Tag Archives: Reverse Racism

To the White People I Just Don’t Like (Racial Unhappiness from Early Cameroon)

(According to Clara, anyway)

For two weeks, I let you touch my hair because I wanted to be friends. And by touch, I mean pull, grab, braid (even if it meant forcing my head into uncomfortable positions while I was trying to converse with someone else), twist, and hold up to your own faces and heads. That isn’t touching. That’s an exhibit.

Think about that.

For two weeks, I told myself that it was okay. In trying to get closer to you, I allowed you to make me feel strange, and different. Other. Cameroun out here telling us that we’re all the same, and every day I’m a fucking attraction for you all to remind me that we aren’t. And even when you realize that maybe what you’re doing isn’t good, you keep doing it, because you “just can’t help” yourself. And so my comfort, and my personal space are compromised in the name of your interest, your satisfaction, your finding a reason to talk to me and around me.

If we were anywhere else, I wouldn’t have had anything to do with you after the first time that happened. Because I know myself, and my worth, and I’m worth goddamn more than existing for other people’s occasional pleasure.

But we’re in Cameroun, and there are only nine of us, and I don’t want to “bring the same problems over, when we’re all American.”

But we’re all fucking American, and you all brought your micro-aggressions over anyway. And I’m going out to lunch with you, and listening to problematic statement after problematic statement. I’m getting roped into doing things that require spending more money than I want to, and when I try to stick up for myself, I’m being a cheap problem. So let me be quiet for a little bit. Let me try to be your friend. You’re nice people, I realize. You just make me feel severely uncomfortable at least twice each time we hang out. Continual discomfort, with occasional flashes of anger.

After a guard questions our citizenship, because we don’t look like you. Whose right is it to start making jokes at our expense? Yours, clearly. And we’ll let them happen, because we want to be friends, even though each joke is an aggressive chant, a differing refrain. You’re not like us. You’re not like us.

Don’t tell me that African babies “are the cutest babies”.
Don’t comment on “the alien hairstyles” you see.
Don’t turn to me to see if what you said was racist. We both know you were racist. You just want me to say that you weren’t.

But let’s be friends. Let me sit here and listen to you, and validate what you say with my silences. Let me hate myself, and you, a little bit, inside. You’re good people. You have good intentions. Let me bide my time and wait for an opportunity where it’s safe to point out something Wrong.

Here we are! In a conversation about gay rights, you tell me that I should really understand, seeing as we colonized them and forced religion onto them.
Oh, so there’s a “we” now? Now that responsibility is on the line, I’m allowed to be part of a “we” with you? Never mind that I am absolutely NOT part of this “we”. Never mind that I’m “them”, and that my father was colonized by your fucking “we”, never mind that HE had religion forced into him until he forced it, and You, Out. Never Mind the fact that you are only using my, my father, my family, my tribe, my country’s continued pain as a way to make yourself sound worldly and knowledgeable in a simple conversation. You don’t give a shit about us. How do I know that? Watch.

“Um, I’m not a part of that ‘we’.” Simple. Smiling, conversational. What a funny point I just brought up!

Now watch You get offended. Watch You blow up at this. Watch Me cause You pain by telling you that while you were in fact pretending to take responsibility for some distant event, its effects are currently staring you in the face.
And now we need to have a conversation about how I don’t make you feel comfortable in conversations? How you know that I’m offended, and have every right to be, but I have to be nicer when I address you, and I can’t just be as aggressive as I want.

White girl, if I leapt out of this chair, took my extensions and used them to slap you in the face (mimicking the hair flips You use as a sign of superiority), it wouldn’t be aggressive Enough. Bathe me with your tears; I didn’t bring anything to collect them.

Fuck that, though, and fuck This. Clearly I can’t win by smiling around you, and the pebbles are building up on my back. I can’t hope to educate you, so let me stay away for a bit. I have a friend. I have a single friend here with whom I don’t feel afraid to be honest. If he gets out of line, I can put him in his place. There are no politics, there are no boundaries. With him, I can be me, and I won’t have to worry about any bullshit fucking sensitivity feelings.

