Love letter to white people

September 3, 2013
By

By Joe Osmundson

White people, I love you. I really do. Not because I am a white person myself. This is not a story of self-love, although those can be important. This proclamation is not an attempt to subvert power structures that disavow love of white bodies. No, love of white bodies and selves, that is the norm, so hidden in plain sight that it is rarely given a racial identity at all.

We are so afraid of talking about race. We almost always believe racism is a thing that other people do. Talking about race and our own racism is ugly, and it implicates us in terrible things. But love without honesty is infatuation. If we want to love ourselves and each other we have to admit to the worst amongst us and claim the worst within us. I want to do this work.

White America, America full stop, I am trying to love you in a different way, an honest way, a way that provokes a dialog, a way that requires progressive change. I love you, and we need to do better. James Baldwin said, “Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.” White people, it’s time we grow up.

Who am I and what am I doing here?

xI read The Autobiography of Malcolm X embarrassingly late in life, at 28. I am white and from a working class community in the rural Pacific Northwest. I have lived in NYC for seven years now. I was finishing the final pages at the McCarren Park Pool in Williamsburg. I was at the pool that day with a few friends who are all queer men of color. I consider myself an ally in the fight for racial justice. I label myself a feminist. I do not see the struggles for queer and women’s rights, economic justice, racial justice as separate. The power, I always thought, was at the intersection; no one struggle would succeed without the others. I was reading X.

X, it turns out, was also reading me.

“I sure don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings,” he wrote, “but in fact I’ll even go so far as to say that I never really trust the kind of white people who are always so anxious to hang around Negroes, or to hang around Negro communities.”

I looked around me. In the heart of hipster Williamsburg, the pool was filled with people of color. I turned back to Malcolm.

“I tell sincere white people, ‘Work in conjunction with us – each of us working among our own kind.’ Let sincere white individuals find all other white people they can who feel as they do – and let them form their own all-white groups, to work trying to convert other white people who are thinking and acting so racist. Let sincere white people go and teach non-violence to white people!” (emphasis added)

While I believe that white people do have a role to play in the fight for racial justice, simply unpacking our invisible backpacks of privilege is necessary but not sufficient. White guilt isn’t changing shit. Doing the work to actually see race is the first step. The second step, the harder step, is to stop telling ourselves the lies that perpetuate bias and to stop participating in the structures that codify racism, and to implore other people to do the same.

Moving beyond Malcolm

But what does any of this have to do with love?

Another voice was ringing in my ear that August day at the pool. James Baldwin insisted that love, real love, was the only way forward in America. “We,” he wrote, “with love, shall force our [white] brothers to see themselves as they are, to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.”

To Baldwin, love was white people’s only salvation. Baldwin’s work was published more than 50 years ago, but the battle feels the same.

hooksWhite love, American love, still negates truth, requires myth, is predicated on lies. Years after Baldwin, bell hooks reminded us that love and domination are incompatible. Capital L love is built on honesty and equity, requires accountability, and pain and movement and growth. Baldwin wrote, “Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word ‘love’ here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace – not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.”

Love requires accountability

The face of racism has changed in the last generation in our country. Overt racism still exists, of course. But in today’s America you get fired for using the N-word. We have a black president. It is impossible to say that things haven’t changed. And yet, I promise you white people, the world is not post-racial.

I love you and I want to tell you the truth.

I will start with a little bit of my truth. In college, I was haunted by the folks I left behind. I knew that poor white were not being given the opportunities I had. I knew that there was no such thing as affirmative action for these kids (who were a lot like me, just like me, could have been me) and I argued that they needed it. Socioeconomic affirmative action. I argued this point hard until I was called out. Didn’t I see, I was asked, that when I walked into a room no one saw my socioeconomic status? No one assumed that I got into my elite college because I was from a disadvantaged background. Everyone assumed I was upper middle class and from a prep school and just like them. And didn’t I see what was happening to the students of color on campus?

Race still matters.

Poverty is still racialized. The absence of laws ensuring that black folks don’t vote in the south doesn’t mean that access to education , health care, even to the voting booth, is equal. Study after study, if you’re into that sort of thing, has shown that access to these things are not equal across races. Within hours of the Supreme Court striking down aspects of the heavily bi-partisan Voting Rights Act several states moved to change their voting laws in ways that may limit the impact of black voters.

Racism is both personal and systemic. On the personal side, bias infects us, all of us, on a daily basis. Since the arrival of black people in America, we have been constructing narratives that pathologize black men as strong but volatile and dangerous, black women as lazy and overly sexualized. These narratives are still lived today. Again, for those that are into this sort of thing, insidious, unconscious bias has been shown against black people in study after study.

There are people out there who don’t need these studies because their daily existence speaks to these truths.

White people, it’s time to learn to listen. Not just to studies, but to people who aren’t us. This is what it means to love. Let us learn to trust truths that we cannot live in. Let us question our own implication in these narratives. Do we get uncomfortable when we’re around large groups of black men? Do we assume that a black mother wearing hoop earrings is on welfare? Does that make us devalue her? Would we assume that a black job candidate might be less qualified than a white job candidate based on their race? We might. We could. We often do. It is ugly to admit, but it is also the truth. Studies tell us so. So do stories.

Love requires accountability. We must admit that we see race and that we see it in ways that can lead to discrimination and violence. We must hold ourselves accountable not only for sins of the past but also for the structures we uphold in the present.

Love requires honesty

trayvonThe summer of 2013 has seen a reemergence of race in our national dialog thanks, in large part, to a few high-profile cases. Beyond the tragedy of Trayvon is our national response to it. With a dead black teenager on the ground, many responses have decried apparent anti-white racism as though discussing race at all is itself racist.

White people, I love you and I want to tell you the truth. There is no such thing as anti-white racism. It’s really quite simple. It doesn’t exist.

I can hear the collective outcry so let me explain. Sure, there are people out there who might not like you because you’re white. You might even get called a cracker while walking down 125th street. And it sucks, truly, to have some one hold the color of your skin against you. I might agree that disliking all white folks is bigoted. But it isn’t racist.

Racism requires power to turn bigotry into coded difference. Anti-black and anti-white bigotry are not the same because history happened. Black people in this country were kept as slaves, and then Jim Crow happened, and that wasn’t that long ago, and then overt discrimination was in some cases illegal but it still existed in all sorts of arenas like hiring and access to housing and health care and healthy food and laws that treated crack cocaine (black and poor) differently than powdered cocaine (white and rich) in sentencing. The predatory lending that led to the 2008 financial crisis disproportionately affected black families and individuals. Blacks and whites use marijuana at the same rate, but black people are several times more likely to go be arrested for it. Anti-black bigotry is racist because there are still systems of power that consistently punish, or kill, black bodies in ways that white bodies are not punished or killed. Believe the studies. Or believe the stories. Either way, it’s time to reckon with the truth.

