I Am A Racist And I Am A Sexist And Probably Some Other -Ists, Too

This is one of those posts I’m a little bit afraid to write, which at least is the sign of an interesting post, and occasionally the sign of a post that needs to get written. I’m hoping — ha ha heh heh ahem gulp fingers crossed — it’s the latter. (It’s also a way long post, so, erm — sorry?)

Hi, I’m the Internet’s Chuck Wendig, and I’m a racist.

And also a sexist.

And probably a handful of other “*-ists,” too.

I know. You’re saying, “Chuck, but you’re a feminist. And you speak out on Twitter against things like this.” Which is accurate. I do. And it doesn’t change my core assertion that I am these things.

Like, I’m not a super-racist. I don’t have a white robe with a peaked hood. I’m not some kind of uber-sexist, where I have some secret library of Pick-Up Artist books because I think women are actually just here to be the breeding stock for powerful men like myself. (Please note that I typed “powerful men like myself” with an eye-roll so dramatic I got dizzy and fell out a window.)

The thing is, I don’t believe these things at all. I’m not a conscious, overt racist or sexist. In fact, consciously, overtly, I’m against those things. I actively oppose them (though probably not as much as I should, and definitely not as much as I’d like).

And yet, I’m still racist and sexist and other -ists.

A lot of it is internal. Little knee-jerk reactions that speak to old, irrational, utterly dumb preconceived notions and prejudices — like ghosts that haunt the psychic hallways, ghosts I thought were exorcized but who still linger in interstitial spaces. (Want an example? When you walk the streets of New York, you hear a lot of different languages spoken. This is an awesome thing, ultimately, but once in a while I hear my father’s voice in my head: “Speak English.” And it’s like, whoa, where the fuck did that come from? How do I know they don’t speak English? How do I know they’re not trying to learn? Why do I give a shit at all? Half the people in this country that were born here don’t speak English well enough for me, so what the hell, brain?)

A good example is how I looked at my bookshelves a couple years ago and was like, “Yeah, wow, that’s a lot of white male authors on my shelf.” It was an error that needed to be corrected. Not because the books I had were bad, but because I was missing out on great stories and powerful voices — my reading experience was incomplete. My perspective was limited.

But it’s not always internal, either. Occasionally it’s woefully, regrettably external.

Sometimes, a thing just pops out of my mouth. Like a cork. My wife will be like, “You know, that was maybe a little sexist.” And I’ll be like, blink blink blink, whoa, okay, you’re right. I like to think I’m this enlightened guy and then it’s like — oh, yeah, no, I still say ignorant stuff.

Actually, the most recent one for me was transphobia. Like, up until a handful of years ago, I had no idea how transphobic I was. It wasn’t even a thing I recognized. I’d use trans slurs thinking they were totally fine. “Tranny” is a word I used, thinking, well, gosh, it’s just a shortened version of transexual or transgender and that’s cool, right?, not actually taking the time to remind myself that most slurs are insidiously simple like that. Many are just shortened words or quippy nicknames — harmless on the surface, but they’re knives that cut deep. And worse, indicative of use by powerful oppressors who don’t deserve to be the ones to give other people nicknames. (If you don’t understand this phenomenon and you think those words aren’t harmful, imagine you’re a kid, and a bully gives you a nickname that’s just an off-kilter version of your own name. It’s not your friends giving you the name, it’s someone who wants to — and maybe does — abuse you. Even a shortened, simplistic nickname is toxic, cruel, meant to mock you and steal your power.)

This seems like a dumbass idea to admit these things. I mean, the smart thing to do might be to just shut the fuck up about it, quietly fix the hole in the boat, and float on down the river. But this feels important to talk about. It feels useful to admit. Because I think a lot of folks have boats with holes in the hull that they don’t even know about. And here you might be saying, what’s this about? Well, part of it is spurred on by the Daniel “Lemony Snicket” Handler thing that happened at the National Book Awards. (Short version: in giving an award to Jacqueline Woodson, he then made a racist joke about watermelon. He has since apologized and donated money — here’s the wrap-up.) Part of it is just, y’know, confessional. It’s a hard topic and shitty things like this are good sometimes to drag out into the air and the light if only because that’s how you see them and how you (individually and collectively) deal with them.

So. Back to me, because after all this is a blog and blogs are pretty much me, me, me.

Why am I a racist, sexist, *-ist? Why are a lot of us that way?

I think this comes from a handful of places.

First, how we’re raised. Were my parents racist, sexist, homophobic, all that? You can bet your ass they were. Listen, real talk time? I grew up hearing the whole catalog of slurs. From my father, at least. At dinner, in the car, everywhere. Not just the slurs, but the stereotypes, too. It’s easy to blame him and shake my fist at him — but first, he’s dead now, so I’m pretty sure that yelling at the grave will do little good except rile the zombies that dwell there. Second, ennnh, there’s only so much you can do to change other people. You can try. You should try. But the generations who came before me are fucked up in a whole unholy host of ways. Often because of what trickled down from the generations that preceded them — old ways and ideas are inherited like genes.

Second, it comes from the media. The media is very good at kicking up dust. We’ve long gone past the point of the news offering up news — it’s framed as entertainment but even there, that word doesn’t quite fit. Our media is built around attention, and conflict, and drama, and while those things are quite lovely in our fiction, they’re straight-up toxic when it comes to our culture. The media is driven by the privileged status quo and it reflects that. After 9/11, Islamophobia was at a major high (and remains prevalent). Because the news media is very good at putting forward a narrative that carries that cultural phobia forward — it’s not that what they’re reporting is always untrue, but rather, that it’s a lie of omission. You get white people on TV all the time who are doing wonderful things — “Look at this Mayor, saving a cat from a tree. Look at this firefighter, fighting fires. Bake sale! Rescue dogs! White people doing white people good!” But when Islam pops up in the news, it’s pretty much, y’know, “ISIS AL QAEDA OSAMA (wait he’s dead) SHOE BOMB BEHEADINGS FEAR THE MUSLIM MENACE (we didn’t say that but wink wink no really be afraid).” They don’t often show, “Look, here’s a Muslim guy who opened a museum or who patches potholes for his community.” I mean, they don’t even show, “Look, here’s a Muslim family who stays quiet and has jobs and pays their taxes just like you, so for fuck’s sake, relax.” They tweak that twinge in your gut that, when you’re about to get on a plane and you see a guy in a turban (spoiler warning: he’s probably Sikh), your buttcheeks clench up and you think, OH GOD HE’S A BOMBER, even though that makes literally no sense and is pure, distilled kneejerk racism.

The news has been stirring the transphobia pot for years. “Eddie Murphy was caught with a transsexual prostitute,” and they make it seem like it’s the strangest, creepiest thing in the world. The prostitute is painted as inhuman, alien, someone very distinctly Other. And no one in the media at that time countered that narrative.

(And by the way, don’t think that this media problem is limited to news. Look at most of the winners of Survivor and — mmm, yeah, most of them are white, because of course they stack the show with white people and white people tend to vote out the people of color. Most of our dramas and comedies are predominantly white and straight and frequently male-driven, too. Films? Yep, same problem. I mean, how many women directors are out there? Or women comic book artists? These mycelial, fungal threads are all up in our media culture.)

Third, power structures. Institutions have ingrained power structures and nobody wants those to change. The people in power (who are predominantly white, male, straight) want to remain in power and so they keep people who look like them and act like them in place. It’s like an oblique form of nepotism — no, those other people aren’t your actual family, but when it comes to all these -isms I’m talking about, they’re wink wink like your family.

Fourth, laziness. I think humans are fundamentally lazy. Challenging a worldview doesn’t seem like a lot of work compared to, like, digging a ditch, but breaking one paradigm and replacing it with another takes psychological effort, and we’re not always very good at it.

And here you’re saying, well, I’m excusing the -isms. Right? By identifying causes outside of me, I’m blaming those structures and those institutions which means I can wipe my hands and say, whew, and go back to being whoever I want to be. I can look at the scraggly, unkempt lawns of my neighbors and use it to excuse why my lawn is scraggly and unkempt, too.

