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> o yee of little pigment: the white privilege thread
anna_k
post Jun 3 2006, 07:54 PM
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hummingbird, I do understand about different textures of hair and the "good hair" type. At the time I was too young and I didn't care.

You're right, it's more "Nigga" than Nigger with the PM joke.
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bklynhermit
post Jun 3 2006, 04:42 PM
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i've discovered a situation in which i would be sorta ok with saying 'n'.

if i were reading Huckleberry Finn aloud. or, you know, any Literature that uses the word.

and even then, i'd probably squirm a bit. and it would only be for the sake of authenticity. and probably only for a public, performative reading (in the way that people will do readings from banned books, commemorate an author by having a night of readings from their work, etc.). if i was reading it aloud to my child i would probably say 'n-word' or somesuch after a short prefatory explanation that we DO NOT EVER SAY N_____!

i have wanted either dreads or a fro my entire life. if i could have anyone's hair in the whole world, it would be Angela Davis' (either now or back in the day). unfortunately, just as most black women's hair won't do straight, my white woman's hair won't do anything approaching locks. i could never decide whether me using ick chemicals to acheive Black hair would be consciousness raising or just extremely stupid. but i've always wanted to go into a walgreen's and move the skin bleach to the suntanning aisle.
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pepper
post Jun 3 2006, 11:55 AM
Post #3







do you know where the word mulatto comes from?
a horse and a donkey can produce offspring but that offspring is sterile and can't produce offspring of it's own. the name of this creature? a mule.
mulatto is one of my least favourite words in the universe since i learned that. ugh, what a repulsive history eh?

i love the look of a puffy 'fro. neatly clipped close to the head or picked right out to there, i think it's one of the coolest hairstyles there is. my hair is just a bit too loosely curled to even have a wee 'fro, it's such a shame 'cause i would so 70's out my head if i could. and i wouldn't mind if people touched my hair so long as they weren't messing it up in the process (i hate that!) but i'm a pretty touchy feely kinda person.
i would never, ever use the n word, not in any context. regardless of the intention behind it there is just a world of hurt associated with it. and if someone calls me a wigger or says that word around me they had BETTER be talking about an actual wig. sheesh. that's just rude.
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hummingbird
post Jun 3 2006, 11:41 AM
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anna_k, i still don't think you get it, but it's cool.

Lil' black girls are raised in a culture that emphasizes the beauty of straighter hair. We tend to be fascinated by mixed and non-black folks hair. We want to comb it and so on. So, we grow up with a kind of internalized racism i.e. hair oppression. Hair is such a hot topic of political debate for black women. "Good hair vs. Bad hair". In the end it boils down to internalized oppression. Black women spend billions every year not on beauty products but on hair products, trying to get it to look like something else.

And by the way anna_k, Paul Mooney wouldn't say Nigger, he'd say Nigga. There's a difference.
Black folks don't say or write "Nigger" because this is the word that was used by white folks to denigrate black folks. We say "Nigga". We write "Nigga". The difference is huge.
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anna_k
post Jun 3 2006, 09:41 AM
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When I was a kid, a couple of black girls liked touching my hair and feeling it. It didn't bother me too much, but I wouldn't let strangers touch my hair now.

The only time I'd say the n-word is if I was mentioning a joke I heard, like Paul Mooney saying, "How about a movie called The Last Nigger on Earth, starring Tom Hanks?"
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bustygirl
post Jun 3 2006, 09:32 AM
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What do you all think about tanning? Anyone else find it ironic that mainstream white society spends so much time distancing itself from its black counterpart and then spends all summer attempting to reach a mulatto hue?
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venetia
post Jun 2 2006, 06:53 PM
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Snaf - for me, it's more like you can talk about that word without replicating it or perpetuating it. Kind of like, I get really angry with how in order to deal with an idea like rape, a tv show (eg CSI) will often show the woman being raped, it's so unnecessary and so often re-inscribes a sexual component. Similarly, repeating racial slurs in order to talk about them seems to me like something I don't need to do, especially because as I'm a pakeha it re-inscribes a privilege/power dynamic.

Touching is so... complicated. In this part of the pasifik you shouldn't touch people on the head at all without asking. Not that no one does it, though, but I can't even imagine doing it.

It is definately cultural. Some people from some cultures just want to come near you and touch you a whole lot, share with you, etc. I quite like it (though I get disturbed if someone goes for my head/hair).

I remember this time when I was going to enroll for my Masters degree and I had to see the professor who was in charge of advising - I'd never really spoken with her before and as she talked to me, she would reach out and touch me, briefly hold my hand, etc. I was a bit surprised, even though I knew Indians/Sth Asians touch more.

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hummingbird
post Jun 2 2006, 08:25 AM
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The hair issue: It's definately cultural, American's value their space. So, now that I think about it, it's usually white women, but one time I went on a date with this surfer and he touched my hair, which really iritated me since we weren't that intimate yet. The white women that have reached out and touched my hair are usually middle aged. So, they are my mom's age, you know, and they are usually not STRANGERS, they are usually like my dentist or a friends mom or an acquaintance, but sometimes they are around my age and again they know me in some way but NOT at all enough to touch the locks.

