Decoder ring for nerds who are unable to read past words like "neoliberal colonizer" without racing to the nearest TEXTAREA:
* A black coworker is singled out by another (non-black) coworker with "watch out for that guy, he’s trouble, he talks a lot of shit"
* Referring to a latino coworker, that same coworker suggests jokes: "Like ‘you’re a mexican whore’ or like ‘your mother’s a Mexican whore?"
* The black coworker is given a dictionary and told "I got this for you cause I know you speak ebonics."
* The latino coworker is then told "I would have gotten you one too but they didn’t have wetback to english"
* The author, who is black, is then told "Hey he’s dressed like Run DMC, does he know how to rap?" (The author is wearing a Pitchfork Media-compatible outfit including skinny jeans and a long-sleeved print t-shirt)
* The black coworker later informs the author that "Steve wanted me to let you know that we’re dressing too thuggish in the office and we need to dress in a way that reflects the company better". "Steve" is the previously-mentioned white guy, and also apparently a manager.
* After telling that coworker that he is considering telling HR about racism in his group, "Steve" takes him aside for a 1-1 meeting. The author is informed that any attire is acceptable except for baggy jeans. After hearing the author's complaints, "Steve" says, "Whoa whoa whoa, those comments you’re hearing aren’t racist; they’re jokes", and then "The problem is that you’re too sensitive. You need to check all that at the door before you come here to work", and finally "We don’t even tolerate people brining up concerns of racism here.".
* Later, a women asks whether the pendant the author is wearing, which is from Nairobi, is "a calculator".
* "Steve" later informs the author, "it’s ok to make jokes about slavery because that’s over". Then, "Also, you should be grateful that your ancestors went through slavery."
Peppered throughout the post are cultural signs and signifiers that mark the author as an advocate for a fairly specific set of political and social beliefs. A reader could be excused for having concerns that the author was not an objective witness. On the other hand, those signifiers are so obvious that you could also question whether someone who had set out to unfairly tar the company would put them into the post.
Apart from the comment about the pendant, any one of the comments listed above would be a firing offense here.
"I agree, but some of his content will be a barrier for some people. I'm sure if the tone of the post was milder, most of the comments here would be supportive."
-- too typical a response
"Peppered throughout the post are cultural signs and signifiers that mark the author as an advocate for a fairly specific set of political and social beliefs."
-- completely irrelevant to assessing the facts of the case
As a white male, I'm very disappointed by how many in the HN community have responded to this story. The victim- and let me emphasize, this individual is a victim- has every right to feel and express any number of hostile feelings toward the perps involved and, furthermore, has the right to express his frustration at how racist behavior was openly exhibited in front of so many employees, with no consequences whatsoever. In fact, you have to wonder why none of his white colleagues stood up and objected to some of the more colorful remarks made in the presence of others. Is it really that difficult to understand why he might perceive all the whites in his office as a$$holes? His story isn't merely an indictment of a few managers, but of a culture (and yes, a white culture) that absolutely tolerated racism both at an individual and collective level. These incidents didn't only occur behind a closed door. Is or was this culture present in only one SF company?
After what this individual was subjected to, you have to be incredibly small minded to feel offended by the fact that his language reveals frustration or antagonism toward whites.
By the way, I've also seen racism exhibited toward Asian immigrants- not the rockstar programmers matriculated in the US- but recent immigrants holding lower level positions. Let's not pretend that racism doesn't exist in SF by brushing off depictions of racism as a consequence of intrinsic racism on the part of the accuser.
> This tendency reaches its most florid manifestation in the "ideological bingo games". See for example "Skeptical Sexist Bingo", feminist bingo, libertarian troll bingo, anti-Zionist bingo, pro-Zionist bingo, and so on. If you Google for these you can find thousands, which is too bad because every single person who makes one of these is going to Hell.
That article is a waste of time. It rails against poor arguments and a lack of insight with... poor arguments and a lack of insight. For umpteen pages. For some reason we're supposed to hear out people who start an argument with "I'm not racist but..."
If you find yourself saying "I'm not racist but..." you shouldn't be trying to justify yourself and come up with reasons why the other person should hear you out. You should immediately stop and think about what you're saying, because chances are that you are a bigot, and all the argument in the world isn't going to change that.
The existence of those sorts of bingo cards is because these arguments come up over and over again. It's a useful tool to help deal with bigots.
That article is one in a series. Perhaps I was wrong and it is not clear or well-argued without the context of the broader series to draw from. It's a shame because it is actually painstaking in its argumentation and attention to nuance, and by far the most insightful series of its kind that I've ever read.
When you say "chances are you are a bigot" you may technically be correct in the sense that from a random population of "I'm not a racist but" statements, more than 50% of them are said by bigots (in fact, I would probably estimate this much higher, as bigots say it more frequently, in my experience). As for my-literal-self, and almost everyone who is reading these comments (well educated, left-leaning startup enthusiasts), I have significant other evidence that I have to weigh against that proposition (i.e. my recollection of my lifetime's past events and explicit knowledge of my views and beliefs), so if I were ever inclined to use such a phrase I wouldn't actually be making a bigoted statement. Unfortunately, some people who are less thoughtful and less capable of a nuanced understanding of argumentation would immediately turn off their brains and assume whatever this counterfactual self said next was bigoted. People like that have bad rhetorical hygiene and arguing with them should be avoided if you don't want to contract memetically transmitted diseases.
