Your “Calling All White People” resource, or An Average White Guy menu

Those darn white people. Always seeing us doing something cool in communities of color and then turning it trendy (belly dancing, yoga, etc.) or taking our art and running off and doing your own thing with it and banking checks, with rap being one of the biggies (I do have love in my musical heart for The Beastie Boys and Eminem).

And now An Average White Guy.

To both his surprise and mine, the “Calling All White People” series has proven to be pretty popular, beyond the passing fancy he had envisioned. So, this post (which I will update and reference online from time to time) will be the resource to the compendium of advice and insight from An Average White Guy.

At least I know he’s not good with public speaking, so he won’t be horning in on that part of my action.

Calling All White People / Average White Guy Posts

Calling all white people, part 1: Ally or accomplice
Is being an ally enough? For some people, maybe, but consider becoming an accomplice instead in racial justice. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 2: I’m not racist (oh, realllly?)
If you have to point out much that you’re not racist, that might mean you actually are, and some thoughts on avoiding that trap. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 3: Stepping on toes
You aren’t always going to make friends being part of anti-racism efforts; in fact, you might lose a lot of people or need to eject some from your life. But it’s how change will come. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 4: Enjoy from afar
Sometimes, entering into conversations between people of color when you aren’t one is a bad idea, but by all means learn something from them. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 5: Misusing MLK
There is a really bad habit among white people, especially the ones who want to look good rather than do good, of quoting Martin Luther King Jr. out of context. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 6: Credit where it’s due, please
Learn about issues of racism and oppression from those most affected by it whenever you can, and signal-boost them often, rather than making racial justice about white people. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 7: Don’t succumb to hurt feelings
If you turn away from anti-racism efforts or from even just trying to understand race because one (or a few) people of color hurt your feelings, you weren’t really about understanding, about equality or about justice. Don’t be that person. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 8: Mixed-race unions aren’t the ultimate answer
It’s sweet to think that interracial relationships and biracial/multiracial kids will end racism, but here’s why that notion just doesn’t add up. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 9: Seeing and respecting race
It’s easy to dismiss race for a lot of white people (even though they don’t really dismiss it and the attempt to do so is insulting) and it’s easy for a lot of others to fetishize race. Here are some thoughts about avoiding both. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 10: Hating your whiteness won’t help anyone
Feel free to despise white supremacy. Feel free to dismantle white privilege. But self-hate or hatred of whiteness is a counterproductive thing. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 11: Can’t be accountable to everyone
Everyone has different strategies and opinions, and that includes people of color and different anti-racism organizations and movements; being accountable to everyone isn’t possible, though you can at least learn to be humble and receptive to all. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 12: Approaching your apologies
If you have pissed off an entire demographic group/population (or do so at any time in the future), here are some thoughts about how to do the “I’m sorry” thing. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 13: And now for a brief update…
Since I’ve been doing this column a while, maybe it’s finally time to mention what the point of it all is, and why I’m all anonymous-like. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 14: Spaces of their own for POC
There are very valid reason that there are Black-specific, Latinx-specific, LGBTQ-specific, and [insert other group here]-specific gatherings, places and programs, and why that isn’t the same as racist and exclusionary whites-only spaces. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 15: Stop the toxic idealism…a.k.a Pollyanna bullcrap
If you want people of color (or tell them) to stop talking about racial disparities because you think it’s divisive, you need to stop. Or stop people you know from doing it. And here’s why. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 16: Devil’s advocacy deviltry
Defending those who don’t need or deserve defending “for the sake of argument” is pretty often a straight-up dick move, especially where something as important as race relations is involved. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 17: POC are not sex objects
No person of color, Black or otherwise, should be turned into a fetish, nor be used as a relationship tool to make you feel more enlightened. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 18: The mythical beast that is reverse racism
Racism is real; reverse racism is not. And here’s why, in case you haven’t been listening to people of color who have told you all this already. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 19: Get real about what Charlottesville means, and get out of your feelings
Long past time to stop the hand-wringing and the “I can’t believe this is happening” and the online tears. Time to hurt some feelings, get your feelings hurt and begin a real process of confronting truths and changing the system. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 20: Cultural appropriation isn’t some “little” issue and it’s not respectful
Let’s have a talk about how white people, generally speaking, are very quick to use other people’s cultures for their own satisfaction while also denying those same people the space and freedom to practice them themselves. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 21: Look; don’t touch
This applies to a lot more than the head, but can we talk about why manhandling Black women’s hair isn’t a compliment and isn’t cool? Because clearly plenty of white people still need to be educated on this topic. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 22: Trust and believe
When people of color say something is racist, the first step is to take them seriously and really think about the situation, not to react defensively and doubt them with little or no evidence of your own. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 23: No hostage-taking please
When you tell someone who is vocal about equity and justice that they need to tone things down if they want to have support (especially yours) then you’re basically extorting them because you can’t handle the truth. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 24: Call them the terrorists they are
We are all too reluctant to brand white people terrorists when we should (and too eager to label non-whites as terrorists), and Austin serial bomber (and terrorist) Mark Conditt is just the latest example of that. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 25: On the subject of digital blackface
When we are white people, we ought to tread lightly (or not at all) when it comes to using memes or emojis of Black people (or other people of color) to express our reactions to various topics and events of the day. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 26: Minding one’s own business
Calling the police or making any kind of scene over a Black person (or group of Black people) conducting routine activities of daily living is a terrible look for us white people. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 27: Taking up less space
Whether it’s that feeling of superiority that often comes with white privilege, or a legacy of white colonialism, we white folks take up a lot of space…physically, mentally and emotionally…and a lot of people of color would like some breathing room. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 28: Halfway isn’t the way to justice and equity
As white people, we really need to stop half-assing racial progress, efforts toward social equity and all the rest, because the people who should benefit only get let down, and we move on feeling like we did something when we really didn’t. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 29: Connection is the way, not collection
Are you really ready to be actual friends with Black people? I mean, really, really ready. Because you might not be and it isn’t something you should force. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 30: Roles to avoid
There are “well meaning” ways you might try to be as a white person, but then again, maybe you should think twice about some of those roles. (read post)

