Saturday, March 10, 2007

"The Goodboy(girl?) Syndrome"

Nezua writes:

IN A RECENT COMMENT THREAD, a few amigos and myself were speaking of the Goodboy syndrome (as named by reader Pinche Daddio/HeyJoe), wherein a Person of Color feels this mighty and unspoken pressure to respond to the expectations / racism / ignorant thought patterns / fear of the dominant (White) culture. I don't know that this is something one could understand at all, were they not a Person of Color. I'm sure you could imagine or intellectualize it, but the great thing about talking to other members of The Brown™ is that they have lived it, they carry it in their heart and their stomach, in their eye muscles and neck muscles and spine. There is no need to "try and understand." I'm not saying this to exclude anyone, just spittin' my truth here.

The thread is worth reading, I'd say. But in essence, we were speaking of this urge to assuage White Peoples' fears (not you, the other White people) and preconceptions. Perhaps this means making a show—keeping hands in pockets, keeping head down, showing off fine English skills, taking off shades so our friendly eyes can be seen, crossing the street for these people so they don't get too freaked out, buying something in the store we never planned to, keeping far from a shelf so nobody thinks we are stealing, going out of our way in ways we really "shouldn't" have to. It may mean different things to different PoC. To me, this dynamic also includes the time I tried so hard to blend in. It's an abdication of who we are in order to cater to the WHITEMAN's junk. It's me making your® problem my problem...


I'm posting this here because it made me think:

Yes, he is talking about something very specific here, the experience of a POC and maybe even more specifically of a MOC.

What I'm wondering, though, is whether there aren't, in fact, parallels to be found elsewhere.

Because while the details of, say, crossing the street to make the anxious people feel safer, or going out of the way to speak "proper English" and so on don't resonate for me, there was something about this bit that did: (from the screenshot of an obnoxious email captured at the site)

"It's been a long time since I've seen evidence of a Hispanic man taking responsibility for his actions and asking for forgiveness."


or rather,

It's been a long time since I've seen evidence of ______ taking responsibility...

i.e., and to wit:

"Oh, I didn't mean you. You're one of the good ones."

Something about this formulation does ring a bell.

Where have I heard this before...

Well, let's see. From certain very paternalistic and often (relatively) powerful men, toward myself, in various ways and contexts. From certain straight people. Sometimes in less easily identified dynamics, although I certainly wouldn't swear they were divorced from sociopolitial contexts. Pats on the head come in various flavors and from a variety of sources. And take various forms.

And the mixed feelings that brings up. Damned if you do; damned if you don't. Feels kind of crappy to accept the pat on the head; especially if (ugh) it simultaneously feels...kind of good. Hey, praise is praise, right? And especially especially when you realize "them" is, well, your friends and family. Sometimes even named or identified as such. But oh, won't you be -bad- if you just snarl,

"Thanks for the 'compliment.' Now fuck off."

Because, not only is that scary in and of itself; but if you've already tacitly accepted this person's attempt to have you "represent," you'll be Letting The Team Down. Or...anyway, by the time you've finished processing under the automatic smile, the moving hand, having head-patted, has moved on.

I dunno. Anyone else feeling this? Been a "good boy" or "good girl" in any context?

p.s. just to be clear, I'm not trying to take away from Nezua's point, which you should totally read in full at his place. Just musing out loud, and trying to amplify, for myself if no one else. I may not've felt what Nez felt; but I did feel -something,- reading this. Something that felt...familiar.

105 comments:

hedonistic pleasureseeker said...

The Other White People . . . Is that like the Other White Meat?

My musing on this topic: It's annoying to have to dance around other people's perversions just to make it through the damn day unscathed, but we all do it to a certain extent. It's just that the "dominant" class doesn't have to do it as often as the rest of us.

Who's the "sub" in an interaction? The one doing all the dancing around and accomodating to make other people feel better.

(I wish I could find a way to get the trade symbol to work on Wordpress!)

Eli said...

It's been a long time since I've seen evidence of a Republican taking responsibility for his actions and asking for forgiveness.

belledame222 said...

Reading around the internets, this snagged my attention:

This need to divide and discredit is not something we invented. It was enforced on us. I'll never forget the time I was helping throw a dyke event in Boston, and I mentioned that the poster didnt say "transwomen welcome". People got uncomfy. It was gently pointed out to me that while a few transwomen like myself would obviously be welcome, not all transwomen would, you know, fit in.

Id love to tell you about my virtuous resignation from the group, but the truth is, I was thrilled. I was a radical dyke feminist transexual. I was hip and kool and I fit in. I wasnt like the rest of you nasty types. I was good. I was... accepted.

I learned the hard way that this deal - you can be the GOOD tranny if you'll stand apart - is not a good deal. but it is a powerful one...


***

Also not my own experience, obviously; but, it confirms a bit what I was trying to get at: I think this is an experience that people from any oppressed group might connect with to at least some degree, actually.

And I mean: what's the whole madonna/whore split? What's the "brown paper bag" test? What's "no fats/no fems" among gay men?

nezua limón xolagrafik-jonez said...

here, i seem to exclude people from an experience before i relate it. i wonder why that is. i'm not sure i care for that rhetorical tic. there has to be a less-distracted and less antagonistic way of saying how personal or specific an experience is.

boy nothing makes you look at your words closely like being quoted. :0

Nanette said...

I think there are sort of parallels to this to be found in other situations. Especially the "Oh, I don't mean you, you're one of the good ones" is something familiar - in so many words - to many marginalized populations, I imagine.

I think it happens quite often (or at least used to) to non straight people - I know some folks who just are convinced that any gay person who doesn't fit their mental image of GAY (usually someone in nipple clamps and leather chaps, sporting a 10 foot strap on penis... in the office in the middle of the workday), is not the norm, but is instead, one of the "good ones".

Lots of examples... just about anyone who doesn't reinforce whatever outrageous stereotype someone has in mind of them can fit into that category, I guess.

It's somewhat analogous, but different, cuz what Nezua is pretty much saying is that - in the US, at least - non white people - men and women - are born indicted suspects (not only of criminality, but also other stuff)... and then pretty much spend the rest of their lives trying to prove themselves not guilty.

belledame222 said...

*nod* I think the "proving oneself" is the common thread; what might be more specific to what nezua's talking about is the "criminal" thing...

...well, there are criminals and criminals, i suppose. if you're a whore, you're a criminal. if you're gay, you're not so much a criminal -now- but you were not all that long ago...

but, the whole, cross the street, clutch the handbag thing, that does seem like a specifically MOC (and maybe some colors more than others--do men of East Asian extraction get this?) thing.

and maayyyyyyybeee this might be something those nice fellas over at feminist critics would want to talk about, seeing as how they want to talk about how men are oppressed as men per se;

race doesn't seem to have entered their purview so much thus far, that i've seen.

but, the whole, "cringe, please don't attack me" thing--it is true, women aren't as likely to get that. White women of a certain look and class especially, anyway, that I can speak more to. I know a number of women would not see this, being perceived as a -threat- (as opposed to simply a target) as a form of oppression, because it seems so foreign. I probably wouldn't have given the matter much thought--the focus is more on, how do i walk down the street without being harassed or attacked, no so much, how do i walk down the street without being treated like a potential or de facto harasser or attacker (and when cops come into it, then it becomes a lot more serious...)

h'm.

belledame222 said...

if you're gay, you're not so much a criminal -now-

in the U.S., at least. among other places. but certainly not everywhere. and it doesn't mean you won't be perceived as an object of fear as well as contempt, a deviant/outlaw, still (also see: "public" sex and even PDA's)

Eli said...

no so much, how do i walk down the street without being treated like a potential or de facto harasser or attacker (and when cops come into it, then it becomes a lot more serious...)

I'm not even an MOC, and there have been times when I've been walking behind a woman by herself on an otherwise empty street, and I find myself trying to figure out how to *not* look like I'm stalking her.

My natural walking pace is pretty fast, which is probably not good, but slowing down to match my pace to hers seems like it would be even worse. Am I overthinking this?

It probably doesn't help that my facial expression when I'm out and about tends to resemble a death mask...

R. Mildred said...

if you're gay, you're not so much a criminal -now-

Well sodomy (which doesn't neccesarily mean JUST teh butt sexing, but blowjobs and jazzhands too, because apparently someone's bible is very specific about how lots neighbours wanted to rape those angels, or something) is still illegal in places in america - and god help you if want to use toys or anything...

belledame222 said...

RM: fairly certain SCOTUS overturned the last of those a few years ago. sodomy laws, that is. sex toys are another story.

Cassandra Says said...

