just plain respect.
posted by Conspire at 3:32 PM on October 25, 2015 [27 favorites]


...I completely accept the lived experience of POC wherever they are from. I am just trying to say that these experiences vary around the world and relationships between people of various ethnicities outside the USA are different.
posted by sukeban at 3:36 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ugh, sorry for digging up that comment - I didn't mean to start another fight. I do get what you're saying, sukeban, but I think that most of us have been clear that context matters and that it's the wearing of kimono (or whatever) in certain (American) contexts that bugs us. So saying we're trying to dictate European behavior is kind of a straw man. I also agree with what Conspire and zutalors said.

I guess I brought it up because I see a lot of people thinking that Japanese and Japanese American perspectives on the topic are roughly equal in weight and I wanted to push back on that. That's all I meant.
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:43 PM on October 25, 2015 [3 favorites]


I am just trying to say that these experiences vary around the world and relationships between people of various ethnicities outside the USA are different.

Then I'm curious why you chose to deliver this message in this specific Metatalk, in direct response to a Japanese American talking about their own experience, instead of making your own Metatalk about this issue? Especially since you directly state that you take offense to "Americans dictating how the rest of the world should behave", which really sounds like you're claiming that sunset in snow country is doing this by talking about their own experiences of racism. Then you launch into a spiel explaining how Japanese experiences are different globally, as if they weren't aware, when that was the thesis of the entire comment you're responding to.

Do you know how shitty and silencing that looks?
posted by Conspire at 3:43 PM on October 25, 2015 [20 favorites]


Oh, also: by respect I didn't mean not dressing in kimono, I wouldn't presume to dictate your behavior there. I meant treating me and other poc with respect on this site, basically by avoiding the things Conspire outlined in the OP, even though our cultural contexts are different from your own. That's all I ask.
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:51 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


I guess I brought it up because I see a lot of people thinking that Japanese and Japanese American perspectives on the topic are roughly equal in weight and I wanted to push back on that.

We do agree 100% on that point, though.

Then I'm curious why you chose to deliver this message in this specific Metatalk, in direct response to a Japanese American talking about their own experience, instead of making your own Metatalk about this issue?

I got mentioned here.

I also apologize for the snark, which was uncalled for. I'm sorry. I really shouldn't have done that.
posted by sukeban at 4:00 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


To quote myself in an earlier comment to you, sukeban:

...it's very common for white people from Europe or elsewhere to come into the conversation all, "That doesn't happen in my country!" and then accuse people of imperialism when they're like, "That's great, but we're talking about the stuff we're actually living through right here." Which is also shitty, oppressive behavior.

Multiple Asian Americans in these two threads have made it absolutely, unequivocally clear that they know their own perspective on things doesn't necessarily translate to the personal contexts of other Asian Americans, let alone people of Asian descent in other countries. I understand why you have this axe to grind, but you need to find another whetstone.

Also, you are not Japanese Spanish and are not an authority on the Japanese Spaniard experience, so stop hypothesizing about the experiences of Japanese Spaniards as a rhetorical bludgeon to silence Japanese Americans while claiming that you 100% agree and respect their experiences.
posted by bettafish at 4:24 PM on October 25, 2015 [31 favorites]


Chutzpah. I think chutzpah might be an appropriate word here for a non-Japanese Spaniard making two threads about Japanese-American and Japanese experiences with cultural appropriation into a forum to express his feelings about Americans and American-Asians and their racial discourses. I think it's fair to say your feelings are duly noted.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:32 PM on October 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


I have barely made a dozen comments between both threads and I would really like to be out of this conversation. Please don't say I am taking over a thread nearly 500 comments long when I have only five flippant and assholish ones. Right now I am here only to apologize and shut up.
posted by sukeban at 4:45 PM on October 25, 2015


Please don't say I am taking over a thread nearly 500 comments long when I have only five flippant and assholish ones.

So just leave the conversation and stop digging the hole deeper. Because what you just did was the rhetorical equivalent of shitting in the punch bowl, and what you're doing right now is claiming that people actually aren't all talking about the turd floating in the punch bowl when you just did that and all conversation in the room has entirely halted because someone shit in the punch bowl.

Okay, this is another thing that I'd really like to see white people do. When you realize that you're on the wrong side of an interaction, and things aren't going good for you, it's okay to just leave without trying to salvage your ego. The reaction to a PoC going "please stop doing that" needs to be just you stop doing that, not you explaining all of the reasons you were doing that and why you really aren't that racist and bad and how people shouldn't think of you as racist going down the line. I promise you that no one in the room cares about your reputation other than you; and I promise you that it'll do a billion times better than to just stop doing a thing instead of waving a flag and yelling "I'm stopping the thing!" while marching around the room two dozen times before you finally leave.
posted by Conspire at 5:01 PM on October 25, 2015 [42 favorites]


"Also, you are not Japanese Spanish and are not an authority on the Japanese Spaniard experience..."

Wait, wait, wait ... sukeban isn't a Spaniard of Japanese ancestry? Wow. Nuke from abort and, also, maybe we ought to continue that white-identification discussion.

And I'd also like to say that I deeply agree with the complaints about American cultural imperialism in the context of MetaFilter, and I think I have an established history here of banging that drum. But one thing I notice happening, which very much happened in this case, is that an understandable irritation about this general problem ends up pre-empting people's judgment when they should be self-aware and self-critical. Which is pretty much what I wrote in my much earlier comment -- if you think that because you're one of the good guys and you're in the right and therefore it's justified that you steamroll over the complaints and voices of people of color (or in other, similar situations), then you are the problem.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 5:25 PM on October 25, 2015 [8 favorites]


Thanks to all the POC who have been battling this over the past week and years. I had to leave the FPP because I already duked it out in the POC Yoga thread (where I called out derailing twice) and the demisexuality post. MetaFilter is seriously white as hell, and I am concerned about the future of knowledge sharing in this community if it continues to be this hostile towards POC.

Also mods, could you consider letting us have a comment section for when we flag comments? I've flagged so many comments so many times, and yet they get really ignored unless they are obviously off-topic.
posted by yueliang at 5:41 PM on October 25, 2015 [26 favorites]


Also mods, could you consider letting us have a comment section for when we flag comments?

Yes. This request has come up in every recent MeTa thread about improving things around here for members of marginalized groups. I think it would be enormously useful and help cut down the labor required for members to help mods understand the problems we're seeing.
posted by jaguar at 6:10 PM on October 25, 2015 [29 favorites]


Nthng the comment box for flags pony.

Like I said way up above, I usually have very little patience for MeFi's US-centricism and knee-jerk defensiveness whenever someone brings up the subject. But right now I'm seriously wondering if I'm ever going to be able to call that stuff out now without worrying that white non-Americans are going to use what I say as leverage to shut down other PoC, American or otherwise.
posted by bettafish at 6:18 PM on October 25, 2015 [12 favorites]


I'm a POC who from the US, and I also enormously dislike the US-centrism. I'm all for your comments.

Glad to hear other people are also feeling that need for flagging.
posted by yueliang at 6:20 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


Sorry, just to be clear I understand what you're asking about, are do you mean something like a comment box that appears along with the "pick a reason to flag" prompt?
posted by teponaztli at 6:55 PM on October 25, 2015 [1 favorite]


That is what I would like to see.
posted by futz at 6:57 PM on October 25, 2015


Yeah, mathowie brought it up as something the moderation team was discussing almost a year ago:
On the flip side, we've also discussed having an open-ended flag system, where you could flag something and optionally there'd be a text box if you wanted to provide more info. That would be one-step for most flags, then extra specific if people wanted to add additional info ("I think this guy is a spammer" or "alice is attacking bob about $issue unfairly").
posted by jaguar at 7:23 PM on October 25, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh OK, thanks. Yeah, I'd be all for that.
posted by teponaztli at 7:26 PM on October 25, 2015


Yep, something we're aiming to get working at some point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:30 PM on October 25, 2015 [6 favorites]


That would be pretty cool, and more so if it was limited to about 19 characters (like the field for my pizza delivery instructions this weekend). It would be a nice challenge and feel reminiscent of Mark Watney's conversations with Earth from Mars.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:37 PM on October 25, 2015 [5 favorites]


The open-ended flags would probably make it more likely I'd use it.

I mean, not that I flag all that much right now, largely because I forget to or I'd rather get infuriated, I don't know which, and I don't know how much more I'd flag with an open-ended one, but probably more.

Maybe because I'd be able to make more colorful editorial remarks when submitting.
posted by qcubed at 8:17 PM on October 25, 2015


(Has actually resulted in me being used as a racist microaggression against my mother. Yay!)

This is the exact point at which i decided hey, maybe i will post. And yea, this does kind of relate to my interaction with the yoga thread but also with this site in general.

This was pretty much my entire childhood, that experience you describe. At first, figuring out why i got treated so differently when i went out with my mom Vs when i went out with my dad. When i was finally old enough to figure out exactly what was going on there and really see the gears turning in my mothers head... ugh.

I wrote a much, much longer comment and deleted it. Pretty much, something that bugs the shit out of me that i see way too much of offline and occasionally see on here is, (what at least reads to me from who i remember and what i know of the community) a bunch of white people going "Oh man, those white people there/where i live sure are shitty and they sure do shit things up yep" which, especially when directed at a specific area reads either as some kind of #notall.. sort of routine or something to the effect of "most people around me are shit but I GET IT!!1".

So you end up with something along the lines of:

POST: Situation involving PoC
Comment: Ugh white people site
Comment 2: I know white people up there really suck amirite?

And while the correct response would be to say something to the effect of "That isn't what the discussion is about", which did eventually happen, sometimes you just get really fucking tired of hearing that back slapping stuff that reads as notallmen/omg those people suck(but not me!). Especially because, in non-mefi discussion that routine has become a rapidly spreading disease in my area.

In the end my response ended up just being, as someone so eloquently put to me in a memail, pouring gasoline on a fire. And yea, i shitposted in that thread and i'm sorry. I also noped out of those two recent native threads REALLY fast... Since both times i just went "Hmm i'm not sure what if anything i have to say about this" > "Oh, someone said Y, i'll talk about Y that's actually pretty decent" and then as i'm braining up a comment i come back and go "OH WHAT THE SHIT".

Where i'm going with this, because it became tangential, is that when i see people farting up a thread in this sort of context i think my response from now on will just be to flag and send a memail going "This is why this bugs me so much". Replying and actually feeding the crappy posts, which often deserve to be called out!, feels to me like it can often just propel the derail and take up more and more bandwidth.

I'm all for calling shit out, but sometimes it really feels like one of those when you have a hammer every problem looks like a nail things. I'm in no way saying no one else should do it, but just that on personal reflection my shittiest comments have pretty much all stemmed from "this is wrong, you are wrong, and this is why".

I'd like to see more deletions and mod notes, especially on this category of stuff, since it really makes me just not want to participate sometimes. But a lot of these threads go to crap because a couple people show up and go "Well i think Shitty Thing!" and then a couple people go "Well, i'm in the group you're discussing and you're wrong and this is why" and the thread becomes about that. The bar needs to be a hell of a lot higher for posts where someone says someone elses experience with this shit is wrong. And holy shit, REALLY with those comments about sensitivity? Total shudder at that one. Ugh.

I feel bad though. Sorry to anyone i hurt, and sorry for shitting up that thread and making it not about what it was actually supposed to be for and sucking the energy out of it a bit.
posted by emptythought at 1:08 AM on October 26, 2015 [9 favorites]



2. We understand that you think that PoC are not a monolith


Well, it is not a monolithic group at all - that's not just what purportedly prejudiced white people think . And I honestly resent people speaking for me, as a "person of color", as if this were effectively a monolithic community speaking with the same ideological voice and range of views. At least acknowledge the validity and variety of diversity of opinions and beliefs amongst us - don't just dismiss those with opinions which don't match your agenda as "outliers" .

I really liked the article in the original main page post. I thought the discussion was generally good.
I think some of the complaints and examples linked in this metatalk post are probably reasonable while some of the others are not.

Overall, I hope the admins continue to safeguard free, civil speech standards on Metafilter which reflects a wide diversity of ideological and cultural perspectives and cherishes "outliers".
posted by Bwithh at 1:59 AM on October 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


The fact that the "racial supremacist" comment continues to exist in that thread is a complete and total failure of moderation. In and of itself, that comment poisons the entire discussion, and is more than partially responsible for this MetaTalk.

Why wasn't it deleted? Why hasn't it been deleted? And I'm not asking other community members: I'm asking you, the moderators, right here in public, and I'd like an answer in public, because I can't think of a single valid reason for that comment to persist.
posted by scrump at 4:07 AM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


if you think that because you're one of the good guys and you're in the right and therefore it's justified that you steamroll over the complaints and voices of people of color (or in other, similar situations), then you are the problem.

This is international development and aid industry.
posted by infini at 4:54 AM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Overall, I hope the admins continue to safeguard free, civil speech standards on Metafilter which reflects a wide diversity of ideological and cultural perspectives and cherishes "outliers".

Oh, for crying out loud. Why is this always the go-to argument? This is always trotted out in order to actually silence the ideological and cultural outliers. It's not the judo flip people think it is, it's a transparent attempt to cast people exercising their free speech as minorities as the oppressor against people saying patently insulting and offensive things as being some sort of, I dunno, fuck it, why am I even trying.

I'd just like to point out the people that favorited that comment are the same ones who tend to use certain minority voices as a cudgel.

And that one of them in particular has all but called me a racial supremacist.
posted by qcubed at 6:15 AM on October 26, 2015 [32 favorites]


Scrump, typically we don't delete comments that are linked in a metatalk post about the comment(s) because it causes confusion in the discussion. At this point, I feel like probably everyone has been able to check out the linked comments, and will go ahead and delete it. If anyone who comes upon this hasn't seen it and wants the text, just contact us.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:24 AM on October 26, 2015


taz, since my immediately retort to that comment was really just that and didn't add to the discussion, if you're going to delete that one, could you delete mine as well? If you think it's needed, anyway.
posted by qcubed at 6:27 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I certainly haven't called you or anyone else here a racial supremacist, only pointed out that it's uncommon and probably a cause for reflection to end up with the same goal. The original article makes very much the same point:

By opposing it unilaterally under the banner of racial justice, activists often end up placing themselves on the side of those who insist on terrifying ideals of “purity”.

