Posts tagged ‘white guilt’

09/28/2012

Racial Harmony in America.

So, after a long nightmare of having Time Warner cable service, I had finally had enough of channels disappearing, garbled audio, and staticky picture on channels as simple as ABC. I swear to you, and I am not exaggerating, I called Time Warner’s customer service line more often than I called anyone else. It was ALWAYS at the top of my recent calls. They are simply the worst. I don’t know why I toughed it out for so long because I barely watch television, but I did.

But that’s all over now. I canceled the service. Good riddance. I hate them with the power of about a third of the sun.

So, I was left with two choices:

  1. Have no cable television whatsoever and save money.
  2. Get DirecTV.

I was leaning heavily towards having no cable. I’d done it before for around two years. The only drag is not being able to watch live sports on ESPN or SNY or YES or MSG. Was it really worth it to pay for cable just so I can watch something as silly and meaningless as sports?

Well, when you add DirecTV’s Sunday ticket, for free, hell yeah it’s worth it. For signing up for two years, I got a year of Sunday ticket free. Awesome.

So I go online and set up an installation. I only realized afterwards that this might be a problem. My landlord has been renovating both the interior and exterior of the building for about the last three months. It’s endless. Every morning I wake up to the sound of hammers and saws cutting through something. Only now, though, has the exterior of the house finally come close to completion. And now, with DirecTV, I had to ask my landlord if it would be okay for me to bolt a giant dish to his house.

This is kind of what the back of the house looks like now.

It didn’t go well.

He wanted nothing to do with it being on the house. He didn’t mind it being somewhere else, but on the house he just spent months renovating? I completely understood his position, and figured, “Screw it. I don’t need cable.” I called DirecTV to cancel. They told me not to worry about it and let the technician come and see what he could do. My landlord said to call him and ask before they did anything.

So the technician comes over and suggests putting it on the roof of the garage, which had not been renovated. All he and his partner would have to do is run a wire along existing phone wires. Perfect. But still, my landlord was resistant. He was against putting even a single new line into the house. I’m on the phone with him trying to explain how simple it would be, but he’s not having it. He’s Russian (a Russian Jew, and there are many Russian Jews in the area), and he speaks English much like many other Russian men speak English: he yells it. So, I’m standing there on the phone trying to reason with a man who’s yelling at me, and the technician and his partner are just waiting with their hands on their hips. Eventually, my landlord is tired of yelling English at me, and he asks to talk to the technician.

I hand over the phone, the technician says exactly what I said, and after a minute, we have clearance to put one single hole into the house. Awesome.

I get back on the phone with my landlord and he says to me, “Is he a black guy?”

I was NOT expecting that question, but I answered truthfully, “Um… yeah. Yes he is.”

“See, black guys they don’t care about the work. He’s going to make a mess. I don’t need him putting four holes in my house. You need to watch him and make sure he doesn’t mess anything up.”

I started to laugh at how fantastically racist all that was, but I was a little worried about my own part in this process. I don’t need the blame if this guy makes a mistake. I say, “How am I supposed to make sure he doesn’t make a mistake? Once he makes the mistake, he makes it. I can’t unmake it.”

“Just watch him. Make sure he doesn’t drill like four holes in the house.”

“Um, okay. I’ll do what I can.” Which was literally nothing.

So, I hang up and walk up to the technician. What do I say? Well, I tell him exactly what my landlord said, about the whole black guys doing bad work, and explained that this was probably why he was giving us such a hard time. The look on the guy’s face was perfect. It was a great blend of “WTF” and “Oh, now it makes sense, I’ve gotten this dozens of times before.” I start laughing and just shrug my shoulders, and he shakes his head. We start walking back into the house, and he asks me, “Well what the hell is he? Pakistani or something?”

“Nah, man. He’s a Russian Jew.”

“Oh a Jew? They’re the worst. That explains it. I don’t know why they’re so mad at us. Black people didn’t do nothing to them. They need to be mad at the Muslims. They’re the ones trying to kill them.”

