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The Race Is To The Swift...

Kudos to wolfiegirl for sending her spotlight to a story about Wal-Mart. It seems that one Jason Smith went to order "Planet Of The Apes: The Complete TV Series" from the retail giant and was offered a list of "similar items." Click Here for the story, featuring the actual graphics.

In case you're just skimming and don't have time to click and read the tale, the "Apes" similar items offered included:

"Introducing Dorothy Dandridge," the Emmy and Golden Globe winning HBO film starring Halle Berry as the famed actress.

"Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson," a Ken Burns documentary produced for PBS about the first African-American Heavyweight Champion.

"What's Love Got To Do With It," The Academy Award nominated biopic about the life of Tina Turner, starring Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne.

The story continues with the retailer immediately apologizing, calling it a "technical glitch," and then going to the extent of pulling down their "similar items" function altogether until they could determine what caused the "problem."

Sure enough, word travels fast, and people reacted with outrage to this.

My LJ friend wolfiegirl commented about the whole event with the following:

I would say it was awful as well, except for the fact that ordering Home Alone, or other non-apelike movies will get you the same recommendations.

Hello, people. Stop looking for racism where it doesn't exist. Seriously. Don't you have children that need tending, pets that need to be walked, dishes to be done, or anything else to keep you occupied, just like I do?

But then again, I've been told I'm a racist because I "can't understand" because I'm white.

Quick reminder--I'm not Aryan. I'm part Cherokee, part gypsy, and part Irish. And I never even thought there was a race issue with Jews until I heard that Racist George freak on the air. I'm a product of the midwest... where we really don't think about race, because, seriously, folks, it's just pigmentation of the skin.


What's interesting about this story to me is that I see several things happening on several levels and it's not all that straightforward.

First, it seems to me that Wal-Mart is despised by a lot of people, just on principle. It represents a lot of what many Americans see as a major problem with the country today. This gigantic retailer is at least partially responsible for helping to destroy mom and pop stores all across the United States, because, with its size and income, they can literally steamroll the competition, leaving themselves as a monopoly in a community. Yes, they can provide cheap prices on items, but the cost is to anyone that is unfortunate enough to own a retail business in the same neighborhood as one of their sprawling superstores. It is one of the big reasons why New York City does not want Wal-Mart within the city limits of the five boroughs. It does seem as though Long Island is going to get a Wal-Mart soon, though.

If you despise a company, you tend to look for its flaws. And if you find something, you want to trumpet it from the highest mountaintop. I'm sure that a major reason this story became so big, so fast, had less to do with "racism" per se and more to do with the fact that people want to knock this company down a few notches. Goliath came in and bumped off all other businesses in countless neighborhoods. Here's a special delivery rock from all the little guys you squashed on the way to being America's Favorite Store.

wolfiegirl makes a very reasonable point. The "suggested items" function could have produced the same results with any film or television program. Possibly. I don't have any emprical knowledge about this. I've never visited the Wal-Mart website, so I don't know what you would get if you did a search for DVDs. However, it does seem odd that all of the films associated with "Planet Of The Apes" would be these titles in particular. Why wouldn't the very first offerings be the two "Planet of the Apes" motion pictures: the original 1968 Charlton Heston epic or the 2001 Tim Burton "retelling?" Or perhaps any of the "Planet of the Apes" sequel films, which featured Roddy McDowell from the late 1960s and early 70s? Wouldn't that be a more obvious association with the title listed? How about the two previous "King Kong" films, the 1933 version with Fay Wray or the 1976 version with Jeff Daniels and Jessica Lange? There was no "Gorillas In The Mist," the biopic of researcher Dian Fossey which starred Sigourney Weaver. Where's that on the list? Or any of a series of Nature or National Geographic programs about the Great Apes.

I wish I could definitively say that this was not some little racist dig by someone working for the company, but I just can't do that. I don't know one way or the other. Maybe yes, maybe no. And I'm not saying that Wal-Mart is responsible for this, since disgruntled employees have been known to behave in outrageous ways for their own purposes, but still, people have lost their jobs for less.

The problem about looking at the racism issue from a Causasian point of view is that no matter how sympathetic people are about it, it's impossible to translate. Now, I don't want to make anyone feel guilty, or grab the thorny crown of martyrdom here. I just mean to state the facts. If you are white, or look white, life is different from those that do not. If you forgot about Hurricane Katrina, let this be a brief reminder. Life is simply not the same thing for everyone in this country.

