When sites like Huffington Post give racists like Amy Suskind space to spew their bile and the New York Times allows bigots like Gloria Steinem to deny the womanhood of women of color, it's quite easy for people of color to see why the idea (that racism is less acceptable than sexism) is so bogus. When sources like CNN are acknowledging the prevalence of racism in the media, it's kind of hard to deny that this is occurring.
So why are there still white women making statements like this?
Obviously, racism still exists, and there’s still work to do in that area. But, people are now much more afraid to publicly express their racism then ever before, which has in effect, led to less racism. Because expression of racism is so frowned upon, acting racist now carries consequences, it’s not socially acceptable amongst most people, and people risk losing their jobs and relationships for expressing racist views. Due to the consequences, it’s less frequent, and people are not only changing their behavior, they are changing their minds about the equality of black people.Uh, no. People are still just as free to express their racism as ever before. Furthermore, I would love to hear how this particular white woman came to believe that she knows whether racism has decreased or not. As a matter of fact, the idea that whites can be an authority on the experiences of black people is itself racist. As a woman of color, I experience both racism and sexism every day of my life. Over the years, neither of these kinds of oppression have decreased. Of course, if a white woman actually asked those who are recipients of racism about this before making assumptions, then she probably wouldn't make such erroneous claims.
I commented on the thread where the blogger made these remarks, but for some reason it didn't go through, so I sent her a message on Twitter (where she originally advertised her post). I said, "Only white people believe that displays of racism are viewed as less acceptable than sexism–only white people." She responded with the following:
Because she told me that she never saw the first comment that I left on her post, I am putting my response here on my blog, so that I don't have to rewrite it if it happens again.
I wanted to address this response that I recieved to the above Post via Twitter. The reason I write this blog is because I want to open up dialogue about and bring attention to important issues, so that we can learn from one another. Avoidance of controversy will not achieve that affect. The only relationships I am making about racism and sexism are those that I have expressly addressed in my blog. I am referring only to the words and behavior of mainstream media and what is considered socially acceptable behavior amongst otherwise resepectable people, and ONLY the obvious, outward displays of racism and sexism only.
I am a white person and I fully acknowledge that despite my desire to be empathetic, compassionate, and sensitive regarding racial issues, I cannot experience the world the exact same way a black person does. Because I’m a white women, I also fully acknowledge that I am more completely in tune with issues of sexism then racism. As a result, I am open to the possiblity that I am incorrect. Regardless, I would like to engage in intelligent conversation about this subject matter, and would like those who disagree to take this as an opportunity to share their views with others, allowing us to learn from you. Again, the only statements I am making about racism are those I have expressly stated in my Post, and ask you not to imply more. All inequality is damaging and I am not comparing the damage caused by different types of discrimination. I’m only comparing what I’ve experiences as the general public reaction to the specific froms of sexism and racism I’ve given specific examples of.The primary point of my post is that overt acts/words of racism, even with the best of intentions, gets people fired up, and this reaction supports that statement. Regardless of whether certain types of inequality are more or less damaging, inequality is damaging. For those who find my Post offensive, it would be helpfule if you refer to the two specific examples I gave regarding the sexist treatment of Sarah Palin, and point out any flaws in my assessments of them. Also give examples of overt words or portrayals of racism against blacks in the mainstream media, in the past few years, that you consider equivalent, in their nature and the public reaction they recieved. Thank you.
I am willing to believe that you may be interested in the idea of dialogue. However, your post isn't really conducive to bringing that about. When you start by claiming to know what people of color are experiencing despite not being one yourself, you aren't opening up lines of communication. You're actually closing them.
See, what if I was a man and I told you that women are actually experiencing less sexism than they used to? Would you believe that I was the real arbiter on the frequency of that particular form of oppression? Do you think a man can ever know exactly how much sexism a woman faces? I'm doubting that you'd think a man making claims like that was really trying to open up lines of communication.
If a man was really interested in knowing whether sexism was increasing or decreasing, his only real option would be to find out what women have to say on the matter, not make assumptions and then wait to see if anyone contested them. Can you see what I'm trying to say? You started out with an assumption about racism and because that assumption wasn't based on facts, it made your entire argument invalid. If you want to "engage in intelligent conversation about this subject matter", you'll have to refrain from doing this, because it will never lead you to a logical, valid conclusion.
Next, you're moving the goalposts. In your original post, you made claims about racism that go far beyond what happens on your blog. Your comments were about racism in the media, not just racism on your site. Now you're making a different claim. Perhaps you don't truly believe that racism in the media is decreasing, but that doesn't change what your post actually said.
The idea that you are only referring to "otherwise respectable people" is a common technique that people use to exclude any evidence that would disprove their claim. For example, what if a man said to you, "Well, sexism has decreased over years. Oh, and by the way, the only examples of sexism that count are those that come from people that I think are reasonable folks."? Wouldn't that be mighty convenient? If you tried to present the man with any examples of the prevalence of sexism, he could simply say that those examples don't count because nobody takes those folks seriously any way. Well, the same is true with racism. Coming back and saying you were only talking about "otherwise respectable people" provides a perfect means of avoiding the existing evidence that you were and are quite wrong about the way the world treats racism. Perhaps you aren't doing this purposely, but that's still the results of trying to re-frame your arguments that way.
The fact that I responded to your statement calmly and still get accused of being "fired up" is also evidence of why you are not a good judge of how racism works nor what it looks like. Are you really that unfamiliar with the Sapphire trope? It certainly seems so. Are you really unfamiliar with the history behind white women scolding women of color about our "tone"? It appears that way. Have you never encountered an explanation for why expecting people of color to prove that racism is occurring is actually racist?
I've never spoken to you about this stuff, so I'm going to go ahead and give you the benefit of the doubt because I really do like to believe the best about people. Because of that, I'm going to suggest that you take the time to read about the intersectionality of oppressions before you consider making this classic, white-privileged assertion again. Hopefully, if you begin to see how this argument makes you a part of the problem that you claim to want to fight, you'll stop contributing to the oppression of women of color in the way that your post did.
Is it sexualized racism or racialized sexism? The "Head O State" dildo shows why creating "sexism versus racism" comparisons are bound to fail. People of color don't always experience one or the other. Instead, we often have to deal with both.
More evidence that Mel's assertion (that racism is less tolerated than sexism) just isn't based on the facts.