Perspectives on Race & Racism #13: Nigerian. American. Christian.

We need to have a conversation about race.

How would you describe yourself?

This question is too big to answer. I’m black/African-descent, Ibibio tribe/ethnicity with a Nigerian-American culture. I’m Christian as well.

How would you define racism?
Prejudice + Power, Bias + Power in Action

What frustrates you the most about racism and/or racists?
We don’t have the same definition of race, so you can’t use the word or people are offended when it is applied to them. Ultimately, the frustration is that people don’t know that racism exists.

What are the most apparent differences between your home country’s issues and the issues of race and racism here in the states?

Biggest difference is race doesn’t matter [there]. We have tribalism. But being black doesn’t mean you are all one and the same people.

Continue reading “Perspectives on Race & Racism #13: Nigerian. American. Christian.”

One White Person’s Opinion on White Identity, White Privilege, and White Supremacy

We need to have a conversation about race.

A few months ago, I asked a few friends (of all races) to share their perspectives on race, power, and privilege.

You can read them here if you’d like.

A few weeks after that, I asked a few friends (who are white) if they’d share their perspective on white identity development, white supremacy, and white privilege.

I was a little nervous about asking because… umm… white supremacy?

No thanks, I’ll pass!

But low and behold, someone was actually willing.

If you are new to my site, I just want to give you a little context for the discussion.

I hope you’ll stay; I hope you’ll join me.

ONE: Outrage to Reform is somewhat of a personal/public diary, mixed with a few fun facts now and then.

When I started it, it was a hobby so that I could write more and write more often.

Now I use it to work through my thoughts and feelings on race, power, privilege, anger and productivity.

TWO: Perhaps understandably so, not everyone is interested in learning about race. Some people think race isn’t real, or that it doesn’t matter, or that people use it to scapegoat or play “the race card” when it suits them.

I’m a person of color born in the south, so I tend to disagree with these assertions. But the purpose of this blog isn’t to argue with you about it. The purpose is to be open to the conversation.

(Which you can do in the privacy of your home. LOL. I’ve disabled the comments intentionally because you won’t ruin my day with hate mail. Nope! Not today!)

You can always send me compliments and questions though.

Those are great!

THREE: Race is a social construction, which means it was made up. But even though it was made up, it matters.

In the United States race (and skin color) has implications for your life expectancy, wealth, health, annual income, educational level, etc. It even has implications for your safety.

It matters because nationalism, bigotry, prejudice, and genocide still exist.

If you don’t agree with these truths, or you’re not willing to learn more about the perspectives of people of color, this blog isn’t for you.

Thanks for stopping by!

FOUR: I think there’s a danger in studying white power and white supremacy because there are still people who believe that racial hierarchy actually should exist.

Some will be moved by it and want to return to the time when lynchings were part of a balanced breakfast and the KKK ran rampant. (Wait, that sounds like today….)

People of color may experience trauma all over again. They may internalize what we’ve learned from history and what the present continues to show us.

Yet and still, I aspire to create a dialogue that presents different perspectives. These posts are meant to be educational (if I’m lucky) and insightful (if I’m doing an even better job).

I hope you re-examine your assumptions and re-evaluate your fears.

I’m hoping to create a space to talk about race and power gracefully– which may prove impossible or counter-productive. The struggle!

We can always try though, right?

Peace and Love!

With no further ado, here’s One White Person’s Opinion on White Identity, White Privilege, and White Supremacy.

Is white supremacy real? Is white privilege real?

Yes.  There are still people that have been raised to believe that they are superior to others.

What do you think of when you hear white privilege?

To be honest, I can’t help but feel a little defensive, at least subconsciously, even though I wholeheartedly believe it’s true and have had dialogues and done research and seen it in action.

I think it’s become such a charged phrase that white people feel personally attacked, although the phrase really describes something much more systemic in nature.

White culture in America (broadly speaking, of course) has such a focus on personal responsibility and when viewing the world through this lens it’s hard not to take things personally.  I suppose part of it comes down to the fact that humans don’t want to give up comfort and stability and acknowledging injustice means having to work/change/confront harsh realities that would pull them out of that comfort zone.

I don’t like learning that by doing nothing I am, in fact, contributing to a problem.  I don’t like knowing that through no individual actions of my own I have benefited from past injustices that have given me advantages.  Yet I have to accept that fact if we are to move forward.

Can you group all white people into one culture?

