The Us vs. Them Mentality

6 Jan

I recently posted a link to White Mom Blog on my personal Facebook page. I’ve wanted to start this blog for a long time and felt ready to share it with my friends. But something interesting happened when I went to post it on Facebook–I didn’t want everyone to see it.

Or, I didn’t think everyone would want to see it.

So I made the link visible to a limited group of friends only. Yep, a limited group. I spent an hour trying to decide who on my friends list I should expose this part of myself to. It wasn’t easy, and I ended up sending the link to just the people I felt would be interested in what I had to say. More to the point, I sent it to the people who I felt wouldn’t be offended by the subject. Perhaps a few of them would comment or ‘like’ the post. Maybe it would even start a conversation.

I watched as page views trickled in, but something wasn’t right. I woke up this morning and realized something else about my limited Facebook posting.

I’m preaching to the choir.

Everyone I sent the link to has probably thought about white privilege in some capacity already. I have friends in the undoing racism, social justice, and equal rights circles of Seattle who think about race all the time.

I shared my blog post with them, but why didn’t I post it for everyone else to see?

Because talking about race with white people is difficult.

One of my biggest fears in starting a blog about race and white privilege is creating an Us vs. Them mentality.

I’ve participated in several undoing racism workshops, classes and coalitions in the last few years. Some have been eye-opening and life changing, such as the workshops put on by  The People’s Institute For Survival and Beyond, which I highly recommend. Others have been frustrating, argumentative and done more harm than good.

There is this thing that happens in racism workshops that I hate–white people spend a large portion of the time reciting stories about a racist friend of theirs who did this incredibly racist thing while they stood by and watched in shock.

This happens over and over again and creates a culture of Us (the progressive, non-racist, wonderful, learned people of the world) vs. Them (the foolish, racist, bigoted, terrible people of the world).

At the end of the course, everyone pats everyone else on the back and compliments each other for how great we all are for recognizing the injustices. I have been this person before. I’ve scoffed at the stupidity of the racist people around me while simultaneously telling myself I would never do what they had done. Even though I know I have.

How do I start talking about these issues with people I don’t know?

I’ve realized this is the crux of my project. How do I get white people (myself included) talking about race without hesitation, without stumbling over the words I use, then writing and rewriting each paragraph to make sure everything is perfect and politically correct? I’m still trying to figure this out.

So I want to know, how have you effectively started a conversation with white people about race without alienating them? Because to create change we have to be honest with ourselves about the role we play in oppressing others, even if it’s hard to talk about.

I haven’t reposted the link to my entire group of Facebook friends yet. But I’m getting there.

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18 Responses to “The Us vs. Them Mentality”

  1. demogirl06 January 7, 2013 at 3:09 am #

    Rule # 1 = Haters gonna hate.
    Ever notice how MEAN people can be on the internet? If someone doesn’t like a post because it throws truths back in their face, or a contrary view, they often leave a mean comment. “You’d have to be a complete idiot to think… blah blah blah….” or “This is the worst such and such analysis I’ve ever read. If you had even the slightest elementary knowledge of… you’d know blah blah blah…”

    People on the internet are mean. And most of them don’t know what they’re talking about. And if they do, they are not well-equipped enough to articulate their views maturely and constructively.

    And don’t feel like you must respond to every comment. Let other comments do that for you.

    Rule # 2 = Blogging means sticking your neck out there.
    You will get backlash. Guaranteed. Toughen up. Know your shit, write it down, and open the forum. Don’t take comments personally. You are a white mom interested in white privilege and racial issues. You are 100% qualified to write this blog. Say what you want to say. Don’t tip toe.

    Suggestion… feature a page that discussed etiquette. Let your readers know what kind of language and tenor will be tolerated.

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    • White Mom January 7, 2013 at 5:42 am #

      I wish it were as easy to “not tip toe around” and “say what I mean” but it’s not. Race is a sensitive subject. Telling white people that they are inherently racist makes them angry and defensive. Don’t get me wrong- I think anger is a powerful emotion- being angry is one of the reasons I started this blog. I am angry. But everything has it’s place. If I wanted to be another angry white girl yelling at white people to wake up and recognize that we contribute and perpetuate racism on a systemic level- then I could easily do that. But I would retain a readership of people who think just like me. I want to get outside of that and the challenge I’m feeling is how to get there. I still have my own shit to work on and I realized that when I didn’t post the link to everyone. I’m not afraid of people writing mean things about what I have to say- I’m more afraid that they’ll stop reading.

      Thanks for your feedback and I will work on creating some rules for comments.

      • demogirl06 January 7, 2013 at 8:56 am #

        Re: “So I want to know, how have you effectively started a conversation with white people about race without alienating them.”

        I found this question sort of vague. It’s the certain WHATs about race that alienate white people. I.e., the suggestion that “white people are inherently racist” is far more alienating than saying, “racism exists among white people.”

        After reading “Telling white people that they are inherently racist makes them angry and defensive,” on the verge of being alienated myself, I immediately thought: “preference and prejudice are not the same as racism.”

        Call it whatever you want, it can be argued that prejudice–especially systemic prejudice–facilitates racism.

        What I’ve always noticed is the delicate line between racism and “culturism.” Some white people claim they’re not racist, and yet they have strong feelings about certain cultural manifestations found more generally in other racial groups.

        Is there really a difference?

        Given how muddled words can become through discourse on this subject, you might also consider defining your operational terms:

        What is the difference/similarity between: racism, prejudice, systemic racism, systemic prejudice, culturism, preference, privilege, white privilege, status quo, majority rule, etc.

        Keep it up!

      • White Mom January 7, 2013 at 11:06 am #

        I’ve thought about defining my terms but I purposely haven’t yet. I’m working on this though- thank you for the feedback!

