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> * 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"

I think you read that wrong. The black coworker (Mike) said that in reference to Steve not the other way around.

Given that, do you think the black coworker should be fired for saying that about Steve? Is it okay for the Mike to say that about Steve but not the other way around, regardless of how true it is?

Also, I am not sure why I have to include this disclaimer but I am not condoning any of the racism observed in the article.




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".


Thanks for posting this. So much of HN seems blissfully unaware of what privilege is (white privilege in this case), and I hope your explanation will help some people start to understand.


Privilege is very poorly understood.

In part that is an ironic consequence of privlege: understanding it can lead to giving it up.

The word has become a "PC" signifier technical "term of art, and not often patiently and respectfully explained to people who need to understand it.


Your definition of thuggish seems a bit off. Thug = a common criminal, who treats others violently and roughly.

It's akin to calling someone 'white trash'.


Is the point I'm making unclear? Would you like me to reword it? Is there a word you'd prefer I had used in that place instead?


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.


There's nothing about the phrase 'white trash' which implies someone is a criminal, though.


It's more akin to calling someone a skinhead.




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