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Wiley Wandering

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Okay, I’m Sexist, maybe Homophobic, but I aint never Racist, so don’t Act like I Am!

It dismantles my sensibilities (essentially blows my mind, but that saying has become a bit trite, don’t you think?) when people immediately want to fight off the accusation that they are racists. They’ll own the fact that their thoughts on women may be limiting, disrespectful, or antiquated. They somehow find a way to attribute their thoughts and behavior to the way they were raised and somehow also find a way to rationalize their sexism as not so much of a problem because they don’t really mean anything by it. Have you found this to be true?

Yes, it obliterates my rationale when people immediately will often own to varying extents the fact that they are homophobic or heterosexist, but not want to own the fact that they are racist. Their discomfort or unintended biases towards people with a different sexual orientation are often framed as having been served to them in sermons, or biblical canon, or subtly situated in language that they’ve grown accustomed to using (sissy, act like a girl, soft, etc.) and therefore, it isn’t really their fault that they’ve acquired the habit(s) of being inconsiderate of others. Is this the case, or not?

Obviously I could go on. People are wrapped up in their classist behavior and comfortable with it, with the underclass striving to become middle class, the middle class striving to become upper class, and the upper class, when not with others of their ilk, often downplaying their class status. Off handed comments about this or that, inconsideration of the privileges that they have strictly by the luck of the draw, and they therefore are dismissive of others less fortunate.

People are ableist along some of the same routes. Posing as if they are empathetic, but rolling through life as inconsiderately of people who are differently-abled as they do the homeless when they have just exited a shopping spree having purchased frivolous goods that probably won’t even be worn while the homeless person they just passed has only the clothes on her back and is scrambling for tonight’s meal.

I have never minced words when I speak to audiences on the subject of race/racism. I firmly believe that if you were socialized in this country, educated, or mis-educated around the subject of race, you are as racist as you are sexist, heterosexist, and ableist. How can you not be if you have never really participated in a discussion about how it feels to be oppressed, or the many ways that we disrespect others.

There is a misconception however that if you are a kind person, or someone educated in doing work in the field of Cultural studies, Jewish Studies, Women and/or Gender Studies, LGBT Studies/Chicana-Hispanic/Native American/African American/ Asian-American Studies that you automatically get it because you know and have studied the oppression of one group and logically wouldn’t purposely put that onto others. GIVE ME A BREAK!!! People in every one of these camps have scars as profoundly deep and troubling as the ones non-educators sometimes carry. Just because you are the director of a Diversity Studies program doesn’t mean you don’t see Gay men as less manly even though you may purport to being an advocate for equal rights. Just because you are the chair of a Gender Studies program doesn’t mean you’ve been introduced to Angela Davis’ Myth of the Black Rapist and are capable of seeing underrepresented men in a light that doesn’t automatically frame them as sexual deviants if they deviate slightly from your expectations. Just because you are the director of a educational enterprise (consultant), a dean, provost, president, principal, or superintendent, you are not absolved from succumbing to your own biases, albeit at times subconscious biases. Personal prejudices rear their ugly heads inadvertently as a result of our blind spots, or sometimes deliberately as a result of how we play the game of leveraging ourselves at other’s expense. This is often called playing the ______ card (insert the identity construct that applies). Get this through your head though, everyone carries a deck, but some or just more adept at playing it.

So, what’s my point? Well, what is the point? Why do we accept a certain amount of ownership around our ill-treatment of others in these other problematic identity categories, but are ready to fight the accusation of racism? Does racism trump the other isms? Somebody please explain to me how it is possible to not be racist in American society if you are a product of our educational system?

Oh, and when we own the fact that we may be sexist, homophobic, and yes, even racist, we then can start to entertain some of the other problematic dimensions of our socialization/indoctrination and examine even deeper how we may have dysfunctionally responded to some of society’s other poorly taught/strategically implemented lessons (what might those be?). After all, as Albert Camus once said: “beginning to think is beginning to be undermined...”

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I get into this same discussion with people often, understanding that the American socialization that (almost) all of us go through instills a level of racism, sexism, homophobia, etc. Said people are usually defensive of all of those categories, less so after I point out some of the obvious (yet often subtle) examples of how they are true.

I think the reason that the term "racist" strikes a nerve is the history associated with it in America. Not to downplay the struggles of women, gays/lesbians, disabled...but "race" has a special place of conflict in American history. We even fought a civil war and had a national historic movement centered around race issues. Being labeled a sexist does not carry with it the same weight that being called a racist does, because of this history. This seems to be one of (although probably not the only) reason that people are so adamant about fighting off being labeled a racist.

