Friday, February 15, 2008

Who should be polite?

Naamen Gobert Tilahun has a wonderful article on The Privilege of Politeness, to go along with one of my favorite articles, Be Quiet and Listen by Christopher Christopher MacDonald-Dennis). Tilahun writes:
When someone is accused of racism/prejudice and they don’t want to address the concern or even think about it, well then the POC accusing is too loud, too angry. But that ignores the fact that we have every right to be loud and angry. If I were to say something sexist/classist/racist/ablist/etc. I would not expect my friends to say “Well I’m offended by what you said and let’s have a calm discussion of why.” (especially with my friends) I would expect their first and most visceral reaction to be “Listen up, what you just said is fucked up and you better research and correct yourself!” Hell, I’d expect the same response from strangers because I don’t expect them to teach me or help me work through my unconscious prejudices. If I have some fucked up unconscious thoughts it’s my job to break it down and deal with it, no one else’s. Sure there are friends I could turn to but I don’t expect people to help me. For clarifications sake in my mind asking friends for help is not the same as expecting people to teach you. A white friend coming up to me and saying ‘Hey I’m writing this story with a black main character can you read it over?’ is completely different from putting some prejudiced writing/thoughts/beliefs out there and expecting me to be nice and teach you when I run across it. It’s the expectation not the asking that is privilege.
And it is privilege. And it is an excuse to discriminate against or exclude people of color or Jews or any already oppressed group while falsely claiming it isn't because of their racial or ethnic status but because of their "impolite" reaction. If someone tells you what you just said is racist, that "impolite" reaction has everything to do with their race!

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