Tag Archives: racialicious

If You’re White, Get It Right: Wendy Jane’s Primer For White People On How To Have Conversations About Race

25 Jul

With all the talk on race that is going on in this country after the Trayvon Martin verdict, I feel like I am peering into a looking glass, a looking glass that is revealing to me how we Americans handle the issue of race relations.

On Facebook and twitter,  I saw many people, black and white, who were hugely disappointed with the acquittal, and, many who were satisfied with it.   I also heard many black people proclaim their upset and anger over white people who had the point of view that Trayvon was responsible for his own death, that he could have run, or behaved differently to avoid confrontation with his stalker.  I saw black people upset over white people who bought into the character assassination of Trayvon as gangster because of a few typical teenage selfies on the internet.

I saw with my own eyes on twitter, conservative, and I can’t help but use the word ignorant, white people stating things like there are statistics that show black men are more dangerous than white men, that black people are perpetuating racism by always “playing the race card,” making everything about race and racism when it’s not.  And, why don’t black people just get over racism, that it’s not as bad as you make it out to be anymore, and why can’t we just be color blind, and on and on.

While President Obama called for us in his recent speech about the Trayvon Martin case to have conversations on race, that idea had been brewing in my mind for awhile now.  I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s with an innate desire, I am certain prodded by the civil rights era and the place I grew up in (Waterbury, Connecticut), to reach across color lines, to want to be around, include, and connect with black people.

In starting my blog, Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake a year-and-a-half ago, the question about how we have conversations on race has come into the forefront of my adult mind.  I started to have more conscious thoughts about how we talk about such a loaded subject without white people getting defensive or guilty?  How do we deal with the anger that could arise in such a conversation?  I wonder how black people can engage in a conversation on race, say what they truly feel without worrying about the repercussions of their words on a white person’s ears, who might judge them as just some angry black person with a chip on their shoulder?  How do black people say what they want to say and truly believe that white people will hear them, and not enter into the conversation thinking, “white people will never get it,” before the talk has even started?

I’ve been trying to listen and learn as I write and get comments and feedback on my blog.  Not considering myself an activist or academic, I still try to absorb and learn about the construct of race and its impact on all of us.  My most recent readings have included books like Baratunde Thurston’s How To Be Black, Tim Wise’s, White Like Me, and Harriet Jacob’s Diary of A Slave Girl. I spend time reading the blogs:   The Root, Racialicious, Colorlines and Changelab.  I seek out conversations and connections, not necessarily always on race, with people of color.

Yesterday, I had it on my calendar to write this post, but in the morning on twitter I stumbled upon and read writer, blogger on matters of race, politics and relationships, Jenee Desmond-Harris’s post on The RootHow Not to Derail the Dialogue on Race I just now realized her article stemmed from additional thoughts she had after giving  input to a blog post written by William Saletan on Slate , which I  just now read after writing my post.

My heart sank a little.  I thought, it’s been done.  Desmond-Harris just wrote about this so my post will be redundant.  Then I thought perhaps my post will be different enough because I am writing it from a white person’s perspective and Jenee Desmond-Harris wrote hers from the perspective of a bi-racial person.   Salatan is white, but no matter, when I tweeted to Jenee yesterday that I might write an article similar to hers this is what she so generously replied:

” Of course.  The more info out there the better, and I certainly don’t get the final word on this stuff. :)”


Being new to twitter and feeling sometimes like a wallflower at the school dance, it was like magic that she even responded.  Jenee’s encouragement gave me the impetus to carry on and post.

I still feel like a toddler getting her walking legs when it comes to having conversations about race, but, nevertheless I’m going to be as bold to put forth Wendy Jane’s Primer For White People On  How To Have Conversations on Race.    It’s as much for me, as it is for you.

1.  Listen.  Really, really listen to everything that someone who is black tells you about their experience of living with brown skin.  Don’t interject.  Don’t try to compare it to something you as a white person experienced.

