You are one of the best US-SJ people on tumblr I have ever read, very mindful of the differences in the concept of “White” in different counties and I am really need your advice on this problem, if you are willing to give it, of cause.
A lot of spending SJ people on tumblr are rather US centric, when it comes to defining racial categories and react very strongly when you try to talk about other places and categories, especially if they perceive it as a white-on-white issue (because that would have been a white on white issue in the states, and they would be rightfully outraged by the oppressor group trying to occupy their spaces and derail the whole thing).
It is understandable to a certain extent: your own pain is always closer and more real then the one that is removed from you (That’s why I think the concepts like Asian Privilege are born: Out of the perceived lesser oppression other discriminated groups are experiencing)
As a non-American/non English native speaking person, who have discovered a lot of communality of experience with the American people submitting and writing SJ blogs, I am not sure as to what should I do:
On one hand, I am quite sure that the discrimination I am experiencing is real and based on the idea of whiteness and my lack of the proper amount of it. It brings me considerable discomfort and led to some rather bad internalized feelings I feel towards my own people and culture, I am still trying to get rid of, but I don’t think that I will ever be able to.
On the other hand, the racist structure of the States lacks the category I belong to, and defines me as properly white (I don’t live in the States (this IS important), cause if I did, I wouldn’t be facing a lot at all)
What should I do?
1) Start speaking at risk of being dismissed due to the prevalence of the US-discourse in the tumblr-sphere? ( But, I don’t want to give the American whites additional derailing arguments since I have seen enough “but the X where white and faced horrible discrimination” arguments, which conveniently ignored the fact that in all these cases the group in question was defined as NOT WHITE in their own respective context).
I feel like it can potentially harm people I do not want to be harmed at all: people who are oppressed by the idea of white superiority in the States.
2) Or should I remain silent, implicitly enforcing the universality of the US idea of white ?
I am starting to feel that the whole thing makes me feel a slight resentment towards the wrong kind of people, I otherwise agree with: You know the thing you feel when an otherwise splendid feminist is denying racism, or an antiracist not believing in sexism , the feeling of disappointment in people who get one aspect of it very well, not getting their own privilege in other aspects (In this case: Being American and having the power to define the discourse in even the international spaces due to the relative cultural power of the States). I don’t think I should feel it, but then again, why should we be mindful of the American structures when the Americans don’t need to know anything about ours before starting writing?
Should I just step away from the English speaking discourse on this matter?
Sorry if my thoughts are a little bit to jumbled at this point: I have been reading a lot of the US social justice blogs without writing anything about it for about half a year and came to the point I can’t ignore this duality anymore.
Thanks so much for sharing. This is one of many problems that I have with Tumblr’s SJ discourse, as you’re exactly right in saying that it tends to be incredibly US-centric and myopic. What does “POC solidarity” look like in the Arab World where there is local Arab supremacy and a long history of racism and enslavement of African peoples and a more recent history of SE and South Asians laborers and maids who also face abuse and tremendous discrimination? What does “POC solidarity” look like in a world where the global imperialist leading drone strikes against black and brown peoples in the Third World is a black American man? What does the very term “POC” mean, and, for that matter what does “white” mean within and without the US geographic context, in Europe especially?
I have written about this topic of “whiteness in Europe" previously but anything that challenges or acknowledges problems with Tumblr SJ discourse tends to not be as "popular." For context, I have had the tremendous privilege to have been able to travel abroad considerably and currently have family in both Africa and Europe, so I have witnessed, read and heard personal accounts providing testament to just how important local context is in local conceptions of race especially.
For some reason (maybe due to lack of exposure or just buying into the American global hegemony which breeds myopia in both white and non-white Americans), it’s hard for people on here to wrap their heads around the fact that the following people would not be considered “white” in their home countries due to their ethnic background:
(Image description: Portrait of Dzokhar Tsarnaev, the Chechen American Boston Marathon bomber. Chechens and other peoples from the Caucuses are specifically targeted for discrimination in Russia and are not seen as “white.” My friend, blackgirlinrussia, remarked to me how she, as a black woman, would never get stopped by Russian police, but those who “looked” like they were from the Caucuses always were)
(Image description: Portrait of Charlie Chaplin, 1/4 Romanichal famous British comic who purposefully hid his Romanichal heritage to pass as “fully” white in British society)
(Image description: Portrait of a little blonde girl with pale skin and light blue eyes, the “blonde angel" whom Greek authorities kidnapped from her adopted Roma parents thinking that she was white. DNA tests later showed that she was Roma. Roma face rampant antiziganism in Europe, lighter skin can afford some privilege, but they are still subject to antiziganism and are racialized as non-white as Roma regardless.)