Now my question, stemming from yours about whether racism "trumps" other isms. In America, I would argue that it does. Again, probably because of the history, race seems to take precedent over other forms of identity in most situations. If you are a gay black man, would your homosexuality be the identity that others label you as or would it be your skin color? In turn, racist attitudes and actions are given more attention that others (which marginalized groups have laws protecting them against hate crimes?) Food for thought....

I would say people are less inclined to admit to being racist because deep down they realize there truly is no reason to dislike a group based on race, but they have not yet come to personal grips with the problem.

I would not say racism is worse than any other ism, particularly if you are being ostracized for your sex, sexuality, etc.

I am very curious about this blanket statement: "
Somebody please explain to me how it is possible to not be racist in American society if you are a product of our educational system?"

Sounds to me like the equivalent of original sin.

The content in this post is provocative. After reading it, I struggled to pick a point of departure for my response. I chose to address your question asking if racism had the leverage to trump the other isms. From my perspective, racism ...can trump the other isms. If we randomly look at the plight of underrepresented populations in this country, we can find some terrible phenomena. Just to mention a few, think about the decimation of the Native American population, the growth of the U.S. colonial economy largely by using the profits from chattel slavery, the Japanese internment camps during WWII, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the sterilization of Latino women. These events speak volumes to the psychological displacement many of these populations feel today in light of the structural and institutional inequalities that still exist. However, ableism gives racism some competition. Essentially, everyone has a body and a mind, of course. Your ability to move, think and operate in physical space transcends which race or ethnicity one is part of. For every human being, some kind of motion is almost universal. This brings up an interesting question though. Do we think that race is a universal? If so, how does this affect our understanding of the concept?

Well, first…it is good to be back! It has been almost a year since I’ve had a chance to ‘Wander’ a bit; and take some time to explore myself. So, on that note, it is great to be here (again).

I, to some degree, differ that I have known and understand that I am racist. Luckily (I don’t know if that is the right word), I learned this early, just out of grade school. However, my acceptance turned into (in my mind) racism being right and in society correct; especially with my immaturity that was high school. I wasn’t the only one; I made racist jokes, and ignorantly assumed it was natural and acceptable to act like this.

This changed with maturity and college. I acknowledge my raciest, classist, sexist, elitist, privileged upstate New York thoughts. There was some comfort in knowing where I stood internally on my journey; then came the difficult part of beginning to change my thoughts and attempt to understand what I was thinking at any given time and why I was thinking it. This was brought through college life and my own conversations in the CDPI office/classroom.
I do however struggle with classism, more so than others. I have trouble identifying it, relating to it, and truthfully understanding classism. Something I am still trying to answer today, with conversations like this one.

JW does a great job outlining the true point; we all have our personal judgments and intern thoughts one society as we view it. Even those with academic credentials and programs in diversity, we all should accept our ignorance and that in the end everyone has a “full deck of cards”.

So I will end this, taking with me my ____ cards; and realizing that my neighbors have their ____ cards. Continuing to improve my community by improving myself.

My point of departure: Your title. It perplexes me, (perhaps or perhaps Not due to my socialization in the North Country) and I’m hoping you can contribute to my enlightenment by explaining it. How does a Diversity Director/Consultant/Dr. of something justify the sarcasm that screams from this title? Why is it okay for you to imply (as per your title: Okay, I’m Sexist, maybe Homophobic, but I aint never Racist, so don’t Act like I Am!) that someone who would fit the description of the person denying their socialized racism is under-educated? It seems insensitive to me and ironic that you would try to make a point about owning / entertaining problematic dimensions of our socialization by ostracizing the “less educated” as you enter a dialogue that is supposed to challenge others to consider such a serious problem. If it is such a serious problem, what is the sarcasm about? Why the off handed / subtle (yet not so subtle) joke? Why is it that you chose to personify someone using improper English, as opposed to personifying someone who is educated? Happenstance? Would you ever consider personifying a racial minority as the subject in a sarcastic blog title? Well, here’s the deal: not everyone is afforded a reality that allows them to be perfectly educated. Some kids grow up hearing the word “aint” all day long. It’s not their fault and it doesn’t make them any more racist than you or I.