2.  Don’t get defensive.  I have been guilty of this so many times, even as recently as the other week when I posted What I Learned from Laura K. Warrell and Racialicious.  My kind of defensiveness is the, ….”but I’m not like those other white people, who probably don’t get it..I grew up in Waterbury, a really diverse place….I’m down with you….”  This is just about as bad as trotting out your “but I have black friends” card.

3. Believe what a black person* tells you about their experiences about how race factors into the fabric of their day-to-day life.  Believe them when they tell you how the history of race and institution of racism has perpetuated stereotypes,internalized and externalized perceptions of inferiority, and continued barriers to equal opportunities for black people, even though this is probably mostly invisible to you, or surely not on your mind because if you’re white you don’t have to think about race.

*And, remember, one black person is not the spokesperson for the entire black race, just like when I answer a question about being Jewish, I don’t speak for all Jewish people.

4. Have many conversations with many black people.  (See #3’s note above regarding the black spokesperson.  Better yet, read Baratunde Thurston’s book, How To Be Black.  Pay attention to the chapter titled, How To Speak For All Black People.)  The conversations don’t always have to be about race.  It can just make for a good life to talk to people who you might not ordinarily connect with.  Be inclusive.  Don’t stay in your white circle your entire life.

5.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.  Don’t be afraid to stick your foot in your mouth, or worry about offending or making someone angry.  If we are afraid of all that, we won’t say what we want to say.  Our conversations might be polite, but they’ll also be guarded and superficial.  Also, having a sense of humor can have its place in such a conversation, especially if we white people can laugh at ourselves.  Just don’t try any Paula Deen humor or hipster racist jokes.  Both could be fatal to the dialogue you are trying to create.

6.  Come up with actions to move race relations forward to a better place.  In the last chapter of Baratunde’s book he says he’s tired of doing all the work himself to battle racism and race-based stereotypes.  He tells white people its our turn to do something about it.

We do need to have conversations about race so we can understand how racism has and continues to hurt black people.  We need to educate ourselves, and truly be able to hear what black people have to say, and understand the larger systems in society that do the same damage.  It is only then, when we understand things together, and not us on one side, them on the other, that we can begin to dismantle the harmful negative systems, perceptions and attitudes.  We become conscious, active human beings working toward making our world a more inclusive place where every person matters.

In my own little Wendy Jane world I’ve been working on some personal goals and making weekly action plans.  Perhaps, in every conversation that you have with someone about race, you together come up with an action plan–three things you will do that week to improve race relations.

Do it, and check in here and let me know how it’s going.  Also, as you can see, I’ve only listed six points here.  Most blog post have Top Ten tips.  Black folks, White folks, all folks, please give me some more that I can add here.  Thank you.








The More I Listen…What I Learned from Laura K. Warrell And Racialicious

21 Jun

I learned something this week while reading writer Laura K. Warrell’s guest post on Racialicious, Why Can’t Black Women Claim Sluttiness, Again?

As a white woman with a blog I say is about my humorous obsession with race relations, I have to be ready to listen and learn.

In the beginning months of WJSS, I was simply terrified about offending black people, and, I’m certain I have.  Other times I know I’ve erred on the side of being politically correct so as not to offend.  I hate conflict.  I want everyone to think I’m a nice person.  Even though I worried about being called racist or patronizing in my writings, I had this inner voice that said, “bring it on.”  I wanted to have these dialogues.  I wanted to be questioned and challenged and not be afraid. That would be how barriers got broken down, how we’d connect across color-lines and truly begin to understand and honor one another.  Feedback and comments on the blog have helped with this.  So does reading articles which deal with matters of race.

Warrell’s article is a look at a current trend of white women, some of whom are celebrities, like Pink and Chelsea Handler, to speak out or write books on their past sexual “slutty” escapades, treating them like a badge of feminist honor.  Their stories usually end on how they’ve moved on from that to marriage and family.  Warrell argues that women of color face being exoticized and possibly seen as less desirable in American society, and are not afforded the same privilege.  In an article that Warrell links to within hers, Susan Brison’s, An Open Letter From Black Women To Slutwalk Organizers, some historical context was given–that of a complex past history including slavery, being considered others’ human property, and/or being viewed as one-dimensional hyper-sexual beings.

