Why is reverse racism ok?
December 3, 2006 11:22 PM   Subscribe

Isn't it illegal for the Nat Turner Teach-In, which is put on by CARA Seattle, to advertise itself as an event open only to people of color?

I saw a flier for this event on a Metro Transit bus on Thursday, and it bothered me enough to look it up online this evening.

Isn't saying "this event is free, open only to people of color" the same as saying "this event is open to the public, but not white people"? Wouldn't the media, the ACLU, and the world be all over CARA's ass if they advertised an event as "free, open only to white people"?

Here's some more information about Seattle CARA. Given their stated goals, this seems kind of antithetical to their purpose.

I have many questions about this. First of all, am I missing something? This is not only hypocritical, it's illegal, right? Secondly, what can/should I do? Would you email or call the organizer and explain why this bothers you? What about emailing the local ACLU, or some other equal rights group? Does this bother anyone but me?
posted by folara to Human Relations (63 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The first thing that I wonder is if this is cool with the YWCA (where it is hosted). From the mission statement for YWCA King County: "The mission of YWCA of Seattle [is to] advance the quality of life for women of all ages, races, and faiths, and their families".
posted by rossination at 11:30 PM on December 3, 2006

Well, I'd mail the Seattle group (in fact, I almost did, just now -- curiosity) but I'll leave that for you. I totally see your point and agree on a gut level, but when I look at the link you provided, it says:

"The Nat Turner Teach-In is a day long event for people of color to explore historical moments and movements of Black resistance to enslavement in honor of the Nat Turner slave rebellion"

And it is not an academic meeting of history profs or a meeting of political decision makers. It is a meeting of people with a certain cultural background to expore historical issues that have affected them. I mean what if it were a Hungarian or Asian-American community thing. Why not? Those aren't races, but they are cultural subgroups. It's just that this one is also tied to race (which is genetically, I believe, precisely like an ethnicity.) So, in that sense it seems valid.
posted by Listener at 11:37 PM on December 3, 2006

Totally uncalled for response, RDR. No need for rudeness or profanity, and nowhere in the original post was their any talk about being the victim of racism. Very immature! That said, despite RDR's uncouth response, racism quite often is illegal in America. More below.

It bothers me - although organizations can be geared towards (as in an example already provided) the Hungarian or Asian-American communities, at no time in my life have I seen notification that one *must* be Hungarian or Asian-American to attend. You might feel uncomfortable if you're not! But it's still up to you. I am learning Hungarian (despite having no Hungarian ancestry) and have attended Hungarian events to further my knowledge of the culture; I've also been to Indian cultural events despite not being even remotely Indian. Most "groups," whether ethnic, racial, national or whatever, welcome interest from "outsiders" - aside from very suspect ones like the KKK or the American Nazi party!

This event is legal, for the most part. It probably is against YMCA charter and generally-held Christian values. I mention this as the YMCA is, nominally, a Christian organization despite its huge and largely secular outreach and, according to its website "This openness was a trait that would lead YMCAs to recognize their strength is in the people they bring together -- Ys are for all people of all faiths, races, ages, abilities and incomes." This event runs counter to that.

What quite possibly is illegal is the use of government-sponsored property to sponsor an exclusionary event. In this case, I'm talking about the (presumably) government-funded bus line. Personally, I'd be as offended at seeing notices for this event anywhere near something my tax dollars pay for as I would if I were to see a similar ad for any "whites only" event. It's just wrong.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:06 AM on December 4, 2006

It might violate the law against discrimination in public accommodations, see RCW 49.60.215. Courts can imply a First Amendment exception to these statutes. I don't think this conference would qualify for the exception, because it's being advertised so widely (usually the exception applies to more intimate membership organizations), but I don't know for sure.

FWIW, I think it's generally fine (as a matter of public policy, not necessary what the Washington state law says) to have some separate events for women or sub-groups/sub-cultures to do studies, organizing, whatever, relevant to the experience of the sub-culture. The separate space can create a lot of opportunity for work to be done, connections made, sometimes a place for difficult community issues to be hashed out away from a more mixed setting, a "safe space" to discuss difficult issues (e.g. female survivors of violence, whatever).

There are some downsides: (1) negative publicity about the event being exclusive and discriminatory; (2) petty and even mean-spirited battles about who meets the criteria of the sub-culture (e.g. you're from the Middle East but not a person of color, or you're bi not a lesbian, or you have a medical condition but not a disability, or (famously) you're transgendered not female, only women-born-women allowed); and (3) the bummer to the attendees of realizing (in some cases) that the exclusive make-up of the group does not actually further the goals which inspired the exclusionary policy -- the group members create the same issues as would the non-group members.

There are so many actual and pressing problems of discrimination and social injustice. This really isn't one. While a (non-minority) person could make the legal argument, I would just let it go.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 12:18 AM on December 4, 2006

I am not sure why that would be illegal when it's not illegal for, say, certain scholarships to be offered only to black people.