Calling all white people, part 31: Those Covington teens are no angels
Black and brown people, including youth, rarely are granted the benefit of the doubt or second chances. So why would we even consider the kid-glove treatment on openly racist white teens? (read post)


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Getting perspective on Native Americans, or People are more than their oppression

In recent days, I wrote about the Dakota Access Pipeline and the mistreatment and disrespect shown to Native Americans protesting that pipeline. It was a post that had a bit of anger and grimness to it, which isn’t surprising given how infuriating and demoralizing the situation is as it has grown ever more militaristic against those of Native American/American Indian ancestry.

But it also reminded me, as I wrote about things like the economic struggles on many reservations and the oppression that Native American people experience from the government and from many Americans in general, that people aren’t simply the sum of their sufferings.

Too often, Donald Trump has talked about how “hellish” life is for Black people, describing desperate hardscrabble lives that don’t represent much of Black America. Most Black Americans are law-abiding citizens. Quite a number of them have livable and even middle class and higher incomes (even if they are typically lower than those of comparably experiences white people). Education at the college level is increasingly common. But still, Trump equates Black Americans with the “inner city” and with “poverty.” He doesn’t really acknowledge the state-sponsored oppression Blacks toil under nor the frequent racism they experience from many Americans, and yet at the same time he focuses on them as suffering, desperate people.

Makes one wonder where he thinks their pain comes from.

But the fact is he lumps Black people into a single monolithic mass of folks who have little or no hope, when the fact is they simply have little or no support from America to be treated equally and fairly.

So, I don’t want to leave the impression from my post on the pipeline protest that Native American people are just one mass of people either suffering from poverty or being oppressed on a regular basis. Like Black people, they are whole people, not mere victims. They are active, they are vibrant and they are worthy of respect.