Personally, I think we should get over racism too. I'm constantly amazed at how this hundreds of years old issue is still in our faces in the 21st Century! What does that say about OUR race? The Human Race?

But looking at this Wal-Mart story again, you have to be particularly big to shrug it off and say it's nothing if it relates to the essence of your being. One claim was that "television programming" was offered because the consumer was looking at a TV series on DVD. So, why did the theatrical "What's Love Got To Do With It" come up as a selection? And why did the company rep so quickly apologize for this if it was so innocuous?

Clearly appearances count for a lot in retail, and it appears that this is a less than arbitrary set of selections.

The heart of the matter is the "insult to injury" element that happens whenever something like this occurs. Let me try to put it in some sort of quick, cohesive historical perspective.

African Americans began their lives in this country as slaves. Their families were pulled apart. They were kept illiterate. They were forced to work and breed and do what they were told. When they were freed, they were afforded almost no rights, and they were constantly persecuted, frequently killed and certainly harrassed. When they finally received the rights that the rest of the human race had, their Caucasian counterparts had built companies and acquired great wealth. People were reluctant to hire brown skinned individuals for generations. Education was not easy to come by, and this helped to slow the growth.

As a result, many minorities got a bad start in life. And, just like in a football game, if you give up four touchdowns in the first quarter, it's tough to win, or get back to even, which is what we're talking about here, even with a lot of time left.

So, what we're dealing with here is a chronic problem and another apparent slight that happened along the way. Get over it, right? It's no big deal, right?

The reason people react isn't specifically because of this incident, or error or whatever this is. It's because they are living in a mess. Urban squalor. In some ways, it's just the Status Quo talking. As long as people need to have someone to consider themselves "better than," racism will exist. It's just an easy way to point to another person and say, "you're not the same as I am."

If your life isn't happy, anything that insults you will be magnified.

And there are a lot of unhappy people here. That's the other side of the coin that has turned this into a media story.

If only I could travel to Nikki's midwest, where race is just a pigmentation of the skin. I really believe that Nikki thinks, acts and conducts her life just that way, and that most of her friends and neighbors do the same. The unfortunate thing is Nikki and folks who think the way she does are not the only ones out there. There are a lot of people that still firmly believe that they are better because of their heritage, will allow breaks for people who "have the right look," and that leads to the vicious cycle things that have brought us where we are now.

The whole Wal-Mart and racism issue meet at the corner of CONTROL and POVERTY. Wal-Mart controls the marketplace in any area that it enters. They are just so big, they suck up all of the oxygen in the atmosphere, leaving other retailers gasping, choking and dying in their wake. The consumers that are desperately trying to save money so they can have some of the good things in life shop at Wal-Mart. Cheaper helps out the personal finances. But they are helping to ruin the economy of their areas by eliminating any alternative choices.

Meanwhile, racism doesn't allow people control of their own lives. They must "make do" with what they get, or struggle against incredible odds to succeed. Of course there are exceptions that prove the rule, but there are millions of people still stuck right where they are: in poverty.

So, what's the answer? How can we fix this? The answer is easy and crystal clear.

We can't.

I don't mean to sound like a defeatist or something, but realistically, there's no way to balance the ledger. It's never going to happen. As long as making money is the most important thing to people, as long as people continue to be "pre-judged" on sight, and as long as this country makes it more and more difficult for those that don't have to get, all of the politician's speeches, the media commentary and the corporate apologies will continue to placate, not to help.

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Comments

( 21 comments — Leave a comment )
penpusher
Jan. 8th, 2006 12:37 pm (UTC)
Hm. Well, there are a great many "multi-disk sets" that span every topic you can name. That answer doesn't really explain much of anything, any more than the comment that "television programs" were the reason these selections were offered.

What do I think personally? I think that it's more likely that some individual who had access to Wal-Mart's database wanted to have some "fun" with this, than any of the Monday Morning Quarterback replies that the corporation will offer. I don't have any proof of this, except my knowledge of human nature, but that's just me.
crushdmb
Jan. 8th, 2006 06:05 pm (UTC)
I think that they just have a really, really bad database and I wouldn't be at all surprised if every time someone ordered a multi-disc set, these multi-disc sets would still be recommended. For some reason I just don't think Wal*Mart employees are all that smart ;)
tinkernoonoo
Jan. 9th, 2006 04:28 am (UTC)
Yes - that was my thought too, that some bored employee thought it would be "fun" to tweak the algorithm or even put the titles in directly. It's just stupid and sad. :-/
ravenfeather
Jan. 8th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)
Good points.