Saying that bingo cards are a "useful tool" is doing a disservice to the word tool. They are, if not actively harmful, merely a form of entertainment, and no more a tool than Star Trek VI.
> "it is actually painstaking in its argumentation and attention to nuance"
No it's not. It doesn't follow anything through to a conclusion, it just berates people who attack strawmen, or who dismiss others' arguments out of hand, whether that dismissal is warranted or not.
Just taking the "I'm not racist but.." argument on that post: are you really saying that there is no other way to phrase your argument? It's guaranteed to cause a reaction in everybody with an opinion on the issue and it's somehow their fault for not giving your argument proper attention or missing a nuance somewhere?
And then you complain about bad rhetorical hygiene. State your case in a way that your audience can understand and engage with it, and you'll get a better response.
What conclusion were you looking for exactly? It was an empirical recounting of events, peppered with an analysis of why the events are so frustrating for the author. Did you expect The Essay That Ends Racism?
The existance and popularity of bingo cards can tell you how common certain responses are. It is also an attempt to draw your attention to how common the response are, and to mock common responses that fit a mould.
So yes, the existance of bingo cards helps back up the claim that this is "classic derailment".
I'm not really sure what that article is saying, maybe "Placeholder / bingo card arguments make it hard to have a rational intellegent debate/conversation". Which is technically true, it does make it hard to have an intelligent conversation.
However, in the vast majority of conversations about topics like this, the debate is not intelligent. The same old tied tropes and clichés come out. Many different people have commented "But he's racist too!" (on a recent post about gender at a tech conference many people dismissed the author for being angry).
I'm too cynical to even manage disappointment, sorry. HN is... well, it's very white. I'm not so much talking about the people who comment here, but for the most part we're discussing companies founded and run by white people, funded by all-white venture capital organisations, with a largely-white employee base. Given that, it's sadly not surprising that many commenters here have really fucked up views on racism because there's no reason why they wouldn't. It's not like there's even any way to tell 99% of the time because the subject hardly ever comes up.
To me it is a faith-induced form of ignorance - that because you have mastered one of the tiny, tiny subsets of all the world's technical knowledge, you believe yourself to have similar ability in other realms of knowledge as well. Morality and ability become one and the same, especially after the conditioning of hundreds or thousands of pissing matches in which you attempt to prove the same point, over and over: "I'm right and you're wrong." Logic becomes one's drug, because it lets you win and be powerful. Other flaws don't matter because you can avoid those discussions(if you're a white, straight cis male).
But really, it's relatively easy to find people who know a lot of things and can work through deep logic. "Big-picture" judgment and perspective is a lot harder to come by.
Regardless of how pissed off he may have been, you don't fight racism with more racism. All that does is exacerbate the situation and hurt your credibility. Calling someone a dumbwhite* might feel good but does nothing for your cause.
I've always believed the correct response to racism is to educate. Educate his coworkers on the origin and significance of his necklace and why they shouldn't equate the way he dresses with being a thug. And in this case, where it is systemic and tolerated, appeal to a higher authority such as HR and the court system.
A significant part of what you're missing is that the function of the actions of the racist manager is to rob the author of political power. Racism works in some pretty subtle subtle ways - by painting the author as 'that aggressive black guy', the manager has already clipped his wings.
You may have also missed this line: After years of arguments with white men (and white women), watching white men (and white women) move away from me when I start to talk about oppression (i.e. what life as a poor black queer is like), I know when to pick and chose my battles
Can you not see just how exhausting it would be to have to constantly explain and justify yourself?
It's not his responsibility to "fight racism", it's the responsibility of his employers to provide a non-racist workplace. Your "correct response" is of course ideal, but imagine how draining it would be for someone to attempt to change an corporate culture 200+ people. It's unfair to expect that from an someone whose only wants to not have to endure severe racism at their 9-5.
There are several definitions of racist talk, one is essentially "making references to someone's race and implying everyone in that group is the same (in some attribute)". Lots of people like this definition because it's nice and simple and it means black people in the USA can be racist to white people if they say things like "Dumbwhite".
There's another definition, which is talk that's designed to maintain & reinforce the institutionalised power structure among races. Right now, if modern USA life was a video game, "white male" would be an easier difficulty level than "black male". There are statistically less problems for the "white male" group. Racist talk is talk that re-enforced that imbalance. This definition is harder for some people to accept because it means that you need to look at yourself and think about what power imbalances you might be benefiting from, and it means you can't just do s/white/black/g and make it just as racist.
So no, it's more racist to say "dumbblack" than "dumbwhite"
Sure, only when it's your boss being racist, you don't have many other options than shut up or get fired. French white man here, apalled by 70% (yah, i did the math) of that whole thread. I don't care being called a colonialist because that's true, my country was a colonial empire, so was the UK, and so is the US now, with 200 years of history to catch up (irak anybody?). Laws against racism might be enforces, one day, in the US, who knows. It even happenned in moste European countries.
This guy did the right thing : stand up and talk. Obviously he cares more about telling "the world" than being patted on the shoulder. In other words, he somewhat did it the "black panthers" way, and as much as I like Martin Luther King and gandi, i don't believe you gain rights without fighting. For real.
