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people for the conservation of limited amounts of indignation


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extension of the great white hope, revised
children of dune - leto 1
seperis
skatergurljb has an awesome essay here with a different view on the 'great white hope' remark made by Lynn Jenkins and my entry here.

It's really interesting with a very differnet perspective, and I've been rethinking my own assumptions in light of the fact that it's not just that I'm white, though obviously, yeah, but also because of my reasoning when I first read it.



This was my answer to her in her LJ:

Here's my context on that one, since you're correct; there's no way to know for sure on this one.

This is fairly specific, because I'm from Texas and the South, and rural Texas at that--I don't tend to feel comfortable giving the benefit of the doubt because how I read it corresponded to how racist remarks were coded in conversations (when people bothered to code it). My family disinherited my aunt for a short time for marrying a black man, and even though I was very young, I can remember being uncomfortable with the conversations about it, even if now I don't remember them.

I mean, I can totally admit possibility and likelihood of her really getting the reference, and it's possible it was cultural carelessness; but (again, my experience and no one else's) I remember enough of how racism among (white) acquaintances/family members/etc would verbalize that it reads more likely that direction in my experience. That said, she could just be that dumb. The other part is, even if she didn't mean it as it is culturally, as in, she really didn't get the reference at all, the association she made with 'white hope' and 'white men' and 'smart', 'light', etc aren't really all that much better.

(Not that I am saying my superpower is translating coded white racism here, though that would certainly be a weird superpower to have. More the pattern was familiar.)

I think my own background clicked in hard on this one, so honestly, its pretty possible I'm weighing against her for that.

Thanks for writing this out so completely. I've been coming back to re-read and think since you posted.


The reason this particular 'white hope' thing hit me is because the more blatant racism that shows up masked in 'dunno' presents, to me, differently. Again, this is not my white superpower of interpreting racist conversation--this matched pattern familiarity in casual conversation where I grew up. Blatant racism wasn't rare when I was a kid--seriously--but over my childhood to adulthood, it was also coded into conversation in non-blatant ways. On one hand, I guess that's encouraging that it moved to shorthand code--it was less acceptable to be a proto-KKK in public, whee, let's all feel better about ourselves as human beings. On the other, the progression was noticeable if you lived with it, and it was and can be invisible, especially in semi-isolated groups in certain areas who socialize together too much.

It isn't new that I recognize it; again, rural fucking Texas. It's new for me that I'm going back and trying to recognize it bleeding into normal human conversation, narrow down what it is, and get rid of it. Most of it in my life I heard and didn't pay attention to, was uncomfortable with, tried to not notice, but that doens't mean I didn't memorize and internalize it. It just means I was really good at pretending that I was above that sort of shit and if I wasn't doing it, it didn't matter and I have done my duty to society.

So this, which felt to me pretty much like a lot of what I heard from the age of reason up, didn't ping as "accident" or even "stupid" (though also stupid) but it pinged like a not very subtle psuedoclever sekrit public racism. It's entirely possible I'm wrong in that, which I don't deny. But that does tend to make me react with a lot less suspension of disbelief when it's defended as an accident or ignorance.

I still can't believe it wasn't that, but a part of that is also, if it was in fact pure stupidity, a sad lack of knowing anything about our culture, and everything else, even if that remark was somehow stripped of context, it's still language coded to identify 'white' with 'light' and 'hope' in context with a black President.

It's two and holy God do I hope that made sense. YMMV; I'm still thinking through how to separate out what I remember growing up in a racist state, area, world and how to lessen that influence. I'm just not sure it's, for me, a good idea to give white people making really blatantly questionable remarks the benefit of the doubt when in general, there's another instinct that really does make me want to autodefend because I don't want something to be racist. A part of me kind of wants to zero tolerance it in others because I'm trying to do that with myself, and if I'm going to slap myself around for expressing racist attitudes even by accident, I don't see why I should let other people slide on something I'm trying not to let myself slide on.


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Well, racism isn't just for white people as [info]skatergurljb said. However, I think it's pretty clear, no matter the backpedaling, that the mindset of the Republican party seems to be that the 'great white hope' is a perfectly acceptable as a way of thinking, that white=great and white=hope, and everyone else can go to hell.

I grew up in Mass which was a pretty liberal state but I also came across a lot of racism (I'm old enough to remember the Selma marches and blacks not being able to find housing in my town because of their color). So my reaction to the 'great white hope' was pretty strong.

I was surprised by how pissed I was when I saw it--it felt like I'd brought some non-white friends to a family party and my family broke out with the injokes or something because they woulnd't understand. That just--didn't work for me.

Well... she said her entry would piss me off and she was right. *sigh*

It's too early in the morning for this. In general, I hate it when people assert that anything less than torches and white hoods isn't "real" racism and should be given a pass, because that culture, that atmosphere still has a net negative affect on people. I hate it when people give the thumbs up to "contrariness," like going against the flow is always praiseworthy even when the flow is towards progress and justice and the people going against it are demonstrably selfish and/or just plain nuts (the jury is still out on Michele Bachmann. Whoa.) And I really hate it when people point to a minority's distrust of the majority as if it proves anything, as if it's equivalent to its reverse, because it's NOT. See also, Melissa McEwan's good-but-very-difficult-to-read post, The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck, which she explicitly says also applies to the dynamic of herself-in-the-majority as white, straight, cisgendered, etc.

I just fnished that article. Wow. I'm still kind of shaken by that. Thanks.

