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A Quick Follow Up to Issues of Race

There's just no way right now to sum up all the things that I experienced yesterday when reading the phenomenal comments left by readers on my post "I'm Black Irish and I'm Proud" because, well, it is just too much at the moment. The comments sticking out to me are the ones where readers just know that experiences like my dad's aren't uncommon, where we find ourselves in the movement to get beyond or even begin talking about race, that the young are also to be called on the carpet when they spout off hateful slurs, and that Jews and gays also find themselves in uncomfortable "passing" situations where they are incognito because you can't SEE Jewish heritage or sexual orientation/preference. For the last one, I suggested to Deb on the Rocks that she use the term "incoglesbo", but she hasn't gotten back to me yet on whether or not that will work.

The one thing I have time for to post today was brought up to me by two people as an alternative to confronting ignorant, vocal racists in public. Adrian Piper, an African American artist who "passes" created these cards to speak all the words for her when she comes into contact with racism:
Dear Friend,

I am black.

I am sure you did not realize this when you mad/laughed at/agreed with that racist remark. In the past, I have attempted to alert white people to my racial identify in advance. Unfortunately, this invariably causes them to react to me as pushy, manipulative, or socially inappropriate. There, my policy is to assume that white people do not make these remarks, even when they believe there are no black people present, and to distribute this card when they do.

I regret any discomfort my presence is causing you, just as I am sure you regret the discomfort your racism is causing me.

Let me just co-sign on that one, too. I believe everything Piper has written and will be ordering some of her cards so that she may make a profit off of this genius idea. Originally, I would have conceptualized this as: "Dear ignorant asshole, screw you." but I've got to be better than that. I mean, I'll think that, but I won't say that.

In fact, I think anyone who is "other" ought to do exactly the same and create their own.

Publish at will.
« This Door Not Open | Main | I'm Black Irish and I'm Proud »

Reader Comments (18)

That is a great idea!

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeekytaitai

i like it, nice idea

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterfuriousball

I'm not an "other" but I still like the card idea. I wonder how many I'd have to give some people before they would FINALLY get a clue. Maybe I can get a bulk discount!

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaura

Adrian Piper is fabulous!

Check this out

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSandy

Laura's comment echoes my reaction -- what about those of us who are not "other", but are deeply troubled by intolerant people assuming we share their intolerance? I'd love some comeback other than saying "some of my best friends are black/gay/Jewish".

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRuthWells

Love this! I am not black, or "other" but perhaps I should carry around these cards and just hand them out as needed... because, really - who cares if I am black or not, or "other" or not.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlagata

I saw something someone posted on a friend's facebook page that posted on my facebook page. My friend had been in Hawaii and had a very dark tan. One of her friend's (21 year old) made a disparaging remark with the N word. He justified his remark when called out by someone else that it was ok since he used an a at the end. I was stunned, but didn't comment yesterday. But today I did..I asked my friend if she could remove the offending comment (not sure she can unless she deletes the entire post) after reading your last two entries. Another poster on her picture also commented that it was offensive. If no one speaks up how can things change?

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Pattillo

Your discomfort and that of Piper's is the discomfort that I often feel when people utter the word "retard" as pejorative. It makes my skin crawl & quite literally, makes me see red.

As a sister of a brother with a physical & mental disability, I've grown up with a sense of having to protect him. As an adult, I cringe when seemingly intelligent people use that word without so much as a flinch. I would love a card like that for me.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterms_teacher

You know, those cards actually make me think of my mildly autistic son. He is so high functioning that people don't necessarily realize he's not neurotypical until he does something completely unexpected and people don't know how to react. I've often wondered what is the socially acceptable and appropriate way to broach the topic ahead of time so people will be more understanding.

March 23, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDeana Birks

Mine needs to say: "I know you weren't speaking directly to me, but I'm offended by your racism."

Actually, maybe this should be distributed widely, and people should practice saying it out loud. A lot.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBecky

I love that idea, and though I know it is not the same, it would come in handy for the comments about weight or obesity people feel free to make in ones presence, as well. I never came up with something for that.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlindajones

I'm sorry Adrian has to have those cards at all but while we work on changing what we can in this society I also like that she does.

Deana - I used to work with people with Alzheimer's and other dementias. Some of my caregivers had cards like that to give out to service providers (restaurant/retail/whatever) It was a good thing for awareness - explained behaviors that may not have made sense or were potentially awkward related to a disease you can't really "see" for a long time. Plus it reinforced that this person was out and about - not hidden away at home - he just had some issues that needed concern and care, that may not have always been so socially acceptable or easy to understand. I'm a teacher so I always hold out hope that informing people can make things better - not always but no harm trying I guess.

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLaurie

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A wonderful idea indeed. I just left my own story below. I can't tell you how many times kindness in the face of abject cruelty or arrogance shows a measure of class. Take for instance a rude cashier that ask if I'm deaf when asked to repeat the total. When she discovers in fact, yes I am and I smile despite her behavior. I think- hope she gets the message. (Hugs)Indigo

March 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIndigo

I just found your blog, and read this and the post before this - and they are both great. I'm half argentinean "half" swedish (that's the easy way to define my heritage). Sometimes people know just by looking at me that I am not swedish, other times they think I am. Both times I experience racism/discrimination.I made a post about that on the blog - if you've never seen her blog, it's really good. Tracey Friely made the site to celebrate brown girls all over the world.

I will have to come up with a card for me - would save some time.

March 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChennifer

I also discovered your blog when you wrote the post on Black Irish. I am a white woman with three adopted black children. I cannot believe the things people have said about this! Yikes!

I love the idea of the cards. I would love having these to pass to the unfortunately ignorent among us.

For the record, when we have the Martin Luther King discussion each year (I think it's important that they understand what the people before them went through and the sacrifices that were made) I always feel horrid. Horrid that I am a white person, part of a race that felt it was ok to discriminate. I am embarrassed for "my people."

It pains me even more that these things are still happening. I cannot even begin to fathom the mind-set of the people who were heckling Congress prior to the passing of the Health Care Reform.

There, I'm off my soap box! Keep up the great work!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSusie Kline

These cards are a great idea... I'm not an 'other' but I think the cards would be a good idea for anyone who wants to let others know that it's not OK to spew their hate... racism/sexism/ageism or any kind of discrimination just makes my blood boil and breaks my heart... and I cried reading your dad's story :( Thank you for sharing, I love your blog..!

March 31, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAngie

oh, my. this card would save time, though anyone who spends even a little time with me figures out quickly that any racist language is not going to fly. unfortunately, not so with antisemitic or homophobic language... people are still freer with that kind of snide commentary. and you know what's crazy? if i say something or am visibly offended, I'M the one who should feel bad about making people feel bad?!?

this is all a @#% shame. i'm the only white sibling of five, my best friend of 20 yrs is gay, i spend a lot of time in my local jewish community, i'm an urban special ed teacher of "at-risk" older high school students, and yet, half of my family is verrrry rural, low-education background Scotch Irish. i have issues with -isms.

and you know what's weird? i don't think my life or experiences are all THAT unusual. maybe people just keep their "differences" quiet?

April 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermelissa

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