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Racism isn't classism

Hakkai, Intense

Welcome to IBARW.  Please see the introduction here.  I’ve changed my default icon for the week.  I’d be happy to modify or create one for anyone. 


 

 

A few disclaimers: I speak only for myself.  Feel free to disagree with me.  I enjoy dialoguing with people, even arguing and debating, but I don’t tolerate wank.  I’m white.  I’m against racism.  Some of my flist are POC.  Be respectful.  It’s pretty hard to piss me off, but once I’ve lost my temper, heaven help you because I take off the gloves.  This concludes the warning portion of our program. 

 

I chose this topic because it’s an argument I see a lot, especially on the internet.  I think of it as the Will Shetterly argument, but I’ve seen it spoken often by many other people as well.  The argument goes thusly: Racism doesn’t exist anymore; racism has been superceded by classism or there was never racism to begin with.  Solve classism and 'apparent racism' will disappear. 

 

This argument is bullshit. 

 

My dad is upperclass and grew up upper-middle class.  Typical Chicago suburb boy.  He went to college, worked for a relative on his summers off, making huge sums.  Got a job straight of college and worked his way up the corporate ladder.

 

My mom grew up lower class.  Lower, urban, working class Catholic, to be exact.  Her father never made more than ten thousand dollars a year; he worked two or three jobs his whole life, except when he was in the army.  He was a skilled tradesman; he laid print (justified law books, mostly) with lead type.  He chain smoked Lucky Strikes and drank coffee by the gallon.  He had ten kids and a wife.  My mom didn’t have her own clothes, money was illusory, food was short, she worked to put her brothers through school.  She got her college degree when she was in her forties. 

 

During my parents’ marriage, my family was mostly middle class.  We had a house and car, dogs and bikes, and clothes and privilege.  Because of my father’s asshole tendencies gambling a second mortgage on the house on the stockmarket without my mom’s knowledge, my mom worked for some of that time.  We were still privileged. 

 

Then they divorced.  And what a divorce it was.  I hope it comes as no shock to anyone here that my mom and I tumbled down the class ladder to solid lower, working class.   In fact, we were piss poor.  During my first year of college, my family’s combined yearly income was six thousand dollars (for myself, my mom, and my brother).  My father’s disposable play-money income was nine thousand dollars a month.  Not mortgage, car payment, insurance, no.  Play money.  He was making high-six and low seven figure income in that era, salarywise, not including stock options or assorted benefits. 

 

I’m still not sure how my family managed those years.  As example of my poverty credentials: our car was up on blocks in the back yard.  We traded work for government cheese from a friend.

 

Thus and so. 

 

Let us turn now to Supernatural.  Yes, I mean SPN.  The show.  Sam and Dean are of my culture.  They’re white; they grew up in Kansas; they’re lower-middle and fall to lower class.  Okay, I’m not a demonhunter, but I sure did listen to all those songs when I was a kid.  I ate that kind of food, talked just like that.  Here’s an interesting thing: Dean doesn’t lie.  Dean is a terrible liar.  He wears his dopey jeans and awesome hot leather jacket; he drinks beer and eats chips and ogles girls.  He is solidly, unabashedly working class. 

 

Sam, on the other hand, is an incredibly good liar.  He’s a chameleon.  When he’s at Sanford, he looks, acts, talks, dresses upper middle class.  I bet you ten bucks he could go into any men’s store and put on a lawyer suit and walk around in it with no effort.  No one would be able to tell.  He’d have the words, the leather notebook legal pad and Cross ballpoint, the Alan Edmonds shoes, the smooth haircut, that set to the shoulders.  But he can also walk into any roadhouse with Dean and have a beer and slouch in his seat and cuss and wear flannel and denim, just like the lowerclass boy he is. 

 

Sam can fake it.  I can fake it, too.  Anyone who’s seen me in person could probably tell you, but I make quite a good upperclass academic, right down to the insane vocabularly and convoluted sentences and coffee snobbery. 