We need to change

I was hesitant to write this love letter and I am still hesitant to share it publicly. I don’t think I have all the answers. I am still fucked up. I know that I am but an ally in this struggle and that half of the good I can do is to shut up and let others speak their truths. I want people, including white people, to slam me, to hold me accountable; as Kiese Laymon says, to knock my hustle. I want there to be an honest conversation amongst white people about race. We might not know all the right things to say, or the rights ways in which to say them, but it is time to break free of political correctness and speak honestly. If political correctness serves only to mask and not eradicate prejudice it is a false prophet.

When I started to think about and deconstruct race and class in this country, in our world, I wanted to run away from white people. Malcolm’s words brought me back. Baldwin’s love brought me back. We can’t run away from whiteness; we sink or swim together.

I know that where people and systems interact is where the rubber meets the road. I decry economic displacement of communities of color and yet I am a white man gentrifying Harlem. I love my community uptown and I don’t know where I can live in NYC on my income and not be a gentrifier. Am I a hypocrite? I can talk for hours about how attraction and sex are built on cultural definitions of beauty that are heavily influenced by race, gender, and money. But, my last three partners are all men of color, black men. Am I fetishizing black bodies, myself? Or is it that most white people are uncomfortable spending time thinking and talking about race, something (obviously) incredibly important to me?

The answers to these questions are not straightforward. I know that when I see myself honestly, I don’t always look that great in the mirror. But through these questions, and their answers, we hold ourselves accountable.

Baldwin asked for quest and daring and growth. That is the love that is required for change. That is the change that is required for love. I am trying to do James Baldwin’s bidding, to take off my mask; I am asking to be loved as I am and promising to try to love others. Real love is immensely hard work, the work of a lifetime, something that must be done and redone daily.

Love is not something that requires others to be made lesser than to make some worthy. Love does not tolerate the making of collective myths that dehumanize and debase. White people have become skilled at ridding ourselves of guilt by creating stories of circular logic, always pointing outward, to rid ourselves of culpability.

Love can be redemptive.

I hope that we can do better. But I know that there is no hope without honesty, without accountability, without trust in each other’s stories and truths, without true capital-L love.

I say it, with toughness, with trust, I love you, white people. We can change ourselves; we can change our systems. I believe in you. I believe in us.

___________________________

josmundson_headshotJoseph Osmundson is a scientist and activist based in New York City.  He is currently a visiting professor of Biochemistry at Vassar College.  He completed graduate studies in Molecular Biophysics at The Rockefeller University where he examined protein structure/function relationships in pathogenic bacteria.  He has also taught at The New School and written on the intersection of science and policy.

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68 Responses to Love letter to white people

  1. Beth Hager Harrison Prado on September 3, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Thank you for a powerful, brilliant essay on the ways in which we white people can — must — use love in the biggest most rigorous way to make a difference. And the first place you remind me that I have to do my work is in looking in the mirror and within myself. Every single day. There are no easy answers, but I’m in for the quest. Thanks again.

  2. J.K. Percy on September 3, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    You should also read Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable.

    The Autobiography as told to is great but it misses keep points of humanity and politics. Alex was a liberal republican a strong believer in “kind” capitalism a skeptic of “pride politics” and very unradicial. Now there’s nothing wrong with that, or the Autobiography as a start, but Marable really adds to the picture I feel.

    I enjoyed what I think you’re saying but need to read a few more times after work.

  3. Love Letter to White People | race4ourlives on September 3, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    […] Love Letter to White People […]

  4. SG on September 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    Prejudice is a survival trait we’ve all inherited. Fearing those different from ourselves was a pretty smart strategy for a very long time.

    Racism is founded on this primal instinct.

    I agree that being honest with ourselves is critical. This includes understanding how we are hardwired. Which at least opens the door to metacognitive control of the instinct.

    • Amandla on September 3, 2013 at 11:03 pm

      Metacognitive control over our instinct to fear or reject something different is not the issue. The issue lies with the idea that we are so different and so foreign to one another as human beings, when in fact there are massive similarities within each human being, starting with the fact that we “fear” each other.

      • Robin Farrin on September 4, 2013 at 7:32 am

        Great reply Amandia. There is so much we need to deeply see in ourselves and how we respond and react to one another. We must look deeper within to be able to fully love each other and in order to fully feel and trust people who might be different from ourselves. This love letter is brilliant and needs to be shared and encouraged to read over and over until we all get it, especially the difference between bigotry and racism.

      • Shmalegs Boolan on September 10, 2013 at 3:44 pm

        Our experience with other human beings is the standard by which difference is defined. Isolate a bunch of white people for life, and they’ll form in-groups and out-groups, some of which will be based on physical differences. There are countless ways in which the human brain calibrates itself to promote as much altruism as is necessary to ensure the promotion of genes similar to those of the individual while not doing the same for the competition.

        The idea is a problem, but it comes from concrete systems, because it has utility. It’s necessary to understand the systems that spawn the idea to combat the idea itself.

    • Chris on September 4, 2013 at 1:29 am

      I largely agree with this statement. However, I would add that the mind evaluates its surroundings by means all sorts of categories, of which race is one, but race is not innately any more important than any other category (such as height, weight, eye color, hair length, foot size, etc.).

      White people initially gave race a large amount of importance in their own minds in order to justify the immoral act of taking free men and turning them into slaves. But now that slavery is gone and individuals of all races are equal under the law, the only thing perpetuating the continued perception of elevated importance of racial distinctions is the constant harping of well-meaning but utterly misguided people like the writer of this article.

      • Jake on September 4, 2013 at 1:22 pm

        Race isn’t an objectively “real” category like height, or the rest of the physical descriptors you list.
        Race wasn’t over-emphasized by the European settlers who brought slavery here, wrote miscegenation laws, and so on. Race was constructed by those people to justify their subjugation of others. It justified systemic discrimination, oppression, and violence towards anyone excluded from “whiteness.” At times , that meant Irish, Italian, Jewish immigrants, and other groups whose descendants, like me, are wWhite today for any police officer using racial profiling.

        Slavery isn’t “gone.” The systems of discrimination, oppression, and violence still continue today, perpetuating the injustice of slavery, of US apartheid, and other societal crimes.

        Someone mugged and stabbed isn’t made whole when the mugging is done. The lost money, lost blood, lost safety, and scars persist even if the mugger goes to jail, new anti-mugging laws are passed, and a mugging survivor is elected mayor.