So I'm really not sure why it should be deleted.
posted by Spanner Nic at 6:29 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


The difference between saying someone is a racial supremacist and "in the same camp" as racial supremacists is negligible, and definitely not a reasonable way to engage the people who were voicing their concerns.
posted by taz (staff) at 6:39 AM on October 26, 2015 [29 favorites]


*sweeps up all the bouncing eyeballs rolling around on the floor*
posted by infini at 6:50 AM on October 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


My terrifying ideal of purity: not having white people talk about me as though I'm not in the room. I'm basically worse than Hitler.

Anyway, I don't want to engage further with THAT, but I do want to say that I admire the hell out of a lot of you other Asian* posters and your contributions, and I would love a chance to talk to you all about our experiences directly instead of mostly learning about you while we're all engaged in arguing with hostile white people. I don't know how that happens, because we're basically so diverse that dealing with white cluelessness is one of the only things we all have in common, and talking about that is unlikely to go unchecked. I didn't post in the "Two Asian Americas" thread because I didn't really have anything to say about the article itself (though I did watch the thread), but maybe there's another topic like that that would go better than cultural appropriation or the "what are you?" thing.

*for lack of a better word since we're not all even American!
posted by sunset in snow country at 6:53 AM on October 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Back at you sunset in snow country. I also think for all the frustration this has been a better thread than most for Asian Americans and our specific concerns apart from other Americans of color.
posted by zutalors! at 7:03 AM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, for crying out loud. Why is this always the go-to argument? This is always trotted out in order to actually silence the ideological and cultural outliers. It's not the judo flip people think it is, it's a transparent attempt to cast people exercising their free speech as minorities as the oppressor against people saying patently insulting and offensive things as being some sort of, I dunno, fuck it, why am I even trying.

I think a lot of racist white people have this fetishistic fantasy that if they were PoC, they could say the exact same things they're saying about race as they were right now, and then have it magically become valid, because in their eyes, racism only exists in the domain of opinions and feelings of PoC. And this is something that's flat out not true - the reason why racial justice aligns towards certain poles is because we have actually have evidence from statistics, history, critical race theory, psychology, etc. to point it towards these poles. So you can certainly go against the grain validly as a PoC, but that necessitates an explanation of why these global phenomena don't apply in your local context - or at very least, an acknowledgement that these things exist in the first place, even if they don't apply to you.

And that means PoC are not at all immune to being racist, or making racist statements. The only thing that it means is that you get a lot more benefit of the doubt and some ethos because at very least, you're bringing one piece of evidence in the form of your lived experience. But one single piece of evidence does not make for a slam-dunk airtight argument. And if you don't have answers for other PoC when they question you in good faith on how your argument aligns with what we know about history, about justice, about intersectionality, then it's still going to fall flat. Sure, it'll be better than white people who also come armed with none of these things, and then don't have that single piece of evidence in the form of lived experience either, but that doesn't mean it doesn't end up being a racist argument.

See my response to the FPP article here.
posted by Conspire at 7:06 AM on October 26, 2015 [24 favorites]


I like sunset in snow country's idea - can we get a grey thread or something to meet and greet and find each other on social media and whatnot?

*fries cookie dough*
posted by infini at 7:10 AM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


As a social justice activist, I am particularly noted in and by many of my minority communities for dissenting to when (and it certainly does happen but certainly not with the frequency privileged folks claim it does) reductive reasoning overcomes our good sense and the majority of the activist community(/ies) get a little mob-thinky.

It's the way I am wired: I see injustice in many forms and being part of a minority justice community does not inure me from seeing when it happens within my community.

So sometimes I am the internal friction that prevents our terrifying purity ideals from happening and other times I am just a really fucking irritating gadfly to the impromptu leaders trying to get momentum behind whatever movement it is. So it goes.

But turning the lens outwards is what do I see? Another, much more terrifying dynamic from without. Privileged folks make privilege happen and self perpetuate by explicit ignorance, apathy, and tacit approval. Why do Black Lives Matter? Because of the frankly sickening apathetic approach white folks have taken to police reform. I'm not talking about the one or two national white personalities who have done or started to do something. I'm talking about the millions of you who let it go on by instead making the outrage (if any in the first place) dissipate in making disparaging comments about BLM protestors and going to watch Inside Out again to have your feels without having to deal with icky black people.
posted by kalessin at 7:17 AM on October 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Overall, I hope the admins continue to safeguard free, civil speech standards on Metafilter which reflects a wide diversity of ideological and cultural perspectives and cherishes "outliers".

A couple things:

1) The 9 Types of Comments listed by Conspire? None of those types of comments should be considered "civil". Most of it was both aggressive and insulting.

2) We don't have free speech on Metafilter. Mods delete stuff all the time. In this thread, mods have already said comments summarizable as "That comment that Conspire linked to, I really intended to delete that" and "That comment that Conspire linked to, I'm going to go ahead and delete that one, despite usually not deleting linked comments in MeTas."

3) The majority of the comments linked by Conspire do not represent an ideological or cultural perspective: they just represent a complete failure to understand the basics of what cultural appropriation is. "I'm going to disagree that this serious topic is even real, I'm going to comment in a way that shows I think people are overreacting to this topic, I'm going to hurl carefully-worded and easy-to-deny insults at Mefites who care about this topic"? We don't need to have the speech we defend on Metafilter include speech like that. Nothing of value will be lost by raising the bar to encourage people to leave thoughtful comments in threads on serious topics. These comments are not cherished "outliers" - they're derailing distractions to the intelligent and nuanced conversation on cultural appropriation that we didn't get to have.

When you defend speech like that, you actually DON'T get a wide diversity of ideological and cultural perspectives, you get people running in circles trying to put out fires instead of having a conversation. If you actually want a wide diversity of ideological and cultural perspectives, then you encourage people to understand topics before they comment.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:15 AM on October 26, 2015 [54 favorites]


I just want to call out this fantastic line from 23skidoo's excellent comment:
Nothing of value will be lost by raising the bar to encourage people to leave thoughtful comments in threads on serious topics.
I feel like that's what people are really asking for here: thoughtfulness. It's not thoughtful to throw in some version of a #notallwhomever, or to argue with the premise of microaggression, or to do all that other crap that is being called out. It's just... tired.
posted by Etrigan at 8:22 AM on October 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


Well, it is not a monolithic group at all - that's not just what purportedly prejudiced white people think . And I honestly resent people speaking for me, as a "person of color", as if this were effectively a monolithic community speaking with the same ideological voice and range of views. At least acknowledge the validity and variety of diversity of opinions and beliefs amongst us -

i have no idea what 2 threads you've been reading because PoC have been so. ridiculously. careful. pointing this out. trying not to step on each other's toes, making sure white people don't use us against each other (which I-baLL has thoroughly demonstrated didn't work). it's really condescending to come in here as if you're dropping knowledge.

is there a reason you use scare quotes around "person of color"? i noticed you did this in the yoga thread as well, repeating that we're not a monolith and to say that white people in yoga aren't "automatically" an example of cultural appropriation. i can't tell if you're uncomfortable with the label yourself, or think it's completely stupid and nonsensical because monolith or what. none of this is clear and i think it's very relevant if that's where you're coming from. not to mention a lot of us are not using it sarcastically and you should respect that.

Conspire already said it more eloquently but yeah. if you're going to use your PoC ("PoC") status to disagree with other PoC, the least you could do is what the rest of us are painstakingly doing and acknowledging that we're not trying to contradict each other's lived experience.
posted by twist my arm at 8:31 AM on October 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Huh. Dang. Spanner Nic is outtie. I never knew of his existence before, but I just looked and he had some interesting asks and answers about a range of topics and seemed to know a lot about, among other things, England and France. What compelled him to factbomb a thread about orientalist hijinx at an American museum with off-topic information about the frenchified work uniforms of servers at the Tokyo Au Bon Pain? Maybe it was a case of sudden-onset expert creep. Where knowing a lot about one thing fools you into thinking you know about another thing that is in fact only very tangentially related to the thing you actually know anything about.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:46 AM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


*waves at sunset in snow country* There are three of us now, we're certainly on our way!

I'd also be interested in some further discussion on the grey about some of these topics that is separate from the terrible ways in which they are "discussed."
posted by komlord at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2015


> Overall, I hope the admins continue to safeguard free, civil speech standards on Metafilter which reflects a wide diversity of ideological and cultural perspectives and cherishes "outliers".

I would really love it if the defenders of freedom of speech would - at a bare minimum - acknowledge the the numerous people in this very thread who did not feel free to speak in the fpp because of the uncivil and/or insistently ignorant comments there.

As I and others have said (a lot, too goddamn much), it would be awesome if people who don't know much about and haven't thought much about a particular topic were less free with their speech. It's not an imperative that they share that cultural perspective with everyone all the damn time.
posted by rtha at 9:19 AM on October 26, 2015 [31 favorites]


Pretty much, something that bugs the shit out of me that i see way too much of offline and occasionally see on here is, (what at least reads to me from who i remember and what i know of the community) a bunch of white people going "Oh man, those white people there/where i live sure are shitty and they sure do shit things up yep" which, especially when directed at a specific area reads either as some kind of #notall.. sort of routine or something to the effect of "most people around me are shit but I GET IT!!1"

the way this problem manifests itself on metafilter though is not by shitting on seattle too much. i understand that's your experience in seattle but on metafilter it's definitely flyover/the south. and i'd say that even the "japanese people are soooOOOoooOOOoo racist" (and other unnuanced weirdness about other entire countries) is a bigger problem than that.

nobody is going into non-seattle threads and going "psh. surprised it wasn't seattle this time." (florida gets this shit too). seattle is not the national scapegoat.

i support getting away from all lazy geography-related stereotypes (with understandable exceptions for, like, a fun thread where we're joking about everyone) but i don't want to hear it from someone when finally it's their ox getting gored and hearing crickets or active participation when it's somewhere else. which, yeah, seattle/blue state is exactly the type of place where the texas stuff primarily comes from.
posted by twist my arm at 9:33 AM on October 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


Grew up in Texas, have lived in Seattle for 20+ years, can cosign everything twist my arm says above.
posted by KathrynT at 9:53 AM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


So if there was a POCgreythread would it suffer from the yoga class challenge?
posted by infini at 10:00 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


As I and others have said (a lot, too goddamn much), it would be awesome if people who don't know much about and haven't thought much about a particular topic were less free with their speech. It's not an imperative that they share that cultural perspective with everyone all the damn time.

One problem (I think) is that some people think too much of their own thoughts, so it feels imperative to get them out there before having them properly vetted internally. It's not just thoughtfulness, either (like Etrigan pointed out above), but some level of being willing to not use the internet as an always-on forum to be heard on our stream of consciousness. This requires restraint, and the Internet has often encouraged the opposite on both of these things: 1) it's been used primarily as a place to be heard (and if possible affirmed) before being a place that people have come to have their beliefs challenged; and 2) it's often encouraged an extroverted way of processing information, rather than working carefully on something internally and carefully before speaking. It's a bit of an internal shift of perspective that says I'm not here just to have my emotional/intellectual needs met in real time, but to listen and try to connect with others emotionally in such a way that empathy is produced before coming to conclusions (and by extension, often speaking). In a sense, what we are trying to do here goes against the grain of some really bad habits. Empathy, by definition, includes thoughtfulness, but thoughtfulness can be framed as simply being intellectually coherent about something, and often if feels like that can be done without personal social connections to the realities being discussed. It perhaps can on some abstract level, but seeing rational thought (and to some, forms of thoughtfulness) as a sufficient condition to solving social problems by itself (and hence, an opportunity to speak up however and whenever we feel that we have a good idea), leaves us open to a number of blind spots practically, and at its worst leads to hubris and lack of true understanding.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:01 AM on October 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


So if there was a POCgreythread would it suffer from the yoga class challenge?

"Allies are respectfully requested not to participate."

--> WHAT THE FUCK WHAT HAPPENED TO FREE SPEECH LEMME GO IN THERE AND EXPLAIN TO THE POC WHY THEY'RE ACTUALLY WHITE-HATING KKKERS
posted by qcubed at 10:04 AM on October 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I plead shyness/still being on my phone/being on vacation (in Texas, incidentally, where I had the best bowl of ramen I've ever had outside Japan!), but if no one makes a thread by the time I get back I'll do it!
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:15 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Oh, and hey, komlord! There's at least one more of us, iirc from the first kimono thread. I was actually surprised to realize how few Japanese Americans are actually on MeFi, especially compared to the number of folks who live or have lived in Japan, which maybe partly explains how these threads tend to go (though of course, the missing piece involves understanding the relationship between Japan and Japanese Americans, which is not what most such posters seem to think it is).
posted by sunset in snow country at 10:19 AM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


23skidoo: "Nothing of value will be lost by raising the bar to encourage people to leave thoughtful comments in threads on serious topics. These comments are not cherished "outliers" - they're derailing distractions to the intelligent and nuanced conversation on cultural appropriation that we didn't get to have."

I can only favorite this once, so consider me quoting it for truth value. Well said.
posted by scrump at 10:20 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the things I worry about most when I self-identify as an Asian is that other people will think I am trying to speak for all PoC and/or assume my thoughts or experiences automatically map onto other PoC. I'm not, and they don't, but I often feel like I have to frame my comments with those considerations present in my mind. I worry that I'll anger fellow PoC who don't feel I'm representing them accurately, then I worry that non-PoC will think that I am, and it mostly serves to ensure I don't participate at all. This happens in my personal life sometimes as well, so I don't want to make it sound as though the problem lies solely with Metafilter.