Why that reaction of mine ? Cause it remembers me an episode of my youth, when i xas living with my Commando father (yeah, like your marines) in africa, and was the only white guy who stood up for a Malgache girl who was being bashed by a bunch of white guys, everyday on our way to school. I got beaten in front of the whole bus for about 15 minutes by the bunch of white racists guys. The driver, a black guy from Cameroon came to me the next day, and told me that he was glad i had to loose some teeth, because otherwise he would have lost his job.
The employee in the hostile work environment doesn't say that he said "Dumbwhite" - it's an internal response and doesn't indicate that he's fighting racism with racism. Objectively based on the incident presented, it's a simple statement of fact that the co-worker, is dumb, white and a .
It's not the job of members of minority groups to educate members of majority groups on their culture. People who aren't members of minority cultures should make an effort to self-educate and work against the grain of systemic discrimination.
Regardless of where he said it, "dumbwhite*" is a phrase with racist intent. Objectively based, "fucking black people" is just a reference to people with a dark skin color but in the context of the English language we all know what it means.
I agree it's not his job to educate, and he shouldn't have to. But in reality, most racists are not going to educate themselves. If they did, they probably wouldn't be racists. So if he actually wants to see a positive change and stop Steve from making racist comments, his best bet is to try and educate Steve himself.
This article might just do that. The article itself already talks about how Steve was completely dismissing everything he had to say. But in written form with a semi-anonymous target, the article will likely filter back to the company and to Steve. In written form, the author gets to say everything he wants to say and why. If Steve reads it, in all likelihood he will dismiss it, but it may also provide a nugget around which he may start to see what he was doing.
I tend to agree with you regarding the relevance of the author's politics to the kernel of the story, but that relevance and the author's overall credibility is an elephant gleefully pooping all over the room, so we might as well not ignore it.
The things you think sap his credibility add to his credibility for me; if he was making things up, it would have been easy for him to leave his own politics and sensitivities out of the post to make it more painful for his ex-employer. To me, it reads like he's just venting to his peers. We're the ones making a big deal out of it.
Yes: if his "plan" was to defame an employer, he'd want to conceal his views (which, again, are completely irrelevant here) as opposed to express them in a transparent fashion (which he does).
Finally, you have to wonder, how much of abuse the employer had to dish out to turn (judging from the picture) an apolitical gamer-hipster-nerd into an anti-colonial radical. I don't want to make this story about me, but as a secular
Jew who immigrated from former USSR as a teen, I can say that experiencing racism firsthand tends to change your perspective.
Yeah, just as long as that sort of shit isn't in his official complaint, it's not really an issue that he's peeved about it. But that's the sort of thing that a lawyer would seize upon to try and demonstrate that someone has a distorted perspective.
If I were his editor, I'd tell him to separate the, "Dumb white hipsters being ignorant", stuff from the, "Creating a hostile working environment", part of his story. As it is, it's mixed in and undermines the seriousness of the legitimately awful treatment he was subjected to.
People who want to discredit somebody will use any convenient tactic. A decade ago, I bet you'd hear users citing the author's substance abuse problems and resulting instability because he admits to lighting up after work.
In this situation perhaps it's most constructive to proceed with the conversation under the assumption that he honestly related his experiences, while acknowledging that we don't have a solid reason for believing him. We could run around in circles all day trying to reason things out -- for example, I could point out that exaggeration and embellishment are normal when people vent to their peers -- but we'd never get any closer to the truth. Unless we know him or the people he's talking about, we can't evaluate his credibility without making some unjustified assumption (such as the assumption that he's worse at lying than you are at spotting a lie,) but we can justify treating the story as honest on the grounds that it leads to a more interesting conversation than treating it as a lie.
> Except for the pendant comment. That's just a case of taking yourself too seriously. Yet another nail in the coffin of his credibility.
What nails? You're treating his every statement as suspect by default based on the racial, sexual and political stereotype you are projecting onto him. Judging by the admittedly superficial evidence of your post history, you are a Randian libertarian with a stereotypical dislike of women and racial minorities who claim victimhood. You must be used to people automatically classifying you by a stereotype and refusing to engage with you. If only in that respect, you're exactly like him and others whose arguments you reject offhand.
Elsewhere in this thread you explain that your skepticism is based on personal experiences. Many people reading that will assume you're lying or that your view of what happened was warped. How does that make you feel? Like a victim of stereotyping? You may even write off those people as dumb liberal motherfuckers.
It's a blog post, not a legal document, so what do you expect? I have gotten independent albeit second-hand verification of a few of the episodes. Ignoring that, I still see nothing to warrant accusations of whining and lying. People yelling 'hypocrisy' and using it as evidence against his truthfulness are looking to rationalize their gut response, nothing more. Hypocrisy may be a weighty accusation against grandstanding moralists in the public square, but it has absolutely no relevance here.
Randian libertarian? Really? No, I'm actually quite moderate. I'm a left of center person here in the U.S., and my time in the deep south has made me keenly aware of how horrible the excesses of conservatism can be. However, my time in liberal areas of the nation (northern California, Massachussetts, etc.) has shown me how horribly wrong the classic ivory tower liberalism can go also. I don't dislike people victimized by discrimination. I just dislike systems in which discrimination is fixed by more discrimination. I also recognize how horribly wrong nanny state laws can go.