(Image description: A picture of 3 blonde Irish Traveller girls who face institutionalized discrimination and disenfranchisement in Ireland and the UK. Irish Travellers are not a Roma subgroup)
(Image description: Portrait of a blonde Polish woman. Polish people face discrimination within the UK today based on their ethnic background and were also specifically targeted for extermination by Nazi death squads along with other Slavic peoples.)
(Image description: Portrait of Simone Veil, a French Jewish member of the EU Parliament and also a survivor of Auschwitz, Jewish people, including those with pale skin, are distinctively racialized as non-white throughout Europe)
A lot of Americans just don’t seem to /get it/. They don’t understand how important local histories and context are in shaping the way race is “seen” in any given country, although this should be patently obvious. Whiteness and race, are fluid categorizations that change on a temporal and geographic basis. When we fix ourselves in our current local context and deny the experiences of others, like you, our analyses not only lose nuance, but we reproduce systems of oppression (e.g. American dominance of global discourse) as well.
When I was in Sweden this past summer visiting family, it was a huge wake up call for me. My cousins there are 1/4 black and 3/4 white and would, without a doubt, “pass” for white in America, but they do not pass in Sweden. One of my friends there is South Asian and lives in the ghetto. The ghetto in Sweden is very mixed with (non-white Swedish) folks. This includes Bosnian refugees, whom we would all see as fully “white” in America. Interestingly, though, despite being racialized as “other” in Sweden, their “partial” whiteness does provide them with some privilege, and they were typically the top of the heap in the ghetto in Sweden, but they were still in the ghetto at the end of the day and not “fully” white (like white Swedes).
After 4 weeks in Sweden, I was looking at white people differently, and implicitly categorizing them by where they came from, my mind adapting almost instinctively to local racial context. People who “looked” Southern and Eastern European began to stick out to me in ways they never did in America. I began to make distinctions of the white people who “looked Swedish” and those who did not, and especially those from Eastern and Southern Europe.
In Europe, xenoracism (which “others” all immigrants, but definitely takes on racial dimensions for people who cannot pass as the local dominant ethnic majority) and ethno-nationalism (which elevates things like a specifically “Slavic” identity and “look” in Russia, “Englishness” and Anglo features in England, etc.), creates a completely different landscape for race and conceptions of “partial” and “full” whiteness.
I mean, what else explains the racist undertones of the derogatory term “PIGS”, used for Portugal, Italy, Greece and Spain, in mainstream media in the UK since the 90s, especially when we take a step back and think about how Southern Europeans have historically been deemed “Mediterranean,” “Iberic” and other terms to distinguish their whiteness from those of Northern and Western Europe. Cartoons like the below reinforce the implicit racialization of those countries and their peoples as subhuman, gluttonous, pigs:
(Image description: cartoon of 4 pigs with the flags of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy gorging in a bed of coins with the words “ALL YOU CAN EAT” under it)
What else explains the staunch opposition of many European countries to Turkey’s entrance into the EU (many Turkish people who would be racialized as “white” in much of America, although, if they are Muslim, that does complicate their whiteness somewhat) with explicitly racist and Islamophobic cartoons like this:
(Image description: Cartoon of a chicken coup representing the “European Union” with white chickens on two branches with one saying “D-D-Don’t worry-he’ll melt right in.” And a much larger, dark chicken in the middle wearing a skullcap labeled “Islamic Hordes from Turkey”)
People on tumblr really need to decenter themselves from American geo-political context and not shut out the voices of people from other countries when discussions pertinent to those countries are occurring.
Things I don’t have time for:
- White Americans saying shit like “OH, LIKE THIS POST SHOWS, SOME OF US ARE DISCRIMINATED AGAINST IN OTHER COUNTRIES, SO WE CAN’T HAVE PRIVILEGE.” Dipshit, you’re in America and are racialized as white here, while the “white” peoples who are discriminated against in certain European contexts are NOT racialized as white there.
- Tumblr folks flatly applying US conceptions of race, whiteness and privilege to the world, erasing the experiences of people like you and being totally ignorant, especially since antiblackness is not the fulcrum of white supremacy in much of Europe and the rest of the world.
- Tumblr folks being called out on being US-centric and not giving a fuck, especially on posts relevant to Europe and other geographies.
- Just derailment overall. A discussion about race in America is centered there and should not have people clamoring to and pointing to this post and others derailing that discussion. A discussion about race and whiteness on a global scale or in specific non-American contexts should NOT be derailed by Americans with our typical myopic bullshit that does not include and acknowledge local racial context.