I've been patted for being the token "good" feminist, which seems to mean straight, femmey and pretty. I actually kind of went off at the guy who did it...I've also been patted by my inlaws for not being on of "those" white people. That happens at pretty much every family gathering, actually.
As far as the "prove you're not dangerous/criminal" thing I think that's pretty MOC specific. I also agree with Eli that all men will get the vibe that they're seen as dangerous occasionally, but it's not the same thing.

Trinity said...

"Also not my own experience, obviously; but, it confirms a bit what I was trying to get at: I think this is an experience that people from any oppressed group might connect with to at least some degree, actually."

Belle:

Me too. I used to not want to think of myself as a PWD. My disability was so mild that it made me Almost One Of Them.

It took me a LONG time to come to terms with the reality that I'd gotten hurt by ableism just like anyone else and that when I was fighting for others who were more severely disabled, I was fighting for my people rather than being some foreign savior who was smarter and better.

I often wonder if that experience is similar to the experience of other people oppressed in other ways who have a lot of what's usually called "passing privilege."

ballgame said...

As far as the "prove you're not dangerous/criminal" thing I think that's pretty MOC specific. I also agree with Eli that all men will get the vibe that they're seen as dangerous occasionally, but it's not the same thing.

How do you mean that, cassandra?

Central Content Publisher said...

and maayyyyyyybeee this might be something those nice fellas over at feminist critics would want to talk about - belledame222

Well, I think the only time I've brought colour into Feminist Critics so far, was to discuss prison populations. Observing, I think, how the discrepancy between male and female inmates is proportionately wider than the discrepancy between white and POC populations. Not surprisingly, the discrepancy between white men and white women is far wider than the discrepancy between MOC and WOC, as if, if I may speculate, colour works against female privilege before the law. Mind you, it could also be that black men aren't as vilified as white men, but I think the discrepancy between their populations along a racial axis clearly indicates the exact opposite. But yeah, it hasn't been deeply explored at all.

Be that as it may, two things sounded familiar in Nezua's post.

The first was the idea that no one else could possibly "understand". This is a common feeling held by anyone who feels marginalized. However much I empathize with the feeling, I can't at once empathize with the feeling AND see it as true (I'm not a POC). Clearly, if I can empathize, I can understand.

The second idea, and I think, the main focus, was the idea of capitulation and pariah. We generally capitulate for one part advantage, one part praise, and one part security. I don't think anyone is shocked that advantage and security sort-of taint the praise. As an atheist... as a -rabid- atheist, every time someone says "God bless you", and I respond with a smile and a thank you, I feel like they've/I've murdered a part of my soul. It's a tragedy played out every day along a multitude of axises. Somewhat differently if you can hide your marginalization (more like a cold war), but certainly the pariah is encouraged to capitulate, no matter the grounds for their exclusion.

I'm tempted to ramble on about my experiences as a drag queen, but maybe another time. I've already hit the epic mark.

ballgame said...

Interesting comment, ccp.

Me, I was going to shrug my fins and swim right past that dangly worm with the weird silvery thing sticking out of it.

Donna said...

I think Nezua got it right. I do think people can imagine and intellectualize it, and recognize something similar and empathize. But unless you are POC you'll never know exactly how it feels to be POC. It's not exclusionary, it's simply the truth. I know that I can imagine, intellectualize, recognize something similar, and empathize with my GLBT friends. But, I will never know exactly what it feels like to be GLBT or be discriminated on that basis.

Recognizing the similarities means being able to see other people's humanity. Respecting the differences means letting those other people speak their own truth and not trying to speak for them...like that um, white lady pity party. "I'm just like you! I'm living in your neighborhood and marrying your men and birthing brown babies. I can now speak for you!"

Donna said...

I want to clarify something for anyone not acquainted with the white lady pity party. When I say, "your men" I don't mean that WOC are claiming some kind of ownership. In those incidents there was an underlying assumption that their husbands were still of "those people". Since WOC are "those people" too, then MOC would be "your men" instead of men in the sense of common mankind.

KH said...

Minor point: "prove you're not a criminal" is not just a MOC thing. In a vast range of situations, the assumption is that any, esp. lower class, WOC is up to no good. Maybe not smash-&-grab or rape, but dubious enough to warrant being dogged until they leave the store, jacked up by the cops, etc. It leads people, who generally don't crave humiliation, to self-segregate themselves within narrowly circumscribed areas.

A few weeks ago, the Post reported that the cops have been systematically hassling black & Hispanic men in Georgetown (an affluent white part of DC, home of much of this country's political class). A police spokesman (falsely) noted, by way of explanation, that the presence of nonwhites in public spaces there is 'unusual.'

belledame222 said...

Maybe the unspoken distinction there was -violent- criminal.

i guess class & to some extent physical appearance would play a big part there wrt white men, too.

Central Content Publisher said...

But unless you are POC you'll never know exactly how it feels to be POC. - Donna

I don't if this is a very strong point. It sort-of implies the POC know exactly how each other feel, and they don't. They can only intellectualize and empathize with each other.

Really, that's all we've got. We can't climb inside of each other's heads. Know what I mean?

Nanette said...

Maybe the unspoken distinction there was -violent- criminal.

No - I don't think there is that much distinction made. Not even the babies escape from this.

For example, on Alas a while back, some woman who lived in Louisiana, and all the disruption there, wrote on a thread that she was afraid because she (and her children) were white and due to circumstances the children were slated to begin kindergarten with almost entirely black classmates.

She mentioned something about some friend of hers whose white children had gotten into a fight or two with some black children... in nursery school or pre-school age daycare, and she wondered if she was racist to be fearful and worried about sending her white children to school with a bunch of black 4, 5 and 6 year olds.

Black (and brown) babies are assumed, by more than a few, to be inherently violent.

We won't even mention Bill Bennett and his genocidal theories, lol.

And non white teen or adult women...

Just think of that time when Black Amazon was sharpening her machete in preparation of slashing Amanda's argument to shreds... and Amanda's friends immediately assumed that BA was making death threats.

While we are not seen as being potentially as violent as MOC are viewed to be, we are still considered likely to blow up at any time, and maybe start kicking or slashing people at the least provocation.

ArrogantWorm said...

Pardon the interruption, I'm gonna try and make it simpler to see if I understand.

Person A may be and feel marginalized by a another person or group cuz of a specific characteristic, and Person B may have marginalization for a different specific characteristic. Both may have the same types of feelings that being marginalized produces, but brought about by different group characteristics.

Alright, think I got it so far.

Although Donna believes that (correct me if I'm wrong) Person A will most likely understand the feelings and frustrations of marginalization from specific characteristics because other people in Group A share the same type of marginilization because of those characteristics, while group B won't because they don't share the same reason for getting marginalized, and vice versa. I agree with that and I don't, at the same time.

I'd like to think that people in 'my group' will generally 'get it' about the same things, but there's no garauntee they'll have the same...amount? of feelings about a marginalized action than I do. I'm proved wrong often enough that I don't put much stock in shared feelings per-se. Belledame's link she put up is a good example of it. Shared experiences, yes, I'll prolly have those in common but people's individual reactions and opinions will vary.

ArrogantWorm said...

Ack, I don't mean the link that started the post, I meant the link in the comments section, sorry.

belledame222 said...

nanette: those are good points. Also there's the whole "desexing" thing that goes on, with racial Othering. I was mostly thinking of the specific examples Nezua was talking about (i.e. cross the street, clutch the purse, don't get in the elevator). But for all I know that happens to WOC just as much.

Conversations with/overhearing various white women leads me to suspect that for at least some of 'em, in fact they are a lot more afraid of MOC (specifically, black and brown) than they are of women; but y'know, i'm hardly a statistical representative of anything.

belledame222 said...

but yeah, that business with BA was...well, i assumed they were being fatuous; but i suppose maybe spurious "fear" (yeah, right, she's coming after Amanda with her machete!) could cover up the real fear? Mostly I saw it as a was to put BA firmly back in her place: unruly, uncivilized, you know, not that they literally feared her violence. Maybe it doesn't matter.

Tom Nolan said...

and maayyyyyyybeee this might be something those nice fellas over at feminist critics would want to talk about, seeing as how they want to talk about how men are oppressed as men per se - BD

Ah yes, Feminist Critics - the blog where nice white guys discuss feminism. Actually, I'm not sure if we *are* all white. I mean, it's not the sort of thing that shows up in a person's style, is it? Anyway, my last long-time girlfriend was black, which, according to a certain internet authority in these matters, makes me a race traitor and thus uniquely qualified to talk about the suffering of minorities of all kinds while noting that nobody knows the trouble I've seen. Oh, and it makes me a *sex* traitor too, I guess, so I'm even more infallible. Go ahead, ask me anything.

belledame222 said...

