Dissent, haters and angry white people

How many times are you gonna use “silo of privilege?” It’s about as worn out, as your using the color of your skin as an excuse for all the world’s wrongs. Maybe it’s just that you’re arrogant, and that’s why whites don’t care for you. And if you hate Maine so much, just leave and move to” black is beautiful” Boston. (BTW: If you dislike Caucasians so much, then why did you marry one? It’s hugely hypocritical.)-Jamie a blog commenter

“What about us white men who were harassed by cops or treated unfairly by cops when we were younger, do we go around saying it was because of this or it was because of that? No, income class has more bearing on how a person is treated in our country than race. I’m sick of all these people saying that I must’ve had it easy because I’m white. I’m sure Will Smith’s kids are going to have a easier life than I did, confrontations with cops included. Stop the BS”– Kevin a poster on the BGIM Facebook page

“Shay never responds to questions, or even thanks people for commenting. I guess that it’s beneath her. She can complain all she wants, but at the end of the day it’s all about “race card.”– Chris a blog commenter

“U sound like a racist…your peeps! Come on black girl dont be such a fool. But i guess its a good thing u have come here to work and not sell drugs like 80% of black folk that come here.’– Shawna a blog commenter

I am not a writer by trade, I am a non profit administrator, researcher, and consultant with a background in both non-profit management and African-American studies who spent a number of years in the trenches of social services.  One could say that my background is rather eclectic. Writing was a long lost childhood dream that I reconnected with back in 2002 when I convinced a local newspaper to let me write a column. On the strength of my early pieces for the Portland Press Herald, I convinced a local indie paper to give me a column focusing on diversity. My Diverse City column with the Portland Phoenix celebrated 10 years last year. It was a little over six years ago when I decided to throw my hat into the blog arena.

One thing I learned early on when I started writing for an audience larger than myself is that people aren’t always going to agree with you. There will be readers who really think that your ideas, your writing and you suck. The first few times you receive less than stellar feedback, it hurts like hell but you learn to brush it off. Yet there are times when it is hard to brush off criticism and times when maybe you shouldn’t brush it off and this is one of those times.

Over the years, I have had my share of haters and dissent. Civil dissent I can respect, I have no illusions that my words will resonate with all. That would be absurd, this is not circle time in kindergarten where we must all get along. I can even say that at times, I have honesty dropped the ball in this space. One of my biggest challenges with this space is that as someone who has simultaneously ran organizations as my day work that require me to go above and beyond lest my staff nor I will be compensated, while juggling my family and household I am not always great at replying to commenters. I admit that and if ever someone was offended I do offer apologies.  Though as many readers have learned direct email is often the best way to get a timely response from me.  I am a flawed human being as we all are, and I try the best that I can. If that offends, I am sorry.

However in recent weeks and months, the level of virulent emails and comments (that I often don’t approve) that I have received has reached a level that frankly scares me. I shared a few of the tame ones at the beginning of this post because I am tired. My day job is heading up an organization that organizes for racial equity, I am well aware that racism exists but to have so many actively telling me that I am wrong or attempting to silence me is also wrong.

To put ones words and thoughts out for public consumption is to invite dissent or “trolls” but personal attacks or a general lack of civility is one thing I can’t tolerate. I write about race and it is not just my personal views, the research supports my words. As a researcher I know that my opinion needs to be backed up and I can do that. To answer my critics I don’t hate white people, my life partner of almost 20 years is white but I refuse to stuff myself down to appease anyone who is uncomfortable with reality as it is.

Today I came very close to shutting this blog down and committing digital suicide because in a moment of humanity, it hurt like hell to know that as someone committed to equity and justice, this space is a source of pain for me and my family. Yet to do that is to allow ignorance to win and well…my plucky side just can’t do that.

