Tuesday, December 9, 2008

On Walking in a Wind Storm (and Dealing with Being Other)



I shall continue my essay on the invention of race shortly, but something has come up, so I shall write on it while it's on my mind.

In my second part of my "relating topics of race via metaphor" series (see On Driving in the Rain), I bring you a new metaphor: walking in a wind storm.

Picture it: coat held tight, collar up, forward-leaning into the wind. Edges of your coat fluttering and flapping and slapping you as you just try to put one foot in front of another. Random objects (newspapers, garbage) are hitting you from the side. The rain is hitting you in the face. It's uncomfortable. Terribly unpleasant. Frustrating. But you push on, ignoring it as best you can, letting everything bounce off you as you just move forward.

And then one tiny bottle-cap gets flung into the air. A tiny little bottle-cap. Insignificant. Harmless. If it hits you, it's just going to bounce off your coat - you probably won't even realize it happened. But for some reason, that cap gets lifted off the ground, swirled once or twice, and then flies directly into your earlobe. And it STINGS!!! It hurts. It even drew a little bit of blood. You curse, grabbing your inflamed ear. And that's the one thing that just knocks you off your game, you start swearing, throw your useless umbrella to the ground, trying to stomp the offending bottle-cap into submission.

All the while, you're still in the middle of a windstorm.

I think about race all the time. I watch ten seconds of television, and I am guaranteed to see something that "otherizes" people of color and establishes white people as the norm. A white co-worker says something that displays their cultural incompetence. I read the news and see how it portrays people of color. I hear a joke about Asian men and the size of their ----. All the time. But it doesn't really phase me on any sort of noticeable level. I brush it off. I put up my collar and push on. That's how it is, crying about it isn't going to help me; so I take note when I have the energy, let it bounce away when I don't, and go on with my life, thinking on a way to make it a little more manageable.

But then something hits me in the gut. Something that shouldn't be that big of a deal. Just one more in a long line of things. It's not meant to be offensive. It's not meant to hurt. A tiny little bottle-cap that wouldn't have bothered me if it hit me anywhere other than my ear.

But it hit me in the ear.

Now, I'm not going to do a big public call-out here, but let's just say I saw something on a blog the other day that bothered me. It wasn't big. It wasn't meant to harm. By itself, I never would have even thought on it more than a few minutes. But, for whatever reason, it hit me in the ear. It threw me off my game. And I'm still thinking about it.

And I received an impassioned apology. One that I believe to be genuine. Almost immediately. And I appreciate that, but for some reason - it's not enough for me here. I don't know if I'm being rational, but I just got hit in the ear during a wind storm, you know? And so I want more.

Because an apology isn't active. It's reactive. It's the - "oops, I got caught" - reaction to guilt when it's brought to one's attention. I never thought the person meant harm to begin with. So an apology establishing that changes nothing. I want something active to happen. No defense, no justifications - I already know the person isn't bad or evil or racist or anything else like that at all. But I want something to happen.

Because, in the end, my mentioning of the matter changed nothing. I got the apology, but the post is still there. I got the apology, but I still got to see 30 other commenters completely ignore my own reference to the offensiveness of the post and talk about how "cute" it was. 30 (presumably white) folks ignoring the one person of color (and representative of the race mentioned) speaking out because they can. Because that's how it always goes. And what crushes me is that these are people that want to raise a Chinese kid!

Now, obviously, there's nothing the blogger can do about commenters choosing to ignore my comment. That's their personal preference, and we can't change other people's personal preferences . . . Or can we?

Because this is the second part where the apology isn't enough. Just like with all the more public apologies that come from institutions and radio stations when somebody does something wrong, nothing follows up to demonstrate the sincerity of the apology. Because, if it is so truly heartfelt (which, oddly enough, I still believe it to be), then shouldn't that person desire a change? To prevent similar things from happening?

And so the blogger CAN affect the readers' choices to ignore my comment: by drawing attention to it. By writing on it. By posting on the topic. Surely, by removing the post with an explanation. By asking for further education or help. By MAKING the other readers think about the one person of color in the room. By MAKING other readers (and those in a similar situation) open their eyes to their own cultural biases on "normality" and "otherization." By MAKING other readers think about the painful realities of race BEFORE they raise a kid that's going to have to suffer through them (with less help precisely because their "parents" haven't been MADE to think on it).