Actually, I'm not sure if we *are* all white. I mean, it's not the sort of thing that shows up in a person's style, is it?

all's i know is, and all's I'm saying is, I haven't really seen the -subject- brought up there, thus far.

Tom Nolan said...

Well go and bring it up then! I'd be surprised if anyone there wants to suggest that all men are equal in so far as they are subjugated to their sex-roles, and that if black men complain of racism in addition to sexual oppression they are just playing into the hands of the wicked women who exploit all members of the male sex equally, and anyway can't black guys just let the white ones lead the way in fighting anti-male prejudice? - but it's possible I suppose. If somebody were to say anything as daft as that, though, you could come down on them like a ton of bricks, right?

By the way, I personally find the notion of men in the west being "oppressed" as a group a bit daft. They are sometimes disadvantaged, for sure, but to call them oppressed is - well, it's going it some.

Donna said...

Central, if you are going to be that specific, then of course no one person knows any other person's reality and exact experiences.

Donna said...

Although Donna believes that (correct me if I'm wrong) Person A will most likely understand the feelings and frustrations of marginalization from specific characteristics because other people in Group A share the same type of marginilization because of those characteristics, while group B won't because they don't share the same reason for getting marginalized, and vice versa. I agree with that and I don't, at the same time.

Yes, that's what I am saying, although the white people who seem to understand best have multiple marginalized identities. It's like they have to be hated by many different people for many different reasons before they can understand. There are exceptions to the rule I am sure, some people are really good at putting themselves in someone else's shoes. But do you really think there is any time that even the most empathetic white person could speak with authority to POC experience of racism?

Cassandra Says said...

ballgame - What I meant is that all men have probably experienced something like this - you are walking down the street at night, there is a woman near you, no one else is around, the woman appears to be scared of you, you yourself have no evil intentions of any kind but in no way does that change the fact that the woman is scared of you. That, I think, is probably universal amongst men.
What I think is specific to MOC is the purse-clutching etc - ie reactions that aren't about women's fear of rape specifically but about much broader assumptions that are being made about MOC and crime.
Eli pretty much explained it already, actually.

belledame222 said...

But do you really think there is any time that even the most empathetic white person could speak with authority to POC experience of racism?

I get the impression that what CCP is objecting to here isn't so much that notion (that is, that the answer to that is "no"), but that it might also be problematic in that the tacit assumption is that another POC -will- automatically "get it;"

yeah, i dunno. I'm gonna step back and do a parallel: would I say, "no straight person can understand the gay coming-out process?" mmmmmaybe. but, otoh, it's just possible that, in a given room, the gender-variant Wiccan hetero dude might get -my- deal better than the second-wave radical lesbian feminist...

shrug. we create or rather identify these fairly discrete categories of experience, of identity, if you will, for ourselves;

and, like all framing devices, they can both clarify and confuse.

belledame222 said...

so maybe it's more of a continuum, you know, of "getting it," than a yes/no. and no one is ever going to 100% "get it;" and that realization is actually painful, I think. it can be sort of a relief to focus more on the people who REALLY REALLY don't get it, sometimes, than to dwell on our existential aloneness...

eh, screw it, it's late, i need to eat.

ballgame said...

cassandra: Thanks for your response, but I still can't quite discern the 'difference' you alluded to when you said "it's not the same thing." Men of all races are viewed with suspicion and outright fear by women (and other men, too) in certain situations. I find it highly plausible that MOC are viewed this way more often than 'men of pallor', but it isn't clear to me that this difference in 'frequency of the experience' constitutes a barrier between 'those who understand what it feels like to be viewed this way' and 'those who can't or don't understand this particular experience'.

Please note that: 1. I'm NOT saying that this 'barrier' definitely doesn't exist, only that I'm agnostic about whether it does or not and someone would have to make the case for it first.

And, 2. I do believe that there IS a 'barrier of experience' between whites and POC when it comes to the specific kind of 'othering' that occurs to POC living in a predominantly white culture. I think whites can and are racially 'othered' by POC in certain situations, but I suspect very few 'people of pallor' have to live and breathe this experience the way many (most? all?) POC do (in the West), and that 'omnipresence of racial othering' WOULD constitute an experience that would be difficult to fully appreciate if you haven't had to live it.

belledame222 said...

Am now thinking of just how many songs I've heard, sung/penned by men, that have lines to the effect of, "I won't hurt you, girl; I just wanna love ya..."

which always sort of creeped me out; I would think, why mention this?

altho' i suppose am thinking in particular of some such song by the Beatles, ("I'll never do ya, nor harmm...") sung by Lennon, who also penned & sang "You better run for your life if you can, little girl, hide your head in the sand, little girl, catch you with another man, that's the end, little girl..."

Tom Nolan said...

sung by Lennon - BD

No, "Oh Darling" is actually sung by McCartney.

The really nasty Lennon number is "Jealous Guy", which is a kind of wife-beaters anthem.

ArrogantWorm said...

But do you really think there is any time that even the most empathetic white person could speak with authority to POC experience of racism?

Speak with authority in regards to the experience of racism?

No, I don't.

But for someone (anyone) to speak in regards to the feelings that 'othering' gives in general***, I suppose that would depend on the extent of one's personal oppression, because from what I understand, the feelings themselves are pretty much the same. That is, shame, fear, guilt, happy at the little crumb of praise that might be thrown....

*** (not for a specific issue that they don't have personal experience in)

Central Content Publisher said...

But do you really think there is any time that even the most empathetic white person could speak with authority to POC experience of racism? - Donna

Often, actually. I understand more about what life is like for the average Haitian Canadian than almost any POC who lives in, say, Los Angles (mind you, Quebec is like a universe onto its own). And none of us can really speak about life as an Ethiopian. I guess it depends on where you think authority comes from, on who’s speaking, and on who’s listening.

Of course, there’s also the problem of competence. For example, I think I can speak with more authority about the POC experience than the average POC with Down Syndrome. Mind you, I don’t know bugger all about what it’s like to have Down Syndrome.

I guess my point here is that saying “I’m a POC” doesn’t give you more authority than I have to talk about the experiences of all POC. Some? Sure. You? Definitely. Your neighbour? Most likely. But not everyone.

so maybe it's more of a continuum, you know, of "getting it," than a yes/no. and no one is ever going to 100% "get it;" and that realization is actually painful, I think - belledame222

This pretty much nails what I was getting at. But, as much as it can hurt feeling marginalized and misunderstood, especially when living with the fruits of discrimination, I think, it’s remarkable that we seem to understand each other as well as we do. There’s a reason why we can read Shakespeare and still get it. I mean really, I have more in common with any modern POC than I have with Shakespeare, and yet, we can all understand completely what his characters are going through. It would be ridiculous of me to say “you couldn’t possibly understand Shakespeare if you aren’t white”. Most of what makes up the human experience transcends identity markers.

I really “believe” in the potential of human empathy. Mark this moment, because I don’t “believe” in much. I think a big part of the problem is empathy overload. Appeals to our empathy are constant. People shut down. But, I think it’s a mistake to attribute this to the impossibility of empathy. It’s not that we can’t empathize or understand, but that we have a limited capacity to incorporate new forces pulling on our empathic psyches.

Or maybe we’re all doomed and alone. That’s always a possibility.

belledame222 said...

well--okay, but look, on the other hand, N is talking about understanding what -specific common experiences- are like. Obviously there are universals we all share; no one's saying "you can't understand ANYTHING about what it's like to be in my shoes."

I'm not really sure I'm understanding what you're saying wrt Down's syndrome. Are you saying that you have more in common with a POC who doesn't have Down's than one who does? Or...?

ArrogantWorm said...

I'm not really sure I'm understanding what you're saying wrt Down's syndrome. Are you saying that you have more in common with a POC who doesn't have Down's than one who does? Or...?

Oh, I know this one!

He's saying that a POC with Down's syndrome views the world and reacts to it in a different way than your 'average' Person of Color, so his reactions to such bigotry would match closer to an 'average' POC's reactions than one with Down's syndrome, since the POC with Down's syndrome wouldn't have the contextual framework that everyone else is indoctrinated by because of Down's syndrome.

At least, that's what it looked like. o.o
If I'm right, great, if I'm wrong, blame me.


...'Scuze me, need to pat myself on the back.

ArrogantWorm said...

But do you really think there is any time that even the most empathetic white person could speak with authority to POC experience of racism?

Perhaps I was too hasty. 'At any time' covers a lot of ground. Nomadic lifestyles (where people are few and far between), or possibly wildly different psychological profiles from the norm, or disabilities that may cause a POC to react and understand interactions as nothing near what an 'average' POC experiences.