We don’t have to agree but if you are troubled by the words that I share here, I would ask why? Why is it uncomfortable to hear a Black person saying that we are not post racial and that racism is real? Why must be my words be met with statements that I should leave the state of Maine or to cut the BS? Why am I not entitled to stand in my truth as much as you stand in your truth (at least when it is truth; some of you make assumptions about reality that aren’t backed up by facts/research)? Why do you think you have the right to silence me?

If we cannot even agree to disagree in a respectful manner, maybe we should ask ourselves why? Acknowledging reality is not painful but avoiding it sure as hell is and in the end we all lose and we truly won’t ever move ahead.

Effective immediately comments are no longer allowed on posts older than 7 days. Also, be aware that if you cannot conduct civil discussions with other commenters or myself on this blog, you will likely be barred from commenting.

 

PS: There is no race card, I tried to get this mythical card but like the Amex Black card, no one knows anyone who has this card. In reality the term race card is how we stifle uncomfortable discussions about race. 

19 thoughts on “Dissent, haters and angry white people

  1. You have wise words and I appreciate the perspectives (and truths!) you present. It is a sad state that so many virulent readers make the effort to comment but have so missed the point. My eyes are open.

  2. why is it, trolls (internet and IRL) somehow feel bolstered and even more entitled to bust out their bigoted voice whenever controversy becomes more relevant (to them)? Oh- ya. the entitled become more entitled. I like reading your pieces. This is your space and I fully respect your choice to stay or leave. They will not win either way. They will not.

  3. I am glad you have been able to stick with your blog and endure being the lightning rod for a lot of the ignorant self righteous venom that is directed at all non white people living in this country. It is very hard for them to understand that when we protect our children we protect theirs too.

  4. Thank you for writing this article. It sounds so awful to imagine the comments you shared are just a few of many. I hope that your story and your thoughtful questions inspire recognition and reflection in your readers and future commenters.

  5. I just noticed your 7-day or older policy and I apologize for this tardy reply to your post of August 4, “….when ice cream turns racial.”

    In all honesty I was disappointed in your response (or lack thereof) to your son’s comment: “She is looking at me the way all older white women look at me, as if they expect me to harm them.” As an older white woman, (old enough to be your son’s grandmother) this hurt me and I was taken aback that you didn’t have some sort of rebuttal. I’m not looking for defense attorney stuff here, simply acknowledgement that not all older white women are alike.

    • I apologize for any hurt feelings. My son’s beloved grandmother is an older white woman and retired attorney, so he is aware that not all white women are like that. Yet more often than not his encounters with older white women are less than pleasant. He is a 6’4 brown young man and for many, his very presence is uncomfortable. A reality that I can no longer shield him from, one that at times is also confusing when he loved and cherished by his white family yet treated as less than a human being by so many who don’t know him personally.

      Just wanted to say that my writing comes in spurts and it is not unusual for me to put up a post and not be able to get back to my computer for several days. On a work day, my day starts at 4am with a train at 5 in the morning. While there is a lot I can do from my phone, replying on the blog is a bit challenging also complicated by the fact that small type on a phone is increasingly harder to read. So my lack of reply is nothing more than the limitations of a 24 hour day. I wanted to say that as well as say that I appreciate your reading and being a part of this space. 🙂

  6. Kate, I adamantly agree! I’m also an older white woman, and sometimes look strangely at people for different reasons. Maybe I simply have gas, hot flashes, or I’m not feeling well. Perhaps, she even had a fight with her mate. It probably wasn’t because he’s a black man, because she’s known him for years. Why would he do her any harm? My point is, it’s very easy to misread expressions.

  7. I’m sorry. A little courtesy goes a long way, if nothing else. I’m glad you haven’t shut down the blog, but your work is hard enough, and I’d certainly understand if you did.

  8. Thanks for the many posts. Please keep posting. I always look forward to reading and pondering your posts. You always provide food for thought.