It seems if black women openly shared about their promiscuity they wouldn’t be able to redeem themselves in the eyes of society as pure, good women, who go on to be good wives, mothers and career women.   Warrell notes that the media’s lack of television and movies portraying fully-dimensional black women exploring their sexual selves as in Sex and the City and Girls, doesn’t help any.

When I read the comments Warrell and some of her friends have endured who have dated outside of their race, including one white guy who picked up a chestnut off the ground, and showed it to his date, saying that it reminded him of her big black booty, well, it still has this surreal quality, like really, it’s 2013, and you person that I share the same race with, just said that..really??  I have to pause and take that in, and believe that, and become less and less amazed at all that still is being said.  Being said from a place of ignorance, fear, and constructed ideas about race we’ve internalized and don’t realize how stupid or offensive we are being.

Warrell goes into much more depth in her article, which is definitely worth a read.  And, while I learned about the black/white female issue of  expressing  sexual prowess, and it was important to me to read about it, I am now conscious that I’ve been learning a different, even more important lesson this past year while reading many articles on daily living with race as a factor, written by black people giving perspective through their eyes.

I’m learning to simply listen.  Sounds easy, but I haven’t always found it to be that way.  Even when I started reading Laura’s article, my inner voice was saying things like. “but, but…There’s always the buts.  The defensive buts that say, but, I’m a cool white person.  I’m not the white woman with the cushy job, who led the charmed life, and married the cute artsy or rich guy that you’re talking about.

You know, hey it’s me, Wendy Jane, of Wendy Jane’s Soul Shake, who grew up comfortable, yeah, but I wasn’t one of those white girls who grew up in the suburbs and had only one black person who went to my school.  I grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, and when I was in high school in the late 70’s the hallways were filled 50/50 with afros and feathered tresses.

I didn’t even know what white privilege meant at first when I started to hear it being used a couple of years ago.  I thought it meant you were a rich white person who went to private school, and lived a cushy life, like the “fulfilled, easy-peasy lives as wives and mothers..” Warrell uses to describe some of the white women who have written books on their sexual pasts.

It’s like I want some kind of pass.  But, it’s not about getting a pass.   That’s not the point.   A pass which cannot be given anyway, because I am not black.  And because I am not black, I cannot know, in this case, what it is like to be a black woman and live with the perspective others place on you and your sexuality.  I can’t say, oh, but you deserve to live out your sexuality any way you see fit, and screw anyone and their opinion of you.  Warrell doesn’t mean for me to feel bad for being white.  That’s wasn’t her agenda at all. That’s my own white Jewish gal guilt.  In fact she calls for the equality for white and black women when it comes to sharing about their sexual experimentation.

Warrell simply wants me to hear what she has to say.  It’s my job to hear her.  It’s not my job to get defensive.  It’s not my job to try and tell her about my woeful white woman experiences that I feel are similar to hers.  It’s not my job to try and tell her I understand fully what it’s like to be a black woman who can’t share openly about her many flings out of fear of how that will reflect back on her.  It is my job to listen, to believe, to be aware, to be educated.

That’s what I learned from Laura K. Warrell and Racialicious this week.  What about you?  What have you learned this week?  I’d love to hear.



www.racialicious.com, Why Can’t Black Women Claim Sluttiness, Again? Laura K. Warrell, June 14, 2013

www.huffingtonpost.com, An Open Letter From Black Women To Slutwalk Organizers, Susan Brison, September 27, 2011







Re-Post from Racialicious: Excerpt: Why You Listening To That White Sh-t?”