 

Not only can I pass for upperclass, but I often do.  Upperclass get better service in restaurants, better responses to their resumes and interviews, better approval from significant other parental figures, etc.  I’m human: I know how this works.  I have the skill, and I exploit it.  Life is short, often nasty, brutish, and short.  (See?  That was just me being upperclass academic.) 

 

So, I’m in a position to know: upperclass is better treated than lowerclass. 

 

Is classism wrong?  Yes.  But I’ll be upfront: I game any system to keep my family safe.  Without regret.  Any system.  Moving on.

 

Racism isn’t the same as classism.  How do I know?  I’m going to say some uncomfortable things here.  But sometimes it’s the only way. 

 

I’ll tell you how I know.  Because I get better treatment when alone or with other whites, even in lowerclass mode, than I do when I’m with my friends of color.  I get faster, more polite service.  I get questions and concerns answered quicker.  I see faster responses to my apartment problems than they do. 

 

When I’m alone, I get to hear other whites make racial comments that reveal obvious and longstanding prejudice.  When I’m with my friends of color, I don’t hear these comments, but I see some of the results of the underlying beliefs. 

 

But!  I can hear the counter-argument coming.  How do you know it isn’t because your friends of color are lowerclass?  Hah.  Because by and large, my friends of color are higher class than me, and always have been. 

 

If it was just classism that choked this country, I would get better treatment when I was with my friends of color, rather than the opposite.  Racism is not classism.  Racism is wrong.  Classism is wrong.  But they are not the same.

 


Edited to add: The author of the blog post I linked to above, Will Shetterly, has replied at my greatestjournal account.  I've directed him over here and also responded.  You can see what he had to say here.

Edit the Second, Daughter Of Edit!  Mr. Shetterly informs me that Ending Race: The Finish Line is his preferred link to his views on race and racism.   I disagree wholeheartedly with that post, too.

Edit the Third, Grandaughter of Edit!  I have banned Mr. Shetterly from comments for disrespectful behavior to other commenters.

Edit the FOURTH.  This had damn well better be the last edit, Mr. Shetterly.  I banned Mr. Shetterly, but before I could finish changing settings to disable anonymice comments, because I do not know how and had to go look it up, because up until now people in my LJ have been some of the most erudite, interesting, kind, fun, people EVER, he made another comment, anonymously and again disrespectfully.  I have therefore turned on screen comments for anyone not on my F-List.  I am sorry for any delay this creates in the discussion and I appreciate your patience and bearing with me.  ~VM

Edit the Fifth.  Mr. Shetterly informs me in an anonymous, but signed, comment below that he was unaware that he had been banned when left the first anonymous comment.  I have decided to unscreen this one comment from him,  but it is the ONLY ONE of his that I will unscreen, and I am ONLY unscreening it so that others may see it and judge for themselves. 

And now I am going to go write porn.  Exhaustedly yours, ~VM

Comments

( 30 comments — Leave a comment )
oyceter
Aug. 6th, 2007 05:46 pm (UTC)
SO. MUCH. LOVE.

(for your post. No love at all for your dad or for your circumstances, and many hugs for you on that front.)
vom_marlowe
Aug. 6th, 2007 06:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! (Hugs you back.) I wasn't sure whether I wanted to post or just listen again this round, but I decided I really wanted to afterall.
tygrrlyli
Aug. 6th, 2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
It's funny. When I go to a restaurant with one of my friends, I am the one who is inevitably handed the check. My friend is black.
When I go to a restaurant with one of my other friends, inevitably he is handed the check. He is white and male. He is also working several jobs and on many scholarships to get through college.
My black friend makes nice figures and has a very steady job (she also worked herself through college, so massive kudos to her for being able to not only do that but then continue moving up and being awesome, I sure as hell couldn't).
I have no job and have little money. I am -extremely- fucking lucky that I do have middle/upper-middle class parents who can/do support me. I have no illusions that I am taken care of.
My white male friend is basically poor. He dresses in a more lower-class way, he speaks in a more lower-class manner, and by gum he fucking love budweiser. He is always handed the check.
So, racism, classism, and sexism. Still going strong, woo...
By the by, I do make mysogynistic/racist/homophobic/classist/elitist/sexist/etc jokes. Oddly, I make them about myself, about others, and all about the people I am sitting with at the time to their face. The most amazing part, I mean them as jokes, I think a lot of people miss this key element when they make jokes.
One more oddity. My black friend, I refer to her as "black". Well, she's obviously not black, but a darker brown. Why black then? Because she is neither African nor is she a legalized American. She refers to me as white, because while I am not paper white, I am a very pale skin tone. Somehow, to be called "black" is a negative, but to be called "white" is fine. Rarely do people refer to me as caucasian, in fact, they don't. So why, when I am looking for a very very superficial description, is it not okay for me to describe someone as "brown," "black," "reddish," "yellowish," etc, but I can very safely call this person "white?" I love stupidity.
vom_marlowe
Aug. 6th, 2007 08:23 pm (UTC)
Yeah, the isms sure are everywhere. I wish they weren't.