So, I thought I’d share some news that passed my way about a push to highlight Native Americans in the STEM arena. I’ll let the late-August news release from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society speak for itself, though:

Native Americans Featured in New Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math Project

The Natives in STEM project—Changing the Face of Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics

Albuquerque, NM (August 31, 2016)—Today, a new project, Natives in STEM, unveiled a unique resource to encourage Native American youth to participate in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). New posters featuring Native STEM professionals will be distributed to schools and communities across New Mexico and the U.S. A complementary website (www.NativesInSTEM.org) filled with Native STEM professionals’ stories has also launched for students, schools, and communities to use as an educational resource.

“Growing up, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me, didn’t see myself represented, in my science and math textbooks and classroom walls,” said Chelsea Chee, project co-founder and Diversity Coordinator for the New Mexico Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NM EPSCoR), a National Science Foundation-funded program. “I wanted to change that.”

Studies show that students find it difficult to imagine themselves as part of the STEM community if they don’t see people like them represented in related images or learning environments. However, exposure to positive images and success stories can increase a sense of belonging for those not traditionally represented in STEM fields. Images and stories of Native scientists, technologists, engineers, and mathematicians hardly existed for Native people to access, until now!

The first Natives in STEM posters feature two Ph.D. engineers—Stan Atcitty, a Dine’/Navajo man at Sandia National Laboratories and Otakuye Conroy-Ben, an Olgala Lakota woman and professor at Arizona State University. And, www.NativesInSTEM.org has stories from other Native professionals from different tribes and backgrounds. New posters and stories will periodically be added in the future.

natives-in-stem-stan-atcitty_0natives-in-stem-otakuye-conroy-ben_1

“We are excited see a school on a tribal nation with a poster of a Native engineer hanging on the walls for all the students, parents, grandparents, and community to see,” said Lisa Paz, project co-founder and Director of Membership and Communications for the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES).

About Natives in STEM: Natives in STEM is a joint project of the American Indian Science & Engineering Society (AISES) and New Mexico Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NM EPSCoR).
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Why can’t you hear us?

Today’s post is written by  Teddy Burrage, who joins the BGIM family as a contributing writer. Teddy is a Portland, Maine, native and local activist and organizer. When he’s not writing or working, you can usually find him exploring Maine’s vast interior and coastline.

Ever since I was born, the color of my skin has been the subject of curiosity, envy, disgust, perplexity, and hate. My race has defined my relationship with people and institutions. And now that I speak publicly about my experiences—and those of other black and brown people—the scrutiny and challenges I face have only increased. But that’s okay; I’ve made the choice to be vocal. Though with all that in mind, I still find it very frustrating when people say that racism—particularly implicit racism—is all in my head.

From the outset of my parents’ relationship, before I was born, the evidence was clear that racism was alive and well in Maine, including even within my own family.

One of the first few nights that my parents started dating each other, they were accosted by skinheads in Portland’s Old Port. Heading back to their vehicle in the parking garage, they were followed as the white supremacists aggressively yelled and approached them. Apparently, there had been a White Power rally in Portland earlier that day. Seeing a white woman with a black man must’ve drove them over them edge. Trying to get in their car to drive away, one of the men grabbed my father, attempting to drag him out on to the pavement. Luckily, my father was able to issue a few devastating blows to the back of the man’s head, and they sped away.

When my parents got married in 1989, they were the only interracial couple in both my mother’s paternal and maternal families. Just twenty-two years after Loving v. Virginia, the union was a bit controversial, too much so for some members of the family who protested by refusing their invitation to the nuptials—people who I would eventually grow up to know as my own family.

Soon after the wedding, I was born. My white mother often faced questions from strangers when out in public alone with me. “Is he adopted?” “is he Greek?” and “whose baby?” were among the few she told me that I can recall.

Fortunately, my parents instilled in me a pride for my skin color and heritage, teaching about the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and also having taught me to recite the phrase, “I’m black, I’m white, and I’m proud” at a very young age. It’s this pride that I frequently had to refer to as I grew older.

Growing up in Maine, spending a lot of my childhood in rural areas, much of the time I was the only child of color in my classrooms and extracurricular activities, including my neighborhood. I can’t say that I experienced the forthright sort of discrimination that my parents did when they started their relationship, but I was reminded by my peers that I wasn’t exactly the same as them on a fairly consistent basis.

