How Do You Take Your Racism? Cream, Sugar, or Straight Up?

Latoya Peterson over at Racialicious poses the question of whether it's easier to deal with overt or hidden racism, something I feel like I've been tackling ever since living in two places, post-college, where I thought I'd go nuts.

Growing up in a small town in North Carolina, I was always readily aware of overt racism, particularly if I happened to be walking with both of my parents. And I thought that would drive me nuts. I vowed to leave the South and never come back.

But the sort of insidious, institutional, hard-to-put-your-finger-on-but-you-know-it's-there racism is so much worse.

I dealt with it in Kansas City, Mo. and in the consumerist, overpriced, materialistic mecca that is Orange County, Calif.

People have so many other different ways of communicating to you that you do not belong, and believe me, they are effective for all their subtlety.

It's crazy-making, because it encourages so much self-doubt, and it strips away at your confidence. You're unable to defend yourself because you're not sure if you should be, or if it's all in your head.

My black father understood perfectly. He never questioned me when I told my parents of something a teacher or a stranger said or did that set off my "this is not-quite-right" barometer.

But my Dutch mother, raised in Amsterdam, was not so keen. Simply said, she just didn't get it.

Commenter Atropa says it best:

It really bothers me when progressives do stupid shit like say something that sets off my “that’s sexist/racist/classist/etc!” alarm, but isn’t immediately obvious because how do I articulate that? Especially to people who are operating under the assumption that intent matters?

Unless people have already reached the place where the ends are more important than the intent behind it, that’s not even a conversation worth having. It is my breaking point, where I decide to walk away and burn the bridge with precious few exceptions. But, that’s not really productive, now is it? It’s protecting myself. I don’t know what to do with that.

So. How do you take your racism?


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