You will not get anywhere with this, but you will make a lot of people hate you.
posted by booksandlibretti at 12:18 AM on December 4, 2006

Though on a gut level this feels both wrong and counter-productive for the group, it also seems no different than the scores of ads I've seen in community newspapers for groups like DAR, which have strict requirements as to who can be a member/participate. This group just happens to be primarily black.

Listener, above, nails it in the third graph, second sentence.
posted by Brittanie at 12:26 AM on December 4, 2006

Oh man, this is going to end badly. But watch me throw my two cents in anyway...

RDR was spot on and he rightly called a spade a spade, even if the OP sidestepped use of a particular word.

Implicit in the OP's question is no small amount of white privilege; she says, essentially, "How can a group exclude me? How can there be a place in this country where I can't enter freely?" People of color (and other marginalized groups) confront these questions so often that they rarely seem as extraordinary as they do to the OP. It only seems "wrong" to the OP because she evidently has not had the experience of being excluded on the basis of her identity (or, at least, doesn't seem to make the connection).

I absolutely understand why the organizers of the event in question would want to create a "safe space" in which people of color can communicate with one another without having to, say, stop to explain white privilege.

I can hear the clomp of troll feet in the distance, and I strong encourage all of them to read Peggy McIntosh's classic essay before debating the existence of white privilege.
posted by chickletworks at 12:29 AM on December 4, 2006 [4 favorites]

People are allowed to associate freely in whatever manner complies with any existing local restrictions, folara. If you and I were to start a "Jewish Club" open only to our definition of what consititutes "Jewish" only, it's a perfectly legal organization, assuming we don't inspire hate speech or seek to overthrow the government. Honestly, if you feel genuinely excluded, you could ask the organizers of the event to allow you to attend, and then, if you receive a racist or hateful response in return, you might be justified in feeling outrage. As it stands, you needn't buy into the myth that you are being forced to be racially sensitive, yourself. It's not a question of "playing fair" when so many groups of every possible description hold racist views. The debate we have today is less about rooting out instances like these, or the tacit whites-only country club, as it is about institutional racism, and blatant examples of racial hatred.
posted by StrikeTheViol at 12:56 AM on December 4, 2006

Excluding any racial group from an event such as this seems to undermine its very purpose. I would think that the best way to combat racism is to set a non-racist example, not fight back with more racism of their own.

But what do I know, I'm white.
posted by sophist at 1:00 AM on December 4, 2006

Response by poster: When I asked if this is illegal, I was mostly thinking about what constitutes a public space. The YWCA is a private organization, but does advertising an event as, say, "open to the public" (which this event does not say explicitly) turn a private venue into a public one? (It probably doesn't, so whatever).

Thanks for the responses so far (well, except for rdr's). However, I never indicated my race anywhere in the post, or claimed I felt as if I had been discriminated against, so I don't think it's really relevant to discuss my race. It bothers me (and I think it should bother everyone) to see ANYONE discriminated against, not just memeber of my race, religion, gender, sexual orientation...
posted by folara at 1:02 AM on December 4, 2006

What quite possibly is illegal is the use of government-sponsored property to sponsor an exclusionary event. In this case, I'm talking about the (presumably) government-funded bus line.

Umm, I'm thinking that it was either a paid ad in the bus, or someone had left a flier on the seat. I doubt that the bus line is sponsoring the event in question.
posted by antifuse at 2:54 AM on December 4, 2006

Two wrongs don't make a right.

As for the white privilege mentioned by chickletworks, all of the items mentioned in that essay are either artifacts of past racism, or simply due to the fact that in areas where this white privilege exists, it is because white is the majority group. I would call this 'ethnic majority privilege' rather than 'white privilege' because it can apply to any groups. Getting to the point, fighting racism with more racism will not solve anything.

To answer the OP's question: It's not ok, it's just that racism against so called 'non coloured' people is much more politically correct. And I wouldn't call it 'reverse racism', it is just racism, plain and simple.
posted by spark at 3:03 AM on December 4, 2006

There's no such thing as "reverse racism." Why? You said it yourself:
all of the items mentioned in that essay are either artifacts of past racism, or simply due to the fact that in areas where this white privilege exists, it is because white is the majority group.
Both of those things-- a history of power and a ruling majority-- make discrimination by white people infinitely more invidious than exclusion of white people by people of color. When white people discriminate they do so with the backing of centuries of power, and all that that entails.

That's what racism is: the use of that power imbalance to harm an oppressed group. Because people of color in the United States have limited power to leverage against white people (since white people in the United States control most institutions-- including those institutions ostensibly set up to check the power of the majority), their acts of identity-based decision making are not acts of racism as defined here.

I'm not sure if I've explained that as well as I'd like, but I'm terribly busy... this article seems to do a decent job of making the same point.
posted by chickletworks at 3:22 AM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

make discrimination by white people infinitely more invidious than exclusion of white people by people of color. When white people discriminate they do so with the backing of centuries of power, and all that that entails.

