Thursday, October 11, 2012

DBTWP 6B: more White Guilt and Reverse Racism

Asking further about my entry on Reverse Racism and White Guilt, V.V.F. said:
"It's the fear of being misunderstood and of misunderstanding, the nagging suspicion the abyss between you is impassible." I think there is something going unsaid here. To me, this sounds like a simple recognition of the fact that you may not understand everything about someone else's life experience. In what way is this an instance of someone discriminating against you for your race? You say that there is "a layer of caution" on your part. Why? Do you feel that there is a layer of suspicion on their part? 
You've probably encountered scores of "invisible"/"passing" minorities in your life, without knowing it. Did any of these anxieties prove to be a factor in your interactions with them?  
As a genderqueer person, do you feel that there is any reason for cisgender people to be cautious around you? Do you tend to expect hostility from them? Why or why not?
I may have let my flair for poetic language get in the way of my point, as I sometimes do. Let's see if I can make this clearer.  When I meet a person of color for the first time, I feel that person may not like me for reasons which are beyond my control. This is not entirely ungrounded.  Some people of color genuinely don't like white people. Quite a few others find dealing with white people exasperating and irritating.  If my new acquaintance happens to be one of those people I'm already starting out at a disadvantage.

No, I am not whining about the great unfairness of it all.  I'm not a new penny and ain't everybody gonna like me.   It doesn't help that I (like most white people) tend to read people of color in general, and black people in particular, as angry. Now add to this the fact that I, like every other white liberal I know, hate being accused of racism.  And the fact that I, like every white liberal I know, know their resentment is not unfounded and so expect them to be resentful of my presence.

I don't know if this answers your "invisible/passing" question, but this nagging doubt is considerably worse when we are separated not just by race but by class and language.  I've seen a lot of white liberals who are very happy to be around fellow college-educated middle-class travelers of all colors.  Put them in the presence of a black social justice activist with an Ivy League degree and they'll talk shop until sundown.  But take them for a Sunday walk through Flatbush, Brooklyn and they're clutching their iPhones in terror as elderly Jamaican ladies stroll past in their churchgoing finery. The more we obviously have in common, the less of a problem this angst will be. It's when those commonalities diminish and we're forced to rely on race signifiers that this becomes worst.

To be perfectly clear, I do not call this "reverse racism."  Everything I've described here is my own stuff, but I suspect I'm not alone. I wonder how much of what is perceived as reverse racism can be chalked up to those kind of fears and that sort of projection.  Somebody is short-tempered because of a headache, a past-due phone bill or something else totally unrelated and we assume he was angry with us because he doesn't like white people.  But I'm not here to explain away anybody else's experiences, just to share my own.  Take what you want, leave the rest behind, etc.

As a genderqueer person, cisgender people (especially cisgender males) can be pretty fucking scary.  Gay- and trans-bashing is a constant threat every time you want to use a public restroom.   Meanwhile, many friendly cispeople feel no compunction about asking intimate questions about what you do in bed, what you plan to do with your body, &c.  You come to expect a certain amount of violence and cluelessness.  As far as systematic oppression goes, I'm not expressing genderqueerness at this point because, among other reasons, I have a daughter.  A gender non-conforming male-bodied person walking with a child is likely to attract unwanted attention, especially if they go anywhere near a playground.   So yes, I'd say genderqueer people can expect hostility from cisgender folks.

P.S. responding to your comment about Pat Buchanan in another message: whether or not I find Buchanan trustworthy is irrelevant.  I trust Buchanan about as far as I could throw a blue whale.  What matters is that many, perhaps a majority, of white Americans would find his message believable.  Which is why I keep talking about reverse racism despite finding the term problematic and unhelpful: if you're going to reach the people, you've got to speak their language.