I'm immensely grateful for the others willing to continue on in a civil, nuanced, and thoughtful manner, because if left to me personally, this conversation would have either never happened or I'd have been stuck in an endless loop of screaming with impotent rage and then leaving to cool down with puppy videos on YouTube.
posted by Diagonalize at 10:51 AM on October 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


...the missing piece involves understanding the relationship between Japan and Japanese Americans, which is not what most such posters seem to think it is.

I lived in Japan for several years (for context I'm yonsei so y'know, Japanese in theory, intensely American in practice) and HOOBOY is it a complex baggage experience. Living in Japan was like whatever is on the other side of "being other."
posted by komlord at 10:52 AM on October 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


POCgreythread

I'm really confused about what this is supposed to be. What is supposed to happen in such a thread?
posted by zutalors! at 10:54 AM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm (mostly) yonsei* too! I definitely consider myself primarily American, even though other Americans and Europeans generally don't. When I'm in Japan, people seem to think I'm Japanese, but suffering from some kind of unmentionable mental disorder, thanks to seriously shaky language skills and awkward cultural instincts.

*Dad was born in Japan, but on a U.S. military base to a Japanese mother and Japanese-American father. Mom's straight-up sansei.
posted by Diagonalize at 11:10 AM on October 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yonsei holla! I also lived in Japan for two years, and the thing is, when I mention that to make some kind of point about japanese culture here, I'm always careful to point out that my experience and knowledge is not great compared to people here who have lived there for decades, but I feel I am often not afforded the same courtesy when it comes to areas (i.e. Japanese American culture and history) where I actually am very knowledgeable.

Fyi for others, yonsei means that our great-grandparents were Japanese immigrants, and I'd caution against drawing conclusions from this convo since I think diagonalize, komlord and I are fairly unusual for our generation in speaking any Japanese at all.
posted by sunset in snow country at 11:43 AM on October 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


i support getting away from all lazy geography-related stereotypes (with understandable exceptions for, like, a fun thread where we're joking about everyone) but i don't want to hear it from someone when finally it's their ox getting gored and hearing crickets or active participation when it's somewhere else. which, yeah, seattle/blue state is exactly the type of place where the texas stuff primarily comes from.

Last weekend, I went to see Cameron Esposito, who was great. As many comics do, she told a joke, and then started talking about an unusual reaction to that joke in some other place. She got as far as, "I talked about [joke] in Texas, and..." and then the crowd all started laughing. She paused, and looked out, and said, "Seattle, you literally just laugh whenever someone says 'Texas', huh?"

So, yes, Seattle is exactly the type of place where flyover/lolTexas stuff comes from, and it's real annoying.
posted by Errant at 11:47 AM on October 26, 2015 [25 favorites]


Living in Japan was like whatever is on the other side of "being other."

Reverse culture shock or re-entry shock

Hidden Immigrants

I learnt about this through having to google for a Singaporean friend of Chinese heritage who worked in Shanghai and visited me in San Francisco where we went to Chinatown for dinner. She ordered food. It wasn't what she was expecting. She had a meltdown. I needed answers to help her make sense of how cultures could collide and make her a stranger in a strange land even if everyone looked like her.

Neither of these links cover the diaspora experience. Someone needs to start writing about the various diasporas and how local they are versus their origin's cultures
posted by infini at 11:57 AM on October 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


I completely accept the lived experience of POC wherever they are from. I am just trying to say that these experiences vary around the world and relationships between people of various ethnicities outside the USA are different.

I see a lot more hand-wringing over whether people of color know their place than I see people of color actually overgeneralizing. "Asians aren't a monolith! You can't speak for everyone!" Here's what fun about that: in order for this to be an appropriate criticism, you have to believe that people of color innately represent more than themselves in the first place. So you put your unconscious expectation that people of color are symbols for their group on them, and then you feel the need to warn them not to do something they're only doing in your head. People of color have to say, constantly, "speaking only for myself", just to get past the biases you won't even admit you have but which constrain all their interactions with you. White people don't have to specify their individuality. No one thinks that a white person is speaking for all white people everywhere, unless they actually say so.

So the next time a white person feels compelled to inform a person of color what the limits of their experience or its applicability are, I would like to invite them to shut the fuck up instead. It's just another, yet another, way that white people assert dominance over the lives of people of color and remind them of their marginal status. Take a second, reread, and try to figure out if the person of color is actually saying the thing about race that you're chastising them not to say. The chances are very good that they aren't, it's just that you don't take them seriously as a person. How could you, when you think that person of color doesn't know this very basic thing about their own life?
posted by Errant at 11:59 AM on October 26, 2015 [43 favorites]


Phoenix Rising: A Question of Cultural Identity

by Barbara F. Schaetti

Cultural Marginality
Encapsulated Marginality
Constructive Marginality
Nationality and Cultural Marginality
A Multi-Cultural Reality
Re-Entry and Cultural Marginality
Developing a Constructive Experience of Marginality


I had a couple of sessions by phone with Dr Schaetti in my 30s, when I first moved to the US, given that I'd been a foreigner in many places since age 4
posted by infini at 12:01 PM on October 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


but I feel I am often not afforded the same courtesy
Since being back in the US for several years now, I've noticed that flexibility and tolerance don't always translate as strong points in American life. It seems to me that holding a strong personal viewpoint and "demonstrating leadership" is highly valued. A person's forceful thinking and handling of a situation garners kudos. Observation in particular seems to be underrated. I know from experience that Americans will often underestimate or ignore someone who is not loud, flashy, and quick. Many cultures point out that we have two eyes, two ears and only one mouth. . . for good reason. The Japanese have a saying, "Silence is golden". Global nomads try to figure out which way the river is flowing before we jump in. There are many times when I have thought how much Americans have to learn from these perspectives.
Highly recommended source
posted by infini at 12:12 PM on October 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


The following stories relate how women who spent several years living in different cultures faced challenges to their perceptions, core values, and even physical behavior. Find out what it is like to enter and live in a completely foreign culture.
posted by infini at 12:15 PM on October 26, 2015


No one thinks that a white person is speaking for all white people everywhere, unless they actually say so.


That just went off inside me like a bomb and opened new layers of understanding of how 1) this infuriates the fuck outta me when I'm trying to talk about my experiences with gender and have to constantly reiterate "speaking just for myself" juxtaposed against 2) I've got so much whiteness I never have to do this when speaking with just about every other aspect of my life.

That seems like an excellent way to position yourself relative to power. The more power one has, the more you can just be yourself, unencumbered by the essential qualities of your biology.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:17 PM on October 26, 2015 [27 favorites]



The future depends on humanity's ability to transcend the limits of individual cultures.

--Edward T. Hall
posted by infini at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


sometime later, maybe after a glass of wine, I'll talk about being rejected by desis everywhere as a foreign element
posted by infini at 12:26 PM on October 26, 2015


Super interesting links, infini.

"Cultural marginality" describes my experience pretty well (the "encapsulated marginal" description rather touched a nerve... ow).
posted by zennie at 12:28 PM on October 26, 2015


You may enjoy this one as well

Living in liminality
posted by infini at 12:37 PM on October 26, 2015 [15 favorites]


I am so glad you brought liminality into this discussion. Everyone should know what that word means.

/me goes off to read.
posted by Annika Cicada at 12:41 PM on October 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


the more you can just be yourself, unencumbered by the essential qualities of your biology, the more power you have
posted by infini at 1:19 PM on October 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Great links, thanks infini! I look forward to reading more in-depth because nothing is more weird than feeling intense culture shock at "my" culture.

I think my experiences in Japan were very much like the ones Diagonalize had where "people seem to think I'm Japanese, but suffering from some kind of unmentionable mental disorder, thanks to seriously shaky language skills and awkward cultural instincts." More often than not I was treated like I either had a serious deficiency or was lying about my heritage.

To bring this back around a little, Errant's point is...wow. I never thought about how I frame so many of my conversations around how I'm not speaking for all Japanese/Japanese Americans/Asians/Women/Queer people even though phrasing something as "I think" should be equivalent to "in my experience" but it isn't.
posted by komlord at 1:25 PM on October 26, 2015 [7 favorites]




That's more precise way to put it for sure, infini.

I like how your phrasing shifts the power back on to how the power base attaches "in-group" or "out-group" status to those unchangeable essential qualities, as opposed to the way I phrased it, which clumsily insinuates that marginalized people can just "go get themselves some power from somewhere" when the truth is, they cannot.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:41 PM on October 26, 2015


As a fellow-liminal, this is interesting stuff, but I have the impression it's (perhaps paradoxically) turning some of the core points of this MeTa on their head, privilege now residing with the "clearly" different...?
posted by progosk at 1:48 PM on October 26, 2015


Geez, all of a sudden here we have also a number of links with stuff that I totally know inside out (after being out of my home country since age 19 and living in, what, four foreign countries for various substantial amounts of time). Camouflaged as a native indeed.
Infini rocks. Thanks for those links!
posted by Namlit at 1:49 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Your comment has me a bit curious, progosk, is there anything in particular that you're speaking to that you are seeing, because I am totally missing it.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:51 PM on October 26, 2015


it's (perhaps paradoxically) turning some of the core points of this MeTa on their head, privilege now residing with the "clearly" different...?

Constructive Marginality

The second type of marginality, according to Bennett, is a person who takes an active role in consciously constructing his or her identity (Bennett 1993). This type of individual, termed the constructive marginal, is said to move or shift effortlessly between cultural identities and create an "integrated multicultural existence" (McCaig 2000: 13).

Bennett emphasized the "self-differentiation" and assumption of "personal responsibility" in making life choices, aiding in the ability to shift frames of cultural reference with ease (Bennett 1993). Within her framework, she suggests that the ideal situation is one in which people look to their own self-reference and awareness for their identity, as opposed to the established definitions provided by singular cultures (Bennett 1993). Similarly, Yoshikawa (1987) believed in the integration of eastern and western perspectives in which an individual thrives in between two cultures, discovering the most about himself/herself because he or she is living without the constraints of established cultural confines (Yoshikawa 1987). It is the belief of both Bennett and Yoshikawa, that from this marginal place, one is able to exhibit the utmost in intercultural sensitivity (Bennett 1993; Yoshikawa 1987).


Bennett argues that the single most essential ingredient when building a constructive experience of marginality is developing a sense of one's own truth. Certainly it is valuable to be able to understand different truths as represented in different cultures, to withhold judgment and interpretation. This is part of the global nomad birthright. At the same time, however, it is important for the adult global nomad to plant his or her feet in personal truth, one not dependent on circumstance. "This is what I believe, regardless of the cultural context in which I find myself. I may alter my behavior according to changing circumstances, but my truth remains my truth."
posted by infini at 1:59 PM on October 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Maybe it's that though I've witnessed the "foreigner's advantage" at work, personally I've experienced hidden immigrant status overwhelmingly as a privilege. And I'm not sure where to place the deconstruction of (more or less oblivious) privilege that was happening upthread within this recast context (both personally and conceptually). Guess I'll just... read more.
posted by progosk at 2:02 PM on October 26, 2015


I wonder how wealth and class affect all this.
posted by thetortoise at 2:08 PM on October 26, 2015


I can only speak for the global nomad experience - you live in the expat bubble. That automagically puts you in some unique untouchable status that's neither here nor there, and may have little to do with the wealth and class of your extended family. Foreign service kids for eg would have grown up with nannies, even if their grandpa sold cars back home in S/Carolina.
posted by infini at 2:13 PM on October 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Maybe it's that though I've witnessed the "foreigner's advantage" at work, personally I've experienced hidden immigrant status overwhelmingly as a privilege. And I'm not sure where to place the deconstruction of (more or less oblivious) privilege that was happening upthread within this recast context (both personally and conceptually). Guess I'll just... read more.

I mean, I think part of why it doesn't really make sense to me in this context is that we're discussing privilege/racism in terms of the American experience. Almost no Asian-Americans are going to get the "hidden immigrant" effect, because to most non-Asian-Americans, we don't blend in?
posted by qcubed at 2:58 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Infini, I'm glad the links you're posting are resonating with people. For me, the irony is that the people I feel steamrolled by in these discussions are the ones who have made a great commitment to living in harmony with Japan and its culture, who should be the ones who best understand the value of listening and collaborating and not smashing through the wa. Meanwhile I am American through and through - I do hesitate to draw attention to myself here, but that's because of my emotional labor training as a woman, not anything to do with Japanese or Asian culture. It's privilege, pure and simple.
posted by sunset in snow country at 3:04 PM on October 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


sunset in snow country, i hear you. this thread made me remember very early days here when I entered a thread about something to do with India and was steamrollered (excellent word) by Americans with India experience. Given my own limited vocabulary and knowledge of that culture I felt dismantled. That withdrawal was my first experience with the marginalization in Metafilter of non mainstream voices. It is indeed their perception of their own privilege that has blinded them.
posted by infini at 3:32 PM on October 26, 2015 [17 favorites]


Perhaps your idea of a separate thread would be most welcome. Then no-one need take these links as anything other than one individual's experiences. Self knowledge is complicated - in the Other it is threatening.
posted by infini at 3:35 PM on October 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


I just want to say (as a white guy) that I've been reading along with this thread since the beginning and I've learned a lot. I haven't wanted to comment since I'm not sure I have anything of substance to add, but I am listening and taking to heart the things that people here are saying.

Thanks to all the POC and educated allies here for having this conversation. I know it's a pain in the ass and that you shouldn't be obliged to do it (and I'm especially sorry you're having to do it in the face of some truly heinous opposition from the privileged-and-clueless brigade) but if the goal of this thread was to move MeFi closer toward being a community where all people can feel truly welcomed and valued, I think that in one case at least it has had the desired effect. It's just that that effect is that I am shutting up and listening for once, which is what I will now go back to doing.

Thanks again, and know that the thoughtful, emotional, difficult work you are doing is not falling entirely on deaf ears.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:23 PM on October 26, 2015 [25 favorites]


I just want to say (as a white guy) that I've been reading along with this thread since the beginning and I've learned a lot. I haven't wanted to comment since I'm not sure I have anything of substance to add, but I am listening and taking to heart the things that people here are saying.

