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The Typical Sea of White

...its interesting how "white" people (yes, even activists) seem to ignore these communities they so desperately want apart of their organizations / activities until they have a need for them.
i can't say that i know why people who don't fit into the exclusive amerikkkan club called whiteness don't often show up to demonstrations or pay attention to organizations created or dominated by "white" people, but i think i can understand why a non-white person would not want to show to a demo or meeting just so that they could be treated as less important than the "white" members. It seems to me that as "white" people we want everyone to confrom to our ideas and ways of doing things and anyone who has different ideas, whether political or not, is viewed as inferior, or at least, is ignored. Can activists / organizers just march into a community they know little about and expect people to jump right into their organizations and carry their banner with conviction...i doubt it. i imagine that many people care about whats going but dont have the time and / or resources to mass organize. We are currently in a pretty bad economic recession which has deeply affected this whole community, but usually these recesssions are felt much, much harder in poorer communities, which are predominantly populated by non-whites (this being no accident). Yes i know many radical white people live in these areas to, but only because they want to-- besides its cool to pretend to be poor-- especially being an anarchist (i am an anachist myself). Besides, why would a person who usually gets no or little respect from a "white" person in daily life want to go and hang out with "white" people when they dont have to only to have their opinions / ideas (and communities) ignored, and have to be active in a way acceptable to white people otherwise would be ostracized by the group. i think there are many reasons why all of these demonstrations and organizations are being ignored by non-white people, i can't or do not claim to know them all or even to fully understand any of the reasons, but i think i can take a pretty good guess. Also, its interesting how "white" people (yes, even activists) seem to ignore these communities they so desperately want apart of their organizations / activities until they have a need for them. Besides, people can organize themselves, and in fact, the radical Black movement in the 60's is what rocked this whole nation. "White" people always talk about the 60's and how intense it was, but they are almost always referring to the radical white movements. i am sure that some "white" organizations in the 60's were somewhat effective, but they must have not been that threatening since i have never heard of one of them being targeted and assinated by the U$ government, such as members of the Black Panthers or the American Indian Movement were. Please note that i am not saying we should not try to bridge the gap, but maybe we need to think over what exactly our true intentions are.

The solution...i dont know. i think all we can do is put our ideas out there. If people are interested in what we are doing they will take the necessary actions that they sit fit. i am sure there are many organizations out there who are fighting against the things that effect their communities on a daily basis, but since they are organizing on their own terms we ("whites") refuse to acknowledge these efforts and/or condemn them as ineffective. i would say that a major problem that plagues us as a people from uniting is "white" people's refusal or inability to recognize what drives us apart, and that of course being our racist / white supremacist undertones that were and continue to be pounded into us. Until we on a mass scale begin to recognize and challenge white supremacy we are only helping to perpetuate it. This brings us to another problem, this is a really difficult area to work with (white supremacy) because as "white" people we don't see it until we begin to understand it, and this takes a lot of work and putting ourselves in ackward, and many times, vulnerable situations, which most people are not willing to do.

These are just my observations and i have so much more to try and understand, maybe you want to join me in this task? If so contact my email address and lets put together a group of people who want to analyse the hell out of this and see what we can do about it.
unwhite and protesting. 07.Jan.2002 16:42

Elementropy

Hi! I'm an unwhite protester. I was brought down to shrubs' unwelcome party by the nicest crackers you've ever met, they even let a nice negro woman come along with us! these white people sure know how to atone for their guilt! sound silly? offensive? it should. accusing your fellow activists ov being insensitive to race is just mean.

