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White People, White Power, White Platform

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  • http://www.dani-kelley.com/ Dani Kelley

    It is not just privilege – being lucky – that being white affords people. It is power over people. White supremacy is the power to block, to unfollow, to ignore, to walk away from voices that point to a different way of life. It is to state beforehand what tones are acceptable to talk in. To be in control of the situation. To decide when the conversation is over.

    Brb going to share this with everyone I know.

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    i think what you said about shame triggers is important. critique, conflict, and disagreement make us feel uncomfortable, and that’s understandable, but if we care about systemic change and justice at all, dominant voices have got to stop making the work and conversations about ourselves. my feelings (and behavior) are on me. i can’t put the responsibility for my feelings on other people period, but particularly across lines of power and privilege.

    thanks for writing a bold word.

  • http://www.emilytimbol.com/ emilytimbol

    I appreciated this, thanks Caris. I have been very convicted these past couple weeks in how I need to listen more, and how being defensive, instead of willing to learn, does damage to the community and the cause. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and I’m still learning. But, I’ve also been frustrated by a lot of what I’ve seen too, especially from a certain POC activist who identifies as Christian. So while I’ve been learning from the words of this person and have learned even more from mutual friends we share, I’ve been really really upset over the alienation and accusations that have been made – on both sides – by people who all want the same thing and all have the same heart.

    I guess my struggle is in not understanding why it’s wrong for me to want reconciliation and unity for all the believers involved in this conversation, while at the same time wanting the white believers with large platforms to be the ones listening more than speaking. I know that it’s missing the point to be frustrated at how white believers have been “attacked” on Twitter – the point is achieving racial justice – but it’s hard for me to see how these “attacks” have helped, when they’ve served more to alienate the white people with large platforms who before were trying to achieve racial justice themselves. You’re right that racism is so much more than just the KKK, but I don’t understand why people wanting to bring light to injustice with their platforms should be accused of white supremacy. Does that make sense?

    • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

      I hear you.

      Austin’s words about justice before reconciliation helped me frame it better. There is no reconciliation if the powerful in this situation don’t see how they are using dominant patterns of whiteness to shut people down.

      I’m not totally a fan of some tactics that people use – but instead of walking away, it makes me ask ‘why’. They are very purposeful actions and drive to make her point. It makes issues front and center that some of us would rather avoid.

      ‘serving to alienate the white people with large platforms’ – exactly. Because they are prioritizing their feelings instead of listening to the feelings of the marginalized – or, only listening to the marginalized that reaffirm what they want to hear. The ‘marginalized’ (I’m starting to hate that word) are just as alienated, even more so, but that doesn’t matter when white people prioritize their own hurt feelings.

      It’s white supremacy because white people decide what ‘being kind’ is, or what Twitter tactics are appropriate. If white people decided hashtag activism was a thing, then this wouldn’t even be an issue. When the white people with huge platforms can just unfollow all of us who are making waves about this issue – that’s a huge problem.

      • http://www.emilytimbol.com/ emilytimbol

        Thanks Caris. It’s hard for me to really find anything to disagree with in your reply. I guess for me it’s just feeling uneasy about certain tactics and their overall appropriateness for people of faith – not necessarily in what results from using them. I am glad that the result has been white people being challenged and asked to listen. We shouldn’t be unfollowing and ignoring all the voices that make us uncomfortable. I still do think though that this doesn’t mean every POC involved in this discussion is above reproach. Just maybe that if they are going to be critiqued, it shouldn’t come from someone who is white and has more power/privilege than them, as that imbalance leads to racist and awful attacks on the person being critiqued. And that also, it’s more important for me to be focusing not on what I don’t agree with, but what I do, and how I can help. Since, like I said before, I want the same things and want to do whatever I can to reach the same goals as everyone else, even the people I don’t agree with. Racial justice is what’s most important.