The N word is offensive to me when anybody uses it. Now, black folks have taken the word back and use it to mean all kinds of different things that are sometimes endearing, but when it's used by black folks in a derogatory way, it offends me. I live in Cali and we got teens using it all the time to eachother, usually endearing, but they are not just black, they are Latino and Asian and whenever I see or hear this, it is like Wow, Wow, Wow!! What's going on!!!

The N word is a controversial word. Know this before you use it. Be ready to offend someone if you use it. I personally hate it when a non black friend or associate uses that word in a story or song when I am around. Hate it! It's like even though I wasn't alive when full blown racism existed, it brings back some terrible terrible memories.

bklyn, this was oh so funny, "i was also branded a 'typical greedy american' for not wanting people to come along and snatch food off my plate.



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treehugger
post Jun 2 2006, 04:54 AM
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I'm white. And I live in a semi-lily-white city in a pretty darned white trade. I have a question for you women of color? Regarding whether a word is offensive or not? *I* consider the word to be offensive and would never use the word but many of my *white* friends insist that it isn't; that even Oprah uses the term.

The word is: *wigger*. Now, me, speaking as a white person, since the word refers to a white person, would a person of color find the term offensive? My instincts say *YES*; my (white) friends say *NO*.

I would NEVER feel okay with reaching out and touching somebody else's hair who wasn't my significant other/lover!!! But I have complimented some black women's hair (and fingernails too)... :-) Some of the styles are sooo gorgeous and elaborate. :-)


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snafooey
post Jun 2 2006, 12:42 AM
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I'm not saying I use the n-word myself. I can relate in that, as a Jew, if I know you, you're allowed to use certain terms around me that someone who doesn't know me may not always. At the same time, however, if you were quoting someone else, I wouldn't ask you to not to use certain words just b/c they are offensive; I know that you personally are not endorsing them, you're merely illustrating them in a particular context.

What if I were reading a story aloud in public and a character - one who is obviously being portrayed negatively as a racist - used the n-word - would I be required to censor it? That's the sense I got from the original post - maybe she wasn't reading from a book, but she was telling a story and in that story someone used that word - not her. So is she personally claiming ownership just by quoting someone else? She made a point of addressing the term and saying that she didn't agree with it - it wasn't just "Here it is - don't shoot the messenger!" She used it in a way that stated her position on it, which was that it isn't an acceptable term.
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bklynhermit
post Jun 2 2006, 12:11 AM
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i never ever ever ever use that word.

i can't think of a time i've ever 'needed' to say it in the context of something. and if it's ever happened, i'm positive that i said something like 'n-word', 'n', etc.

i don't think it's ever acceptable for any white person to presume that they can say it. i know of far too many situations when someone i know used that word 'innocently' and really upset people.

as to the reasoning behind its offensiveness, i've always figured that it had to do with ownership. white people who move in diverse circles often feel like we don't have to 'prove' we're not racist. thus we feel entitled to use The Word. the word is a sort of boundary, a boundary that all non-black people are subject to. black people get to own that word, get to say who can use it and who can't. it's linguistic real estate, in a sense.

just like i might call myself a dyke or refer to other queer women as dykes. but if a straight person used the word 'dyke' in my presence without some sort of acknowledgement, i would probably be upset and offended. even if they were a friend. even if i knew they meant nothing by it. the point is it's not your word. you're not entitled to just go around saying and doing whatever you want just because you're of the dominant sexuality, and the word 'dyke' is a symbol of that.
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snafooey
post Jun 1 2006, 10:28 PM
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Re: the n-word issue - I feel like I'm missing something. If she was using it in the context of a story and she clarified that she was quoting someone else and not using/endorsing the sentiment herself, is that necessarily insensitive? Just saying the word is bad even if you're using it in a way that illustrates that you don't agree with it?

ETA: I'm not discounting or belittling their right to be offended at all. I'm just wondering if you always have to ask first even when it's clear that your intentions are not to use the word yourself but to show it being used in a different context. Is it just that hearing the offensive word is so jarring that it can be a trigger? I can understand that, but it seems that they think her using that language at all means that she agrees with it.
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bklynhermit
post Jun 1 2006, 10:19 PM
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i've never had any particular urge to touch anyone's hair either. not counting lovers and such.

and certainly, from the perspective of being a minority in a south-asian crew, i think personal space and touching issues are a cultural thing. the indians thought i was NUTS because at first i didn't want to be touched. i was also branded a 'typical greedy american' for not wanting people to come along and snatch food off my plate. it was a very strange experience, but also an educational one.
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sixelacat
post Jun 1 2006, 08:32 PM
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Perhaps the personal space/no touching is more predominant in American culture? I would never, ever want someone to just reach out and touch my hair, and would probably say no even if they asked.