But I’m not excusing it.

I’m just trying to say that it comes from somewhere. It’s important to recognize things like that so we can deal with them — individually and, yes, culturally.

Because there’s a fifth thing, an umbrella cause to it all, and that’s privilege. Privilege is pretty easy to see in action — if a straight white dude walks into an Institution of Power (a bank, a college, a TV station, whatever), he has a statistically better chance of finding success there than if he were some combination of not straight, non-white, and non-dudely. Look at it this way: amongst Fortune 500 CEOs, most of them are white guys. So, you either have to admit that there’s a privilege to the power structure or you instead have to opine that white dudes are just better than everyone else, which is fucked up and hyper-privileged and oh, hey, shame on you. (And the same goes with the disproportionate incarceration of black men in the US prison system. You either have to admit that there’s a continued privilege to being, well, not a black guy when it comes to the law, or you have to be a shitty person who says, “Well, maybe it’s just because white people aren’t criminals, haw haw haw,” which, y’know, fuck you for saying that. The privilege is up and down the road for people like me — we get the education, the jobs, the money, the guns, the assumptions of innocence, the breaks, all of it.)

The freaky thing about privilege though is that it’s blinding.

We just don’t see it.

It’s like an accent we don’t hear (“Me? I don’t have an accent. It’s you that sounds weird”). It’s like failing to recognize our own stink.

Privilege is often invisible to those that possess it.

This is due, I suspect, to a few things.

One, a lot of folks with privilege are not perfectly privileged, and so it becomes a whole harder to see and then admit. Like, if you’re a white male who has a shit job and not a lot of money it’s hard to recognize your privilege — in part because you have less of it (in RPG terms, money adds bonus modifiers to your existing Privilege Score).

Two, because guilt is often a hidden thing and we don’t make a lot of effort to drag it out into the light. Inherently we recognize privilege (“That cop let me go, and he wouldn’t have if I was black”), but then do a lot of intellectual squaredancing to cover that up (“Buh, whuh, well, it’s not the color of my skin it’s that I drive a nice car and I work hard and was friendly and lots of other reasons that are actually only indicative of my privilege and ahh crap there’s that word again”). Or worse, you don’t recognize it because, “Oh, see, he gave me a ticket, too, so, hah, privilege isn’t real.” Yeah, okay, sure, you got the ticket, but you didn’t get shot, did you?

Three, an unconscious desire to keep our spot. A meme went around Facebook recently (I know, I know) that showed how one teacher demonstrated privilege by giving everyone in the class a wadded up piece of paper and asking them to shoot a basket into the trashcan at the fore of the room. And the people in the back had a hard time making the shot, but the people at the front had it easy. (I’d also add in the axis that says with every new aspect of privilege you gain — white, straight, male, money, etc. — you get another shot at the basket.) The people at the “front of the class” don’t want to move their seat. Exposing privilege — showing a rigged system — is exposing the benefits you have received. That makes folks uncomfortable.

Four, we’re frequently surrounded by a total lack of diversity — in our schools, in our social circles, at work and in the media — that it’s hard to even figure out that privilege is a thing that exists much less it’s a thing we possess.

Five, the status quo is easy to see, but difficult to see what makes it problematic. The way things are presently often feels very normal — “it is what it is.” Inertia. Acceptance. Reality.

Though, once you see privilege —

Man, you see it everywhere.

(Same goes for rape culture. At first you’re like RAPE CULTURE ISN’T REAL, but once you have your eyes opened to it, it’s like, oh god we live in a horrible reality what the fuck is wrong with us.)

So, what’s the point of this whole post?

You know, I dunno. I’m not saying anything particularly new or revelatory, I realize. I just think it’s important to admit these things and apologize for harms done — because once you kick over the log and see what squirms underneath you can take to addressing it.I regret saying stupid, shitty, edgelord, South Parky stuff, of course. The goal is to move forward and do better. But you can’t deal with it until you see it. I’m a privileged guy. I don’t always recognize my own ignorance — in fact, the ability to not recognize it and to continue on like nothing happens is itself part of privilege. I don’t say any of this to excuse it or to just push past it, but rather to shine a light on it. It’s why we need diversity. It’s why we need to challenge ourselves and others to do better. It’s why “outrage” sometimes matters — it’s very easy to feel “outrage fatigue,” but that in and of itself is a privilege because some people have to live that outrage every day. We can just turn it off, but others? It’s there, 24/7.

What’s to be done?

I don’t have any great answers.

I’d say it’s important to listen.

It’s critical to signal boost.

It’s important to believe what other people tell us when they say they’re victims of these -isms that plague us individually and institutionally.

It’s vital to recognize our own privilege and — counterintuitively — work against it.

And I think we need to pass the good ideas onto our kids and not the shitty prejudices that came to us from generations before.

Like I said earlier, we look to other people’s unkept lawns and use it as an excuse not to keep our own, but that’s all twisted. We should do the other thing. We should keep our own lawns in the hope that it encourages others to keep theirs in return.

We gotta do better. And hope others join us.

I’m obviously a writer, so for me, it’s important to see diversity in writing and publishing — and not just in the half-a-nod “We need more white guys writing diversity into their books,” but also in the writers themselves, and within the industry. As such, I now point you to:

The We Need Diverse Books Indiegogo campaign.

I politely ask that you go there, give a little something.

And as I’ve said in the past, maybe take a gander at your own bookshelves, too. And your own work, And, if you’re in the publishing industry, look to your own hallways.


Thanks for reading.

158 responses to “I Am A Racist And I Am A Sexist And Probably Some Other -Ists, Too”

  1. I know exactly what you mean about those incipient thoughts in the back of your mind. I genuinely try hard not to be any of those “-ists” you talk about, but sometimes those thoughts creep in, and sometimes the old ways and old things we heard creep into our actions. The best we can do is try to stop them and replace them with better thoughts and actions. That is, until they come out with brain-weed-whackers so we can just go in and hack out all that bullshit.

  2. Great post, Chuck. It brought up some very specific things for me.

    I am very sexist. It’s weird. I used to HATE men. Why? Okay, bad shit happened to me. Rape, abuse, incest. Every time I saw a woman cry, it was because of a man. A boyfriend said to me: You are sexist. Whaaat? No, only men can be sexist. Because men suck. Then I had three sons. Ohhhh.

    I grew up poor. I was one of the few white children in my neighborhood. Poor as in cockroaches, orange shag carpet, an ice chest instead of a fridge and lots and lots of chicken pot pies. I got my white, chubby, freckle-faced, yellow-haired ass whomped on by beautiful, raven-haired, smooth-skinned beauties on a regular basis because they hated “little blond white bitches.” When I took a class on cultural diversity the first thing the teacher did was start hammering into us the concept of white privilege. I was livid. Where’s MY white privilege? I want my white privilege, waaahhhhhh! Do I get it now? Yes.

    When my son was in first grade, he got in the car after school. He sighed. “Mom? I”m white, aren’t I?”
    He was sad. I knew immediately what the deal was. It was right before MLK’s birthday. I was furious. How dare they instill white guilt in my beautiful, innocent baby boy. He’s only six! Plenty of time for that later. I wanted to get out and go freak out on his teacher. Instead, I said. “Good news, son. You aren’t all the way white. You’re part Japanese.” He said: “Good.”

    I have been married three times. Because I am NOT afraid of commitment. Ha. I believe strongly in diversity. My first marriage was to a gun-toting, John Deere hat wearing marine. Good times. *shakes head, nooooo!*

    Next it was a long-haired, half Japanese guitar player. Good times. Seriously.

    Finally, I married a beautiful, sexy woman with a nice rack. Hehe, just kidding. (No I’m not.) What? Told you I was a sexist. It’s okay though, I can say that shit cause I’m a girl too.

    Guess what? I’m still the only one who fucking cooks. Why? Cause that’s what I was raised to do.

