sketches of whiteness overseas
March 29, 2009 § 6 Comments
1. went out last night. met new people. had a great time. woke up this morning with a realization. in white culture it is okay to talk about race, ie arab culture, sudanese culture, african culture, etc. but if you talk about white culture or racism (which is the definition of white culture) then your intent is obviously to make white folks feel uncomfortable. you could not just be some one interested in culture. especially in white culture which is fascinating in the fact that white culture’s existance is about domination. just on a theoretical level.
2. like if i ask: how did you overcome your racism…to a white person….they think i am serious. they dont know i am joking. i dont expect them to have. and still be white. white folks are so weird.
3. like i get in the elevator to go home. and there is this white guy there who has been sitting with us for a couple of hours. and seriously i thought he was cool. but he’s not. he is aryan nation boy #2. (aryan nation boy #1 is the kid who looked like i had attacked him because he had a degree in war studies and i was like: what kind of war did you study? then i asked him a bunch of other questions. including: how did you overcome your racism. considering that most wars happen in brown and black people parts of the world. and basically discovered that the kid was all theory no practice and not very interesting to boot) anyways aryan nation boy #2 is in the elevator with habibi and i and says: you bring up race in inappropriate moments.
a. there is no such thing as an innappropriate moment to bring up race.
b. in the conversation he was talking about i hadnt been the one to bring it up. a white chick did. but of course he decided i did since i was the black chick
c. he brought it up in the elevator because he wouldnt have dared say that with a group of people at the table. coward.
d. we were talking about aryan nation boy #1. who wasnt even there. it was just a funny story.
what i say is: oh really?
and he starts talking about how accused him of being racist when he talked about his imaginary wife and kids. and i never did anything of the sort.
so great. he’s paranoid aryan nation boy. charming.
4. so i have decided im not talking about race with white folks. im not even going to joke about it. im going to do what the other people of color did at the table. at first when the poc were in the majority everyone was talking about being ethnic and sharing stories and yeah race and jobs and traveling and life. and then the table became majority white. and i continue to be myself. but the rest of the poc slowly but surely – their body language – get uncomfortable with the same type of conversation now that we are minorities again.
i know that automatic act of quieting down. its a survival skill of poc around whiteness. because you can say something funny or innocuous, witty or serious. but white folks because they feel ‘racialized’ (ie victimized) by your acknowledgement of their whiteness. act out of their ‘victimhood’ by claiming that you attacked them.
which is funny because white folks dont have a problem talking about other cultures and ethnicities. they do it all the time. but if a poc racializing a white person is seen as an ‘attack’ then what does that say about what white folks are doing to poc when white folks talk about race or culture?
and that lack of reciprocity in the relationship between whites and poc is the very definition of racism.
its all so weird.
5. so it gets weirder when you are sitting in a country full of brown people. and white folks still think it is an attack to talk about whiteness but they are talking about egyptians as a category of people. and arabs. and africa.
its like the height of ex-pat hubris.
in which white folks get to define what is and what is not appropriate conversation when it comes to race. and that very act of definition, the veto power that white boys assume they have because they should not feel uncomfortable is incredible.
6. because listening to a bunch of white folks talk about brown and black people (and all the euphemisms used to do so) is uncombfortable for me. but obviously they dont mean it to be.
and intent matters right? wrong. it dont matter that much.
7. and so i think about this with my daughter. who is the embodiment of beauty and joy and laughter. and angst and demands and defiance. and how i have to teach her how to listen and how to speak. how to walk into a room full of confidence not dominance. how to define her boundaries and her reach. and that no one and i mean no one has the right to define her expressing her vision of the world as inappropriate.