Sans Cilice

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White Anti-Racism: No Hairshirt Necessary

On the potential of color talk

“Why you and Ms. Shannon both light-skinned?” asked Alicia (not her real name) last Wednesday. Shannon is one of my employees. I’m white and she’s black. Not only that, I’m about as white as white can be– Irish descent, fair skin that sunburns in minutes, bright blue eyes, dirty blond hair (currently dyed brunette). Shannon has light/medium brown skin and dark brown African American hair. I think some would say she’s light-skinned and others wouldn’t. But, there’s really no need to examine our skin shades further; the point is that while Shannon and I may have any number of things in common, skin color is just not one of them.

—Long post! Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: education, Personal, Philosophy & Theory, Society, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Gabourey Sidibe is not a healthy weight.


On Monday Howard Stern said of Gabourey Sidebe, “There’s the most enormous, fat black chick I’ve ever seen. She is enormous. Everyone’s pretending she’s a part of show business and she’s never going to be in another movie[.]” Now, I don’t think it’s necessarily true that she’ll never be in another movie ever again. Apparently she’s cast to be in a Showtime series along side of Zoe Kravitz, and I think that if her performance was as good as everyone says it was, it’s likely that she’ll continue to get roles.

Stern and his co-host Robin took issue with Oprah’s support of Sidebe in the following exchange:

“And Oprah’s lying and saying you’re going to have a brilliant career,” said Robin.
“Oprah’s another liar, a filthy liar,” said Stern. “She’s telling an enormous woman the size of a planet thhttps://sanscilice.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post-new.php?preview=trueat she’s going to have a career.”

Again, I don’t agree that Sidebe’s weight will eliminate her career possibilities. I support Stern’s comments though because I think they shed some much needed realism on the hypocrisy of Oprah’s relentless support for women’s health initiatives and efforts to promote healthy female role models while ‘wooing’ Sidebe. I don’t take issue with Sidebe’s talent or beauty or acting skills in Precious; I take issue with her health. I’m always happy to see models and actresses surpass a size 4 and I think it’s great that the fashion industry is finally acknowledging the real danger of anorexia. However, I’m not convinced that Oprah’s glorification of true obesity promotes a realistic dialogue about bodies. I can’t think of another American woman who has done more to promote weight loss and health than Oprah so I’m surprised that she has not been more up front about the role that Sibede’s weight has played in her rise to stardom.

Filed under: Current Events, Journalism, Movies, Pop Culture, , , ,

Huffington Post Starts a Religion Section

I am 100% ambivalent about Huffpo’s new Religion section. While I am in favor of a section for important religion related NEWS, I have been bothered by statements that are dismissive of the atheist population while trying to be inclusive. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Journalism, Personal, , , ,

a great conversation

Just had a really productive transAtlantic g-chat conversation today with a friend living in Paris, whom I have dubbed Paris.
It’s a good follow up of previous posts about whites exploring race in a public setting, and about different attitudes towards white guilt, black comedy and discursive reappropriation in art. This part of the conversation was prompted by my earlier post about John Mayer.
———————————————————————————————————
Paris: i just dont really get why it kind of seems like [Mayer] gets away with stuff like that likes it charming or cool
me: ya, i don’t get it either. but, i guess he’s not really getting away with it
he’s had two ridiculous interviews and tabloids have gone nuts
fortunately i think he’s beginning to realize that he needs to shut up. his apology for using the n-word is better than many publicity-focused apologies about such things
also, have you seen Chris Rock’s Kill?
if not you must.
100% pure genius.
Paris: yes! athena and i actually watched it the other night
we were crying laughing
me: ah! so fun!I think I’d enjoy watching it like once a month
Paris: i started writing something about bamboozled
so i was watching it. but then i got all tangled up and confused and had to leave it. this was like, last week, but maybe ill give it another crack this week
me: what drew you in?
— i haven’t seen it
Paris: oh gosh! you should rent it
im not sure actually how it got started. i think because athena and i were talking about dave chappelle?
me: cool- i will. i haven’t read very good reviews, but i imagine it’s interesting regardlesss
Paris: i have no idea exactly how it got to bamboozled.
me: wow– haven’t thought about him in a while!
what happened to him. i guess his show had an expiration date. oh right–he went crazy too.
Paris: he did, yes. but i guess we got from dave chapelle to bamboozled bc we were talking about what it is for white people to like, participate in black comedy and what kind of issues it does or does not bring up Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Media & Culture, On TV, Personal, Philosophy & Theory, Pop Culture, Society, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , ,

Sans Hood Pass: Daniel Tosh

Daniel Tosh

Prick or Not a Prick? Who cares. He's funny.