I don’t think so, but with a caveat.  Whites group themselves, some of which might include Italians, Midwesterners, Hipsters (or whatever Hipsters call themselves), etc. and that is just the U.S.

However, I do think there is an underlying, overarching, something that could be called white culture in the U.S.  These are the things that white people take for granted, but can’t really define; that are understood at a base level, but not really known.   Not sure if that makes sense, but…

How would you define privilege?

Prof. Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, defines it as “a set of unearned assets that a white person in America can count on cashing in each day but to which they remain largely oblivious.”

I probably would just butcher a definition myself.

What do you think of when you hear white supremacy?

The belief that white people are superior to other groups.

What does “white identity development” mean to you?

I had to look this one up, but I think it’s somewhat similar to how my identity as a white person has progressed.

It’s a difficult thing to realize that the culture you took for granted is not the only viable one.  It is even more difficult to acknowledge that by merely living into the dominant culture, you can perpetuate racism.

This is especially hard when learning that so many white male hero/role models / leaders were not really very good models after all (think Columbus, John Smith, and so on).

And finally, it is extremely difficult, after having learned all of the above, to see yourself or white culture as having anything good to offer without somehow oppressing or patronizing someone else.

I think this leads a lot of white people to retreat from meaningful dialogue, unfortunately.  For instance, I don’t know how many times I’ve revised my answers to these questions for fear of perhaps saying something offensive or that could be taken the wrong way.

I still fear. 🙂

I think what ultimately helped me the most to understand my identity better were non-white friends that took the time to explain things to me, talk to me, argue (gently) with me, and most importantly not give up on me.

Why does white supremacy exist?

I don’t even know where to start.  Fear, history, power, opportunism, politics have all played / play a part, but I don’t think there’s an easy answer.

If white privilege is real, why does it exist?

I think white privilege is something that has built up for years (centuries) in this country and the western world and can’t just be eradicated with a change in the law.

There are deep seeded perceptions that affect, sometimes knowingly, sometimes not, how people of color and especially African Americans are viewed.

These range from overt (being stopped and frisked for a minor traffic violation) to powerfully subtle (white culture is displayed everywhere as being the normal and accepted way in media, education, and practically every aspect of American life).

Are white privilege and white supremacy “behind” the recent detainment and separation of undocumented families? If so, why do you think so? If not, what is the root?

I think so, and more so with privilege.  If white privilege is brought about by white culture that has been cultivated for generations and is totally mainstream, then any group that could potentially disturb the status quo is seen as a threat.

Looking closer, there is not much of a backlash against Canadian or European immigrants.

Why? Because there is (perceived) similarity.  However, Mexican, South American, or Middle Eastern immigrants are different (or are at least perceived that way).

There is a fear that other cultures will change, or even replace, the current culture and the flames of that fear are certainly fanned in the media.

For instance, that someone would be required to learn Spanish or celebrate Ramadan or whatever. Of course, fears like this have been around since the beginning of civilization.

What would it take to end white privilege?

So many things… but I guess education might go the farthest.  By education I mean a number of things; better schools for all, better quality of education, more emphasis on presenting the truth from different angles, and learning more about each other to name some.

It’s hard to be optimistic, though.

What would it take to end white supremacy?

Again, education would help (including, of course, getting all white supremacist parents to stop teaching their children white supremacy), but….

Perspectives on Race & Racism #12: Kyle, The Curious Librarian

We need to have a conversation about race.

How would you describe yourself?

Kyle: White, mid-western, small town protestant upbringing who’s now a liberal New Yorker.

What frustrates you the most about racism and/or racists?
Kyle: When other white people take me into confidence, as if we’re on the same team, and try to point out an us vs. them thing (where us = good and them = not). For example: “you know how they are”, “I don’t need to be politically correct with you”… etc.”  Of course, what follows is usually completely racist.

The two that bug me most are “I’m not racist, but… [insert racist statement here]” and “Well, you know there are black people and then there are niggers”.

It not only drives home the point that there are still a lot of racist views, but deflates my impression of this person that may have been an acquaintance or sometimes even a friend.

Name: Kyle
Birth Decade: 1970s
Race: White
Ethnicity: Both sides of family have lived in the U.S. (or former colonies) for many generations, but mother’s side from Germany, Father’s side from Scotland.
Hometown: Ossining, New York + Chicago, Illinois + Ohio

Is there anything else you’re curious about regarding race/culture?

