I got into a discussion at work the other day about reverse racism and reverse discrimination. Now personally I think “reverse racism” is a load of shit, and under US law, “reverse discrimination” is just discrimination and, thanks to the white people on our Supreme Court, is just as illegal as the whites-against-everybody-else historical kind. I also think that some white people like to throw that “reverse” in front of “discrimination” to scare other white people into thinking that there is actually a difference and that it is a mounting problem and that MINORITIES ARE WORKING COLLECTIVELY TO TAKE AWAY OUR STUFF OMG RUN.
My coworker posed a question to me, basically, “Don’t you feel bad when somebody treats you different because you’re white?” The answer is yes, I do feel bad when that happens, because while I don’t need to be liked (so much as I like being liked or enjoy being like or have to be liked (ahem)), being disliked or unfairly treated for any reason hurts my feelings. But just because somebody hurts my feelings doesn’t mean I get to be righteously racist in response. The way I look at it is I either did something, unconsciously or not, that could be interpreted as racist and so I ought to take the opportunity to look at my own behavior instead of kicking and screaming like a petulant toddler, or the person who treated me ill really does dislike all white people, in which case, who the hell am I to declare such dislike unjustified or unfair? I don’t know what kind of experience that person has had with other white people, and I don’t feel like it’s my place to challenge the legitimacy of any person of color’s beliefs or experiences relating to race. Basically, I pretty much strive to take Magniloquence’s advice about What I Can Do and How Not to Be An Asshole to heart.
So yeah, pat me on the back and give me a fucking cookie, right?
But yesterday (more like last week, now) I was walking to the bus and I walked past some dingaling mall punk Hot Topic type of white kid, probably in his late teens. He was wearing a sweat shirt that said, “I am sick and tired of white girls.” And I got really irritated. Like, really irritated. Irritated enough to start this post, save it as a draft, and then actually come back to it later (twice!) anyway.
What is it about this shirt and its essentialization of white women that bugged me so much? Sure, there’s the misogyny but tragically, that doesn’t really stand out above all the other daily misogyny to raise my feminist terror alert level much above “junior absorbency.” It’s definitely the combination of “white” and “girls,” two parts of my own personal identity, that made me take that stupid t-shirt personally. It made me think about what sort of insipid stereotypes this asshole kid assigned to white girls and internally rail against all the ways that I defy these stereotypes, and all the ways all the other white girls I know defy these stereotypes. It made me want to ask him where the fuck he got off declaring that he was “sick and tired” of an entire segment of the population, the segment that I happen to belong to?
This also got me thinking about how my feelings might change depending on who was wearing the shirt. If a man of color were wearing the shirt, I’d be less irritated by the race aspect but my feminist terror alert level would increase to super plus. Same if a white guy who didn’t look like he was running to meet his mom for a ride home from the mall was wearing it. If any woman were wearing the shirt, I would just feel sad. I think the kid wearing the shirt was just trying to be clever, plus he was with someone who looked like she could be white (although I know that doesn’t necessarily mean she identifies as such), so maybe it was just some racially provocative ironimisogyny.
When I was searching the web for more information on the shirt (I sort of figured it came from T-shirt Hell or one of those stupid places), besides a lot of spam blogs and an old post on a Detroit-specific board about the shirt’s creators, the only discussion I found about the shirt itself was on a white supremacist message board which, you know, doesn’t make me feel any more conflicted or anything.