Tuesday, July 16, 2013

White people


[...] I've seen rain turn into snow then back to rain,
and I've seen making love turn into fucking
then back to making love,
and no one covered up their faces out of shame,
no one rose and walked into the lonely maw of night.

But where was there, in fact, to go?
Are some things better left unsaid?
Shall I tell you her name?
Can I say it again,
that I wanted to punch her right in the face?

Until we say the truth, there can be no tenderness.
As long as there is desire, we will not be safe.

--from Tony Hoagland's "Adam and Eve"

I have something that I need to tell you and I am afraid to tell it, and but I think it is very important. It needs to be said, especially now. 

I run a creative writing workshop at the public library in my neighborhood. My neighborhood is kind of white, kind of black, and a lot of brown. At the end of one workshop three or four weeks ago, I was unlocking my bike and strapping on my helmet when a Latino man, maybe in his 50s, came riding up on his own wheels and began locking his bike up next to mine. I tell you he was Latino because this is America and it matters. I'd tell you I am white, but you already know that. 

We were alone. This library is not a popular place at 7:30 at night, and the neighborhood street we were standing on was quiet. He looked at my bike and then at me and then smiled. "I really like this library--" he said, and I said me too! but he was still going "--because there aren't a bunch of black boys here, so I don't have to worry about my bike getting stolen."

And then he looked at me, and waited, and I wish I could tell you that this was when I told him what he just said was bigoted as shit. I wish I could tell you that I told him that what he had just said was both offensive and untrue, and I did not appreciate him thinking that he could say something like that to me and I'd be fine with it. I did not. 

This man did not have the same struggle for words. He saw the shocked look on my face and was quick to sputter, "I mean, don't get me wrong, I like black people. But other libraries have gangs of these kids roaming around, stealing things and causing trouble, and I just don't want my bike stolen, you know?"

These kids. You know. 

Where I come from, people fly multiple Confederate flags from their front porches, flags my friends and I would steal and replace with ones covered in rainbows, flags that would reappear the next morning as if by magic, as if they were some kind of fucked up, quick growing pole flower, native to mid Michigan and mid Michigan alone. Folks use expressions like "nigger-rigging" freely, standing in line at the hardware store. The high school I attended was over 2,000 in population and I could count the number of black kids on one hand. 

When I was in second grade, the local--chapter? group? troop? troupe? I don't know what the right word is here--the local KKK held a rally downtown on the courthouse lawn. We lived downtown then too, a few blocks away from the epicenter. I remember the riot horses walking down my street, in all their getup and gear. I also remember the protest, because my mother, like me, likes to see everything for herself. My dad worried we wouldn't be safe, but my mom and I walked down to the courthouse, and as we did, we passed more horses,  as large to me as glistening brown mountains, and it seemed like I could've walked under their bellies with space to spare. 

I don't remember seeing the KKK members themselves: they're just a mass on the lawn in my memory. What I do remember is a tall black iron fence had been erected all around the square where they stood, and it was draped with rainbow flags and banners. The fence had been put up by the police, and it wasn't to keep the KKK folks in. It was there to keep the counter-protestors out. Everywhere I looked, there were adults wearing bright colors, holding signs, and shouting. This too is where I come from: a place where white people are trying real hard to do the right thing. 

On the way back home, I asked my mom about what I'd seen. What was the KKK? What were those people? What does it mean? She was quiet for a long moment, considering what answer to give her seven year old daughter. I'm sure she said lots of things besides this, but this is what I remember: "You know S-----, the little black girl in Steve's class?" Steve was my brother. His class was kindergarden. "It means that her parents will probably won't send her to school for a couple days."

This is the lesson I learned: when the KKK is on the courthouse lawn--the courthouse, the representation of American law--black children don't go to school. In the face of violent words and acts, even with the well-intentioned protesting whites, the majority of the burden to take action is on people of color, and one of these actions is to disappear. This is Race in America. 

To be clear, this--my telling you of this--is not to incriminate my mother. Walking home, we talked about how the KKK was terrible to black people, although she couldn't explain why, and how this is why my brother's classmate's family might not feel safe being out and about. She was talking about a subject that many people avoid entirely, and this is why I'm telling you my terrible shame. We need to have a conversation about white people, and the difference between talking and speaking up.