It would depend on if a white person was relaying, not deciding, on views to a POC that has a very different assimilation of treatment regarding the issues. Rare, but possible.

If relaying, I'm not sure I see the harm, since the words would chosen by the POC in question.

If deciding for themselves what the issues are for another individual or group, well, no. No one has that right, which is as it should be.

And I *Do* mean a white person relaying, not deciding, on what an individual POC feels, or what a group takes a stance on, with the understanding that a group is general and doesn't speak for all people.


~And the pat on the back was so I don't choke on my own ego~

ArrogantWorm said...

...authority to POC experience of racism?

Ugh, I need sleep, what's the word 'to' there?

If it means a white person is speaking as if they experienced institutionalized racism in a culture that was predominantly white, then no. But I thought you meant speaking of racist experience of POC in general, and basically, well, passing the message along.


Yeah....so going to sleep npw, honest.

R. Mildred said...

I don't if this is a very strong point. It sort-of implies the POC know exactly how each other feel, and they don't. They can only intellectualize and empathize with each other.

That's only true if you assume that "POC" is a homogenous grouping, with a homogenous identity. which is just plain wrong for so many reasons...

POC is an intentionally inclusive term, but it is not meant to be a homogenous one.

ArrogantWorm said...

I've come to the conclusion that being overtired doesn't help constructive thought. Definitely over thought this.

I'm stickin' with my no.

"Is firm"

Central Content Publisher said...

but look, on the other hand, N is talking about understanding what -specific common experiences- are like - belledame222

I see this quickly moving toward the "what is a POC" conversation. Which, if memory serves, I had last year with bfp.

The problem is that POC is a VERY inclusive term. Once you've included that many people, the "specific common experiences" come down to generic human experiences that just about everyone has. There is no specific common experience with racism that only POC have.

If there is a specific experience, I'm open to it. In fact, I should just know it. By bfp's definition, I am a POC. Maybe by other people's I'm not. It's a very dodgy term.

# on the Down Syndrome thing #

I should really know better than to bring these sorts of comparisons up. Some people with Down Syndrome are quite sharp, but for those who aren't, it's more than possible that I understand their experience with racism better than they do. It's a problem of competence.

Donna wanted examples where a white person could speak with more authority about racism as experienced by a POC than a POC could. It was an example.

ArrogantWorm said...

There is no specific common experience with racism that only POC have.

I think it boils down to continually being seen as visibly different by ethnic characteristics. Person Y can have Person X act in a racist way towards them and yet not be a poc by institutionalized standards, depending on one's definition, if they didn't internalize societies' messages about poc and view themselves as such.

I've got two examples, dunno how well they fit. People tend to mistake me for Asian when I dye my hair black, and I've gotten questions and comments with the inherent assumptions regarding that. But I've got no internalized messages regarding my worth as being less-than with regards to race, because I was raised with the idea I'm white. One of my sisters on the other hand ain't pale by any means, and when she leaves her hair alone for a bit it dreads. She has the same messages with regards to whiteness that I do, that is, she didn't grow up being treated differently on a constant basis and doesn't have internalized shame from being identified by others as 'Other.' To the best of her knowledge, she's white, and strives for those horrid visual ideals that some kids (and adults) love so much.

(as a note, she isn't white, but she's under the assumption she is. She's only 14, and the whole parental situation for the lot of us (nine, if I'm not mistaken) is too complicated to get into.)

Would've been shorter if I just typed 'internalized continual shame by society due to skin color and cultural stereotypes"

Central Content Publisher said...

Would've been shorter if I just typed 'internalized continual shame by society due to skin color and cultural stereotypes" - ArrogantWorm

That makes sense to me. Would it lose anything to say "internalized shame due to cultural stereotypes based on skin colour"? I think it may be redundant to say cultural stereotypes come from society, and I'm not sure if continual is really necessary - internalization has an implied persistence.

I've heard many arguments that what you're describing isn't racism. Not that I agree with those arguments... just say'in. I believe the argument rationalizes that power needs to play a part in there somewhere.

ArrogantWorm said...

I've heard many arguments that what you're describing isn't racism.

Oooo, where? I'd like to research several different definitions, I've only heard of two, and the second makes no sense to me, it being when one resembles a stereotypical poc, regardless of any racism they might or might not have experienced based on those stereotypical attributes.

I think the idea of separate races is a social construct, so I'm not sure where one would draw the line in regards to that, so it makes me edgy and uncomfortable because then, to me, it suggest the idea of race and racism as it stands today has no meaning when compared with societal views and expectations regarding a person's history of oppression.

Good god, run-on sentence.

ArrogantWorm said...

I run toward the pedantic and precise, but if ya don't think it'll lose the original meaning expressed, feel free to change it. The extra wording is a bit much when you explain it that way.

Chuckie K said...

"we can all understand completely what his characters are going through." _ I don't buy this claim about reading or better seeing Shakespeare for one minute. His plays are so imbricated in a late feudal society, that most of our 'intuitive' understanding consists of anachronistic psychological imputations that do not scratch the surface of the characters' experiences.

It took me years of working daily and deeply with medieval texts before the pathos of particular scenes connected with me and made me cry. Achieving the partial understanding of the experiences at issue in this discussion to my way of thinkings takes a comparable effort.

ArrogantWorm said...

Sorry for the triple posts, but I mean to add that that isn't the full extent of institutionalized racism, I don't think. There's more to it than self-shame. Racist actions could be directed at a Poc or someone they perceive as a Poc, but they're still racist bigoted actions because of the reason those actions were done.

But if they were done a few times to a non Poc I wouldn't consider the resulting feelings enough to 'qualify' as a Poc because they aren't consistent with the person's view of self through total life experiences.

Much like I don't think sexist insults directed at me when I'm viewed as male 'qualifies' me as physically male, no matter how many times someone believes otherwise.

A sketchy analogy, but it's the closest I can think of right now.

Rosie said...

I think anyone who is in a marginalized sector can sort of empathize with what Nezua is talking about. As a Southern woman I can say that there is a similar pressure to conform to societal constructs...to be a "good girl", yes ma'am, no, sir etc. Be nice. But that gut and cellular feeling he is talking about...I'm not sure that's something we can understand without being a POC. He's described it more eloquently than I've heard it described before.

Central Content Publisher said...

A sketchy analogy, but it's the closest I can think of right now. - ArrogantWorm

No, it was a good analogy. I think internalization implies the kind of reinforcement and consistency-across-a-lifetime you're describing.

It took me years of working daily and deeply with medieval texts before the pathos of particular scenes connected with me and made me cry. Achieving the partial understanding of the experiences at issue in this discussion to my way of thinkings takes a comparable effort. - Chuckie K

So... understanding the common experiences of possibly the largest class of people on earth, is as hard as understanding a complex medieval text? Not likely.

That Shakespeare can be understood at all, even shallowly, sort-of proves my point.

ArrogantWorm said...

As a Southern woman I can say that there is a similar pressure to conform to societal constructs

Aye, true, but I think everyone has pressure to conform to various societal constructs because we all live in society. It isn't quite the same as those messages telling you that you're a horrible person for existing because they don't work -quite- the same.

The first encourages people as they shame them, giving them a sort of hope by telling them that if they just reached a -little- higher with a -smidge- more effort, they, too, could be as happy and successful as the right kind of people. Or maybe *Be* the right kind of people, I've never quite figured that out. Are they the same?

The second seems to give parts of humanity, Poc in particular, the equivalant of a giant middle finger with the message 'We'll take your money, but don't ever presume you're as good as us, but feel free to try"

Although it does remind me that the beauty and fashion industry is ever popular. Meh.

ArrogantWorm said...

But then, a line would inevitably be drawn on how much one needs to be seen as a Poc to have internalized... stuff. Damn lines and all they represent.

Donna said...

I had to get away from this thread because I was getting angry. The way it's being discussed is like it's an intellectual game or test with a few trick questions thrown in to add to the fun. "A white person can empathize with a dwarf atheist Cuban-American better than most POC can! or even an Asian woman living as a hermit in the Himilayas!" This is not theory to us, it's like, um, OUR FREAKING LIVES! If the exception to the rule in experience proves you are right and makes you feel good. You're all that and a bag o' chips.

This is what I am talking about:
Walking on the Minefields of Race

All these kind empathetic white people had no clue to what was going on. But I could give them an answer even though I am not a black woman (I'm native american), because I have experienced that and know other POC who have experienced it. There are many commonalities to the particular brand of oppression that is racism and this is what Nezua is talking about. We know it from living it. You may know it from us telling you about it, but it's still academic and hypothetical and somewhat unreal for you. Some of us get a heaping helping, others a taste. But a taste is enough to know the poison when you encounter it.

