Fearing people of colour

One of the reasons it is so hard for a white person to get started on any discourse about race is that we are afraid.

Not just generically afraid that we might say something stupid and get called a racist, or that we might discover to our dismay that we actually are racist – although we are afraid of that too.

But we are specifically afraid –

No, *I* have been specifically afraid – of how women of colour will react to my words. What am I afraid of? That someone will physically reach through my screen and literally do violence to me? No. But someone might be mean to me. Someone might see my raw and exposed defects and use them against me, to beat me over the head and make me feel bad. Someone might get angry with me. Not just “someone”. A person of colour. A woman of colour.

We even went so far as to put a seemingly light-hearted note in our comment policy asking people of colour to be gentle with us (and with our commentariat) – because we so feared what rage they might otherwise express and how difficult that would make it for us to do what we need to do here.

I thank Dark Daughta (here, here) for pointing out this mistake. Oh, and guess what? She didn’t rage at us, she didn’t beat us over the head. Because she isn’t the dark monster that we are so afraid to unleash – she is a decent, wise human being.

Why are we so afraid of women of colour? Because we know that for too long white has oppressed black, we know that for too long our race has deserved the rage of other races. There is a reason that some point to examples of countries where black people have lashed out against former white rulers as evidence that we should be afraid. And, based on the long-held view – imposed and created and perpetuated by white supremacy and white supremacists – that people of the same race should stick together, looking after their own, this is a perfectly reasonable attitude to take. If black people have been oppressed by white people – and if black people should stick together and look after their own just as white people have always done – why wouldn’t they take any opportunity to get back at the oppressors?

Well, that view is wrong. That view is one of the many that we here on white noise want to recognise and abandon. The idea that people of colour are just itching to take pot shots at us white folks is harmful and mistaken. If we are open, if we listen, if we are honest, if we are in good faith, then we will not face anger.

There is no reason to be afraid.

White oppression of non-white people and white non-acceptance of non-white people has made it difficult for people of colour to trust us. But we have no cause to distrust people of colour. What have they ever done to earn distrust?

It’s time to put away fear, take courage, and put the next foot forward.

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4 Responses

  1. I’m glad dark daughta said something about that statement in the intro. I wish I had said I didn’t like it back when I first read it instead of leaving it up to her. I think it’s more realistic to accept that sometimes people–of various colors–will get mad at us. I don’t think we have the right to ask anyone below us on the race hierarchy to be kind to us about our ignorance. I don’t think white people, white feminists, get to ask for “safe” space to not be challenged–or only kindly challenged–about our racism. I don’t think we need it, in fact. I think we have to toughen up enough to hear the anger of people who’ve been hurt, even if we weren’t the ones who did the hurting. If it is about us, we have to deal with that; but if it isn’t, we have to be strong enough to stand it, to let it flow over and around us and to nod and listen and still be there.

  2. I’m not afraid of black women but what I will tell you is that I truly believe that black people hate white people. This could very well be untrue, but it’s something I feel in my bones. I don’t mean dislike, I mean hate. It’s hard to want to engage with people who look at me with obvious disgust. I might not like some black people but I don’t hate them.

    As far as I am concerned, I do not think about black women or their lives. I see a lot of black women because I live in a very diverse area but it’s like I go about my business and they go about theirs. I think most white people are like this. We don’t consider anyone but ourselves. If our lives are content that’s all we care to really know about. I know that’s shallow, but it’s the truth.

    I never thought of myself as racist. I was taught to believe that everyone is equal. But we lived where all we saw were people who looked exactly like us so I think it’s easy to say you don’t have a racist bone in your body when you never have a reason to see if that’s a valid truth. I noticed my racist ways creeping in when I moved down south. It didn’t happen all at once, but after many years of living here.

    Here are some ways that I am racist that I can’t seem to shake but am willing to open for discussion. I know that people are afraid to admit their racist ways and I am trying to confront mine.

    If I am in my car and my doors are unlocked and I am driving down the road and I see a black man or a Mexican man walking down the road, I quickly lock my doors. I do not have this reaction when I see a white man walking even though I know that white men rape, harm, and kill as much as anyone else. My sense of urgency is not there to lock the door if the man is white. So there you have it.

    Whenever I see black women, I have a bet with myself that they will be carrying a huge Coach purse or some other designer bag and 8 out of 10 times I am correct.

    I think that black people don’t like to follow rules so they make up their own. I think they think they are entitled to do everything their own way. I see this on the roads and in schools and in stores.

    I think that most white people will tell you that the black people they like the most are the black people who act most like white people. I see and hear this everywhere. I see this in schools. White children are growing up right now thinking this as well. They base this on the fact that the black kids seclude themselves and most of them do not take their academics seriously.

    I know there are more ways, but I’ll stop at these for now. I know I will not be popular for submitting this but if no one ever talks about it, then nothing will ever change.

  3. Beth, your comment makes me want to ask about 10 questions all at once. I’ll stick to one, because I am happy that you are naming and recognising your racist attitudes and that you are open to discussing them. That is the first step. I guess what I’m not hearing is a recognition that these attitudes are mistaken or harmful. Do you recognise that?

  4. Hi Beth, I hope you will come back, and I look for your reply to Maia’s question.

    I also have many questions I would like to ask, but so as to not overwhelm you I’ll limit it to a couple.

    When you say …. “I think that black people don’t like to follow rules so they make up their own. I think they think they are entitled to do everything their own way. I see this on the roads and in schools and in stores.”

    I answer, Beth: If you read 1st person writings of Blacks, or even pay very close attention to the news reporting, you will notice that our (white) rules work FOR us and for our children, and against Blacks, against anyone who is considered outsider. Blacks are punished at every turn for being Black. They pay–with their bodies, their lives, their chidren’s bodies, their children’s souls, lives. It’s cruel.

    You said: ” think that most white people will tell you that the black people they like the most are the black people who act most like white people. I see and hear this everywhere. I see this in schools. White children are growing up right now thinking this as well. They base this on the fact that the black kids seclude themselves and most of them do not take their academics seriously.”

    Beth, so many factors, including poverty, overworked and stressed-out parents, depress academic performance, and large segments of Blacks are kept stressed and poor by our racist society, to the detriment and harm of beautiful Black children. They have bright, creative, smart minds that are being squandered, it’s unjust and criminal. For us to say we would rather that they act like whites is another way of putting Blacks down. Why wouldn’t they want to sit with those they trust, instead of those who hurt them?

    Hoping to continue a dialog, thanks for asking your questions. Other white women might also be able to respond, perhaps better than my response … anyone?

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