Seconding this, except as a white woman. I've had an on-and-off interest in Japanese culture for a good chunk of my life and have long been frustrated that every group I've been in has had at least two or three white guys who "well, actually" their way into every conversation. They get to lord it over both groups: better Japanese speakers than people like me, and better at English than Japanese people, and aren't we all so grateful that they are here to teach the rest of us about language and culture and life and love? I don't want to exempt myself from this - I put my foot in my mouth more often than I'd like and ask lots of dumb questions, even now. I just have to remember how annoying it is when dudes talk over me, and make room in the conversation for people who actually know what the hell they're talking about.

It's been incredibly refreshing to read comments from Japanese American MeFites here. Reading sunset in snow country's comment about feeling steamrolled made me even more pissed off about the usual bloviators here. How much perspective and information has gone unexpressed and subsequently lost to the rest of us, replaced by flip comments from people with no actual Asian blood who are just posting to let us know that they are more Asian than actual Asians?

I hope this doesn't come across as cookie-seeking. I'm definitely looking forward to sitting back, lurking and learning. Thanks for what everyone has shared so far.
posted by Recliner of Rage at 9:28 PM on October 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


How much perspective and information has gone unexpressed and subsequently lost to the rest of us, replaced by flip comments from people with no actual Asian blood who are just posting to let us know that they are more Asian than actual Asians?

I know this isn't the core of your point, but I'd like to say that the conflation of "blood" with culture or cultural knowledge/expertise/validity is something we would do well to avoid.
posted by modernnomad at 11:35 PM on October 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


As a mixed-race person, 100% behind that sentiment, but that hasn't happened here as far as I can tell. I'm noticing more a conflating of Japanese and Japanese American cultures, and people thinking that Japanese Americans are basically just watered down Japanese people, so that experience with the latter allows one to speak for the former. (I'm not quite sure how to say this without accusing people of having identity problems, but i think we're also so used to letting white people frame things that we sometimes just accept this view of ourselves uncritically.) This is partly the fault of persistent racism and erasure in American culture, but people don't realize that we've had 100+ years to develop our own identity separate from Japan, and Japanese Americans have lots of shared experiences and cultural touchstones that Japan is not a part of - internment is obviously the big one, but also picture brides, Japanese language schools, spam musubi, the high number of mixed-race people and handwringing about that, Nisei Week, Cherry Blossom queen pageants. Vincent Chin. Plus of course the shared experience of American racism that people keep bringing up every time some fool rolls in like "But why do we even put all Asian people in the same category?" They're not the same!" as if we've never thought of that before.

I could easily write 1000 words about the Japanese American young professionals group I'm in and our fraught relationship with the Japanese American Citizens League (partly because we disagree on the importance of the internment to everyday community life, but mostly because they provide our funding and won't let us advertise events with alcohol), and a white person living in Japan would have zero useful input, but people see "Japanese" and just start talking.

Anyway, I do want to say thanks to everyone who's let us know they are listening. It's given me the confidence to keep speaking. If you do see another thread going off the rails and feel like leaving a similar note there, I know I would feel a lot better about coming in and contributing, knowing that not everyone is hostile. (I've tried to do the same a couple of times in threads on trans issues and I hope it helped.)
posted by sunset in snow country at 7:01 AM on October 27, 2015 [32 favorites]


This is partly the fault of persistent racism and erasure in American culture, but people don't realize that we've had 100+ years to develop our own identity separate from Japan, and Japanese Americans have lots of shared experiences and cultural touchstones that Japan is not a part of...

White Americans generally referring to Asian-Americans as "Asians" (and Japanese-Americans as "Japanese," etc.) probably doesn't help.
posted by jaguar at 7:06 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


On a slightly divergent note, is the use of terms like ABC (American born Chinese) and similar terms from other cultures well-known here? I grew up with it and it was fairly known by Californian students and in the American School in Taiwan I attended, but I guess I haven't heard it much since college.

Thanks to Conspire and commenters raising great points here. I do have some trouble with trying to listen to people because that's how they should be treated and will help me treat them fairly in the future, instead of blithely treating stuff as intellectual exercises.
posted by halifix at 8:07 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Honestly, y'all, while I feel incremental progress may have been made on this thread, I am beginning to think that I shouldn't talk to white people about racism.

This is not a new article, but it talks about why. This crushing emotional labor of always having to swim against the current of white privilege, where the white assumption is to defend the idea that racism basically just is not there... it's too much. It's the only reason I can think of for having folks self-identify their own background and context, but to be honest, it's probably safe to just assume that there are white folks around.

As a number of private MeMail senders have noted to me while this thread evolves, MetaFilter is OVERWHELMINGLY WHITE. That there are people of color still around speaks well of community moderation and guidelines and sentiment. But that we are still speaking and trying to work with you about racism, to me, seems pretty phenomenally unlikely - except for that's what it's like for us every damned day we dissent about the nonexistence of racism.
posted by kalessin at 8:14 AM on October 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


For whatever it's worth: my conversations with you and other PoC about racism, Kalessin, have changed the way I see things. Altered my perspectives. Changed the way I try to live my life as a supportive ally. And I hope, have helped me pass on some small bits of information to others.

That's not your responsibility, I know. And I say it not to pressure you or try to change your mind. Only to add a bit of data.

Personally, I believe that sharing personal experiences can go a long way towards lowering barriers and raising understanding. That's one of the reasons I sometimes talk about Judaism in related threads, and continue to do so.
posted by zarq at 8:26 AM on October 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


The relatively privileged fight for the perpetuation of their comfort and, at their most "generous," want to help draft a few simple, easy-to-follow rules that explain exactly who is "beyond the pale" (which should never be most of them, because...how uncomfortable that would be!). The relatively marginalized and oppressed are often fighting for their survival and for what should be their ethical default status *as recognized persons on their own terms,* which things are clearly not happening and have been systemically"unhappened" through millennia of actual murder and spiritual and cultural violence against them.

Their survival requires the privileged to shut up and sit down and do some serious learning and reflecting and thinking and *just goddamn stop this physical and cultural killing.* Every time the privileged interrupt, or take yet another turn being in charge of common sense and "the conversation," they are not simply being rude, and they are certainly not "defending themselves" from some existential threat: they are furthering an immense, monstrous wrong. The privileged refusal to reflect, its desire to get to keep one listening to itself talk, its desire to pat itself on the back for half-listening and then keeping on with what it wanted to do in the first place: all of this *is* the existential threat.
posted by kewb at 8:27 AM on October 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


It wouldn't be a fair to ask for these conversations to happen. But, as a lurker and learner, I also need to admit that within them I am understanding new things and in new ways. I believe it will help me be a better person. I'm sure that isn't the 'why' of everyone engaging in these threads. But, I hope I am not the only one who can say this, and that it can be at least some value of the whole thing.
posted by meinvt at 9:12 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


The new Where Are You Really From thread is getting excellent moderation.
posted by zutalors! at 10:05 AM on October 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


It kind of goes back to the earlier question about whether it's better to delete hateful comments so people aren't affected by them or let them stand so they can be responded to and debunked. I don't have a strong position on that topic. On the one hand, there are comments I would absolutely have been better off not seeing and that my life is only worse for having seen. On the other hand, sure, I imagine a critical conversation about those comments helps people, and I appreciate people saying that they're learning and listening. It occupies a strange space for me, in that the tuition for one person's education is someone else's pain. I don't want to sound too martyr-like about that, but it seems to me that that is what's happening when we talk about whether it's better to let hateful comments stand, that we're saying "I'm sorry that hurt you, but I learned something, so net positive". Conversations like this can happen, and they're useful for the vast privileged majority, but there's a price tag attached, and I don't know if the people paying that cost are always receiving the benefits.
posted by Errant at 10:08 AM on October 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


damn it zutalors!, beat me to it. :)

thanks LM.
posted by twist my arm at 10:09 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Speaking for myself, as someone who is much more clueless than she'd like to be on race issues? I find threads of people of color talking to each other to be way more educational than threads of people of color having to endlessly smack down white people saying that these things aren't issues. I'm really glad for the moderation that deletes those boring derails so that room is left for more nuanced discussions.
posted by sciatrix at 10:12 AM on October 27, 2015 [33 favorites]


After reading the thread in question in one sitting and not having the energy to read this one beyond the first 50 or so posts, let me say that I'm glad I read it*, I feel I learned a lot*, I was wondering why the meta*, and now I hope I get it: that for people who expected to have a nuanced discussion about cultural appropriation the experience was like going to the pub with friends and having to put out the fucking fire AGAIN instead, and then being congratulated on how well everything went. I'd be too exhausted to be suitably angry too.
But I want to thank you anyway for putting that fire out. I'm grateful for everything I learned today and for your patience.
*of course I'm white
posted by hat_eater at 10:14 AM on October 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


I'd rather be a mefite than a person of color.

And hat_eater, hallo! yeah, here, have a pint ;p
posted by infini at 11:02 AM on October 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'd rather be a mefite than a person of color.

Yeah, a lot of us would rather race didn't change the way people interacted with us, but so far that seems not to be the case.
posted by kalessin at 11:45 AM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


I once dared to criticize a user's opinion on, roughly, the socioeconomic trajectory of Asian American university students. I tried to fend off their statements perpetuating the Model Minority Myth with a polemic response of my own. But the exchange quickly became this sort of - frankly, amazing - rhetorical nexus:

- Blankly accuse me of straw manning. [I should have stopped reading right there, as nobody should be bullied by the use of unfounded accusations.]
- Assert their authority on the matter because they know many young Asian Americans. [I'd identified as present company, right? but since I and my arguments don't fit their narrative, it's more convenient to discount one additional PoC's voice, than reexamine and revise your own mental models.]
- Assert their authority on the matter because they're a Professional Scientist at Major Institution [Wow, sorry, not every overeducated person around here finds it productive to vaunt their intellectual pedigree. If you're a scientist, then construct your arguments, like, properly.]
- Say that my information is biased because of my experiences. [I am biased about Asian Americans, for being one? Hm, I don't know, I've lived 30 years of my life thus far. Just stop for a moment to imagine the information and experiences - social and intellectual - any person might have had unique access to given that amount of time. But no, framed as a random PoC, it's easier to presume that I have little such wealth or capital, and this is not even worth finding out about through online conversation! Please, go on with your—problematic—theories of PoC's thoughts and feelings and prescriptions what the solutions to their problems should be. Unsolicited advice is a really great way to engage when there's... present company.]
- Accuse me of overgeneralizing. [Asian People are Not All the Same, therefore polymodus' comments, which must be unambiguously talking about All Asians, can be downplayed.]
- Concede there's much valid research on the matter, and in the next breath implicitly ignore the research. [This level of selection bias, making an issue a nonissue, is Not Even Cherry Picking.]
- Young PoCs are now channelling this suffering (sorry, "adversity") into new Asian American art, and isn't that a great/wonderful success? [How about refraining from these kinds of race-optimist value judgments in the first place?]

The feeling of anger and powerlessness, in the process of remembering this exchange, was unpleasant.

I won't silently tolerate this subtle type of gaslighting [which it is by virtue of ticking off various checkboxes identified in this metatalk]. Nobody should.

Who will listen well? And who might persuade marginalized groups that it gets better.
posted by polymodus at 12:49 PM on October 27, 2015 [22 favorites]


*tries to shove huge snarling Alsation back into the modem*
posted by infini at 1:12 PM on October 27, 2015


btw I also remember someone who said they'd thought I was a person of a different colour than that which I seemingly to be in that comment. So keep that in mind too, that the interwebs and their pixels, are perceived in 64 million different shades of green.
posted by infini at 1:14 PM on October 27, 2015


I once dared to criticize a user's opinion on, roughly, the socioeconomic trajectory of Asian American university students.

wow. i never took asian american studies courses so i usually feel at a loss compared to a lot of folks in these discussions when it gets down to the nitty gritty. found your comments and learned something about myself.
posted by twist my arm at 1:25 PM on October 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


The relatively privileged fight for the perpetuation of their comfort and, at their most "generous," want to help draft a few simple, easy-to-follow rules that explain exactly who is "beyond the pale" (which should never be most of them, because...how uncomfortable that would be!).

QFT. Speaking as a white person, if all we really want is to say whatever we please without the risk of consequence, might I suggest one of the thousands of other discussion forums on the internet. But I don't think that's the way most of us see Metafilter. We all paid our $5, or even more, because we wanted to do our part to make Metafilter a better place, and we thought this place was special enough that it was worth it. But it's obvious that Metafilter would not be the special place that it is without the contributions of Mefites of color. And in order to make those contributions, they have had to make an investment of emotional labor far beyond what it took to sign up. If we take seriously our responsibility to this community, then white Mefites must therefore be willing to make an investment in kind. We have to be willing to forgo emotional security. We have to be willing to be chastised. We have to be willing to be hurt.
posted by J.K. Seazer at 1:33 PM on October 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


Mea culpa, I skimmed the original thread, favouriting but not flagging. Getting really pissed off may have short-circuited my ability to remember "Hey, this shitty comment really pisses me off, that probably means I should flag the fuck out of it." I'll remember better now, I think.

Then I had guests to deal with so I didn't start reading this thread until yesterday. I am extremely happy to discover that Conspire, kalessin et al haven't buttoned out, as I was half expecting. Though I wouldn't blame any of y'all if you had, or if you do at some point in the future. Such heavy lifting! Voluntarily taking on risk of joint and alignment problems!

kewb: The relatively marginalized and oppressed are often fighting for their survival and for what should be their ethical default status *as recognized persons on their own terms,*

Yes. Often? Most, if not all of the time that we're in majority dominant spaces, would be my guess. I live my life having come to conclude that certain white-dominant spaces I frequent are relatively safe, and then something happens like two weeks ago my white choir director pulling out this song published in 1951, Some Children See Him, for us to do as part of the Christmas music. Which, yes, I appreciate that she's trying to be inclusive (it's more effort than I expected from someone who often shoehorned her "people just need to take responsibility and get a job!" opinions into chitchat at my lessons -- six months ago I switched to a different teacher who doesn't do that, hurrah). I appreciate the song's point, questioning standard representations of Jesus as white.