Kyle: I’m a librarian… I’m curious about everything! Nothing specific.  Continue reading “Perspectives on Race & Racism #12: Kyle, The Curious Librarian”

Should You Talk To Your Children About Patriotism?

Happy Independence Day?

I’ll be brief because this isn’t an indictment.

It’s a sincere question that I’m genuinely curious about because I know not everyone shares the same vision of what it means to be a patriotic American. Not everyone agrees that it’s even right to be patriotic.

A patriot is someone who loves her country and is loyal to it.

Patriotism is national pride, love and devotion to your homeland, or rigorous support for your country.

In “Patriotism is for White People,” The Root’s senior reporter, Terrell Jermaine Starr, writes:

“The problem with narratives of American patriotism is that they ignore the fact that America was and is a colonial state. Colonial powers are violent and racist by their very nature. America’s military is not a protector of peace. It is an enforcer of colonialism. Indeed, black Americans have died in America’s wars but do not fully experience the freedom that comes with that sacrifice as white people do. Patriotism has never been a racially equitable experience because it was never designed to be.”

In “Patriotism is for Black People,” The Root’s reporter, Michael Harriot, writes: Continue reading “Should You Talk To Your Children About Patriotism?”

Perspectives on Race #11: Huy, From Houston

We need to have a conversation about race.

How would you describe yourself?

Huy: I was born in Houston, approximately 9 months after my parents were reunited after their escape from war-torn Vietnam.

I consider myself a product of Alief, a racially and socioeconomically diverse part of Houston. I also consider myself Vietnamese-American and culturally Catholic.

Name: Huy Pham
Race: Vietnamese American
Birth Decade: 1980s
Hometown: Houston, Texas

Does race matter?
Huy: Race matters tremendously to me. I truly believe that part of figuring out where you want to go is taking a step back and figuring out where you came from. I believe that some of our traits are subconsciously part of our DNA and/or a byproduct of our cultural upbringing. Taking the time to understand my culture has given me a deeper understanding of my Self.  Continue reading “Perspectives on Race #11: Huy, From Houston”

What We Can Do To Fight Against the Separation of Immigrant Families

Fact-check me. And screen these organizations.

Our Founding Fathers were immigrants.

More precisely, they immigrated illegally.

They were the first wave of “illegal” immigrants to claim citizenship in the “new” world.

A world that was already inhabited, for the record.

They migrated from Europe, bringing with them their children and families. They separated families under the guise of Christian evangelism.

Through brute force, sheer cruelty, and unmitigated violence they colonized, castrated, and killed our indigenous land owners.

Today,we separate families under the guise of Christian legalism.  Continue reading “What We Can Do To Fight Against the Separation of Immigrant Families”

Why We Celebrate Juneteenth

For many, Juneteenth symbolizes what the fourth of July means to most Americans = freedom.

We celebrate Juneteenth today– June 19th.

On June 19, 1865 in Galveston, Texas, Union soldiers landed with the news that the war had ended and enslaved black people were now free.

This news came more than two and a half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. The Proclamation, which became official on January 1, 1863, had had little impact in Texas.

According to General Order Number 3, General Gordon Granger made the following announcement:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.  Continue reading “Why We Celebrate Juneteenth”

The Point of It All

Can we move from outrage to reform?

We need to have a conversation about race, but the internet might be the worst possible place to have it.

It’s flat, it’s impersonal, and—because we are strangers— it doesn’t lend itself well to conversations among friends.

Should you talk to your children about race and racism? About suicide? About #MeToo?

Do we need consequences? Do we need punishment? Do we need affirmative action, charter schools, or kale?

Do Christians indoctrinate their children?  Continue reading “The Point of It All”

Perspectives on Race: From Trinidad to Serbia

We need to have a conversation about race.

I don’t want to live a life characterized by anger.

It’s why I write, why I move, why I leave. It’s why I value reconciliation, resolution, and reflection.

It’s why I don’t watch movies with Samuel L. Jackson, Gerard Butler, or Kristen Stewart. It’s why I don’t listen to music by Ariana Grande, Justin Timberlake, or Cardi B.

It’s why we need to have a conversation about race.

I don’t want to live a life characterized by anger.

I hope you’ll stay. I hope you’ll join me.

1. Perspectives on Race #1: “Black, Muslim, and Tired”
Written by Nora Nur with Love From The Other Side

Black. Female. Muslim. Chicago. 