(Hi, I just friended you after a long period of lurking/fic reading.)

I was very interested in both your original post and in skatergurljb's reply. I think you both make excellent points, though as a fellow white Southerner (semi-rural Alabama) I find myself more inclined toward your side of the discussion. I hear coded racism and "but I have black friends!" excuses far, far too often to automatically assume that the lack of a burning cross means some form of the sentiment isn't there. I'm far too familiar with the thoroughly uncomfortable sensation of trying to ignore something being said that I can't really prove was stated with racist intent but that makes me a little uncomfortable - and wondering whether giving the benefit of the doubt makes me complicit, in some way.

However, having said that, I do see where genuine ignorance is possible (though using "white" to symbolize the hope of an anti-Obama still seems pretty straightforwardly racist to me, to be frank). But I also don't necessarily think that ignorance is an excuse. For example, I myself had never heard of the racist stereotype about black people and watermelons until this year. A black friend of mine had to explain it to me, and she was genuinely shocked that I had never heard of it, which leads me to believe that it's a stereotype most white people would be expected to at least be aware of, even if they (hopefully) think it's nothing more than racist trash. So if I had made a statement about watermelon that offended someone else, while it would have been a statement made with no racist intent, that doesn't mean that the result wasn't racist, you know? And as hard as that is for me to accept, stonewalling and claiming that I'm not at fault is simply not okay.

I guess what I mean is that while I know that I will likely never free myself entirely from the racism that I have internalized as a part of my culture, it is nevertheless my duty as a white person trying to be as non-racist as I possibly can to be knowledgeable about these things, to educate myself so that through my own ignorance I don't inadvertently cause someone else pain. And, like you said, because I'm making that effort, I don't think it's okay to let other people not make that effort.

Sorry for the novel. What a way to introduce myself, huh?

using "white" to symbolize the hope of an anti-Obama still seems pretty straightforwardly racist to me

this. absolutely this.

However, having said that, I do see where genuine ignorance is possible (though using "white" to symbolize the hope of an anti-Obama still seems pretty straightforwardly racist to me, to be frank).

At minimum, htat, right there, yes.

So if I had made a statement about watermelon that offended someone else, while it would have been a statement made with no racist intent, that doesn't mean that the result wasn't racist, you know? And as hard as that is for me to accept, stonewalling and claiming that I'm not at fault is simply not okay.

Yes yes yes yes yes. We've had all our lives learning the syntax of coded racist language that works itself into everything, even if we don't mean to be racist when using it. This. Thank you. I was trying to find a way to explain that.

And, like you said, because I'm making that effort, I don't think it's okay to let other people not make that effort.

Yes, exactly. Seriously, if I don't find it acceptable in myself or my son, I'm damn sure not going to let other people get off more easily than I do myself or him.



We've had all our lives learning the syntax of coded racist language that works itself into ...

this is actually a coincidence, I uploaded this the other day for another friend in a flocked entry, but since your remark and your topic fits , I am giving you the link, too, just in case you are have time for it:
The Everyday Language of White Racism
(Blackwell Studies in Discourse and Culture)
http://www.mediafire.com/download.php?mjm04ojmrmr

Re: We've had all our lives learning the syntax of coded racist language that works itself into ...

I forgot to thank you for this. Thanks very much!

Yeah, I'm going to go ahead and disagree with skatergurljb's interpretation. Fucking stupidity or ignorance is not a pass to say blatantly racist things. Even if it is true that the speaker had no idea about the racist connotations of what she was saying, the connotations were still there and I fully support people getting called on that shit. How else are they going to learn?


This. Plus, we're not talking about a random casual remark around the water cooler. Lynn Jenkins is a high-level career politician and was speaking at a public event, in her role as an elected official. I think it's fair to hold that kind of speech to a higher standard and say "um, you need to be smarter about the metaphors, cliches and quotes that you use when you're a U.S. Representative making official remarks during a speech."

And the other thing is, it's not like she just used it as a random synonym for "hope," like "More money is our great white hope for ending the budget crisis." Then it might actually have been believable that she didn't know the origins of the phrase and just always assumed it meant "nice shiny thing." But she actually used it correctly: the "great white hope" is the unknown person who is out there somewhere, undiscovered, who will be super talented, and he will be the guy who can finally defeat the currently reigning champion, and the reason he is so important is specifically because we don't *like* the currently reigning champion.

And then she went and claimed ignorance of the *complete* context, ie, "we don't like the currently reigning champion because he's BLACK," and I really don't find that *very specific* ignorance believable.

Exactly. Even at the most innocent (for what value of innocent there), it still needs to be fixed.

I'm remembering for some reason the shitstorm that happened when devildoll posted about that MJ statue and all the people trying to claim it wasn't sexist if it wasn't intended to be and the creators/marketers had never really thought about it that way and blah blah blah. And the really glaring lesson in that was that if people are allowed to claim ignorance as an excuse and say we're not to call them out for their own unexamined attitudes, what we're basically doing is motivating them to never learn any better, to refuse to be taught when they're being out of line because then they wouldn't have that ready-made get-out-of-jail-free excuse of ignorance to protect them from the consequences of their own asshaberdashery. We're not allowed to call them on it, we're not allowed to educate them, we're not allowed to do anything at all to stop them from going on and being as offensive in the future as they were just now.

So, yeah, my vote is pretty much against giving the benefit of the doubt, because that just encourages them to keep doing it.

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