I truly do not understand the intentions behind your letter or your venting ov your frustrations to other white activist people. it seems like so much more fingerpointing and accusing to me. I really am trying not to be rude, but don't you think that this issue would be better forwarded by suggestions on how to bring more ethnicity to demonstrations than saying things to your fellow honkies like "Yes i know many radical white people live in these areas to, but only because they want to-- besides its cool to pretend to be poor." not a single one ov my white friends is pretending to be poor, they are poor, and it offends me that you thik all whites are just playing around with being poor until they get tired ov it and break into their bank accounts and start living it up. crap like this just divides us against ourselves, is that what you really want? if you tried that argument with any other ethinic group you'd get beaten down so fast.... the reason why demonstrations aren't more racially integrated is a puzzling problem with a very easy solution that even you yourself can implement: start inviting more ethnicly diverse groups to join whatever it is you are doing. make sure that you reach out to the people you would like to have at your workshops or demos or what have you and make sure that they (whoever they may be, whatever races would make you feel validated) know that race doesn't enter into what you are doing and that you and the group with whom you are working is moving beyond such silly differences.

look, i know that your heart is in the right place and that you are obviously concerned with creating a better world. i can't even say that i don't agree with some ov what you have said here. what i do think, though, is that the kind ov energy that you put into berating people who were at a demo that's already over could be better spent and more positively spent by taking the initiative and making sure the next demo is more diverse. no one is going to do this for you, you have to do it yourself. also, maybe next time give some consideration to your fellow demonstrators and organizers before berating them; do you really think that your fellow protestors are deliberateley excluding minorities? i propose setting an example for all those that you think aren't doing enough by showing them what to do.

Thank you for your words 07.Jan.2002 18:48

Kellie justicelies@riseup.net

I really appreciate your response to the newswire post. It's something that is discussed frequently in the circle of activists I generally work with. The question for us always comes back to how to make contact with diverse communities.
Specifically, who do we go to, for example, in your community; how do we do this; how do we network? Any suggestions would be greatly apprecicated, either personally to me or to the newswire.
Thank you again for your thoughtful commnets...
Kellie

A Change of Heart 07.Jan.2002 19:05

Jim Lockhart eagleye @PhilospherSeed.org

This has been an ongoing raw issue for quite a while now. I remember after the WTO protests in Seattle the indymedia discussion list was rife with discussions on this issue, sometimes very heated and offensive.
I really see no benefit from railing against white people for this. Just another wall being built, however well intentioned. Certainly there is a tendency amonst some whites to ignore or manipulate peope of color for their own agendas; certainly non whites don't feel comfortable in large groups of whites, attending events organized by them, or even publishing, it seems, to self posting websites. But, nothing is gained without effort. Whites must, obviously, go out of their way to include people of color in their organizing, and to some degree this has been happening on an increasing scale for some time now, with very slow progress.
If whites must rise above their programming and reach out, so too, equally, must people of color likewise stand outside their reluctance to become involved with this organizing. Sure they may be ignored, or patronized, but isn't that the meaning of prejudice, to pre judge something, which means not giving each new experience, and person or group, the benefit of the doubt? Prejudice, unfortunately, is not restricted to any one race, religion, culture, gender, or affiliation. Looking at the world fresh, trusting the unknown to bring opportunity as well as conflict, remaining vulnerable, at least to the degree that we can recognize opportunities when we see them, is a challenge for all people. Without risk, there is often no progress; you can't be free unless you take chances.
Two of the most destructive things I've witnessed in activist endeavors, is 1) attributing specific generalized intentions to someone's behaviour, as if we can read minds and know that someone is doing some thing for a specific agenda. This leads to all kinds of condemnations and cross accusations, most often based on misunderstandings and gut reactions to peoples behavior and ideas.
and 2) thin skinned reluctance to follow through with ones efforts because one cannot find a proper arena in which to fit this. It is here that people of color must show the same strength that White people must show in developing tolerance and seeking to include other perspectives.
It seems to me that much of this well intentioned emphasis on not including people of color exacerrbates the problem, accentuating the differences that separates us. Whites are burdened with guilt and people of color are burdended with resentment and animosity, as if they haven't sufficient reasons for this to overcome already.
This is not to blame anyone, any group, any perspective. This is no ones fault, but the result of livng in this world, the world of nature, human nature, and language, with all its benefits and necessary blindnesses. No blame, no blame. We live in a world whose contours are defined for us, and by us, long before we became aware of doing this. For example, language contains built in biases, each language looks at the world through a slightly different lens. Even the term "people of color" presupposes or ignores the fact that white is a color too, and thus sets the stage for separation and conflict, not agreement and ultimate resolution of differences.
Not to say that we are all the same. We are all equal, not because we are the same, but precisely because we are not; we are all a unique and unprecendented arrangement of physical, biological and mental materials, a graceful contribution to the world, just because we are born into it. It is the too often ignored obligation of society to bring out this individual genius, not bury it by forcing it to fit in to society.
As long as we emphasize white and non white, native and non native, we will be guilty of, to some degree, accentuating and emphasizing just those divisions we idealistically seek to erase. Unfortunately, re-volution, denotes a circular activity. No revolution has truly brought ultimate or permanant change because it's ideology was steeped in the mentality and character of what was passing away.
The only real change is a change of heart, and this must take place inside idividuals before it can have much real significance in the committee room or in the streets.