So what you're saying is that two wrongs do, in fact, make a right? If we let minority groups flagrantly discriminate and prevent whitey from doing it, we're due for a Beautiful Rainbow in about 400 years? Because I don't think that would work. I might be tempted to exclude black people from my book group if they get to exclude me from stuff and that will add another ring to the cycle.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:57 AM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

In the interest of keeping things civil (and not to horribly derail or have separate conversations), I'll just say: what chickletworks said. Everything.

To address the OP's concerns more head-on, how about this one? A women's group that meets specifically to show how to detect lumps, or deal with vaginal yeast. Should a man protest that he's being excluded here? Should he cite his Bill of Rights and jump up and down and threaten lawsuits? I'm not saying you're doing any of this, OP, but I bring up extreme examples to show how intent is a major part of understanding the difference between this, and, say, a posh country club that still practices Jim Crow laws.
posted by war wrath of wraith at 4:16 AM on December 4, 2006

Women's groups frequently have women only meetings/outings/gatherings. It's because they want that specific event to be a "safe place." This is the same thing. And if you don't understand why black people might also need a "safe place" then I don't think anyone is going to be able to explain it to you. My advice? Get over it and learn to pick your battles.
posted by eunoia at 4:35 AM on December 4, 2006

Dissenting voice here:

I would be a "person of colour" (had I been based in the USA) and I would find this rather problematic.

Firstly, I wouldn't want to be classified by my colour - I am a person, end of story. This also assumes that there's only two races, White and Colour, and everyone "of colour" feels the same way about things.

(A similar situation exists in Malaysia, which has got me annoyed: everything's divided into Malay, Chinese, Indian. Plus "others" if you're lucky. I'm an "other" and it rather annoys me that I am an afterthought.)

I do understand the need for safe spaces. However, something like this just isn't sitting right with me, gutwise.

I would have thought something like Dee Xtrovert's idea would be cool - it may be geared towards one particular culture, but anyone's welcome.
posted by divabat at 4:55 AM on December 4, 2006 [3 favorites]

If we were up for a little jocularity, this is probably where I'd ask if they honor the one-drop rule; if I wasn't scared to death of this maybe attempt I'd to delve into the complexities of using "people of color" as a euphemism for "those who have historically experienced racism," while wondering if it includes asians, jews or the pre-civil war irish, or if they just really meant "blacks." Instead, though:

First they came for the whites, and I didn't speak up,
because they were just some random tiny group that required a lived-through cultural understanding of something and were meeting at a YMCA and probably just didn't completely think through that policy and if you wanted to you could really leverage whiteness against them and win at any point in time, even after they came for the Communists and the Catholics and you were pretty much the only one left.

posted by soma lkzx at 5:01 AM on December 4, 2006

Racial discrimination is not illegal generally in the U.S. But it is illegal for a public accommodation to discriminate on the basis of race. I doubt this YWCA is a public accommodation, and CARA certainly isn't. Regardless, higher-ups at the YWCA might not support this policy.

But really, I can't care too much about this. It's one of the weakest claims for "reverse racism" I've seen—there is no disadvantage to you because CARA wants to have their people of color meeting.
posted by grouse at 5:02 AM on December 4, 2006

Good grief, this is ridiculous. I believe that while this CARA group may - MAY - have good intentions, it is instead fostering and perpetuating racial stereotypes and generally making any race discussions more hostile.

Having said that...I wonder where CARA draws the line for "people of colour." What about the "1 drop" rule? If my great-grandfather was 1/4 black, would I qualify as a "person of colour?"

Attributing a person's identity, thoughts, and behaviors solely (or near completely) to race is an abomination.
posted by davidmsc at 5:33 AM on December 4, 2006

First of all, am I missing something? This is not only hypocritical, it's illegal, right?

Talk to a lawyer. But probably not. I rather doubt that a meeting of CARA is a public accommodation. It might occur in a public accommodation like a YWCA building or a hotel, but that doesn't mean that the meeting itself is. Likewise, a hotel is a public accommodation but a wedding reception there can be limited to Anglos or Blacks or left-handed Fijian-Serbs.

Secondly, what can/should I do?

Nothing, really. CARA can invite and disinvite whoever it wishes to its meetings and functions, as long as it's not a social event where people do business together.

Did you have some burning interest in Nat Turner? Then give them a call and say that you're planning to attend, but white.

Are you just offended that they put that stipulation in their ad? Don't worry about. They probably already have lots of phone calls logged that express dissatisfaction with their decision in no uncertain terms.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:42 AM on December 4, 2006

Personally, I find it highly racist to say it's okay for one group to exclude another, due to some historic tendency for the repressing group to be the repressed.

According to Wikipedia, Nat Turner was a highly intelligent guy who decided to gather some of his homeys and kill a bunch of people (including women and children). He believed he was led by God.

Nat Turner teach-in? No whites allowed? What message did they wish to convey exactly?
posted by Goofyy at 5:52 AM on December 4, 2006

That’s what racism is: the use of that power imbalance to harm an oppressed group.