ArrogantWorm said...

I'm sorry if the way I discussed it hurt you.
I don't consider it an intellectual game or a test with trick questions. I do discuss emotional topics from an intellectual standpoint wether I'm personally familiar with them or not. Why do I do that? I've little to no clue, but I've been told I have the emotional range of a tablespoon, so I should've forseen hurting someone as it's unfortunately a somewhat common occurance.

You posed a question, as such, I was attempting to answer it to the best of my ability with regards to all the possible situations that could be involved instead of just a generalized overview, which I took to include extreme isolation and different ways due to brain formation (which was what I meant by psychology) of perceiving the world not usually available to most of society.

"A white person can empathize with a dwarf atheist Cuban-American better than most POC can! or even an Asian woman living as a hermit in the Himilayas!"

Again, if that's what it read like I'm sorry. It would've been nice if someone had pointed it out that it sounded like that sooner. But that brief synopsis above was not what I meant.

You may know it from us telling you about it, but it's still academic and hypothetical and somewhat unreal for you.

Largely yes, with a little bit of no thrown in. I suppose I should refrain from pointing out idiots in my town apparently think anyone with 'slanted' (because I honestly don't have a better word) eyes is Asian and that they insult them as such. But I'm still trying to get a definition on who 'qualifies' as a person of color, and how that is decided. Most of my rambling above were trying to sort just that bit out.

Also, my email address should be in my profile if you've future concerns with me.

Nanette said...

I had pretty much the same reaction as Donna... I mean really... Down's syndrome?

Then I realized that the resulting conversation has served to illustrate and shore up Nezua's original text, allowing people to view, in real time, the rather vast gulf between understanding something intellectually, and living it:

I'm sure you could imagine or intellectualize it, but the great thing about talking to other members of The Brown™ is that they have lived it, they carry it in their heart and their stomach, in their eye muscles and neck muscles and spine. There is no need to "try and understand." I'm not saying this to exclude anyone, just spittin' my truth here.

Interesting.

Central Content Publisher said...

You may know it from us telling you about it, but it's still academic and hypothetical and somewhat unreal for you - Donna

I know racism from living it. I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood.

The problem here, isn't me understanding what racism feels like. I am viscerally aware of what you're talking about. I've lived it in my bones and muscles and knife wounds (I've never successfully been shot, thank the endless void) . I've lived being reminded every day that I should be ashamed of who I was born as, hounded as both a cracker and a race-traitor, told I couldn't go into my friend's houses because I was too white, emersed in technocolour racial stereotypes, plagued by the cops, beaten, spat on, and all the while told I "couldn't possibly get it". Trust me, I "get it".

The problem is not just imagining that POC and non-POC (aka. white people - whatever that means) are each a monolithic uni-identity who have completely opposite experiences by virtue of the race they're perceived as, but that the gulf (where there is one) is so wide as to render empathy and understanding impossible.

Despite what your particular American nightmare tells you, the trailer park and the ghetto (and the reserve) have more in common than not.

Then I realized that the resulting conversation has served to illustrate and shore up Nezua's original text, allowing people to view, in real time, the rather vast gulf between understanding something intellectually, and living it - Nanette

A gulf has been illustrated. Just not the one you imagine.

Donna said...

My garage door opener broke. Today a nice white man is coming to fix it or replace it. When I go to pay him by check, he will look at me funny and hesitate. Because brown people don't know how to handle money, we don't have any in our bank accounts, we're not even supposed to have bank accounts. No, we blow it all on booze and drugs. I have three herniated discs in my neck. I wake up in alot of pain and usually take a vicodin but haven't today. Because I don't want that nice white man to think I'm a drunk or stoned and that I fritter my money away on those things. So I wait. He will fix the door and I will pay with my check and he will give me that look and I will bite my tongue. I won't say it. I won't tell him that I'm one of the "good ones" that I really have money and the check won't bounce.

Shoot, why am I telling this here? Were all enlightened and progressive. Everyone here knows how I am feeling right now, eh?

belledame222 said...

yeah.

sigh.

i started this thread in the hope that people would talk about their -own- stuff wrt being "good." me, i was thinking about gender-related stuff, and the "best little boy/girl" in the world syndrome for queer kids, and such.

then spent most of the day yesteday offline alas.

i had the same reaction as nanette wrt "Down syndrome."

belledame222 said...

i also think class is worth talking about in its own right (trailer park/ghetto).

belledame222 said...

i mean, really what i took away (what i connected with) from the original thread was the subtle pressure to "represent" as well as to conform when among people of the dominant mumble.

so, like, it made me think of how i've felt when just out of the closet or not out in a particular situation, listening to a bunch of straight women talk about hetero relationships and desires and problems, complete with all kinds of unspoken assumptions; and/or my cousin asking me, when i outed myself to him in the course of his talking in a not-terribly-conscious way about Those People, well, but why do They need a parade?

not the same thing, no, but i've always felt that as being -good- in a certain sense. like, blurting something like "actually, i'm just in it for the pussy eating" instead of carefully talking about Rights 101 would ruin Relations for the next umpty years for everyone...and how -good- it would feel.

or, my old-school UG professor who'd written a letter of rec for me based on a play I'd written, who'd read my newer play and expressed disappointment for "regressing;" what he meant was, unlike the former play, this one had a distinctly feminist POV, was satirical; the last one had had a male protagonist and was thus more -universal,- see. I stammered and smiled and didn't really know what to say...

belledame222 said...

or, like I dunno, to a degree this involves "speaking for" again, but in some ways i connect too, the various interactions (taking place at and described) at Renegade's, like the one she was just talking about where she "outs" herself as a stripper to these guys she'd just been chatting with and IMMEDIATELY one of 'em, his entire attitude toward her shifted, and suddenly she was meant to represent Every Stripper: answer the questions! defy the stereotypes!

but also of course it's related to gender shit as well, that. she promptly turned into -not- "just one of the guys," with that. she was "bad," in several senses, or at least challenged to i know a lot of (non-sex worker) women who hang around with men a lot have described (maybe) similar * sorts of feelings sometimes; the realization that oh, actually, it was kind of conditional, wasn't it.

Donna said...

It's true that any one who is marginalized has at one time or another played goodboy/girl to prove they don't fit the stereotype. I could easily understand a fat person eating only a salad in front of the boss to prove that he or she doesn't overeat, or being comically overactive to prove he/she isn't lazy. But what they are doing may seem mystifying to someone who has been thin their entire life. "Why are you being so hyper? The boss is paying, why don't you treat yourself to the prime rib?" It could be explained and thin people could get some sense of the internal conflict, but they will never know what that really feels like.

I know what you are saying and agree that we all do things we don't want to because we want to break the stereotypical mold, whether the marginalization is due to racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.

What I don't agree to is this attitude of I am so enlightened and empathetic, I not only feel your pain but know it better than you do yourself! And when that person is told to back off. Then it's - well if I can't know exactly your pain then I should completely give up, we'll never understand each other! It's one extreme or the other. Either we accept them as our official white spokesperson, or they are taking their ball and going home. So yeah, with those people I do imagine a giant gulf.

Donna said...

More from Nezua: The Skin of My Soul (Intermission)

"Mi novia (the loveliest of crackers) says that it really frustrates White people that no matter how much they know or want to know, there may be an area of experience or knowledge that they cannot access. Bingo, Gringo.

This is another way of saying White Privilege.

How dare the world harbor some sort of Thing that I cannot experience! How dare you insinuate that you possess knowledge I may have to ask you about in humility! How impertinent of you to even imagine that I cannot, with study and great wisdom and effort, also know what it is like to grow up Brown™ in America! The voice of privilege thinks no seat is unavailable, no land unconquerable, no food untasteable, no right deniable, no experience out of reach. It is a slap in the face to this line of thought that there exists an area that cannot be known, even to a WHITE person. Gasp.

Tough shit. Get over it. Get used to it. Welcome to America, Macracka."

belledame222 said...

What I don't agree to is this attitude of I am so enlightened and empathetic, I not only feel your pain but know it better than you do yourself!

Yeah, I hear you. this is Not How It Was Supposed To Go.

(long ago and far away,

conversation with (hilarious) Angry Revolutionary Anarcho-Primitivist (online) Guy: included, among other highlights,

(something like)

"I understand sexism better than most of the girls I teach....")

cicely said...