  2. MamaCas January 7, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    I like where demogirl is going . . .I also think there is a line between racism and prejudice. As a white mom, I don’t consider myself racist at all and found myself immediately turned off by the “white people are inherently racist” comment. However, after going back and reading the post about Band-Aids, I had an “ah ha moment” and can see where you are trying to go with this. I also never conisdered that Band-Aids were made that way – I have boys and therefore Disney Princess are not usually what the boys pick out (they want Super Heroes or bugs), but I’m now questioning that too.

    So maybe the question is how does our culture perpetuate privilige or prejudice? How do we open our eyes and notice these things that have been accepted for such a long time? Maybe talking about Band-Aids is a good place to start.

    • White Mom January 7, 2013 at 11:26 am #

      Thank you for the comment. I hear you and my goal is to keep people interested in talking about race- not to read something that immediately shuts them down . I’m glad that the Band-Aid post provided a clearer insight to what I was trying to say- I appreciate the feedback. Keep it coming!

      • Maria January 26, 2013 at 10:19 am #

        Re: “White people are inherently racist” comment. I have had this conversation with multiple people, and at first, I was really turned off. Not because I am white. Not because I’m not white. But because I felt like “racism” is present in every culture. And it felt like some moralistic hand-wringing/martyrdom/privilege to only apply the word “racist” to white people.

        White Mom and I even had a (let’s call it) “spirited” conversation about it one night, and what I came to understand is that “racism” and “prejudice” are two separate concepts, and while they share similarities, are actually two distinct ideas.

        I think a definitions section is a great idea, not only for ease of understanding terminology used on this blog, but also to start a conversation in and of itself about how the words we use to discuss race can perpetuate racism/privilege itself.

        Crazy amounts of love this blog!

  3. Megan January 7, 2013 at 10:55 am #

    Great post – and good question, “how have you effectively started a conversation with white people about race without alienating them?” I haven’t, but I don’t know that it’s possible in one conversation. I’ve had some White friends who have been angry and resistant during the first conversation who, a few weeks later, have come back and said they’ve been reading a lot and maybe they’re ready to start talking again. But what’s the best way in the initial conversation/training/etc. to not put them off so much that they never want to come back to it? Anyway, looking forward to reading more posts from you!

    • White Mom January 7, 2013 at 11:29 am #

      Yes! Exactly- also, I don’t want to simultaneously water down my point. You’ve nailed the crux of the issue. I’m looking forward to exploring this further. Thanks for the comment!

  4. T. Drake January 7, 2013 at 10:54 pm #

    First off, I was thoroughly impressed and excited to see the link to this blog on my Facebook news feed early today. You totally rule. Secondly, I am not a white mom, so while I do not feel qualified to respond to everything this blog will ever produce, I think I can definitely contribute to this discussion.

    In my experience, usage of the word “racist” should be based on how well you know a person. Honestly, I’m on the “inherently racist” boat rather than “prejudiced.” A lot of people don’t like being called a racist by a stranger; it’s often assumed to be implied with such a sense of malice and hatred that it just blows people lids. So you can totally say screw and call it as you see it, but prejudiced I feel has a much broader definition and doesn’t come across as an attack as much.

    Also, definitely bookmarking the blog.

    • White Mom January 7, 2013 at 11:36 pm #

      Thanks for the comment- you can definitely add to the discussion! I think there are a lot of questions about what language to use when talking about racism. I’ve realized through people’s comments how powerful language can be. I personally define prejudice and racism differently based on systemic implications– but more on this later.

  5. Chantilly Patiño (@BiculturalMom) January 9, 2013 at 6:32 am #

    This is the million dollar question…and not an easy one. I struggle with this too. Many times I feel like you have to shake white people into awareness. White privilege really is an INVISIBLE knapsack. People just don’t see it and it’s hard to get them too. The frustration over this lack of awareness and slow acceptance can make talking about race very difficult and sometimes people will take that frustration as a sign of “attack” against them. But we need to acknowledge that frustration for what it is. It’s not an attack on white people, it’s not about white people being “bad”…it’s just a matter of our privilege making it much more difficult to have conversations about race. It takes more work, more explanations, more hand-holding because we’re taught not to talk about it, because we’re privileged in a way that allows us to ignore race, because we don’t like the way it makes us feel when we talk about race because it hurts to acknowledge that we are partially responsible. However…we must acknowledge.

    Great post! Thanks for sharing.

    • White Mom January 9, 2013 at 9:56 pm #

      Yes! I agree–thank you for your comment and thanks for checking in here. I look forward to participating in some interesting and engaging conversations! Thanks Chantilly!

  6. Tricia Drammeh January 26, 2013 at 11:00 am #

    Wow. I feel very fortunate to have stumbled across this blog and I’m excited to see where it’s headed in the future. I’m a white mom too, but my kids are of multicultural heritage. (My husband is from Africa). There are lots of people who have come to terms with black/white race issues and these folks will tell you they aren’t racist at all–because they’re only looking at racism in terms of black or white. I’ve found that when you throw other races into the mix–Latino, Arabic, Asian–the lines get a little blurred. I admire you for starting this blog and for opening up a dialogue. Thank you!

    • White Mom January 27, 2013 at 12:51 am #

      I would love to talk more about mothers raising biracial children. I look forward to hearing your feedback.Thank you!

  7. shunpwrites January 26, 2013 at 9:54 pm #

    I’m not a Mom, but a Dad and I just wanted to chime in to encourage you on!

    • White Mom January 27, 2013 at 12:50 am #

      Dad are totally welcome here too! Thank you for reading!

  8. monikadrinkstea February 3, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

    I am really enjoying your blog and also the comments it is generating!

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Bicultural Mom™

Raising niños in a mixed & matched world.

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