Look at California's renter protections. They go way, way beyond reason in dragging out an eviction process. As a result, people who would otherwise rent out properties do not, or do so at a much higher price to ensure that only high income people move into said properties. By protecting the poor people from landlord abuses, the result is that decent poor people who pay rent are punished by the indecent poor people who abuse the system and take advantage of squatter rights. Protections always, always come with a cost, hidden or not. I don't think (like Randians do) that this cost should ALWAYS be avoided and we should all go the path of John Galt fantasy land. I just think that too often, ivory tower liberals (by this I mean people who don't work in the private sector and confine themselves to academic and gov't advisory roles) don't see the costs of the protections they chase after, or don't consult with industry to find out what they truly are.
I will be voting for Obama this November. You know, because I hate minorities and women's rights and I worship Ayn Rand.
To make my point, I was jumping to conclusions based on flimsy evidence.
> You know, because I hate minorities and women's rights and I worship Ayn Rand.
I don't believe you do any of those things. But I do believe you unfairly prejudged him on insufficient information and that someone doing the same in reverse would come to those sorts of conclusions about you.
Are you serious? Or just insensitive? And how many nails are needed until you can safely say he's in his coffin ready to be buried? The issue that I have with the whole "don't even go to college/university, just start a startup" is that most colleges/universities will teach you at least something about gender and racial issues. That's not to say everybody that goes through college doesn't come out racist at the end, but at least most people who aren't dense, come out with a bigger understanding of what issues there are for the less privileged, especially if they are not one of the less privileged. You seem to be in big hurry to discredit this guy, I would say you and other people like you just put a nail in your red-neck coffin.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately since I have a new roommate who went to art school instead of a four-year university and doesn't seem to have any idea when he's saying something racist.
People often seem to think that only STEM degrees teach real skills, but humanities and social sciences teach you to think critically about culture and society, and even though nobody's ever going to pay me to do that, I'd like to think the world's a better place for every person who's had their eyes opened a little bit. The disadvantage of course is that then afterwards, culture and society horrify you at every turn for the rest of your life.
> Yet another nail in the coffin of his credibility.
Please understand that the anger such treatment (validly) brings about is incredibly hard to suppress.
In that situation it's really hard to walk the line between expressing your emotions in such a way that it evokes similar emotions in others and not expressing so much anger that you will be classified as just bitter and vindictive.
> Please understand that the anger such treatment (validly) brings about is incredibly hard to suppress.
And also, why should it be suppressed? Integration doesn't work if both parties pretend to be nice but are prepared to find a more underhanded way to stab each other in the back once the negotiations have ended.
This deserves an analysis far more nuanced than I'm able to deliver. How has the integration of Italians versus Irish gone in New York? I can't answer that, because I've never studied it. I suspect it went better than the integration of whites and blacks in the South. Why? I can't answer that for the same reason.
I suspect we're both right for different reasons under different circumstances, and it would be fascinating to actually go through the histories and anthropologies to understand what those reasons and circumstances might be.
I would guess that the woman who stepped on the pendant land-mine had thought the pendant was some kind of Kenyan abacus. Or something. And phrased it very badly, because she sensed subconsciously that she was about to get her head bitten off for being a racist.
Naturally, she gets her head bitten off for being a racist...
Yo, based on the copious number of comments you've made addressing this I know you're super concerned about that single anecdote from within a larger context, but she didn't get her head bitten off, unless for some weird reason you're reading him as actually saying "Dumbwhite" out loud at her, despite it not being in quotes.
No, he's right. The basic principle here is, do not talk to "progressive" black people, because you are likely to say something innocuous that they interpret as highly offensive. That is the message being sent here.
Or maybe the basic principle is to try to understand the perspective of the person you're talking to. Don't speak defensively - be open and willing to acknowledge and apologize and correct yourself when a mistake you make is pointed out to you, rather than retreating into racial anxiety.
Progressive white people too frequently have a fear of saying the wrong thing because they're insecure with their racial views. Read more, gain perspective, learn how much you don't know about the experience of minorities, and then approach conversations with people of color with a deferential attitude.
Maybe that's too much work, but it's the price of tending to a multicultural society that is growing out of the ashes of a monocultural one and I think it's worth it.
Again, I'm just recounting my personal experience.
FYI, I grew up and still live in the southern US, where race relations are an acknowledged problem, and where social protocols and culture are still more distinct across races than they are within them. And I'm already somewhat bad in general with social protocols.
So I'm not saying white people shouldn't talk to black people. I'm saying that, unfortunately,white people do feel uncomfortable talking to them sometimes, or at least, the bar is higher for meaningful social interaction. I think that's a shame, and unfortunately I don't know what to do about it.
But I do know that accusing white people of racism for clearly non-racist behavior, as with the calculator-necklace incident, is counterproductive, and (for me) reinforces needlessly distressful things I've experienced. That's what I was trying to get at with my earlier comment.
If you find yourself in the situation of the calculator-assuming woman, where you feel like you've made a comment that touches on cultural sensitivities, use the moment as a learning experience. Instead of leaving the awkward air, ask them what they are thinking. "oh sorry haha that was a weird assumption, what is it?" Asking to be educated is pretty much the opposite of the mansplaining / whitesplaining that is so painful to the author of qu33riosity, and is almost universally welcomed. A little humility goes a long way.