    Last, but not least. My amazing Uncle Rick one day (more like, over a period of years) became my Aunt Kaylie. What? MY Uncle? The only positive male role model in my life? The one who didn’t beat me or molest me? The one who took me to museums and bought me books? No!

    I rarely talk to him. I mean, her. I know.

    Now that you know entirely too much about me, what is the point of all this? That it should be simple, but it’s not. It’s not simple. I wish it were, I really do.

  3. Thanks for the post Chuck. And as another white male I totally agree, we’re ALL full of -isms. In fact, we literally can’t help it. But we can call ourselves on the carpet for them and change what those -isms are.

    And although I agree that everything you mentioned has some influence, I have to +1 Anne Leonard’s and Joanna DaCosta’s comments that the ultimate reason isn’t because of our society but because we’re hard-wired to distinguish “us” vs. “them”. For our Neanderthal ancestors that was a survival instinct developed over millions of years of evolution, and our society and all the issues you brought up come from that instinct, not the other way around.

    But although human nature really hasn’t changed since the dawn of civilization (our society may be more advanced, but our brains are wired the same as caveman Bob’s), our society has. And saying we’re hard-wired to categorize people isn’t an excuse to be an infinit-ist or to ignore all those issues you brought up. Instead, by recognizing just how screwed up those categorizations are, it’s an excuse to change.

    Because here’s the real thing. Although we’re hard-wired to make distinction of “us” vs. “them”, we’re not hard-wired to any specific grouping. We get to choose who we bring into our “us” and who we throw out into the cold “them”. Our parents and our society’s past is responsible for all those little -ism land-mines already in our heads and emotional responses. But calling out all our -isms, like you did in this post, allows us to choose to recognize how screwed up our groupings are, and change them.

    And this is where everything else you brought up about what supports our existing -isms absolutely comes into play – it reinforces our old -isms and makes it harder for us to expand our circle, because we’re subconsciously programmed with all these bigoted thoughts and phrases and automatic reactions and prejudices that we subconsciously exclude people without knowing it, and even after we get past that and include someone we spout something offensive to someone we now care about (or just millions of people we’ve never met when we shine our inner bigot at the National Book Awards).

    Someone else commented that sometimes people are offended at this kind of admission of *-ism. There will always be people offended (at the admission, or just about anything else we say or do). They have a right to be offended. And we have a right to make the admission both so we can put ourselves on notice and so we can encourage other people to inspect their own -isms.

    Thanks for putting it out there.

    • Hey Chuck,

      Thanks for the reminder. We all need it sometimes.

      May I humbly point one think out?

      Ableism doesn’t even make it to the table when we have these discussions about the -isms most of the time. I know I have a ton of privelaged cause I’m a white straight woman, from a middle class family in the Midwest. but I also get really tired of the fact that my minority status doesn’t even make the rounds when it comes time to talk about these things.

      Disability is often the forgotten minority.

      We blind folk are supposed to be thankful when someone bothers to make their website or app accessible to us.

      We have 70% underemployment rate.

      We can be paid less than minimum wage, legally.

      Most blind kids with some vision left, and some with none never get taught Braille, or maybe get it as adults like me. Always much slower that way. 90% of blind people with jobs know Braille, but about 10% are actually able to use it.

      I say all this not to ask for pity, but just to ask for an ally that remembers disabled folks are also still fighting for many of the civil rights afforded to other minorities.

      Also, sorry I can’t speak to the other disabilities. This is what I know. I stand with them, but I only “understand” the blindness bit, so yeah, my privelage is showing too.

      Anyway, thanks for the reminder, and cheers! Love your blog.

      • You’re completely right. This goes across all disabilities from the mentally ill to the people with physical issues. I have a friend who was invited to a disability talk, he is in a wheelchair. The talk was held in a building without access. There are a million similar stories. People who would never dare say the N word have no problem using the R word. And the patronizing is nauseating. “Hey we let this disabled kid play in the last 5 minutes of the last game of the season, aren’t we awesome for treating him like a human being!” Blah.

      • Ableism and ageism are two prevalent problems that fall through a lot of cracks. When I used to work at the public library, part of my job was to help create outreach and programs that spoke to the under-served portions of the community, which in part meant outreach to the disabled and to the elderly.

        • They are indeed. And you caught me with ageism… I forget sometimes that this is a thing. Sadly you are all too correct on that point.

        • I never realized just how bad ageism was until I (ah-hem) got to be a certain age. But since I look younger than I am, people make all sorts of stupid comments to me because they think I’m their age or younger.

          I was recently in China, and one of the women on my tour said you had to be “really careful” about which tour groups you traveled with, since you didn’t want to get stuck on a tour with people in their 40s and 50s. “They hold you back,” she said.

          I was honestly shocked. And pretty damn happy when everyone in their 40s kicked this woman’s ass at everything physical. It shouldn’t matter, but it does, and suddenly I understand why women lie about their age. I thought it was silly before–it beats the alternative (har-de-har-har)–but now I get it. It’s not necessarily that women are ashamed of their age, but that we don’t want others to judge us by or limit us because of a stupid number…a number that means nothing more than “This is how many years I’ve lived on this planet.”

          And this particular woman was in her mid-thirties. She should have known better, because in six short years she’ll be one of those people she tries to avoid.

          • I’m a bit late here, but I want to point out to you (storyteller5) that ageism goes the other way as well. I’ve experienced a lot of ageism in my field of work. People think I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’m in my early twenties. Even though I have more experience under my belt than a lot of the older women in my same field.

  4. The problem is not any one group of people. Not the Muslims, the white dudes, the feminists, “the gays” or anyone else. Everyone is the devil to someone. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard a woman whisper “If there were no men, there would be no poverty, no oppression, no war. Hmmm. A romantic and intriguing thought. I’m sure I have nodded my head in agreement to that sentiment myself. In fact, I made up a story about it. Here is the short, spoiler version:

    Opening scene: A young Muslim woman straps herself with a large amount of explosives. She charges into a Mosque filled with men and detonates herself.

    Prior to this, she sent out letters to leaders around the world. “The killings will continue until change is realized.”

    Middle scene: The revolution is worldwide. Men are eliminated. There is enough sperm and embryos banked to make men unnecessary for a long time. Peace ensues.

    Final scene: A young slave girl slits her wrists after poisoning her female master. In blood she scrawls the words: “The killings will continue until change is realized.”

    Not to be a negative Nancy here, but this is how I feel about humanity. We are the problem, all of us.

    Too much?

  5. I had a similar situation like one of the example you used up above. I work in a hospital and we have a very diverse group of people there but today, I saw someone in a turban and that’s not something I’m used to unless I see it in the news. I panicked the first time I saw him but he didn’t bat his eye at me and kept going. I put it out of my mind until I saw him on my floor, two feet from me.
    I automatically thought why is he up, what is he doing? I blacked out the other people with him. All I saw was this man looking around my floor. I turned away to get myself together. I knew better than that. The room I was about to enter could kill me before that thought ever came across that man. I was ashamed of myself.
    When he and his family came over to ask me where they could find a particular room, there was nothing threatening about them. They were just concerned people looking for their mother, whom is really nice.
    I have one son and four god-children who are stuck to my hip and I would hate for them to grow up in a world where they get stereotyped before people could even get to know them. I can admit that when I first started working there I was intimidated by all the white doctors and the white nurses and then I had a thought, wait, I was hired here just like you were. They saw something in me too and it wasn’t my skin.
    The intimidation comes from lack of knowledge I believe. If we don’t know anything about the other races and choices (or however) then we tend to catalog every one as one. Its the worse mistake we can make. Sure, something are true about certain groups but we can’t be defined by those stereotypes. We can’t be boxed in either; we have to branch out, experience life around someone different than you. If they don’t like you trying to reach, then its their problem.