I would also like to point out that it isn't just in the midwest that folks of Nikki's mindset exist. I was raised in the military, and I didn't actually "see" color until I got to college, and was hit in the face with racism, and that portion of the brain that consciously notices a person's skin color was activated. I reacted hysterically (to myself) at the time, because in my naivete I thought I had become a bigot, since I noticed something I had never noticed before. Now.. that is not to say there aren't racists in the military, there are racists everywhere, just like there are reactionaries everywhere (those that have reacted to this story with outrage may not in fact BE racist/victims of racism/former abused or not employees.. but they ARE reactionary.. as are most loud, quick acting angry folks) but we were as oblivious to them as we were to the differences in each others skin.. because people of all colors were "normal" in the environment that we were raised in. We all were familiar.

As far as Walmart (or any other corporate entity) representing the evils of this country/government/mid set.. ehh *shrug* If you feel that way, boycott it. Frankly I am getting tired of hearing about it from the reactionaries *grin* who want EVERYONE to act the manner they have mandated, because of the way they feel about issues. If you don't like something avoid it, leave it behind, boycott it, get into government and try to change the laws. If what you are is a controlling personality that wants to puppet master the behavior of others.. get over it, and allow others the right to live their own lives and make their own choices as allowed by the law just like you are.

Hmm.. think an off topic nerve has been touched here? :) You are right, it has, but let me point out that nerve that has been toe kicked is NOT directed at the anti walmart vocal group.. it is directed at all those who seek to sway people to their manner of behaving through anything other than calm rational discussion that respects all people's right to decided for themselves. Freedom from tyranny, no matter how "small".
penpusher
Jan. 8th, 2006 12:58 pm (UTC)
You raise some very interesting points yourself.

I'm not here to tell anyone how to live their lives. I'm just stating the facts as known. There are a lot of people that do not like the business practices of Wal-Mart. The company has pushed smaller businesses out of the market. Becoming essentially a monopoly in specific regions means that they retain their corporate strength. How do you boycott something when that's the only choice you have to get what you need?

Maybe I'm oversimplifiying things for the sake of keeping this post from becoming a tome. But people are sheeple. They see something that seems good and they go to it. They believe television advertising! They don't do research about what these companies do and how they do it and who is adversely affected by it.

No boycott on a small scale would affect Wal-Mart. In fact, with so many employees, now sucking at the teat of this company, a boycott could doubly hurt some of these communities.

I just think that people don't have all of the info when making decisions and forming opinions. That's where the trouble begins. Then, when they support something that may be good for them in the short term, they really don't see the horizon. At that point, it's probably too late.

Personally, Wal-Mart doesn't affect me, since there are none in this area, and I probably wouldn't go to one if there were. I think the point about the corporate biggies is in who is getting wealthy and at the expense of whom?

It's in discussing this kind of topic that permits us to examine what's really going on here, and that a baby step toward possibly finding a solution to that problem that I said didn't have one...
ravenfeather
Jan. 8th, 2006 01:58 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean YOU when I brought up puppet masters.. this is the calm rational discussion.

No boycott on a small scale would affect Wal-Mart. Shhh... ;)
Personally I view rational activism along the same vein as I do funerals.. they make the living feel better. Boycotting an entity/thing that you object to on some level makes the person doing feel better, that at least THEY can do something about a situation.. but it doesn't really result in any kind of momentous change. (It can however result in small ones.. one person at a time... and that is a positive thing) In the past when the gov't tried to step in to "deregulate" corporations that had become monopolies, the end results were far from satisfactory. Remember the Ma Bell situation? How about farther back when the water "providing", energy "providing" and mine controlling entities were busted up in the middle south? In my aging and increasingly cynical mind set I don't believe there is a positive *only* answer to mega corporations, or to monopolies. But.. I realize that is just MY belief.

I just think that people don't have all of the info when making decisions and forming opinions.

