Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Double Standards (con't)

Was walking around campus last week, when I noticed a sign. It said,

I almost wanted to stop and ask them if they thought Blacks were better than Whites. (Or Asians, or Hispanics, or even native Africans.) But I didn't. I couldn't.

Something in my politically-correct radar told me that if I decided to challenge race, all that would happen is I'd end up being perceived as a racist.

This is something I want to address now. Seems like I might've forgotten that despite my own perspective of the world as being race-less. (In that I see skin color or ethnicity in much the same way as someone sees hair or clothes. An easy descriptor and an unimportant defining characteristic.) A Black person is a person. A White person is a person. Yellow, Brown, even Orange - if you like fake tans - are hardly something worth building your identity on. You don't define yourself only as a red-head or curly-haired do you? We define ourselves much more meaningfully, and personally than that.

But here's the problem. I've spent so much time ignoring color, that I've forgotten what I look like to the people I talk about race to.

I'm a white male.

And then, something my brother told me: "I think there is a strong aversion to white liberal suburbanites coopting racist stereotypes."

Despite my dismissive attitude towards race being a factor in a person's identity, it does seem to have an effect on how my ideas are perceived. I agree with my brother's point. I think racial minorities (who actually aren't such a minority anymore) are hesitant to be as accepting of contrary, and often controversial opinions on race from a White man as they are from typical "minorities". Hell, they're less likely to accept any opinion on race from someone who looks like "The White Man".

But I don't see myself as the majority. When I look at myself I see, skinny, Jewish, wears jeans, listening to an iPod. I don't see a person belonging to the historically repressive majority. In fact, I don't even see a majority anymore.

It seems that in my case, the situation has reversed, where I am perceived as being the majority but doesn't see color, and those who have been perceived as being the minority, see my color acutely.

After noticing that sign on campus during Rush, it got a rise out of me. I thought, why Black power? What about for people in general power? What makes Black people better than me, or other skin colors? Made me wonder if I wrote a sign that said "White power" if I'd get as positive - or accepting even - of a response as this particular Sorority/Fraternity did with theirs.

Probably not.

But hear me out. Strip yourself of your preconceptions and cultural connotations. Is there anything inherently racist about White power? I don't really think so; it's just one group emphasizing their identity. But if you do think so, then take that same premise, and instead of White power, use Black power. What changes? It's still the same experiment, the same message, right?

The reality is, that in this highly globalized society, and especially the United States post-Obama, racism is what we perceive it to be. That is to say, not that racist acts and racist persons do not exist, but that by and large racism, and race in general, is no longer a deciding factor in how people relate to one another. Now, we relate via class, economic status. Through nationalism. Through subcultures like Punk, Goth, Hipster, Skater, Artist, etc. We relate through gender far more than we relate through skin color.

But because of political-correctness, because of hypersensitivity, we are forced to be aware of race, for fear of saying or doing something that could be construed as offensive. What happened to H.L. Mencken style humor that disparaged all peoples equally? No one group above another; we are all equally ridiculous.

This has made me think about what it is to be "White." Since that's not how I define myself - in fact, I consciously reject the label as applicable to me, saying "I'm not White, dude, I'm Jewish" - can others transcend their own outward appearance and become something intrinsic of themselves?

Will there be a time when a sign with "White power" on it can be taken for the context it exists in? Will there be a time when White's will no longer be reminded of their guilt for subverting the world's other races? When can I, as an extrinsically perceived "White man" be seen as something other than the "majority"? When do I become a person?

But even more pertinently, when can I see "Black power" written on the wall, and choose to be offended? Because after feeling a sense of subconsciously directed reversed-hatred, I want the freedom to question it, without being smeared by hypersensitive PC slurs as some ignorant backwater racial supremist. I want to react. I want to ask them if they think they're better than me. I want to tear the sign down, because it hurts to think that for the sins of a group I neither identify with (or even really descended from) I am suddenly supposed to suffer for those mistakes to even this playing field of the global score in a perverted race game I never even started, or wanted.

I am becoming the repressed by the repressed, a paradoxical oxymoronic reversal of the historical status-quo.

It's sad to witness such hypocrisy and ignorance, but even more so, it is painfully ironic.

Sometimes I wish we didn't have to worry about superfluous, pointless distinctions like appearance, ethnicity or race, as if the whole world was blind... but then I realize,

We already are.

15 footnotes:

Manju said...

annoying, isn't it? you challenge something as being racist and end up being the one labelled as racist.
i say we should all forget labels and learn to celebrate the person. but then, who's listening...

JacqueRoxx said...

There's nothing wrong with being proud of your race. Yeah unfortunately if you go around saying White Power it's seen as being racist, but if I feel like saying Black Power or wearing a shirt that says I ♥ Black People (which I had made yesterday) why shouldn't I? I'm not putting you down or acting as if I'm superior. It's not like they're saying Fuck White People. I guess it's all about uplifting a race of people that continues to be put down, mostly within themselves (ourselves) and bringing us together and promoting unity.

Zek J Evets said...

@manju: i think everyone's talking at the same time, and so we've become deaf through too much noise.

@jacque: well, if you can celebrate your race, then why can't i celebrate mine? would you let me put up a white power sign next to yours? would you let me make t-shirts with "go white people!" or "white people are the best!" ???

i mean, i understanding being proud of your heritage, as i am proud of being jewish, but at the same time, you're engaging in a double standard that says "i can talk about my race and say how awesome we are but you can't talk about yours and how awesome you are." you ARE acting superior by asserting that only one group can do these things, and then flaunting that power in front of their face. iunno... do you understand what i'm getting at?

the point is, if black power is okay, white power should be too. or, if white power is bad, then black power should be too.

no more double standards.