  6. You’re right, Chuck. It’s a f’d up world we live in. I remember my mother talking about (as far as I can remember) the only black family in the town where I grew up, wanting to demonstrate her ‘open-mindedness’ and saying, ‘and they’re so clean!’ Then there was the time we went to a swimming pool and there was a sign on the clubhouse door, “No Catholics allowed.” WTF?

    I catch myself sometimes too, saying or thinking those “ist” words and thoughts that come out of nowhere. I’ve tried not to pass along what was “normal” from when I was young to my kids. Time will tell, I suppose.

    • I remember when the topic of racism came up once my MIL said “When I was young (insert eye roll here) racism wasn’t a problem. We didn’t even have Mexicans in my town.”

      Old people. Sheesh.
      Wait. “Old people?” Dang, was that a stereotype?

  7. To Mike S. — Beg to differ, Mike. I didn’t say that liberalism espouses that we should all be equal in ability. It does however idealize equality of outcomes using grievance and victimhood as a rationale (which is not to deny the fact of victimhood, only the degree alleged.) If liberalism stopped at “equality under the law” who would complain? However “equality under the law” becomes interpreted not as “equality of opportunity,” but rather equality of outcomes. carried to its logical conclusion (and NOT reductio ad absurdum), socialism. Would you deny that liberals use power and rhetoric to “smooth out” income disparity? the priveleges that arise therefrom? deny actual differences among groups, e.g., Harvard’s enrollment limitation of Asians since, due to their family values and incredible work ethic, would dominate the student body? Do you characterize such a use of Harvard’s power as “equality under the law?” I mean, c’mon! And when you use language like “a lie made up by coservatives” it precisely reflects the kind of ad hominem attack and close-minded antagonism that precludes rational discussion & debate. My 35 years as a liberal confers on me an intimate understanding of liberalism’s thought, behaviors, tactics, and politics. I am happy to exchange points of view and debate issues. But on their merits, and within the frameworkd of goodwil (meaning our hearts are in the right place) — including in this forum which Chuck has provided — and not poisoned by ad hominem attacks. It is not my intention to convert you since I am acutely aware that liberalism is a religion. But as to ideas, let’s exchange them and see whose stand up to scrutiny. Finally, if you suspend your antagonism toward conservative thought, you would discover that we agree on as much as we disagree on. Prejudice is not restricted to race, class, and gender, but is alive and well in the realm of thought.

    • Lanny,
      I disagree on equality of outcomes, and I disagree that calling it a lie takes things too far. Supporters of liberalism want a basic guaranteed minimum set of human rights for everyone – food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care. It makes the most sense to ask the people that have the most money to cover the cost of those human rights, because they lose the smallest purchasing power in proportion to their total wealth to do so. Asking a minimum wage person to carry the cost of food for a person to injured to work just replaces one starving adult with another starving adult. Asking a multi-millionaire to carry the same cost for ten thousand poeple unable (or yes, even unwilling) to work, and he or she has to give up their ninth vacation home.
      Beyond that, there is no expectation of equality of ability or outcome, and that genuinely is a conservative lie. We’re not asking for a Mercedes in every driveway, an iPhone in every pocket, a 60 inch television in every living room, and no poor or rich among us.
      The Ivy League universities are a separate topic, I don’t think it’s useful to discuss the larger topic of liberal goals with a specific example of foolishness. I didn’t bring up all of the American conservatives that support Intelligent Design, because likewise I think that’s a distraction from the real topics at hand.

      • I used “to” when I meant “too” in the sentence fragment “person to injured”. I apologize for the grammatical error.

      • I don’t really want to start into a whole left/right liberal/conservative debate right now, but I think you’re seriously over-generalizing.

        “Asking a multi-millionaire to carry the same cost for ten thousand people unable (or yes, even unwilling) to work, and he or she has to give up their ninth vacation home.”

        If you only think about the multi-millionaires with nine vacation homes, your argument holds water. What about the not-quite-millionaire who worked his/her ass off for thirty years, being not asked, but forced to give up literally 45%, very nearly half, of his income.

        What about when the business he worked his ass off to build is forced to pay the same rate? What happens is that the business ceases to grow, or at least slows its growth down? It can hire less people.

        I know this example doesn’t fit all, or even most situations, but it is a situation I’ve seen first-hand, and more than once.

        Just some food for thought.

        • ^ And here I show my sexist-ness, writing “his” over and over. I’ll need to work harder at this. I think this nicely proves the point of the original post.

        • Kveldman,
          I work as an engineer. I worked hard through school, and I work hard at my job, and I sacrifice some of my evenings and weekends to keep my skills current. But here’s the thing – my neighbor works as a landscaper. His day starts earlier than mine, and ends later. And I’ve seen him work and he’s done work for me. He busts his behind. I am paid three times as much. I don’t work harder, I was just luckier – born with more aptitude for math, and I encountered the right mentors in school and at my first jobs.

          And that’s all life. Luck is the biggest factor. You win the genetic lottery. You get the right teachers. You don’t get childhood cancer. You aren’t born mentally handicapped. Why shouldn’t I pay more taxes than my neighbor?

          • Mike S. –

            You make some very valid points that I can certainly agree with. But I never said you shouldn’t pay more taxes. I think you should. That’s why these things are based on percentages instead of hard numbers. My point was only that forcibly taking nearly half of one’s earnings takes away a lot of the incentive to produce more value. To use your example, if Engineering (which based on the pay rate you described is a move valuable service) paid the same as landscaping, would you have made all those sacrifices to learn and maintain the skill? Most people wouldn’t, and then there would be fewer people providing that valuable service.

            I appreciate the thoughtful (and respectful) response. You have certainly made me think. I’ll leave my argument there, if you’d like the last word.

        • Kveldman (I’m responding here because I can’t give a nested reply to your most recent comment. I’m not sure if that’s a limitation of the commenting software or a quirk with my browser.),

          Remember first, I don’t work as hard as my neighbor that makes less money. I busted my behind in school and lose a few hours in evenings and weekends – he’s working a 60 hour week, and has been since he graduated from high school. So until you structure the tax code such that my net pay is less than his, I am still better off even if my taxes are proportionately higher.

          But further, outside of silly tax codes that reduce total net pay as income increases (e.g. something absurd that might work like this: a person with a $50,000 salary keeps $30,000 while a person with a $100,000 salary keeps $20,000), aside from that, taxes on the highest portions of income levels still let the worker / investor / inheritor / lottery winner buy more stuff than the average person. If I made $800,000 a year and all of my income above $500,000 was taxed at 70%, I still finish the year with $90,000 I can spend that I wouldn’t get otherwise. That’s still a lot of money. It’s not the $300,000 I would get with no taxes, but how many people motivated enough to create a million dollar business do you really think will just walk away because they’re missing 70% of the last half of their income?

          In the United States, some portions of the tax cuts under President Bush expired in 2012. The highest salary tax rate is 39.6%. The highest investment income tax rate (capital gains tax plus the new Medicare tax that is part of ACA/Obamacare) is 23.9%. Those are not outrageously high, they are in line with tax levels in the US from the 1940s to 2001. In most of the rest of the world, including countries with a strong economy like Germany, the tax rates on the top earners are much higher and have been much higher, and the supposed dis-incentive to perform has not had any measurable impact.

          Conversely, if you cut my taxes and shifted the burden on to people making $50,000 or $80,000 per year, that takes away their ability to pay rent, to eat, to attend school, to send their kids to schools, to buy phones or laptops or tools, to save for retirement. Instead of becoming less likely to depend upon the state for help, they become more likely. They also add more cycling money to the economy with purchases of fuel, electricity, schooling, public transit, food, and so forth than my equivalent spending in a smaller number of luxury purchases.

          I wish you well, thanks for the discussion.

  8. Thanks for this post. I’ve seen these issues discussed a lot lately in various social media sites and forums, because of the racist comment at the National Book Awards and because of the “shirtstorm,” and because of gamergate, and other incidents that have highlighted sexism and racism in the literary, scientific, gaming, and SF and F communities recently. Predictably, there’s been more backlash against the people pointing out the racism, herero and cis chauvanism, and the sexism than there has been productive discussion of racism, transphobia and homophobia, and sexism. Attempts to bring these things up, or even explain why they are problematic, often results in storms of mockery, derision and hostility (not to mention more serious and sinister threats).