more on race 07.Jan.2002 23:33

flower - the skunk

I guess what bothers me about frequent discussions of race by white activists is this idea that the solutions is to get more people of color at our rallies. The idea often stated is that clearly we are not doing enough 'recruiting or outreach.' But I wonder if it may be that different types of issues speak to different communities, and that the end goal for white radicals shouldn't be a racially diverse crowd at the bush protests. It seems to me that if white radicals want to work with communities of color, the first step is finding out what issues are important to those communities, and assisting with the issues that matter to those communities, on their own terms (rather than trying to take over or dominate a movement). I'm not saying that I know how to do this. I think most white people in this country, including myself, have grown up not seeing the oppression and racism that permeates our surroundings. I think it is important for these discussions to happen and for some one to point out how race functions in our protest culture, but it is a sensitive subject where folks are easily put on the defensive. Respect needs to a bottom line.

Unity - it IS within reach 08.Jan.2002 07:48

an @poc

so - there is still a sentiment that protesting can or should be separate. Some comments seem to suggest that protesting our resident in thief is not a valid issue for *all* citizens, only some. And once again I'm left with the idea that it is justified to exclude or dismiss their ("people of color") role in social changes that affect them just the same as anybody else.

As a man said, in the not too distant past,

"segregation today,
segregation tomorra,
segregation foreva"

Why is that? Why does it have to be that way?

As cienfuegos said in the original article (what about afro americans) that prompted the above racist article, unity is key. We consider ourselves activists because we really believe that we can bring about needed changes. I ask you to consider: THIS is a NEEDED change.

I made it very clear in my "analysis from hell" that I was not attempting to villainize or blame anybody - not caucasian activists, not upper-class activists, not any individual or group. I stated further that I was trying to *_prod_* people to think about how much they were reaching out to EVERYBODY, and that they did it as EQUALS. Yeah, sure, I made an example out of some ignorant activists who had made remarks, and that's not the best way to make a point. I still stand by my writings.

I also had a (rather cheesy) call for action that has gone nowhere. That totally disappoints me, but it does not discourage me. I will continue regardless.

This response took an observation of the systematic exclusion of "people of color" (inadvertent or otherwise, it's immaterial really), then twisted it into a rant "against ["white"] people", complete with racist jabs against "people of color" and "poor people" because the author simply could not control the hatred that eats away at them and that motivated them to try to make fun of what I wrote in earnest. I don't know about you guys, but I don't find such articles angering or upsetting, I find them tiresome and boring. It's really quite juvenile.

So tiresome that I wouldn't have responded but for the suggestion that these communities have to be segregated both in issues and in activism. That's exactly the type of "programming" that I had reffered to (tho I will consider a different word next time).

Jim wrote: "Whites are burdened with guilt and people of color are burdended with resentment and animosity, as if they haven't sufficient reasons for this to overcome already."

I hear you Jim, but that's why it is so important that we UNITE! Why is it considered acceptable that we have different agendas and different protests? Why is it not questioned when it's stated that we would not work easily together because of resentment or guilt or any other feeling.