Frizz said...

I have an "I love ALL people" shirt if that makes anything better.

On a serious note, it seems like alot of people are on this inward "my race is better than yours" thing.

People should get over it. I would say it's pissing me off, but it's never going to end so I don't waste my energy on it.

JacqueRoxx said...

I don't care, get it made and wear it. If you're proud of being white, be proud as long as you're not putting anyone else down in the process.

I don't ♥ all people, I don't even ♥ all black people to be completely honest..but that's what I felt like doing so I did it and I'll wear it because it's cute. I understand what you're saying though...but I won't stop repping Nigeria/Africa/Being Black because you don't think it's fair.

Double standards are here to stay unfortunately. Gender, race, sexuality, all that..

Zek J Evets said...

@frizz: i also have an "i love people" shirt!

@jacque: double standards are here to stay? that's such a cop-out.

would you say that back in the 1960's? or even the 1800's? would you just accept inequality if it was you who was the one unequally treated? obviously double-standards can change, because otherwise you'd still be a slave

and i'd dead along with the rest of the jewish people.

just saying.

Frizz said...

@jacque - Lol; not all people in general, I mean all races. I don't discriminate.

Black Power
White Power
Asian Power

All that is good with me, that's all i'm saying.

JacqueRoxx said...

But how are you being unequally treated? I don't understand I guess. Comparing slavery to someone saying they love being black makes no sense to me...Oh wells.

Lol, yeeaah I love all races too. I like a nice mix, it makes me happy to see different types of people getting along.
My shirt is cute though. You guys should see it. It's like in Ninja Turtle font. Yeah...Raanndom.

Frizz said...

@jacque- take a picture I wanna see!!!

FunkyStarkitty50 said...

Being proud of your race is not a crime, but using it as a way to say that other races are inferior is-- I agree.But,there is no cut and dry answer to this, mainly because of the dysfunctional history between the majority population of White people in this country and minorities.It is and will always be a very sensitive subject. In a few years, White people will be the minority and I believe that there is a lot of fear behind that. I remember when I was in HS, Black Power and Public Enemy T-Shirts were banned as well as Aryan Power and White Power shirts. The school administration's argument was they can't condone one group for wearing perceived racially inflammatory shirts and allow another group to wear shirts with a similar message. Of course, the Black students wanted to petition this decision saying that it was racist and any White student who petitioned the same decision was considered a racist, which was pretty messed up. I believe it is absolutely correct that either you allow all of those messages or none at all. Would it be acceptable for a guy to have on a T-shirt saying "Women Suck"? Would he be considered a misogynist? And could a woman be considered a man hater if she's wearing shirt that says "Men Suck?"
You just can't have it both ways. I'm pretty passionate about this subject for various reasons and it's a big thorn in my side.

Sorry for the long comment, Zek ;-)

Zek J Evets said...

@funky: long comments are fine =) i make plenty of them myself.

i agree that there is a lot of fear in this country about the changing demographics, not just racially, but religiously, culturally, ethnically, and economically.

the subconscious fear of white's is that as the minority, they'll be subject to the same abuses they're grancestors committed against what were the "minorities". but it isn't even as simple as that, because most white people wouldn't articulate it as such, and many would bring up the point that even amongst whites there is hardly a homogeneous understanding or acceptance. we can see this in american history as nativist whites (who were predominantly anglo, french, or dutch) persecuted immigrant irish, german, and eastern-european whites. thus, skin-color is not so much the factor - even during periods of historical record when racism was highly prevalent - as the concept of "other" that causes people to mistrust/misunderstand one another.

the fear is change, especially rapid change, that causes one's identity to be challenged, or way of life disrupted. that is the fear.

but nonetheless, that part of the "white community" is a minority, much the same as the nation of islam is a minority amongst the black community. (albeit, focusing on different causes. one to fear, the other to retaliation.)

personally, i'm for free-speech, even at the cost of letting messages of hate through alongside everything else. if equality is the goal, then the methods should reflect that by practicing it. so, black power, white power, whatever; it's all acceptable as long as no one is being denied their basic rights or freedoms.

Anonymous said...

I started commenting here but it became a post on my blog:

Dan said...


This post is absolutely saturated and dripping with white gaze and white privilege. What will it take for people like you to wake up and take a quick glance to see that everyone, unjustly because of the color of their skin, is NOT TREATED EQUALLY.

Zek J Evets said...

@dan: dude, you are so... turquoise? i'm me. i'm a person. not a color.

get off the white privilege wagon and realize that not everyone who is white has a silver-spoon born in their mouth. and not everyone who is white is even white... if you had been paying attention to the discussion you'd realize that how other people define me does not make me that definition and, in fact, it is a variant of the same problem that minorities have historically faced in this country, of people making assumptions based on skin-color and personal preconceptions.

i'm glad you admit that everyone is unjustly treated because of their skin-color though. because most wouldn't acknowledge that i, as a jewish, heterosexual, male, can experience bigotry.

so, yes, i am awake. are you? and if you are, then what bed did you sleep in last night? what dream, what nightmare did you have?

what will it take for others to acknowledge the hypocrisy of excluding one group from the discussion of race. are whites, by virtue of being white, not rational, thinking human beings like you? do we not possess the mental faculty to see contradictions, illogical conclusions, ignorance, hatred, etc? am i just my skin-color to you?

i ask these question not sarcastically, but honestly, genuinely. i want to know if you really think i can't understand. and if you do, then i want to know why. and if your reason is because i'm white... well then sir, that seems to say a lot more about your ignorance than mine.

Christie said...

i totally agree.