Sometimes that is true. But what is also true is that a lot of times they don't care. You see, everyone has different issues that matter to them, brought on by environment, experience and.. perhaps other "things", Not all issues matter to everyone. Not everyone cares that ma and pa could not compete with the evil empire, it is "just the way the world works" and they worry about other things, like spaying and neutering stray animals, or saving the rain forests, or or or or. Or, like you mentioned, some may not be economically able to.

I am a bit familiar with the lower end economy and those folks that are hired to help care for those on public assistance, medical assistance, etc. I have seen some care givers.. ie, one in particular who is a driver, set to take the less than mobile people where they need to go refuse to take a person to walmart to buy their supplies, and instead take them to a smaller pricier place. This driver didn't offer to PAY for those items, or the difference in price for those items over what they would be at walmart. They forced that person with limited income to pay more for items they needed.. just because the driver didn't like walmart. I have seen another (personal care nurse this time) that believes in non chemical living refuse to allow her charge to purchase orange juice that wasn't organic. Again, the person sent in to help didn't offer to pay for the item, just refused to allow the low income person to purchase the lower priced item. I talked with both of these care givers and both believed they were doing what was best for the people they were helping.. in part because "they just don't understand" in the first one, and "it is better and healthier for them" in the second case.
penpusher
Jan. 8th, 2006 02:37 pm (UTC)
Haha, Raven! I'm nobody's puppet master, not even Kermit's.

I think the issue with personal activism is that it automatically makes the people seem a little bit crazy. If, on the surface, the company isn't murdering kittens and babies before the eyes of the consumers, most people would just blink and keep right on shopping. Most would suggest just chilling out at this point.

Ma Bell was an issue with a mysterious backdrop. What exactly was going on there? I know the basics of the story, but I wonder about the mechanics of it... the behind-the-scenes elements that helped this to happen. Someone got a lot of money from this deal, either from some sort of deal with the Baby Bells or from just shorting the AT&T stock.

I guess the issue with Wal-Mart is in how they're able to move in, scoop up the lion's share of business and settle in for the duration. Maybe it's not "evil," but it's not fair trade, either.

I think when it comes to certain necessities, like utilities, we are better off with some sort of government run "monopoly," for lack of a more accurate term, but that's different from a retailer who is trying to make a profit, so I don't know that this is a parallel argument.

You're absolutely right about people not caring about issues. If it doesn't affect them directly, they frequently will nod sadly, maybe offer up a dollar or two, then head on their way. Everyone has their own problems in life to deal with, and not everyone is willing or able to carry those other burdens too.

Your stories about the driver and the nurse are disturbing to me on a couple of levels.

I'm sure that the driver was trying to be helpful to the local economy by effectively "forcing a boycott" of Wal-Mart. And probably the reason why the other store has higher prices is as a direct response to their dwindling sales because of Wal-Mart! But, that doesn't speak to the person's choice of wanting to shop at a particular store. I would not refuse to bring someone to Wal-Mart if that's where they wanted to go and it was my job to take them. That's not freedom, is it?

As for organic products... I don't know enough about the processing of citrus products to speak to the health levels of the various types of juice you can purchase. But, we do know that in this pyramid scheme world, the pockets of the rich are lined with the labor of the poor.

Unless you're off the grid and can produce your own food, create your own electricity, take care of your own essentials, like plumbing, housing repairs, medical care and such, you will eventually have to deal with all of the problems that society has in store.

In store. Get it? :o)
ravenfeather
Jan. 8th, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
*snort* got it.

Those two incidents bothered me greatly too.. because in both cases the people needing help either didn't know how to, or did not feel they could express themselves strongly enough to make their own decisions result in their chosen action. According to the tellers (the care givers) both protested, but in the end did what was "good for them". I tried to point out to the nurse the economic stand point of her patient, and she got extremely angry that I would dare disagree with her on what was best for HER patient (*grin*) and the driver kid.. I didn't say anything. I am at a point where I realize that not all people can be reasoned with. In hindsight, if I had a point of contact that was held accountable for the driver though, I would have contacted them. Even though I know I may not have been able to affect a positive change, it still bothers me in a small way that I didn't attempt to do anything about that situation. *grin* I am an activist too I suppose. :)

About the ma bell situation, I think the people benefiting from it both before dereg and after were the same.. from what I remember. The law was enacted slowly, and they had time to manipulate their corporate.. structure enough that they got money on both sides. I know that the owners of a lot of the baby bells were the same guys that were in the higher echelon of Ma bell. What dereg did do was allow small communities to put a lock on competition (I live in one of those communities now, the local phone company can charge whatever it wants, it has a lock on the area for telephone, cable, internet and satellite.. all of which it provides) and the charges are higher than in a community with competition.I pay more for phone and internet service than they do in Savannah. It also allowed in some fringe way for hotels to establish their own private phone usage company, and the lawful right to charge 6 plus dollars to pick up and use the phone per call. THAT one unfortunately I learned about the hard way while traveling.

