Ignoring the context

Here’s a link to get you up to speed.

White people often bring up “context” in defense of racism.

Miley Cyrus made the “slant-eyed” face but protested that people took it wrong and “out of context!”

The Tribune discontinued running a much “beloved” illustration called “Injun Summer” and noted its “innocence of context.”

A Villa Park council member, Deborah Pauly, was videotaped stirring the racist pot to a boil.  When confronted, she said the tape was edited to “completely change the context.”

Murray State University professor Mark Wattier thought two black students were late to his class.  His comment:  “Do you know why you were late? There’s a theory that a way to protest their master’s treatment was for slaves to be late.”  (Click the link to read the students’ version.) What did he say in his own defense? “My comment was inappropriate. I regret having said this out of context and bluntly.”

We’ve heard the “satiredefense numerous times before as well (see We Heard It Before #18).

Of course, I think that context is often difficult to understand.  Continue reading

Your children

Subtitled:  In which resistance cuts a heroic figure and then feels like lecturing about how it takes a village.

So last week I was walking through the parking lot when I noticed a small child standing behind a large car.  A white woman was standing by the driver’s door.  Then she got in.  I noticed the car was running, so I went up to the boy and asked him where his parents were.  I stood directly in back of the car and I could see the driver in the rear view mirror.  Continue reading

Dude, you got it backwards

So Australian news anchor John Mangos said something stupid and racist:

…  Mangos reported on a Chinese lottery winner who wore a mask to remain anonymous while collecting his prize.

After the story, he said: “I don’t know why he bothered. I mean, I can tell you now — he’s Chinese.

“He’s got straight black hair and he’s got squinty eyes and yellow skin.”

And then he “apologized”: Continue reading


When I am the Despotic Ruler of the Universe, I will punitively enforce draconian regulations against privileged persons whining about things that “cost too much money.”

And adoptive parents of kids from other countries will be required to acquire their children’s certificates of citizenship and valid passports.

Yeah, I know, the certificate of citizenship costs a lot of money.  And it isn’t fair that adopted kids should have to pay for it.  They should get it for free, unlike those other immigrants.  And yeah, you don’t have the money right now.

This despite the fact that you probably spent in excess of $20,000 for an international adoption.  And how much did you spend on souvenirs?  What did your iPad cost?  How about your videocamera?

So go ahead and punish the government by refusing to fork over your $600 $550.  Despite the fact that if you had done it when I told you the first time, you wouldn’t have spent so much.   But the only person who will really suffer from this is your kid.  Continue reading

Dear Molly Wei

You are so young and so beautiful.  A promising life.  Starting at Rutgers.  You’ve probably been told how intelligent you are.  How far you’ll go.

My father never would have said any of that to you.  He would have said, “You may think you’re smart, but you have no common sense.”

It was a refrain I heard time and time again.  It was a reminder that he expected me to live to a higher standard.  That good grades and accolades weren’t enough.  He expected me to do the right thing.   As he often reminded me, it is easy to be a book-smart asshole.

And far too easy to go along with the crowd.

Continue reading

Dear WAP

We exchanged a few emails at the beginning of the year when I helped you get information on citizenship for your child. We even met at that cultural event. And then you wrote to me frustrated that you couldn’t find any cultural activity for your very small child. My response that cultural communities had no real need and little inclination for such activities, and that the adoption community could hardly care less obviously didn’t please you.

I applaud your efforts to set something up, and I told you that in no uncertain terms. So why does it piss you off so much that I protested your use of a racial stereotype in your logo?

Please allow me to deconstruct your message:

Wow, I never even thought about it!!!! (I am so privileged I don’t HAVE to think about it.) I agree that it isn’t very original but when you have ZERO budget, originality cannot be bought! (I don’t actually know what the word “stereotype” means and I am not motivated enough to find out because, frankly, it doesn’t concern me.) Anyway, I wonder how it’s possible to not use a “racial stereotype” when trying to represent a Chinese child!!!! (But I’m still not motivated enough to find out.) Should I have given him a pseudo americanised look so he appeared less Chinese? (‘Cos he IS Chinese, right, and you know you are being ridiculous, right?)

You know, sometimes I wonder if that’s what really shocks you the most? (I think you have a chip on your shoulder.) Whatever, I don’t hold it against you. (‘Cos it’s all your fault anyway. You should be less sensitive.)

Please refer to my free apology.

Will French POCs finally be seen?

Let me be clear about this: I am not a fan of Nicolas Sarkozy, France’s “playboy” president. I would not have voted for him and I don’t normally agree with much he says.

But I have to agree with the statement he issued regarding his plan to collect voluntary data on race:

He said the lack of data on ethnic minorities was hampering the ability to measure inequality and deal with it.

Having lived in the country for over a decade and a half, I can assure you that racism is rampant. I also therefore agree with the race campaigners in the article who say that the society is “plagued by discrimination”. This is a country that only got its first primetime newscast journalist of colour this decade.

However, I really do not believe that any light can be shed on the extent of this discrimination until reasonably reliable statistics are produced. Unfortunately, many, many groups do not agree with me, including the ground-breaking SOS Racisme. Continue reading

Racist literature – or teaching?

So how useful do you think studying a classic anti-racist work of literature is in teaching children about anti-racism? A student of African heritage in the UK doesn’t think it’s very useful at all. The book in question is Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird:

“People speak like that in real life but we can study that in history or politics, there is no need to make up fictional stories about it.

“Books like this do nothing to alleviate or reduce racism, but have contributed negatively to the school community with me getting the worst impact of its negativity.

“This type of book only creates and incites hate, violence and racism among races due to terms used in them, which are grossly degrading.

“Times have changed. Racist fiction should be buried in the past.”

Although I enjoyed this book very much, I don’t agree with the teachers at the student’s school that “the point of studying it is to challenge racism”. Continue reading

Special offer! Free apologies

Don’t say we at Resist Racism never do anything for you. In an effort to increase the total number of real apologies received by anyone really, but in particular people of colour after some thoughtless racist comment, here is a ready-made apology that can be cut and pasted or learnt by heart.

Make some cards for your friends!

I  am/we are sorry for what I/we did/said. I/we now understand that it was offensive and wrong. I/we will not do it again.

That should suffice. But in the event of a burning need to justify oneself, additional cards could be made:

I/we would like you to know that I/we did not intend to offend anyone. Since I/we did, I/we acknowledge that impact is very different from intent, and realize that I am/we are woefully ignorant of what it means to live in a diverse society. I/we promise to unpack my/our white privilege and help others do so.