That's action. That's sincere regret. That's making change.

*And so here I must undo my own B.S. "apology" and take a next step. Because, in my comments to a previous post, an inappropriate comment came in regarding preferences of mixed female "looks" (more or less following the line of "exotifying" mixed people, by all races). In response, I gave a half-assed explanation for why I allowed it, but pretty much left it as a side-conversation. I eventually deleted the comment.

But here, I would like to follow up on my apology to Seitzk in the same way that I ask for in this post: first, I would like to put on my "posts-to-write" queue the topic of exotification (especially of females of color). Second, I invite Seitzk to write her (my assumption is female from previous comments, but I'm actually not certain) own breakdown of what personally offended in that situation, which I offer to post as clarification for ALL readers that may not have caught it, or understood. I also offer the opportunity for the commenter to respond - to create a dialogue. See if we can't clear up a possible misunderstanding, or simply educate to eliminate another instance.

Because the primary aim of this post is education. We're all going to mess up at some point. We all have our own stereotypes and biases and prejudices that we're not even aware of. We all will be misunderstood at times. So if we cannot address that and learn from it, then what's the point of me writing all that I do?

23 comments:

joshua said...

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Sharon

http://www.autoloans101.info

Anonymous said...

hey there-
i took a look at the blog in question and i too was shocked at the other commenters' complete lack of acknowledgment of your comment... the initial blog posting left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and seeing how your comments were completely brushed over made it even worse.
anyway.
i appreciate you taking action in the ways that you can, and owning up to oversights you may have made in the past. way to do right.

~a

Aunt LoLo said...

I don't really know what to say. I came here through a link on the offending blogger's blog, I assume. (You do not call her by name, and I appreciate that.) I'm not going to say that I'm offended, I'm not. I'm...upset? I'm white, yes. I wrote one of those "unfeeling comments." I don't usually read the comments above mine, just out of habit - I'm simply commenting to give bloggers my own reactions to their posts. I think what hits the deepest, on your post, is that I stand accused, and I don't think you understand where all of us are coming from. I'm a white female, mid-20's. I lived in Hong Kong for two years as a missionary and developed a deep respect and love for the people there. I came back to the US at the end of my service and, as an answer to prayer, met a wonderful man to marry - a Chinese man, born and raised in Hong Kong. We have one daughter and are expecting a son within days. From your own profile, I assume you are also Eurasian? Your post made me feel as though I was being accused of not knowing how to teach my daughter about her own "race", before I've even begun to do so! My daughter is 2, and bi-lingual. (My husband and I are both fluent in Cantonese and English.) We celebrate all the holidays I celebrated as a child, along with all the ones my husband celebrated. I really don't think I'm going to spend a lot of time teaching my daughter that she is any different from any of her friends - I think she'll figure that out when her friends in Kindergarten have no idea what "faahn faahn" or "baubau" are at lunch time! Even at 2, she sees the difference in races - any Chinese woman over the age of 30 is automatically "Grandma" (MaaMaa) - the same goes for any Chinese gentlemen of the same age. (They're all "yehyeh")

I don't want a big apology, I don't even want anything to change...I just want you to understand that, as part of the party of commenters that offended you, we all have different backgrounds. I'm not perfect, but I do believe that "othering" goes both ways. I don't think you would have been nearly as offended if my friend wasn't a white female looking to adopt from China...but, she was. She's been waiting and praying a long time, and she's trying her best to raise the daughter that she has. That's all any of us can do.

I hope you have a wonderful Holiday season. I hope that whatever bitter taste is left in your mouth can be cleared up ASAP! You understand the intent of her letter, and I understand that your post was under the same attempt as this comment - to simply air your feelings. I feel better - how about you?

(I do appreciate your own attempts to better the wrongs YOU have made, as shown in the last bit of your post. You are not a hypocrite - you are just expressing your opinions and experiences!)

Anonymous said...

I've been following blogs for some time now even though I do not have a blog of my own.

I am shocked by your post which I came to from the "offenders" blog. I've also read the post referred to in your profile.

It is one of God's greatest creations that we are ALL made to be different from one another. It doesn't matter your racial background, financial status or any other "difference". Uniqueness is a GIFT to be cherished.

I am saddened that you feel your differences from others defines your character and experiences.

You are a unique gift from God. Cherish that gift. I know I do.

Kelly in Seattle

CVT said...