Nah. The Chinese in the Philippines are historically very economically successful and politically influential; yet they are routinely victims of hate crimes. Following your definition would make the majority attitude to them ‘not racism,’ which is, frankly, very wrong.
posted by Aidan Kehoe at 5:55 AM on December 4, 2006

I suppose I should add, before flames erupt:
I didn't expect to write what I wrote. I knew Turner had led a rebeillion. I tend to approve of rebellion. I wanted to say some good things.

Then I read about the god-crazy part, and what I can only see as purely race-based murder. Suddenly, the presumed hero didn't seem so heroic.
posted by Goofyy at 6:03 AM on December 4, 2006

"So what you're saying is that two wrongs do, in fact, make a right?"

Only if you consider this wrong. Shouldn't you be out fighting affirmative action or something?

You just implied that exclusion is only wrong when white people do it. Now I'm having flashbacks to my mid-90's college experience. I emphathize with the group that is planning this celebration of a devil-killer-- nobody wants white liberals at their gatherings trying to be "down". But double standards are ugly and polarizing-- they reek of attempts at superiority instead of equality. And that's how the whole mess started.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:12 AM on December 4, 2006

I look like Conan O' Brien, and would love to march into that meeting and tell them I'm 1/16th black (which I am). How much 'color' is enough?

You (but not just you) seem to be missing the point. People experience racism based on the way they look, not their familial background.
posted by ludwig_van at 6:15 AM on December 4, 2006

So...to answer the question, no it's not illegal. The Klan isn't illegal, and I hear tell they have some sort of requirement about skin color. The first question you have to ask yourself when evaluating a First Ammendment question is whether or not government action is taking place. CARA's not a government group, so they aren't beholden to the Bill o' Rights. I suppose there's a Fourteenth Ammendment critique available about equal protection and such, but I don't think precedent bears that out all that well. So yeah, private groups can discriminate all they want, and the only court they have to answer to is the court of public opinion. Also, you're not automatically a racist for resenting the fact that you can't come to the meeting. Nobody likes being excluded. However, one of the hallmarks of white-supremist legislation was the rule that no mass meetings for black people were allowed without a white guy present. Didn't want them plotting, you see, because when that happened stuff like Nat Turner could happen. So the subject's a bit touchier than just "we don't like white people," as much as it might seem like that's all it is.
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 6:16 AM on December 4, 2006

i think it's just a good way to tell people what to expect there. i'm caucasian, and if i showed up, i have a pretty good idea of what they would do: someone would pull me aside and talk to me for a few minutes to tell me what i was getting into. based on my responses, they'd probably let me in anyway. but then i know that, as a caucasian, i'd be expected to do a lot of listening and little or no talking.

the only way i'd get denied entrance is if i a: sounded like some asshole racist bent on disrupting their event, or b: a liberal flake intent on promoting my own social agenda.

is it wrong? yeah, maybe it is. we still have quite a ways to go before things like this fade away. if you happen to be white, and you want to get a good idea of how it feels to be a minority, go ahead and attend.

and as a side note: i'm blond and blue eyed...and it really pisses me off when people, especially other white people, assume i'm racist based on my 'aryan' features.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 6:36 AM on December 4, 2006

Thanks for that, Scoo. Too often the whiners in America think that because their ancestors had troubles, they still do, too. Of course, if they could get past what happened to them, they might be able to move forward and lead happy, prosperous lives. But, that's just us, I guess. We're not allowed to have opinions on race because we're white. We couldn't possibly have any inkling of what it's like to be oppressed for hundreds of years.
posted by Spoonman at 6:45 AM on December 4, 2006 [2 favorites]

Having said that...I wonder where CARA draws the line for "people of colour."

People here seem to be under the misperception that there will be some kind of bouncer at the door, eyeing you and asking you to fill out a form. Generally, at these events you are a person of color if you self-identify as a person of color.

If you take a look at this photo subtitled "women of color" from their website, you'll see what I mean.

That said, they should have exchanged the phrase "open only to people of color" with "aimed at people of color" and achieved the same goal without provoking people into discussions of racism.
posted by vacapinta at 6:56 AM on December 4, 2006

However, one of the hallmarks of white-supremist legislation was the rule that no mass meetings for black people were allowed without a white guy present. Didn't want them plotting, you see, because when that happened stuff like Nat Turner could happen. So the subject's a bit touchier than just "we don't like white people," as much as it might seem like that's all it is.

Bears repeating.

A bunch of people want to meet and they invite others in a semi-specific category to join them. The intentions for their meeting are pretty transparent, and it's pretty clear why they would wish to include only certain people.

Different organizations have different functions. Some styles of outreach bring community members together across the barriers that usually stand in the way. Others don't.

Imagine the kind of conversation about racism against "people of color" that would take place in a room full of only those people. Now imagine the kind of talk about racism and radicalism that would take place if there were a few shiny white faces in the room; everyone begins to feel more self-conscious, changing the way they say things, feeling different things, and the whole intent of the discussion winds up changing to acknowledge and allow for this presence. It is not fair to demand that people who share a particular experience share it with those who may or may not understand. Not every situation calls for an outside perspective.