So I'm singing it for the first time and start rolling my eyes and giggling at the line, "with skin of yellow hue." After rehearsal, i go up to her and say, "We have to change this line. We have to. If we sing it, we'll look really out of touch and seriously out of date." True, the average age in this choir is like 78, but still. No reason we have to prove conclusively that this choir's sensibilities are stuck in pre-Brown vs Board days, right?

"Change it to what?" she says.

"I dunno, but I'll think about it," says I.

After next rehearsal, I go up to her and say, "How about 'skin of different hue,' or 'their own hue'?"

"But then we wouldn't have the colours!" she says. "There's white and brown too, and those are okay, so..."

Then her white friend sitting nearby says, "It's an old, old song. That's the way they talked then. i don't think it's offensive."

"Yeah," says I, "and there were songs with the N-word in them too, but we've excised those. I'm not saying that "yellow hue" is as...explosive....as the N-word, but my point is, if we sing this, young people" haha, I'm 43, "and Asian-descended people like me are going to see us as OUT OF TOUCH and TONE DEAF. Okay? I've said my piece, fine, that's all you're going to hear about it from me."

Later, I check Youtube and there are versions that have changed it to "skin of golden hue," which to my mind is better, marginally at least. I vent about it to some of my fellows and they're split down the middle, some agreeing dubiously that "golden" is better, some saying, "No, the whole thing's just unacceptable." But then, they're unbelievers like me (I'm in the choir for in-law reasons, and because I grew up Christian-ish, and because singing is fun, and the choir needs help). I wonder if being Christian would skew opinions more positively, because, I gather, it's in the American Christian song canon, and people give more slack to songs that they're accustomed to hearing.

I wondered if I should post, "Is 'golden hue' acceptable?" to AskMe, but hesitated because I'm primarily interested in fellow Asian-Canadian, Asian-American, etc, opinions. I didn't need to hear any more "I don't think it's offensive" from any more white people, since I'd already gotten it in real life. Could I include that in the question? If I did, certain white people would get offended for sure. But AskMe is tightly moderated, so they'd axe those. But did I feel up to reading the reality of those comments, even if they were going to disappear within minutes? The idea made me nauseous.

"I'll read Conspire's MeTa," I thought, "and see how that discussion went." I still haven't decided. Yes, this place is light years better for PoC discussions than when I joined a decade ago. And, that bar a decade ago was really low.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 1:51 PM on October 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


Further to kewb's point about survival,

klangklangston: Children and bosses are both bad examples because they rely on exceptions to the general maxim that being free to express ones' self is a social good, and rely on weird power differentials to explain why they're exceptions.

A better reason is thinking about the tact we exercise when around someone whom we know just suffered a loss or tragedy


Filtering what you say around PoC is tact for white people. Having to filter what we say around white people is a survival skill for all the PoC I know (obviously, this may not apply to all PoC). In the broader Canadian and American society, this power differential is not an exception. It is the rule. It is a survival skill to learn to understand and anticipate the assumptions, expectations, needs, and hair-triggers of higher-status people. Who, because of their higher status, can fuck your life up good if you make them mad. They can still fuck your mental health* up even in an online forum like this, with their pervasive obliviousness and aggressive ignorance. Not much difference between them, really, they're both unmitigated failures of empathy, and respect too. "Empathy is the deepest form of respect," actually, which is a line I've quoted before.

Same survival dynamic works for women (who are lower status, generally speaking) relating to men (higher status, generally speaking). Yes, this can get more complicated with eg wealthy white woman relating to poor PoC man, which is why it's always crucial to consider context, because power dynamics shift depending on context.

Conversely, most white people (or, men generally, relating to women generally) have had no incentive WHATSOEVER to learn to understand or anticipate the assumptions, expectations, needs, or hair-triggers of PoC.

I have never self-identified in my profile here as PoC or a woman because i don't feel safe enough. "You're not objective about racism, because you're a PoC and overly sensitive" is something I want to be able to choose to take on, if I feel like I have the energy for it, by self-identifying in-thread. Not something I want to have flung at me out of the blue by somebody who's checked my profile for ammunition.

*Re mental health, if somebody thinks I'm exaggerating, maybe they'll be less inclined to dismiss Stephen R. Covey in The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People:
Empathic listening is, in and of itself, a tremendous deposit in the Emotional Bank Account. It’s deeply therapeutic and healing because it gives a person “psychological air.” . . . Next to physical survival, the greatest need of a human being is psychological survival – to be understood, to be affirmed, to be validated, to be appreciated.
When you listen with empathy to another person, you give that person psychological air. And after that vital need is met, you can then focus on influencing or problem solving.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:06 PM on October 27, 2015 [21 favorites]


I sure don't always recognize when a fellow white person is saying something harmful in these threads, but I'll make more of an effort. My blind spots are indeed cavernous, so my support is more likely to be in the forms of favorites of other commenters who spot it first. I can at least try to make doing that more of a priority, instead of just staying away from uncomfortable discussions.
posted by emjaybee at 2:10 PM on October 27, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes. Often? Most, if not all of the time that we're in majority dominant spaces, would be my guess.

In retrospect, I am not terribly thrilled with my "often" either, because it is wrongheaded hedging.
posted by kewb at 2:58 PM on October 27, 2015


Errant: It occupies a strange space for me, in that the tuition for one person's education is someone else's pain.

Thank you for this.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:14 PM on October 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


In retrospect, I am not terribly thrilled with my "often" either, because it is wrongheaded hedging.

It's that survival skill reflex. Softening one's words, hedging, tiptoeing around to try to give an unpalatable message a greater chance of being heard instead of rejected outright or being criticized for various tonal imperfections. My MeTa history consists almost entirely of hedging and softening. I'm tired of it. I respect the hell out of PoC here who are blunter, and who still get the point across with what I consider to be admirable courtesy and grace, even if certain listeners who feel the point is too pointy don't agree. Sometimes I think about trying out that blunt mode, but the survival reflex holds me back. I nearly didn't write "unmitigated failure of empathy and respect" above, but then eh, I gave it a shot.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 4:28 PM on October 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


I think that anyone asserting racism doesn't exist should have their account suspended.

If it's simply a matter of becoming more educated, that would be a way to teach a valuable lesson.
posted by Little Dawn at 10:52 PM on October 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


And hat_eater, hallo! yeah, here, have a pint ;p

The Metafiltered Ale, my favorite!
posted by hat_eater at 3:27 AM on October 28, 2015 [1 favorite]


Errant: It occupies a strange space for me, in that the tuition for one person's education is someone else's pain.

Thank you for this.


Nodding fervently. People need to realize how minorities bear and carry the social costs that allow the privileged their blithe ignorance.
posted by Annika Cicada at 8:12 AM on October 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Putting down Africa/ns isn't acceptable just because they happen not to be from the developed world. Just sayin'...
posted by infini at 10:11 AM on October 28, 2015


Now let all the stereotypes you hold rush to the forefront of your "but but buts"... and stop and think how this is any different from what everyone else is requesting.
posted by infini at 10:12 AM on October 28, 2015


Infini I'm not sure what your recent comments are referring to.
posted by zutalors! at 1:01 PM on October 28, 2015 [3 favorites]


Nothing in this thread, but related teh topic in this thread. As it occurs in other threads. I tend to post a lot on African topics and this stays top of mind for me. To me this thread is a discussion about racism. On the website. And in FPP related commentary.

Be happy to answer more queries.
posted by infini at 1:20 PM on October 28, 2015


I just read this incredible comment by pseudostrabismus, and felt sad that the AskMe format doesn't really allow for drawing further attention to it, but then remembered there was an open MeTa about appropriation conversations going shittily or not shittily! For me this was one of those rare and wonderful comments that lends such an important re-framing to a conversation, with such economy of space, that it almost gives me whiplash ("who was that masked idea?").
posted by threeants at 5:54 PM on October 28, 2015 [6 favorites]


Yes. To be clear, I cannot think of a single thread - on Metafilter especially - where I thought, "Boy all this respectful discussion is soooo boring.

I think that all the time. About most threads. Because I have little to no patience for the sort of discussion that goes like this: Person A: "something something dog" Person B: "I, too, have a life experience involving a dog and a potato!" Person C: "This one time I was eating a potato..." Person D: "I'm all for potatoes, but check out my dog story!" etc. It reminds me of my first week of college. But that's just me! So who cares? There are other threads.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:39 AM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


You do realize that you just equated racism with dog and potato, right? Because in the context of this thread, the boring respectful discussion being asked for is literally just not being racist. Like, that's the very low bar being set that you're dismissing with your dog and potato story. Which, again, the thing to do is to walk away instead of commenting about how not being racist is boring and first week of college. And if you're feeling like I misread you, consider that your words do not exist outside the context of this thread and how that influences their appropriateness.
posted by stoneweaver at 1:29 AM on October 29, 2015 [32 favorites]


No, as I see it, Joseph Gurl equated not being racist, also known as respectful discussion, with dog and potato.

Personally, I feel that we should be able to be non-boring and not racist at the same time. It's really not too lofty a goal.
posted by Too-Ticky at 4:07 AM on October 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Have to post this now: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFMZjzXBfEA
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:51 AM on October 29, 2015


link
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:52 AM on October 29, 2015


I think that all the time. About most threads. Because I have little to no patience for the sort of discussion that goes like this: Person A: "something something dog" Person B: "I, too, have a life experience involving a dog and a potato!" Person C: "This one time I was eating a potato..." Person D: "I'm all for potatoes, but check out my dog story!" etc. It reminds me of my first week of college. But that's just me! So who cares? There are other threads.

Thank you for that surreal and confusing comparison, sullied only by comparing people capable of having a respectful discussion with college freshmen. Real adults FIGHT each other, amirite?
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:15 AM on October 29, 2015 [21 favorites]


I also think that Joseph Gurl was using dogs and potatoes in a metaphorical sense, but be that as it is...

Because I have little to no patience for the sort of discussion that goes like this:


The most consistently recurring information-to-learn-from in this thread, (or to keep the analogy in place: the metaphorical dog that pops up everywhere in this thread) is that a single user's patience level is entirely irrelevant as a benchmark for the level of pain and frustration others might experience (and have a right to experience, and have a right to talk about) around a sensitive topic.

Another way of looking at it, mere reading-technically: instead of doggedly [ha] reading from one response to the next, try to extract story lines from a discussion. Even if it were true that people here regularly, and a little too readily, hop from one topic to the next one, there will always be someone who actually returns to topic A and adds something noteworthy (unless topic A was lame to begin with). So a little geographical-overview-quality-strategic reading may actually help here.
posted by Namlit at 7:30 AM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


Real adults FIGHT each other, amirite?

That was one of the really interesting topics that came up in the Emotional Labor thread-- the people who insist that REAL, USEFUL discussions must be couched in terms of disagreement and devil's advocating and pushing ideas to their limits are the ones whose privilege has insulated them from ever suffering any consequences for arguing with people all the time as a form of entertainment.

A discussion that progresses in the form of "oh, interesting, my own experiences have been different, actually, [anecdote]" instead of "THAT IS WRONG I HAVE NEVER SEEN THAT, WHAT IF THE THING YOU THINK IS ACTUALLY THE WORST AND MOST DANGEROUS THING" is therefore interpreted as groupthink or stifling consensus from the perspective of people who have lived their lives feeling safe instigating disagreement/conflict/antagonism without risking anything.

Given how much emotional labor POC are constantly required to perform to appease/interact with white people, that insight seems relevant here. To a person who views U/NO U as the ultimate in meaningful "real" discourse, the less combative/more collaborative discussions that less privileged people often try to foster are inevitably categorized as "boring".
posted by a fiendish thingy at 8:30 AM on October 29, 2015 [47 favorites]


It reminds me of my first week of college. But that's just me! So who cares? There are other threads.

I mean, he's right. There are other threads. So I expect we shouldn't see him in any threads discussing POC in the future, right?
posted by qcubed at 8:38 AM on October 29, 2015 [13 favorites]


To a person who views U/NO U as the ultimate in meaningful "real" discourse, the less combative/more collaborative discussions

Might also be cultural rather than privilege per se - In northern Europe, for eg, the need for consensus can drive you batty in a group meeting context
posted by infini at 8:40 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


That was one of the really interesting topics that came up in the Emotional Labor thread-- the people who insist that REAL, USEFUL discussions must be couched in terms of disagreement and devil's advocating and pushing ideas to their limits are the ones whose privilege has insulated them from ever suffering any consequences for arguing with people all the time as a form of entertainment.

Yeah, exactly. That's what I was referring to up here.

I mean, he's right. There are other threads. So I expect we shouldn't see him in any threads discussing POC in the future, right?

Apart from the drive-by sneer dropped in this thread, yes, that's what I hope is meant.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:43 AM on October 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


Oh, also:

Might also be cultural rather than privilege per se - In northern Europe, for eg, the need for consensus can drive you batty in a group meeting context

In my experience, this frustration usually stems from thinking "consensus" means "100% agreement from everyone on all points", which is often pretty close to unachievable. The union I'm in prefers the definition "no one disagrees so much that they would walk away from this particular goal". Tends to be much more workable.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:45 AM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


I think that all the time. About most threads. Because I have little to no patience for the sort of discussion that goes like this: Person A: "something something dog" Person B: "I, too, have a life experience involving a dog and a potato!" Person C: "This one time I was eating a potato..." Person D: "I'm all for potatoes, but check out my dog story!" etc. It reminds me of my first week of college. But that's just me! So who cares? There are other threads.