Can we take a break to talk about how ironic it is that nine times out of ten, the people telling me not to be so sensitive are doing it so they don’t have to wallow in their own discomfort and sensitivity? It’s easier if I’m the problem. Right?

Next time you tell me that sometimes you wish you could change your race, so that you won’t stick out as a white person, I’ll leave.

You don’t realize how beautiful it is to be comfortable. I’m sure you Think you do. You don’t.

We can still be cool, we can still talk, we can call each other friends.

Don’t accuse us of self segregation. I’ll still be around you. You can still come to me with questions. Ask me to explain things, and I will. You won’t pay me, and this isn’t my job, but I can help you out. I won’t do it on my own. You’ll only understand racial politics, and comfort, and internalized racism, if you decide for yourself that you want to. And then I’ll explain things to you, and you’ll understand.

Or you’ll just pretend to understand, then go and tell everyone else that I don’t like white people.

So what now? I’m just a little old antisocial reverse racist, I guess. What should I do?

Do you want me to be with you, and be upset with things you do, feeling like less of a person, invalid, unimportant, hating myself for not being able to say anything? Or do you want me to call you out (except calling out is too aggressive, so let’s say I’ll gently point things out) when you do things that are problematic (except in saying that, you really mean that you never want me to say anything, so that you can continue to do the same things with the bonus of feeling like you’re a good, socially just person)? I was told that if I can’t say anything nice, I shouldn’t say anything at all. Telling people they’ve offended you isn’t nice, and telling people that they’re racist is mean. So can I just go away for a bit, coming around when I feel safe, and am okay not telling the truth?

Nahh because apparently, not constantly being around people isn’t nice, either. How do I win this game, and still feel like a person? How do I play while keeping my self respect? Who’s the ref? I’m guessing you’ll want it to be one of y’all.

So tell me what to do, white people who should be my friends, and as a woman of color, I should only be happy to do it.

Talking to White Girl

“I don’t want a video of me giving a lap dance to be on some white girl’s phone,” I said. Honestly, we weren’t even friends. We would go back to our different schools on the same campus, and she would have that. Would other white students, strangers, see it? That’s just what I needed: to be sexualized by more white people. People had finally stopped expecting me to twerk on command. Enough time had passed since The White Boy Who Tried To Colonize My Vagina had demanded I send him sexual pictures of myself (and looking back, Why did he feel so justified in doing that? Had he seen a different video? Had he just assumed?). I didn’t need anything new popping up now.
“Some white girl?” the white girl repeated, clearly offended I’d mentioned her race. It’s funny. Black people know that they’re black. Hispanic people know that they’re Hispanic. Casually tell a white person that they’re white, and nine times out of ten they’re dumbfounded that you can tell races apart. “I’m a person, you know,” she said defensively, white tears already forming in her eyes. I sighed.
“Oh, I know that,” I told her. Believe me, I thought, Doesn’t no one doubt that white people are people. In fact, when speaking politically correctly, white people are the only people. You have African Americans (qualified Americans), Latinas, Asian Americans (qualified Americans)…no one else has ‘people’ next to it other than White People.
I don’t dance for white people. It’s a principle. I’m not here to entertain. If I dance for my friends, that’s one thing, but if we aren’t friends, you have no right to possess what I’ve done. Enjoy yourself in the moment, then let it go. It’s Not For You.
“Listen,” I said, trying a different approach. “There is a history of women of color being sexualized. I don’t want to add into that.”
“There’s also a history of simply women  being sexualized,” she said, and this was so exasperatingly White Feminist, I didn’t know whether to groan or laugh. I decided to do neither.
“That’s true,” I told her, “But it’s a little worse when it comes to women of color. That’s their role.” I hurried on, before we could get into a ‘black women are beautiful v. ALL women are beautiful’ situation. I also needed to ignore the fact that despite attempting solidarity with the ‘all women being sexualized’ bit, her filming me without permission and feeling entitled to keep it wasn’t exactly feminist. To point that out would derail the conversation. “Why do you think people were so upset with Miley Cyrus?” I asked, inwardly groaning that I had to bring this girl up again. “It’s not because they thought she was a slut, despite what some people were saying. (Some white feminists, I thought, but didn’t say to her. No one wanted the white tears to fall.) It’s because of the wall of women of color she had behind her, the oversexualized women of color who were only used to validate her sexuality as a white woman. This is a problem.”
“Yeah well, I deleted the video, so I don’t get what the problem is,” the white girl said. It was funny. Her head bobbed from side to side, she barely looked at me, her teeth were slightly bared, and her voice was mean. I was talking slowly, quietly, looking straight at her, my hands at my sides. Watch me do everything you’re doing right now, I thought. You’re already telling me that I’m being aggressive as I am. Is that a default? Are all black men thugs, and all black women aggressive?
“You and I just don’t get along, and I don’t see why we need to interact.”
“I agree,” I said, “But for different reasons. I still need you to try to understand why you weren’t in the right.”
“Oh, so you just understand everything, Khalilah? You just have all the answers to the situation, don’t you?”
“No, I don’t know everything.” But I understand more about the situation than you do, white girl.
“Well, if you’d just asked politely, I would have deleted it the first time. You need to be nice when you want people to do things for you.”

