We Need to Talk About Whiteness

Lots of white people want that identity to be boring, lifeless, and almost hidden. Lots of white people want to not talk about whiteness because they think that white privilege isn’t worth talking about. They think that focusing on other races – the ones suffering from this privilege – are the real place to effect change.

We can’t make a change unless we change whiteness too. Whiteness may be the privileged position, but that means it has more history, more substance than we’re talking about.

Race means a whole hell of a lot in America. We might not want it to mean so much, but it does.

Whiteness isn’t nothing. Whiteness dominates our societal “norms” and our visions of America. For too long, being white has been the default. We need to challenge this. We need to challenge the language of whiteness. We need to use “white” as a real, meaningful term instead of a default.

What does it mean?

Too many white people think they can describe someone without race when they’re white, but fail to do the same for Black, Asian, Hispanic, or any perceived “other.” Too many times, I’ve heard a story where the person’s appearance includes a whispered, “Black” or a strangely, almost mimed “Asian.” I’ve never heard someone whisper that so-and-so was … white. But a lot of so-and-sos are white.

What does it mean? Why are white people scared of saying that someone was black, and unaware of marking whiteness?

Racial-profiling is real. It is pervasive. It is often subconscious. It is ruining and ending lives.

I am white. I am a woman. I am short and rarely, if ever, a perceived threat.

If I lock myself out of my car, strangers will assist me, police will believe me – no one will accuse me of anything.

If a member of my neighborhood watch saw me walking alone at night, hoodie or no hoodie, heavy bags or empty arms, smile or menacing glare, that person would likely ask if I needed anything. They wouldn’t ask me what in the hell I was doing there?

If I walked up to a stranger’s home and knocked on the door, they would not fear me. They might offer me a phone, assistance with a flat tire, or even give me directions. At worst, they would think I might want to sell them something or talk about Jesus. They would not shoot me.

I am the perceived victim of all altercations. I’ve been in bar fights and street scuffles. I have always, always been the person others offer to help. The men involved has always been assumed guilty. (In these situations, I perceive the men I fought or argued with to be at fault too, but the strangers around us never questioned me.) When I have felt threatened in public and private, all outsiders involved have sided with me and offered me help.

I am not Trayvon Martin. I will never be murdered for looking suspicious.

What does it mean, I ask? What can we learn?

What can we CHANGE?

No one is surprised when I speak with eloquence. No one is surprised by my successes.

If you are white and reading this, I challenge you. I challenge you to not see this as something from which you are free. You are part of this. Even if you have never said, “Wow. You speak so well.” Even if you think you would never profile someone, assume someone’s intent, or suspect someone based on their race. I challenge you to examine your privilege. You are privileged. You cannot deny that. I challenge you to watch yourself. I challenge you to watch others. I challenge you to challenge racism – even when it’s subtle, unclear, or seemingly “harmless.” I challenge you to challenge your friends – of all colors. I challenge you to challenge your parents and elders when they use language, terms, or stereotypes. Yes, it’s nice to think that they just inherited language or don’t know that certain things are problematic. But, it’s not okay. Challenge them. Challenge them and educate them. I challenge you to make a real change in this society. I challenge you to expect more.

We all – all people – need to do better. We need to challenge every slur, every little joke, every tiny detail of our understandings of race. Racism is real. Racism is killing – literally killing – our children.

Being white isn’t meaningless. That privilege is so much more than history. That privilege walks with me into job interviews, down streets at night, in the aisle of every supermarket, convenience store, and department store. That privilege drives with me, walks with me, talks with me.

We have to change something.

What does it mean? How do we change it?

Let’s start with words.

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More to consider:

I feel like we need to start thinking about race across a spectrum. The black/white divide we always get totally obscures other people and groups (Latino/as, Asians, Native Americans and other indigenous folks, etc.). It is truly problematic to me that white is the default for so many; we should also investigate how deeply that runs.

Also, asking people to think about whiteness as a category of privilege and taxonomy seems only part of the issue. I feel like we hear a lot about white privilege. We know we have it, but what do we do about it? This is what has always stumped me. How do you actively acknowledge your privilege and, at the same time, avoid being complacent without socially or economically shooting yourself in the foot (which seems to help no one)?

Furthermore, what does it mean to further taxonomize oneself (‘I’m Polish,’ for example) when you’re already white?

Don’t Call Me “Honey” or “Sweetie” or “Baby”

Unless you are my older relative, a sarcastic friend, or the person I’m dating, you are not allowed to call me petnames.  It’s weird and creepy.  It’s also harassment.