*** William, It is always intriguing to watch people reach, or perhaps reach but fail to make their point, especially when the point may ultimately reveal their inability to covertly advance their agenda. First, where in the title does it imply that someone denying their socialized racism would have the type of voice that might use the word "aint." Perhaps it is in your seeing a word like "aint" as a social class marker that you are incapable of imagining its many other uses. As someone who grew up in South Central Los Angeles, where I often didn't hear the so-called King's language being spoken, 'aint was as much a part of the vernacular as was isn't. So, the kid you described growing up was me. Would that not make me anymore racist as me (since you said You or I), and me no more racist than you, or the kid you speak of, which is as much me as any other kid from a lower socioeconomic class, right?

And your assertion that I wouldn't personify a racial minority also reflects your racist-classist bent. You make it sound as if only Whites can be poor if we focus on your interpretation of aint as a reference by me to lower class but then dismiss the possibility that my current blog title could have reflected a racial minority. You should really have someone read your very public comments about me before you send them in.

And don't try to spin back on me the notion that I couldn't have meant black people because they can't be racist. My position on that is as clear as the fact that I'm originally from the West Coast, and as a kid (a non-adult), originated from humble beginnings. Similar to your point of departure, I guess this is my point of departure: Man, come on, you actually articulate yourself adequately, are obviously intelligent, but must not have anything better to do than to wait for me to put something out there so you can attempt to dismantle it and show me up as a hypocrite. Okay, but do a better job of it, would you. Your attempt at it was as much overt as you tried to make it covert, so much so that I have to call you out on it or you may actually think that you had smoothly taken me to task. Oh, and ask yourself why? Neither of us wants to believe that you could be a "hater," right?

William, my reputation is this, I'm not perfect, but definitely open minded, trying always to be a better person, but is unfortunately definitely human. But, without hesitation, anyone who knows me even fairly well would tell you I will respond to anyone with reciprocal energy. An assertion that the title of my blog had overtones of classism was so absurd that it had to be addressed for many reasons, but also because I sincerely thought that responding to it would give me an opportunity to do some truly creative writing today. It did. Thanks for that as well as the moment of introspection I experienced. *** -- J.W.

Excellent defense Dr. Wiley! I’d just like to ask one more question. Why is it so difficult for you to consider the possibility that your title could be offensive to undereducated people, without creating a spin that I MUST be a hater or have an agenda just because I challenged you? You don’t even know me! And certainly, any age or race can be under-educated. I did not indicate anything otherwise, although you chose to assume so. You make it your life’s purpose to challenge others and encourage use of functional language, so as to be sensitive to others. You adamantly take people to task as YOU deem necessary for use of the words “girl”(in a context when referring to females over 18) and “suck” and “you guys” (in a context of referring to a group of people that includes females) because YOU feel they are inappropriate. Is it possible that these words also have other meanings that you are incapable of seeing or even hearing others express? You seem to have a very hard time accepting the validity of a pretty simple notion that using the words “ain’t never” together is obviously improper English. In the context of this blog, to me, it sounds as though you are making light of those who “just don’t get” it in terms of owning racism because they are “stupid.” Perhaps they haven’t been afforded an opportunity to attend a Diversity Enlightenment Session, or even finish high school? I guess that makes me classist though because I went there, right? Because I considered how someone else might feel. Maybe I have a family member who isn’t educated for reasons beyond control. Why is it okay for Dr. Wiley to advocate for others as he deems necessary, while dismissing efforts of others, just because he is being called to task as opposed to the one calling to task? Perhaps this will give you more food for introspection, which, by the way, you are more than welcome.

*** William, I'm loving the fact that you returned to the conversation. Far too often conversants flex their intellectual muscle only to shy away when I respond with a bit of edge. It's like that which happens when a bully's so-called menancing grimace is met and returned without fear. Now, before you even think of challenging how I've cast others and perhaps even you as bully and not me, here is the distinction. I'm advocating for the voiceless, at times even those that have voices but have been duped in believing that they aren't duped. Yes, it's complicated, but the best quick examples are Black folk who are comfortable with being called the N-word and really believe that they have no connection to the dysfunctional propagation of the term. The same can be said of the use of the terms B-word, and other terms like girl and by women. In advocating for them I attempt to not demean or ostracize others though those who are more prone to oppressing the voiceless I'm advocating for will probably feel the sting of my advocacy. On some level I recognize your attempt to do just that with your earlier post and wanted to applaud it, but couldn't to any major extent because of how you came at me with both guns blasting. Your second post (this one, which I am responding too now) was surprisingly more respectful of my commitment to diversity & social justice and not overtly enthusiastic of scoring rhetorical points at my expense with wild accusations, though both guns still appear to have some ammo in the chambers.