Prodding at my hair, conversation about my “tan” and being called “the black kid” were more than enough to confirm that I was different. Even adults would participate in what felt like an othering of my body. This is when I was first started noticing the subtleties (and sometimes explicitness) involved with the way many white people talked about other races.

At a very young age, I started to notice that when a white person told a story of someone they met or saw, it was always prefaced by the person’s skin color or ethnicity—but only if they weren’t white—and even if it had no real importance to the story. I quickly learned to assume everyone was white when being told a story unless otherwise noted. I learned that being white (heterosexual, able-bodied, cisgender) was the standard and everything else was a deviation.

I couldn’t even begin to count how many times I’ve heard someone say “big black guy” as way to convey fear in an account of an incident, or heard people talk about women hanging out with “black guys” as if it were some sort of egregious taboo.

I’ve even been told by many white people that referring to someone as “nigger” isn’t a racialized act. They told me that even whites could be described using this expletive. But the unsurprising part is that I’ve never heard anyone call a white person this word that I, a man who’s half black, rarely utter or write.

Raised in almost exclusively white environments, I was often confronted with the tasteless jokes and mischaracterizations about black people like “what do you call a black boy with a bike? Thief!” and the absurd notion that black people are good a basketball because of an extra bone in their leg. I even heard them from my family.

Living much of my life at locations on lakes and the ocean, I learned to love swimming. I spent (and still spend) my summers on Sebago Lake. One of my relatives used to recite this joke, “what do you call a black man in a scuba suit?” The answer: “Jacque Custodian.” I remember one time I was fully outfitted in snorkeling gear—goggles, flippers, a little bag to collect rocks; the whole bit. Pulling myself out of the water onto the dock, I was asked by the same individual, “what do we have here? A little Jacque Custodian?”

I was too young to even understand the meaning behind the quip at the time and later in life I grew to learn the essence of what he was trying to say. As lighthearted as it may have been intended, that’s nothing you say to a 8-year-old. It’s experiences like these that I increasingly became aware of as I moved through my life.

The culmination of these instances have confirmed for me that my skin color—and that of other POC—is either at the forefront or the back of many white people’s mind during our interactions. I’m not saying that it’s abnormal to see color or that people’s thoughts are always bigoted. What I’m saying is I’m not delusional and I know my skin color is often the subject of conscious and unconscious thought processes.

In a recent article written by Black Girl in Maine, Shay Stewart, entitled “The $62 no-meal, or Racist tacos in Ogunquit,” Shay described how she and her family faced an implicit racial bias at a local restaurant. In the article, she said “The thing is that I think these women are not intentional racists. They probably don’t think of their actions as racially biased. But I do think the server held biases that affected her interaction with us.”

For Shay and other POC such as myself, our race literally colors many of the encounters that we have. We’ve had lifelong lessons on what that looks and feels like. But still, many white people default to the notion that racism is somehow rare and isolated. They believe that POC are too quick to pull “the race card” because after all, they never see racism.

Understandably though, it is only the explicit instances white people actually see. The implicit biases are difficult to spot when you are not the target.

I notice when three people in front of me at the convenience store get a full smile and welcome and when I approach, the cashier is suddenly flat-faced and silent. When a retail associate asks me if they can help me find anything, I know when it’s genuine and I know when it’s just an excuse to keep a closer eye on me. I don’t expect everyone around me to see when these things happen, but I expect people to believe me when I say it happens.

The sooner people begin to err on the side of believing POC, rather than looking at racism like it’s some kind of antiquity from yesteryear, the sooner we can collectively begin to unpack this complex and destructive scourge. It’s hard enough for many POC to speak out when these things happen to them. Let us not make it worse by applying a burdensome skepticism that only breeds more silence, fear, and resentment.
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If this piece or this blog resonates with you, please consider a one-time “tip” or become a monthly “patron”…this space runs on love and reader support. Want more BGIM? Consider booking me to speak with your group or organization.