So you're saying he's deliberately but perhaps covertly telegraphing the message "white people, don't talk to me"?
Because if not, "don't talk to progressive blacks" is the message you took away not the one he sent.
> I am on the receiving end of blame, not the giving end.
Oh, for real? Who blamed you for what?
Going back and re-reading your previous post:
> But I do know that accusing white people of racism for clearly non-racist behavior,
It may be non-racist, but it's still culturally tone-deaf.
> as with the calculator-necklace incident, is counterproductive, and (for me) reinforces needlessly distressful things I've experienced.
Oh, weird, because the "calculator-necklace incident" probably reinforced some needlessly distressful (racist, dehumanizing, othering, outgroup-reinforcing) things for the author. Why should he make your distress a priority when you care none for his?
So you're saying he's deliberately but perhaps covertly telegraphing the message "white people, don't talk to me"?
No, I did not say that. I don't think he was sending that message deliberately. (As an aside, the message wasn't "don't talk to me.)
Oh, for real? Who blamed you for what?
You and _pius are clearly accusing me of racial insensitivity.
It may be non-racist, but it's still culturally tone-deaf.
I mean, I do think the "message" I claimed was being sent was stated overbroadly by me. But, for example, I definitely would not ever talk to a black person about their clothes if they were not wearing clothing I was familiar with, out of fear that they would be offended - even by a compliment. Even if I said something like, "That outfit looks really good on you," they'd like take my social awkwardness as a sign that I was somehow making fun of them (which I would never do). Or they'd consider me incapable of rendering a judgement about a style of fashion that I'm not familiar wth, and just be insulted.
Why should he make your distress a priority when you care none for his?
I never said that. In fact, if I didn't care about race relations and want them to be better, I wouldn't have commented in the first place. And I care about race relations because I care about people. I don't want anybody to be distressed.
needlessly distressful (racist, dehumanizing, othering, outgroup-reinforcing) things for the author
If you think the calculator incident was racist or dehumanizing, as described, then I can see why you would think I don't care about that guy's distress. But it was not racist or dehumanizing. It may have made the author feel like part of an "outgroup" as you say, but that was not intentional. At least as I recall the incident being described in the post. It was just some really naive person who made a mistake. I thought that was obvious from the description. And you may disagree with this, but if it was just a naive person who made a mistake about what the guy was wearing, it was not racism.
I'm not sure if I want to continue this discussion, but I will read any response and may or may not respond.
I'm going to try and hijack this a little, just because I'm afraid it won't be seen anywhere else.
I don't have a problem with racist/sexist jokes. I do however have a sever issue with healthcare and quality of education being tied to your parents employment and property ownership. I think that is much, much more terrible, as it not only screws over the poor in general, but in particular it really fucks over black people/hispanics/immigrants specifically simply because they are on average much poorer.
I guess I'm just really upset over the huge fuss people make over the word nigger. It's an incredibly powerful word that taints anything it touches, and because of its association it becomes particularly hard for people in general to understand that the most racist things don't target the race of anyone, just their income level.
So, yes, I think the author did go through some stupid shit because his coworkers are assholes. However, they probably aren't racist. They look down on most of society.
> the most racist things don't target the race of anyone, just their income level.
This is basically a denial that actual racism is a serious problem. I think that's worse than saying the n-word a thousand times.
Even if Obamacare gives every black person free health insurance and also a pony, that's not going to make even a tiny dent in the racism that pervades our society, and saying that it will is just spreading ignorance (imo).
EDIT: Not that I'm saying our country's health care issues aren't totally messed up! Just that that's a different problem.
This is from Wikipedia on demographics of the poor in the USA:
The US Census declared that in 2010 15.1% of the general population lived in poverty:
9.9% of all non-Hispanic white persons
12.1% of all Asian persons
26.6% of all Hispanic persons (of any race)
27.4% of all black persons.
Looks pretty bad for hispanics/black people, right?
Except it doesn't have the population breakdown...
White Americans (non-Hispanic/Latino and Hispanic/Latino) are the racial majority, with an 72% share of the U.S. population, per 2010 US Census. Hispanic and Latino Americans compose 15% of the population, making up the largest ethnic minority. Black Americans are the largest racial minority, composing nearly 13% of the population.
so here are some facts:
.72 * 308 mil * .099 = 21.95 million white people
.15 * 308 mil * .266 = 12.28 million hispanic people
.12 * 308 mil * .274 = 10.97 million black people
Basically, what I'm trying to say is this: poor people get fucked in this country. They really do. When it happens to black people/hispanics, stupid hippies love to claim it's racism. Maybe, maybe it is a bit. But I don't think so. I think that poor people get fucked in this country with no social welfare net, poor infrastructure, and by making it illegal to take your kid to the rich public school.
A lot of black people and hispanics have pretty terrible options in life, but goddamn it, it's not racism. It's not white frat kids saying nigger. It's that they are poor. And there are a lot of white people in the same boat.
Racism is the false flag of socioeconomic problems in society.