So here we were. This white girl was teaching me how to properly behave myself in White World, where you have to politely beg people to consider respecting your rights. Where telling someone that they have to delete something that doesn’t belong to them is the height of rudeness. Where speaking seriously is aggressive, but yelling, “Jesus Christ…you need to chill out!” is not. Where you aren’t allowed to do anything to better yourself, improve your situation, or have any sense of pride, because it either leaves white people out or makes them uncomfortable. Shutting a program down because it’s ‘reverse racist’, and refusing to listen to someone because they’re ‘aggressive’ are the new forms of oppression.
And honestly, who are we even kidding? How can we be surprised when people who have been silenced and oppressed for centuries are even slightly hostile? Do you know one of the reasons the Rwandan genocide happened? The Hutus were tired of being forced into subservience. All of the coups, all of the uprisings, they’re violent. You don’t go up to your oppressors and say, “Excuse me, but would you please give up the majority of your privileges and respect my opinions and see me as a valid person so that we may actually be equals?” It won’t work.
They say, “The Revolution will not be televised.” Some say, “The Revolution will not be on World Star.” I think it should be added on that “The Revolution will not be polite,” because it seems that people do not understand this yet. Particularly those with power.

She’d had enough, I could tell. She was about to leave, and she wouldn’t know anything.
“They tell us to respect SHOFCO youth and the people of Kenya, because we’re coming from different situations, and we don’t understand how we can be offending them,” I said. “And we do that. But we don’t practice it with each other. You and I, we come from different situations, and you won’t understand that. We go to different schools.”
“You’ve said that already,” White Girl said. Offended again, because I guess she thought I was unnecessarily emphasizing our racial differences. I put on my Educate White People Cap, and slipped into my softest, most possibly docile voice.
“When I got accepted to Wesleyan, behind my letter was a page that said, ‘We have great programs for students of color – LIKE YOU.’ That was my first label. Then, they sent us to our separate WesFest – “
“Wait, they were separated?” She was interested now. “Like, at different times?”
“No,” I said. “Well, yes. SOC WesFest was two days before, last year. Otherwise, it’s just separate events.”
“That’s fucked up,” she said.
“Yes,” I agreed. “So then, you come to campus only knowing a small amount of people, And now, I don’t know if you know this (you probably don’t) but the administration pushed SOC into five majors only: English, Psych, Soc, Economics, and AfAm. But as you may know, we only have one and a half professors left in African American Studies. It’s a failing department. That’s why we had all the protests and the march, because what they’re doing to us isn’t fair. And,” I gave a sad laugh, “It was pretty much only students of color who showed up, except for maybe three white people. No one is there for us, and in our majors we’re stuck learning about institutionalized racism, and recognizing micro-aggressions, and smaller-scale racism, but no one else knows and we’re left to deal with it. And then everyone else wants to know why ‘they only sit with each other’ and why there’s ‘self-seggregation’ as if we weren’t behaving the way the administration set us up to! Wesleyan doesn’t care about its students of color.
That’s where I’m coming from, and now here, it’s worse, because there’s no one on this trip to understand me, except maybe Roshanna. And every indication is that we aren’t supposed to be here. People only say ‘howareyou’ to us half the time on the streets.”
“But isn’t that what they call white people?”
“Yes, but we didn’t know that.”
“Ture,” she concurred.
“And besides, that doesn’t always lessen the feeling that we aren’t welcome. People who smile at you, won’t make eye contact. They put their hands out for you and withdraw them when they see us. We aren’t counted…even by SHOFCO! They only praise ‘the great work the mzungus are doing,’ and it’s as if we don’t even exist. We aren’t important.” I was almost talking angrily at this point, so I had to pause and calm down.