        Speaking to these truths may seem like harping or whining because you are reluctant to acknowledge them. Maybe you were raised with so much distance from the non-white experience, that you reject these accounts because they disturb your comfort about the world? Or Maybe your own experience of struggle and disadvantage hardens you against others talking about these issues, but leaving you out?

        • Jaime Jenett on September 4, 2013 at 5:12 pm

          What Jake said.

          • Pam on September 6, 2013 at 12:55 am

            What Jaime said

        • Mark on September 10, 2013 at 2:28 pm

          Well said Jake. The mugging is not done until the victim heals and the mugger faces justice.

        • Shmalegs Boolan on September 10, 2013 at 3:37 pm

          If you’re going to reject the observation of morphological differences between human populations on the basis that they needed to be observed and processed into a meaningful concept of ‘race,’ then you might just as well throw out the idea of height or other physical descriptors, because those all only exist as we think of them in our perceptual frames. The fact that the physical basis for one is simpler than the other isn’t a reason to dismiss one. Neither is the fact that false statements have been historically made about race.

          The idea that ‘Slavery is gone’ is incorrect in the strictest sense; good on Gordon. But if you’re going to give him credit for qualifying slavery as the legal American system of slavery, the fact that society hasn’t perfectly eliminated implicit associations doesn’t justify claiming that slavery still exists, nor does it justify a ‘US apartheid.’

          • Jake on September 10, 2013 at 7:14 pm

            Your second paragraph first:
            I use the term US Apartheid to refer to the system of laws and practices that separated people with brown and black skin from people with white skin, from miscegenation through Jim Crow, and beyond. That system is in many ways dismantled today. But as recently as 1970, the US was as segregated as South Africa was in 1990.

            Today, we have very few laws that explicitly divide and oppress people by race. But we have a justice system that routinely punishes people with black and brown bodies worse than those with pink skin for identical crimes, and that locks up people from the 25% of our citizens with black and brown bodies so readily that they make up 50% of our prison population; and enormous numbers of those prisoners are housed in buildings whose floor plans look like slave galleys, working for wages that amount to chattel slavery.

            It will be a glorious day in our country when we can honestly say “We haven’t perfectly eliminated implicit associations” between race and life expectancy, disease, poverty, violence, imprisonment, and all the other harms and tragedies that carry forward our history of racial oppression, exploitation, and violence in the name of white supremacy, and have that be more than a monstrously absurd understatement.

            And your first paragraph:

            Race is both a lot more (and in some ways less) than “observed morphological differences…processed into meaningful concepts.”
            Height, weight, genetics, skin tone, are all immediate physical properties, which exist independent of what labels we use to discuss them. Race has *no* immediate physical properties. Race is a set of concepts and labels that map onto a wide range of experiences, history, perceptions. Here’s the difference, in a nutshell:
            If you took an interracial group of people, wiped all their minds with that ray from Men-in-Black, and put them in a Biodome with no access to the outside world… The tall ones would still be tall, the green eyed ones would still be green eyed, the pink skinned ones would still be pink skinned. But the only way they’d ever be “White” or “Black” would be if we told them so.

          • Shmalegs Boolan on September 10, 2013 at 10:48 pm

            Dang, the layout of this website’s comments section is crazy.

            I understood your use of “US Apartheid,” I took issue with your use of a word for such a concrete system to describe ephemeral forces to which racial inequalities are attributed, which are ultimately accounted for by the implicit associations toward racial groups. It’s a pretty unfair comparison – as is the comparison between a slum and a slave galley.

            The associations you’re listing aren’t implicit, but observed; and, they’re a symptom of the problem that is implicit associations.

            “Race has *no* immediate physical properties.”
            So you’re saying more or less exactly what I said you said: Because a metric used to classify individuals must be processed to be meaningful, it should be discarded as a construct, which is still wrong for the same reasons that it was wrong before.

            If you’re referring to the social implications of “black” and “white,” you’re probably right about your mindwiped population not seeing race. But if you’re talking about physical characteristics, it’s quite a stretch to suggest that your people won’t categorize people based on the complicated set of visual differences we refer to as race. And, most relevantly, even if they were racially homogenous, they would still form in-groups and out-groups.

          • Jake on September 10, 2013 at 11:37 pm

            Shmalegs:
            When you say “complicated set of visual differences we refer to as race,” you’re using a different definition of race than the one I use, Joseph Osmundson uses, and most of the people on this thread use. A simple illustration: by your definition, my body dictates that I’m always white. But 100 years ago, my Jewish ancestry would have kept me out of many “whites only” spaces. Even today, when I go shopping in December and am surrounded by Christmas decorations, I don’t feel “white.” But when I get pulled over by a police officer, it doesn’t matter how othered I feel by the Christianity-centered mainstream of white america; in cops’ eyes I’m white.

            Race is about lived experience. Telling me that it’s equivalent to the words for “tall” or “blonde” is like making the same claim about “Republican,” or “Poet,” or “Muslim.”

            Not much more to say if we can’t agree on that–and either way let’s take this off the thread if you want to continue it.

            One last, though: I compared prison floor plans, not slums, to slave galleys–though maybe I should have said ships.

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/14/prison-overcrowding-report_n_1883919.html

            http://www.history.com/photos/slavery-slave-trade/photo6

          • Shmalegs Boolan on September 11, 2013 at 10:24 am

            But we’re discussing Chris’s response to SG’s statement, which both clearly and for good reason used the physical definition of race. It’s hardly a response to that if the crux of your argument is redefining a key term and pointing out that the argument no longer stands. I’ll let linguists and sociologists decide what the definition of race should be (or debate about it with you, if you like), but race as it’s relevant here is the morphological stuff I mentioned, and you haven’t bothered to make an argument that it shouldn’t be.

            Also, the state of that prison is still orders of magnitude better than a slave vessel.

      • Gordon T. on September 5, 2013 at 8:22 pm

        I got news for you, slavery is still practiced throughout the world, and exists here in the United States.

    • matt on September 5, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      Hey, no, that’s not gonna fly. There’s no such thing as hardwired behavior. Brains aren’t wired, for one thing. And for another, brains aren’t behavior. Behaving is a whole-body, whole-agent activity. Brains are highly plastic, highly nonlinear, highly variable, and highly integrated into the other physiological systems that variably enable and constrain their activity. The property “different from me“ can’t exist in a brain, because a brain is not a “me.“ A brain can’t be wired to avoid different people, because what counts as different is built over the course of development along with our perceptions/conceptions of self. Everything you are, your brain is involved in, but nothing you do is done by your brain – much less your genes acting through the medium of your brain. That’s logically insane at every level. Drop the evolutionary psychology you’re hiding behind and take ownership of your life.