All my thinking life, since I became aware of race in general and racism in my hometown in particular, I've been struggling to both escape and address my roots. In college, I went in blind to my first roommate situation set-up, and ended up in a suite with two black women from Detroit, a Jewish girl from the outside suburbs, and myself, a small-town white girl. The jokes write themselves. This was my first extended, intimate contact with people who didn't exactly look like me. That's really sad. We talked about boys and our bodies. They knew about my hometown, and asked me about it. I'm glad they did. This too, is Race in America. 

In college, I read the books and went to the presentations. I volunteered. I asked questions and listened thoughtfully to the answers. I was earnest. I wanted to know better, to do better, to be better, to apologize for where I'm from. And then I graduated, and did many things, and a few years later, one of these things was move to Chicago, start volunteering at this writing workshop, and ride my bike there, where one night, I happened to find myself next to a man who said to me, "[B]ecause there aren't a bunch of black boys here, I don't have to worry about my bike getting stolen." And I opened my mouth and nothing came out.

This is it. This is it. This, right here, is how black boys die.

And white people wonder why some people of color want nothing to do with them, and don't trust them for shit, don't trust them to be there for the struggle, in for the long haul, don't trust us to value their lives and the lives of their children as much as our own. Sweet Jesus. 

I am not telling you this next part to defend myself and my (non)actions, nor am I asking for absolution. I want to break down with you what was going on in my brain, what I've been untangling in the weeks since, because understanding and revealing is necessary to ensure that it does not happen again.

The first and largest reason I didn't use my voice was because I was physically afraid. I am a woman, and my life has taught me that lone men who approach lone woman and say socially inappropriate and/or controversial things are unpredictable, and therefore dangerous. I've told lone men before that I don't like what they say, that I want them to leave me alone. In response, I've been followed, had rocks thrown at me, been physically intimidated until I'm pressed up against a brick wall with a drunk and angry face inches from mine shouting WHAT DID YOU SAY BITCH? I'M GONNA BEAT YOUR ASS. 

Other times, I've told men to knock it off! or said please don't say that, and they stop, flustered, and then apologize. I never know what I'm going to get, and sometimes, I'm not brave. And this day, I wasn't brave, and it's because of the next thing I must tell you: this man? He wasn't threatening me. He was threatening black boys, and this didn't present an immediate danger to my white woman self, but I could draw danger if I said "What? That's fucked, dude." I thought he was saying something socially inappropriate, but he thought I was the kind of person who'd "get it," and I didn't correct him, so in a horrible way, he was right.

This is why some nonwhite feminists do not trust their white counterparts for shit. We--I--can and have chosen one cause to stand up for, one lens to look through, because we can.

I thought I believed that none of us are free until all of us are free. I thought I lived that quote so often attributed to Lilla Watson--"If you have come here to help me, you are wasting our time. But if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." So often in my life, I have been willing to risk physical and emotional violence on the behalf of all women, but not, it seems, on the behalf of all people. Not that night. And as hopelessly stupid as it sounds, I didn't know that about myself until then, because my privilege protected me from this knowledge. It is a white cloak of safety and cowardice, and without thinking, I used it. I have no excuse.

Last of the terrible truths is this: because his native tongue was Spanish, this man wasn't white. Not white like how my white self thinks of white. That's a fucked sentence, isn't it? Like, deeply problematic, worth-an-essay-on-its-own, linguistically-privileged fucked. But this, too, is where the well-meaning liberal part comes in.

Because I'm white and I did not see him as white (I do not know how he sees himself, I did not ask, I just decided for him, my whole life has allowed me to do that), and because the subject was race--my instinct was to follow his leave. I've learned to be quiet and listen when a nonwhite person speaks about race because so often, white voices like my own have dominated and decimated the conversation. Part of me believed that this "conversation" we were having was his territory, not mine, because for all of American history white people have controlled the dialogue. "Good"white people, good white people who want to make a difference, strive to replace senseless speech with active listening. We acknowledge that we do not know what is best. We want to learn.

What a well-intentioned but monstrous mistake. What a perversion of the original intent of this philosophy--to listen to voices so often silenced; to support; to work in partnership and learn and grow; to be an ally; not a goddamn jerk. 