There is tremendous tribalism in Europe, and distinctions and hierarchies of whiteness do exist (e.g. Southern and Eastern Europeans being seen as “lower grade” whites in Northern and Western Europe) along with the outright racialization (as fully non white) of people from certain ethnic groups (e.g. Roma, Jews, Chechens) that include very fair individuals. These distinctions are important. The world does not revolve around America.
As I’ve said before:
I think many people forget that “whiteness” is an inherently fluid categorization of people that is only “fixed” somewhat on a temporal and inherently local level. Whiteness as we see it in America today, is not the way that it’s seen in Europe, Latin America, etc. even as we speak right now.
And with that, I’m done, as I personally have no patience anymore for Americans on-and-off Tumblr who are willfully ignorant and refuse to decenter their US-centric perspective even when faced with evidence to the contrary. In American-specific discussions on tumblr, speaking up would be derailing and inappropriate (and cater to racist white Americans), but definitely do share your opinion in cases relevant to Europe and your local context.
Thanks for the ask,
this is such a great post. thank you so much for making it. i bolded a few things, too. please read this, you guys.
it’s incredibly important to remember that race and ethnicity aren’t the same thing, and that “whiteness” as it’s often discussed on this website does not apply to large swathes of the rest of the world.
if your feminism is about forcibly ripping the hijabs off of muslim women while screaming “I’M LIBERATING YOU FROM YOUR OPPRESSIVE CULTURE!!!!!!!!!!!!!” then i don’t want!!! any!!! part!!! of your feminism!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I love her.
Jessica Williams talks to John Tamny, columnist for Forbes
P.S. He’s an asshole
If you haven’t seen the whole segment, find a way to watch it. It’s truly worth it for how much Jessica Williams exposes his ignorance and privilege in three minutes.
Here’s a cheat-sheet guide to the protests in Ukraine, Venezuela and Thailand:
What are the protesters’ demands?
Who’s a better economic ally, Europe or Russia? That’s the key issue at the heart of Ukraine’s protests. Demonstrators want the government to forge closer ties with Europe and turn away from Russia.
But the dispute is also about power. Many in the opposition have called for the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych and the ordering of new elections. And both on the streets and in parliament, they’ve also pushed to alter the government’s overall power structure, feeling that too much of it rests with Yanukovych and not enough with parliament.
An opposition coalition has been leading the charge against Yanukovych and his allies.
On CNN iReport, protesters and onlookers have shared more than 100 photos and videos of clashes between demonstrators and police. The nighttime images are especially striking — figures are silhouetted against large bonfires set alight in the streets.
When did the demonstrations start?
In November, thousands spilled onto the streets after Yanukovych did a U-turn over a trade pact with the European Union that had been years in the making — with Yanukovych favoring closer relations with Russia instead.
What’s the latest?
Long-simmering tensions exploded anew in Ukraine on Tuesday as clashes between police and anti-government protesters left more than 25 people dead and the capital’s central square on fire.
A shaky truce agreed to late Wednesday disintegrated by the next morning, as gunfire erupted again in the square. At least 100 people have died and 500 have been injured since Thursday morning, the head of the protesters’ medical service told CNN.
The Ukrainian government has not released an updated figure, but the Interior Ministry said earlier that one police officer was among the dead.
Foreign ministers from Germany, France and Poland met with Yanukovych on Thursday and are to meet with opposition leaders too. European foreign ministers convened an emergency meeting in Brussels, Belgium, where they are considering sanctions against Ukraine.
What are the protesters’ demands?
Demonstrators are demanding better security, an end to goods shortages and protected freedom of speech.
They blame Venezuela’s government, led by President Nicolas Maduro, for those problems. Maduro and other officials blame the opposition for the country’s security and economic problems.
Many demonstrators across the country are students. Prominent opposition politicians have also led protests and joined marches.
Since February 13, more than 1,100 images have been uploaded to iReport, CNN’s user-generated platform. Many of the videos and photos are gruesome and depict violent scenes between demonstrators and police.
When did the demonstrations start?
Nationwide student protests started this month. On February 12, the demonstrations drew global attention after three people were killed.
What’s the latest?
As throngs of supporters chanted their support, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to authorities Tuesday.
Lopez remained in a military prison Thursday as the government pressed terrorism and murder charges against him, his wife said. Lopez has denied the charges, which are connected with violence during the protests.
Maduro, meanwhile, has called members of the opposition fascists and compared them to an infection that needs to be cured. Officials have also accused the United States of plotting to destabilize the government.
What are the protesters’ demands?
Protesters in Bangkok have been calling for months for the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who they allege is a puppet of her billionaire brother, the deposed, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Opposition to Thaksin and Yingluck is strongest among the urban elites and middle class. That’s why the demonstrations have been concentrated in Bangkok. The protesters want to replace Yingluck’s government with an unelected “people’s council” to see through electoral and political changes.