Instead of feeling disturbed by them, you should feel glad that this group exists and offers some people the opportunity to meet and discuss matters in a safe, welcoming environment. Instead of looking down on them for using public space to do so, you should be glad that they are organized enough to be able pull off these meetings in a forum that increases their visibility to others to whom they apply. And if other people personally feel the need (or entitlement) to be included, there are plenty of groups or meetings that are less exclusive.

So basically my advice is to mind your own business. If you don't like what they're doing, start your own group, or at the worst, send them a letter and tell them your opinion. But doing anything else to intervene and making it harder for them to do what they feel they need to do is sort of slimy. A cry of injustice over this matter in in pretty poor taste, IMHO.
posted by hermitosis at 7:08 AM on December 4, 2006 [3 favorites]

Also, what vacapinta said.
posted by hermitosis at 7:11 AM on December 4, 2006

I second everything RDR said. And at the obvious risk of adding fuel to the fire, Scoo, your comment pales in comparison to what we're talking about here. When (for example) you have to make sure to keep your hands out of your pockets when you enter a liquor store just because of your white face, we'll talk.

That said, they should have exchanged the phrase "open only to people of color" with "aimed at people of color"

vacapinta - that certainly been more diplomatic. I probably would have worded it like that myself. But perhaps they had a reason for phrasing it like that (I'm not insinuating anything here - I don't know).
posted by dihutenosa at 7:12 AM on December 4, 2006

I'm with rdr on this.

Complaining about this meeting shows little understanding of the struggle that blacks have gone through, and still go through in the US today due to centuries of institutionalized racism. The US is a country that was not only built on slavery, but still runs on the institutions that depended on slavery centuries ago. The struggle for blacks to reconcile their history while still living in America today is truly tremendous, if one thinks about it.

Painting this meeting as something sinister is the wrong way to look at it, and all the calls of "reverse racism" truly show a death in understanding of African-American issues in the US, past and present--which is precisely why these kind of exclusionary policies exist, because whites still don't get it.

This isn't reverse racism. In fact, I would argue that African-Americans actually lack the infrastructure in the US to be racist at all. Beyond simple name calling and excluding whites from meetings they wouldn't want to attend anyway, blacks simlpy CAN'T return the institutionalized racism they face every day in America. It's impossible. Even the very idea of "reverse racism" from blacks is ridiculous in the context of American history.

What are blacks going to do to whites anyway? Call them 'crackers' and exclude them from a meeting?

Most white people laugh at this kind of thing, this meeting, because they know all blacks are niggers anyway. Leave it to the educated, white MeFi crowd to get indignant over what amounts to nothing, and start screaming reverse racism.

Go graduate from college, get in your Jetta and drive to work at your high-powered creative job. Ask yourself how you got there, and come back at me about reverse racism again. Maybe you can post some links to Irish history again and pretend like that matters whatsoever in America today. Some of us, at least, will smile and nod.

Let this go.
posted by dead_ at 7:16 AM on December 4, 2006 [2 favorites]

Mod note: a few comments removed -- if you can't answer the question without telling the OP to fuck off, please don't answer the question. take further metacommentary to email or metatalk
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:21 AM on December 4, 2006

It's clearly not illegal, but why would you want to go hang out with a bunch of racist idiots anyway? Lord knows nobody here would attend a Klan rally.
posted by CRS at 7:23 AM on December 4, 2006 [1 favorite]

From the website:

This event is free, open only to people of color, wheelchair accessible, and lunch and daycare will be provided.

Afterwards, join an evening celebration of spoken word. Same place, 7 pm to 9 pm, open to everyone.
(my emphasis)

Sounds like the part with free lunch and daycare is being limited to the group of people to whom the event is aimed, but the part that isn't costing them anything is open to everyone. Could be that this isn't race-discrimination, but rather an effort to spend scarce resources on the target audience.

But, really, the best way to know would be to ask.
posted by carmen at 7:33 AM on December 4, 2006

In fact, I would argue that African-Americans actually lack the infrastructure in the US to be racist at all.

That's silly. Anybody can be a racist.
posted by malp at 7:33 AM on December 4, 2006

That's silly. Anybody can be a racist.

Yes, any one individual can be a racist. But, there's a gigantic difference from a single African-American (or even a group) saying that they hate white people and the systematic legally and economically backed racism that African-Americans have faced.
posted by hominid211 at 7:48 AM on December 4, 2006

Carmen, that has the ring of truth to it. And the fact that this info wasn't on the flier that the OP saw points toward organizational communication oversight (also common when resources are limited).

It would be nice if the rest of the arguing moved to MeTa.
posted by hermitosis at 8:02 AM on December 4, 2006

He said, 'you were born a white man in mid-twentieth century industrial America. You came into the world armed to the teeth with an arsenal of weapons. The weapons of privilege, racial privilege, sexual privilege, economic privilege. You wanna be a pacifist, it's not just giving up guns and knives and clubs and fists and angry words, but giving up the weapons of privilege, and going into the world completely disarmed. Try that.'