Oh, I should have posted the comment I wrote last night but gave up on because it was late and I was tired and my mind went fuzzy...anyway - it was a direct response to this:

And the mixed feelings that brings up. Damned if you do; damned if you don't. Feels kind of crappy to accept the pat on the head; especially if (ugh) it simultaneously feels...kind of good. Hey, praise is praise, right? And especially especially when you realize "them" is, well, your friends and family. Sometimes even named or identified as such. But oh, won't you be -bad- if you just snarl,

"Thanks for the 'compliment.' Now fuck off."

Because, not only is that scary in and of itself; but if you've already tacitly accepted this person's attempt to have you "represent," you'll be Letting The Team Down. Or...anyway, by the time you've finished processing under the automatic smile, the moving hand, having head-patted, has moved on.

I dunno. Anyone else feeling this? Been a "good boy" or "good girl" in any context?


Can't remember exactly what I wrote last night, but anyway, this is all very familiar. I imagine I will have forgotten more occasions than I could possibly actually remember - given they've been occurring over the 35 years I've been an out lesbian. At work, at lover's family gatherings - all over the place. And it's oh, fuck me, they got me again because, as you say belledame, while you're processing all the emotions, the good and the bad, and girding yourself for the reaction to a possible respectable or even admirable retort - for yourself and the team - to 'Aunty Sue' or your lover's mother or whoever, the moment to say anything at all is passing quickly past. And it's exactly true that when you're with other lesbians - about this stuff - no need to explain. We all carry the experiences around with us - and some/many - in their particulars - are unique to us and all of you fellow travellers out there - I hereby absolve you of any and all guilt over such moments. As I know you do me!

ArrogantWorm said...

It's true that any one who is marginalized has at one time or another played goodboy/girl to prove they don't fit the stereotype.

This isn't applicable to all the stereotypes, though. I can't think of a time when I played goodboy/girl to prove I don't fit the stereotype of a transexual, since the stereotype that the general public has is of my sisters instead of my brothers. And to be able to break one of those stereotypes, there would have to be some kind of 'good' transexual place in the public mind to prove myself with, maybe with some kind of marker, and so far, I find there isn't.

Donna said...

Well, that went worse than expected. He hesitated as soon as he saw me. Introduced himself and then asked if I would be paying today. I'm surprised he didn't tell me he'd need cash up front before he would do the job.

I should have told him that I plan on paying him with a rubber check and that he can try to fight me in court to get the money, but by then I will have popped out a dozen crack babies and have absconded to another unsuspecting nice white neighborhood to live high off the hog on welfare.

Instead I just felt sucker punched and said yes.

belledame222 said...

donna: that sucks.

i kind of wish you -had- said that, but, i totally understand why one wouldn't.

wouldn't it be something if we all said exactly what was on our minds?

Central Content Publisher said...

What I don't agree to is this attitude of I am so enlightened and empathetic, I not only feel your pain but know it better than you do yourself! - Donna

Did someone say that?

HurricaneCandice said...

Black people get so up in arms when gays equate their struggle to that of blacks, but is it really all that different? You made mention of this fact and I caught myself nodding in agreement. There is NO difference between gay people acting straight to appease everyone around them and blacks trying not to use ebonics to appease everyone around them.
Thanks for this post.

belledame222 said...

erk. You're welcome, but

1) it's only a handful of prominent conservative black activists that have gotten so up in arms about that comparison, that I'm aware of

2) "ebonics," oh, I wouldn't go there...(see above re: conservative code words)

Nanette said...

Jeebus. Never ending waves of ignorance so profound one is tempted to wonder if it is parody.

Well, you know... sometimes it seems the only thing left to do is... laugh.

A by-product of getting old, maybe.

Central Content Publisher said...

Don't delude yourself. Passive aggressiveness hardly qualifies as just laughing it off.

belledame222 said...

Okay, enough.

Chuckie K said...

Pardon one last comment. People are infinitely more complex than texts.

Hummingbyrd said...

(not you, the other White people)
===========

I heart this.

Kai said...

Um, belledame, I'm just curious: is there some reason why "central content publisher" sounds so damn superior and clueless? Like some series of formidable accomplishments that the rest of us don't know about which induces this attitude? Because that might make some sense, when sitting here berating Donna and Nanette for not understanding POC issues. Central publishing cluelessness, is what it looks like to the rest of the world, but I'm sure from within its own confines it looks pretty sweet and philosophically consistent.

Central Content Publisher said...

belledame222: just say if you want me to leave and not come back. It's not you, but in general, I can live without the abuse.

...I wont be offended.

Donna said...

CCP, I know belle doesn't want this to escalate, so I'll explain one more time as civilly as possible.

It's agreed that all human beings feel pain, rejection, exclusion, etc at one time or another. We can relate to that and this is the connection that belle is seeing in the goodboy/girl syndrome. When you believe the pain, rejection, exclusion is based on a stereotype you say or do things you sometimes hate, or that wouldn't be normal for you, to prove you are "one of the good ones".

You said, "Clearly, if I can empathize, I can understand." No, this is what Nezua was saying, "I'm sure you could imagine or intellectualize it". You have a sort of understanding, but you will never know how it feels.

Then, "I don't if this is a very strong point. It sort-of implies the POC know exactly how each other feel, and they don't. They can only intellectualize and empathize with each other." The things we have to put up with are almost universal, there will always be the outlier, but in the examples I gave at Everybody Comes from Somewhere, almost every POC would have said nearly the same thing I did over there. And about my day yesterday, almost any POC would have recognized what was going on and have a story about something similar that happened to them and feeling the same way as I did.

Even the "racism" you said you encountered is based on self preservation through learned experience. POC have learned to suspect, distrust, even hate white people because of actual things that have been done to them. Racism against POC on the other hand is based on ignorance and cultural stereotypes that say we are inferior. The particular stereotype for one race or ethnicity compared to another maybe slightly different, but it all says, "not as good as white people."

I doubt if any black person in your neighborhood ever thought you might hire someone and not pay, unless you are a conman and then they would have good reason. It was assumed that I would, with no evidence. I have no reputation for being a conwoman, I live in a middle class neighborhood, but it's only my brown skin that makes me an imposter and criminal where I live. No one would have ever assumed that you might be sitting around drunk first thing in the morning unless you are an alcoholic, then they would have good reason. But I had to worry about that assumption being made about me and sit in pain until they showed up and did the work I needed done.

The fact that you can't see this tells us that you actually feel very little empathy and have very little understanding even though you lived in a black neighborhood. The only ones you are identifying with are other white people who are rejected by POC for those self-preservation reasons, not the ignorance and belief that the other person is inferior that real racism is based on.

Donna said...

arrogantworm, you said it's impossible for a trans-people to play goodboy/girl? Read the quotation in belle's first comment. It was possible for that person.

Central Content Publisher said...

Donna: I don't want to escalate things either. So, I'm going to ask if you mind if I respond. If either you or belledame would rather I didn't, I wont. It's all cool.

belledame222 said...

CCP, that is not my personal wish. that said, Donna and Kai and Nanette are all people I respect, and generally it takes a lot to get them to the point of anger, in my experience. my preference would have been that this entire conversation had gone differently.

belledame222 said...

slip. I'm going to make a request, then, if this is going to continue: that people speak from the "I."

belledame222 said...

with one note: I believe AW was indeed speaking from experience, and also perhaps making a note about the difference between MtF and FtM experience. I'll let AW clarify that, though.

belledame222 said...

and an observation, okay:

I do see class as a possible factor here, that's not yet been spoken of.

Central Content Publisher said...

Brief preamble: I should say that I’m Canadian, and so, the scope of the following is a Canadian one. Scope is very important, but I’ll get to that.

When I was a kid, my world consisted of about four or five square blocks. The entire power structure of my world existed within that space, sporadically interrupted by the odd police cruiser and cries of “bobbylon” that sent us all running. The police were not part of the power structure. They were more like bad weather; you never knew when they’d breeze in, but you knew it was going to suck. It was all about basketball, break’in, turn-tables, and get’n high (this was a long time ago btw).

Anyway, I was the racial target. Not surprising really, I was in the minority, and ya know, everyone loves to hate a white guy. It consisted of the usual stuff; mistrust, verbal abuse, violence and of course, bullying by virtue of my marginal position. I had a few friends, and while even they jokingly called me “honky” or “white boy”, I was more or less surviving with marginal amounts of dignity.

As we got older and started to connect more and more with neighbouring crews, I became more and more of a liability to my “friends”. Racial unity was the big thing, and my presence sort of worked against that. It gets really gory around this part, so I’m gunna skip it, but I lived through it without too much loss of blood, and eventually hooked up with these two mulatto guys who hated black culture (their mothers were white and their missing fathers were black – they had a bit of a chip). Long story short, they had enough power around there to keep my ass safe (ah, the sweet power of narcotics).