        • Cassie Chang

          Over and over again, I’ve seen people disagree with Suey (and I presume you mean Suey here) because of her ‘tactics’. And I really think that it’s a symptom of white supremacy being unable to give up its place as the centering force. Think of the power dynamics at work – it’s basically saying that unless Suey speaks a certain way or stops being so strident in her views. Think about how it sounds coming from a white person who does not know her. I think that as a rule, as a member of the privileged class, unless you’ve done the hard work of engaging with the marginalized, you don’t get to barge in and make comments without having built relationships. That goes to the white people who think that they have a lot of POC friends, because chances are, a lot of white people in America run in almost exclusively white circles (I’m not saying this about you personally, but in general). A black person is 91 times more likely to have white friends than the other way round.

          Anyway, I was appalled by RHE’s refusal to call out the people who were saying absolutely disgusting things about Suey. It wouldn’t have taken much, but that calling out never happened. She could have said – what Suey says about me is not right, but do not call her names.

          I’m also learning too how POCs can reinforce and co-opt into racist structures. Because white supremacy is so ingrained, it takes time to unpack and actually work for racial justice rather than just getting everyone to conform to whiteness. So just because a POC said something doesn’t mean it’s not racist.

          • Khoury

            Funny use of statistics. Of course white people will have more white friends because there are many more white people in America than black people. The same study says 66% of black people only have black friends and also says the average black person has 0 Asian friends.

          • Cassie Chang

            Don’t derail – that doesn’t make the lack of contact with POC among white people ok. And what you say about black people is irrelevant. I’m saying that it’s far more likely for black people to have white friends than the other way round. Even going on what you say, white communities will be more insular.

          • Khoury

            It is relevant. White people have just about as much contact with black people as vice versa. 66% of black people have only black friends and 75% of white people have only white friends. Not a huge difference between the two groups. People naturally self segregate.

            In the Detroit area, things are segregated by black/non-black. Asians, Middle Easterners, and others choose to move in white neighborhoods and don’t move into black neighborhoods.

          • Cassie Chang

            Actually, no, those largely black neighbourhoods have been created because of racism and white people moving out becauseRather, racism has created segregated neighbourhoods. Have a read of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Case for Reparations.

            The self-segregation could be a problem if both groups were on equal footing, but they are not.

          • Khoury

            I have read Ta-Nehisi Coates, Not impressed with him. He is a black Glenn Beck in that they are both college dropouts who are self taught. His work consists of block quotes from old books he is reading and his mostly white readership lauds him as a brilliant intellectual when in reality he is pretty average.

            White people and Middle Eastern people have moved out of neighborhoods that get blacker. It happens all the time in metro Detroit.

          • Khoury

            Cassie,

            Just curious. What are the demographics of your neighborhood? Would you live in a lower class black neighborhood?

          • http://www.emilytimbol.com/ emilytimbol

            I did mean Suey, I’ll own up to that. I didn’t want to “name-names” for the very reasons you said though, because I think the attacks on her by the fans of RHE and other popular white bloggers are awful and I didn’t want in any way to add to that (although I have a platform probably 1/16th the size of RHE’s.) I appreciate your comment, and I’m not denying the power dynamics at play between RHE and Suey. For me it’s not the way Suey speaks or that she’s strident in her views. I wouldn’t criticize that and think it’s very problematic for white people to demand that POC be “calm” or “polite” or any of that. For me it is that she has admitted to being “tactical” and creating an online persona that is nothing like who she is offline, and intentionally starting conflicts with the intent to start conflicts, not to critique. What I’m trying to say is, I would never criticize a person of color for critiquing a white person who is doing or saying something that co-opts or oppresses people of color. But I have a hard time getting behind a person of color intentionally, admittedly picking people with large platforms to antagonize not with the goal to correct them necessarily, but just using them strategically to start movements or whatnot. At least not when both parties are Christians. That is where my discomfort lies. In the understanding that there is something disingenuous going on.