My name is not “Sweetheart.”  My name is not “Honey,” or is this a horribly made movie from 2003 (see the imbd page here: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0322589/). I like to be called by my name when people know my name.
If you don’t know someone’s name, there are still plenty of very appropriate ways to address them.  For example, if you see a young woman in your office and she drops a paper, you can call after her by saying, “Miss!” or “Excuse me, ma’am!” or just say, “Wait!”  All of these are still respectful, appropriate and will get her attention most likely.
If you do know someone’s name, use it.  Do not nickname a co-worker unless you have solid rapport or they nickname you first.  If you are not equals on the corporate ladder or in similar positions in your organization, respect that.  You wouldn’t call your boss a petname, and giving one to an employee below you in rank is highly inappropriate.  In fact, it’s harassment.
If a man at work calls me, “Sweetheart” he is sexually harassing me.
If a woman at works calls me, “Sweetheart” is that also harassment?
YES.
I know it’s well-meaning, and comes from an odd maternal place, but that’s not okay.  There shouldn’t be a double-standard when it comes to harassment.  Continual, repeated instances of disrespectful language, even between women, amount to harassment.  Women can be perpetrators of harassment, of assault, of abuse, and of sexual violence.  Women are not always victims, either.
In my case, these are women who are notably older than me, who are asserting themselves into a maternal or mentoring role without my permission and without reason are unwelcome.  I have a boss.  I have a mentor.  I have a mother.  I don’t need your weird petnames.  I don’t need to be cooed.
My name is not Sweetie and I will not tolerate being talked to like a dog or a baby in the workplace.
In conclusion, my name is Patty.

I don’t care, but now I know. Pop Culture Edition!

Here are a list of things I don’t care about, but I know now.  Now, you get to know too.

  1. Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez broke up.  She dumped him.  He is not coping well.
  2. Justin Bieber’s pants are absurd.  See AMA performance.  (Google it yourself.)
  3. David Petraeus is a man whore.  Info.
  4. Snooki has a baby.
  5. Mitt Romney’s family is huge.  See photo below.
  6. Jessica Simpson looks great.  She lost all the baby weight.  Here.  Also, photo below.
  7. That reminds me, Jessica Simpson had a baby girl and named her Maxwell.  Maxwell.
  8. Apparently, Nicki Minaj might have butt implants.  I’m pretty neutral on this.  I will not research it.  Feel free.
  9. Taylor Swift cut her hair, or wore a wig.  Here.
  10. James Bond is a sexist and probably a rapist.  “What a shock!,” said no one.  This is just so disappointing.

Romney Clan:

 

Jessica Simpson:

The Many Faces of Willard (Mitt Romney)

I think we’ve all seen Mitt Romney’s face.  It’s creepy.  It’s not always creepy, but it’s usually creepy.  He just seems like he’s plotting something sinister.  You know, besides forced transvaginal ultrasounds, banning civil rights, making millionaires more millionaire-y, and being generally unaware of actual-incomed people’s lives.  (Some of us make less than $50K… like a lot of us.)

FACE TIME

Here’s Mitt Romney freaking out.

 

Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. 00011101010100101111010101011101001010101001011101010101001111

 

Romney likes to get adventurous with his fashion choices from time to time.  After all, he did get pretty darn adventurous with his dog’s travel plans during a family vacation.

 

In case you were wondering, this is what a sad and ponderous Mitt Romney looks like.

 

This is what Mitt Romney looks like when he’s just plain sad.

 

Young Romney looks pretty good.

 

Mitt Romney ate a lemon.

 

Sometimes Mitt Romney farts.  Everyone farts.  It’s okay.

Brown faced and white faced.

He loves binders, and he’s excited.

 

Sometimes Mitt gets mad, gosh darnit.

 

Sometimes, the Romster feels scared and vulnerable and worried and maybe a little angry too.

 

He’s like, “Ermahgerd!” You know, he loves taxes.

 

But, wait.  What would his face look like if it was even tinier?

 

Romney likes to change his mind… a lot.  He’s pretty darn flippity floppity.

 

However, we must mention that there is no Romney face creepier, more disturbing, more intense, more deafeningly intense, and incredibly fierce than the Josh Romney face.

 

 

 

Mitt Romney Is a Robot-Alien, and other things I sort of believe.