A brief note about my X-friends: Lennox, probably my closest friend, and really, the smartest of the bunch of us, saw what was happening to me, and was noticeably torn up about it. In the end, he didn’t really dare risk taking my side, but I could tell he really wanted to. He “got it”. I ran into him years later after a punk-rocky show (I became a musician of sorts), and he had just graduated med school. He apologized and wished me well. That was pretty cool.

Anyway, there were always justifications, but at the end of the day, I was a vilified racial minority within the scope of the political system that governed my life. I lived with that every day. I almost died with it. This is why it upsets me when people claim that a white person couldn’t possibly understand (it kinda pisses off my Jewish girlfriend for different reasons that aren’t hard to guess). It denies my experience, and what I felt from that experience. To me, when an experience is even framed as a People Of Colour experience, it’s racism. Even more so when I’m told I couldn’t possibly know what racism feels like because of my skin colour.

# Definitions for Clarity #
Racism is a doctrine that supports or aims to create socio-political policies based on race.
Race is a type of human classification based on real or imagined genetic traits.

Central Content Publisher said...

I do see class as a possible factor here, that's not yet been spoken of. - belledame222

Certainly it was a huge factor. But it was a factor for all of us.

ArrogantWorm said...

arrogantworm, you said it's impossible for a trans-people to play goodboy/girl?

My understanding of goodboy/girl is that a person of their group modifies their behavior so they can be consciously seen as of the 'good' part of their group by society, that they're both a stand-in for how society views their group in question and that they don't want unfavorable stereotypes lobbed at them from the masses if they're part of a group that has visible markers or are 'out.'

if someone that is part of a group that isn't 'out' (like say, in sexuality) to the general public, then the goodboy/girl syndrome becomes mute with regards to the general public because there's no stereotypes and group for the public to connect your behavior to.

So, impossible? Yes and no. Mainly yes. It depends on the group of people your looks/behavior is being proved to.

Theres two genders represented in this wonderful society of ours, assuming everyone here lives in the Usa. To play goodgirl/boy and simultaniously be a representative to other parts of society as of that group, I think there has to be a representative that the public can point to as a rolemodel type for the group in question, behavior for them to achieve to. Good type of person in group / bad type of person in group, people mentally put you in one or the other.

I haven't been able to find a 'good type' of tg/ts person that society would consider a model representative of the community. What I have found is people that are said to represent the ts/tg 'movement', but they aren't considered models by the rest of society, or models in the traditional sense of "That's the behavior/look we're aiming for."

The yes part comes in, I think, when there's a group of tg/ts people and *They* decide what a good role model of that group would be. From my online experience

(because I don't live in a city, and my experience in real life in the group is usually limited to snail-mail penpals and the like)

some people in the Mtf community consider the more 'feminine' mtf's rolemodels that everyone should aspire to. In a way it's mirrored in society, but society doesn't consider it an actual thing worthy of acheivement. It seems to be more like "What a joke they pulled, yes, we all know they're lieing (ie, they're really men) but aren't they good at it? Now go away, you're making our eyes bleed."

You can't be considered a good role model for a group if your whole group, without exception, is considered a bunch of liars by default. Not 'Maybe with the tendency to lie, gotta keep an eye out for 'em." but by default.

Ftm's don't have that type of visibility to the public as of yet, but I doubt it'd matter in this case if we did, as most on T start to pass fairly quickly. (I'm drawing the line on ftm ts's using hormones, because if I didn't there's a whole 'nother can of worms to open regarding passing issues, but again, that's neither here nor there, because there's no model that society can point to and say 'that's the behavior you should be aiming for as a member of your group."

This thread is limiting the goodboy/girl syndrome thing as where you prove yourself to the dominant group in society, yes?

I think what I'm trying to get at is there's no 'good' behavioral expectations because all they can focus on is how well we (mainly mtf's/mtf tg's) look like the 'real thing.'

ArrogantWorm said...

And boy, those qualifiers were all over the place up there. The ts/tg definitions blur depending on who you talk to, hard to explain. General premise still stands, though.

I do see class as a possible factor here, that's not yet been spoken of. - BelleDame

Certainly it was a huge factor. But it was a factor for all of us.
- Central Content Publisher


I think she's talking about when a poorer person ("raises hand") goes into, say, a clothing store and, hmmm, let's say they spot me coming through the door, and they ask me if I need anything, I say no (and add a thank you, if I'm feeling particularly charitable that day, because I know damn well what happens once those doors swing shut) and then they'll dog my every step the whole time I'm there, finding busywork never more than ten feet away (like straightening cohangers that were in military precision to begin with) and if (when, really, because lets face it, they're not exactly subtle.) I catch them at it they develop a small, falsely-polite smile and a shining glow of sincerity in their eyes a cocker spaniel would kill for as they ask if I 'Need help with anything" for the third time in perhaps twenty minutes. And it isn't 'good service', because you can watch them watching you out of the corner of your eye when they think you aren't looking.

One of these days I'm going to tell 'em I need help getting a latte with no less than two but no more than four lightly browned scones, no butter and with just a dollop of jam, and that I prefer the napkin to be folded just so. I'm sure if I put my mind to it, they'll crack, the little buggers. And does anyone else feel like they have to apologize when they leave and don't buy anything?

belledame222 said...

you and Donna both, with the fantasy responses to Systemic Bastard People.

I think there needs to be some sort of course or something, sort of like assertiveness training but more like "smartass training." how to override the superego and Groucho your way to better treatment! or, um, something. that needs work.

per the post above: what about within certain particular contexts, though? maybe there isn't a "good" TG or TS model in the mainstream yet; but what about o i don't know, jumping through bureaucratic/medical hoops in the transitioning process?

belledame222 said...

This thread is limiting the goodboy/girl syndrome thing as where you prove yourself to the dominant group in society, yes?

well, with that last bit i just posted, I guess not. or, well: that's a question.

i mean, you take the whole MWMF situation (take it, please): obviously a bunch of radical lesbian-separatist/pro-wimminspace feminists aren't "the dominant group in society;" but relatively? in context?

That's it, maybe, what's been nagging at me: that power is, I think, -always- relative, and never static, even if it does tend to accumulate much more among certain people than others at any given point.

ArrogantWorm said...

but what about o i don't know, jumping through bureaucratic/medical hoops in the transitioning process?

Mmm, that might fit, I s'pose. It probably depends on where you live, I hear they're doing away with most of those transitioning-requirement hoops. That's in a medical context, though, and you can leave the office with relative ease and pick another and know that it's illegal for them to tell John Q. Public, because they're in the business of keeping things private. On a personal note, I lied to 'em anyway because I didn't, and don't, have the money to shop around. I think, at least now, that it's more of a 'do you qualify as one' thing, not a 'you already 'are' this, but are you a good one?'

Which bureaucratic hoops are you talking about? The sex markers aren't going to go away any time soon, I don't think, because they denote difference in physical appearance. ~In a way~ they can be important for correct and prompt care if someone goes to the hospital (If you pretend hospitals are prompt, that is) or is sent to prison. Those are pretty much null and void once you start transitioning, I think, because there's really no section that you'll fit into completely, health-wise. There's so many problems with how prisons are filled and run that I'm not even going to go there regarding hoops.

A problem is that sex and gender are conflated so it's not the only thing the markers do, and to get the benefits of 'em they have to match what you actually look like, so that might be a considered goodboy/girl.

With name change, everyone pays money for it.

i mean, you take the whole MWMF situation (take it, please)

I don't want it!

that power is, I think, -always- relative, and never static, even if it does tend to accumulate much more among certain people than others at any given point.

How is that nagging you? More power sections aren't here yet, but will probably come about eventually, while others dwindle to little or nothing, depending on context, place and time. Mainly time, I think, as there's so much of it in relation to everything else.

The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today. -Lewis Carrol

Nanette said...

ccp, I can intellectualize your experiences (and pretty awful they sound, too), and empathize even, but I cannot claim to know what you felt in that sort of situation, partially because I've never even been in so much as a fist fight in my life (not counting siblings).

That you experienced adversity due to your race (although the entire situation sounds like some sort of gangland thing, similar to what happens in prisons, but again... not my area of expertise), and that, as a youth, you were personally targeted for this reason is undeniable - but it is still not analogous.

What Nezua in his posting was saying, and what Donna has been saying repeatedly here is that if you are not a person of color, you can intellectualize about it, and even understand a little, but you cannot know what it is like, and the various small and large indignities experienced by most, day by day - many of which cross nationalities and cultures, but of course not all.