Kelly -

You wrote:
"Uniqueness is a GIFT to be cherished.

I am saddened that you feel your differences from others defines your character and experiences."

You realize that those two sentences are a contradiction? I'm supposed to cherish my uniqueness (which, of course, is an amalgam of my differences from others), but then it's sad that I do just that?

My experiences MAKE me unique. My experiences are different from others' precisely BECAUSE of my physical differences (among others). So how am I not cherishing my uniqueness? If you somehow misunderstood anything I've ever written as being unhappy with my particular racial make-up, you are quite mistaken.

Read this post, perhaps:

http://choptensils.blogspot.com/2008/07/on-gray-area-in-between.html

And - Aunt Lolo - thanks for taking the time to read this. I have a response that will have to wait until I'm not running off to work, but I will get there. In the meantime, please read the comment I left at the other site.

Georgia Peach said...

The greater body of work posted at the offender's blog demonstrates her commitment to promoting a healthy atmosphere of education and cultural dialogue. This is very different from the characterization you are trying to impose on her. The sunday linkage alone is proof that she is earnestly seeking enlightenment from all sides.

I am aware the term "china doll" is offensive and I believe that's why the blogger changed the adult version of the request to read "china baby".   Not to mention she wrote the note when she was a child. There are other derogatory terms that also carry cultural pain - even when used in a historical narrative.  So, I can see your point that the term, even when packaged in the context in which it was employed, still carries pain.  

Again, the spirit of her blog when considered as a whole body of work demonstrates a deep personal commitment to understanding, appreciating, and integrating Chinese culture into their entire lifestyle.

Comments like, "...these are people that want to raise a Chinese kid!" and calling her apology B.S. was offensive and unnecessarily inflammatory.

Lastly, you wrote: "30 (presumably white) folks ignoring the one person of color (and representative of the race mentioned) speaking out because they can." This comment made me chuckle a little.  Your assumption that I am white is correct.  Then, in the name of racial equality, you pulled the box labeled "white" off the shelf and put me inside.   Does this strike you as ironic...or is that just me being too sensitive?  

So, here I am inside my little box...the white one....but I find that all the white people in here aren't carbon copies of each other. Some of them are like me, but mostly we're all really different. Funny ones, annoying ones, well-dressed ones, thoughtful ones, sociopaths, assholes and pleasers (to name a few)....all grouped together because we're white? Really? CVT, that's not real life. That's a fantasy.

In your fight against assumptions you seem to be making quite a few of your own. I'm not faulting you for making an emotional assessment...it happens. But I think you stepped over the line and that the blogger in question deserves an apology from you.

Anonymous said...

Hi CVT. I have been lurking on your blog for a while and am really enjoying it. I am white and am married to a great guy from Indonesia. Neither of us have had very much exposure to the bi-racial American experience or even much access to (non-virtual) Asian-American community. I really appreciate your frank (and at times courageous) attempts to explore and explain some of the experiences my own (future) bi-racial children may face. Thank you.

The reaction at the blog in question illustrates one of the most frustrating elements my husband and I face while navigating our nearly 100 white world. It is the way in which members of dominant white culture (even if they are not always white), use excessive defensive dismissivenes to challenge your right/legitimacy to even broach the issue of race/dominant culture/etc…(too sensitive, PC, uptight…) It is so amazingly taboo. It is interesting how few commenters actually engaged the topic of entitlement, instead focusing intense emotion on how unreasonable you are.

This chorus of dismissiveness is unleashed every time a person of color or a white ally challenges, even politely, dominant culture. It is so consistent and deafening that it is difficult to continue to muster the energy and emotional stamina to continue to broach and discuss these issues. It is particularly debilitating because it often comes from people we love, friends, family, parents, other people of color…

Sorry, my comment is so long. Love the blog. Jenn

miri said...

Hi CVT,

Just wanted to show some support. This all kind of blew up and it's a little overwhelming.

Anyway, I read the original post a few days ago after the poster first commented on your blog. It didn't hit me like a bottle-cap on the ear, but there was something unsettling about it. Normally I would have just moved on after being vaguely disconerted, and not thought about it again. Might even have offered an "awww" or two.

But with the subsequent posts and comments, it's all been simmering in my mind, and for some reason has greatly affected me. Not really the post itself - what is more disturbing is the fallout, the reaction of others. I literally have only been able to read two or three comments at a time before I have to take a break, even though I know they have the best intentions. Honestly, even though I am far-removed from this specifically, it makes me feel more than a little helpless.