If Obamacare provides the economic safety net that lifts poor black families into the middle class, and makes healthy (including biological evolutionary indicators like teeth, skin, and hair radiance) and basic-wealthy black people the more common sort of black person someone sees, then yes, it will tend to counteract historical racism.
healthcare and quality of education being tied to your parents employment and property ownership
Unless I misunderstand you, that's part of reality. Healthcare and education don't fall from the sky. Somebody has to produce them. In order for them to be consumed, they have to either be paid for, or stolen.
the most racist things don't target the race of anyone, just their income level
Racism has a specific definition, and "targeting" someone based on income doesn't meet it (though I don't know what "targeting" means here).
Did you know that in other countries healthcare is free? And top quality education? And college?
In no place anywhere on earth are those things free. Someone pays for them, always. Maybe the government should pay for them here (leaving aside the fact that our government already pays an enormous amount for healthcare and education), but it's not an obvious, incontrovertible fact that we should, to the point that justifies name-calling. Many top economists don't think those things should be subsidized by the government, regardless of how good they may sound to the electorate.
Also, you seem to be under the impression that incorporating in Delaware is some kind of tax dodge; it's not. It won't save you a single penny in taxes. You still have to pay taxes on income in the state in which you generate that income, and you still have to pay federal taxes no matter where you are in the world.
No, because Steve is surely not one of a tiny minority of white people in the office, nor is there a clear cultural connotation/prejudice of white people being thuggish.
For whatever it's worth to you to know this: being considered thuggish, or violent, or hotheaded, or unreasonable is a hot-button issue for working black professionals. I've had neighbors complain to me that they can't disagree or argue with anything at their office, because as soon as they do, their coworkers start shaking their heads and signaling "there goes the black guy again". Knowing this, you start to see that it is also a privilege to be able to argue, even vehemently, without inadvertently confirming a malignant stereotype about your heritage or upbringing.
Either way one reads that particular point though, I agree that it isn't the most compelling in the story.
(This is a comment on the parent comment, not a comment on the original post. Hope that's alright.)
"You start to see that it is also a privilege to be able to argue, even vehemently, without inadvertently confirming a malignant stereotype about your heritage or upbringing."
Very well said. Thanks for articulating this idea. Don't forget that this goes both ways, though.
As a straight white male that grew up in a very progressive college town, with almost all of my friends being progressive socially liberal graduates, I am constantly "educated" on my privilege and dismissed, ala "there goes that (straight) white guy again with his white privilege and lack of understanding", simply for attempting civilized discourse that is anything but blindly supportive of their social and racial views.
I have to question a sociopolitical philosophy that leaves a lot of its followers avoiding dialogue with and dismissing the people who are most likely the closest to sharing their concerns and ideals.
What I'm trying to convey here is that not much attention is paid, particularly by those who otherwise like talking about privilege as a concept, to the privilege of being able to argue. As I believe civilized discourse is a bedrock of our society, this concerns me. "And it should concern you too!"
It's very important to not tarnish the movement with the actions of a few. It's frustrating to be dismissed for your race when trying to help things, but it's only a vocal few that do this. I hung out on an anti-racism board for a little while and learned a few things there about racism and also about activists. There were the horrid vocally abusive ones, who were given free reign on the board, free to spout their abuse of whites (the board moderator was white and allowed this out of a sense of 'recompense for past sins'), but most of those identifying as non-whites were normal humans trying to discuss things rather than spray venom. The thing is, if you let the vocal nasty people taint your opinion of those following the movement, you're falling into a trap again. It's a bit like tarnishing all baptists with the actions of the Westboro church.
The thing to remember is that the author is not promoting a manifesto or calling to action, he's venting. He's frustrated, and he's not creating a culture of oppression with the occasional use of 'dumbwhite' - some commentors in this thread seem to think that this private use of the word in an anonymised article makes it as bad as creating a culture of bigotry in the workplace. Racism isn't a binary on/off.
"There is another co-worker, Mike, who was also hired through the same contractor and is black also. One day this large, lumbering white guy walks by our work station and Mike says “watch out for that guy, he’s trouble, he talks a lot of shit” in a half affectionate half sarcastic tone, like you would about a friend. However, when I see the white guy’s sneering red face looking back at us I knew there was more than ring of truth to that statement…"
It seems "and Mike says" is pretty clear, especially with the followup about it being true, illustrated with incidents involving the guy who "talks a lot of shit".
Your point is clear: you're dealing with people who are being willfully moronic. In general, it's advisable to attribute stupidity and not malice -- in this case we are being inflicted with malicious stupidity.
I do believe these arguments being forwarded are deliberately obtuse: whenever an argument is proposed without anticipating and responding to the most obvious challenges, and the person appears to be otherwise possessed of significant intellect, I conclude that the banality is intentional.
> A black coworker is singled out by another (non-black) coworker with "watch out for that guy, he’s trouble, he talks a lot of shit"
You got this one backwards. It's another black coworker warning the author that "Steve" talks a lot of shit.
Yeah, everything else there is pretty awful, and Steve should have been fired for it.
I kind of wondered why he mentioned that he was going to to talk to HR, but then didn't. It seems like the appropriate response it to talk to Steve's manager, then HR, then take legal action if the first two were not fruitful.
> Going back to the matter at hand, Steve then proceeds to do what white men always can’t help but do: “educate.”