Ummmm, okay? But, that has nothing to do with anything that's been discussed here. I have no patience for non-sequiturs, and that's what your comment is. No one here is championing for threads where people don't interact with each other. People are asking for a higher level of discourse so that when Person A begins with a thread about dogs, People B, C, and D can learn something about dogs. They can't do that when other people leave comments that dogs can't exist, because not all pets are dogs. They can't do that when people make unsupported claims that sometimes people are lying about what kinds of animals can be considered dogs. Or that since some people are cat people and other people are dog people, that dogs can't be a topic worth discussing. That's not a discussion about dogs, that's not a discussion about anything. That's a mess.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:50 AM on October 29, 2015 [28 favorites]


Its a side-line of thought but just to illustrate infini's last one,

In northern Europe, for eg, the need for consensus can drive you batty in a group meeting context,

and the answer,

"consensus" means "100% agreement from everyone on all points", which is often pretty close to unachievable.

This exactly is the explanation of why things move so excruciatingly slowly in official Sweden (for one). Consensus in the narrow definition is like an unofficial religion here, and people sit. And talk. And drink coffee. And form committees. And sit some more. (And drink more coffee; bad coffee). Until the sun comes up again in March and nothing has happened except, stuff has gotten rolled out to the flattest common denominator and everyone has gotten elevated levels of blood pressure and acid reflux and forgotten what the issue has been.

Derail over
posted by Namlit at 9:20 AM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


No one here is championing for threads where people don't interact with each other. People are asking for a higher level of discourse so that when Person A begins with a thread about dogs, People B, C, and D can learn something about dogs.

Yeah, exactly. The threads under discussion don't have people moving from dogs to potatoes - it's people who want to have conversations about beagles compared to chihuahuas compared to German Shepherds, and these conversations keep getting derailed and interrupted by people going, "OH DOGS I KNOW DOGS I SAW ONE ONCE!" or "WHAT ABOUT TEH GECKOS!!" or "ARE YOU SURE THAT YOU MEAN DOGS CAUSE I PERSONALLY HAVE NEVER HAD A DOG DO THAT!!"

If you're looking at a thread and thinking it's boring and incomprehensible, moving from dogs to potatoes, maybe consider (to quote GenjiandProust from above), "that there can be debates going on that any given member can't participate in because the debate is at a level of nuance that is beyond [you]."
posted by soundguy99 at 9:30 AM on October 29, 2015 [17 favorites]


I think that all the time. About most threads. Because I have little to no patience for the sort of discussion that goes like this: Person A: "something something dog" Person B: "I, too, have a life experience involving a dog and a potato!" Person C: "This one time I was eating a potato..." Person D: "I'm all for potatoes, but check out my dog story!" etc. It reminds me of my first week of college. But that's just me! So who cares? There are other threads.

Yes I too despise most forms of common human social interaction. I especially hate it in my personal life where it is surely 90% of all conversations I have. I lean back in my chair with my arms crossed and say "Oh yes? Prove it." to people all the time while smugly eyeing them over my monocle. I am the most popular person at every party because I refuse to toe the party line and instead ask people to provide facts and show their work when they want to tell me about their child or their recent promotion or a time someone called them "exotic". I am a devils advocate and a taste maker and an iconoclast who does not merely have "conversations" or "listen to people". I seek to expand their minds through my clever Socratic questioning of the very premises of their lives. Like when someone says "This happened because of racism!" I slowly raise one eye-brow and say "But...did it?" and the person is immediately enlightened and forced to consider things from a different perspective. Occasionally someone might continue to insist on their view point but as long as I keep questioning it I know I'm doing them a good turn. I'm glad I'm able to provide this humble service because obviously the vast majority of people are very simple and had never thought that when something happens maybe it in fact did not happen at all but some other thing instead happened. I like to think I'm doing my little part to sharpen minds and elevate discourse.
posted by supercrayon at 10:22 AM on October 29, 2015 [52 favorites]


No one here is championing for threads where people don't interact with each other. People are asking for a higher level of discourse so that when Person A begins with a thread about dogs, People B, C, and D can learn something about dogs. They can't do that when other people leave comments that dogs can't exist, because not all pets are dogs.

Just want to second this. I am somebody who personally leans far to the side of preferring argument and dissent to cooperative conversation (I was an insufferable devil's advocate in my teenage years and carried around a copy of Das Kapital throughout high school solely to piss off my dad, who I even actually like), but you can't get to the awesome intellectually stimulating part of the discussion if people are going around questioning their fellow conversation partners on their lived experiences and dropping in totally predictable inane derails of the type supercrayon so elegantly lays out above. It's plain boring. You want good conversation or debate, you have to respect the people you're talking to; those are the terms.
posted by thetortoise at 10:41 AM on October 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


Can't you see this barnyard animal dog potato guessing game is tearing us apart???!!
posted by zutalors! at 10:49 AM on October 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


But have you ever really looked at a dog? I mean, really looked at it?
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:13 AM on October 29, 2015 [5 favorites]


namlit, I was actually thinking about a two week project in Sweden when I wrote about being driven batty.
posted by infini at 11:19 AM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Okay, now let's go around and give your name, where you're from, and one interesting fact about yourself. Then I'll show everyone where the laundry room is and how to use your id card at the dining hall.
posted by Chrysostom at 12:19 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


"This exactly is the explanation of why things move so excruciatingly slowly in official Sweden (for one). Consensus in the narrow definition is like an unofficial religion here, and people sit. And talk. And drink coffee. And form committees. And sit some more. (And drink more coffee; bad coffee). Until the sun comes up again in March and nothing has happened except, stuff has gotten rolled out to the flattest common denominator and everyone has gotten elevated levels of blood pressure and acid reflux and forgotten what the issue has been. "

I like to think that despite my oft-voiced frustrations with the consensus model of discussion from my campus anti-war groups, that it's part of why I'm actually pretty good at facilitating meetings now — in my experience, consensus-style decision making requires a pretty strict sense of purpose and scope, and a general focus on what actions should happen after the discussion. "Ok, what actions can you commit to?" is a pretty reliable way of re-railing discussions from squishy issues like e.g. future mission scope. It also tends to weed out general obstacles to consensus. Ferex: the c3 I'm working with doesn't have the resources to live up to their current mission, which is basically improving education for everyone in Central Los Angeles, so we've been working to reframe and focus on things that we can do better than other similar organizations, but that means that we are going to have to do things like stop running a bunch of contests of dubious value — we have a board member who sees that as abandoning some kids who should be served. Which, yeah, but if we're not serving them well… So "What can you commit to?" gets us back from lamenting the inability to fix a billion dollar problem with a hundred thousand in program funding.

"But have you ever really looked at a dog? I mean, really looked at it?"

Fido or "Fido"?
posted by klangklangston at 3:20 PM on October 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


There's also a question of the purpose of the meeting. If you trust all the participants and know each other exceedingly well, you can be fairly brisk but if it's a public large meeting, aka metafilter, then moving towards group consensus means slowly listening to every voice in the room, not only the loudest or strongest, taking time outside of the actual decision meeting to have longer on one or smaller discussions about difficult issues until those are confirmed solved or at least understood to be big enough to need a compromise or change, and so on.

The public meeting is the final step to the entire production but it's not where any of the actual work of an agreement or discussion gets done in my neck of the woods because the format is too vulnerable. The only way a "free and open" discussion would lead anywhere is as part of a much bigger complicated decision framework, otherwise it's a way to let only jerks decide.

Great way to talk! Terrible way to decide anything vital.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:34 PM on October 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'll be honest, 50% of why I moved away from the sort of acid-tongue, I will rip your argument to shreds and leave you with wounds that will take a while to heal style of discourse was because it got really fucking dull.

The purpose of this style is to put the other person in the defensive, to unnerve them, to play "gotcha" games. At it's worst, it becomes a game of subtle goalpost moving, though I tried to avoid most of the fallacies personally (while using them as a rhetorical tool against others). The end result is a reflexive rejection of other peoples' information, skepticism without purpose.

It's very easy from this perspective to think you're being incisive and knowledgeable while actually being unable to see beyond the end of your own nose. New information is immediately put through the shredder, and there's very little that can actually survive; this makes it easy to have the illusion of diversity while enforcing what you believed to be true. I learn more now. It's easier to be wrong. I feel more human, more connected, and I like other people and myself more. It's a different axiom - that in interacting with people one should want all participants to gain and none to lose - but I prefer it to my old "the only valuable information can survive rhetorical bloodsports" perspective where everything became a zero sum game. Most of the world doesn't have to be zero sum, really.
posted by Deoridhe at 3:53 PM on October 29, 2015 [41 favorites]


Fido or "Fido"?

Ceci n'est pas une pup

posted by cortex (staff) at 7:39 PM on October 29, 2015 [17 favorites]


Wow...wasn't intending that to be a sneer or to be about SJ or POC-related threads. Sheesh.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 10:41 PM on October 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


That's what the thread about, though, so maybe then you should not have posted it here.
If it was just free association, then it strikes me as a bit dog potato in and of itself.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:04 AM on October 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


location, location, location
posted by infini at 1:45 AM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Also:

Timing


But if we're now going on about dog taters I'm outta here...
posted by Namlit at 2:07 AM on October 30, 2015


I dont think anybody thought you were sneering. But your comment specifically made reference to most threads, so why shouldn't threads on minority topics fall under that rubric.
posted by polymodus at 2:54 AM on October 30, 2015


I dont think anybody thought you were sneering.

I did, considering it was in direct response to a comment I made about how I've never pined for a straight white dude to pop into a thread to be all contrarian at people. But now it turns out to be a general grouse (I guess?) about how we're not arguing with each other enough, or something. Considering the context of the response, the exasperated "sheesh" is curious. Were we just supposed to divine the true intent of this comment differently somehow, despite what it was responding to? Talk about your dog potatoes.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:33 AM on October 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


And the whole "it reminds me of my first week of college" thing sure seemed like sneering.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:44 AM on October 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


Yeah, if you don't think that you come off as sneering when you tell people, essentially, that their conversation style reminds you of adolescents', then maybe you should have spent less of your first year of college rolling your eyes at your classmates and more of it focusing on your freshman comp class.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:49 AM on October 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


Where Joseph Gurl said "to be a sneer", I interpreted it to mean the mocking smile sometimes used to express contempt. So in their context, I took "sneer" to be a body language word, and that is why I felt that clarifying it as an issue of diction would serve to help Joseph Gurl to better understand some the subsequent comments.

I thought Joseph Gurl's earlier comment was quite disregarding of the importance of experiential discussion. But I thought it was moderated by "But it's just me!" in the same paragraph, which I took to mean "To each their own", which can be somewhat validating (making it harder to interpret a harsh "sneer"). My comment to Joseph Gurl was to suggest that it's not the tone of the comment that was problematic, but - as others have explained - the whole potato and dog model applied to PoC discussions, etc. I'm not even sure what colleges have their frosh orientations talk about metaphorical potatoes and dogs; that would be a completely wrong take-home message.
posted by polymodus at 6:14 AM on October 30, 2015


Wow...wasn't intending that to be a sneer or to be about SJ or POC-related threads. Sheesh.

Wait, are you upset now that people are reacting harshly to your comment? I thought you hated dog-potato threads?

Make up your mind, will you?
posted by qcubed at 6:42 AM on October 30, 2015 [12 favorites]


Joseph Gurl's comment deliberately referenced the "lived experience" framing of lots of SJ/POC comment threads, and especially since "I have that experience as well" can be so validating and interesting when POC people talk to each other, not just being teachers for whites, it's especially sneery and condescending. Often you can just feel like you're the only weirdo having some kind of experience or reaction to that experience, especially since we're post racial or whatever. So if that's not your intention you need to work on how you phrase things. Like a lot.
posted by zutalors! at 7:16 AM on October 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


Metafilter: dog-potato dog-potato dog-potato.
posted by progosk at 8:04 AM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Maybe it was an oblique Spuds MacKenzie reference?

sorry
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 8:11 AM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


And, of course, here we are derailed again by a drive-by dismissive comment. Is it any surprise that people have a harder and time assuming good faith? Maybe, if bad actors just stayed home, there would be more energy for the possibly-mythic "innocent good faith question."
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:25 AM on October 30, 2015 [23 favorites]


Wow...wasn't intending that to be a sneer or to be about SJ or POC-related threads. Sheesh.

Dude . . . . come on.

1) This is a MeTa about how MetaFilter handles PoC-related threads.

2) Many many many people have pointed out that one thing that makes these threads difficult - often to the point of despair - is how often they have to argue (especially about really basic stuff) rather than have a nuanced discussion.

3) Many people have also pointed out that threads about other "SJ-related" stuff tend to have similar problems.

4) You drop in late in the game to make a comment that basically reads as (paraphrasing), "Threads that aren't arguments are boring."

Do you really not get how people are going to then read that comment as a sneer at people wanting to have non-argumentative threads about SJ/PoC topics?
posted by soundguy99 at 8:55 AM on October 30, 2015 [20 favorites]


And, of course, here we are derailed again by a drive-by dismissive comment.

It's worth considering why derails happen, particularly in examples like this one, where it's a single comment that spawns multiple responses. This isn't meant as a slight against one, but as an outside observer, it's fascinating how literally a single comment causes so many problems for a group talking about something. Perhaps it would be better to ignore the derails, especially at this late stage in a thread.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:25 AM on October 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


Guys if malnourished dogs aren't fighting over poisoned potatoes, why even bother
posted by naju at 10:32 AM on October 30, 2015 [2 favorites]


This isn't meant as a slight against one, but as an outside observer, it's fascinating how literally a single comment causes so many problems for a group talking about something. Perhaps it would be better to ignore the derails, especially at this late stage in a thread.