Maybe because, as a multiracial woman of Chinese and European descent, I have been faced with many small instances of ignorance or otherization. Even when I am not the direct target(intentionally or unintentionally), I see it around me and feel the consequences. And when I or others speak up, we're always met with the "you're too sensitive/can't you take a joke/this country is too PC" spiel. And yes - maybe as an isolated incident something is given too much attention - but as you said, it all adds up. And it's hard when others can't see it as part of the fabric of something much larger or deny the experiences of people of color.

I think Jenn really hit it on the head and was able to analyze/explain her frustration with this situtation as a common manifestation in our society much more coherently then I could have. Also wanted to add that the original poster really seems genuine, open-minded, and willing to learn. (Note to others: pointing out an instance of possible ignorance is not a personal attack on the goodness of that person).

Finally, CVT - I look forward to your future blogs! As someone who only recently has been trying to consciously grapple and engage with race issues, I have been learning a lot and reexamining my own experiences.

CVT said...

Georgia Peach -

You confuse me. You said that I called the apology "B.S." when I repeatedly stated that I believe it was honest and heartfelt. I said that, to me, it wasn't enough, and I think I was pretty clear why - never saying that it wasn't meant. In fact, the only "B.S" apology I referred to was my own.

You said I put you in a white "box" by stating that the readers were (presumably) white. There was no other stereotype or assumption in there. When did I say you were "all the same"? I grouped you together because you're readers of the blog - which you are. And you do (mostly) happen to be white.

Saying you are white is NOT a stereotype. It certainly isn't saying that you are "all the same." The only reason you may be in a white box is because you ARE white - I never put you in there, nor did I draw any conclusions from the fact that you are, indeed, white.

If that's what you took from me being bothered by the lack of response on the side of the readers, we're in for an interesting ride . . .

seitzk said...

no. just...no.

how is your request different from that of the well-meaning white people who ask me and probably you to explain racism? why do i need to come explain, to educate, when you could be reading, learning, asking women of color in YOUR life, and writing that damn post yourself fueled with the righteous anger that should fill YOU about the demeaning nature of the original comment? you name me - you call me out by name, but only refer to uglyblackjohn as "the commenter" or some such, which feels like you value keeping his name private, but somehow not mine. and still, i am supposed to come write a reasoned exposition of racist sexism, or sexist racism? when the post immediately prior to that is thanking this same person for giving you a blog award?

no. you can call him out yourself, using your words and YOUR WORK. the way you handled this makes me even angrier.

Anonymous said...

"You said I put you in a white "box" by stating that the readers were (presumably) white. There was no other stereotype or assumption in there."

You most certainly did stereotype and make assumptions by calling the group white. To you, white means culturally incompetent (as described above about your white co-worker). To you, white means racist. White means not ever being the subject of racism. Those are your assumptions about white people.

Looking at typed words themselves, one is unable to tell the color of a commenter's skin. One may guess the color of another's skin based on what is being said, but with that comes stereotypes.

Most commenters described the offending post as cute. If there were no racial assumptions on your part, you would have described the group as a bunch of people who don't understand racism or who don't care to understand racism. Or a bunch of people who can not recognize culturally offensive or insensitive material. You could have called the group downright rude. Instead, you chose to call the group white.

Not all whites are racists. Many are, but not all. Some, more culturally ignorant than others as true in all races, but not all are racist. The beautiful values and morals of the offending author (who messed up, admitted it, and was sincerely sorry) are what attracts her readers, so I would bet that none of her lilly white readers are racists. Ignorant to what offends a Chinese person maybe, but not racist. I would also bet that they didn't see your comment.

CVT said...

Seitzk -

Reading your words makes me think of something I often tell myself - and the kids I work with - that I obviously didn't do here: treat others how THEY want to be treated, not how YOU would like to be treated.

I made a lot of assumptions in my attempt to clean it up, the major one being that you would want me to address the matter in the same way that I wanted the blogger I was referring to to address this other situation. I didn't want to speak for you, assuming that you could do so better than me - and would want to. And then I basically "oh-so-graciously" did just that.

And in none of those assumptions did I even ask you for your opinion, or what you wanted. And so I made matters even worse.