I was scared, and I didn't want to offend him, but as hard as it is for me to tell you this, in that moment, speaking up was less important to me than avoiding an uncomfortable conversation. So, however quick, I made a choice, and it was to stay silent.

Silence kills people. Ideas kill people. Allowing a narrative of the dangerous black boy to perpetuate in my white presence kills people. I made the wrong choice, and I am ashamed. 

I grew up confessional and Catholic, but I'm not telling you these things because I am looking for forgiveness, although I do know that I have done something horribly wrong. I no longer believe in purification through mortification, and who is to forgive me? Forgiveness for white mistakes is yet another burden on people of color--first I won't speak up for them, then I ask them to absolve me of my sins?--and I won't ask for it because I am trying, as late in the game as it is, to not add to that weight.

There is this thought, too: forgiveness cannot be given. It must be earned in sincerity. I feel terrible, but I am not interested in feeling better. I want to do better. 

That is why I am writing to my fellow white people. People of color don't need to read this shit; they already know who is Brutus. And I know I'm not the only white person writing to white people and then posting it these last few days, and I will not be the last. I know so much of it can sound self-rightous and pious and obnoxious, but fuck it. Do you know what's worse? Posting articles to Facebook, like I have been doing for the last few days, and starting "conversations" there, like I've been doing these last few days: articles that risk and reveal nothing, conversations that teach no one, that bring us no closer to any kind of truth. 

And finally, truth is why I started this post with that quote. Tony Hoagland is a controversial guy. He's not terribly nice, and perhaps not the most sensitive choice to chose as an intro to an essay on this particular subject. That said, after you finish reading my post, go read the whole poem, and then tell me what you think.

The first time I read the first line--"I wanted to punch her right in the mouth and that's the truth"--I gasped. And then, I thought, oh, fuck you. Seriously, pissy white dude, just shut the fuck up. I do not care about your hurt animal angst because you weren't permitted to fuck somebody. And then I kept reading. I read it again, and then I read it again and now, years later, I pull it out at least once every season and read it again, for the anger it brings in me, for the questions it raises, and for those last two lines. "Until we say the truth, there can be no tenderness. As long as there is desire, we will not be safe." 

Every time I read this poem, I get angry at Hoagland, and every time I read these two lines, I thank him. Listen, my open-minded, concerned, and sensitive white friends: I know I'm not telling you anything you haven't considered before, but misogyny runs deep. Racism and white privilege run deep. We are socialized from birth on the ways of the world: we live years, decades, before we come to and start the lifelong work of change. We've got work to do, and it's going to take all our lives, because it is part of our lives. It's in us, this coded language, these world views, this privilege. We are it. Our work will never be done. 

And what is our work? Obviously, I fucked it bad, so I'm no expert, but I would suggest this: to listen, yes. To support, to follow the lead of others. But we also have to tell the truth. We have to be open and real about the ugliness because the truth is often ugly, and it's not always nice. But I'm not interested in being nice. I'm interested in living with integrity. I'm interested in earning and keeping trust. 

So, we have to tell the truth. And we also (I also) must speak up. Staying quiet, listening so that we do not silence the voices of others with our own braying is invaluable. It's also a slippery fucking slope. Listening can easily become passive, apathetic, and a way to shirk responsibility. It also, once again, leaves the heavy lifting to the people that are most dangerously oppressed by the weight they are trying to shove off. 

Last, our work is to be brave. I was scared of one bigoted man, so I stayed silent, and in my silence, I became complicit in a narrative that kills. I'm a young woman, and sure, I've got shit to be scared of. Sexual and physical violence is no fucking joke. You know who else has shit to be scared of? EVERYONE ELSE. Like, a million more reasons to be scared. There are brave people of color, transgender folks, a whole host of others who risk more just walking into the grocery store in and around my hometown than I ever will in theirs. When I'm lost and coming home from the bar, I ask policemen for directions. I've actually done this (not really Mom, it's a j/k). Fuckssake, you know?

Today, I have spent all my time in front of this laptop, seeing this piece through. Several hours ago, I got up and left my apartment, looking for fresh air and clarity. I walked to the bank, through a neighborhood full of people who neither look nor dress like me. I deposited money. And then, because I have the metabolism and dietary habits of a 14 year old, I stopped by Walgreens to pick up a family-sized bag of Airheads and a pack of spearmint gum.