I've had similar experiences with the check thing. In fact, I yelled at a clerk once because he took the money from me and tried to hand the change to my brother. :P
(Deleted comment)
vom_marlowe
Aug. 6th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC)
Patrick Nielsen Hayden tried to convince you about race and Katrina. What makes you think I’d be able to say anything to convince you? Maybe if I speak in tongues? Channel one of the great Greek orators?

I’d point out the speed of the federal response to much smaller disasters in predominantly white cities (Minneapolis, last week, frex), but I think it’d be pointless, since you didn’t even find the ‘looter’ ‘find’ dichotomy convincing. And also, it’d be addressing your arguments in your playground and I don’t feel like it today. So, let’s turn the tables. How about you address my arguments directly?

I outlined examples of racism, alive and well, in my life. Examples where race trumped class in my personal experience. You say your “Ending Race: The Finishing Line” more accurately reflects your views. So, how will “being the change I see in the world’ and denying these examples of racism and preferential treatment of whiteness help either myself or my friends and family of color? Explain it to me. Use the examples I used above.

Also: are you denying that my experiences of race trumping class happened? Or are you saying they are anomalous?
(Deleted comment)
vom_marlowe
Aug. 6th, 2007 09:40 pm (UTC)
http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1530-2415.2006.00106.x?cookieSet=1
Has a good overview of aversive racism and how it works, especially in the context of that particular situation.

Here's another one:
http://www25.uua.org/YRUU/youthoffice/OneYearAfterKatrina.html

Here's an obvious one: http://teresacentric.typepad.com/files/2005/09/perfect_example.html

More anon; I'm late leaving for work already.
(Deleted comment)
vom_marlowe
Aug. 6th, 2007 11:40 pm (UTC)
The first one is a link to the article:
Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy
Vol. 6 Issue 1 Page 99 December 2006
Institutional Discrimination, Individual Racism, and Hurricane Katrina
Kristin E. Henkel, John F. Dovidio, Samuel L. Gaertner

It's full of good evidence. I can access it at work because we have a subscription there. I've looked but it doesn't appear to be available for free online. I'll post a teaser tomorrow.

I disagree about the photos. I see the photos as part of a greater whole of racist behavior in regards to Katrina that seems obvious to me. Much like the instance above, where I handed the money to the clerk but the clerk handed the change to my brother, I can ping individual instances of isms in my life. Not always, but certainly sometimes. And repeated instances of similar behavior become patterns, and patterns reveal themselves, but they aren't obvious to everyone.

And here's how Katrina's media coverage and government response read to me. It read like a National Geographic special, not coverage of an American city. The New York times showed a dead body, rigor mortised, on the front page. I just don't believe that coverage of a disaster in a primarily white city would have shown that sort of body, certainly not with people in positions of power standing around doing nothing. I also think that the first lady didn't fly into Minneapolis because it was an election year, but because the disaster read as American. Whereas the New Orleans disaster read as something that happened to 'other'.

The words chosen to depict the disaster, the focus on crimes that never, ever happened, the bridge incident, Geraldo Rivera of all people getting in before the feds, they all say to me that this was not approached as an American disaster, but a problem that happened to "other".