Not all white men can't help but educate. There's a line between banter and offense. I would never want anyone in my team to be offended and I tend to try to (mostly) stay on the side of caution on the banter front mainly because my job is to make it as easy as possible for people to do theirs. I did feel from the photos that the author's attire was not appropriate for the offices we work in (but might be fine for his), but find comparisons to Run DMC much more inappropriate. For one, if I was a member of Run DMC I would greatly protest against the style of the author's dress sense, but then again I grew up in the 80s, the decade that fashion forgot.
At the end of the article, it's clear there are no winners, only losers. It's good that the author is no longer there because he doesn't have to deal with idiots like that. Life's too short to have to put up with any form of crap in an environment that doesn't suit you, regardless of the reasons. It's also good for the idiots working there that he's no longer there either because frankly they lack the maturity in their environment (even if they have it individually) to cope with having someone that doesn't fit their world view there. Racism in the workplace is unacceptable but it does happen. The trick is to deal with it sensitively and objectively while making sure that people understand that they're wrong, why they're wrong and what they need to do to be right. If they screw up with it repeatedly, then maybe they need to find a new job.
I don't believe the author is trying to unfairly tarnish the company he worked for. I do, however, believe that he cannot be an objective witness of events, as his recollection is being strongly influenced by his own personal biases.
You make it seem so nice when you say "the author as an advocate for a fairly specific set of political and social beliefs." But let's be honest, the author is a racist. I get his frustration. But his remarks make it clear he dislikes all white people. The entire "dumbwhite*" stuff, the white supremacy comment, the white men feeling they have authority, etc., are all examples of a negative feelings held against white people simply because they are white. This is racism.
It can't be okay for him to be racist in response to the racism he was experiencing. If we're being asked to not accept one form of racism, then we have to not accept any form of racism.
Really? You think he dislikes all white people? Are you sure he doesn't just hate racist white people?
This is another form of white privilege, white people weighing in on what is and isn't racism. White people are the people least qualified to talk about this. Most white people are completely blind to racism except in the most egregious cases. (Spoiler: those are among the least common.)
And let's face it: white people are, by far, the ones who dole it out most often and virulently, the minute they feel threatened by a "thug" (a black man who is either arguing passionately or wearing baggy pants).
All in all, I'm willing to cut this guy more than a little slack! He probably got a more thorough education about the politics and dynamics of race in the first N years of his life as a black male than most white people get in a lifetime.
His common references to ALL white people as acting a certain way and use of terms like "dumbwhite*" make it pretty clear that he dislikes (or is at least prejudice against) all white people. If a white person were to say any of those things about black people, asian people, or any other people, they'd be racist - what's the difference when a black person says it?
It's not white privilege to be able to weigh in on what is and isn't racism. It's the privilege of every person, regardless of race, to have an opinion.
Do you have evidence to support your claim? Are you talking about pure numbers or per capita? Are you limiting your numbers to a specific country? Do not use numbers as an argument unless you have actual numbers to back up your argument.
Also, bonus points for flipping it around suggesting the real racist here is the victim. Now it's rhetorically impossible to point out that white people have a sense of privilege without also being racist oneself! Well played.
You can claim a white person is a racist, and I have no doubt that some of the people he encountered were racists, but he is obviously a racist as well.
Him being a racist doesn't mean the white people he was interacting with weren't racists too. I'm just saying that it becomes a factor in his credibility, because he makes it obvious that he did not remain impartial while working there.
I'm not saying we can't talk about it - that's fine. I'm just pointing out that it is tough to remain impartial when you have to factor in your own biases.
And, again, if you're going to tell me that racism is bad, you can't do it while being a racist yourself. Well, I suppose you can, anyone has the right to say what they want, but you have to at least acknowledge the hypocrisy.
I disagree that the incidents were documented. Unless there is audio or video recordings of the incidents, where we can see, through an impartial view, exactly what the people he was interacting were doing and saying, we have to hear about them through his recollection of events. As he writes these events for us to read he's recalling what those people said or did, and his memory of those events is influenced by his own biases.
You may disagree with his fashion sense, but this man is smartly dressed. I don't see any Raiders jackets, or any baggy jeans/tee-shirts. Just because his clothing is not mainstream and he is black DOES NOT make it hip-hop fashion.
While we're on the topic, note the shoes in particular, very nice, especially for a guy struggling to afford a bedroom in Oakland.
You made a dumb joke. You should consider that that joke is only funny to people who are comfortable in their surroundings and among their peers; to the lone latino or black person in the office, they come across much differently. It is a form of privilege to be able to chuckle as you toss around which rap group someone looks like they belong to; when that privilege is flexed so that it alienates coworkers, it is abusive.
> Apart from the comment about the pendant, any one of the comments listed above would be a firing offense here.
You know, it occurs to me that it's kinda sad that "firing offense" is the highest degree of punishment we have available to inflict. It's our proxy for social exile, but it's not actually social exile. That doesn't seem enough, but jailing and fining don't seem to fit either.
Apart from the morality of making team members miserable for the sole purpose of extracting some mirth out of their discomfort, the reason these statements tend to be firing offenses is that they have even more serious consequences for the employer.
This is something I find interesting. AFAIK in the US because of free speech nobody can really do anything in law regarding racism. In the UK in the last few years there have been several high profile cases of racial abuse on Twitter and the racists have gotten jail time (one example at the bottom of the article linked below).