For the last year and some-odd months, there have been periods of time when waves of people on my newsfeed will change their profile photo to a picture of themselves in a hoodie. Under their photo or in their status, they will type, "I am Trayvon Martin." Some of those people are white, some of them are not. I understand that this is done in solidarity, but I have not done these, because I am not Trayvon Martin. I don't know what it was like to be him. I am Katie Prout. I am 25, I run far, I worry a lot, and I'm white. Trayvon Martin was a young black boy, and one way I know that I am not him is because people have said terrible things to me about young black boys and I have not told them to stop. Thinking about this makes me sick on more than just candy. Another way that I know that I am not Trayvon Martin is that today I got up to go buy some snacks, and I walked through neighborhoods where I do not look, dress, or sound like anyone else. I still got to come home. 


223 comments:

  1. Last two paragraphs = home run.

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    1. Last two paragraphs=me crying. Hard shit. Thanks, Quinn. xx

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    2. Quinn took the words out of my mouth.

      Profound.

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    3. I have never seen such a brilliantly written and powerful post on this subject. If I was a sociology teacher, this would be required reading.

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    4. Katie,

      I am so glad your blog is going around. It means much to have a young white woman speak up about her own identity and concerns in regard to feelings of race in this country. As a black woman hearing this, it is the first time I feel I've heard a person of non-color, particularly a young person of a modern liberal view to be able to acknowledge the confusions and hesitations you have despite your best intentions. I grew up in a fairly progressive white community, I have white friends, white people in my family, the first great love of my life was white and I still, despite being a good "progressive" black woman, have anger and confusion towards people of non-color. History and experience have fought to take control of my energy, love, and affection for people who have hurt or tried to destroy me intentionally or ignorantly because I am a person of color and because I am a woman. I have tried to explain to a white friend, who is one of few I have who are willing to have a real conversation from his personal perspective, why so many seemingly innocuous events cut me to my soul and make me hold back the tears. His view represents to me what I feel many of my non-color friends have expressed by comments or behavior: racism is just another emotional card to pull when other factors in an argument are far more logical to address. That to merely mention racism, though it is horrible and has been a prominent part of our history, is not as bad as it was so claiming it in current times is at the very least, counter-productive to the global society we are establishing now, and at most, an incorrect assumption. Well, letting it be the elephant in the room also divides us. Not acknowledging our own prejudices is also counter-productive to a society who wishes to live in integrity.

      "misogyny runs deep. Racism and white privilege run deep."

      Too true, sister-girl. I own that I have prejudice; that I have said racist comments and have had racist thoughts about other people of non-color and color. I understand that we all must strive to go beyond this deep cultural and racial divide by doing more to bring down the hate we find in ourselves and other people. I will strive to do better.

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    5. <> she says. what if my truth is opposit of hers? wil we/ she still listen ?

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    6. "So, we have to tell the truth. And we also (I also) must speak up. " she says. what if my truth is opposit of hers? wil we/ she still listen ? (sorry it cut off my the first part)

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    7. If yes then this is what I have to say to her/us: "Let the white make a supreme effort in their resolve to contribute their share to the solution of this problem [racism in America]... Let the [African Americans], through a corresponding effort on their part, show by every means in their power the warmth of their response, their readiness to forget the past, and their ability to wipe out every trace of suspicion that may still linger in their hearts and minds. Let neither think that the solution of so vast a problem is a matter that exclusively concerns the other." Shoghi Effendi 1938. - this is one of the very first astonishing experiences of mine during my first year in USA that I found African Americans more racist than whites. An experience that still hold true after a decade and half of living here (I can give you dozens of first hand stories, if stories matter). I do not see this as black and white struggles as I have dozens of black skinned friends from actual Africa who don't feel and act in the same manner. If its wrong to say 'black boy' its equally wrong to say 'white boy' , yet one is considered racist and other is not. I believe until and unless we will condemn 'a behaviour' rather then 'who' has the behaviour, we will only spread the shit from one group f people to another and never be rid of racism. Just because I am a minority (which 'I' literally am by the way), does not give me rights to be wrong. & that's 'my' truth. - if 'my' truth is not worth telling here, we can delete this and we can all go on being 'hippocrates'.