I don't think you're going to look at my evidence and change your mind, as I suspect I look more at patterns of behavior and you may be focusing on individual activities and (perhaps, I'm not certain) intent of activities.

I've got more to say about your earlier comment in regards to my post, but it'll have to wait until tomorrow.
(Deleted comment)
vom_marlowe
Aug. 7th, 2007 04:13 pm (UTC)
I had wanted to include other aspects of the author’s arguments, as they cover institutional racism, aversive racism, personal racism, institutional racism, and racial mistrust; however, copyright precludes me. The following quote is only one of many of their explorations of subtle racism, but I think it is particularly instructive:
“One of our early experiments (Gaertner & Dovidio, 1977) demonstrated how
subtle racism could have operated unintentionally amidst the initial confusion, both
regarding the magnitude of the storm’s impact and who had primary responsibility
to respond among local, state, and national government agencies. As we indicated
earlier, this confusion and ambiguity are precisely the circumstances that are most
conducive to the influence of subtle biases. The scenario for the experiment was
inspired by an incident in the mid-1960s in which 38 people witnessed the stabbing
of a woman, Kitty Genovese, without a single bystander intervening to help. What
accounted for this behavior? Feelings of responsibility play a key role (see Darley
& Latan´e, 1968). If a person witnesses an emergency knowing that he or she is
the only bystander, that person bears all of the responsibility for helping and,
consequently, the likelihood of helping is high. In contrast, if a person witnesses
an emergency but believes that there are several other potential helpers, then the
responsibility for helping is shared. Moreover, if the person believes that someone
else either will help or has already helped, the likelihood of that bystander taking
action is significantly reduced.
We created a situation in the laboratory in which White participants witnessed
a staged emergency involving a Black or White victim.We led some of our participants
to believe that theywould be the only witness to this emergency, while we led
others to believe that there would be two other White people who also witnessed
the emergency. These potential bystanders were isolated from one another in their
own cubicles and thus they could not easily communicate with each other. We
predicted that, because aversive racists do not act in overtly bigoted ways, Whites
would not discriminate when they were the only witness and the responsibility for
helping was clearly focused on them. However, we anticipated that Whites would
be much less helpful and would respond slower to Black than to White victims
when they had a justifiable excuse not to get involved, such as the belief that one
of the other witnesses would take responsibility for helping.
The results supported these predictions. When White participants believed
that they were the only witness, they helped both White and Black victims very
frequently (over 85% of the time) and equally quickly. There was no evidence of
blatant racism. In contrast, when they thought there were other witnesses and they
could rationalize not helping rapidly on the basis of some factor other than race
(e.g., the presence of other bystanders), they helped Black victims more slowly
and only half as often as White victims (37.5% vs. 75%).”
(Henkel, Dovidio, and Gaertner, “Racism and Katrina”, Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, Vol. 6, No. 1, 2006, p. 110.)

I’m going to say a couple things straight out. I acknowledge that you suffer for being poor. I’ve been poor, and it sucks. It is absolutely a form of oppression. You are oppressed.

However. You also have privileges that I will never ever have. You have opportunities I won’t have, in a thousand and one situations, you will be treated differently—and given more privileges--because you are a man. In the same way, just as I am treated differently than my friends with dark skin, you are also treated differently. The world privileges me because I am white. I am less oppressed because I am white. You are less oppressed because you are white. Until you can see the privileges, conscious and unconscious, that the world gives you, I don’t see a way for us to even have a conversation, so I am bowing out of this discussion.

If you wish to learn more about aversive racism, unconscious prejudice, and white privilege, you can check out various books such as White Like Me, by Tim Wise or any of the IBARW links.