And I know where you're coming from - and I know that the more I write, the likely more pissed off you will get (and more frustrated) - and understandably so - and I'm trying to think of a way to cut that. But there probably isn't an acceptable way at this point.

And so I likely lose your readership - and exactly when I make this "plea" for the non-choir to chime in. For folks to share their own experiences, so I can actually do some learning. And I definitely am here. I fucked up, and I continue to do so, but I've got one more experience to learn from to try to do so less often (and less painfully) in the future.

I hope that's worth something.

CVT said...

Georgia Peach (part II) -

This isn't getting anywhere. You can extrapolate my feelings on all white people by what I have said about specific white folks - but that's your effort, not mine.

You can assume all sorts of stereotypes I have about white people because I guessed that the readers of the blog were mostly white (from what I had read and seen - and what commenters had said about themselves). Again - that's your projection, not mine.

I'm not trying to fight you here. I never said that anybody was a racist. Trust me - if I thought or assumed that folks were outright racist, I would have had no problem at all stating it. But I didn't. Because I didn't think that. I thought they missed something - weren't aware of the implications of the post to Chinese-Americans, and that bothered me because they were all (or mostly) folks looking to raise Chinese children.

And that's that. I think I've explained myself as much as I can here. If you have questions or want clarification on something I said, please ask. If you are instead going to tell me what I think about other people or what I truly meant, then this is not a dialogue.

Please - ask for clarification. I'm certainly not above admitting fault if I said something that tears down a whole group of people. But I strongly believe that that did not occur here, because the sentiments you are claiming I have are not the case.

I believe that many white folks do not fully understand race in this country due to lack of experience. I think this causes many of them to handle things poorly. But I do NOT think that white people are inherently racist. To be honest, I don't remember the last time I called ANYBODY racist, and I have experienced many racist ACTS in my lifetime.

I welcome you to continue reading and questioning, just please note the difference between TELLING ME what I think, and asking me why I said/did/think something.

Misty said...

cvt~
i am a reader of the person who offended you, and i am white, but not an adoptive or even seeeking to be adoptive mother. (just stating that up front)
i think we were posting at the same time on your 2nd comment at her blog, so i'm not sure if you saw what i told her... it's so hard to have any feelings/thoughts/reactions for me personally when it comes to how to talk about race (or class, or sexuality, or gender issues) b/cs at the end of the day i am still white (and middle class and heterosexual). when i was in college i was an english major, and i focused on postcolonial studies. i learned the rhetoric extrememly well, but it just kind of muddied the waters for my personal experience. the fact was, i was at a prestigious liberal arts college taking my postcolonial classes talking about race/other or pre/post colonial cultures when i am a direct product of a colonizing culture. i feel sensitive to race, but completely disempowered to deal w/ it. it's like i can constantly pick apart the way a commercial marginializes a race or objectifies a woman, but then what do i do w/ that knowledge? i'm still white. i am still percieved as uncaring or ignorant of stereotypical implications or whatnot. i do feel dialogue is crucial, but i ask you the same thing i asked my mentor in college: where does it go from there? what does that look like in real life, and not just the classroom? literally, for you, what does that look like? many moons out of college, does it matter that i read maxine hong kingston and debated living in the "hyphen" and what that means for any "-american" or mlk jr or derek walcott or athol fugard? i'll be honest, in my days of unshowered, tired, baby and toddler-chasing, it doesn't feel like it matters, yet... i want to raise my boys as aware of so much beyond themselves as well. i know i am rambling on and on... this whole debate (which admittedly has indeed spiraled a bit out of control w/ emotional responses on both sides) has just re-stirred in me my old feelings of helplessness adn hopelessness. i want change, i want to be change, yet feel like it still doesn't matter and no difference has been made. i'm sorry for feeling so pessimistic if that offends you.

Aunt LoLo said...

@CVT - This has indeed gotten out of control. I think we are entering into a subject that I have brought up repeatedly with my (Chinese) husband - what do both of our ethnicities mean to our (mixed) daughter? Here? If we move to Hong Kong?

I suppose all I can do is raise her as a Child of God. She is beautiful, and that will raise its own set of challenges (regardless of her heritage!). She is smart, and that will be another set. We are Mormon, which could open a whole 'nother kettle of worms. Point is, the fact that her father is Chinese is only ONE issue she will have to learn to deal with as she grows older, and it's one that only she can figure out - my family has been "white" as far back as anyone can remember. We've always been the "majority"...until we converted to Mormonism, that is. (I think that gives us a LITTLE insight on stereotyping, type-casting, name-calling and oppression!)