My personal pipe dream has been to live off grid.. and has been since I was a little girl. I don't think it is realistic unless you can find a like minded (meaning you fit in with them, and they fit in with you) commune setting somewhere. From my research.. most of them have... some very opinionated and fringe level rules attached to them.

As my mother says about all of this.. it is life. It is not perfect, never will be, accept it and get on with your life. Some of "it" is easier to accept than others.
penpusher
Jan. 8th, 2006 05:32 pm (UTC)
You're right. In life, we all have good things and bad things that happen to us. And the whole concept of being taught what is "right and true" is a big part of the story, since how people behave and think has a lot of bearing on how they will act and react to others.

If we're still dealing with the issues of racism in this century, it's because those concepts are still being taught. So, we have made progress in certain areas, and not in others.

I suspected that you'd want to be off the grid! Solar panels, your own vegetable garden... But in being isolated, you run the risk of not being a part of society, which is also a difficult place to be.

There is no perfection.
ravenfeather
Jan. 8th, 2006 08:35 pm (UTC)
Now that we are COMPLETELY off topic *grin*
There is no perfection.

True, and it has been one of the most difficult things for me to accept at a core level.. to give up the IDEAL of utopia so that it no longer influences my thinking. I still hold on to it, and it affects my emotional responses sometimes. I do manage to recognize it as "not rational" and try to stop the reaction as it or before it begins or becomes .. outward .. but I LIKE/WANT the ideal too much to give it up I suppose.

Head in the clouds.. *grin*
lizerk
Jan. 8th, 2006 04:28 pm (UTC)
I agree with your entire post. Seems a tad too coincidental. I don't think the situation is worth everyone "taking it to the streets," but I'm certainly glad it was acknowledged.

As for WalMart's quick response, I bet that tactic was advised by their PR department. I know at my agency they're advising clients that they should take quick action in responding to negative situations on the Web that can potentially become large-scale. This is because of prior examples of bloggers wreaking havoc on a corporation's reputation... like Kryptonite Locks and HP.
penpusher
Jan. 8th, 2006 05:37 pm (UTC)
It is sort of overblown, but people want reasons to beat their... drums when it comes to getting fired up about such stuff.

And yes, I think such pre-emptive apologies are meant to convey that they want to minimize any potential damage, just like an out of court settlement does, even when there was no wrongdoing by the defendant.
twopiearr
Jan. 8th, 2006 07:18 pm (UTC)
commentary on the smaller point (since I always have one ;) -
As someone who currently works in media distribution and has previous experience of how cut off most web departments are from the day to day goings on of the rest of a large organization, I know two things that are likely to be relevant here. The first is that media campaigns get planned and executed 6 to 8 weeks ahead of time, and the second is that February is Black History Month. I agree that the selection of titles seems anything but arbitrary, but I would believe without hesitation that person A had set up a special selection of "black history month" titles for the website (given that each of the titles mentioned deals with a person of historical import, and tries to reflect the "broad range of achievement" that such picks tend to aim for) and person B had simply activated it a couple of weeks two soon - especially if, as other comments report, the same selection of titles showed up regardless of what you searched for. Please note that I am the last person to defend Wal*Mart, but Occam's Razor and all.

commentary on the larger point -
Racism works both ways. My white coworker who I am very close to has a black husband who is immediately suspicious of me and my relationship with his wife because I am white. We have gone to movies together (she and I get invited to free screenings all the time) and he always sits at the opposite end of the row from me and goes out of his way to avoid interacting with me. I am not the only of her white friends to be treated this way, and she acknowledges it without really dealing with it, because it's a source of tension in their marriage and she always tries to be the bigger human. Then there was the time in high school that I was informed by the mother of a classmate that I couldn't take her daughter to a speech tournament (about as innocuous an errand as I ever ran in that era) because I was not Korean. Or the two years that I was living in South San Francisco and had to live in a largely Hispanic/Phillipino neighborhood because it was all we could afford, and how every single one of our neighbors glared at us for having the audacity to move into "their" neighborhood and refused to so much as speak to us, even when we attempted to be neighborly.