“So when I dance on my friend, my friend, and someone else records it, and refuses to listen to me when I tell her she needs to delete it; refuses to see me as a valid enough person to respect – “
“Okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t understand,” the girl said.
“I know that you didn’t,” I told her. “I’m not trying to be condescending.”
“I didn’t know it was like that,” she said. “I wish you’d have said that before.”
“White people don’t like being told about the racial undertones of situations,” I explained. “It makes them uncomfortable.”
“Well, not me!” She said. “I want to know when I’m being racist. I don’t want to be racist at all!”
“Alright,” I told her.

I chose not to point out to her how messed up the situation was. That in order for her to listen to me, I’d had to be as nonthreatening as possible. That despite the fact that she’d wronged me, I’d had to stop and apologize multiple times throughout the story to appease her, and allow her to keep listening. That I’d had to stand below her and make sure she was comfortable before she could take me seriously, despite the fact that this was a part of my life I was talking about, and so had always been serious to me. And most annoying of all was the fact that I’d had to play educator in the first place, and that the amount of contrition she felt was directly related to how personally I wanted to let her know about my life. The situation was racially fucked. I decided to let it go, for the moment.
“I think we’ll be able to get along better, now,” said Martha.
“Yeah,” I agreed, “So do I.”

To My “Color-Blind” White Friends who Want to Use the N-Word

Hey guys,

I’d like to start off by making perfectly clear that I am NOT (repeat, not) calling you racist. If you were to use the word against someone, then yeah, that’d be racist. What you’re doing, trying to use it in order to seem cool and “with it” is not racist in my book. Stupid? Sure. Ignorant? Oh, absolutely. But not racist. So now that I’ve cleared that up, could you all maybe stop yelling that I’m racist/being a reverse racist/being a hypocritic racist for asking you not to use a word whose implications you obviously don’t understand, and for pointing out that you have white privilege? Cool.

I’d also like to take a second to point out that all of you yelling at me, asking me questions and then shouting over my answers, insinuating that I’m making everything up, accusing me of trying to make you feel guilty, and then claiming that I’m being oversensitive is a little too ironic for my liking. Even more so when you consider that I have not once raised my voice and have only spoken calmly. I’m well aware of the fact that the second I actually go off on the lot of you I’ll be the angry black person, or the irrational woman of color, and any hope I have of getting you to actually listen to me will be lost. You, on the other hand can default into the rational category regardless of what you’re doing, so long as you have each other for support. Of course what you’re doing isn’t overreacting! After all, I got upset at one word: “nigga”, and asked you not to use it again. You got upset at two words: “white privilege”, and started to shout.

Why is it that a word blatantly used to perpetuate racism is seen as more socially acceptable than the words referring to a racist system? Is it because the word “nigga” can never be used against you, but the privilege you have works for you, and calling you out for having it requires you to deal with some type of responsibility?

“Stop trying to make us feel guilty! I’m not privileged! I have never benefited from my race.” Here’s the beautiful thing about privilege: most people don’t see it unless they don’t have it. This means that if you grow up with consistent treatment, doing consistent activities, everything about your life will be normal to you and it won’t occur to you to think about why the consistencies keep happening. “That’s just the way things are” = Coward’s way out. Why are things that way?
I’m not going to make a list of things your privilege grants you, because no one has time for that, and enough white people have already started that job for you. If you want, read this article, written by a white woman, as well as this one.