      • Tye on September 6, 2013 at 12:27 pm

        Matt, you realize you just made a nature vs. nurture argument? And hasn’t everyone agreed by now that one cannot escape their genetic predispositions, but that they cannot account for all or even the majority of our actions?

        Chris was merely referring to the well known psychological framework known as “outgroup bias.” A phenomenon that exists in every human society in which the brain creates a model by which members are viewed as “in or out” based upon their own cultural norms. It is essentially the mechanism that fuels the “fear of the unknown” and if you dont believe me, well it really doesnt matter all that much because practically all of modern psychology and anthropology does.

  5. Jaime Jenett on September 3, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    I LOVE THIS. I am also laughing b/c I’m about to put out a piece I’ve been working on for a month called “a love letter to middle-class white folks” that touches on so many things you’ve said. Thank you for writing this.

  6. James on September 3, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    All i hear is a lot of fluff and no solutions offered. Just a lot of meaningless nonsense about love as if its actually a real thing.

    • Gina on September 4, 2013 at 2:04 am

      What solution(s) would you offer then?

    • Andy on September 5, 2013 at 2:59 am

      James,
      Love is a message. Messages are VERY real. Messages have the power to make people and countries to things like genocide. Messages have the potential to transform your understanding of self and the world. Love is both message and vessel. Love is intrinsic to social transformation.

      (This is the perspective of a secular humanist.)

  7. Robin Mantis on September 3, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Excellent conversation-starter, Joe! I, too, have learned enough on this topic within the last year or so to become rather passionate about it, and about dispelling the misconceptions surrounding race that I see in so many of those around me, and which I used to believe as well. I’ve shared this with my social network, in hopes that at least some of them will read it. Thank you for writing and posting it, and thank you to Son of Baldwin on Facebook for linking to it!

  8. Rupert Kinnard on September 3, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Thank you, Mr. Osmundson for such a thoughtful essay. The bottom line for me, as a black gay man, is the pure fact that the vast majority of white people have absolutely no reason to truly try to understand the nuances of racial issues, let alone racism. I have long concluded that black people can’t be labeled racist for all the reasons mentioned in the post. Yet I know we, as black people, certainly can be bigoted and express extreme prejudice. Given that, many people of color can be considered racially bigoted.

    I am truly fascinated with the author as a white gay man who grapples with issues of whether or not he sees black men as fetishes. As a black gay man I have been leery of white men who ONLY date black men. I’ve been in a relationship with a white man for nearly 23 years and the subject of interracial dating has been fascinating to me. I NEVER only dated white men and I simply ended up with the one man that I loved and who loved me. I would be interested in more exploration in this area.

    • joe osmundson on September 3, 2013 at 4:34 pm

      oh man, books could be written, should be written, on race and attraction and sex and love and dating in the LGBQT* community…

      • LL on September 3, 2013 at 7:47 pm

        i also agree more should be written and talked about. as a light skin trans person of color who has been with white trans guys there is such a lack of guidance on how to navigate intimacy, privilege, communication and building deeply that is transformative and just. like concretely can we build up connections (as friends, lovers, boos, partners, etc) and be accountable about oppression in connections? how do we do it during break-ups? deal with each other’s trauma…where is the handbook? i mean there isn’t a handbook but how do we talk about all the sides of a connection when part of the dynamic involves privilege? it’s sticky, and complicated and neccessary.

  9. MJsQueenBee on September 3, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    Probably the bravest thing I have EVER read in all of my 32 years on Earth. My Brother, YOU give me hope. As a black woman, a mother, and a human being, I THANK YOU.

  10. […] Originally appeared at The Feminist Wire […]

  11. LL on September 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm

    thank you for this.

  12. Catherine Merideth on September 3, 2013 at 9:44 pm

    I am moved and challenged! Let go of the fear that separates us and let the dialogue begin. I’m in.
    From my heart,

  13. Carolyn on September 3, 2013 at 10:03 pm

    Loved the essay and then came across the part about anti-white bigotry not being racist because we were never oppressed. (At least, that is what I got from your supporting arguments.) Racism is also defined (in addition to your above definition) as hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. Every race deals with racism and every race has its racists. Racism isn’t in anyone’s DNA. It’s taught. Once people realize that (in addition to racism being across all races), we can all try to help fight it and hopefully live in peace. Have you forgotten about how the Irish were treated? “Need not apply” signs posted in front of businesses? Going by your stance, I guess Irish-whites can’t be racist because they were treated like trash when they first immigrated to the U.S.

    • Robin Mantis on September 3, 2013 at 11:22 pm

      Based on what I’ve learned, the Irish weren’t considered “white” in early America, and were discriminated against as a minority group. Once they began to toe the line and treat other minorities – darker-skinned ones – the same way they themselves were being treated, and began to culturally assimilate in other ways as well, they were gradually “inducted into whiteness.” As far as I know, in present-day America, there is no systemic discrimination against people of Irish descent (though stereotypes still linger, of course).

    • Samantha on September 4, 2013 at 9:47 am

      I agree..I liked it until the same point and I am tired of hearing this point of view. Should every Jewish person still make all Germans uncomfortable as they walk down the street, just because of history? People are using excuses for bad behavior in my opinion.

      • Jake on September 4, 2013 at 1:45 pm

        I’m not quite sure what that analogy lines up with, but speaking as a Jew, no German has the right to blame me for their discomfort if I tell Nazi jokes or bring up the Holocaust.

        As a White person, if I’m uncomfortable when people talk about the history, reality, and effects of racism, my feelings are not their fault.

        Prioritizing avoiding uncomfortable feelings is, actually, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant cultural value that works against any examination of the status quo, and discussion of injustice. “We don’t talk about money,” was the line used for years to stifle women’s questions about pay equity.

        In all the conversations I’ve had with people about these issues, I’ve heard people of all kinds talk about how they faced adversity because of their differences. I’ve almost never heard people want more for themselves at the expense of others. Getting uncomfortable by confronting how the many histories of discrimination, violence, and oppression continue today, to our individual benefit and harm, is the first step in joining the history if people who have worked throughout time to answer injustice with repair, and heal hatred through love.

      • Lindsay on September 5, 2013 at 12:53 am

        I think the issue is that he isn’t saying that bigotry and prejudice towards whites isn’t “bad behavior,” it is. Bigotry towards anyone based on prejudice is bad behavior. But prejudice and racism are not the same thing, and shouldn’t be confused. Jews can still be biggoted against germans, just as people of color can be prejudiced against whites. That doesn’t make it racism. Racism = power + privilege + discrimination

  14. Straight Black Hipster on September 4, 2013 at 1:02 am

    I am so grateful that you published this piece. I love the picture of you in your hipster glasses and bow tie. THANK YOU SO MUCH!