I dunno, point taken, but I think ignoring derails completely sends a message that thoughtless, tone-deaf comments are okay to leave in a thread, and they're not. I think it's a good point to remember that we can call something out without letting the call-out hijack the focus of the thread.
posted by 23skidoo at 11:09 AM on October 30, 2015 [14 favorites]


Yeah, I don't particular care for it when someone drops a drive-by turd in a thread, several people respond, and then someone else pops in to talk about how the responders should have behaved differently. See also: complaints about "dogpiling".
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 11:20 AM on October 30, 2015 [18 favorites]


Pileon is a much nicer word than dogpiling. Pileon looks like it should be pronounced as 'pee-lay-on'.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:37 AM on October 30, 2015 [3 favorites]


Where's Blazecock when we need him?
posted by Chrysostom at 12:57 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


On the Pileon d'Or prize committee, last I heard.
posted by prize bull octorok at 3:07 PM on October 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've complained about pileons in the past, and a lot of that just comes from my own bullshit. At the same time, things really can go far afield. Writing that off as talking about "how the responders should have behaved differently" is a little unfair. I think sometimes a bunch of people respond to the same thing at once - it's not like people shouldn't respond, but there's a cumulative effect that's different solely because of the number of responses. I mean, peoples' responses to shitty comments are generally pretty great, but if there's two dozen of them, things can start get off topic, especially as people start responding to each other.

I'm not trying to suggest that people should behave differently, but just to be aware that this is maybe an issue that comes up because of the way commenting works here.
posted by teponaztli at 4:36 PM on October 30, 2015


so sometimes I think of metafilter's pileon reactions to jackass posts as being, at their best, sort of like an oyster's reaction to a grain of sand; like, metafilter neutralizes irritating problems by building something worthwhile and interesting out of our responses to those problem, ultimately turning what would have been an irritation if it were left alone into a beautiful pearl or whatever.

that said, when I'm metafiltering in a cranky mood (something I'm trying to do less) I'm functionally indistinguishable from a troll, so this may be a self-justifying interpretation of the phenomenon.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 4:38 PM on October 30, 2015


On the other hand, some of us are here for the freaking oyster, and all that irritation gets in the way of developing an oyster that is as strong and vibrant as it otherwise could be. Pearls are basically shiny rocks; oysters are nourishing.

I mean, this analogy is already falling apart, because it's faster to grow an oyster than it is a pearl, and pearls last longer. Instead, think of the interesting, nuanced, complex conversations that we could be having if people didn't feel the need to threadshit now and again and the energy of people taking the topic honestly and with good faith didn't have to be wasted on cleaning the shit out of the thread. Perhaps the pileons are more like an immune system--they do an adequate job of clearing the odd exposure to shit from Metafilter's hypothetical bloodstream, but we can all agree that it would be great if we could just vaccinate ourselves against the more common fecal diseases.
posted by sciatrix at 6:22 PM on October 30, 2015 [13 favorites]


There's sort of a 'Schrodingers Reply' situation. Say nothing and the those marginalized by a drive-by-aggro-dropping feel (correctly) abandoned, and unwelcome in a space that does/says nothing when someone tries to shift the window of discussion to a more aggressive/hostile (and in sooo many of these cases ignorant) position, it also empowers and emboldens more and future others to drop things on the emotional labour of our users; meanwhile, yes, replying to a comment does to some degree amplify the thread shifting comment to some small degree. There may be no 'one right way'. Personally I think people here (I've been lax in pulling my share of the emotional labour in this place for years [all while more and more excellent and top level thinkers have put thousands of hours of labour into keeping this place on a progressive trajectory]) should tip the scale towards some sort of reply. Because it's practically not possible to delete all such 'let me be ignorant and bring this currently excellent insider/higher level discussion down to "common understanding" base level comments before they diminish the day of a marginalized person using the site with personal experiences about a topic (great! You just learned about a topic, read about it for a few months before telling people they are 'well actually doing it wrong' don't worry if a thread closes, topics always come around many times (this connects with my 'news is best posted a month or more after it happens' theory, but eh)—threads don't decide the world, but wrecking/being aggressively ignorant in a thread can deeply impact the lives of people who live the topics under examination which 'you' just learned about), so those comments realistically will show up and even unfortunately stay up (I, like others have greatly appreciated the increased actions of mods [since as users all we have is the "reply" function and playing the ultra cool logic Vulcan is best done by the aggressively ignorant, not those with firsthand knowledge]).

Like others above, I am always amazed at the positive way folks here can reshape nasty gross discussions and aggressive argumentation into new ways of actually resisting the regressive ways of the whole world around us (that is in spite of the nasty comments, I really, really and truly don't think we need the nastiness to 'catalyze' the positive, and further think that we could go so much farther and further into topics were the absurd 'but but buts' reduced, minimized and further sidelined). I deeply dislike that old thing about 'only aggressive inquisitions/"debates" are interesting' it's not true (such discussions also privilege 'data' where data means the things that the colonial institutions have decided to cast their glaring gaze upon). EL thread among others showed positive thread can divine new insights that hostilities would not have.

That's all just to say, kill the comments, Schrodinger, it's ok to open the box and look at what is actually problematic about those comments. And for goodness sake read the native appropriations blog because it's amazing and has got what we need.
posted by infinite intimation at 6:36 PM on October 30, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's worth considering why derails happen, particularly in examples like this one, where it's a single comment that spawns multiple responses.

I think you make a good point.
posted by Drinky Die at 9:40 PM on October 30, 2015


Personally I'd prefer we ignore the crappy one line/drop by comments. I feel like people make them, everyone reacts and then the person often feels validated in victimness. And then everyone speaks for the marginalized in how upset they must be and it's all a bit gross (though it's understandable that people want to react, and I know i do it too). But as a minority voice on the site I'd prefer we err on the side of ignoring. I just think that's another way for people to learn their points are irrelevant.
posted by zutalors! at 9:46 PM on October 30, 2015 [6 favorites]


To be clear, I'd prefer that mods just delete them outright. That's why I got so frustrated and upset, upthread, when I flagged a bunch of derails that would have been fine in any other context but were derailing a post that should have been focused around PoC... and nothing happened at all. I don't think that the "good" that's done by rebutting them in any way outweighs the harm they do to conversation, and if this wasn't MeTa I'd have been aggressively flagging Joseph Gurl's original comment.

I really should use the contact form more for things like that, but I keep finding that every time I use the contact form or try to start a MeTa working on something, I wind up caught up in other things and I have a hard time re-arguing why something is a problem via email. I feel really bad about raising issues via contact form if I'm not going to be able to follow up immediately, especially if it's something that warrants a longer discussion. If the conversation is happening in public, I feel less bad about walking away for a bit... but that's not so good for in-the-moment issues.
posted by sciatrix at 9:51 PM on October 30, 2015 [15 favorites]


There's been this tension between the good that deletion does and the good that community response to objectionable comments does. I really do agree that the latter is valuable in several respects, but I also have come to feel that the hostile atmosphere that objectionable comments create and the very contentious threads that often follow them are a huge problem on MetaTalk. I'm inclined to worry that the harm that this stuff does ends up outweighing the good this stuff does, so I share sciatrix's concerns and am mostly inclined to agree with her about the solution.

However, people do have some good arguments otherwise and so as a more moderate response that we could try first is that the mods be more prone to delete such comments than they presently are, and that both the community and the mods allow a few slapdown comments but otherwise the big, fighty derails that often follow are strongly discouraged.

I very, very strongly feel pretty much the opposite to Joseph Gurl, especially within the context of MetaTalk -- to the degree to which MetaTalk is productive in airing and addressing the concerns such as those expressed in this post, is the degree to which the threads are respectful and cooperative. I've said this before, but while it's true that the few issues that we've improved upon here has come partly as a result of huge, contentious MetaTalk threads, it's also true that every one of those threads has taken a toll on the very people they're intended to be about. I don't think that's acceptable -- we shouldn't sacrifice the marginalized people presently here for the benefit of a future MetaFilter. There has to be a better way to do this.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:10 PM on October 30, 2015 [11 favorites]


This might come in useful at times (oh, a kingdom for a IMG tag)
posted by infini at 3:58 AM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


I think you make a good point.

Since you seem to pretty consistently lend your support to the more unpopular or contrary opinions of any given thread or topic of discussion therein (not speculating on your motives for doing so; just noting a pattern), I'm curious: can you elaborate on what you think makes this a good point? Why is the reaction to threadshits the thing we should be pausing to ruminate on, as opposed to why people feel the need to muck up otherwise fine discussions in the first place?
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:39 AM on October 31, 2015 [9 favorites]


Nah, BB said it fine.
posted by Drinky Die at 7:28 AM on October 31, 2015


I think that it would be useful to consider the power of the mod comment and wonder whether mod dissent (instead of mod deletion) isn't the right answer:

Thread about human behavior:
Person A: speaks up as a woman or minority or trans person about their experience with respect to this behavior.
Person B: speaks up as a majority interest with apparent attempt to shut down minority viewpoint, using some tired trope or another.
Persons C: pileon begins.
Mod: Instead of deleting Person B's comment, it's worth noting that it's against guidelines in these ways. Let's drop this theme and move on.
Persons A, C, and others: Move on.
Possibly after a mod comment, other Persons B's similar comments could be deleted with a mod note.

To me, this represents both respecting the narrative AND making it clear that MetaFilter also stands for whatever social justices are spoken for in the guidelines. It seems less baldly profiteering (of our minority members' time and energies), too.
posted by kalessin at 8:51 AM on October 31, 2015 [17 favorites]


Why is the reaction to threadshits the thing we should be pausing to ruminate on, as opposed to why people feel the need to muck up otherwise fine discussions in the first place?

I haven't followed this MeTa or the original thread closely, just occasional quick reads here and there, so forgive me if I missed something

But Joseph Gurl's comment struck me a something that occurs in the "monkey mind" when meditating. Specifically, when doing Visapanna style meditation, one is troubled by the inability of the mind to be truly quiet. It starts wondering here and there and you lose your focus, pulling yourself out the moment of that quiet contentless. So one of the first things you learn is not to react those actions of your mind, because doing so gives it a power you don't want it have. So you calmly acknowledge that these stray thoughts are happening, but stick to the subject at one (paying attention to your breath) and don't let the monkey mind become the your focus.

It's a ham-fisted analogy and it can't be picked apart in many ways. But what I do see is people intently discussing a subject and then being drawn into something and becoming agitated by that loss of focus. My suggestion here is to ignore those derails, as much as possible. Sure, sometimes, it's good to respond, but try to keep it as quick as possible, with as little derailment as can be managed. After all, if the group is happy discussing X in all in various nuances, then continuing that flavor of the discussion could be a goal to keep the group in or continuing to progressing to a state of happiness and/or enlightenment.

Yep, it's hard to scale this philosophy up to a group level and it probably won't always be successful. But there was always be people attempting to derail a conversation, unconsciously or not. Staying focused on the group topic/goal/whatever you want call may lead to me meaningful discussion.

None of the above should be taken as an indictment or judgement of anyone, nor a belief that deleting derailing comments isn't good at times. It's just a potential tool for keeping discussion focused in amidst derails.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:48 AM on October 31, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'd rather just let the pileon happen. What's being dropped is usually some toxic, toxic shit. The conversation is not happening anymore once that stuff comes out of someone's mouth, because it is a nuclear bomb that entirely obliterates my sense of safety and willingness to share my experiences. It single-handedly hauls the tone of the room from "intimate conversation among PoC" to "awkward holiday dinner with my white friend's FIL." You can't take that back. The conversation is not happening anymore. Might as well make it someone's tough love learning experience, because it's sure not a space for me anymore.
posted by Conspire at 12:47 PM on October 31, 2015 [11 favorites]


I feel kind of the opposite? I think if people want to go "why is this a problem" or "well, this is MY offensive uninformed opinion" or whatever then that should just get instantly deleted.

It gets really tiresome in big, sprawling ongoing event threads like the Michael Brown thread when people just keep waltzing their show ponies in and everyone keeps having to go "uh, NO".

It feels like building a sand castle and every time you're finished and have just started to play with it, some asshole kid comes up and kicks it to pieces. Over and over. Or like the thread is a highway, and every time traffic finally gets unjammed someone doing 100 in a 55 spins out and smashes into the guardrail.

It's one thing to call out shitty comments, but they're usually very very similar shitty comments you could basically copy paste from other similar threads on that specific topic or subtopic.

What it comes down to i guess, is that i get really burned out on the righteous callouts when it's people fielding the same goddamn bullshit. This has been getting better, and i've seen quite a few [we're not going to be doing that one here] modnotes in threads... but i often feel like quoting certain recurring derail-y comments and just going "no" or "nah" with no elaboration.

I dunno, sometimes 12 people replying to explain why someone posting something utterly fucking outrageous is wrong feels like almost as much of a threadshit as the original crappy post, even if they're, to extend my metaphor, cars that spun out swerving to avoid the reckless driver. I've written plenty of those comments myself, but sometimes you're reading a decent thread and suddenly there's 4 screens of scrolling that are almost entirely back to back comments about someones turd they left.

Sometimes i feel like there's this investment in certain spaces with having the fight, rather than just kicking a shitty disruptive person out to prove that we don't stand for that or something. And it makes the site(s, this isn't just a here problem but i am talking about here) hard to read sometimes, even if i've learned good things from those responses. The threads where people just share there, even painful, experiences are often much easier to read than the ones where the informative sharing and bonding happens over fighting back at some butthead.
posted by emptythought at 1:23 PM on October 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


We minorities come to this space, MetaFilter, having fought these fights hundreds or thousands of times in our own lives. That they are new or newish to MetaFilter speaks more to MetaFilter's and the mod team's privilege of having not had to fight these battles before.

For those of we MeFites from the US, we come to MetaFilter seeking respect and civility and the promise the mod team implies is rather like the words from the Statue of Liberty, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" (from The New Colossus, the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty)

That our community and our mod team do not consistently deliver on the idea of providing justice and safe spaces is more the pity than the virtue. And this is why, dear friends, I often consider leaving, once again, because I come seeking solace and solace is not often what I get.
posted by kalessin at 2:05 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


It's a ham-fisted analogy and it can't be picked apart in many ways. But what I do see is people intently discussing a subject and then being drawn into something and becoming agitated by that loss of focus. My suggestion here is to ignore those derails, as much as possible.