WHY is it NOT questioned? Why does the cycle have to continue? Can it not be smashed? There used to exist a time in human history when the cycle did not exist, and guilt and resentment were not there to discourage people. If that existed before, why can it not exist now?

This, to me, is the *true* meaning of "divided and conquered".

Thanks a ton for all those who actually were sincere in their responses.

OH - and BY the way, Jim, thanks a lot for explaining why I put the term "people of color" into quotes - since the above author (mud puddles indeed) didn't, and they probably should understand that we are ALL "people of color"! (all parts of the same rainbow if you wanna get really sappy about it.)

Being a white anti-racist ally 08.Jan.2002 11:24

Frank

Here is a good website for activists who are trying to create anti-racist, anti-oppressive groups. This particular page is aimed at white activists, and the rest of the website has other relevant material. Enjoy!

 http://www.tao.ca/~colours/tools.html

response to an@poc on my sincerity 08.Jan.2002 17:55

Elementropy

It's a pity that activist in general don't have a better sense ov humor, it's a good tool to take the sting off ov an otherwise somber and troubling subject. i don't appreciate the intimation that my letter was insincere as i meant every word ov it. berating people for not being a different color when they show up and protest is just silly and it is counterproductive, just as your comments about my sincerity were counterproductive. i'm not white and i was there. i rode down with a few other nonwhites which obviously you people missed. when i arrived i was met by the other 20 or so activists i had coordinated with, about half ov whom aren't white either. i spent two days arranging to get to Portland for the demonstration and i had to get up a 6AM to drive there. that sound insincere to you? once there i took just as much ov a part as the rest ov the people there and i really enjoyed working with the people in portland, even you people if indeed all ov you in this discussion were there and i'm not doubting that you were. the activism scene in portland is a good one, i'd go so far as to say a great one, and i find it offensive that someone would try and classify those activists as 'pretending to be poor'. doesn't that bother any ov you at all? like i said before i have a ton ov friends who are white who aren't pretending that they can't make ends meet, they really can't. this conversation did not start out as a productive one, it started out accusatory that activists, namely the ones at the action on saturday, are all white. well i'm not, several ov my friends aren't and they were there and i was there but obviously my opinions don't count, they're not sincere and they can't be taken seriously. if i was more prone to accusing people i suppose i could play the race card here but that's just silly, much like this conversation thread.


my only point is this: integration happens through actions, not accusations, not through guilt, but through really reaching out and getting to know your community and its needs and responding to them. no one wants to feel like whites are only hanging with their ethnic group and joining their causes because ov guilt and obligation, but a more sincere interest would be welcome. if you can't muster that interest without psychicly whipping yourself into doing it then i would suggest you stick to issues that you feel strongly about and be glad to have the allies that you have and make them feel like you consider them family and are glad they are around you standing by your side.

more thoughts to bore you with 09.Jan.2002 04:11

mud_puddlez mud_puddlez@yahoo.com

Perhaps i did not articulate what i was/am trying to get across in a clear manner. This rant has nothing really to do directly with the anti-bush rally (thats why i didn't post it as a comment on the "analysis from hell" post), but with activism in general and the lack of solidarity between peoples of different ethnicities. i dont think our focus should be getting "non-white" people to come to demonstrations being organized by "white" people, but that we should focus on building on-going solidarity with these communities and sincerely supporting the issues that these communities are dealing with on a daily basis. i think as "whites" we are not as deeply effected by the same issues that "non-whites" are, so we rarely organize around the issues that are more important to these other communities. Issues that dont necessarily effect the majority of "white" communities, like the (un)justice system, racial profiling, police shootings, the "war on drugs", gentrification, living life daily in a white supremacist world, etc. It seems to me that whenever something goes down in the "non-white" communities it gets ignored by the "white" activist community. Yet, when something is going down that "white" activists care about or are effected by we expect other communities to rush right out and join our efforts. But why aren't we protesting the fact that inner-city schools are underfunded, that around 70% of the 2 million prisoners in U$ prisons are "non-white" people, that ghettos exist, etc, etc,...things that are happening everyday in "non-white" communities. Besides, do you think it really matters who the president is, all of the things mentioned above have continually existed no matter who has been in office, so the lack of "non-white" people protesting the president does not really surprise me. i will say it once again to be clear, i am not saying we should not invite other communities to be a part of our organizations and activities, but that we should also make a sincere effort to show that we support the things important to their communities too. i also think it is important when working with communities of "color", that we should include them (for lack of better word--i hate saying them and they) in the decision making processes in order to counter-balance the power dynamics of white supremacy, which would run fluently in a "white" dominated group.