  15. Chris on September 4, 2013 at 1:19 am

    I was with you until “affirmative action for poor white people”, at which point the logic got progressively more absurd. Your definition of racism is completely wrong. Racism does not require power of any kind (if you don’t believe me, look it up in a dictionary). And frankly to say that blacks have no power is a bit…well…you get the idea.

    My recommendation for you: drop the guilt, quit pretending white people have some responsibility for the sins of ages past, get rid of the condescending attitude toward other people of your own race, stop bitching, and act like a decent human being to everyone you come across without regard to their race.

    • Talix on September 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm

      Would it be better if we created a new word? Let’s do that. Let’s go with the dictionary – which is a book by whiteness telling us what words mean to whiteness – definition of racism. Let’s call “racial prejudice + privilege” something else – how about “racialege”? Replace every instance of the word “racism” with “racialege” as defined here. Now tell me why the author is wrong.

    • anna on September 6, 2013 at 9:01 pm

      The funny thing about dictionary definitions, aside from the fact that “look it up” was one of my incredibly catchy comebacks as a thirteen year old, is that a sentence fragment can rarely encapsulate an -ism. Especially this -ism. If you don’t understand that structures of power influence things like, say, institutional racism, for starters, then you need to educate yourself. And I really, really suggest that you look further than the dictionary. You might as well start with the aforementioned Autobiography of Malcolm X. Or at least watch this Louis CK clip:

  16. Shawn O'Mahoney on September 4, 2013 at 4:01 am

    I too found this article very interesting. I have worked in my small way to do everything I can to help us to move to a more just, equitable society and while I agree with the jist of the article I take issue to something to which it seems to elude to that is more explicitly expressed in some of the commets, that is the idea that black people can not be racist. That only the race that is the benefactor of that view can be guilty of it. While I agree That racism requires structural support to continue to exist .I do not agree that only the members of that race who benifits from that prespective can be racist. Once when crutching home as I passed 3 men I heard one say to the others ” that white m… F.,.er deserved it (I am a double amputee, 1 leg 1 arm,) next thing I know I have my crutches knocked from under me and am repeatedly kicked until I vomited. All to the tune of “white m..f..er” and the like. Anyway when some folks I knew explained to me that these people couldn’t possible be racist because they lacked “systemic support” for their actions. I was shocked to learn this especially since no definition I could find of the word required that for it to exist. It occurs to me that if our goal is to move to a more just society then the rewriting of definitions to suit our various agendas does nothing to further that goal. Given the chance I would like to get to know those guys and get them to know me. I think that if those “systemic supports ” had not been in place with the,I’m sure, very negative experiences that go along with it these folks may have not become racist but they do and they did. I will continue to do all I can in the small ways available to me to help us move to a more just society, including this. I do believe that if the systemic supports were removed we would see racism fall away in a few generations but I also believe that to assert that some folks couldn’t possibly be racist because of the color of their skin moves us further from that goal not closer to it.

  17. keith on September 4, 2013 at 4:02 am

    Thanks for taking the time to write this essay. I agree with and support the definition of racism that you use (and that has been adopted by anti-racists almost everywhere thanks to the People’s Institute…) but that doesn’t mean that everyone agrees, or knows it, or is wrong to use the word in a different way. If you want to build solidarity and educate other white people, you need to, as you point out, listen. If they equate prejudice or bigotry with racism, then start a discussion. Request their stories. Share yours. Invite them to consider a more radical and strategic use of the word racism. Don’t tell them authoritatively that anti-white or “reverse” racism does not or cannot exist.

  18. Ian on September 4, 2013 at 9:01 pm

    I see no reason to say that being “racist” requires that members of one’s own race historically oppressed people of the race that one is bigoted towards. You *can* define racism that way, but you shouldn’t do it just to play word games and try to deny or dismiss the very real phenomenon of anti-white bigotry.

    It’s an important issue to talk about, even in the interest of identifying ways to better the black population’s lot. There are black people who are extremely reluctant visit white doctors because they worry that the doctors might knowingly harm them. There are black people who don’t report crimes against themselves because they distrust and dislike the predominantly white police force. I tend to think that the black population would be better off if they warmed up a bit to the institutions – which happen to be run largely by white people – that provide the public with essential services.

  19. Sarah Buchholz on September 4, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Damn.
    Thank you.

  20. Tye on September 4, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    While a thoughtful essay I would like to make a few bits of criticism. Firstly, I believe that many of the concepts In this essay are based on academic structures such as feminist and racial theory. Now, not to pick on the English students of the world, but theory is dead and thank god it is dead. If you want to have a truly meaningful discussion of race, and justice, theory is simply the worst POSSIBLE vehicle to convey this.

    Not only do we live in a world that is post-stuctural (from an academic position meaning that there is no foundational concept from which Truth or meaning can be derived such as Marxist Theory or Freudian Theory) but the attempt to parse the world through theory is only doing yourself and your audience a massive disservice. When you use terms such as “Racism” and “Bigotry” with capital letters you are falling into the intellectual trap of theory. Why? Because there is no weight to a proscribed meaning for the word “racism” that you yourself invented! Even if you didn’t invent it you are merely poaching the concept of this capital R “Racism” from compatriots with which you share mutual beliefs.

    When you use the crutch of theory all you accomplish is massage your own ego. It’s as simple as that. You are not accomplishing anything other than produce conclusions to concepts based upon theoretical rules that you already agree with, thus arriving only at opinions you already had in the first place. Rather, and this might be difficult for a scientist to understand, but perhaps the only way to parse intellectual meaning is through dialogue and discussion. Perhaps one cannot simply proscribe an arbitrary use for the word “Racism” and claim victory. Perhaps the only way to accomplish anything of intellectual weight is to discuss it, analyze it, and perhaps debate the topic?

    All in all a great attempt at constructive discussion, but the entire mission of the essay is entirely to tainted with outdated theoretical nonsense. Telling people that anti-white prejudice is not Racism but infact bigotry is frankly absurd. Why does it matter what we call racism if the effects are still the same? And isnt the definition of racism “discrimination based upon race?” So in what way does racism only occur against the dis-empowered? Do white people not have a race, is that why? Because frankly that seems to be the crux of this entire article.

    All in all, I amend my initial thoughts, an intellectually lazy article. Racism needs to be discussed, but not by theoretically obsessed ideologues.