Protecting free speech is important. However most people probably agree there should be a line drawn (for example I doubt anyone would object to a group like the KKK being banned). The problem is enforcing that line fairly and not punishing people for speech that should be allowed is too difficult.
It's an interesting and important problem and becoming more so now that everyone has the means of reaching an audience online.
I had a British lawyer tell me that in no uncertain terms, the UK has a written constitution. It's just not on a single document named "The Constitution", but a collection of documents covering different things.
As for doing things on a whim that violate basic principles of the country, when it comes to constitutionally-mandated protections against unreasonable search and seizure, I'd rather go through UK airport security than US. Then there's oddities like 'free speech zones', where you can say what you like, but only where you're told to. The second amendment is hardly 'clearly codified' - it's highly ambiguous, yet has such significant impact on US society.
The US consitution has some great stuff in it and was a watershed document, but it's not a magical shield simply because it's written down on a document named 'constitution'.
As a resident of the UK, I think that if we did have a written constitution, regrettably free speech wouldn't be on it. As much as I personally believe in free speech, I do get the impression that the general public here don't.
Which is absolutely fine ― at least then those people wouldn't be able to hypocritically claim free speech as one of their country's positive attributes when trying to distinguish themselves from "barbaric" countries like China or those in the Middle East while also suppressing free speech when it fits their "multicultural" agenda.
Moreover, the UK would then get a lot of shit overseas, particularly in America, for being an example of how European-style socialism leads to a lack of civil liberties, and that might put pressure on the British to actually codify that right.
Well, lines have been drawn. "Fighting words", "obscenity", "clear and present danger", "libel", and so on. There are a lot of checks on speech, some of which people feel go too far. And it's the purpose of the courts to set precedent and handle fuzziness.
Gaiman has talked about this quite well: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2008/12/why-defend-freedom-of-... The quotable is "The Law is a blunt instrument. It's not a scalpel. It's a club. If there is something you consider indefensible, and there is something you consider defensible, and the same laws can take them both out, you are going to find yourself defending the indefensible."
Disturbingly, when dealing with free speech the US courts are actually more likely to defend the indefensible. For instance, the US Supreme Court unamously ruled that anti-draft speech - actual political speech - wasn't protected by the First Amendment in Schenck v. United States, and the same again with groups advocating Communism in Whitney v. California.
This precedent stood until Brandenburg v. Ohio when suddenly the Supreme Court reversed itself in order to stop the KKK from being outlawed, deciding that it was now suddenly really important for violent rhetoric to have full First Amendment protection. The KKK was actually much further over the line than the precedent-setting groups - they backed up their talk with a long and bloody history of actual violence and murder against black people. In fact some of the speech that the Supreme Court ruled was protected, such as cross-burning, was actually created as a warning to any black residents that they'd be next if they didn't leave town. Somehow the justices cared more about protecting this than they did about protecting actual, political statements that challenged the status quo.
Another interesting tidbit is that the US does very poorly when considering 'freedom of speech' with respect to the media. In the Press Freedom Index, the US comes in at #47 of 179, as compared to the UK's #28 (and the raw scores aren't in the same neighbourhood either). It's just a reminder that speech in the US isn't as free as it's said to be.
That's completely justified. Although they're obviously both bad, harming the national war effort is far more dangerous than racism against a subgroup of citizens. The number of lynchings of black Americans doesn't even come close to the casualties suffered in WWI.
The Wikipedia entry for cross burning indicates that it has been handled negatively in the last five years–that is, the act of cross burning was not protected as speech–and makes no mention of Brandenburg v. Ohio. That Wikipedia entry does not indicate that cross burning was a significant question at stake in the case, since the matter being decided was the constitutionality of the Ohio statute.
Admittedly, that's just a reading of Wikipedia and I have no training in law of any kind, but it doesn't seem as provocative as you put it.
I haven't the faintest idea. I can certainly recognize and accept that we just don't have a better response. But it was a thought and I judged it worth putting out there for other people to consider too.
At least by his own recollection. Anyone who is harboring that kind of hostility, whatever the cause, is going to exude pretty strange vibes in person.
What's disturbing to me is not that an obviously talented young person like the OP has these kinds of issues. He'll almost certainly grow out of them.
It's that so many older, wiser people, who obviously don't have personal problems of their own, seem intent on encouraging this way of thinking. Just because you think you're doing good, doesn't mean you actually are.
So are you saying that "strange vibes" should be a firing offense in an office run like the one the author describes? If not, what are you getting at? To me, it sounds like the author regularly has to deal with discrimination being both black and gay. Some will respond to this with indifference, others bravado. There is nothing immature, as you imply, about a bitter and withdrawn response to this. To claim that he is some innately hostile person ("harboring that kind of hostility") says an awful lot about how you reason about power dynamics.
This is the strangest part of your claims. I don't see anything indicating that he's a remotely competent worker. Admittedly, I haven't researched who he is, but the only credibility he's got is that he can set up a Tumblr and add pictures to his post. I am not impressed at his technical skill–or his grammar, spelling, diction, or eloquence–indeed nothing about him says he's worth my time except that he's human and hurting.
If anything, this offhand remark of yours serves to undermine your credibility to me.