That old man has been gone now twenty years, and I'm still at it. But I figure if there's a worthwhile struggle in my own life, that, that's probably the one. Think about it.
- Utah Phillips
posted by trinarian at 8:45 AM on December 4, 2006 [2 favorites]

but still runs on the institutions that depended on slavery centuries ago.

I'm genuinely curious, what exactly does this mean?
posted by antifuse at 9:19 AM on December 4, 2006

Basically that our entire country, from the economy to the government, was built on the backs of black people, and to pretend like that doesn't still affect blacks today is silly.
posted by dead_ at 9:38 AM on December 4, 2006

When a group of people has little or no power over you institutionally, they don’t get to define the terms of your existence, they can’t limit your opportunities, and you needn’t worry much about the use of a slur to describe you and yours, since, in all likelihood, the slur is as far as it’s going to go. What are they going to do next: deny you a bank loan? Yeah, right.

this meeting is even less racist than the old lunch lady at work who charges me extra for lunch because I m white (workers are supposed to work for free, but who is holding the ladle?). If she thinks that $3.50 is her daily reimbursement for a life of subjugation, then whatever. If I were really worried about it, I could instantly go to the (white male) supervisor, or just talk to her after work.

you could do the same. If you need to go to this meeting, for a school report or personal whatever, talk to the organizer about it, see if you can t argue that your needs warrant getting in.

otherwise, respect the safe space, the caucus. They probably called for the restrictions so that they don t have to waste time explaining the generations of rage built up from oppression to people who wouldn t know about it.
posted by eustatic at 9:54 AM on December 4, 2006

*workers are supposed to eat for free
posted by eustatic at 9:58 AM on December 4, 2006

Has anyone considered that they may have said "open only to people of color" specifically to provoke discussions of privilege like this one right here? A lot of posters on this thread are right; people of color are excluded--from groups, places, events, etc.--both overtly and implicitly every day. It's shocking here only because it's whites being excluded so blatantly.
posted by maxreax at 10:09 AM on December 4, 2006

is reverse racism when you love all races?
posted by Kololo at 10:13 AM on December 4, 2006 [3 favorites]

Does CARA do other events that are open to all races? I'll bet it does, and this one is set up this way because the instructor decided to structure it that way, perhaps because of derailing experiences in the past from non-colored participants.

Let it go; there are lots of reasons why people with a shared history or like interests might prefer on occasion to hold an event amongst themselves, and this set of reasons seems fine, from a decidedly non-racist group. There are plenty of times I've enjoyed talking with gay folks in settings where the comfort level and openness would have been constrained by the presence of straight folks; there's nothing

if you don't understand why black people might also need a "safe place" then I don't think anyone is going to be able to explain it to you.

Or just "more comfortable place." It doesn't have to be about safety.
posted by mediareport at 10:30 AM on December 4, 2006

[Er, "there's nothing wrong with that." to end the 2nd paragraph]
posted by mediareport at 10:31 AM on December 4, 2006

I've read the CARA/teach-in link in more detail. I still think my more general point is valid, but I'd add (echoing others) that it's obvious that people who share some experience of victimization or assault or oppression would want to talk about it, at some point, with only other members and the general public is not welcome.

It's a teach-in and the purpose is social activism. This is generally very good. They have picked a very controversial historical figure, I see, and how it all plays out depends on the people involved. They may well want to attract haters and push them to a more reasonable view.

IOW, no, the thing isn't racist, but some participants could well be.

I'm curious what they mean by "in honour of" the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion. Wikipedia describes that he freed a bunch of slaves, was angry as hell, and advocated killing whites and did so in the process of freeing said slaves. The teach-in's intention I'd think, is to discuss and evaluate that and learn from history, and I'd be reassured to find out that they, like me, consider the judgment of Mr. Turner's original actions to be a question without a black and white answer. (Had to say it.)
posted by Listener at 11:59 AM on December 4, 2006

Or just "more comfortable place." It doesn't have to be about safety.

That's pretty much what the term "safe place" means. A comfortable place to speak/vent. Having the oppressor in the room can make that kind of difficult sometimes.

Also, everything hermitosis said.
posted by eunoia at 12:01 PM on December 4, 2006

Thank you, Konolo. There is no such thing as "reverse" racism. There is racism, or not.

Leaving institutionalized racism like police racial profiling or affirmative action aside, we all have the freedom to hate and judge each other based on appearance. God bless America.
posted by Methylviolet at 12:37 PM on December 4, 2006

That's pretty much what the term "safe place" means.

Well, I prefer "comfortable" to "safe," since safe has an obvious connotation of danger that I don't think always applies to these situations, and that feeds into a negative victim stereotype that's often used to demean folks who desire these kinds of spaces. A comfortable place where the general (and tiresome) biases of outsider groups are kept at the door covers the reality much better than "a safe place for us to talk."
posted by mediareport at 2:33 PM on December 4, 2006

Echo: probably not illegal. It's not a publicly funded service. Private groups are more than welcome to discriminate, even if they're "open to the public". The YWCA facilities do not belong to the public, so there's no violation there.

The concept, however, is just sickening. You can pick from an entire roster of honorable black protesters and revolutionaries without selecting an outright murderer.