    • Jake on September 4, 2013 at 11:08 pm

      “Post-structuralist” is also a capital letter academic theory, and when you say “you are not accomplishing anything other than produce conclusions to concepts based upon theoretical rules that you already agree with,” it appears you haven’t read the article at all, but certainly have a grasp on what you yourself are doing.

      You dismiss the article, because it uses a specific, widely understood but not universal definition for what racism is… and then declare that it’s intellectually lazy to dismiss opinions just because they don’t use the “right” definitions of words.

      What is it about the author’s self critique and open call for white self-examination that bothers you so much, that you can’t just ignore it, but have to devalue it with blatantly hypocritical intellectual word games?

      In answer to your questions:
      -Yes, White people have a race, one that is both internally and externally constructed, that positions us within the ongoing history of race based discrimination, oppression, and violence, and involves efacement of our cultural heritage and agency, and doesn’t define us but does very much inform and shape our experience and awareness of our social/societal environment.

      No, the effects of bigotry are not all the same, regardless of the societal power structures at work. A shove on the playground is not the same as a shove at the edge of a cliff. And a shove at the edge of the cliff feels very different depending on which way my back is facing.

      Distinguishing between prejudice, discrimination, racism, and so on is important because it helps clarify the complexity of our experiences. For example, it helps me describe, meaningfully, the ways I have experienced anti-semitism as prejudice, but never encountered the kind of discrimination my parents sometimes faced; and how they in turn never experienced the anti-Jewish racism their parents’ generation did in Europe. Courageous conversations rely on both compassionate listening, and language that is both common and specific.

      • Tye on September 5, 2013 at 12:34 am

        Firstly, post-structuralism is the idea that there is no inherent structure to adhere ones concepts to. It is the very definition of a-theoretical. Infact it is an intellectual movement that exist in-spite of theory, as a reaction to the arbitrary partisan rhetoric of the 70s and 80s caused by…theory. So no, it is not itself a theory. Calling post-structuralism a theory is like calling atheism a religion. Just because an individual refuses to adhere to a structured school of thought does not make the rejection of schools of thought a school itself. Rather post-structuralism is a movement that values individualized analysis based upon evidence, and understanding that the evidence exists within an evolving world in which no Truth can be discerned. That is not a structured theory, it is the definition of a structure-less universe.

        Secondly, my response frankly has nothing to do with the topic at hand. If you were to ask me about the content of this essay I would say ofcourse he’s right. Ofcourse there is a vast gulf between the way the “white” community views race relations and the concept of systemic racism, and how the “black” community views the system that provides unequal and unjust treatment. I entirely agree that white individuals, myself included, have no appreciable means to understand the true nature of systemic racism and the ramifications of institutionalized violence. I believe that the concept of a “post racial” society is naive and constructed by a community that has insulated itself to the plight of the disadvantaged. Do not for a second presume that my academic concerns with this essay inform any type of racism or bigotry on my part. You presume that because I believe the rhetoric in this piece is lazy I also believe the content itself is wrong or flawed. At any point in my post did I disagree with the thesis of this essay?

        The problem here is that you were so quick to tear down my argument and presume I have ulterior, or even racist, motivations. So frightened by any criticism of this essay that you simply jerked your knee and called me a racist? If anything you sir “jake” are an intellectual Chauvanist. So assured of your own moral authority that you casually accused me of prejudice and hatred to defend your theoretical brethren.

        I read the autobiography of Malcom X when I was 15 and I literally read it in one sitting, thats how much I loved it. For a long time it was my favorite single book,and I think it is an embarrassment we don’t mandate its reading in school. Frankly Malcom X is the single most mis-understood figure in American History, and I believe one of the most important.

        If I proclaimed that last paragraph in my post would you have responded so angrily? Would you have jumped so quickly to presume I harbored some deep-seated resentment for black people? You certainly inferred it in your post.

        So no “Jake” I’m not bothered by the author’s call for “self critique.” I believe it is the single most important step American society can take in healing the prejudice of the past. But I am bothered by the theoretical jargon this entire essay leans on.

        The entire point of my post, if you cared to read it because frankly you don’t strike me as the type of person who reads literature he disagrees with, was to point out the antiquated, backwards, and counter-productive nature of theory itself. You do no favors to the fight for social equality if you rest your argument on notions of “Racism” versus “Bigotry.” Ideas that have never been drawn from substantive discussion about race relations, but from theoretical academics attempting to structure a universe in which their opinions are Truth.

        Attempting to fight racism and bigotry with theoretical jargon is about as effective as chopping a tree down with a fish you call an “axe.” Simply because you and your friends decided that a word means something other than it means does not make that definition true or even relevant. All jargon accomplishes is to communicate esoteric, context dependent gibberish to those of a like mind. Trying to tell the lay person:
        “listen racism doesnt have anything to do with race, but rather it is an interplay of socially derived power-structures that have been institutionalized within a euro-centric patriarchy that attempts to create hierarchies of power based on a constructed notion of “race”.”

        Not only will the lay person fall asleep after the word “interplay,” but you’ve likely irreparably damaged your entire ethos by sounding like an arrogant prig.

        A post structuralist, such as myself, would look at this question of “racism” ask themselves “what does racism mean, and what has it meaned in society?” And we would likely say:

        “racism has typically been used by those in power to oppress those who are deemed outside of the dominant “racial” group based upon significant, but arbitrary physical differences.”

        Now look how I never had to condescendingly redefine the english language, twisting it to my whim as if I am the sole arbiter of meaning. We arrived at similar, if not identical, conclusions and yet mine had no jargon, why, because IT HAS NO MEANING OUTSIDE OF A THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK. Who cares if you and your friends think that “Racism” only occurs to those who are disempowered? You know what people do care about? They care about the scance uncomfortable looks that meet you where you “don’t belong.” Like out friend Shawn, he cares about being beaten up because he looks different. To me, and to the rest of society, racism is what the word means. Judging someone because of the “color of their skin rather than the content of their character,” and I don’t give a damn if some williamsburg hipster wants to tell me its not racism when it happens to me. Appeasing and excusing hatred does nothing to the problem but massage your own guilt, your own sense of impotence in the face of hatred. No amount of hatred is justified, no amount of prejudice is acceptable. All one can do is empathize, and love your fellow man, but never excuse their behavior as simply “bigotry.” Have you learned nothing from Dr. King? You love, you understand, but you never excuse.

        • Mark on September 10, 2013 at 2:40 pm

          I don’t necessarily agree with all of Tye’s points but I do appreciate the spirited and thoughtful exchange between himself and Jake.