13 Sep

When I came across this article on the Racialicious website regarding Laina’ Dawes new book about being a black woman often rejected or looked at sideways for liking heavy metal music, it reminded me of two things:  […]

Re-Post from www.racialicious.com on Asian American, Scot Nakagawa’s Anti-Black Racism Work

25 Jul

I like to keep up with other blogs that focus on race like www.colorlines.com, and www.racialicious.com, whose article on anti-racism activist Scot Nakagawa,  I’ve re-posted below.
While this article is an interview with Scot, be sure to link to Scot’s initial post on what has drawn him to focus on anti-black racism as opposed to anti-Asian racism.  I think I need to get in touch with him, and share some stories.

Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Scot Nakagawa

Yep, we snagged an interview with anti-racism activist Scot Nakagawa, whose posts, “Blackness Is The Fulcrum (a/k/a “Why I, An Asian Man, Fights Anti-black Racism)” and “We All Live On Food Stamps,” are getting lots of love around Tumblr and other parts of the innerwebz. The first part of our chat is at the main blog. In this second part, Scot talks about his favorite thinkers, his organization ChangeLab (and how we can support it), and whatever else was on his mind when I interviewed him.

Who are your favorite thinkers, both in and outside of anti-racism? Why? And is there something in their work(s) that you wish they would’ve covered?
My favorite thinkers? I’m a giant fan of Audre Lorde. I found my voice as a writer in part through reading her. I’m also a great admirer of the work of James Baldwin. The Fire Next Time was written the year I was born, and I’ve been reading and rereading it for the last 30 years or so. Ella Baker and Septima Clark are organizers and strategists I have great admiration for. I was able to study Septima Clark some while I was at Highlander where she originated the Citizenship Schools in the 1950s. Those schools played such an important role in the Civil Rights Movement due in no small part to her brilliance.
Manning Marable was also a hero of mine, as was Derrick Bell. And I’m really inspired by the literature of the revolutionary movements of the 1960s. Even with their flaws, especially around issues of gender and sexuality, those leaders wrote for and about a social movement. They saw the world through the lens of hope and in terms of practical solutions, including just inspiring people, and not just in terms of criticism. What they left behind gives me the juice to be creative and keep working.

I’m very aware that I’ve only listed black people. The Hawaiian language was considered all but dead when I was a much younger person developing my politics. Nearly all of what was available in English about Hawaii back then was written by non-Hawaiians. And the resistance literature of Asian Americans was nowhere to be found. I feel I owe a great debt to African American intellectuals. What they created helped me to name my world and find a place in it as a racial justice advocate. If I hadn’t fallen into my life in social justice, I would probably be an agriculture worker now. Not that there’s anything wrong with that on its own, but I always wanted to express myself and my outrage at injustice, and they showed me what was possible.

All right…ChangeLab. What is it, when did you start it, how does it function, how do we support the work you do?
ChangeLab is not a non-profit, which is a funny thing because we don’t have any profit. We’re supported through an investment by a visionary in the private sector who believes in our mission and our strategy of breaking schema—in other words, of thinking and acting outside of the box where racial justice is concerned. We function as a grassroots institute for racial justice, with a particular focus on promoting authentic solidarity between Asian American communities and other communities of color. We’re right now summing up research we did with Asian American progressives that we’re hoping will open a dialogue among us about racism and racial justice that we want to continue through a series of cross-sectoral meetings we’re calling Thought Labs.
For now, folks can support us by following my blog and talking back to me. Once our website is up and going, you can link to it through the blog.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Hmmm…well, I guess if I have the last word, I’ll just end by saying that I hope folks out there of all races who have ideas to share and stories to tell will speak up, write, perform, do whatever it is you do to express yourself and do it as loudly and as boldly as possible.The media creates a “truth” about society in which we are mostly missing except as one-dimensional stereotypes. Even progressive media makers too often draw the line around justice behind their own heels and in front of our toes. Yet we’re the ones with the least to lose and the most to gain from real, meaningful change. We’re the ones willing to take the risks, if only we can find one another and see that we aren’t alone in our oppression. Unless movements are guided by our spirits, they will ultimately fail. So pump up the volume. We need to boost the signal on racial justice.
SOURCE:  www.racialicious.com, Racialicous Crush of the Week:  Scot Nakagawa, by Andrea Plaid, July 20, 2012