Wonderful. I just stand there laughing, enjoying the beautiful racism these gentlemen are throwing around. It’s really interesting to watch it be exposed like that. It’s not often you get to see it that honest, that removed from political correctness. It’s like seeing a deer in the wild. You know they’re in the woods, but you don’t see them all that often. When you do, you just kind of have to slow down and take in the moment.

So, the technician motions to his partner and he asks if he heard what I said. The partner is dark-skinned, definitely some kind of Indian/Arabic lineage (I didn’t ask him to specify). I told him what my landlord said and the guy, with a face which would have been expressionless were it not for an ever-so-slight angry sneer, just shook his head and said, “He’s lucky he’s not here right now.”

Yikes.

Ah. Now I know what Towers you’re talking about.

Then he tells me a story about how earlier in the day, he was installing something for some white lady. He was outside of her window running some wires, and he overhears part of the woman’s conversation with another man in the house. He heard the woman say something to the effect of, “down the towers.” He only caught part of it. The man she was speaking to said, “The towers? What towers are you talking about?” The lady answered that question by simply pointing at the Indian/Arabic guy working to make sure she can watch Cupcake Wars. Oh, those Towers. Right.

I ask the guy, “Really? That’s insane. It was that obvious?”

“Yeah. But, what can I do? If I confront the lady or say anything back, she could complain and I could lose my job. I couldn’t really do anything.”

“Wow. That is just awful.”

With that, the three of us fell into an awkward silence. Not much else could have been said. The technician told me where he was going to run the wires, and I asked him how he was going to do it. He started to explain, and now I have DirecTV. It’s awesome.

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04/09/2012

Why white people need to stop complaining about George Zimmerman being described as white.

I received the following response to my post about Phil Taylor’s take on the Miami Heat and Trayvon Martin. I started to respond, but when I got to over 700 words, I figured I should make a post for it on its own.

Nice article by Taylor but I noticed he described the person that did the shooting as “caucasian and latino descent”. That is so typical. If the shooter had developed the cure for cancer he would have been described as being of “latino descent” and nothing else but since he was involved in shooting an African American they mentioned the “caucasian” part. How often is our President described as “caucasian and african american descent”. – Matt, commenter

I’m not entirely certain what the point you’re trying to make is, but I’ve narrowed it down to two possibilities. One, you’re trying to talk about how stupid it is to refer to people by their race in the first place. Two, you’re upset about how white people are being treated unfairly when it comes to their race. One of these points is good, and the other is insignificant at best and insulting at worst.  I’ll respond to both, just in case.

To your first potential point, yes. It is awfully stupid to bring up race at all. It doesn’t matter in objective space, but the world is not objective. If there were no racists, then there would never be a need to bring it up. The problem is that there are still racists, and from what I can tell, their number is significant.

Zimmerman, the caucasian hispanic white latino dude. Or something like that.

Ultimately, you’re right. The president isn’t black. He’s mixed, and I certainly think of him that way. But, in this country, there has been a long history of institutionalizing the idea that people can be racially “impure.” If a person had seven great grandparents who were white, if the final one was black, that person could be made a slave in the 1830’s (look up the term octoroon). If that same person lived in the 1930’s and had the appearance of a black person, he or she would have had to drink from a different water fountain. So, for centuries, referring to mixed race peoples as non-white, not white, or something OTHER than white was built into this country’s culture by racist white people. They disowned the racially impure, putting people of mixed race into a weird kind of identity limbo. Barack Obama could have been a slave, and he wouldn’t have been in class with my grandparents. So, the cultural practice of disowning the whiteness of mixed people was created by racist white people in the first place. And, since whites in this country set up that kind of cultural norm, and since whites have set and continue to set the norms for America, it became accepted by just about everyone.

Does everyone know what races mixed in order to produce Tiger Woods? Nope. Does everyone know he's "not white"? Yup.