I do not, for a moment, pretend that these limited experiences mean that I have an insight into the condition of being a minority in this counrty; I won the genetic lottery, and even if I'm not a powerfully rich land and business owner, I take certain things for granted, often without even realizing it, that many in this country cannot. But the assumption that because I am a white male I am out to oppress is no less racist than the assumption that a black man is lazy or an asian woman can't drive. And as long as those assumptions run in all directions things aren't going to improve.

I think the "race doesn't matter" phenom is more a generational issue than a location one - I see less evidence of racism among the under 40 set than I do among the boomers. I think it's slowly getting better. I don't expect it to get all the way better in my lifetime. Or, indeed, before we render this planet unlivable by our species. Which kinda sucks, but...
penpusher
Jan. 8th, 2006 09:15 pm (UTC)
As I said, this *probably* had less to do with "racism" and more with wanting to show up Wal-Mart in some way.

"Racism" doesn't work both ways, but prejudice does. People constantly pre judge, and that goes for no matter who you are. Everyone wants justification for their own beliefs, and it doesn't matter who might get hurt in the process, so yes, that is true.

I don't believe that most people are "prejudiced," but this also relates to a topic I talked about before and that's about who has control of your life and the happiness quotient. The less control you have of your life, the less likely you will be happy with your life. Those at the tops of the pyramids have full control. those at the bottom are carrying them on their backs. Resentment bubbles below but rarely gets up to the people so they can even hear about it.

It's like the story of Siddartha, where the family lived in luxe behind the walls of their palace and completely ignored the horrifying truth for the rest of the citizens.

Are we more enlightened? Maybe. But the problem is that as the population grows, more and more people of every sort will be less successful, and that can lead to more anger about obvious issues like race. It's an easy issue to use... I don't know. Enlightenment is needed.
herwonderfulday
Jan. 8th, 2006 08:27 pm (UTC)
I love Wal-Mart.
penpusher
Jan. 8th, 2006 09:16 pm (UTC)
You are not alone.
annamaryse
Jan. 8th, 2006 08:55 pm (UTC)
On Sunday mornings, I sit with coffee at my computer. 25 feet away in the living room, BF sits at his. A few minutes ago I heard him furiously typing... now I'm reading your post as BF sweetly brings me a coffee (oh the LUXURY) he sees what I'm reading and mentions he just commented.

Usually, I comment without being influenced by the comments. I try to comment on the original post. This time, I'm struggling with reaction to BF's comment as well as reaction to your post. My experience is very different from BF's, because I'm not white. So my first reaction is about that. You said:

If you are white, or look white, life is different from those that do not.

As a person of mixed race who can be interpreted as 'looking white', let me tell ya - people in my situation experience a special level of hell. Very often, we do not get to play in the reindeer games with all the other happy little reindeer.

I was a grown up before I was could look back and sort out childhood injustice that had always baffled me. My home had no focus on discrimination. I was raised in an affluent lifestyle, and my mother was in the old-fashioned mindset of 'passing'. Now that I'm adult and know the back story, I know discrimination shaped her motives, but somehow she felt that "I had enough white" in me that if no production was made, the whole subject could be erased from my reality. She'd worked damn hard to make it fall off her map. But raising me 'white' did not make me white.

I'm old enough to have watched TV news during the civil rights movement... but it was never focussed on as having any relevance in my life... it was a million miles away - as if our family didn't care. So when we were traveling and the bus driver (in Detroit) stopped the bus (in 1962) because he thought my mother and I should sit at the back, my mother stonily insisted that he was mistaken, put on her most posh British attitude, got off the bus and took a taxi. But I remember this vividly.

They had me going to a very posh british styled boarding type school in Toronto. No reference was ever made to anyone's ethnicity, although of course the school was largely WASP. In fact, until we moved to California, I did not have any clue that there were large numbers of ethnically different people out there... hispanic, african-american, asian, muslim, jewish... I thought the whole world sang christmas carols and opened presents on 12/25.