            If I’m wrong or have misinterpreted Suey’s motivations or reasons for publicly criticizing RHE and others than I’m sorry. From what I had gathered from talking with her and from her interviews/Twitter though, that is what I had gathered was a “tactic” and that is where my concern/issue lies.

          • Cassie Chang

            “But I have a hard time getting behind a person of color intentionally, admittedly picking people with large platforms to antagonize not with the goal to correct them necessarily, but just using them strategically to start movements or whatnot. At least not when both parties are Christians. That is where my discomfort lies. In the understanding that there is something disingenuous going on”

            But when a white person does it, they are given the benefit of the doubt. Think of how different this would be if Suey was white – same tone, same tweets. I’ll bet you the vitriol towards her will be cut by half, and there will be plenty of people saying – yes, she’s got strong views, but they are valid views. Instead, you’ve got a chorus of white people concentrating on Suey’s tone and tactics and not what she is actually saying. Or indeed what she advocates for outside of calling out white Christian bloggers.

            It would be disingenuous if Suey was calling RHE names or saying blatantly untrue things. (I haven’t seen the Tim Wise thing and RHE hasn’t provided an example so I can’t comment on that) But Suey is not saying anything wrong. She’s simply choosing a certain kind of presentation that is uncompromising and uncomfortable. Her critique that liberal white Christian bloggers appropriate work of POCs to build brand and have not done the real hard work of engaging with race is very valid. It’s no different from a journalist asking uncompromising questions during a press conference – as long as the questions are fair.

            I appreciate you taking the time to respond to me and wrestling with this. But I don’t see how your comment is any different from people asking Suey to be calmer and more polite. And I think what may be a sticking point for you is as you said, you would never do the reverse critique – but you are missing the power dynamics here. I don’t think it is appropriate for the white person to do this, unless that white person has taken the time to build relationships with Suey. It should be a rule that the privileged always hold their tongue in the face of critique, because of the unequal regard that is given to privileged voices. By the way, this is also why I got really angry when RHE tweeted that plenty of POC find Suey’s tactics questionable, because that is such a cop out for her and gives her white voice more legitimacy. If you want me to expound on this further, I’m happy to take this conversation off this site – I’m still forming my thoughts around this matter.

            The thing is, I’m uneasy about Suey’s tactics because I think it has too high an emotional cost for her (and it could put her life in danger), but I’m really grateful she’s doing it. What you see as antagonistization, I as a Asian quasi-American see as giving voice to the deep seated anger that POC feel at being dismissed for so long. That anger isn’t pretty, but we’re not here to look pretty.

            What I think is more important is that Suey is stirring conversations within POC circles about how best to engage with race, and how you do not have to do it in a way that is at all palatable to white people. Which raises all sorts of interesting questions on what is true dismantling of white supremacy, what justice looks like, how far do we dare use our voices etc.

          • http://www.emilytimbol.com/ emilytimbol

            To be fair, when I said I was uncomfortable with a person of color doing the above, I would be just as uncomfortable if that person were white. But you’re right that I might not “see” this as objectionable at first, it might not trigger my discomfort, or, there might be a tendency to give the benefit of the doubt. That’s something I’m glad you brought up.

            I really appreciate you engaging me with this, and all of your comments and concerns are valid. I made the mistake of trying to contact Suey and offer a critique/comment without first developing a relationship, and I’m sorry for that. That’s the reason I haven’t engaged in any of the Twitter discussions and why I only posted a comment here – on another white woman’s blog – because I thought it was more appropriate. This is all I’m probably going to say though, because like you brought up above, I want to focus my attentions on learning, listening to POC voices, and de-centering the conversation from myself and other white bloggers perspectives. So again, thanks for engaging with me and giving me some things to think about that I hadn’t before. I appreciate it.

          • Cassie Chang

            Thanks for listening. Are you on twitter? As I said, I’m happy to talk more about this off the site. If you find me on twitter @tinyandfierce__ , would be glad to connect.