    What is so often missed is that it’s never just about one joke (or even whether or not it was a thoughtless gaffe or genuinely meant bigotry), or one shirt (innocent screw up or evidence of more sinister sexism) or that one stereotypically portrayed character, or just that one racial/gender/orientation/ableist slur that “wasn’t even meant as a slur.”

    Each incident alone is just a drop in the ocean. But it’s an ocean that a lot of people are still drowning in. Cultural context, relative social power, and history do matter.

    And yes, I’m racist, hetero and cis normative, ableist, and even sexist too in some ways. It’s pretty damned impossible not to be. But I hope I can be self-reflective enough to think about things and do my best to change when I become aware of some way an assumption I’ve always had is hurtful.

  9. I have lived in what is highly considered a poor area of Brisbane. And I’m considered a nice, generous person – most times. I don’t see myself as racist – but do believe people who come my country should earn an honest living and bring something here to add to our economy and not take something from it. I to believe if you’re a refugee you must learn of our ways, our religions, our lifestyle – you don’t bring your shit, your war, your crap, or any of what you were living with and have told us you’re currently escaping from – with you. You didn’t want it over there, so we sure as shit don’t want it here.

    Most of all: don’t try to change our laws to integrate into your life. We are a multicultural society already; we don’t flip, jump, cover up our women’s head/hair/arms/eyes or other body parts because the men think we’re whores. If you’re into that, go back where you came from.

    No I’m not a racist… I’m an Australian.

    We started out as a prison camp of the British.

    The British invaded this country and moved the people who were already here on to created this country… yes, they invaded…

    It’s been 200 years and we are still paying the price for changing something which should never have been touched in the first place… well, not in that way.

    Now, it’s happening again. And it’s modern Australians who aren’t happy as well as ancient Australians of the older, Dreamtime Australians.

    We’ve had people migrate here before to escape other countries. They’ve brought new things here, new cultures to improve our economy… it’s been great.

    But maybe, I’m not making much sense and it’s happening where you guys are too… and you’re feeling the same way as me. You’re not a racist deep down… but it pisses you off that this is happening to your community. That you feel unsafe around your normally safe area. So, really, what can we do but act like we do around them, act uneasy.

    • Australia is easily one of the most brazenly racist ‘liberal’ societies that exist today (only being beaten out by the USA) so excuse me if I take your ‘I’m not racist statement’ on the account you followed it up by being extremely racist. And just completely ignorant…and just the direct opposite of the soul of this post. You don’t get to tell refugees that they should completely and utterly bow down to a society in which they literally have no power over anything because you feel ‘unsafe’. You don’t get to be violently xenophobic and say you’re not a racist. You’re clearly racist, the privilege of not being called a racist flew out the window when you said terrible racist shit (‘because the men think we’re whores’…Jesus fuck). Like get a fucking clue.

      • Are you an Australian? If you are, well you’re very honest… if you’re not… you have a lot to learn about us.

        I was born here and people have a backwards way of looking at us.

        And did you speed read my comment or are you dumb inside and out?

        • I’ve read your comment twice and in depth. This part staggers me: “The British invaded this country and *moved the people who were already here on*” That’s a very creative interpretation of genocide. If you applied your own thinking, you’d be adopting the ways of the original locals instead of making them change to accommodate you. But it’s always the “other” who’s at fault.

        • I’m Australian and I completely disagree with everything you’ve just said. This makes me ashamed as an Australian to have people like you rant on about refugees as if they’re some kind of enemy. They’re not trying to change our culture or our religion, that’s absurd. It’s almost like you’re associating every refugee with a member of ISIS. Obviously people like you voting for Abbott and his ‘stop the boats’ policy. How about watching some credible news sources and make an effort to talk to these people, inform youself properly of their situations and you’ll find put they’re not different to anyone else – except they’re less privleaged and need our help!

          • No I didn’t vote for The Monk.

            As I said I live in a very poor area of Brisbane – where these people are placed when they arrived here. A lot of the women and children don’t speak English and don’t want to. The men have picked them up in cars and have called me name, without being provoked, and when I stood up for myself, they’ve acted as though they were going to punch me… yeah… they’re really nice people.

            I work in an art gallery… have done for over 15 years. We’ve never had a Muslim volunteer in all that time and the gallery has been going for 20 years. So, they don’t like volunteering?

            My mother used to work at Mt Gravatt Primary School, which has a lot of Islamic children attending. When I was working, around 15 or so years ago, I picked her up for lunch one day. There was a 7 year old who was sitting at the Office waiting to talk to the Principal because he punch a girl… all she did was stand up for herself. I said hi to him and he called me an infidel and told me ‘his kind’ were going to take over the world and we would suffer.

            NOOOO…. I’m not a racist… not at all…

          • Erghhh…this is why I don’t bother with arguments on the internet. They’re pointless, like talking to a brick wall…but your comments just annoyed me so much.

            Look, I don’t condone the kind of behaviour you’ve experienced but have you ever really considered the things said to the average muslim person walking down the street? The stares at an airport. A women wearing a burqa, just going about her own business. And the boy from the school…how much bullying and ridicule has he been subject to? And so the cycle continues…

            Then there’s the thing you said about muslims not volunteering. Ha! You’re joking right? So because no muslims have volunteered at the art gallery where you work, muslims must not volunteer anywhere, at all? Right. Here’s an idea – most people, like me, are just trying to make ends meet? I don’t volunteer and even if I did, it wouldn’t be at an art gallery.

            Perhaps you should concider volunteering to teach English to refugees if you hate it so much.

            And one more thing. Refugees and muslims are not the same thing, something which you don’t appear to understand.

    • Holy shit. Did you seriously just ask if Muslims don’t like to volunteer in an art museum? Please research iconoclasm. For many Muslims, artistic representations of living beings, especially religious figures, are forbidden. Would you expect them to eat pork just because the neighborhood had a really good bbq restaurant? In 15 years you never bothered to even have a conversation or learn anything about these people you despise, and you’re using your ignorance and an instance of a 7 year old bully to justify your racism? Mindblowing.

          • I actually really liked the original post, though, because it was such an honest look into a very common mindset. We get this in Canada all the time. The second Sikh RCMP officers want to be able to wear their turbans on the job, the cry goes out. “THIS IS OUR COUNTRY! DO IT OUR WAY OR GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM!”

            Conveniently forgetting, of course, that all the people who say this are descended from immigrants.

            There’s such an overwhelming sentiment here, and I suspect in Australia and the US as well, that things should be done “OUR” way. But how does it hurt the average straight white person if gays want to get married? Or Muslims want to wear traditional dress? Or people want to celebrate a different holiday? I wish we could learn from each other instead of being so big on insisting our way is the only way.

            I’m seeing a lot of this right now with Christmas. There are many “It’s not Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays. It’s Merry Christmas. Welcome to Canada” memes on Facebook, that are shared by people I thought were at least somewhat enlightened.

            I’m Canadian, and I have plenty of Canadian friends who are Jewish and don’t celebrate Christmas. Do I think it’s a terrible horrible ordeal to say “Happy Holidays,” if it makes someone else feel less excluded? No, I don’t. We’re not barbarians, trying to conquer and pillage and make other people fall to their knees and surrender…or at least we shouldn’t be.

  10. […] I am a racist and I am a sexist and probably some other – ists, too – “The thing is, I don’t believe these things at all. I’m not a conscious, overt racist or sexist. In fact, consciously, overtly, I’m against those things. I actively oppose them (though probably not as much as I should, and definitely not as much as I’d like). And yet, I’m still racist and sexist and other -ists.” […]

  11. Chuck! Thanks for writing this! I wrote a post centered around my own socially/culturally-ingrained transphobia/ignorance earlier this year when Katie Couric said shitty things to Carmen Carerra and Laverne Cox on her teevee show. But I was too chicken shit to actually publish it. You’ve made me braver!