I think it is bizarre to compare an individual's mind engaging in a very specific task with a community attempting to have a discussion. The entire point of the former is to remain focused on whatever the item is of choice - be it counting, breathing, mindfulness, fire, a word, whatever. The entire point of the latter is to engage, broaden, deepen, and discuss. You are asking people to pointedly not engage only with things which reinforce and perpetuate biases. I do think flagging is better than piling on, but in the absence of a delete a response is better than ignoring. Ignoring sends the message that what was said is either normal or approved of by the community.

I feel kind of the opposite? I think if people want to go "why is this a problem" or "well, this is MY offensive uninformed opinion" or whatever then that should just get instantly deleted.

That's been happening in a bunch of threads, often with a nice mod-note. I've enjoyed it personally. I think we can still do better, but this is good.
posted by Deoridhe at 2:49 PM on October 31, 2015 [7 favorites]


Internet synergy: Right after i posted that comment, i clicked next in my other browser tab and this loaded.
posted by emptythought at 3:03 PM on October 31, 2015 [4 favorites]


Personally, I think the ideal situation post-threadshit is a mod delete 'n' note, but that doesn't always happen. The single "worst" thing about a pileon is things getting repetitious/deraily, but I think even that pales in comparison in terms of Not Good For The Thread to the turd squeezed out on the thread in the first place. Plus it conveys the message that this isn't just one or two people taking issue with the comment, but rather a bunch of people; that it's the kind of behavior that grates against the conversation, and isn't just some personal grudge between two people. That's why I think the concern about pileons is misplaced. I mean, I get what the concerns are, I just think perspective is important.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 3:11 PM on October 31, 2015 [6 favorites]


The problem I have with the emergent pileon dynamic is sometimes it doesn't emerge and then it's one lone social justice person getting piled on by a bunch of privileged folks. Which sucks. Which is why I think mod notes are sometimes essential.
posted by kalessin at 3:18 PM on October 31, 2015 [14 favorites]


I'm also in the 'delete it with a mod note' camp.

I don't expect to find an open web community where everyone always understands everything right off. I think it's unrealistic to expect a place where no one throws a drive-by bomb into anything.

Swift deletions with a mod note make it feel like bad behavior isn't okay here, and that good discussion will be supported and encouraged despite that.

I'm not in favor of the 'let the pileon happen' model because it cedes too much power to problem users - they'll learn just as much seeing their comments taken out as they will from a dozen eloquent replies. (Which is to say, 'nothing,' as far as I'm concerned.)

Upon preview, I cannot favorite this hard enough either:
The problem I have with the emergent pileon dynamic is sometimes it doesn't emerge and then it's one lone social justice person getting piled on by a bunch of privileged folks. Which sucks. Which is why I think mod notes are sometimes essential.
posted by mordax at 3:24 PM on October 31, 2015 [14 favorites]


[One comment deleted. Don't pick a fight here. If you want there to be more posts about something that you think is under-represented on the site these days, go ahead and make posts about that.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:36 PM on November 2, 2015 [7 favorites]


This is another situation where I bow out of a thread and find all this stuff has gone on in my absence. There's a huge lack of consensus in what cultural appropriation is and where lines are drawn. That lack of consensus (or even acceptance of the idea) will always ensure that these threads are never a "safe space" for people to have their own beliefs validated, which is why "safe spaces" exist in the first place.
posted by deanc at 8:56 AM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


It looks like you're a white dude, from a cursory glance at your profile. Have you ever personally needed a safe space? No? So how do you know why they exist, and how do you know why marginalized people need them?

Ignoring, of course, the fact that MeFi ain't a safe space. But your potshot there, man, that's pretty blatant as dogwhistles go.
posted by sciatrix at 9:06 AM on November 6, 2015 [16 favorites]


ctrl f "safe space"-- you're the only one using those words in the entire 2 threads and 1000+ comments in them.

well. and now us. to address the fact that it's crap.
posted by twist my arm at 9:09 AM on November 6, 2015 [16 favorites]


This is another situation where I bow out of a thread and find all this stuff has gone on in my absence. There's a huge lack of consensus in what cultural appropriation is and where lines are drawn. That lack of consensus (or even acceptance of the idea) will always ensure that these threads are never a "safe space" for people to have their own beliefs validated, which is why "safe spaces" exist in the first place.

A safe space is not the same as an echo chamber, though.

Safe spaces exist not to validate beliefs, per se, but to allow certain groups to discuss subjects without feeling either marginalized or attached by the mainstream. A safe space may request trigger warnings so those participating can feel comfortable. It may strive to remain free of harmful stereotyping.

Metafilter is not a safe space. The mods have explicitly said so. But we do have community norms and a general understanding that communication should remain free of slurs and personal attacks. Those norms change over time, as consensus is reached about certain words or topics. Reaching consensus is often an organic process, so discussions about whether something exists, if it's a problem here as well as how, why and when it might be addressed, are all a part of how this place works.
posted by zarq at 9:12 AM on November 6, 2015 [12 favorites]


Lack of consensus is not the issue.

And... people are asking for mutual respect and recognition of lived experiences. I'm not sure how you've managed to construe this as not letting people validate their beliefs.
posted by halifix at 9:42 AM on November 6, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think safe spaces are important where people can feel listened to and validated without having someone argue with you and being very sensitive to your needs. But MeFi is not that place.

But we do have community norms and a general understanding that communication should remain free of slurs and personal attacks.

I didn't see that happening on the previous thread. "You are wrong"/"No, YOU are wrong!"/"You are doing something bad and you should feel bad" can sometimes become unhelpful, but it's not something outside of MeFi norms.
posted by deanc at 10:04 AM on November 6, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ok but what if instead of all of us covering this ground again, you could read the thread. Because you are not making novel statements here. They have been discussed here at length and in other threads as well. Frankly, it seems like maybe stirring this up into a negative unproductive fight would be a detriment and we could skip it.
posted by stoneweaver at 10:07 AM on November 6, 2015 [19 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not sure where you're going with this, deanc, but it kinda feels like you're just jumping to the end to say a thing that you feel like saying; there was a huge complicated discussion in here that the thing you're saying doesn't seem to really be about at all, so it's a frustrating way to revive a thread out of nowhere.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:09 AM on November 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


Let me just repeat what hali said:

And... people are asking for mutual respect and recognition of lived experiences. I'm not sure how you've managed to construe this as not letting people validate their beliefs.

For fuck's sake. Do we have to go around and around with the echo chamber accusations every goddamn time we have a conversation like this? Do I have to link to kalessin's excellent comment about this exact issue again? What is wrong with you that you think basic respect for the emotions and experiences of marginalized people is the same thing as erasing all dissent?
posted by sciatrix at 10:09 AM on November 6, 2015 [14 favorites]


deanc,

I'm just going to point you to this, because it seems clear that you don't seem to understand or empathize with anything anyone has been saying. Probably because it doesn't affect you at all.

Next time, if you're going to come waltz in and leave verbal droppings, please at least do us the favor and try to make them less artless.
posted by qcubed at 3:00 PM on November 6, 2015 [6 favorites]


"You are wrong"/"No, YOU are wrong!"/"You are doing something bad and you should feel bad" can sometimes become unhelpful, but it's not something outside of MeFi norms.

Honestly, I think tradition is a horrible reason to not raise the bar for discussions of serious topics like racism and cultural appropriation. Let's make a new MetaFilter norm where we encourage people to not do the kinds of behavior outlined by Conspire in this MetaTalk which made the cultural appropriation thread suck so much. It would make MetaFilter have richer/deeper/more-nuanced/more-interesting conversations with regards to race and cultural appropriation, it would make MetaFilter a better place for POC, and wouldn't make MetaFilter a worse place for anyone (except for people who actively want discussions on race and cultural appropriation to only exist on a bickering level).
posted by 23skidoo at 3:36 PM on November 6, 2015 [9 favorites]


yay another cultural appropriation thread. not a shit storm but the same old "i don't see what the problem is. also free speech."
posted by twist my arm at 4:16 PM on November 6, 2015


The Castaneda thread was icky too. Lies and blatant appropriation excused by nostalgia and the appeal to the fact that that the people who enjoyed it anyway, enjoyed it.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:16 PM on November 6, 2015


SO two cents: I just joined Metafilter like yesterday, and the major reason I did so is because of the moderation I saw in the Emotional Labor thread. So if we're (you're) talking mod policies, perhaps that could be taken as an example.

There was one derail early on, with people saying "well you don't have to [send birthday cards or whatever]", which seems equivalent to the "well I don't get how this is a problem" derails. As I saw it, one, it didn't dominate the conversation (it didn't get an answer*) until two or three people had doubled down on it; two, there were no derails afterwards, which I presume means they were modded out; three, because of that, the conversation flowed around it. People kept the thread of conversation up alongside, before, and after the derail.

*I mean, I'm personally happy the question got addressed, because I was enlightened by the answer. But the fact is, addressing a derailing comment not only allows it to dominate that moment of conversation; it acknowledges it as part of the conversation. If it's a question, answering the question does not end that line of inquiry; it gives it traction.

(Another community I was in had an unspoken rule, that a comment of that nature would get no response until someone doubled down. Less like "shit in the punch bowl", more like "puff of smoke". If it's a single puff of smoke, it'll clear out of the room; we can keep talking and valiantly ignore it. If someone lit up a cigarette, though, and people are coughing and choking, you gotta put that shit out. Which, you know, that's not MeFi, I get that.)

I don't really have standing to comment on the race threads more specifically. It's (evidently) a different situation. But I hope that's helpful.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 5:25 AM on November 8, 2015 [10 favorites]


(to add, yes, that Emotional Labor thread is still paying out dividends months later. I found it just last week. :D)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 5:26 AM on November 8, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why do white dudes always think their boring, boring derails, opinions, and questions are always welcome and necessary?

Should we start labeling threads with "No person of [ethnicity]/[gender]/[orientation] need post"?
posted by HiroProtagonist at 7:21 PM on November 8, 2015 [1 favorite]


Nope. Ideally, that kind of restraint would be furnished by people's own self-control. I guess you're saying that self-control is too much ask?
posted by Miko at 7:23 PM on November 8, 2015 [22 favorites]


followup on the yale/cultural appropriation/racism thread-- LM is doing a bangup job of keeping the end of the thread clean. it's a very slow thread and yet (first one is cortex's, about half-way through):
[Comment removed, the "they're trained victims" thing is a bad road that we do not need to go down here.]

[One comment deleted. Sarcastic exaggeration won't make a difficult conversation go better; if you have a critical point to make, please just make it in straightforward terms.]

[The point about the students' tone has been made, and this is ground we've been over many times ("these protesters sure are angry") so at this point, let's move back over to the substance?]

[Couple of comments deleted. If you want to talk about moderation, come over to the contact form or Metatalk. If your comment amounts to "discussion on this issue could be improved", be the change you want to see and offer comments that will lead us toward good discussion.]

[Couple comments deleted. If you feel compelled to comment in here in a way that's transparently going to provoke a big fight, please skip the thread.]

[Another comment deleted. Mr Justice: I'm not sure why you're so very determined to criticize these students but at this point, I'm giving you a day off from the site. Leave this issue alone from now on.]
there are lots of straight white men and women who don't need this spelled out for them but then they're not shitting up threads so they won't be complaining about their inability to participate.

i take Rainbo Vagrant's (and some other folks earlier) point that ignoring the single crap comments that scrape by can make the thread readable. that's my ideal, plus a smidge of response before everyone moves on. but this was a good example of when that's not possible, and then you need good mod notes and a firmer hand, which they provided.
posted by twist my arm at 8:21 PM on November 8, 2015 [14 favorites]


Seconding. I'm grateful for LobsterMitten's moderation in that thread.
posted by naju at 8:30 PM on November 8, 2015 [4 favorites]


LobsterMitten certainly is doing a bang-up job, but at the same time it's pretty depressing to see those deletion reasons. Like this is what we're going to have to contend with every time we have this conversation. Amazing to me that basic tact and respect flies out the window when someone has a Very Important Point that simply must be reiterated as if we haven't already heard it and taken it apart a jillion times before.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 6:45 AM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


To quote BSG:
"All this has happened before, and all of it will happen again."

White people love to pontificate about what should and shouldn't be offensive to non-white people. They also like to think that whatever turd they're leaving in the punchbowl is somehow unique and novel and truly deep shit, without realizing that no, we've all seen it before. That's not going to change in the next twenty or thirty thousand FPPs about this stuff, so.
posted by qcubed at 11:51 AM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


Should we start labeling threads with "No person of [ethnicity]/[gender]/[orientation] need post"?

Nah.

More context.
posted by qcubed at 12:01 PM on November 9, 2015


I'm wondering if at this point in all of these threads if I should just turn super-self-referential and just link to something someone's posted before? I mean, I don't think it'll change the minds of most of the white people who want to post without thinking, since obviously they didn't read, but.
posted by qcubed at 12:03 PM on November 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


When we play minecraft and other collaborative open-world exploring and harvesting and crafting games, the folks I play with (many from here or MeFightClub the videogaming spin-off), and for example, we unearth a huge lake of lava, or tunnel through suspended rock that's a long fall from the earth, we use signs.

The signs say things like "WARNING: LAVA HERE" or "Look for this pattern of torches. DANGER AHEAD." or whatever. And I have to wonder who's not putting signs up for the folks who show up to yet again repeat some tired horrible reactive piece of advice or abjectly emotional lash-out in response to our discussions here.
posted by kalessin at 12:44 PM on November 9, 2015 [4 favorites]


And I have to wonder who's not putting signs up for the folks who show up to yet again repeat some tired horrible reactive piece of advice or abjectly emotional lash-out in response to our discussions here.

I mean, I'm thinking that it's more that even though all the signs are there, in triplicate, in multiple different formats and languages, the folks who show up to repeat what has already been done before are like drunken teenagers driving down a dark country road.

There are signs. They just don't give a fuck. Because they've got it all figured out. And they're invincible.

We just happen to be the people who get hit.
posted by qcubed at 1:13 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


"Those signs are just for the morons who don't know how to OH GOD I'M MELTING WHY IS THIS LAVA SO HOT--"
posted by Etrigan at 1:28 PM on November 9, 2015 [5 favorites]


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