~VM
poisontaster
Aug. 7th, 2007 02:35 am (UTC)
I really enjoyed reading this post. I'm still figuring out how to talk about my own experience and trying hard to do it in a way that doesn't seem academic and insincere. I think it's easier to put that fictional distance there; to code switch into more formal language to divorce my(our) self from such an emotional topic, but this really resonated with me on an intellectual AND emotional level. Thank you for writing this.
vom_marlowe
Aug. 7th, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I struggle with the distancing myself, so I'm particularly glad it resonated with you.
sixersfan
Aug. 7th, 2007 03:40 am (UTC)
I liked this post a lot. Far too often people try to limit issues. Just because something is classist doesn't mean it's not also racist. Just because something is racist doesn't mean it's not also sexist and religious and anything else. Things aren't nice and neat and easily classified as one thing or another. And because classism is not as emotionally charged as racism, people would love to say it's only classism. As someone who's been on the receiving end of it my whole life, don't anyone dare tell me things aren't racist. Thank you for this post.
(Deleted comment)
vom_marlowe
Aug. 7th, 2007 01:16 pm (UTC)
Communists were persecuted well into the 1950s, and even today, telling a potential employer that you're a communist is likely to hinder your chance of getting a job.

Right. *TELLING* an employer. A question, by the way, that is highly unlikely to come up in the average job interview.

Whereas just by walking into an employer's office, they automatically know--and often act negatively on--a POC's race.

Your comment was disrespectful of another commenter's experience and perspective. Don't do it again.
jonquil
Aug. 7th, 2007 04:39 pm (UTC)
"The last antiracist to be persecuted by the American government was probably John Brown."

I take it that everything the FBI did to the civil rights movement during the 1960s doesn't count?
sixersfan
Aug. 7th, 2007 09:28 pm (UTC)
OK, I'm not talking about the American government. I'm talking about the American people. I think we can both agree that the actions of the American government rarely fall in line with the desires and feelings of the American people.

Secondly, I don't know what persecution of antiracists has anything to do with my point. My point is that people are much more likely to take exception to being labeled racist as opposed to classist. People are much more likely to react harshly toward racism than they are classism.
(Deleted comment)
sixersfan
Aug. 7th, 2007 10:28 pm (UTC)
How different indeed. Most of my friends, though, are the children of poor and Black or Puerto Rican people, so we all acknowledge the classism and racism we see every day. I haven't met many people who don't believe classism exists in the United States today. Since I left high school, I've met quite a few who believe racism died in the '60s. And while classism is a growing problem, it's nothing on the order of racism, at least to those of us who are experiencing both on a daily basis.

But oppose capitalism, and you'll be lucky if all you get is the occasional flash of a middle finger.
That's not been my experience. Not at all.
vom_marlowe
Aug. 7th, 2007 04:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I really appreciate your comment.

"And because classism is not as emotionally charged as racism, people would love to say it's only classism." So very, very true. As some of the other comments to this post show only too clearly, arrrrrgh.
sixersfan
Aug. 7th, 2007 07:02 pm (UTC)
"And because classism is not as emotionally charged as racism, people would love to say it's only classism." So very, very true. As some of the other comments to this post show only too clearly, arrrrrgh.
Yup. Just...yup.
coffeeandink
Aug. 8th, 2007 01:06 am (UTC)
Thank you so much for posting this. It put a lot in perspective for me (not least how little I've examined the role of class in my life).
veejane
Aug. 8th, 2007 02:30 am (UTC)
coffeeandink sent me here. I'm glad to hear your perspective, and agree with you strongly.

I'm sure, if class were more important than race, that the poor whites of New York would not have rioted during the Civil War and murdered large numbers of poor blacks. If class were more important than race, then Japanese internment during WWII would have been as flimsily enforced as Italian and German internment (i.e., no Manzanar). If class were more important than race, then there would never have been a president of modest origins in the White House. Bill Clinton comes from modest origins -- but there's never been a president who hasn't been white.
(Deleted comment)
veejane
Aug. 8th, 2007 07:36 pm (UTC)
Capitalists have used race to divide

So... because race is a much-manipulated construct that makes it any less meaningful? I'll go tell all my friends of color that it's all in their heads, then.

As for Clinton, he was fast-tracked into the upper class.

Lucky for Clinton, who is WHITE. If he were not white, do you think he would have been fast-tracked into another class from the one he was born in?