  12. Our culture is unhealthy. Like a bad gut biome, its breeding all sorts of toxic critters.
    People on an individual level are mostly kind. Happy to help; we see it all the time in emergency situations.

    The yogurt equivalent for our bad biome? I don’t know, but we need one.

    The information age/social media creates some bad behavior, but it’s also united all of us who are reasonable and decent. We’re the majority. The sociopaths and nutsos–they’re the equivalent of very large babies having very large tantrums. Unfortunately, they also have an outsized amount of influence.

    We all have biases. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. As long as we understand that social norms are always changing, and the ones we have today aren’t any more hard and fast than those of 1870.

    But the long view doesn’t help the people who, today, are trapped in unbearable situations. What helps them is action, and advocacy. A great post; lots to think about!

  13. Eventually everyone, at least those who care to think about it, has this conversation with themselves on some level. I’m not what you’d call a overly privileged person, I’m a First Nations living Canada, and was born into extreme poverty with a history of depression and yet even I have live with privilege. First and foremost I am a man, and while First Nations are pretty much the most heavily discriminated group in Canada, I’m still a man in Canada. I’m able-bodied, I speak English, I live in a developed city, I’m cis and hetero. I’m getting a higher education (in which I am in fact learning much of social inequality and I hope to continue on with my studies and get a masters in sociology). All this things set me apart from many of peers who are often below the poverty line, are statistically more likely to alcoholics and commit suicide, to be arrested and tried more frequently and harsher sentences than that of their white peers for the same crimes, and are more likely to turn to crime because of it (the person of above who said ‘criminals are criminals’…that’s a rather simple view on the subject) and I escaped all of it. I am in someways an extraordinarily privileged individual and I think a lot of the nuance on the subject of privilege is lost when one doesn’t considers ones own privilege and we ignore intersectionality is a real thing.

  14. I never realized how deep a part of everyone’s psyche culture truly is until I studied it in college through anthropology and cognitive psychology and sociology and all that mess. Culture works us like puppets in the moments before our conscious minds can arrange our higher thought processes, and it informs us of what truth is in ways we seldom even consider.

    Studies show that most white people, and even 60% of black people have a response to seeing a black face, just in the first few milliseconds we see it, which activates the emotional centers of the brain. It’s a different story when most people are shown a white face. That is not common to all cultures, so it’s probably western culture with its hand up our asses pulling our strings.
    Cultural learning, and cultural misconceptions, are circular and self reinforcing. All you can do is be honest with yourself about your feelings and try to reconcile them with what you know is right. It’s an ongoing thing we have to do and it takes strength. You’re not a bad guy, Chuck.

  15. Awesome Chuck is Awesome. My respect for you continues to grow.

    To me I think we humans can be a hatful people. I am a white, straight male and so I am quite privileged. However I was horribly bullied at school because I was a little different. I had just moved to the new area, I was well spoken but above all my dad had passed away (I wasn’t emotionally right) making me different and an easy target.

    So although I am a lucky man due to the way I am born I like to think i know a little bit of the pain. Since then I have been on LGBTQ marches, despite being straight and I will always stand up to discrimination.

    In the book I am writing I have a race of humanoid creatures, they aren’t human and so they get treated like scum. It reflects that if you are different some wont consider you a person.

    I do have faith in humanity though, one day i beleive we wont hate one another due to how we look and who we love. I hope we all keep fighting for that day.

  16. Welcome to shadow work. When pointing fingers at others, there are often three fingers pointing back at you 🙂
    In trying so hard not to be “like our parents” we usually end up with their thoughts, words or even wore, their actions. And we “gladly” pass them on to our own children.

    • That’s a very astute observation. It’s like you really *saw to the heart* of things and, with a powerful one-two punch of a comment, really taught me a thing or two. You took my post point-by-point and truly made me think. I mean, honestly, it took me a while to actually get through the comment because it was well-thought out and *so powerful,* but now that I did, pssh, pfft, wow, yeah.

      You blew my mind, man.

      Or not.

      Please moderate your comments next time, or I’ll moderate them for you. Looking back at some of your past comments on this site, you’re teetering on the edge of the spam oubliette. If you don’t agree with my post or some of its contents, fine. But a comment like this is just insulting, and worse, shallow.

      Do better, or do not do it at all.

      — c.

      • Chuck — this is your blog and you can post or moderate at will. It’s all yours. But if you think you are only one that can post snarky “shallow” comments, well maybe that’s a privilege you should check.

  17. Holy effin’ CRAP, Chuck!

    So the whole father-talking-in-your-head thing ISN’T just me then? Other people – people like you, who I have a tonne of respect and admiration for – have that too?

    My dad was (and still is) toe-curlingly racist on a regular basis. He would happily say stuff that, even as a child, would suck the breath out of me – forget ‘racist overtones,’ as a man who was a naval officer for thirty-plus years, ‘overtones’ were for wimps as far as he was concerned. When he went off on one of his tirades I would cringe in horror and shame beside him, torn between wanting to scream “Dad, SHUDDUPPPP!!!” at him (sooo not a great plan) and wishing I could just disappear. As a result, he probably made me hate racism and discrimination of any kind way more than I would’ve done off my own bat – which is the good thing to come out of it. And yet…

    I have what you have too, Chuck. Sometimes words come into my head completely randomly, at the mere sight of some poor innocent stranger – and they’re in my dad’s voice. It’s like I’ve got a little mini-version of him living in my brain somewhere, hiding until he finds the perfect opportunity to pop up and scare the bejaysus out of me – except he’s also got some kind of weird racist Tourette Syndrome and whenever he kicks off inside my head I have to not let my face look like some random nutcase has just shouted something horrible in my ear…

    I know I categorically don’t support or agree with any of the stuff ‘he’ says – but it still bugs the heck out of me that it happens. I’ve been diagnosed with ‘mental health issues’ in the past, and I’d always thought the father-in-my-head thing was a part of that. Today I feel a little less crazy than I thought I was. Thanks for that, Chuck. Seriously. It means a lot.

  18. Yikes! So many of these responses are mind-blowing. While Chuck may be going a bit heavy on the self-flagellation, at the root of it, he is just acknowledging his own bias. Anybody who says they are purely unbiased, with no isms or prejudices, is full of shit. Even attempting to shed all bias is a losing battle. The battle you can win is to recognize unfair biases and account for them in your behavior. That’s the key to treating people like fellow human beings. And isn’t that something we can all strive to do?

  19. For me, the hardest part about loving people who are drastically different was discovering my own prejudices and assumptions. But with intention and a willingness to change, it became the best part!

    My mom and brothers are on the autism spectrum, my son and step daughter are gay and my mom is bi-sexual, my husband is black, I am white, and all four of my sons are colorful. My home is diverse and full of love to be sure!!!

    Yet, without question, I still stumble on my own prejudice now and then. I have passionate chats with my hubby, sons, and siblings about what is and isn’t sexist or racist or ableist or any other kind of -ist.

    I believe in integration without the expectation of assimilation. Which means, I’m consistently evolving and discovering what the heck I mean by that!

    Thank-you for this important and insightful post, Chuck!

    You seem to have a knack for them.

  20. This is a thought-provoking read, and I appreciated your writing it. It’s amazing how mind-bending thinking about these issues is. Being mixed race, I have to think of it through different lenses which makes me think harder about things (grew up thinking of myself as black, have cultural roots there but have privilege because of my light skin tone, etc.). Self-examination and improvement are always good, especially when the result is being better to the people around us and realizing what we can do to make society and culture better as a whole.

  21. “Please note that I typed “powerful men like myself” with an eye-roll so dramatic I got dizzy and fell out a window.”