      • Robin Mantis on September 5, 2013 at 7:42 pm

        Very well-said, Jake. You said everything I wanted to respond with. :)

        • Tye on September 5, 2013 at 8:36 pm

          Did you really not read my response? Jake inferred that I was a racist because I disagreed with him about critical theory. Am I alone here in thinking “Jake” is being an intellectual bully?

          • Jake on September 5, 2013 at 8:52 pm

            Tye: I wasn’t implying or thinking that you are racist (any more or less than all of us raised in this racist society); I was asking, sincerely, what was so jarring about the article that you felt the need to write so much about how off-base it was.

            I don’t think I threw any more intellectual verbiage in than you did, but my intention wasn’t to bully or shut you down. I’m glad to explore this with you directly, if it’s worth your contacting me personally. Otherwise, we’ve both had our say, so let’s avoid derailing this thread with our disagreement.

          • Robin Mantis on September 5, 2013 at 9:16 pm

            Yes, I’m afraid you are alone in that belief. Jake did not say, or imply, that you are a racist. Did you really not read HIS response?

          • Tye on September 5, 2013 at 10:09 pm

            I apologize, I was a bit belligerent. In every meaningful way we agree I believe. My apologies for derailing discussion. I merely feel, as a historian, a powerful impulse to critique arguments that cite theory as evidence. Force people to question notions they take for granted. Often times I am excessive, but trust me that I have good intentions at heart. We, I am assured, are moral and ethical brethren. Go forth and fight the good fight. You are no bully, you are my friend.

  21. Larry Richards on September 4, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Joseph,
    This is an interesting article. I will focus on your fascination with black men because I think this is where your motivation to write this article stems from – and indeed all your research and self-searching.
    If you want to date black gay men this is great and I don’t think you have to justify yourself or feel the need to show how down you are with black men. We are quite used to all sorts of white men talking to us. I personally find that the more white men try to intellectualize their fascination with black men, it becomes condescending and to be honest, dishonest. Your desire for book knowledge is admirable but the black experience cannot be read, only lived.
    You’re fetishizing of black men is not an issue – as with any race and interracial relationships, where fascination and feelings are mutual, I don’t think there is a problem. So you shouldn’t feel bad for fetishizing black men, and as you mentioned in your article regarding black women, “oversexualize” us, find our culture and creativity appealing, and our bodies attractive.
    Who doesn’t want a bit of blackness these days anyway, as my friends joke, white folks love to have tans and eat heavily spiced foods.
    Of course there are downsides to be being black, as I’m sure there is to being white (O the guilt!!). But life isn’t about measuring yourself against your neighbors – it’s about playing the cards we’re dealt.
    We are wary of men like you who have a taste of “jungle fever” simply because such people see the colour of skin before the person – but don’t worry it’s OK, we know you mean no harm, so just relax and enjoy your interracial fascination. It’s OK to love black men as a white man. It’s nothing new. And in the meantime, if you want to support black causes (and black gay), more the merrier.
    I love you as I love all mankind and god bless you.

  22. Jaime Jenett on September 5, 2013 at 12:36 am

    Hi Joe,

    Another white queer with very similar feelings. I had been working on this post for about a month and was about to publish it when yours came out! In solidarity:

    http://jaimejenett.blogspot.com/2013/09/a-love-letter-to-middle-class-white.html

  23. K. Robinson on September 5, 2013 at 2:44 am

    Perfectly encapsulates my overwhelming desire to encourage meaningful dialogue about race relations. Everyone should give this one a read. Apathy, regarding race relations, is becoming the norm in both Black and White communities. Hopefully your post will open up a few minds and correct some misconceptions. Brilliantly honest and articulate ‘love letter.’ And while Malcolm’s auto-bio is a great start, I’d definitely encourage you to read up on a few more Black authors as well – such a wealth of knowledge and perspective. Whenever you’re ready to start organizing these forums to promote open dialogue, COUNT ME IN. Top quotes:
    1. “White guilt isn’t changing shit.”
    2. “Racism requires power to turn bigotry into coded difference. Anti-black and anti-white bigotry are *not* the same because history happened.”
    3. “We might not know all the right things to say, or the rights ways in which to say them, but it is time to break free of political correctness and speak honestly.”

  24. Robert on September 5, 2013 at 3:23 am

    Joe,

    Love does require accountability. So, I will attempt to hold you accountable for the great lie within this piece. This is not a love letter to individuals like myself. You say it is, but it’s not. You say you are writing to the everyman of white America, but you are not. It’s a creative version of what is so common among leftist advocacy. Communicating to those that think like you and agree with you.

    The basis of my argument is simple. If you were actually trying “convert other white people”, you would try to actually communicate with them. And guess what, nobody but those with an extensive liberal arts background agrees with your definition of racism. Not even the vast majority of people of color I have heard comment on the subject. In other words, most black folks think racism is alive and well in their community. Everybody except, Sally James who lives on the corner, and just graduated from Stanford in eco-feminism. But you say you are here to write a letter to me, not Sally James. Joe. If most black folks assume racism in their community, how in the heck are you going to convince the “white everyman” that it doesn’t? Ummm..You aren’t. But not simply because most people do not understand the proper definition of racism. The real reason is that your definition of power is too constricted.

    Let’s assume that your definition of racism, which I’m guessing can be broadly expressed in the equation, racism= prejudice + power, is accurate. I’ll also concede a complex web of institutionalized racism. Joe. Institutionalized power is only one kind of power. An extremely important kind of power to examine, but not the only kind. Individuals have power. An individual utilizing their personal power in conjunction with racial prejudice is behaving in a racist manner. That personal power can come from a position of authority at an organization, as when a supervisor promotes or disciplines due to racial prejudice. That power can come from status in a social group, as when a popular kid shames another kid due to racial prejudice. And that power can come from a gun, as when someone puts a 9mm to your head due to racial prejudice. Anyone from any race can commit this kind of racism. It is elementary and self evident. Only a distorted education could assist one in un-learning the obvious truth of universal personal racism.

    Joe. You alienate the audience you pretend to love by denying such obvious truths, and you spit in the eye of Malcolm and his request for you to shepherd others to increased racial understanding. And for what??? What is the utility gained from this broken record claim that black folks can’t be racist? I can see very little. You would be better off elucidating the unconscious nature of racial bias within institutional frameworks, than continuing to promote nonsense. Black folks can’t be racist??? Oh Joe.

    • joe osmundson on September 5, 2013 at 10:59 am

      Hi Robert,

      I do think the question of audience is a really important one – and it is one that I struggled with when writing this piece. It is a question that I think is more important than your sarcastic tone denotes. One of my favorite things about this post is that it has facilitated conversations with folks I went to school with – people who generally aren’t on TFW and who might not have engaged with critical theory before. That is important to me.

