Tuesday, October 06, 2009

that's not racist

it's taken me a while to become more motivated to write, and yes, here in "white" portland, oregon of course there is always some nonsense to write about.

why is it that white people always feel the need to tell black people what is racist and what's not?
note to white people: if a black person is offended by a (what they consider to be) racial remark, do not attempt to tell them WHY it is NOT racist.

i see this all the time and recently experienced it. my husband and i have a friend who lives nearby, a white woman who we've known for not very long down the block (some of my readers may know that we recently bought a house in the beaumont/alameda neighborhood). she's a great person, she means well, but cannot catch a clue to save her life. she's one of those italians with the really thick, tightly curled hair. i've heard her complain that her hair is 'nappy'. okay, that's fine, maybe so. that doesn't offend me. shoot, it probably is nappy. but she had the nerve to call one of my kids, 'nappyhead'.

that's where i draw the line. i told her that that was racist, that i didn't appreciate it, and she went on to tell me that it 'was not a racist remark' because she too had nappy hair. so that made it okay.

but people in portland somehow feel so open and so "progressive" and so cultural even though it's not really diverse at all. there's the FEELING of diversity because they pass by a black person while jogging, or walking down alberta street. so i think white people think that they can define or determine what is racist talk and what is not.


Razzaq said...

Coming across your blog. Taking in your words. Recognizing you as a genuine "black woman" gave me a sincere sense of comfort. I will be moving to portland in June. I will make several trips prior to locate a decent area to reside. Your blogs have enlightened me on my moving to Portland. I just want to say thank you kindly. Continue to share your thoughts and feelings.
Peace & Blessings.

carisa said...

I came across your blog a few months back, so it's nice to see you writing again. I'm black, female and live in Portland, too. Keep up the good work.

The New Black Woman said...

I've had this problem as well. What's worse is some of the reasoning why whites give blacks as to why a statement is NOT racist.

Aaron the Truck Driver said...

I worked with a black guy in San Diego. He told me Portland was the one place where he didn't feel like people were looking at him.

I'm not sure how this fits into the conversation but i think a lot of racism should be called bigotry.

I've spent time in Central America. The whites clog together there too, and the blacks, and the Hondurans, and the Nicaraguans. Fish do that too. It natural. Go toward people who look like you.

It's a problem when you have bigotry, people who think, if you don't look like them and talk like them you are not equal to them.

Then again, I'm white. i dont see the difference. I know its there, i have friends that say nigger as often as they say any other word.

I saw we are all racists. You are attracted to people like you. Its when you think those who don't look like you are unequal to you that causes problems.


Anonymous said...

I'm black and korean, raised in Colorado, military brat. I've lived in a lot of places, experienced a lot of people. I'm not an expert on the world, but I know my life. I think if you want to see racism, you're going to see it, and it's going to color everything in your life.

I feel most people I've met in my life, in their hearts, are good people and mean well. Coming from Colorado, which is incredibly homogenous racially, I know those white people in my community were part of who were behind me, supported me and encouraged me to excel and be who I am.

It's not to say prejudice and bigotry doesn't exist (and believe me I've had plenty of brushes with it), but we judge on SO MANY OTHER things too these days: age, weight, intelligence, status, wealth, etc...if you think it's just skin color, that's a limited view. If I ran around pointing out everything I thought was racist, that would be all that I saw.

On one hand, I'm glad you're writing again, but for what it's worth, your blog saddens me. It's just as judgmental as the people you say judge you. It's disheartening to me to see intelligent black women feed their own hang ups and play the perpetual victim this way. Stop tripping over your own gown. The world is too big. Just because people can be clueless, doesn't mean they're heartless and not every non-black person is an enemy.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps what she is trying to say is that she didn't mean to make a racist comment.

Anonymous said...

I disagree... the fact that someone was offended by a comment doesn't make that comment racist.

And although I agree that calling someone else's hair nappy needs to be done carefully... INTENT to degrade is the thing that would make it most offensive... the instance you described is not a "ten" on a racism scale of 1 to 10. Three, maybe? And personally, I think the world would be a better place if everybody just ignored comments under a four on the 1 to 10 offensiveness scale. It's not worth a response.

I'm not a Christian... but I think Jesus would agree.

My opinion.


Anonymous said...

You have no problem with conceding her hair as "nappy", but the term is suddenly offensive when it is used to describe your kid? Use derogatory term on others, it's ok, use that derogatory term on my kid, it's offensive.

Talk about double standard.

The question is: Does your kid have nappy hair? If yes, then the term "nappyhead" is quite right. And no, it's not offensive because you were certainly NOT offended when you happily agreed that the other woman had "nappy" hair.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a cultural miscommunication, and potentially more a matter of bad manners than anything else. She was complaining about her hair; and then she associated the same quality she was complaining about with your child.

At the same time, the word "nappy" is racially charged, and hair has the potential to be triggering for women in general....

If English is her second language, I would excuse it for sure. Otherwise, its a bit awkward, and so good that you mentioned it so she'll learn.

jchase said...

this might be a little late in the game. . .but i identify with your post. and am a little miffed at some of the comments left before me. many posters felt the need to analyze the situation, relay their own life experiences, and then tell you to get over it.

essentially saying that the matter should have been ignored and not brought to the attention of the neighbor.

to this, i disagree. she said something offensive to your child. as a parent, i read this interaction as something you should have spoken to her about. i'm upset that people want to dismiss her use of the word nappy (which is never used in a positive matter,. when she describes her hair as such, she is highlighting her perceived negative qualities about her mane. ) because her hair may be that same way, or she may be culturally insensitive.

from what you wrote, you appear to have handled the situation tactfully, as adults should. don't second guess yourself.

this is your blog, you were offended. write about it. and if we don't like what you write, then we just shouldn't read.

Anonymous said...

You say "nappyhead" like its a bad thing....

Anonymous said...

to: anonymous who said: "Perhaps what she is trying to say is that she didn't mean to make a racist comment."

If that's what she meant to say, then she should have said it...period.

As for the term "nappy" it's a texture of hair, like straight, curly, or some might say...kinky, it shouldn't be thought of as a bad thing but I do understand that some say it in a way where they mean it to be a bad thing...and that's too bad.

I'm a black woman with a short cut/permed hair and my gorgeous 2 yr old has beautiful locs but I still find that I have to define my blackness because of the way I choose to wear my hair. The type of texture hair I have, braids, locs...anything that pulls takes my hair out. I use a perm more like a texturizer because my hair is so fine. If my hair was right for locing, I would go there for sure but I came into this world as a black woman, I'm gonna die a black woman, and nothing I do to my hair is going to change that. I just wish we would all get off the nonsense.

viagra online said...

It's difficult to explain but I don't think that white people should tell what is racist an t what is not to black people, only any person know what tried to say.

Kirstie said...

the woman may not have been trying to make a racist comment. she was saying that the child had hair like her's. She WAS wrong for makinf a comment about a child , but i don't think she was saying in an offensive way. but you definitely could have calmly discussed that with her and not made any assumptions until the use was clear.