“But as the schools became more black, new problems developed for me.  I was too white. I pronounced my words “too white,” liked too many “white things,” and acted “too white.” Being light-skinned didn’t help. White students assumed you were a “safe” black person. Someone they could ask pseudo-racist questions to because you weren’t really black. Black students greeted you with the “you think you’re better” because you are light-skinned. In short, junior high was cultural torture– filled with bullying and identity confusion.”

2. Perspectives on Race #2: Jamie, From the Midwest 

White. Female. The Midwest. 

“When I moved from the Milwaukee area to Slinger, I was bullied and was often called a ‘wigger.’ I had to ask what that meant. Even though I was white and EVERYONE else in the new school was as well, they had clear thoughts about the way that I was living in their world.”

3. Perspectives on Race #3: Anonymous in Maryland

Black. Female. Muslim. 

“Race matters because we make it matter. Even if you want to live a life where race doesn’t matter, if you are brown-skinned, I think it’s dangerous to not at least acknowledge that other people think that it matters very much, and they will make decisions that affect you based solely on the color of your skin. So if you don’t want to be blindsided, it’s best to be aware – doesn’t mean you have to adopt those same beliefs, but understand when race is a part of that current equation.”

4. Perspectives on Race #4: Cat, On Checking Both Boxes

Mixed. Black and White. Female. Christian. 

“I describe myself as mixed. This is the term my mother primarily used to describe my sister and me when we were growing up. As I got older and did my own research, it was the term I became most comfortable with. While I will sometimes refer to myself as biracial in order to clarify my identity for others when they express confusion about my own terminology, it is not a label I use for myself often. I always use the language of black and white in reference to myself as well. This is mostly due to the racist roots of the term Caucasian and the nature of the term African American, which I do not feel is broad enough to accurately describe my family history.”

5. Perspectives on Race #5: White Like Me

White. Male. Houston.  

“That I’m white/Caucasian really has no meaning for me, simply because it doesn’t create any problems for me in this society. When I was in China, yes, being white/Caucasian certainly did change how others saw me and how I saw myself. Events of the past five years, in particular the murders of Trayvon Williams, Tamir Rice, and so many other occurrences of discrimination and injustice, have certainly made it very clear to me that people of color experience life in America very differently from what I experience. I’m shocked every day by some new shooting of an unarmed black guy … , and then I have to realize that it has been happening all my life but I didn’t know about it.”

6. Perspectives on Race #6: James, From Trinidad

Trinidadian. Mixed. Male. 

“When describing my background, I often mention that my four grandparents were from four countries– Trinidad, Grenada, UK and Venezuela. Mixed is a powerful enough word for me. Trinidad is a very mixed and mixed-up place where national identity is tied to inclusive cultural celebrations and identifications.”

7. Perspectives on Race #7: Vern, From New Jersey: “Just My Thoughts”

Black. Male. New Jersey.

“In some respects, everybody is going to treat you differently. Hopefully you’ll be respected, but you can’t count on that. That may not have anything to do with race, but it could. You have to fend for yourself.”

8. Perspectives on Race #8: Kat, From Serbia

White. Serbian. Female.

“I must say that historically, all those stories about the abolition of slavery have resonated most with me. The fight for equality… impacted my perception of the world and filled me with hope and fear at the same time. Hope, because their sacrifice was worth it, and that mankind had taken a step forward. Fear, because it had to take so long, and so many people were opposed to it.”

9. Perspectives on Race #9: Puerto-Rican & Pentecostal

 Puerto-Rican. Female. Indiana. 

“My race matters to me because although I look one way on the outside, I clearly identify with the three races that “make-up” a Puerto Rican: African-American, Spaniard, and Taino Indian.”

10. Perspectives on Race #10: Irene, From San Jose: “Just Don’t Marry One”

Korean. American. Female. Christian. 

“They had a hierarchy and order of preference: 1. Korean (even though there were no other Koreans in our town), 2. White 3. “Other” Asian, and they explicitly said ‘don’t marry’ anyone who is black or Latino.”

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Perspectives on Race #10: Irene in San Jose

Just Don’t Marry One.

What frustrates you the most about racism and/or racists?
Irene: The belief that folks are “colorblind” and that that is the epitome of what we should all be. Overt racism doesn’t bother me as much as the microaggressions.

Growing up, to what extent did your family educate you about your race and/or other races?
Irene: My parents were just trying to survive as well, so I don’t remember them teaching us anything about race.