I appreciate your honest opinions, and I'm sorry if I'm one voice among many that seem to be attacking you. I will be following your blog - I'm interested to see what YOU have to say about race, and how it affects you. I will go back to Tonggu Momma's blob and see your comment there. :-)

Thanks for your time! I truly am interested in what you have to say.

Georgia Peach said...

I am confused as to why you addressed me twice. Just to be clear I commented once and used my blog name....the anonymous comment posted below mine was not me. I never comment anonymously. Did you assume it was me?

CVT said...

Georgia Peach (part III) -

My bad. I assumed that the anonymous was you, because it picked up where our conversation was going. I appreciate that you choose not to comment anonymously - and I won't make that mistake again.

@Aunt Lolo - You are absolutely right that Chineseness isn't the only thing that's going to make things difficult (or beautiful) for your child. But it will be the almost readily-obvious for those who want to make assumptions about her based on that. As for what being mixed will mean for her in Hong Kong - that's a question I'd love to know an answer to, as I plan to spend some time (6 months or so, hopefully) in China next year. So many of my experiences of what Chinese think of mixed kids are based on the generations here in the States, so it's hard for me to know how folks IN China will react to that. Should I pretend to be "Pacific Islander," or is it just not going to be the issue I imagine it to be? Maybe you can help answer that for me if you do make that move . . . Thanks for sticking around.

And Misti -
All that you have done to educated yourself DOES do something. At the very least, it makes it a little less likely that you're going to be the one adding a straw to a person of color's back. A little less likely that you'll be the one acting on stereotypes and/or making them come true. Because this thing called race has no immediate solution. It's crazy, and convoluted, and frustrating - BITTERLY frustrating - on all sides. Because nobody fully gets it. Everybody has ingrained stereotypes about other races, and all we can do is try to find those in ourselves to prevent us acting on them. If everyone just swept their own front porch, right?

And don't worry about the pessimism - it would be nice to be positive, but pessimism means that you're at least being realistic (I actually get much more riled up about blind optimism, because that causes folks not to act). You'll see, if you continue reading, that I definitely run that gamut, as well.

Everybody - welcome to the party.

Mei-Ling said...

Are you an Asian-American?

I followed you from TongguMomma's blog and I have no idea what "fueled" this discussion to begin with, but the debates are certainly intriguing.

So, that's why I ask if you are an Asian-American.

Lisa Cairney said...

Dear CVT,

I am a reader and follower of the "offending" blogger and just wanted to call you out on lumping me in with your rather(and I hate to use this word because it is SO overused, but I really can't think of another that would be more accurate) prejudiced categorization of her commenters and followers. I am a half-Chinese, half-Jamaican woman. I would think that you, being a male from Asian-European descent, if I understand your profile correctly, would have to admit that my particular ethnic mix carries with it the presumption that I could be even MORE offendable than yourself when it comes to matters of gender or racial prejudices. THAT said, I hope you will take the time to really examine the "offending blogger's" previous posts and reconsider your statements regarding the "offending post". I cannot relate to her situation as a caucasian mother to an Asian child, but I can relate to her as a human being and a writer and blogger and adoptive mother, and feel very certain that you really misinterpreted her post and also her motivations. I don't want to get into and prolong this discussion, with seems to be creating some serious dischord in the blogosphere, but I wanted you to know that you are not speaking for me, that your experience is YOUR OWN, and you should consider that your ASSUMPTIONS might just be that...assumptions. Your dismissal of the other commenters due to what you presumed to be their homogenized backgrounds really discredited your opinion and left a bad taste. At least, it did to me. Before you call another blogger out and possibly wound them, you might like to carefully consider your accusations and how both your assumptions and experience are informing and coloring them.

CVT said...

Lisa Cairney -

The crazy thing about all this is that I never ACCUSED anybody of anything at all. What she wrote bothered me, and I let her know that. I didn't ACCUSE her of intending harm (in fact, I stated that I didn't think she meant anything by it three or four times in this particular post alone). I never judged her character (outside of ASSUMING that her apology was genuine).