It is interesting how you laud my defense which does imply that you were on the offense against me. It is even more interesting how you accuse me of having a difficult time recognizing that people could take offense to something I wrote. Listen, if people actively participate in the Birther's movement, love/hate Keith Olbermann and/or hate/love Glen Beck, think the film "Waiting" was worthwhile making, etc. then people see the world in an array of ways and could easily misconstrue my intent, as you genuinely may have. On the other hand, ideally we should look at someone's track record and give her/him the benefit of the doubt, or we don't and usually when that is the case, there are reasons why not. Not that you were obligated to do so, but your energy was of the "seek and destroy" type and any posture other than one matching your's was just not in my armament today.

It would be nice though if you just owned a couple of things before you attempted to continue on your quest to somehow still successfully make a significant point against me. When you said "And certainly, any age or race can be under-educated. I did not indicate anything otherwise, although you chose to assume so." Did you not say also say"Some kids grow up hearing the word “aint” all day long. It’s not their fault and it doesn’t make them any more racist than you or I." is that not an indicator that kids were the leverage for you to emphasize that I was not being inclusive, or was being classist? Now that I've dismissed that by explaining to you my title was more a throwback to my roots and its language, your reference group now has expanded to all ages. Nice move William, nice!

In regards to the words "girl" "suck" "you guys" having other meanings, of course it's possible. It's also possible that when you say "Dr. Wiley" you say it with as much genuine respect as possibly with total disdain. I can't get wrapped up in assuming the best when their are potential lessons to be learned from engaging the worst dimensions of what was being said, which also ensures that anyone exposed to the terms in an ambiguous manner can at least have insight into their other usages. But when I offer those considerations I do it in a manner that is less caustic to the palate than what you offered in your first post. You didn't even attempt to feign respect like you did when you called me Dr. Wiley, but instead used my titles, topics, and even mediums or venues to leverage your argument against my inconsistencies. None of this is daunting to me, because like those that watch Fox vs. MSNBC, they sadly will continue to see things the way "they are" not the way things might "actually be." Those out there who don't agree with me and/or my perspective will be celebrating you, those who know how I roll and what I'm about will be celebrating the way I handled someone they may see as an obvious agenda laden adversary. And then those who can see both of our points and wish we could really hear each other, or wishing upon a star, or aren't they?

Lastly, I don't make fun of people who don't get it. By nature, we are all ignorant until exposed enough to something to finally understand it. I don't get it in many contexts, and probably would have entertained much easier the notion that my title was problematic except that it is widely known we accomplish more with sugar than we do with "defecate." Your offense was offensive in that it never acknowledged the fact that my title could have been an inadvertent moment of inconsideration that if better considered might have resulted in a more socially just title. You instead chose to frame it as something far more problematic by me.

That said, for someone who took me to task, and in the process definitely made me think, I'll say thank you, and I appreciate the fact that you may know more about my work than most with the many references you made to my various means of education and articulation of diversity & social justice. *** -- J.W.

When I was a young woman, I met a "black" man at a basketball game and we started up a conversation. I found him interesting and we discussed many things. When I had to leave I said "I'm really glad to have met you". He asked "why"? I said, "because I've never many any of you guys before". You guys meaning...black.
Was I a racist? I don't feel so. I wonder whether he thought that I was. I was just telling it like it was.
As Oprah says "when you know better you act better". I wouldn't use the same words today.

(we met at the Moncton market...the sign lady :-)

No ism is worse than another ism. They are all a negative product of the way we think and feel. Music does have the power to educate our youth past the ism’s of our parents. Beyonce, is one of the best female examples of that today. She is a strong black woman who is constantly singing about her independence, and strength as a female. Her song with Jay-Z “Upgrade You” epitomizes everything I want in a future relationship. As a college student I always hear females discussing how they just want to find a rich man to take care of them. This is a product of sexist thinking. If I marry a rich man great, but I know I will be a power player in my relationship. If more key players in the music industry send positive messages in their lyrics like Beyonce, isms wouldn’t stand a chance.

I almost never comment, but after reading a few of the comments here Okay, I’m Sexist, maybe Homophobic, but I aint never Racist, so don’t Act like I Am! (Wiley Wandering).
I actually do have 2 questions for you if it's okay. Is it just me or does it appear like some of these comments come across like they are left by brain dead individuals? :-P And, if you are writing at additional social sites, I would like to follow you. Could you make a list of every one of all your shared pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

*** Abby, I also have a Facebook and would gladly add you as a friend. It is JW Wiley. I also have a Facebook page, "Xamining Diversity"

Look forward to chatting with you...*** -- J.W.

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