To continue today’s previous train of thought:

If you haven’t watched Tosh.O yet, get to it! I’m a little embarrassed by how much I look forward to the Wednesday at 10:30 on Comedy Central television event. Daniel Tosh is definitely a prick on the show, and probably is in real life, but it’s just so funny. In a nutshell, he finds the funniest clips since Grape Stomp and multiplies their comedic value 10x by pushing the envelope of all social mores regarding race, gender, sexuality, obesity, poverty, drugs, everything. Also, there are a lot of clips of people falling. Annnnnyways, back to the point…

Tosh is white–as is most of his audience. If you watch the show a few times, you’ll gather from his asides about privilege/money that he had a fairly privileged upbringing which has not earned him a ‘hood pass.’ Instead of joking about race under the pretense that he has earned some sort of right or has a unique credibility, Tosh uses the audience’s cultural memory of race issues and their subsequent discomfort with white people making comedy involving black people to great comedic effect. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: On TV, Personal, Pop Culture, Uncategorized, , , , , , ,

Sans Hood Pass: John Mayer

Has difficulty closing his mouth.

I’m interested in the way some young white people on TV and mass media have started to talk casually about racial stuff– and black people in particular–without eschewing their own whiteness. Obviously white political commentators and culture critics have always had the go-ahead to  talk about race in the context of news and art, but I think the phenomenon of whites talking about race and black people in a more personal context with less titration is much newer. I think John Mayer (in his couple of startlingly unfiltered interviews) and Daniel Tosh (of Comedy Central’s hilarious Tosh.0) are the best examples of this. Perhaps Stephen Colbert is a predecessor to this newly emerging casual racial discourse, though I think the fact that his show is thoroughly contrived satire makes his media impact considerably different.

Mayer’s blissfully frank, nearly manic sex-obsessed comments have been a hot topic on celebrity blogs for weeks now. Upon first read, all of his comments rub me the wrong way. It’s gross how sex-obsessed his interviews have been (but then again one of them was in Playboy). Hearing about his quest for “the Joshua Tree of vaginas,” one on which he might “pitch a tent on and just camp out on for, like, a weekend,” and his eternal love of Jennifer Aniston despite their (unremarkable) age difference makes me even less likely to give his make-out session blues a second listen. But, aside from his downright racist comment about Kerry Washington and his use of the n-word while discussing his ‘hood pass’, I can’t say that I am offended by the content of his personal statements. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Current Events, Media & Culture, Pop Culture, , , , ,

I Forgot Chris Matthews Was (__adjective__) For a Year

In the 24 hours since Chris Matthews claimed to have forgotten that President Obama was black for an hour during the State of the Union Address, a general concensus has been reached that the term ‘post-racial’ should only be used by those who pride them selves for their ignorance.

I like TNC’s assessment of Matthews’ statements overall– it’s an excellent breakdown. However, I feel it is lacking in one respect.  In short, his assessment is that Matthews tried to compliment the President while making incredibly offensive implications, and his conclusion is that the real issue with Matthews’s statement is about persevering white ignorance and not black success. Despite TNC’s thorough discussion of why it is offensive to position blackness and success/greatness as mutually exclusive properties, and why whites are prone to such ignorance, I was disappointed that nothing has been said about the fact that black people and white people are STILL really fucking proud that the country finally elected a black president. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: News, On TV, Politics, , , , , ,

My New Job and My New Blog

As mentioned in the previous post, there was a definite coincidence between the start of this blog and the start of my new job. While each new beginning is reflective of my interests and attitudes, I think the explicitness of the connection between the two is fading. A note before continuing: The student body of the school I work at is, approximately, 95% black and is located in a predominantly black neighborhood of West Philadelphia. I should have mentioned this obviously relevant information in the previous post about my job.

I had brainstormed about starting this blog for a few days before starting my job and actually created it a few days after my job began. Though I never expected that my job would afford starkly revelatory, emotionally gripping and neatly packaged racial anecdotes– the likes of which probably only exist in hackneyed cinematic dramas about tragically well-intentioned white mentors and ‘exceptional’ black students– I did expect that my experiences were bound to yield as much food for thought as my old office job at Philly’s natural science museum. Indeed my experiences do yield food for thought, but it is of a totally different kind. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Personal, , , , , ,

“What are you doing for others?” Response #1

To continue on MLK: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?”

1. I call out other people’s racist (and sexist and homophobic, etc.) bull-shit, regardless of whether they are my close colleagues, loose acquaintances, good friends or family members. This is a small action that makes a subtle but real difference. Many people believe in speaking out against things that they don’t support, in the abstract, but few bother to speak up about things they find unjust on a smaller more personal scale. Obviously this action does not immediately or directly make anyone’s life better. It’s not a terribly flashy form of activism, but, especially in the work place it makes a real difference by promoting greater awareness of racism (and homophobia, sexism and religious/ethnic intolerance) in it’s more discrete forms. The benefit of greater awareness in the work place is not that it makes the newly aware individual a better or less-culpable person– in fact, in instances like these, I’m really not all that concerned with redeeming that person’s well-being or moral standing.

Awareness is important because it decreases the likelihood that the person in question will  make the work place uncomfortable for people of color (or gays, or women, or Muslims, etc.) by uttering witless or overtly racist remarks. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: activism, Personal, Society, , , , , ,

Rappers+Black Keys=Blakroc: Sounds like regular rap to me and I dig it!