Look, I don't know you, so I hope you'll trust me when I say: beating your argument into the ground is not making you look good. It is making you look desperate and monomaniacally ideological rather than like a human being who can listen as well as speak. If you would like to correct this perception, you might consider a bit more tact and a bit less flippancy. Also, possibly, attempt to empathize with the way people other than you see the world. Because I'm not seeing you do that right now, and it's actively detrimental to the discussion at hand.
vom_marlowe
Aug. 8th, 2007 08:21 pm (UTC)
I have banninated him.

Sorry about his being a jerk to you.
veejane
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:26 pm (UTC)
I appreciate your policing your territory. (No harm done to me; I'm much more concerned about the harm done to civility and thoughtful discourse.)

And I'm sorry this ended up happening in your territory! In general, I prefer not to make a big stink in other people's journals, because I like to think I am a good neighbor.
(Anonymous)
Aug. 8th, 2007 08:40 pm (UTC)
Barack Obama's been fast-tracked, too. Do you really think he'd be any different than Bill Clinton was or Hillary Clinton would be?

And people constantly suffer for wrong-headed ideas; look at any religious war.

As for the advice, well, thanks. Since I think focusing on racism is a distraction from addressing the root of racism, I am getting out of these discussions.
vom_marlowe
Aug. 8th, 2007 08:43 pm (UTC)
I BANNED YOU FOR A REASON, YOU JERK. GET OUT OF MY COMMENTS SECTION OR I WILL REPORT YOU TO LJ ABUSE.
vom_marlowe
Aug. 8th, 2007 08:20 pm (UTC)
I warned you about disrespecting other commenters in my journal. My journal, my rules.

Go be mean by your own self.
minim_calibre
Aug. 8th, 2007 05:49 pm (UTC)
I'm also here from coffeeandink, and thank you so much for writing this.

But! I can hear the counter-argument coming. How do you know it isn’t because your friends of color are lowerclass? Hah. Because by and large, my friends of color are higher class than me, and always have been.

If it was just classism that choked this country, I would get better treatment when I was with my friends of color, rather than the opposite. Racism is not classism. Racism is wrong. Classism is wrong. But they are not the same.

Exactly. (And not just this country. My entire extended family is in Canada. One of my Aunts is Jamaican, with a higher class education and upbringing than her housemate, my biological Aunt. Both of them worked as nurses, frequently in the same hospitals. Per them, the one who typically got better treatment from the supervisors was my white bio Aunt, despite the minor fact that Aunt Cindie's not just pretty clearly higher class, she's a better and more driven nurse than Aunt Dean.)
boadecia
Aug. 8th, 2007 07:38 pm (UTC)
Hmmm...I've never fully understood the assumption that racism doesn't exist. It must be nice to live without it is all I can say. *shrug*

I can see why it would be hard to see if you're not a victim of it since empathy is a difficult skill if you've never practiced it. Sympathy is common and we've all felt it...well, those of us who aren't sociopaths. Empathy on the other hand is a learned skill and must be practiced to be improved upon. Without it, you won't see racism unless you're the recepient of it...and often.

I've always admired how you're such a trailblazer! I don't care about people on the whole...I care about individuals. And those who don't believe in racism are detrimental to society, but are unlikely to be changed by informing them they're wrong. Like most modern bigotry, it hides itself well and doesn't want to be seen for what it is.

I'm mixed and learned very early on that racism existed everywhere. Black cousins calling me an oreo, hispanic cousins telling me how embarassed they were to have a black relative and white 'friends' telling me I couldn't come over to their house because their daddy didn't like black people. *shrug* Kids.

As I grew older, the bigotry of course became less obvious. Black relatives shocked when I would bring a white friend to a barbeque (our people only mentality), white

I don't have it in me to actively go after the persons who are fortunate enough to live in a racism-free world. It would be nice if we all lived in such a place. All I can do is be who I am, a half black/half hispanic woman who is an individual. Sometimes I change someone's mind about what I should be: I don't like watermelon, greens (bleh), hip hop music or rap. And doesn't everyone like fried chicken? And sometimes I don't...and that's fine. I believe ignorance is its own punishment. It punishes those who do live with racism, but we can't allow the ignorance of others determine whether we live a good life or not.