It is not denying your experience, or what you felt from that experience, to say that. It is just a fact of life. I assume that, once away from that small world you grew up in, your experiences changed? As a white man (I assume... I'm a little confused as to why bfp would consider you a poc, but you would not consider yourself such) in the general, mainstream population, was your skin color more of an asset or no?

That you apparently are having trouble grasping the differences - violent, traumatic childhood and teenhood related to your color, and from birth to death lived experiences that may have no violence or overt racism involved at all but which one cannot leave behind just by moving to a new neighborhood or making lots of money or getting an excellent education or growing old, etc, etc, because the big and little indignities are not dependent on things like that... it is these things that are the most difficult for people who are not poc to grasp. I think you are actually proving that point rather effectively.

For the most part, it does not exist for non-poc... oftentimes even the most tuned in, empathetic white people simply cannot see it until it is pointed out, and even then some are apt to doubt.

ArrogantWorm said...

(take it, please): obviously a bunch of radical lesbian-separatist/pro-wimminspace feminists aren't "the dominant group in society;" but relatively? in context?

...Well, if you insist it gets taken, alrighty. In context? Yeah, the festival goers are the dominant group. But good luck tryin' to tell 'em that. I think it happens that way with any group of people, the ones who don't, well, 'match' will try and make themselves appear enough like the rest so the dominant group doesn't make trouble for 'em. But it also depends, I think, in regards to action, if the dominant group considers the group with fewer people more powerful than they are. Sometimes they are, sometimes they aren't, but the perception of power is a biggie in relation to that power.

-You know, I'm not sure if I actually answered the question in my last comment.

And I forgot this part;

you and Donna both, with the fantasy responses to Systemic Bastard People.

I'm cheeky enough that I say things like that occasionally in rl. But my voice and expression is so dry they norm'ly think I'm serious and their resulting facial expressions and (sometimes) questions are more than I want to deal with.

Honestly, you'd think being able to mold someone's face into an abject look of horror and shock wouldn't get boring, but it does, so ya gotta ration it out. Besides, then they walk away with an odd opinion, because most don't ask wether I'm serious after their expressions calm down.

Nanette said...

As far as being angry, I'd just like to point out that ccp prompts me to roll my eyes and shake my head... 'tis hurricanecandice that almost got me to the point of spitting nails.

I'll not address her comment even now, as it would probably lead to things getting a tad off topic and unpleasant and, truly, I doubt it would do much good.

Okay, I'll shut up now.

cicely said...

What Nezua in his posting was saying, and what Donna has been saying repeatedly here is that if you are not a person of color, you can intellectualize about it, and even understand a little, but you cannot know what it is like, and the various small and large indignities experienced by most, day by day - many of which cross nationalities and cultures, but of course not all...

and from birth to death lived experiences that may have no violence or overt racism involved at all but which one cannot leave behind just by moving to a new neighborhood or making lots of money or getting an excellent education or growing old, etc, etc, because the big and little indignities are not dependent on things like that... it is these things that are the most difficult for people who are not poc to grasp.


It seem so obvious to me that what you're saying here nanette, and what donna, Nezua and others are saying is true that what I find difficult to understand is why anyone would want to challenge it.

I rail at the invisibilty of lesbians in society on one hand and am simultaneously, although being 'out' most everywhere, inclined to want to choose invisibilty at times - and I can. For example, when tradespeople or strangers are for any reason coming into my home, I decide whether or not to 'straighten' up the part of the house they'll be in for the duration of their visit. It pisses me off that I feel I need to do this, but if I don't want their judgement - silent or otherwise - I might choose to do it. Donna couldn't make that choice, and neither can any POC at any time of night or day in any place. I've often thought about this over my life. What would it be like to have 'dyke' permanently imprinted on my forehead? That's as close as I can come to imagining what it might feel like to be a POC, and even then, there are the differences in the baggage. The abolute truth is that I can't possibly know what it feels like, and that is not at all a difficult thing to say.

Donna said...

CCP, Nanette hit the nail on the head. I'm not, and I don't think anyone else here is, denying your experiences or denying that you were brutalized based on race. I'm saying the reasons for it were different. People saw you as a danger, or as a stand in for others who were dangerous to them, not as inferior. Even if you play goodboy, it's probably to prove that you aren't racist, one of the good whites. If I play goodgirl it's to prove I'm not stupid, irresponsible, drunk, etc. I have to prove that I'm "a credit to my race".

AW, the way I think of goodboy/girl is that you are trying to fit in to prove that you are just like whoever it is you want approval from. That's why it doesn't have to be dominant society, it could be a smaller group within that society, or individuals, or even CCP fitting in with his majority black neighborhood.

Class isn't really the issue either. I think if you live in a dilapidated trailer and hire someone to fix something, you probably would have gotten similar treatment that I did. But I wasn't in a dilapidated trailer, it wasn't based on class. If I was in a mansion, he probably would have assumed I'm the maid and asked to speak to the lady of the house. There is a reason to expect a poor person of any race might not pay, because they are poor! There is no reason to expect the same of anyone of any race in middle to upper class surroundings.

ArrogantWorm said...

Class isn't really the issue either.

If we're talking about goodboy/girl instances, why isn't it? People can exhibit that behavior because of class as well.

Donna said...

I misunderstood then. Yes, I remember a conversation where poor women were talking about interviews and on the job there is pressure to look "professional". But they can't afford waxing their brows, manicures, better quality clothing, that their boss expects to see them in. They have a choice of looking the part that their middle class managers expect or eating and paying the phone bill. That's probably both class and sexism but even my husband had this same pressure when we were broke. He was lucky that his grandmother took him out to buy a suit, shirt, and tie so that he could go to interviews. We didn't have the money for it.

Central Content Publisher said...

Nanette and Donna: I’m addressing Nanette’s comments directly, but this is sort-of a response to both your points. Clarifications first.

I'm a little confused as to why bfp would consider you a poc, but you would not consider yourself such - Nanette

My grandfather was Latino. Or rather, he was “Spanish”. That was the popular cover identity de jour. Part of bfp’s (I think was her, this was awhile ago, it might have been one of her commenters) definition of colour was family history, and the legacy of poverty and shame, etc etc. In that regard, I qualify. Not that I consider myself at all Latino - all cultural identity had been completely obliterated by the time I was born. My mother, however, still lives life hell-bent to “blend in”. Old habits I guess. Visually though, with the possible exception of my leg length to torso length ratio, I look white white white.

although the entire situation sounds like some sort of gangland thing, similar to what happens in prisons

That’s exactly what it was like. I don’t live in a neighbourhood all that different these days. I lived, and live, in a Containment Neighbourhood. These areas result from a law enforcement strategy of containment. Law enforcement steps up the pressure of enforcement in areas they want cleaned out, and simultaneously ease off in the containment neighbourhood. Essentially this drives unwanteds into containment neighbourhoods where they can be more easily managed. And by managed I mean ignored.

The border between a containment neighbourhood and prison is thin and porous A poignant example is a friend’s son who purposely got busted for a crime where he would likely be sentenced to serving weekends. He now acts as a mule. That’s his “job”. He’s happy to be working. .

…in the general, mainstream population, was your skin color more of an asset or no? - Nanette

I’ve never lived in the mainstream population. At best I’ve peered into it through cracks in the curtain. Generally, my race has been more of a detriment, but proving this, I’m sure, would take a very very long time, and would demand a complex model of interacting axises of prejudice (and to some degree my own pride). But, it’s not relevant, nor is my ability to move into white privilege at will (which I don’t have because of other axises of marginalization), and here’s why:

I know a bunch of people who have spent time living in refugee camps (one was born in one), and they all have a similar take on the temporariness of their situation. For any number of reasons including security and financial resources, they couldn’t leave whenever they wanted to. They had to wait for a mechanism or opportunity to appear that would extract them from that situation. For all they know, they may be there for the rest of their lives. Could they walk away at any point and face the wilderness, armed guards, and most likely the poverty of a body without a nation? Sure. They could try. But they were better off waiting for an opportunity that might never come.

One summed it up quite nicely when she told me “If you’ve lived in a refugee camp for a year, you’ve lived there for a hundred years”. That’s what it “feels” like. And I know exactly how that feels. Not because I’m intellectualizing it into existence, but because I’ve lived it. No way out, and no hope for respite IS a lifetime of persecution.

Isn’t that what we’re been talking about? How it feels? If racism ended today, would you forget what it felt like?

Of course, this is all just talking about me personally. My girlfriend is Jewish. She lives with small racial degradations on a daily basis. And, she’s not a person of colour. I’m darker than she is - literally.

belledame222 said...

thanks, CCP.

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