I was also bothered by the fact that nobody had a chance to learn from the situation, and that is why I was frustrated and desired more. Again, if you read this post, I repeatedly say that normally, this wouldn't bother me so much, but because of the "piling-on" aspect of race, it did.

And you should definitely get that.

I did assume that most of her readers were white and did not understand what the problem was. I was not incorrect in that - most of the readers (the overwhelming majority) are white, and most did not understand my issue (white or otherwise). However, I do apologize for plainly ignoring the reality of her non-white readership (including you) - as I realize how dismissive that can be seen to be (especially considering how that kind of thing often goes).

My other mistake was in thinking that the other readers had intentionally ignored the comment. However, whether they ignored it actively or by mistake, that is why I wanted something more - so they could not ignore it or just miss it. I did not dismiss them at all - in fact, my whole point was trying to get them involved (not in the way it ended up happening, of course).

And, finally - of course I don't speak for you. Nor do I speak for all Chinese-Americans, or even all male mixed white-Chinese Americans from the SF Bay. I speak for me. It bothered ME. And I have VERY personal reasons for that, based on my own personal experiences - as you stated. And that's the whole point - again, you of all people should not be discounting my own feelings on the situation because it doesn't bother YOU. Because that would be assuming you speak for everybody else. It's not a contest.

It bothered me, and so I spoke up, as people should, whether they are "the only one" or in a crowd of a thousand. And her character and desire to help changes nothing in that fact - it still bothered me. And even though I didn't read all her posts, I assumed the positive in both her character and desire throughout (and regularly stated that). We say plenty of things to friends that could be bothersome outside of our circles. And so we don't say those things in public.

But the blog is very much public, and so I pointed out what could be bothersome about a particular post, so she would know in the future.

What kills me here is that - of all people - you (another person of color, part Chinese) are the one trying to tell me that my experience of race doesn't count. That, because this one didn't bother YOU, that I had no right to be bothered by it. In a way, you are putting us in this "Hierarchal Order of Who Can Understand Racism," and because I fall lower in that order (due to my white blood? or assumed lighter skin?), I am okay to be dismissed. Trust me - I get it - because it happens all the time. But that is based on a number of assumptions, as well, and it's not okay.

Race and our experience with race is a TOTALLY personal experience. So to discount my own hurt BECAUSE it was personal to me is really disturbing. I expect that from folks who do not understand race - it is especially bothersome coming from you, somebody who, as you said, should understand race and prejudice in ways that I cannot (but should then understand that it goes both ways).

I hope that covers it. If you can find a reference I made to the writer's character that isn't positive, then I will look over it (and apologize for it). But I don't think that happened. I cannot change my reaction and hurt to the original post - because intentions and all the rest had nothing to do with it (and, I will say one last time, I never doubted her overall good intentions or humanity). And just as I would hope somebody would call me out on my mistakes (as I have been) when I slip-up (whether or not I am obviously trying to do right here, in my work and writing) - I pointed it out to her. Because that's how we - especially including myself here, as I very recently was on the end of a similar correction - learn. In fact, had I believed she did NOT care, then I wouldn't have bothered saying anything, because it would have been a complete waste of my energy.

And if we allow the small number of protests ("it's just one 'sensitive' person, and he doesn't speak for everybody else") to be a deciding factor in the value of listening or dismissing, then we're just like . . .

The current system.

CVT said...

Oh, and Mei-Ling-

My mother was born in China. My father born in New Jersey (white son of a Russian immigrant and generations-removed Irishman).

Lisa Cairney said...

Okay, CVT. My bad. Sorry for speaking too rapidly out of emotional response without mulling it some more. You can own your own response and your own experience and your own gut reaction to the "offending post"...and I apologize if I sounded like I thought I had a leg up on you in the Race race. I thought you were trying to educate the populace on behalf of all of the people who occupy that "Other" box, and I guess I didn't much agree with your statements and foolishly wanted to clarify that. I will respect your opinion as that. Your opinion. And ask your forgiveness if I have offended. I'm sorry. Thank you for taking the time to clarify your point.

CVT said...

Lisa Cairney -

Thanks for the response. I really do appreciate it. And no worries on any "emotional response" you may have thrown down earlier - I'm obviously no stranger to how that works.

And again - it is definitely my bad if my writing(s) came off as a self-righteous "me representing all others versus the evil white world" tirade - didn't intend that at all. Makes me seriously consider throwing a disclaimer at the top of my blog.