          • http://www.emilytimbol.com/ emilytimbol

            I am! Just followed you. :)

          • KathiDenfeld

            I know I totally just jumped in here (Hi. Hello. Hi), but what just happened was key in this conversation: Emily showed humility and you invited her into real conversation, off site. It’s easy to turn each other into object (targets, even) online, sometimes we put our need to be right before relationships, but relationships is close to the only thing we have to hope in if we want things to change. Bowing out now.

          • http://www.emilytimbol.com/ emilytimbol

            For the record, Suey just tweeted an apology for the feud and allowed me to apologize to her and there was this kind of conversation. I feel like things are restored now and we can move on together working towards what we were fighting for in the first place. And I’m sorry too for my derailing. I really regret the ways I took part in this and how that was not helpful. But I’m very grateful for the people who showed me grace and allowed me to learn.

          • KathiDenfeld

            I’m glad Emily. You also seem like a gracious person with a very teachable heart.

          • Cassie Chang

            You’re very welcome to connect with me on twitter too! Although I have to say I will disappoint because my content is not all that exciting. :)

          • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

            I will storify all of our Twitter interactions shortly, so folks can see exactly what was said.

          • http://rachelheldevans.com Rachel Held Evans

            I don’t mind public disagreement. When Suey first “called me out.” I said, “You’re right. I repent. I need to do better. ” But then she started tweeting things that were factually inaccurate – like that I am a supporter of someone named Tim Wise who I had never even heard of. So the “tactic” I just can’t support is the lying. She can make good and important points and still tell the truth. We all can. That seems like a reasonable standard.

            Suey does not represent all POC. I know this for a fact. This week I heard from many POC who disagree with her but who are absolutely terrified to cross her. It’s not “tone policing” to say that truth matters and that bullying is wrong.

          • http://www.emilytimbol.com/ emilytimbol

            Thanks for weighing in Rachel.

          • KathiDenfeld

            Well said.

          • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

            Rachel, of course Suey doesn’t represent all people of color. You keep repeating that line as if she has claimed to, which she has not. It’s a red herring.

            Yes, bullying is wrong, and I was grieved to see quite a bit of it in a thread on your Facebook page. Your fans lefts dozens of sexist, ableist, truly ugly comments discrediting Suey’s work and disparaging her mental health, which were up for hours before you deleted the whole thing without a word.

            Her tweet (https://twitter.com/suey_park/status/502969533968027649) was about your and your friends, referencing your support of Colbert’s response to Suey’s #CancelColbert critique along with Kristen’s recent RTs of professional ally Tim Wise. Her tweet connected you together as you had just jumped into conversation between Suey, Mihee, Preston, and Kristen to defend your friend, Kristen. It was not a lie. You’ve made it abundantly clear that you aren’t a fan of Wise (which was entirely beside the point of the conversation about when/how/whether white people should go, stay, speak, or listen), but there is zero need to continually cast Suey as a liar in order to “set the record straight”. Most people don’t care either way if you like Wise or not (although several of your fans had a quite a bit of praise for him in that Facebook thread that was otherwise a nasty pile-on). Trying to make a case that Suey is a liar or a terrifying, threatening bully based on one tweet and a little gossip is weak and uncharitable. She is also a real person.

            Also, Tim Wise’s name appears on your site in the recommended reading section of this post: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/ask-an-indigenous-theologian-response )

          • guest

            Kristen has recently retweeted him (even though he has seriously attacked Suey a week earlier) and in the ONE interview you did with a native person AFTER emily rice suggested you diversify, randey woodley suggested tim wise. you are bullying suey by making her think MORE people are against her. Isolation is an abuser tactic. just because some POC disagree with her (shocker: not all POC agree or are friends) don’t give YOU as a white woman an excuse to bully her, unless you think you are saving the POC afraid of Suey or defending yourself. either way it’s not a good look and we urge you NOT to post more or storify. it only makes you look sad, rachel.