Ben (my husband, and the bottomless source of all new music I listen to) introduced me to Blakroc tonight. After listening to a few minutes and exclaiming how much I liked it Ben told me that it was a collaboration between the Black Keys and various rappers. Awesome! I’m always excited for Ben to discover a new album for me. (His music finding skills are far superior to mine, so I don’t even bother to look anymore) Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Media & Culture, Personal, , , , ,

2010 Census creates controversy, prompts hilarity

While all other online articles on this very very interesting topic prompt an onslaught of horribly misguided, uneducated and racist dribble from readers of all races, Ta-Nehisi Coates spurs the most hilarious discussion of political correctness I’ve ever read. The comments are a must read, as are the one’s in the follow-up post titled “I’m Offended.”

Filed under: News, Politics, Uncategorized, , , ,

Reflection as Repentence is Worse than Worthless

“it might be earnestly meant in some cases, but something about the whole “examine your privilege” deal ends up becoming a way to focus on one’s own hairshirt process as opposed to, y’know, what the other person actually needs.”

I wish I could find the original source of this blog comment. She certainly deserves credit for inspiring the title of this blog. (update: http://guerrillamamamedicine.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/we-dont-need-another-anti-racism-101/) Anyways, I think that she is correct to an extent; sometimes an examination of one’s white privilege and the subsequent guilt (felt sincerely or not) is tool for personal absolution nothing more. If the examination is hasty or cautious, no good will be contributed to society, and there is even the risk that the examiner herself will end up as a less mindful person. But, this needn’t be the case.

In this blog, I will examine my own white privilege (amongst other things) but not as a ‘hairshirt process.’ My examination of my white privilege will not be a posthumous (and entirely insufficient) repentance for the unjust actions of my ancestors. The racism of my ancestors and of almost every other white person’s ancestors, and the privilege they afforded themselves and each other are deeply ingrained into every aspect of our country’s history. Through a “racial contract” ( the very useful phrase coined by Charles W. Mills in his 1997 book ) whites agreed to privilege themselves and to rationalize racial inequality by completely denying the salience of whiteness throughout all of American history. This is despicable. Though I know I have reaped the benefits of being white, and though I know that is unfair, I am incapable of meaningfully repenting for the system of inequality upon which our country was built; my own repentance would make absolutely no difference, beyond satisfying me personally. But much more importantly, in repenting, one aims to be delivered from their sins such that they no longer need to pay attention to them. For a white person to repent (i.e. to consider white privilege only by lamenting their relation to it) and to feel that repentance was successful (i.e., that through their thoughts they have been delivered from the sins of past injustices) is tantamount to renewing the racial contract and to agreeing that racism and its effects are no longer relevant just because the injustice is acknowledge. Afterall, hasty and unprobing logic would suggest that if you think X is wrong, and have repented for X in the past, that you will not participate in X in the future.  But, whether or not you intentionally like it or are totally mortified by it, if you are white, you have been, still are and will continue to be the beneficiary of white privilege.

I’m a white woman from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For years I have been grappling with the implications of my own whiteness on my own personal life. I haven’t much focused on my families’ history though. I don’t think my ancestors were any more or less oppressive than any other whites, though I do know that many on my father’s side were active members of the Quaker abolitionist efforts, most notably Lucretia Mott. While these few ancestors’ actions and attitudes are laudable, I’m sure I have other ancestors who either didn’t care about racial oppression or were unabashed beneficiaries of it. This likelihood makes me feel no worse, no more guilty, than does the history and construction of our entire country and society. The private reflections of white people on their race related privilege will never be enough to dismantle the racial inequalities of our country.

In this blog I will examine my own relation to race and share my reactions as a white anti-racist to whatever piques my interest, but not because I think that doing so will minimize the presence of white privilege, even by an infantismal degree. Instead, I intend to continue to ‘race’ my consciousness in hopes to become a more effective ally. As a white person, I have had the options to almost completely ignore the implications of my race, or to acknowledge that white people’s identities (my own included) are just as racially constructed as those of people of color. My decision to ‘race’ my consciousness is motivated by my hypothesis that if white anti-racists choose to acknowledge the salience of race within their day to day lives, that they will be more inclined to see the legitimate problems faced by POC and the necessity of resistance efforts–on all scales– already started by POC.

White privilege is a reality, one which has been concealed by distracting and flawed discourses for centuries. If white people such as myself are to be truly supportive of people of color, we must be willing  to prioritize the needs they identify as opposed to the agendas we see most fitting. And, we must recognize that our attempts to understand our own race are only useful as anti-racist methods to the extent that they enable us to better understand non-whites and to break the consensual silence that allows white privilege to continue unquestioned. More simply, if you, as a white person feel that you have taken the time to understand what it means to be white, and have taken the time to understand the varied manifestations of racism, and if you have come to these understandings because you dislike racism ( I grant, these are not all understandings achieved overnight), then it is time to focus on ways to be helpful to those we claim to care about.

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