What i think is that "White" organizers/activists need to focus on recognizing white supremacy/privilege and how it effects our lives and relationships with "non-white" people, educating other "whites" about it, and standing up against it. If "white" people cant do that, then how can we expect to build bridges with other communities. i imagine that the last thing "non-white" people want is "white" people coming into their communities telling them what to protest, how to do it, and when, while at the same time having to deal with "white" racism that often goes unnoticed by the same "white" people trying to organize them.

i think that as "white" people we need to be held accountable for our actions. Accountibility seems to be something that we ("whites") consistently avoid, and in fact, often times we become defensive instead of accepting our responsibility for the continuation of "white supremacy/privilege", even when we are in the wrong.

As far as my comment stating that "white" radicals think its cool to pretend to be poor, i should have said that some do, not all. For this i offer my apology, sometimes i get carried away. It should be mentioned, though, that i know many "white" radicals that are from middle class backgrounds and could easily get a job working for their parents, or could go to school, or have trust funds, or any combination of the above, and basically have lots of options that they could exercise if they wanted to. And, instead of being honest about this, they try to deny this and act like they are just as oppressed as others are (as if its something to prove or be proud of). i think this is patronizing and not a good way to operate, and it is definately not "revolutionary". i think that honesty is very important, especially if you are trying to build relationships that are already strained from the beginning. i am not the only one who has noticed this, and in fact you can find critiques about this from several different authors and/or organizers.

Jim made some really good points, and also brought out some of life's many contradictions. i agree that by making distinctions like "people of color", or "white" and "non-white", we are reinforcing the divisions that have been PUT into place. But i think that it is also important to recognize that these are also socio-political meanings that explain why things are the way they are today, and in fact, there is nothing natural about that. So to homogenize all of us into the same catergory is to say that it was natural that some people are at the top while others are at the bottom, and it just happens that "whites" are naturally more inclined to be at the top. The struggles that we have and have not all endured have defined who we are as a people today and i think its important to recognize that.

Okay, i think i am going to stop here...i dont know if i can better put my thoughts down on "paper" any clearer. i think that discussions are better. i think that we need to form discussion groups about this issue if we ever want to go anywhere with it. i would like to get something like this started, as mentioned the first time, so if anyone is interested contact me via email. And, as Elementropy has mentioned a few times now, (not an exact quote) action speaks louder than words, so lets get to it.

PS-i consider myself a very sincere person and do not waiste my time doing things that i do not care about, but thanks for determining my efforts for me. :)

mud puddlez 11.Jan.2002 09:58

@poc

Yes, discussions are better. That's why next time you need to be more mindful of how your words are read. I read racism in them. I read sarcasm in response to my analysis from hell. Everything from your strategic use of quotations down to the request that people email you to join in analyzing the hell out of the situation was indeed an appearance of sad satire in response to my post.

I'm not interested in more analysis. I'm interested in action. If you think that I'm lacking in humor or determining the sincerity of your efforts perhaps you should consider that the only thing I have to go on is your article and I found it incredibly offensive. Not just to me and those who identify themselves as "people of color", but basically everybody involved in the activist scene. It just smells like sabotage. Please use more discretion next time. I make no apologies for my impressions that I got from your article.

Words should be tools, not weapons, and I accept no responsibility when someone else decides to fool around with the linguist equivalent of a loaded gun.

Elementropy, I just read bewilderment in your response. I wasn't responding to it though. I will be more clear next time.