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    8. Please learn to read. History and context are important. Comprehension is important. Compassion is important. As you are so eager to point out, you are neither from the US or of African descent. Exclusion from the experience of either of these categories and meeting heartfelt commentary about it with ignorance and othering is just dumb. Either be open enough to learn the truth about, respect the viewpoint or shut the hell up. Your comments are as ignorant as they are ineffective.

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  2. truth rendered me speechless...thank you

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    1. thank you for reading. if you have any other thoughts or suggestions, please. let me know.

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  3. Your emotional nakedness here is absolutely touching. I read this three times and enjoyed it more each time. Thank you.

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    1. <3 Thank you, Dana. Thank you so very much.

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  4. oh my god.
    'I still got to come home'

    i canNOT for all that is in me even explain why i'm crying like this. i can't.
    i don't know what...i don't know what to even say.
    except 'thank you'. for acknowledging. for saying it isn't about you feeling better, it's about doing better.
    thank you for using your laptop, and your voice, and your brain and saying the roots of these issues are deeply ingrained in what this nations nurtures it's youth with.
    i will not thank you for making me cry. i look horrid when i cry.
    but i thank you anyway

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    1. like I responded on the good old Facebook--thank you. I cannot tell you what a relief it is to know that you hear me not wanting this to be about making me feel better. I should feel shitty, because it was terrible. I want to be better, and do better, by everyone in this country. We all have a stake in making this a place we are truly proud to call our home.

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    2. But Katie, as Obama said today, his children are better than we are, and better than we were. We can't expect perfection, because we'll never get there, and we'll hate ourselves for not being perfect. We are making progress though, as essays like yours were not being written in my childhood, or even twenty years or ten years ago.

      "But we should also have confidence that kids these days I think have more sense than we did back then, and certainly more than our parents did or our grandparents did, and that along this long, difficult journey, you know, we’re becoming a more perfect union -- not a perfect union, but a more perfect union."

      You are the "kids these days." You are "wringing as much bias out of" yourself as you can at this moment in time. We will get there Katie, and we will be the light that shines on the pathway for others.

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  6. Raw soul stirring heart speak <3

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  7. Katie, I think you hit the nail on the head: We have to be brave. As white folks, that doesn't mean being a martyr, but it means taking charge of our own little corner of the universe and calling out the BS. I've been teaching in Milwaukee for two years, struggling with my partner to figure out where to go next. All I know is I want to continue working in my own classroom, with my own set of students, their families, and our community to make our own corner of the universe better. I think we're living in incredibly backward times and the only way we'll move forward is block by block.

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  8. Thank you for your honesty. I loved every word.

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  9. Racism has to be stopped by every race. It is not the duty of only white people to eradicate it. Until every race, gender, age and (insert other various ways of categorizing people that offends everyone here)... stops making stereotypes about said groups true a majority of the time, racism will be alive and well. As terrible as it is and as unfair as it is...it is true.
    You didn't do anything wrong by not speaking up against this one person. Circumstances provided enough evidence that it may not be in your best interest to do so. Had you spoken up. You may not have come home from the library that night, or you may have come home broken...or you may have made a life long friend. That night was merely a lesson for you. If that type of situation comes again you will be more prepared with logical things to say. Had you called this man out and told him what you really thought of him in that instant, you may have also regretted that. It is possible that this man wasn't necessarily racist, it is possible he has had problems with bike theft by "little black boys" before...so now he is wary of them. You have no way of knowing why he said what he did. You should feel confident in your reactions and trust yourself. Self preservation may seem selfish, but if you aren't here to help with the war tomorrow, the battle you won today won't matter.

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    1. the battle she didn't fight that day has repercussions for the battle other folks fought, fight and are fighting. her point is not self-pity or blame but its about the very real repercussions of being silent. by you telling her that its okay to be silent, you continue to create the atmosphere that allows -isms to go unchecked and you elide the very real privilege it is to be spoken to in that moment and have that opportunity and then squander it. this isn't about self-preservation or self-care, its about using your privilege to help others. I also think that part of what she's interrogating is the idea that he would have said/done something aggressive. Is that not the stereotype for Latino men? The evidence she provides is even to the contrary of this. His response to her shocked look would indicate that he'd hear her perhaps not respectfully but not violently. My point is this: there is certainly enough to say "circumstances provided enough evidence that it wasn't in your best interest," but people of color, queers, women never have it in their best interest to even live. What weights against that?