For one birthday, my party was on a national kid's tv show where they used selected kids in teams to compete. I was stunned when my party guests were showcased - but I was seated to the back and side, where I did not show up on camera. Desegregation wasn't a major issue in Canada, but in retrospect the producers' decision seems pretty obvious.

I went through high school never figuring out why some people treated me the way they did. Only later did I put things together and work out my true identity. There's a community on LJ where we talk about this stuff:

http://www.livejournal.com/community/interracial/

The most current debate about a race test that shows people's unconscious racial bias (the black and white axis) is quite apropos.
I'm pleased and unsurprised that my result was:
"Your data suggests little to no automatic preference between White American and African American."

It's unfair to persons of mixed race who appear white to assume they can join the club or play the games. I assure you that ain't so. Every culture has non-verbal cues. There are non-verbal non-visual ways that each culture sets its vibe.

Finally, about the walmart thing: what if it isn't about black history month, what if it is racism, but just the inconsiderate result of single bored bigoted low level employee and not a reflection of the organization? Like a stupid unacceptable prank.

When I was 16 I used to answer telephones. There was a Dr. Bernhardt. I used to answer his line 'Dr. Heartburn's office, how can I help you?"... that wasn't my company's fault, it was me, the lowliest employee being an asshole.

Might NOT be a conspiracy. Just a thought.

penpusher
Jan. 8th, 2006 09:33 pm (UTC)
Ah, but Anna! You can't deny that what I said is true. Life is different because of how you looked. I didn't mean to imply that if you "looked" white, your experiences would be "the same as" whites. In some cases, depending on your personal circumstances, it might be to a degree or it might not be. Or, like "closeted" gays, needing to endure insulting comments, needing to "grin and bear it" under those conditions, can make life far worse than being in an "obvious" racist circumstance. Either way, it's not the same as someone who has more than a trace of melanin.

Clearly, there are issues of varying sorts that may prove to be as individual as every single person. But people don't seem to care about every single person. So it's just easier to group it all into the easy to pigeonhole sets.

The fact that this issue is still so important and still such a flashpoint for so many suggests that we either need to talk about it more or just get to the bottom of it all, and get beyond it somehow.

Though the latter choice would be my choice, I have to think that it's going to take more effort than everyone is willing to put into this issue at this time. There are more pressing concerns for people and so we continue...
annamaryse
Jan. 9th, 2006 12:27 am (UTC)
Well see, this gets talked about in interracial all the time. Quite a number of people share my experience in their own ways. It is very individual, but the frustration we feel is that persons of color have often assumed either

a) that we're trying to get away with something
b) have it easier
c) can 'pass' if we want to

and my experience is that all of the above are not very true. What is often discussed is how we find we're not really welcome on 'either' side of the street. One of my best high school friends looked like a dead ringer for Ali McGraw, but she was fully 'half and half' black and white - and this girl was never able to feel really comfortable with either tribe. Looking like Ali McGraw did not make her life easy, ever. So it's more than what we look like. It's much deeper than being a matter simply of skin tone.
twopiearr
Jan. 8th, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)
Lyrics from a favorite song by NoFX - seemed apropos. Please note that there's no ulterior motive in posting this, I just think the song represents an interesting and oft-unrepresented viewpoint.

"Don't Call Me White"

Don't call me white
Don't call me white

The connotation's wearing my neck thin.
Could it be symmantics generating the mess we're in?
I understand that language breeds stereotype
But what's the inclination for the malice, for the strife?

Don't call me white
Don't call me white

I wasn't brought here, I was born
Circumcized, homogonized, alegience sworn
Does this mean I've got to take such shit for being fair-skinned? No
I ain't part of no conspiracy, I'm just you're average Joe

Don't call me white
Don't call me white

Represents everything I hate
The soap shoved down the mouth to clense the mind
A vast majority of sheep, with buttoned collars starched and bleached
Constricting veins, the blood flow to the brain slows
They're so fucking ordinary white
Don't call me white

Aaaaaaaah
We're better off this way
Aaaaaaaah
Say what you're gonna say
And go ahead and label me an asshole cuz I can
Accept responsibility for what I've said, but not for what I am

Don't call me white
Don't call me white
( 21 comments — Leave a comment )

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