Thursday, 6 October 2005

Racism, Gaydar and Class-ism

Nothing offends me more than when people assume that just because I’m white, I tolerate racism and racist comments. The other night, when Paulette was out and Nancy and I were having our chat, she out of the blue asked me if it bothered me to live with a black person. I was gobsmacked and responded with “no, why, what about you?” She then said she was surprised when she arrived and if I had been black as well, she would have found another place to live. Glad to know she likes me based on my best qualities, hey? I was then asked if black people were different than white people in the States, which I was again taken a bit aback by. How does one respond? Yes, in some ways, we do have different culture and we tend to unnecessarily segregate ourselves from each other, but are we different…no, not really. Of course, I didn’t mention any of this to Paulette, because she doesn’t need to know. It wouldn’t do any good. She could kick Nancy out, and be left feeling hurt by the experience, since (despite some heated fights over “the rules” and the food) Nancy has befriended Paulette and vice versa. In some situations, ignorance is better.

My gaydar seems to be completely off over here. The men who I think are gay turn out to be straight as an arrow and the ones who wouldn’t raise an eyebrow…are. Overall, Leeds does seem to be a very tolerant city, which is good, but I’ve been told that small town England is as closed-minded as redneck America. Speaking of rednecks, the phrase came up last night when we were sitting around at B’s apartment (one of my fellow students, who is from Slovenia). One of her male friends, who is of Pakistani origin (but born in England) was talking about his experiences with white British people in his hometown. What was interesting was that the English student, S, immediately assumed redneck was a reference to working class people. She and I had been talking earlier comparing class-ism in England and America. There’s much to learn.

1 comment:

Suzer said...

isnt Nancy Chinese? has she never spent any social time with black people? If not, Im curious as to what she’s been told about us. just from what you write, think youre right not to tell Paulette at this point in time, because it seems just from the questions, Nancy might be wondering if her own views are right. its an interesting question, isnt it, if black people and white people are the same in the United States.

You never said in what context “redneck” came up. Sounds like youre having good conversations over there. Suzer sure knows how to make friends!

Commented by kivadiva on October 9, 2005 at 5:09 pm

Just wondering what kivadiva’s answer to the above question, about black people and white people being different in the US might be?

Commented by muddiah on October 10, 2005 at 10:02 am

Nancy is Chinese yes. I don’t think she has had much social interaction with black people.

Redneck came up when B__’s friend was discussing how people in his hometown treated him—-with disregard and discrimination because he was of Pakistani origin, and he referred to them as redneck.

Commented by Suzer on October 10, 2005 at 12:06 pm

Thats interesting that your Pakistani classmate is familiar with the term redneck.

Muddiah - thats a long question. If my mom reads this (if she finds the post - good for you ma, if you do), I think she might have a totally different one. Hmm… as Im writing this Im realizing I might have to right something longer. My inital response was to say no except for some minor points as Suze indicated above. I used to think there were things that just depended on where you grew up, but as I get older, I do see things that are common to african-americans, no matter what class and region theyre from, but dont generally pop up in the personalities of non-blacks (not just Caucasians). My tihnking is along the lines of realizing that its not that white people cant dance its that blacks tend to listen for the drum beat, while most of my white friends listened to the guitar strain and everyone else fell somewhere between.

Commented by kivadiva on October 10, 2005 at 8:24 pm

Kivadiva, not sure I get that, but then I’m a kind of literal interpreter of words. Sorry!

My first thought is that people are people and they feel the same emotions and struggle for the things in life that matter to them, like love, security, happiness. Sure they have cultural differences, but that’s not limited to race. Those things are evident from one ethnic group to another such as poles, italians, etc. I’m inclined to think that people are people, at least that’s my experience with friends of various races and ethnicities. The core is very similar.

Technical question: How does one know if theres a new comment on past entries. I just scroll down and check. Is there a quicker way?