    Quite a smile that brought to my face. 8)

    I probably won’t read the rest now…

  22. i am tired of excuses…… from the US government to the common man. I think you are a fantastic writer.. but you fall short on this one. We went from people who could laugh and joke about ourselves to to people who hate each other. Unlike your father, my father divided people only by their character and how they treated other people. Not money, looks or race. I personally think they are shoving the white male down into a rabbit hole. All the commercials make him look stupid(let the female show him.) and the news anchors and tv detectives are being replaced by women. I want jobs that have applications and hiring by who is qualified for them.. I want equal pay for equal work for everyone. i think it is crazy that our children can not go to college without being in debt for life. I worked in a school for 16 years and am amazed at how the ones home-schooled seem to do better.Schools today are more like prisons and I do not think with all their technology that they are taught as much as we were when we went to school. I am 60 years old, female and I have seen:
    Women hired who can not do their jobs and make more work for the men.
    Sexual harassment charges that were bogus to get someone fired so another can get that job.
    Actual lies on people to make room for a different job to be created.
    Any indication of knowing or speaking these things ..fired!

    • “All the commercials (62% written & directed by males) make him look stupid(let the female show him.)”
      “news anchors (Currently women make up 36 percent of newsroom staff-) are women and tv detectives are being replaced by women (15% of all protagonists are women, 30% of all speaking roles).

      If you worked in a school and came into contact with homeschooled kids entering that school, of course they would do better. If you take a kid in a public school and give them 1 on 1 instruction for five years, they will do better than their peers who are in a class of 15-20. How could you not realize this?

      Guess what, donna, it’s not 1950 anymore. People don’t have to put up with the bullshit of being harassed on a regular basis and accept it as just good ole fun, because we now have laws protecting us. You may be perfectly fine with being ridiculed for being a woman because you grew up in an era that found it acceptable, but most people are not. Someone who has not been sexually harassed does not get to decide when someone else has been sexually harassed.

  23. Chuck you speak as if white people are the only people who are racist in the world. I am a white person who grew up in a black and hispanic neighborhood and I suffered terribly from racism against me for being white. The racism and racial violence between black and hispanic people is intense and people are murdered all the time because of it. My friend’s brother was shot, execution style at a park because of racial tensions between black and hispanic gangs. My sister was shot at in a drive by for being white and in a black gang’s turf.
    Your rhetoric is actually more damaging and causes more problems because it fuels more racist hatred. When people cry racism over every single thing that happens to them, it cheapens the argument and it takes away from real racism. Everyone is racist, not just white people. The fires and looting in Ferguson are happening because of racism against white people. The rioters have made the assumption that because the officer is white that he must have been racist, must have wanted to kill Michael Brown, must be evil. The evidence is in. The officer was attacked repeatedly and he was shooting in self defense. But racism and hatred of white people is clouding the perspective on the actual evidence. There are real instances of police brutality and not only by white police officers. I was the victim of police brutality in my neighborhood by a black cop because I am white. And I am a highly educated, law abiding citizen. I happened to be standing in my front yard with a black male friend and the black cop didn’t like that. He questioned why my friend was hanging out with me. When a police officer defending himself and doing his job gets blown out of proportion into racism and all white people are evil rhetoric,then real police brutality gets swept under the rug.
    Stop the white guilt and the race baiting. It doesn’t help the situation. It perpetuates more violence! It’s also condescending. Oh you poor downtrodden black people, who will never get up in life unless I, with my almighty whiteness, bestow my white acceptance upon you. I live in a very diverse neighborhood and my husband and I are an interracial couple. There are plenty of people of color doing just fine without any help from white people. Stop the victimhood rhetoric because it is keeping people of color down. When they think that there is racism everywhere they turn, it becomes a paranoia. The world out to get them.
    I have four family members in law enforcement, all of whom work in really dangerous, drug ridden, crime ridden neighborhoods. One of them is hispanic and three of them are white. All four of them get accused of being racist for doing their jobs everyday, all day long. They catch criminals in the act of attacking people, robbing, selling drugs, murder… but they are called racist. They are filmed, taunted, harassed everyday, all day long. They are punched, kicked, shot at, on a regular basis. When two of the white ones worked in the prison, they were attacked all the time for being white. The racism goes all ways and the only way to stop it is with REAL acceptance and coming together, not more fucking rhetoric about the evil white people and downtrodden brown people.
    The discourse has got to be elevated past the blame game, the let’s hate on white people game, the cry racism game every time you turn around.
    Your posts make me think you live in a very sheltered, white area where things are thought of as black and white and very little gray. You talk about diversity, but your posts make me think you have never actually experienced it. Your type of rhetoric is dangerous, because people in the inner city are being told “You are a victim and you’ll always be a victim.” They do not need to hear that. That is NOT uplifting. “Look at me, racism is so ingrained in me I can’t help but be racist even if I try.” Really? That’s helpful? That’s inspiring? Racism is not about thoughts. It’s about actions. Everyone has thoughts and they always will. Racism happens when people ACT on those thoughts. If you go to the Museum of Tolerance you will asked to choose between two doors. One says racist. One says not racist. If you try to go through the not racist door, it is locked, because everyone is racist to some degree or other. Instead of trying to bleach your thoughts pure and clean, bleach your ACTIONS.
    I have a very diverse group of friends and we never ever talk about “diversity.” We just live our lives and do life together and it’s not an issue. It’s only an issue because people, of all races, make it an issue. I think about your blog and your posts sometimes when I’m with my friends and I shake my head. I’m sitting there with my group of hispanic, black, asian and white friends and we are all just hanging out as usual and I think about the fact that diversity that happens naturally and isn’t forced is so normal, and healthy. Quit hating on yourself for being white Chuck. Instead just live your life and stop feeding the rhetoric of brown victimhood. My husband will tell you he is no victim. He lives his life and doesn’t have any regard for what other people are doing. He doesn’t go around worrying about racism and the few times it has happened, he moved on and did not give the racists power over him. Your posts do nothing to uplift anybody and they only drag you down. I have so much

    • Erika,
      I don’t think Chuck or the other people here who agree with him think that the only racism is white against non-white, or the the people accusing police of racism are always right, or that it’s the white man’s duty to fix other people’s problems. (And of course that last attitude carries with it the idea that white men are better than everyone else anyway, because they need our superior intellect and work ethic to help.)

      But the crucial point is, while there are individual poor white people and individual rich non-whites in the United States, overall the whites, especially the white men, have a disproportionate amount of the economic power. Of the 400 richest people in the US, over 90% are white men. Just a few are Asian-American men. The rest are white women. Plus Oprah. 5.4% of the Fortune 1000 companies have a woman as CEO. 0.8% of Fortune 500 CEOs are black. (That’s not at typo.) 2.7% of the 6,517 companies that received venture capital funding from 2011 to 2013 had a woman CEO – while more kickstarter projects from women succeed at reaching funding goals than from men.

      Likewise the whites, especially the white men, have a disproportionate amount of the political power. In the House of Representatives, non-whites are represented almost in proportion to their percentage of the general population. In the Senate, they are represented in less than half the proportion of their percentage of the population. Women are about 50% of the population and 27% of the senate and 18% of the House of Representatives. Women are about 50% of the population and less than 10% of the state governors. I think only one or two current state governors is non-white.

      We’re not asking people to just give non-whites money, or undeserved promotions, or treatment as though they’re victims. We’re trying to remind ourselves that when we interview people for a job, we should do our best not to let our natural comfort sitting with someone of similar race, sex, sexual orientation, and background unduly influence our hiring choice. Likewise we should try not to let it influence our votes. Likewise we should try not to let it influence where we go shopping. And which kids we pay most attention to in class. And so forth, and so on. Unconscious racism and sexism is probably the single biggest factor that is keeping blacks and women out of executive board rooms.

      There’s also the issue that our urban schools in poorer districts do the worst. They need the most attention – and a higher percentage of non-whites attend poor urban schools than attend the more successful schools in the suburbs. So any education policy that neglects the poorer school districts is racist by default, even if the person implementing the policy has no conscious racist plans – the outcome of the policy is more poorly educated non-whites, and more well-educated whites.

