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October 26, 2007

10 Mistakes

Update: I forgot to include my small beef with #5 so I inserted it below.

I'm glad Heather Wood at the Huffington Post wrote about the ten mistakes white people make when talking about race (via RAAW), but, sadly, she got some of it a leetle bit wrong.

2. Using Culture-Specific Slang to Relate to Other Races

K-Fed, you ain't. And you just shouldn't try to be--ever.

Hunh? Does she not know that K-Fed is white?

3. Assuming Biracial People Identify More with One Side Than the Other

The majority race in America today isn't white, black, or even Latino. It's biracial. And this will only increase with each successive generation. We're a society that loves to check off boxes, but the greater challenge is to stop seeing people as shades and start knowing them for who they are.

Hunh? Lady, biracials/multiracials barely even make up 2% of the US population. Are you confusing this stat with the one where multi-ethnic whites make up the majority of whites nowadays? That is to say: most whites are no longer just Polish, or just English anymore. Most of them are Norwegian/Italian, or Swedish/French, or ... whatever, combos don't interest me.

Also, the problem isn't people assuming biracials identify more with one side than the other. What she's talking about here is actually people assuming black/white biracials identify as black ... unless, of course, they can pass. The actual mistake is assuming anything about multiracials at all. Many multiracials do identify more with one side. Others don't. You can't tell by looking at 'em.

5. Using Outdated Terms When Describing Different Races

Oriental, Colored, and Indian went out of style a long time ago; in fact, they're considered offensive. So, too, is lumping every Spanish-speaking person into a general category like "Mexican" or any Arab-looking person as "Persian" (it's a specific country, people). Feeling the need to identify is a nervous reaction we have when faced with issues of race. Black, white, Asian and Latino/a are generally accepted, but when in doubt, how about you just call someone by their actual name. Who says we have to classify ourselves all the time anyway?

Um ... actually, "Persians," or Iranians, aren't Arab at all. They're a completely different ethnicity/race/whateveryouwannacallit. And no one refers to any Arab-looking person as "Persian." They don't even refer to them as "Iranian." They refer to them as "Arab." Or else something worse.

6. Believing Stereotypes

Yes, black Americans dominate most sports, more Asians are accepted into MIT than any other race, and Latinos have been known to tear up a dance floor. Though some race-specific stereotypes seem like positive assumptions, imagine yourself on the other end, with high expectations placed on your shoulders simply because of a scrutinized minority. White people don't have the pressure to be the best in math or sports; they just have to be good enough. Everyone else should get the same slack.

Yikes! what an argument! Lower your expectations of POC because that's more fair? No, sweetie, the real problem with "positive" stereotypes is that they bolster a system of thought in which people think you can tell something about someone by their race. Not by their culture, by their race. "Positive" stereotypes are stereotypes with a smile. All people smile, even racists. And the person who smiles at you and expects you to play basketball well, or do math, or be hot in bed, is always also the person who thought you got into college because of affirmative action, or who will, when the chips are down, finally pull out a "negative" stereotype.

All stereotypes are racist!

But kudos to her for getting this out there. It's by thinking things through that you actually understand things, and it's by putting it out there---and maybe getting some discussion---that your ideas are improved upon.

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Comments

With regards to the Kevin Federline comment, I was assuming that she meant that he attempts to sound black, but isn't and isn't doing a great job of it.

On the other hand, she doesn't really say that explicitly, so who knows?

i realized later that she might be saying that as well. it's hard to tell.

I think it's a good article with some minor quips you've outlined here... although I think some folks do call "Arab-looking" people Persian, or they did before 9/11 (and if on the Westcoast sometimes they're confused for Mexican, heh). Lots of Iranians do refer to themselves as Persian... and since arabs and Iranians are the same... wait. ;-)

her biracial thing was a bit odd... I thought maybe she meant Latinos... which well aren't really a "race" as recognized by the U.S. census, but rather an ethnicity. But then she included Latinos as a monorace so yeah I was confused.

8Asians has an interesting post on "positive" stereotypes here: http://www.8asians.com/2007/08/09/model-minority-good-or-bad/

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