Now that we’re less openly racist and hostile to minorities, it seems silly for whites to not embrace biracial or multi-racial people into their own race. Tiger Woods isn’t black, he’s a bunch of different races. Derek Jeter isn’t black. He’s both black and white. But, biracial or multi-racial people in this country have been treated as “not white” for decades past and still today in the present. If they’ve been told that they are “not white” for that long, how will they racially self-identify? When that biracial person was just a random guy on the street, he was black. When a biracial person was riding a bus, she had to be in the back. When a biracial person wanted to drink at a fountain, she had to use the one that said “colored.” When a biracial person wanted to date a white person, most parents in the 50’s definitely weren’t saying, “Oh, that’s not a problem he’s half-black.” My parents didn’t tell me (as a white kid) that it wasn’t okay to date black girls, but biracial girls were fine. The racist paradigm in this culture was quite clear: you’re only white if you’re “purely” white. There are white people, and everyone else is a minority.

So, when a biracial person contributes positively (as in Obama or other biracial people), and white people try to claim half of him or her, you can bet that minorities aren’t exactly thrilled. They’re insulted, and they should be. All this time being biracial has meant “not white,” and now that this biracial person is a success, he or she gets welcomed into whitedom? Before their success they were anonymous and a minority, but now they’re part of the family? It’s like white people trying to say the only reason the biracial person (who was previously just a black dude) succeeded was because of the whiteness in him. That may not be what the white people are trying to say, but that’s certainly the way it comes out.

This all seems rather stupid, right? It should be simpler than this. But it’s not. It’s as complicated as the context it is in. Race is a weird thing in this country, and it’s great when people are willing to speak honestly and openly about it without jumping behind the “HEY THAT OFFENDS ME” rhetoric. We’re not going to get past this racist nonsense unless we talk about it seriously, and that’s why I think you’re making a good point if you’re trying to point out that this whole “race” thing is just stupid on its face. It shouldn’t matter if someone is 1/8th or 7/8ths black, or 1/2th white and 1/2 latino. It’s all objectively irrelevant.

But, the same reason you’re right in the first scenario is the same reason you’re wrong if you meant something different. Considering that white people created, fostered, nurtured, and (at least in small part) went to war with each other to protect the exact kind of racism and racial social norms that you’re condemning, you’re making a rather insignificant and feckless point.

White people were never treated this way just because of the color of their skin.

The racial inequality you’re complaining about was put into place by white people. People who are half latino and half white identify themselves as “latino” because for the last four hundred years of this country’s history, white people have been telling these biracial folks that they aren’t white. They’re something else. So, when they succeed (cure cancer, as you suggest), if they self-identify as latino and not white, I totally get that. And you should, too. It’s the system white people have created.

Now can this at times backfire against white people, as in this case where white people don’t want Zimmerman associated with them? Sure. Is it fair to white people? Not really. Should we stop it with this racist nonsense because it only divides America instead of unifying it? Absolutely. But suggesting that white people are equally, with all other races, the victims of racism in this country is just ridiculous. The only people who make that argument, from what I can tell, are just racist white people cloaking their racism under the term “reverse-racism.” Of course racism against whites exists. It would be stupid to deny that, and it’s not something we should ignore. But, complaints about it aren’t very compelling considering the inordinate racism against blacks and other minorities that still exists today. Complaining about racism against white people is like complaining about a paper cut on your finger when the guy next to you just had his arm blown off. There’s no equivalence, and you look rather silly to a doctor.

So yeah, if that was the point you were trying to make, you’ve got a lot of work still ahead of you.

In the case of Phil Taylor’s piece, though, and thinking about the journalistic aspect of it, Zimmerman was originally referred to in police reports as white. That meant that initial media reports were that he was white, and white only. Once it became clear that this was not the case, it’s good journalism to be as clear as possible when discussing Zimmerman’s race. Taylor couldn’t have just said he was “latino” because technically that’s just not true, and there’s already confusion about it since the police made an error in their preliminary reports. So, considering the general confusion that already surrounded the situation, setting the record straight and being as accurate as possible is necessary—especially considering how people are so sensitive to the issue of race, as evidenced by you yourself.

Thanks for reading, Matt! Hope to see you back here!

-Keane.