      Essentially, we disagree about the definition I used of racism. This has been the most common comment I’ve gotten on this piece and I think it is a valid and important discussion. That this article is furthering this discussion, and hopefully making people be thoughtful about the words they use, is part of the point.

      I would just like to push back on one thing. I do not state that black people cannot be racist. Of course they can. Black people can certainly participate in systems of oppression. I mean, come on, there is Clarence Thomas for fuck’s sake. What I said was that one cannot be racist TO white people. The question is not *who* is doing the racism but to *whom* is it being done. This is an important distinction, I think, and one worth teasing out. Essentially, I am trying to differentiate between discrimination with historical context and a continued systemic element and discrimination based on an individuals bias.

      Would you agree that there is a difference between anti-white and anti-black discrimination because of the historical context? Do you understand the desire to use different words to explain this difference?

      With love (seriously),
      Joe

      • Shmalegs Boolan on September 7, 2013 at 7:39 pm

        I would say that the difference between modern day racism is primarily its observable negative effects, not historical basis or underlying mechanisms. The problem of racism today is a problem of implicit associations, and I think your definition of racism does a disservice. (Limits to upward mobility is an obstacle to equality as well, but is for a different conversation.)

        On your definition of racism (which I believe I’ve seen elsewhere) I would say that it doesn’t match its most common English usage, its most accepted English usage, its etymological background, or its most productive meaning.

        Racism is present in any case where an individual is presupposed to conform to conform to perceived race-specific norms. It often occurs when a black person is denied a job or convicted of a crime, but it also occurs when awareness of his racial identity causes him to perform poorly on an academic test, or in a number of other cases with other races. These negative racial perceptions are all problems, and they all stem from the way we process information, not mere history.

        The way to stop racism is to strike at its source, which you seem to understand, but you seem to mistake its source as institutions, rather than as social cognition. Justin’s suggestion is in the right direction. Think positively about others, and undermine the group’s role in defining individuals. When we give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and judge the people with whom we interact fairly, then we will rid of racism. Nobody will ever be perfect at that, but the best we can do is to try.
        (As an aside, I would be interested to know how an implicit association test would rate your opinion of black people. I expect it may be more positive than you give yourself credit for.)

        tl;dr, please don’t redefine racism to ascend the **genuine problems** of one race over the __menial complaints__ of others. Doing that cuts the root of the problem out of the discussion.

  25. Justin Arnett on September 5, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Well, I have absolutely enjoyed reading this article and much of the comments following. Before I start typing erratic thoughts this article has provoked, I would like to just say I am a pretty simple individual. Just your average Joe who likes to think a lot about a lot.

    Hmmm, not sure what thought to begin with, and as I mentioned before, this will be very spontaneous. One such subject that caught my fancy was that of interracial relations. I myself also being a gay white male who is heavily attracted to men of color have had similar thoughts when it comes to fetishes or the reason why I’m mostly attracted to a particular ethnicity. I don’t have such thoughts due to guilt, justification, or anything other than a natural, introversive curiosity brought on by others’ questioning. If some of my friends never asked me why I mainly date black men then I might not ever find the need to seriously ponder the matter. Just as one typically wouldn’t question a white person being attracted to a white person, why question my attraction to a black person? And if (to some) my being heavily attracted to black men is in any way a race issue, or a dishonest attraction, then could not the same be for any person attracted to another of their same race? But no one ever questions same-race couples. If people keep such a skeptical mindset towards interracial couples then we won’t progress, we won’t ever cross the divide. But will we ever cross? I find racism/bigotry/etc. to be an inevitable folly of the human race. Just as world peace is potentially attainable yet something we will never reach, such is our thoughts/views towards others of different ethnic background. I think of us humans as one organism with all kinds of diseases. Since our birth we have been infected with such things as violence, greed, an over-inflamed ego, etc. While I personally believe none of this will ever change, I am thankful for those who have a desire to prove me wrong. But really, is there a solution? There are so many of us and with that so many of us with hate. Some learn to love, or do they just become tolerant, and is that enough? In the end I would just like to stop reading such things like; my attraction to a black man is false, or whites can never truly understand any other culture besides their own, or people hating whites for the actions of ancestors generations past.

    We are all different and NOT just because of our race/cultures. All whites are different, all blacks, all hispanics, etc. Sure we fall into our stereotypes but if each individual truly understood themselves and learned the workings of their own mind they will find their uniqueness, they will understand that I am not just another white male, I am Justin.

    Life can be very simple. Love who you are, love your neighbors, and all that other mooshy gooshy moral stuff.

  26. Sophie on September 8, 2013 at 2:32 am

    Thank you so much for joining the struggle for equality, thanks for seeing the soul and seeing the love that is inherent in all people. Thank you for being honest with not just yourself, which is the hardest part, but with all of us, black, white or otherwise. I wish you the best on your end of the struggle, and while we may be apart, we are all united through love no matter where we are.

  27. […] See on thefeministwire.com […]

  28. […] people, I love you. [Feminist […]

  29. Link Love | Becky's Kaleidoscope on September 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    […] “White people, it’s time to learn to listen. Not just to studies, but to people who aren’t us. This is what it means to love. Let us learn to trust truths that we cannot live in. Let us question our own implication in these narratives. Do we get uncomfortable when we’re around large groups of black men? Do we assume that a black mother wearing hoop earrings is on welfare? Does that make us devalue her? Would we assume that a black job candidate might be less qualified than a white job candidate based on their race? We might. We could. We often do. It is ugly to admit, but it is also the truth. Studies tell us so. So do stories. Love requires accountability. We must admit that we see race and that we see it in ways that can lead to discrimination and violence. We must hold ourselves accountable not only for sins of the past but also for the structures we uphold in the present.” Love letter to white people – The Feminist Wire […]

  30. O on September 25, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    I have an issue with a complex issue being discussed in black and white. Literally. I see/ hear this in my existence daily. I’m sure I’m hypersensitive because I fall somewhere in between, but can we not discuss race issues in the U.S. as a black and white issue? Think about it.

    Thanks,
    The Brown Guy with deep roots in this soil that’s been battered and beaten my whole life

    • ¬O on September 25, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      “I am offended by the fact that I was not taken into account by an article of finite length.”
      I’m no psychologist, but I’d say that even in the land of ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘privilege checking,’ you’re taking your race a bit seriously. It’s not important to have a specific race identity, and defining yourself by your race (easily categorized or otherwise) is an unwise thing to do. It’s also not especially relevant to the discussion if an individual doesn’t categorize cleanly as black or white. We’re talking about large-scale groups which have history and implicit associations against them.

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