Mitt Romney is a weird guy.  I think we can all agree on that much.  He doesn’t really seem to understand what’s happening around him.  As any politician must, he bravely ventures into diners filled with Middle America’s most middle-ish of people.  Romney is a 1%er, in fact, he’s probably in the 0.005%.  Dude is rich.  Dude is so rich.  Dude doesn’t even know what a clearance rack is.  Dude probably doesn’t even like Target.  If you don’t regularly shop at Target, I have doubts that you understand “middle class.”

Romney’s absurd wealth makes him so out of touch and seemingly odd that he seems like an alien/robot, or a robot alien.  I just don’t think he can wrap his beautifully gold-plated brain around the milieu of normal life.  *By the way, I mean real gold; I’m not calling him a blond.

Are you wondering why I think he’s both a robot and an alien?  

I’m just pretty sure he’s a robot alien.  As in, I think he is a robot who was likely designed by aliens far away in space, then maybe the robots rebelled and started to produce more of themselves, and now they are infiltrating other cultures and planets, and Romney is one of their best machines… His bid for the presidency is one of the final steps in their plan.

Anyways………….  Here are some reasons.

REASON:  He’s bad at talking like a human person.

Imagined Mitt dialogue: “Hello there, Average Joe.  I am Candidate Stone Hair.  I would like you to vote for me.  I will do anything, literally.  Also, what is a ‘flannel’ and why is everyone in plaid?”

“TERRIFIC!”

“Oh, boy! It sure is sunny!”  “Haha!”  “Yes!”

“I like Michigan.  I like trees.  All the trees are the right height.”

“Tall women are dangerous.”

“Hello there, waitress at diner.  I would like two poached eggs with truffle oil, on a bed of fresh mint, with a piece of Wonder Bread, toasted, and spread with pumpkin butter on one side and Belgian chocolate on the side.”  And then the waitress is like…  “?”

REASON: He just might be too rich.  I don’t think this is a “punishment for success” as Fox News might think it is; I just think someone that far out of the normal American experience won’t be able to understand what people need or want.  I don’t feel comfortable being represented by this person – just like I wouldn’t want the King of France leading our country.  That would be weird.

REASON:  His richness leads to thinking that the middle class stops at $250,000 per year.  Um, if you’re making a quarter of a million dollars, you’re upper class.  I bet that he cannot even imagine that a middle class family might make less than $100,000 per year.

The poverty line must be so astounding to him.

REASON: Well, it’s because he’s so robotic and awkward.  He doesn’t seem to understand humans.  I imagine that life in general is very confusing for him.  In this campaign, he’s had to sludge to such awful, lowly places (by his standards) and it’s hard.

He just doesn’t get it.

REASON: He tells stories like this: “I met a guy yesterday, seven feet tall. Yeah, handsome, great big guy, seven feet tall! Name is Rick Miller—Portland, Oregon. And he started a business. Of course you know it was in basketball. But it wasn’t in basketball! I mean, I, figured he had to be in sport, but he wasn’t in sport.”

REASON: His face doesn’t make sense.

REASON:  Romney doesn’t seem able to agree with himself for any substantial amount of time.  I’m not sure if he’s sure if he’s real or not.  Is moderate Romney the real one?  Is super conservative Romney the real one?

watch?v=bxch-yi14BE&feature=related

REASON:  I’m confused.  Isn’t this guy just the leftovers?  No one was excited about him a few months ago.

Mitt Romney is crazy-crazy.  He just confuses me.  What do you want?  What is your deal?  Why do you want all this power?  You don’t really have any views or thoughts that stay steady.  Ugh.

THE BEST CAMPAIGN AD OF ALL TIME

OH MY GOD.  I LOVE THIS SO MUCH, SO DAMN MUCH.

First, I love sarcasm.  We definitely don’t get enough of it in politics.

Second, this shit is funny.

Third, … how else do I put this? … IT’S A FUNNY CAMPAIGN AD!

Fourth, now I’m picturing Mitt Romney punching Big Bird.  This is a good moment.

 

Yes, this is a real commercial.

After seeing this on TV for the second time, I felt compelled to share it with all of you. At least, I figure, I won’t be alone in my rage against this company and whatever marketing “genius” came up with it.

The first time I saw this, I thought, “Oh awesome! This guy built a mousetrap-style machine that refills his drink! This should be cool.” Alas, I was disappointed, aghast, angered, etc. to find that instead, the solution to the empty drink glass is the girlfriend (wife?). What the fuck. How is this on television? Why isn’t the whole world pissed about this? I mean, the Miller Lite commercials they used to have on TV promoting the “manliness” of drinking Miller Lite (e.g. don’t be a sissy, girls’-pants-wearing light beer drinker!) seem tame and almost endearing compared to the outright misogyny of this gem. I mean, really? We haven’t moved beyond “women belong in the kitchen and/or serving my every need including thirst”? It’s 2012 for godsakes.

