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Incident-focused racism

LONG REPLY on why he makes sense to me: [link lost to time]

This is on us. We rise to every new incident – INCIDENT – with “he/she/that’s racist!” so we get trapped in the smallness of the incident rather than regularly thinking about or focusing on the whole.

ALL whites are racist. ALL Americans are imperialists. ALL men are sexist. ALL straights are heterosexist. Etc. etc.

That’s the reality but if you read that and winced, got uneasy, or wanted to rush out a message saying NO WAY, YOU DON’T MEAN ME, then you’ve experienced what this man experienced when some online stranger sought to trump his own lived experience with Paula.

We have whites in our lives whom we excuse from “racist.”


(ONE) Isn’t it possible that we do not see ourselves in these labels because repeat misuse, regular diminishing to INCIDENTS keep us from seeing others and ourselves in the bigger picture? Isn’t it because we’ve only been taught to pull out the labels to describe (and whip!) the missteps of caught actors (Paula Deen today, some Republican tomorrow) rather than the structures within which they repeatedly occur?

(TWO) The labels have become worthless. In the way that “bitch” popularly used not to describe a female dog but a woman. In the way “faggot” no longer refers to burning bundles of sticks. Is it possible that we need another language to describe what is happening around us daily – the collective experience rather than the gotcha! incident – to get into people’s minds the notion of “-ist as inherited privilege”?

We need to stop hating on (i.e., the “Sambo!” comment above) men like him and discuss, one, why such personal experiences are trotted out for public consumption and affirmation and, two, we fall so regularly for incident-focused discussions of -isms such that the sentiments of men like him resonate.

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