However, I do remember their own sense of fear/negativity around black people (even though in Utah, I don’t remember really ever seeing black folks). It was usually when they were seen on TV, and it wasn’t always explicit.

However, the one time I remember explicit conversation about race was in middle school when for some reason my parents were talking to us about who we could/should marry when we were older (I have no idea why we were talking about this).

They had a hierarchy and order of preference: 1. Korean (even though there were no other Koreans in our town), 2. White 3. “Other” Asian and they explicitly said ‘don’t marry’ anyone who is black or Latino. (They later took this back when they thought I was dating a black man and hiding it from them, telling my siblings to tell me it was OK with them now.)

“They had a hierarchy and order of preference: 1. Korean (even though there were no other Koreans in our town), 2. White 3. “Other” Asian, and they explicitly said ‘don’t marry’ anyone who is black or Latino.”

How would you define racism?
Irene: Prejudice/discrimination + Power against a person of color

Irene. I was named Irene after my mom’s first American friend.
Race: Asian American
Ethnicity: Korean
Birth Decade: late 70s/early 80s
Hometown: Ogden, Utah
Place of Residence: San Jose, California
Any other places you consider home: Chicago, Illinois

How would you describe yourself?
Irene: I am a progressive Asian American woman brought up in the reformed Christian tradition. I am also currently serving as a minister in a mainline denomination. I grew up to two Korean immigrant parents in Ogden, Utah-a place that had very few people of color. Utah is also predominantly Mormon (LDS) so growing up as a Presbyterian Christian there was also very difficult to navigate along with being one of the only non-white kids in my school (until my siblings joined me in school).

Does race matter?
Irene: Race matters because it’s a social construct in the United States that has historically and currently negatively affected the lives of people of color. It was constructed to privilege some (white-or whatever was considered “white” at that point in history) and because of that, continues to systemically affect people of color in all facets of life in the U.S.

When (if ever) did you first realize that your race mattered?
Irene: I realized this early on when I first started attending preschool and kindergarten. Part of that was because I began with a language barrier. Korean was only spoken at home so I remember not understanding anything my teachers and classmates were saying at first. I also quickly learned that something about the way I looked was negative because kids would tease me and make slanty eyes while making “ching chong” noises at me. I didn’t understand what they were doing, but I did understand that something about me was different and not part of the norm.

“I also quickly learned that something about the way I looked was negative because kids would tease me and make slanty eyes while making “ching chong” noises at me. I didn’t understand what they were doing, but I did understand that something about me was different and not part of the norm.”

In your educational experiences, did you learn anything about race?
Irene: I’m sure I learned some things, but in my early childhood education until middle school, I honestly don’t remember learning anything about race.

To what extent do you discuss issues of race with your children, the same way they were discussed when you were growing up?
Irene: I hope to definitely do so, but my son is only 7 months old right now. I do intentionally expose him to a diversity of books and people– which is easier living in the Bay Area of California.

If you’ve ever been treated differently because of your race, can you describe any/all relevant experiences?
Irene: SO MANY TIMES. Things that happen ALL the time (no exaggeration):

  • “Where are you REALLY from?”
  • Strangers coming up to me and greeting/ speaking to me in an Asian language they THINK I speak (and then shocked when I speak perfect English)
  • Still folks making slanty eyes and making ching chong sounds
  • People yelling at me to “tell me to go back to where I came from”
  • When they find out I’m Korean, telling me how much they love kimchi (or some other Korean food) or how they adopted a Korean baby, or saying the one word they know in Korean (and usually butchering it)
  • Men telling me how much they “LOVE” Asian women
  • Mistaking me for another Asian American woman they know
  • Assumption that I am good at math

“When they find out I’m Korean, telling me how much they love kimchi (or some other Korean food) or how they adopted a Korean baby, or saying the one word they know in Korean (and usually butchering it).”

How regularly/often do you engage in conversations about race/culture with friends, family, or peers?
Irene: This is a topic that I have regular conversations about with my friends– most of whom are people of color, so it comes up a lot. But even my white friends are the type who are willing to engage with it or want to engage with the topic.

Would you prefer to engage in these conversations more often or less often?
Irene: I don’t mind engaging in the conversation, as long as I don’t have to constantly be the one educating.

Thanks so much for sharing, Irene! I appreciate you.

If you liked this post, feel free to check out these others. Let me know if you’d like to be featured in any of the upcoming Perspectives pieces! 

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