Thailand residents and visitors have shared dozens of stories of unrest on CNN iReport over the past month. The latest approved photos show demonstrators sleeping in the streets in Bangkok as a form of peaceful protest.
When did the demonstrations start?
Protests began in November after Yingluck’s government tried to pass an amnesty bill that would have paved the way for her brother’s return to the political fray.
What’s the latest?
Deadly violence erupted in the heart of Bangkok on Tuesday as anti-government protesters clashed with police, and the country’s anti-corruption commission filed charges against the Prime Minister.
New Orleans is a food desert.
It’s weird, I know, because we have a huge reputation for our food—but our soil can’t grow it, not after the storm. Everything comes through the port, down the river, on the highway. Other people bring food to New Orleans to sell. They build grocery stores in Metairie, downtown, Uptown, on Magazine.
But they don’t build in the Lower 9th Ward.
There’s no grocery store there. There hasn’t been one since Katrina in 2005. It’s an extreme low-income neighborhood that depends on a problematic inconvenient public transit systems to cross the city to get any fresh food.
They’re reaching out to local universities and institutions and offering fresh fruit and vegetables to the community—but they’re also offering hope.
OSBG serves as a school, a service institution, and a place of employment for teenagers and young adults from the Lower 9th who want to give back and get more for their community.
But that’s all going to go away without help.
The New Orleans City Council recently passed through new zoning ordinances, and this landmark of the Lower 9th (built by a married couple in 1955 by hand with cypress wood) has to be rebuilt to code. The renovations cost $100,000.
They can’t afford this. They’re a nonprofit barely scraping by. They put together an IndieGoGo campaign, but it’s stagnating at just under $3,000—$97,000 short of their goal.
If they don’t open their building before the summer, the community could lose this resource for good. No garden, no produce, no program, no building.
Please help them in any way you can. Donate a dollar, signal boost, share this post, their link, anything anywhere you can do it. This is important, and soon it could be gone.
i hate that “LOL SO IF WOMEN ARE EQUAL CAN I PUNCH YOU” shit bc 1 in 3 women are abused
y’all are already punching us
the issue is that we’d like you to stop
HAPPENING NOW [VERY IMPORTANT]: Venezuela’s soldiers are killing their people. The Government is sending their armed gangs to kill them and they have censored all the media in their country, even blocking photos posted on social media sites. They shut down all the cable channels that broadcast news, so they can’t know what’s going on. The people have no source of protection at all. Students are protesting to save their country and their lives at this very moment. All they have are their social networks to get the word out so, PLEASE RE-BLOG THIS AND SPREAD THE WORD. VENEZUELA IS ON THE BRINK OF A CIVIL WAR AND CLOSE TO BECOMING A FULL COMMUNIST DICTATORSHIP. THEIR PEOPLE NEED YOUR HELP. —— Please, this is very important to me, one of my closest friends went to visit family in Venezuela over winter break and they won’t let him come back to Florida. We’re graduating in a few months and it hurts me to know that his baseball career and all of his hard work and dedication to his grades here in the U.S. was all for nothing. Please.
OTHER INFORMATION AND LINKS:
use the hashtags pictured at the top of this post on your social networking sites to connect and help spread the word, thank you so much! x
I know I rarely post anything of actual importance and I know none of you give a crap about what I say, but please read this.
I am from the very very very Republican state of Kansas, where our politicians have just passed a bill called the Kansas House Bill 2453 where it allows businesses and government employees to deny service to same sex couples. [x] [x] [x]
I, personally will not just stand here and take this unlawful discrimination from this God awful House of Reps, nor anyone else. There are so many things wrong with this bill that I can’t even type them out at this point. I am just so sickened by my home state and these representatives.
So, I am begging each and everyone of you to please sign this petition which opposes the bill. If you do not want to sign the bill, please at least reblog this post so others can see it. We only need 1,702 votes left, so PLEASE reblog this!
I don’t know why this isn’t bigger news??? But on Wednesday, February 12, the Kansas house of representatives approved House Bill No. 2453 which states that all businesses are allowed to deny service to any and all gay people that walk through their doors on the basis of their religious beliefs. This includes and is not limited to hospitals, public welfare agencies, restaurants, hotels, and so many more. This is legalized segregation.
That’s not all. Under the law, anyone who turns away a gay couple is immune to a civil suit. What’s more, the couple will have to pay their opponents attorney’s fees.
And while the bill is presented as a measure directed explicitly at same-sex couples, the language is much more ambiguous. One clause allows discrimination as long as the transaction is “related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement.”
Please reblog and signal boost to spread the message.
The US is on a superiority high over Russia and gay rights, and yet.