I mean, the idea of businesses like SportsClips thrive on the idea that women are meant to serve men both in deed and as eye candy (see also America’s favorite place to get buffalo wings and glimpses of boobies, Hooters). The problem isn’t only the proliferation of antiquated notions of what it means to be a Woman–that is, buxom, always sexy, kitchen- or service-centered, adorably dumb… the list goes on–but antiquated notions of what it means to be a Man. Commercials like this imply that part of being a man means treating all women like glorified servants and exclusively doing “manly” things like watching sports–and being unable to drag oneself away from such manly activities in order to groom oneself, because that’s for pussies. It’s not only women that should be outraged at commercials like this that appeal to undeniably sexist notions of male/female relations, likely located somewhere in the irrational amygdala.

I don’t want to suggest that we should be better than this. We are better than this and it’s about time we show it.

Wasted: Government Conferences with Big, Huge, Scary Bills

A few months back, the nation was outraged to hear about the money spent on a conference for the GSA (the Federal General Services Administration).  They put on a conference that managed to spend almost a million dollars – on party favors, trinkets, psychics, and other such baloney.  Somehow, through all the bureaucracy required in this government agency, a whole heck of a lot of unnecessary, insultingly wasteful activities and things were authorized and enjoyed.  It’s really quite shameful.

For more information on the absurdity of the GSA Conference Scandal, visit the Huffington Post.

Because this was such a massive scandal and because it was grotesquely wasteful, I hoped it was an isolated incident.  It was not.  Not even close.

I was sad to hear that the VA is now under investigation for a similar scandal, though this seems even worse.  The alleged number I keep hearing is … $5 Million Dollars.  As in, $1,000,000 times FIVE.  As in, $5,000,000.00.

Not only is this number shocking, the fact that it was approved in such a bureaucratically controlled system is also shocking.  Think about all the different people who had to authorize that.  Think of all the different people who emailed each other about.  In my experience, bureaucracy, through its inefficient back-and-forth, prevents a lot of big waste.  Sure, it wastes a lot of time because people are going back and forth, and it can be incredibly frustrating.  Yet, it does somehow manage to keep wasteful spending away a good amount of the time.  I mean, the last time I had to buy bubbles for work, I had to prove in three different ways that it had a business purpose.  How does this happen?  How could enough people have thought this was okay?  How could anyone spend $5,000,000 on two conferences?

Ahh!  Shouldn’t this be stealing?  Am I just crotchety?

They somehow spent $5 million on two conferences.  This is so much money.  This is money that could have created jobs, facilities for patients, or supplies for staff members.  These could have been research dollars.  That money could have funded so many good things that would have impacted VA patients, staff, and students.  Instead, that money went towards two internal conferences.

These weren’t even national conferences where information, best practices, and cutting-edge research could be shared. These were internal staff conferences about procedures, policies, and other easily emailed stuff.  Team building should not cost millions of dollars.  You can build a team with talking.  You can build a team by going hiking.  You should never waste that much money just to have a giant meeting.  It is absurdly irresponsible.  It is disrespectful.  It is shocking.  It is sad.

Maybe you are asking yourself, “How much does a normal conference cost?”  As someone who has planned both state and national conferences, I can confidently say, “A hell of a lot less than $2,500,000.”  To get specific, I believe a national conference with 500 attendees can easily be planned for under $100,000 a day – that would cover food, facilities, materials, even some “splash” items, honorariums (payment to speakers), and lodging for some of the guests.  That’s $200 per person.  That’s reasonable.  That’s possible.

I strongly believe that frugality is next to cleanliness (I won’t get into godliness). I also strongly believe that government agencies should be frugal, very frugal.  Now, government employees should be paid fairly, should receive benefits, and should be happy and comfortable; I do not believe we should expect people to sacrifice their paychecks to work for the government.  That said, I don’t think the government should approve stupid conferences that cost so much they will eventually cost someone their salary.  The money wasted on frivolous things at a conference is money that will never go to an employee.  In a time of major lay-offs, controversy over programs that help people, and massive deficits, I expect government agencies to spend smartly.

I would rather see money go towards any number of social programs that benefit people’s lives.  I highly doubt that those employees’ lives were deeply affected by these conferences.  I would wager that the employees could have learned all the same information for a lot less money.

Money should be going to schools, medicine, research, food, welfare, police, teachers, benefits, and many, many other programs – not conferences.