  24. Well this is the style of persuasion that the cleverer sort of political writer uses to tell people they have hidden racist thoughts when they don’t. I had a friend try to tell me this stuff at college

    We all have thoughts, most of them wrong and we all have to make snap-judgements about people before we know anything about them. These are not MORAL judgements, these are simply guesses about whether this person is going to beat me up or be friendly.

    But it’s a political distortion to see everything through the lens of racism etc, confusing every inequality and every little guess you make about someone with racism.

    Also there tends to be the Donald Rumsfeld style of argument – “if nukes/WMDs aren’t visible it’s because the enemy has hidden them so cunningly”. Similarly some of you guys say that if the sexism isn’t obvious, it must be deeply entrenched and unconscious.

    You need a BS detector with politics – otherwise you find yourself seeing the world through a single concept

    • Henry,

      As I posted elsewhere in this discussion, white men are about 40% of the US population. We are also 92% of the governors, 96% of the Fortune 1000 CEOs, 80% of the Senators, 80% of the members of the House of Representatives, and 97% of the CEOs of the 6500 companies that got venture capital investment funding from 2011 to 2013.

      Now, either white men are just plain better than everyone else, or else pervasive mostly unconscious racism and sexism is influencing their political and business decisions, and since white men held all the power fifty years ago they’ve been preferring to pass it along to other white men since then.

      You tell me what the truth is.

        • But that’s the point, right? When I’m sitting in a waiting room at a doctor’s office, I’m more comfortable striking up a conversation with other people with similar appearance and style of dress to me. When I’m interviewing for a job or interviewing other people for a potential hire, it’s easiest for me to establish a rapport with people that look similar, use the same verbal idioms, and dress similar to me. At a new job I make friendships faster with other people of the same ethnicity, national origin, and sexual orientation. When I watch political speeches, I identify more closely to someone that has similar racial and economic demographics to me.

          So between some unmeasurable portion that’s intentionally prejudiced and the remaining group that’s unintentionally prejudiced, white people – especially white men – keep holding most of the power. It’s not fair.

          Now, don’t take this out of proportion. I am in no way suggesting that an underqualified minority candidate should get a powerful white man’s political endorsement, job offer, friendship, recommendation, etc… over another more qualified candidate that is a white man. I’m not asking for that. I’m asking for us to try to be conscious of when factors not affecting competence influence our evaluation of a person and to the best of our ability attempt to discount those factors.

  25. Remember that episode of King of the Hill wherein Hank takes that quiz to determine how racist you are based on answers you give subconsciously? Yeah, I found one of those and took it. Turns out I’m more racist than I realized. And I remember in this episode that everyone was so upset when they took it because it was so confusing, but man, I FELT it as I was taking it. I felt myself screwing up as it was happening and it made me feel awful. I think that was the first time I realized that just because you don’t BELIEVE in racism, it’s doesn’t mean you are 0% racist yourself.
    I didn’t realize how totally sheltered from the world I was in the town that I grew up in until I went to college and realized I had never come face to face with anyone with skin a different color than my own (with the exception of some Hispanic folks that had a terrible reputation in my little Mayberry) before then.

  26. […] This post by Chuck Wendig about -ists is an excellent read. I’ve been meaning to write a response to Faruk Ateş’s post What Being Cis Means to Me because I can go to a different place. Maybe if I say this in a blog post, I’ll actually write it. […]

  27. I look around and see racism taking many forms. Some of them hateful and biggoted, some more of an issue of cultural relations, some innocently devoid of biggotry but still buying into stereotype; sometimes prejudging positively, but still prejudice. Some people look at a situation in which they are different than someone in some way and either feel hatred or a need to find some way to relate instead of just being yourself and allowing others to do the same. It gets sticky because any decision or action based on race is still, in its way, racist even if it’s positive. Which begs the question, is it racist to have only white authors in your stacks, or is it racist to seek out and read an author specifically because their black? The latter is not biggoted, but still racist in that you are committing to an action based solely on race. You should read books that interest you regardless of the cultural background of the author. I didn’t even realize that Minister Faust is a black author until after having read Shrinking the Heroes. Makes no difference. Great book, great author. It would be on my shelf regardless. I have a huge library, mostly sci-fi, and have no idea the ethnicity of most of the authors. Is that non-racist to look for merit rather than race? Or is it just clueless? Because I do clueless pretty well too.

  28. Personally I don’t care about gender, multi-gender, race or whatever else one wants to throw at me. A good writer is a good writer. That being said, I am not sure how many authors n my shelf is white. I don’t do a background check on all authors, a lot of books I own I got second hand that were sweet discoveries, and others, well I just don’t do DNA tests. So who freaking cares???? I have a book called MONSTER by a black former gang member that I picked up at a yard sale, I have other books that are written by black authors, I even have books written by gay men and women OH MY. One such gay author I have a huge amount of respect for, he has even written a couple episodes of Star Trek Voyager, and has one of the biggest hearts you will ever see.

    My point here, I don’t go around saying, so Author, are you white? Straight? Man? AWESOMESAUCE! You win the prize, I will take one of each of your current book list.

    As far as nicknames go, yeah we need to be respectful, no doubt. Sometimes we can use some nicknames with people when know us and know how we think. My girlfriend is Fillipina, and I call her my little hot chocolate. hehe. But it is in meant out of affection and attraction, and she calls me her white chocolate. And you know what? I love that woman! I respect her, I listen to her, and she is my equal partner in life. And if she worte a book I’d love to read it. She writes songs, and she is super talented.

    I am sure we all have issues we need to work on. Many have this phobia where if they don’t agree with the public, they are not politically correct. They have this straight-gender-race guilt that is beyond stupid. I am not ashamed to be a white-straight-male, nor should anyone be ashamed to be what they are. The things to be ashamed of is bad character.

    That being said, yes definitely check out authors who are different than the ones on your shelf. I know a lot of good women authors, some of which write the best horror. Not many think of women writing horror, but man, are they awesome writers! One of my favorite female authors is Patricia Corndwell, she got me into reading books. And yes, I don’t care if an author is tansgendered. Although most transgendereds choose to change their gender, a choice that baffles me, but I don’t care about it. The way I look at it, we may not agree on pronouns, but if you are a decent person, I am cool with you. And if you are a good writer who appeals to me, I will read you. I read Stephen King, and the only stuff I agree with him on is about writing. I am not a liberal, he is, so much so. But I still read the guy. He’s an awesome writer, and I like his way at looking at writing. Brilliant man!

    I say, love a writer for who they are as a person, love their work if it speaks to you. Leave everything else at the door. And I am a white, straight, male conservative. But I am also a hater of dogma, and believe in actually caring about people, hence why I am pro-life (my version of that label is both pro-woman and pro-baby, both matter). So yeah, I am not Mr. Popular, and I don’t care. I still know where I stand when it comes to things like bigotry (I loath it) and I know where I stand on social issues. And like you, I do not back down from it. But no matter where we stand, love should always be there. In varying forms, but we should have a type of love for each other. A compassion for our fellow human. Because in some distant parallel universe, the roles are reversed. We must always be willing to try to understand each other. And as writers, we should always try to put ourselves in the minds of others, whyich has helped me to be more understanding of things.

    Good post as always, I do love reading your stuff, from blog to books. You’re an awesome writer, and yes, you have a big heart You have passion, compassion and the nads to say what you think and feel. I respect you a lot. Although personally we may differ on views, I actually consider one who influences my writing in a good way. Like with your book, ATLANTA BURNS. One of my favorite books by you.

    Cheers, fellow Ink-Monkey!

  29. […] Wendig writes, because Wendig writes. And as usual, he hits something close to me. I’ve DONE some of these things: Sometimes, you don’t catch yourself in time, or you’re not thinking, and you thing “well, fuck, I’m an asshole”. And the good news, I think, is that because you think that second bit, you’re probably OK. But it doesn’t mean we can’t be better. […]

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