It's not fair that I go into a store on the Plaza and not one person will approach me to ask if I need assistance...yet the same sales people on another day will approach my friend (white) when I'm with her to see if she needs help. They never ask me even when I've been in the store for 15 minutes, waiting for my friend...yet she walks in and they approach her immediately. It's not fair. Yet it is what it is. It can be explained so many other ways, and you don't know the painful, debilitating, enraging scent of being 'othered' until it happens to you.

If you could live in a world without such a thing and have dozens of other reasons to explain it away...would we? I would hope not, but so many people do...it makes me wonder if I am as 'good' as I like to think I am.

Boy, did I ramble! Anyways...I just wanted to say HUZZAH! :) And that empathy is not an ability everyone has. You my dear have it in abundance and is one of the things I love about you. *hugs*
(Anonymous)
Aug. 8th, 2007 09:25 pm (UTC)
Something very strange happened; I didn't leave that message anonymously. I think I posted it just as you were banning me, and LJ's system responded by making my message anonymous. I know that I wasn't anonymous when I left it because I had to sign out in order to leave this message.

Which will be my last on your site.

And which I'm only leaving because I didn't see your email address in order to send this privately.

Bye!

Will
tevere
Aug. 9th, 2007 03:49 pm (UTC)
Driveby via IBARW; hope you don't mind!

I'm hugely interested in the intersection between class and race (especially the situation in the US, of which I have very, very little knowledge), so thanks for this well-thought out post! I really need and want to know more about the topic, so this was perfect.

I obviously don't disagree with anything you say here -- I can't, because you're speaking about the situation in your country, and I know it follows its own set of rules/trajectories that've been shaped by its particular history. But just for comparison's sake I'll note the different intersection of racism and class in the country I live in at the moment: Indonesia.

I don't know the actual figures on this, but it seems to me that something approaching 99.5% of people resident in Indonesia are Asian, i.e. are of broadly the same skin colour. The actual term "Indonesian", though, is generally only applied to people who're ethnically Indonesian (really, a rather artificial construct, but that's for another time), not all of those with Indonesian citizenship. Because the second-largest ethnic group in Indonesia besides the Indonesians are the Chinese. And despite a large number of families having lived here for generations -- speaking Indonesian; never having visited China -- they're still just the "Chinese". Not even Chinese-Indonesians, which is what a white expat might call that group, and forget about them ever being called Indonesians by the Indonesians. Chinese in Indonesia weren't allowed to hold office in government until a few years ago; they were specifically targeted in the riots of 1997 and raped and murdered en masse; and only last year was Chinese New Year made an official holiday as a peace offering.

The thing is: even though the Chinese are a different race, the main difference between them and the pribumi (ethnic Indonesians) is class. Wealth. In fact, the Chinese occupy pretty much exactly the same spot as the Jews in Europe several centuries ago: they lent the money, built businesses, and accumulated significant family wealth (although in reality this is a severe and damaging stereotype; there are lots of poor Chinese in Indonesia, just as there were poor Jews in Europe.) The fact they're the subject of such hatred and discrimination is not, I think, because of a difference in skin colour (there's every shade of brown in the Indonesian archipelago); not because of a history of occupation or colonisation. Instead, it's because Chinese people visibly occupy an economic bracket -- and have the accompanying opportunities -- that the vast majority of Indonesians, who on average live off USD2 a day, will never have.

As you said, it will never work in the US, but -- somehow managing to distribute the wealth (and education!) more equally in Indonesia might go a long way towards reducing racism.

And then... why, we'd only have the minor issue of inter-religious warfare to deal with *g*. Oh -- and racism against a new influx of Nigerian immigrants, who're universally regarded as being criminals and drug dealers.
trinker
Aug. 11th, 2007 05:37 am (UTC)
I recommend reading "World on Fire" by Amy Chua to aid understanding the issue of class/economics/capitalism and race in Indonesia and Nigeria.
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