Commented by muddiah on October 11, 2005 at 11:40 am

Just reminded me I have to activate the recent comments section But I think the recent comments dont specify which posts are being commented on. There should be a way to add a cookie so that youre notified about new comments since your last visit; I’ll have to figure that out. Also need to add link to the main page so you dont always have to use the back button. Lots of design issue I need to fix

Yeah, that post was confusing. When I have something more concrete, I’ll let you know, but perhaps i take it for granted when I hear comments like Nancy’s that the people making them already understand that the only differences are cultural. Breifly restating, Im saying there are cultural similarities among most American blacks that appear despite economic, educational or social differences.

Commented by kivadiva on October 11, 2005 at 6:08 pm

Yeah, well…I did find the link, thank you, very much. I think.

I find it interesting, too, that “redneck”has meaning in Pakistan. Have any other terms come up like that?

The term probably has similar connotations for similar reasons in both countries. I theorize that our (American black) usage is rooted in the fact that whites in the deep South used to get really, really red in the sun (sunburn?) and the summers there were notoriously long and hot. Remember “The Long, Hot Summer”, “Cat On a Hot Tin Roof”? The term was not necessarily limited to the working class.

I suppose that during the Civil Rights movement, the attitudes of Bull Conner, George Wallace, etc. ,became associated with the term ” redneck” and it was assumed that all white Southerners shared the same attitudes. Then it was assumed that all white Americans- Southern or not- were “rednecks” (of course, you had to conveniently forget about Civil War Abolitionists) Anyway, at that time “redneck” was a easy epithet to counter the term “nigger”. Both are rascist, I suppose, designed to hurt and degrade. Curiously, both are now accepted as somewhat of a badge of honor by those to whom they refer. Blacks often refer to each other as “niggahs” in their intimate groups, but the term does not cross social or generational lines well. I’ve also heard whites refer to themselves proudly as “Georgia rednecks” , “South Carolina rednecks”, etc. Virginia is not considered the deep South, so don’t think there are “Virginia rednecks” although there was the “Byrd machine”). Don’t know why. That bit is for non-US nationals. To quote Mr. Spock, ” I find that fact fascinating”. Thank you all for letting me share this experience. Actually, I’d usually say “thank y’all”.

Also, I think Kivadiva has it right about there being a a cultural difference between blacks and whites in the US. The rhythm thing is a good example. Many moons ago, I arrived at the same conclusion that she did, although by a different route. I agree also that the difference is more environmental than inherent. With that in mind; there are cultural differences between American blacks and American Asians, betwen American whites and American Latinos, between blacks and Latinos; the permutations are endless. There are also cultural differences among American blacks, British blacks, Caribbean blacks, and black African nationals. Its a natural and, I think anyway, positive thing to be a product of your background. Initially, children internalize what they see and hear; although, they may question and revise as they grow (ah… adolescence for good or ill). As you grow, you find that you can celebrate your own culture, while accepting and exploring other’s cultures. I personally like egg rolls, pasta, and fajitas, as well as well as Southern fried chicken, and collard greens. Unfortunately, it shows. But then my hips are part of my particular heritage, too. But that’s a whole ‘nother story though. Time for somebody else to talk.

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Commented by burtonrh on October 12, 2005 at 8:33 am

Love the quote and the book pick piques my interest. And, evolution of the word “redneck” very educational for me.

So, I think we’re all saying something similar: there are cultural differences between people dependent on race, ethnicities, upbringing, etc., but at their core, people share a lot of basics which makes friendships across the board possible. I do think they take a bit longer to form however, in that the immediacy, or initial trust, that you may feel with a person of similar background is not that at the onset. At least that’s been my experience.

Commented by muddiah on October 12, 2005 at 12:54 pm

Not much time to write, but in response to something burtonrh said, it was not in Pakistan, but in England that the fella of Pakistani origin was speaking of.

Oh, and yes, we informed the English girl that that was indeed the root of the word redneck and that it in fact had nothing to do with working class as such.

Commented by Suzer on October 12, 2005 at 1:18 pm