I should add the following observation, one that I've seen quite clearly from my perch in the big city: there are many people out there who rally around the spirit of rebellion. People can be really effing stupid, though, and they will support a person or cause that is inherently or indirectly immoral or criminal. Think of people who strongly believe that it's honorable and necessary to cause vandalism (arson, desecration, dismantling, etc.) to raise awareness for a specific cause. They will ignore the rules of society and decent behavior simply to reach a goal which they think makes them morally superior to the rest of the world. This is sociopathic behavior; it's quite common, unfortunately, and very very real. In this case, a historical figure who champions the pro-African-American, anti-slavery cause can be seen as a hero to a sociopathic person, no matter how that person morally conducted themselves. And this guy was a cold-blooded murderer. He killed children, or directly ordered it of his followers. Anyone who goes to this "teach-in" is honoring a child killer. But I bet there's a whole group of self-righteous people out there who think this is a good way to honor the spirit of rebellion. Yikes.
posted by brianvan at 3:01 PM on December 4, 2006

I'm curious what they mean by "in honour of" the Nat Turner Slave Rebellion.

His was the most successful slave rebellion, so he can definitely be seen as a hero.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:44 PM on December 4, 2006

so he can definitely be seen as a hero.
From an entirely warped perspective. He was a convicted murderer, based entirely on the actions he took in liberating slaves. On another level, his actions did nothing to promote social justice via any sane definition; we as a society do not support vigilante criminal justice as a form of social reform. Again, you'd have to be a sociopath to think that his actions were "heroic". They were merely aggressive, combative, and cruel - as a response to cruelty.

There are instances where a depraved act may introduce lasting effects in our world - one that may not justify the direct action under our moral code, but one that causes a positive change in society throughout the rest of history. Immediate consequences aside, such an act may be seen as an act of bravery in retrospect. But there were no lasting positive social effects (reforms, awareness, etc) of Nat Turner's actions. He is simply a black historical figure who attacked white people during the time of slavery. There was nothing in the least good or decent about that, unless you value murder as a method of social reform.
posted by brianvan at 4:21 PM on December 4, 2006

The concept, however, is just sickening. You can pick from an entire roster of honorable black protesters and revolutionaries without selecting an outright murderer.

He led a slave rebellion. Whatever flaws he had, whatever else he did wrong and he's definitely no saint, he will be regarded as a hero for starting a rebellion. I'm ok with that. The slaves faced inhuman circumstances, their response could pretty much only be inhuman.

For those who haven't read it, I highly recommend "The Confessions of Nat Turner", a fictional account of the uprising. What it says about the psyche of slaves and slave masters is powerful and moving and speaks, IMO, a lot to the problems in race relations in America.

For instance this post has been stewing in the back of my head all day, mostly in a negative way. There are several reactions to it, some angry, but I'll just go ahead and lay'em on the table, since it's getting increasingly important to talk about this stuff in America.

Please note that first reaction is quite emotional and put here only as a discussion point i.e. it's just an example of anger, don't take it as my final thoughts on this post.

::deep breath::
Can't black people at least fucking meet and discuss racism without having to explain and apologize for just fucking talking? What the fuck do you people want from us, is a bit of fucking decency too much to ask for or do we have to make this into another goddamn talking point about white people? Jesus Christ, take off the blinders and TRY to empathize with someone different from your for ONCE in your goddamn privileged life. This is event is a DISCUSSION group, not a goddamn picnic where we celebrate and have our picture taken at a lynching of a white person.

End emotional outburst. Yes, I assumed several things about the original poster in that mess of emotions, no it’s not pretty, but that’s the gist of what I thought when reading the post.

Thinking about it now, I'm glad the the post was made, the subject brought up. I'm confused as to why someone would think this was racism and the seeming anger of the OP and her desire to fix this somehow. Is it really wrong that black people want to talk things among themselves? Other’s have already touched on the desire for sub cultures to meet with the “other”, so I’ll leave that alone.

I also find it odd that the OP would bring up the “but if this were white people everyone would be mad” card. The situations are in no way equal. There is an ugly and long history of white people saying and doing “no black people” allowed, so yeah, ANY attempt at that these days is bound to raise eyebrows and tempers.

Of course this begs the question, would it be wrong to have a group of whites get together to talk about racism and how it's effected THEM, while excluding blacks? My first reaction is to say "Isn't that what white power groups are for?", but it's a good question. And I have to say that it WOULD be good for whites to gather amongst themselves and have an intelligent discussion about what it really means to be white in America and how that's shaped their world view.

Sure, it would be nice to have that talk in a mixed environment, but that's almost impossible these days with some really ugly back and forth going. Maybe talking amongst ourselves for a bit might allow people on all sides to recognize where they're coming from and where they'd like to go.

Amusing side note: the date on the website is for Aug. 26th, 2006, so this event has already come and gone.