“Yeah, well black people have power, too. The president is black!” Listen. Listenlistenlisten.
A black president is in no way indicative of a post-race society. In fact, that we see him as a black president indicates how racially charged our society still is. He has a qualifier in front of his title! None of the other presidents were known as white presidents, because they didn’t have to be. They were normal. But our president is black, which is abnormal, so of course we must bring attention to that, and not be surprised when major news networks accidentally refer to him as Mr. Obama instead of his actual title. By the way, Obama is not even completely black. We see him as black because America apparently still operates under the one-drop mindset (definitely not post-race), and it’s good to have a black role model in what is arguably a position of power. Still, how exactly are POC benefiting more than white people from Obama’s presidency?
Oh, and if you really think that having a black man in office justifies your use of the n-word, you need to overhaul your thinking processes. You wanna say “nigga”? Why don’t you call Obama and ask him if that’s okay?

“But they say it in hip hop, so it is okay.” That is not how things work. You were upset enough when I tried to explain private prisons and couldn’t “condense” enough for you, so I’ll leave it at this. As my sociology class showed me (heyy Robyn Autry!), things that are produced with the purpose of being authentic just, aren’t. And while I (almost) appreciate your playing me the song “Sucka Nigga” by A Tribe Called Quest, you need to understand: it’s NOT ABOUT YOU. Have you actually listened to the lyrics? Or do you just like the song because when you sing along, you get to say “nigga” over fifty times? It’s about a black man who understands why many black people don’t like the use of the word while many others have adopted it, partially as a term of endearment within the black community. Rap Genius actually refers to this as “flipping the word on its racist roots”. However, this is what black people are doing. White people are mentioned in the song using the word in one context. Please re-listen.

“Well, it’s just slang. It’s not fair if everybody else gets to say it and we can’t. Why shouldn’t I get to say it, just because some people are sensitive about it?” First of all, what?
Now moving on: are you really so important and special (and sensitive) that you can’t let people of color — and in this case, specifically black people — have just one thing to themselves? This is white girls getting offended by #blackgirlsrock all over again, except maybe worse.

Black people reclaimed the n-word, as your song points out, to change its meaning. At some point and in some places, the motivating idea of empowerment behind the reclamation got lost in translation. It’s here, I believe, that white people began to see the word as something cool to say again. Non-black privilege (because other POC do this, too) allows you to disconnect the hateful and somewhat recently hopeful pasts connected with “nigga/er”, and see it as something that has no meaning.
Or maybe it’s just more cultural appropriation (oh, I’m sorry, I meant your stylistic choices). You wanna twerk? You wanna wear dashikis, and Native American headdresses, and force slang words that should be said simply, naturally, smoothly, out of your mouth in chipped bursts like they’re on display? There’s doing something to do it, and there’s doing something simply because. There’s doing something because you don’t want to be left out, and doing something because you understand. Simple cultural appropriation is annoying at best. You’re in “unacceptable” territory.

(As a side note, I want to emphasize that I don’t only have a problem with white people using this word. I actually wish that no one used it at all, including black people, because I think there’s been a disconnect within the black community as to why the word was re-appropriated in the first place. Still, I can accept that I’ll have to deal with that. When it comes to non-black POC, however, what are you doing? I know that there are other derogatory names for your races, so why don’t you go re-appropriate those and use them amongst yourselves? If that idea offends you or seems ridiculous, is it a stretch to suggest that some reflection is in order?)

I think now would be a good time to reiterate that I don’t think you’re bad people. Having privilege doesn’t make you bad. I have privilege as a light-skinned person. I know you don’t believe that colorism is a thing, or that people bleach their skin/use skin lighteners in many parts of the world, but it is, and they do. Abusing your privilege, or being deliberately ignorant of it, is what makes you guilty.

Sorry if I’m annoying you. I know it makes our friendship awkward. Honestly though, using what is arguably one of America’s worst racial slurs, especially coming from your lips, and then not expecting to talk about race? That’s white privilege. It bothers you to hear about an oppression that you could indirectly (or directly) be contributing to? Try actually being oppressed by it.

If you really believe the word is so meaningless, I’d suggest not fighting so hard for the right (which you DON’T have) to say it.