I just brought your question up to a couple of my friends, and one (black American) girl said if anyone made like they were going to touch her hair they'd lose a finger! My other friend (Japanese) said they'd lose more than a finger....although, when she goes home to visit her parents in Japan, all the "older" ladies constantly tell her she is too American.

Both said they hadn't really encountered many people to touch their hair, and I've never really wanted to touch anyone else's hair. Maybe we are just too bitchy to approach !


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bklynhermit
post Jun 1 2006, 05:34 PM
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hm. when i worked on a hindi-language film with a majority south asian crew, people touched my (white girl) hair a lot. they thought my short, straight, fine hair was really interesting and didn't censor themselves in touching it, playing with it, styling it, etc.

that said, film crews tend to get pretty physically intimate -- it's not unheard of to trade back rubs or hugs when the going gets rough -- and the hair touching seemed to have more to do with different concepts of personal space and their desire to show me that i was accepted rather than some random strangers putting their grubby hands in my hair. these were people i spent upwards of 20 hours a day with for several months.

they were also pretty fascinated with the dreads of some of the black crew members and liked to touch their hair too.
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hummingbird
post Jun 1 2006, 05:24 PM
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Gigikinks: There's nothing you can do for now, except let them have the time they need to process and cool off. It is jarring for me when I hear my white friends use the N-word esp since I barely, rarely use it myself. I think that this is a classic example of the white privilege thing. It's like a lot of white people lack cultural sensitivity, to realize that, for example, some black folks are totally cool with their white friends using the N word, while others are not. I think it's best to ask. But it's also up to your friends to say, hey please don't use that word because it bothers me.

Time to digress: I like this thread. Ha! I'm black, if you hadn't guessed. So, this is something that doesn't bother me now that I have dread locks, but before it used to really bug me. Now I just think that it's funny and an example of that white privilege thang rearing it's ugly head.

White people, always always always assume that, just because they think your hair is interesting, they can touch it. Ack! Ack! Ack! What a bother. I am telling you my white sistahs, I have never never never had an Asian woman or man or a South American or Mexican woman or man just reach out and touch the hair. Ethnic folks, we just don't do it. What are your thoughts?
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bklynhermit
post Jun 1 2006, 05:23 PM
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venetia said everything i wanted to say much more succinctly than i did. you should totally listen to her and don't bother to wade through my ten million paragraphs down there.
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venetia
post Jun 1 2006, 05:18 PM
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I guess you have to just accept that it's in their hands and it's up to them to forgive you. It sounds like you've already said all you can say, and you have let them know that you realise what you did was wrong and that you're sorry. Knowing this doesn't mean they automatically have to just forget about their feelings and act like nothing happened.
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bklynhermit
post Jun 1 2006, 05:17 PM
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maybe write them letters or emails? i remember having feuds with people in school, and slipping a note into their locker almost always worked when i was getting the silent treatment or otherwise not able to explain myself.

that said, i would NOT try to explain yourself or justify your actions. i would just apologize and admit that your use of that word was inappropriate. even if you think otherwise. sometimes friendships are more important that being right. especially when the issue is so complicated. some people don't believe it's EVER okay for a white person to use that word. and as a white person, you're probably not going to be able to change their minds.

also, keep in mind that they have a right to feel that way. not because you were necessarily wrong evil cracker-girl, but because everybody has the right to their own feelings and to feel offended about things that bother them. i would imagine that they're angry with you in earnest, not because they're trying to prove a point or something. you have to recognize that, whether you meant harm or not, they have a right to be upset. you might even say that to them.

also, while i'm not calling you a bigot, it is DEFINITELY possible to be a feminist and pro-immigrant and also racist. there are piles of racist liberals and leftists. additionally, there are quite a few social scientists who have theorized that all white people carry the baggage of racism, and several who postulate that all people (whether white or not) are racist in some sense. so trying to argue that you're 'not racist' (ESPECIALLY on the grounds of being otherwise liberal) can be a little problematic. which is something to keep in mind as you try to mend fences with your friends, and also as a learning experience and consciousness raiser for yourself.
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gigikinks
post Jun 1 2006, 02:44 PM
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HELP!!!
Alright im in high school and im known as like the feminist of the class and the one who if u start to talk about lazy immigrants will kick your ass (just astablishing my liberal street cred). Anyway i go to a fairly segregated school that is dominantly white, but alot of my friends are black. The only thing is i was telling this story and in the context of non-racist, quoting someone else, pointing out the absurdity of it, story i said the n-word. NONE of my black friends are talking to me, and i've tried writing to them, letting them cool off, apologizing again and again but nothing works. Please help me or give me some advice, i don't want to lose these friendships becuase these ppl mean alot to me and have been friends for the longest time. Any Sugestions??? How do i let them know that i realize what i did was wrong and that im sorry?? Nothing is working
also sorry for the excess of exclamation points.
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