Thanks for posting this flora.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:39 PM on December 4, 2006 [3 favorites]

Mod note: a few more comments removed. seriously STOP IT. Take it to METATALK or EMAIL unless you are helping the OP answer their question
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:21 PM on December 4, 2006

There's Nat Turner, the historical figure, and there's Nat Turner, historical figure plus symbol/icon/category/idea/theory. There's so much academic research and discussion, conflicting and/or revisionist accounts (I think there were two new books written last year reviewed together in the NYT book review), folk lore and legend, theories, and probably poetry/art/murals, etc., all re Nat Turner. Much has been written about, thought about, debated, etc., all under the category of Nat Turner.

Given that, IMO Nat Turner is a completely appropriate reference for a Teach-In. It does not mean what people seem to think it means (that is, it does not mean, whoo-hoo, thumbs up! on particular killings done on a particular day in history).
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:26 PM on December 4, 2006

"It only seems "wrong" to the OP because she evidently has not had the experience of being excluded on the basis of her identity"

I've been excluded on the basis of my identity before, and I think that this is wrong.
If the situation was reversed, the media and the ACLU would be all over it. Anybody that would deny that is a complete fool. Remember the girl at "Freedom High" that wanted to start a "Caucasian Club?" And she didn't even use the words "white people only."

Nobody should be excluding anyone, especially not because they're not black or not white. In this day & age, that's just ridiculous.
posted by drstein at 10:47 PM on December 4, 2006

If the situation was reversed, the media and the ACLU would be all over it.

The media would scrutinize a whites-only club, yes. The ACLU might also be over it but they would probably be defending the group's right of free association. Just look at all of the work they have done on behalf of the KKK.
posted by grouse at 1:39 AM on December 5, 2006

You ask if it's "ok."
I'm not sure if it's legal; my gut says maybe. My personal opinion is that it isn't right.

Everyday day at work, I have the privilege of working with people of every shade possible. When I see events posted that indicate they are for people of color, I don't necessarily feel excluded, because all humans are of some color or another. I happen to be kind of a shade of pinkish light beige with freckles, if it matters to anyone.

I'm in with the no exclusions crowd, and if you want to attend an event, I'm sure you could.

Exclusion exemptions: Various support groups for therapy should be able to limit their group. For instance, battered folks shouldn't necessarily be in group therapy with anger management people. Unless, of course, it was for a very well managed reason or a person had both. This is a pretty LONG stretch. I'm afraid of starting or adding to "the victim is always right" thing, though, because that doesn't always fly either.
posted by lilywing13 at 8:34 PM on December 6, 2006

It's worth noting that none of the offended posters have discussed why they would want to attend the event in question. Whether or not anti-CARA group is morally "right" or not, their entire position starts from abstraction--an imaginary grievance over one's theoretically limited freedom, rather than an actual real world loss of freedom. (This is especially true given the additional posts regarding CARA's membership and inclusiveness.) Additionally, the distinction between the pro and anti-Cara posters on this thread is that the former discusses discrimination by referring to social reality (Who has the power? What has been the history of discrimination in this country?), while the latter views discrimination as an equation lifted out of reality (Any exclusion is discrimination--have you guys picketed the men and women's bathroom lately?). This suggests that the main problem with CARA's supposed exclusionism is not any kind of racism (who is being kept out? how many of you who oppose this "reverse racism" have ever attended a CARA event?), but the fact that it feeds the sense of conservative self-victimization that has bolstered the Republican party for the last two decades. If the anti-CARA posters are really concerned with being excluded for reasons that have nothing to do with their characters or talents, they should consider picketing board rooms, country clubs, the homes of wealthy heiresses, alumni associations of ivy league colleges for years prior to the last few decades, and other organizations based on a form of invidious discrimination that actually affects you (i.e., class).

Some posters have suggested that the exclusion here isn't just a sign of solidarity or a form of punishment for non-minorities. Given that the purpose of the meeting is to discuss black resistance, there is a functional reason for having a very focused target audience. Consider this thread itself as evidence: many of the posters here disagree with what I'm assuming are the key assumptions of CARA's meeting--that racism exists, is practiced by whites against blacks, that non-minorities possess a disproportionate amount of power in our society, that Nat Turner was a hero for leading a rebellion against slavery; if everyone who is protesting their exclusion from CARA on this thread showed up at the meeting, the meeting wouldn't be able to start beyond even its most basic assumptions.

A more useful analogy might be to think about difficult situations you and your coworkers have had with various supervisors of yours at your work. Let's say you are junior employees and your supervisors are senior employees. Let's say you feel that these supervisors mistreat, patronize, disrespect, and, at best, ignore you junior employees. You might discuss these problems among yourselves, say at a bar at work, but you would never consider yourself under an obligation to invite your supervisors. Some of the posters (those who sympathize with CARA's position) view its meeting as not dissimilar from the hypothetical junior associates breaking off and meeting at the bar. There is the same problem of hierarchy, the same unintended solidarity of those who see themselves in the worse position, and the same emotional incredulity that would result if those in the higher power position complained that they couldn't attend the very meetings designed to console those in the lower position about the power imbalance itself!
posted by kensanway at 10:30 PM on December 13, 2006

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