          • http://leftcheek.wordpress.com/ Jasdye

            Suey does not represent all POC

            I’m sure you’d be quite shocked to find that Martin Luther King, Jr. did not represent all African Americans. Neither does Jesse Jackson currently represent all African Americans. Shoot, now that I think about it, Cesar Chavez didn’t represent all Mexican Americans or migrants. Pedro Alibuzu Campos didn’t represent all Puerto Ricans. Gandhi didn’t represent all Indians.

            Need I go on? I’m not comparing Suey to anybody else (that would be another tactic of White Supremacy, really) – she is who she is. But I’m saying that People of Color are not a monolith and do not pretend to be united in tactics or goals. But it doesn’t stop us from desiring to speak and from speaking for and from ourselves.

            And I’ve tried to be super nice and bend over backwards for you, Rachel Held Evans, in issues of race and White Supremacy/Privilege a couple years ago. And you still made it about you and how you felt – you still centered it on whiteness. It’s still a tactic of White Supremacy, that POC have to constantly kiss white ass to be heard and ultimately dismissed.

            NOT TODAY POWERS OF WHITENESS!

          • Cassie Chang

            Rachel, I have great respect for you. And your work was very important for me when I left the evangelical church. A Year in Biblical Womanhood was an important text that made my laugh and cry and gave me courage during a time when I needed it. I saw all of this just to let you know that I come as a fan of your work, and as someone who would love nothing more but for your work to continue.What I say next I say as someone who knows that you are open to critique and public disagreement, and indeed, have learnt a great deal from watching how you interact with your critics and detractors.

            I think you are being unfair in your critique about Suey to the point where it is unbecoming. Suzannah and Jasdye have adequately shown how repeating the Tim Wise and the ‘Suey doesn’t speak for all POC” line is reductive and dismissive and frankly, I expected a lot more from you. This does not sound like the Rachel Held Evans who was gracious to her conservative evangelical critics who piled on your last book.

            What I think you are missing is the power dynamic. Of course Suey is not above reproach, but you’re missing how as a liberal white feminist Christian blogger, your voice is given larger credit in these circles. That is why I became particularly angry when you kept saying that not all POC agree with Suey, that she doesn’t speak for all POC etc, because I know there will be people out there who think then that you’ve said the final word on how which POC voices to listen to. You’ve subtly given your approval to the less strident, more white-friendly voices.

            Have you tried reaching out to Suey? She has publicly said that she is letting go of her feud with you. She’s also proved herself very open to conversations. Why don’t you reach out to her and treat her like a person in the same way you would like to be treated yourself?

          • KathiDenfeld

            It feels disingenuous and I think it makes it harder for her to be taken seriously in her message. It’s easy to cross over into questioning if this is for the good of the community or if this is the good of Suey.

          • Khoury

            There are many non-white people who think Suey Park is a fraud.

          • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

            ok, this isn’t going to be a bash Suey thread. It’s obvious you disagree, and you’ve made your point. Thanks for reading.

          • Khoury

            Caris,

            I didn’t insult her. There are several people who disagree with her and think she is not genuine. I don’t know her, but to act like she speaks for every non-white person is inaccurate.

          • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

            That’s part of my point. No she may not speak for all POC obviously, but that’s not an excuse for people to dismiss her.

          • Khoury

            People can critique her arguments and disagree. That is not dismissal. Just because she is Asian doesn’t mean her ideas and experiences can’t be questioned.

            BTW why do you use an Arabic surname in your pen name? Just curious.

          • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

            When it’s white ppl doing the critiquing/dismissing, yes, it’s a problem.

            I wanted a global name that meant something – Caris is Welsh female, Adel is arabic male, and it means Love Justice.

          • Khoury

            Anybody’s ideas should be up for critique. To say someone can’t question an idea or have their ideas be immune from critique based on ethnic identity is wrong.

            Do you know by the logic of a lot of people in the SJW crowd who you defend would consider your use of “Adel” as an appropriation of Middle Eastern culture?

            I am Lebanese and have no problem with your pen name, but several in the crowd you defend would.

          • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

            yeah I can see how that might be offensive to people. I had no understanding of that at the time.

          • Khoury

            It is not offensive, that’s my point. Your name is fine. The problem if someone is offended would be the person offended.

          • KathiDenfeld

            A sincere question– is she dismissive of others?

        • Khoury

          Emily,

          You being white doesn’t give someone carte blanche to act like a fool towards you. Someone being non-white doesn’t make them a moral authority.

    • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

      i think a big thing to realize is that we don’t all want the same thing. i mean, yeah, we want “justice” in a generic sense, but we have waayyy different ideas about what that looks like as well as eyes for how injustice plays out specifically within institutions, relational dynamics, social structures, etc., we want a lot of different things, and that is part of why we conflict.

      the attack narrative is a curious one. from my perspective, it looks considerably different than you describe. white supremacy, like misogyny, is the air we breathe, and we are indicted/complicit even when there are no slurs or conscious discrimination. folks mean well and still let a lot of oppressive junk fly under our radars. it’s not about how people don’t mean well–it’s about exposing and rooting out the ways we privilege power and whiteness.

      • http://www.emilytimbol.com/ emilytimbol

        This is true. Thanks Suzannah. I have been frustrated in the past when people engaging in incredibly racist or sexist words or actions have replied that, “well that wasn’t my intention!” So I realize intentions are not as important as actions. That’s a good reminder for me to do more listening/learning on the specifics of what justice looks like and what I/racial justice activists want.

        And I do agree that white supremacy is something we’re all complicit in, and denying this and acting defensive does not help. I guess I didn’t realize how hard it is for me to root out my own privilege and power, until recently. Or what this looks like, in the day-to-day.

      • Khoury

        Suzannah,
        Would you move to the east side of Detroit and raise your kids in a majority black neighborhood?

  • http://www.WhiteWork.org/ Ashley Ray

    I appreciate what you’ve written. “De-centering” is a somewhat new concept to me – say, in the last year or two. Ever since I was first introduced to it, through observing the conversation of others, I’ve begun noticing more and more how I am centered by my culture and how good and natural it feels to be centered . . . and how off it feels to de-center myself. But so, so necessary! Now, situations where I’m centered and shouldn’t be are kind of like when you buy a new car & now see it on the street everywhere you go – situations where I’m unfairly centered are popping up left and right!

    The simple practice of decentering myself in everyday situations as they pop up and as I spot them, is kind of like a workout for me. It helps me build “muscle memory” and I’m beginning to spot it and move into a non-centered position much more swiftly, in all types of situations. Practice, practice, practice!

  • Abby Norman

    Yes! So important. I just wrote about this, like how sometimes in my neighborhood it is easier to just go home and shut the door. But that isn’t going to help anything.

  • Luke Norsworthy

    Good thoughts Caris. And thanks for the link.

  • John Lussier

    “White supremacy is the power to block, to unfollow, to ignore, to walk away from voices that point to a different way of life. It is to state beforehand what tones are acceptable to talk in. To be in control of the situation. To decide when the conversation is over.”

    At what point do we get to walk away, unfollow, block, ignore, etc.? Because I’ve watched a lot of conversations devolve into abuse online between folks discussing race. The accusation of white supremacy then gets thrown out as a cudgel. “Stop tone policing me!” becomes the response to folks that have been hurt and offended by someone online. When false accusations are passed on by a POC (it happens) the response back of “white supremacy only considering the details” gets thrown back.

    Power has to be set down on both sides. If POC come to the conversation with a posture of justice seeking but without grace and acknowledging they are human as well… this is going nowhere.

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  • TTD

    As far as I can see, this “conversation” is just jockeying for status. Look at how humble and empathetic I am! That guy thinks he’s righteous, but he’s not! (Therefore I am more righteous!) It’s a video game for you people before you click away to the next Buzzfeed article, or the slightly more upscale version (I haz more status than Buzzfeed readers!)

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