In his “When Racism Is Fit to Print” column on the website of The New York Times, Mr. Sullivan rants “A series of tweets from 2013 to 2015 reveal a vicious hatred of an entire group of people based only on their skin color. If that sounds harsh, let’s review a few, shall we? “White men are bullshit,” is one. A succinct vent, at least. But notice she’s not in any way attacking specific white men for some particular failing, just all white men for, well, existing. Or this series of ruminations: “have you ever tried to figure out all the things that white people are allowed to do that aren’t cultural appropriation. there’s literally nothing. like skiing, maybe, and also golf. white people aren’t even allowed to have polo. did you know that. like don’t you just feel bad? why can’t we give white people a break. lacrosse isn’t for white people either. it must be so boring to be white.” Or this: “basically i’m just imagining waking up white every morning with a terrible existential dread that i have no culture.”
Those Sarah Jeong posts, taken alone, would be strong evidence of racism, without question. But because Andrew Sullivan doesn’t know the difference between “racism” and the act of being what I called “race conscious”, he makes the mistake of throwing the entire mix of Sarah Jeong tweets together into what he might call one giant bag of racism. One example of what I am saying is provided by Sullivan and from Ms. Jeong: “Dumbass fucking white people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants.”
That is not pointing to all white people and saying they are a something – what Ms. Jeong is doing is describing an observed action by some who she says are white. That’s the act of being “race conscious” and not “racist” – she’s not putting down an entire group of people, so much as she’s complaining about an action she sees certain people doing who are white. Indeed, Sullivan himself wrote that Sarah Jeong expressed remorse for her take, and appologized for words that may have hurt anyone’s feelings. Good enough for me. And here is where I hold that Andrew Sullivan, as well as those who tend to be white and react to any comment pointing out a habit done by a subset of a group of people identified by race by saying such comments are racist, are not only wrong, but could be accused of trying to stop others from pointing out racism. Let me give you an example, using a problem I blogged about in Oakland 12 years ago.
In 2006, there was a spate of reported crimes committed against white women around Lake Merritt. Sadly, the persons who tended to do the criminal acts were young and black. I pointed that out in a blog post on my Oakand Focus blog at the time. For example, there was this mugging attempt https://ift.tt/2ACgz0H. But then, the same year, I used my Oakland Focus blog (Oakland’s first blog) to complain about a racist incident at Easy Bar on Lakeshore (which has since closed and given way to a new place called “The Cat House” at 3255 Lakeshore).
But back then, I wrote
“A 1998 poll conducted by the San Francisco Chronicle seems still to apply here in 2006. It reported that 62 percent of African American residents experienced an example of racism in restaurants and stores, where only 10 percent of whites, 32 percent of Asians and 41 percent of Latinos did. Notice that the percentage increases as the color of the skin darkens. That’s not by accident. A person who only identified herself as an “white woman Adams Point resident” chimed in to explain away the incident — and she wasn’t in the room at all. This is crazy. What sickens me more than anything is that if I tell anyone who’s black about this, I get a sympathetic ear, yet the rate of white or non-black Oaklanders who seem to “get it” ranges about 50 percent – a coin flip. That’s nuts. What’s lost in all this from the “explainers” is that not one — not one person – bothered to ask me what happened; they just fire off with their steady stream of “maybes” as in “Maybe he this,…”
Since then, 12 years have passed, and judging by Andrew Sullivan’s post, American society still has a long way to go. There should not a climate where a person can’t point out racist actions – from that perspective, Ms. Jeong was right. If you see just some of the examples of racist and sexist trolling she has endured, you’d understand why she went off. But, and again, she did apologize. Now, Andrew Sullivan should express that he understands her pain – he has not done that.
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