  9. Without your writing, I would not have been aware, nor would I ever have guessed that in this day and in this country, any woman or especially woman of color that speaks out will be threatened with rape, torture and death. And now I see this is everywhere, not isolated cases, totally mainstream.
    You and your fellow writers bearing witness to this have brought it to my attention. I am a white guy from Maine, (now living in LA) and I did not know.
    I am glad to have been made aware, despite that it is painful.
    What I am doing now is using my white privilege to bring your arguments to the white people I know and to present them as an indigtment of this society. They don’t like it from me any more than they do from you. I am likely to get my ass kicked for this, but I know which side I am on.

  10. Shay, I too am very grateful for your blog, it has inspired me to get together a blog (only one post so far) to give a shot at approaching the problem from the white side. I am an older white woman but I totally get it for your son. Even if people are having a bad day, there seems to be something in the mind behind The White Gaze that allows bestowing all that intrinsic venom right on the “outsider”, especially a dark skinned one. Reprehensible and virulently unkind, not to mention ignorant. Yet, I do care about the headaches and the discomfort. So, I suggest a remedy of making the effort to get an education in the truth about slavery and the theft of the land slaves were put to work on. I encourage all white people who find themselves tired of race as an issue to soften their hearts, rise to the occasion and study up. It will be a phenomenally rewarding experience, never in a million years will you regret it!

  11. I am wondering why those people read your blog if they feel so viciously…who wastes that kind of time. I hate Limbaug’s vitriol, I definitely don’t waste brain cells on that garbage.

  12. It hasn’t been unheard of for your posts to make me uncomfortable, but that’s as it should be. I remember getting fierce growing pains as a pre- and peri-adolescent. My mom used to say, “It’s just your body growing into itself.”

    That’s often how I look at the blunt discussion of race I encounter from BGIM and Son of Baldwin (and myriad others). I can’t acknowledge or address problems if I don’t know there are problems and, frankly, as a white woman in Maine there are a lot of problems I’m never going to naturally encounter.

    Your discussion and observations have, on occasion, made me incredibly uncomfortable. I’ve then taken that discomfort to change my actions/inactions/language/ideas. I might be just one person, but if my person, and your person, Jane’s person, and Eric’s person get together it’s suddenly a bit more. Maybe not *a lot* more, but more than before.

    All my long winded way of saying I adore you and am so appreciative of your Phoenix columns, your blog, your FB, your Twitter.

  13. Strength and peace to you. This blog and your other writing serve a useful purpose, but it is clear that that purpose has a price for you. Please put yourself first and take care of you. I promise you that the world will still need your wisdom even if you have to take a break from sharing it.

  14. Thank you for the brave and important work you do — paid and unpaid. Being an African heritage person in America is hard. Even harder in a place where there are even lower percentages of people of color (who are the global majority)! I don’t often comment on any blogs it read online but felt compelled to let you know that a Korean heritage woman and mother married to a mixed heritage Mexican-Irish-Polish man supports you and your blog! You go girl, hold your head up high and be grateful for the confused commenters — they are confused because some of us are not and we will not let them forget how confused they are! Someday, maybe they can even become our friends if they can get through their confusion and fear…hang in there and take care of yourself. The world, including the digital one, needs voices like yours! Peace and love and hope to you!

  15. I usually don’t comment, but I really enjoy reading your blog. We lived in Maine 20-odd years ago when we were first married and in the military. It was…an interesting place. Beautiful scenically, for sure.

    I appreciate your perspective and your talent for writing, but wouldn’t blame you if you did shut down, as it must be exhausting to endure having so much racism and #notallwhitepeople constantly lobbed at you. I’m glad you’ve decided to stick around for now. Take care. <3

  16. I am also extremely appreciative of your blog. I have recently moved to Maine with my black boyfriend and our 1 year old son. We have had an extremely hard time adjusting to this new environment. Reading your blog as a family has been a breath of fresh air. We almost feel like we are living in the twilight zone here and your blog has kept us sane in such an insane and unjust world. You have put into words some very difficult topics and true and real feelings that many cannot express. Thank you for being so brave and sharing!

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