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  10. as a Hispanic/Mexican/American woman born in the USA to parents born in the USA whose parents were born in the USA- all the way back to being in what is now the state of NEW Mexico in the 1500's, I have been in those situations too. some one will make a flat out racist comment- about Mexicans, Latin's, Hispanics or blacks or Asians or whatever ... and think seriously because I'm American it's ok. because I don't "act" different its ok. because I'm more Americanized ... Imagine moving to the rural south where racial hatred really 'just how folks talk' I have felt that same shame- I've watched the other person look at me like why are you offended? never in all my life did I think this type of ignorance was still rampant --- the only thing I can say is thank goodness idiots are vocal so I can avoid them. but now I want to say something - I will say something what I don't know but I will say something... for all those who cant for all those scared to say anything. for my daughter so someday she wont have to deal with this

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    1. I'm so glad to hear your voice in this conversation, and so glad your daughter has a mother like you to look up to. I've travelled a little bit outside of the US, and when I try to describe to them how I, at least, experience race in the USA, they're just baffled. I mean, LOOK at that sentence you wrote--"as a Hispanic/Mexican/American woman born in the USA to parents born in the USA whose parents were born in the USA- all the way back to being in what is now the state of NEW Mexico in the 1500's, I have been in those situations too." There is so much history there, and hardship, and switching back and forth in language that I don't even know where to begin. Thank you for reading, and for speaking up.

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  11. "This is it. This is it. This, right here, is how black boys die."

    ^^^ THIS!

    I love you, Katie Prout. I love you.

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    1. I felt awful writing that sentence. Thank you for reading, and for your love. Believe me that it's returned. xx

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  12. Well said. I enjoy reading pieces like this that I wish I had wrote myself.

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    1. That is a high compliment. Write something! I'd love to read it.

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    2. Hi Kate,

      I wasn't sure if my profile linked my blogspot account or not. If not, feel free to check out b-boknows.blogspot.com. It's a mix of sports stuff, themed blog series (i.e. weight loss challenge I recently did was chronicled for six months) and other random stuff as it comes to mind.

      Since I enjoyed your storytelling capabilities, I'll definitely be keeping tabs on your writing (I'll figure out how to have your blogs sent to my blogger main page). I was brought to your page from Lenya's Facebook post, so I have her to thank.

      Again, great job.

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  13. Hello Ms. Katie Prout. Saw your post on Angel's wall and just got done reading it through. I absolutely agree - race in America, race everywhere is a thick question that I think many of us struggle to find clarity with. I think social norms on race and the deeply embedded issues we have domestically are things that change slowly, perhaps generationally, and through a variety of methods.

    In complete honesty, I think that you DID encourage change through looking at him and offering no response. The fact that he felt the need to justify his position, and pull back, speaks to the fact that your silence indicated that you did not condone his words.

    Is change brought about more effectively when we speak louder, and stand firmly on our ground, perhaps, probably. But it's also brought about in our generosity of spirit and sincere desire to be agents of good and equality through our daily deeds and daily life. Just my perspective, from my little corner of the world. Hope all is well over in your corner! :)

    Best,

    Mary

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  14. Thank you for this. I live i Mid-Michigan, and know that of which you speak.

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  15. I consider myself a good American liberal. I voted for Obama. I'm for social services and against tax breaks for the wealthy. I'm for the voting rights act/civil rights laws, etc. And guess what: I'm racist. Not because I want to be. Not because I logically think one race is better/superior to the other. But because it's engrained in me. And also because of stereotyping impulse based on my observations. I live in a big urban area. And unfortunately when I have witnessed violent crime, 9/10 times it's committed by a young African-American male. Muggings in my hood, etc. I know the historical reasons behind it; the socio-economic oppression and so on. But it does not stop me from "profiling" young black males dressed a certain way when I'm walking home at twilight. What am I supposed to do with these feelings and observations?

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    1. Hello Anonymous.

      I want to thank you for your comment. It's hard to ask these questions. It's hard not to feel guilty for your thoughts. But if they feel wrong to you then there is growth possible through sharing these thoughts. I can admit then when I walk by a group of men leaving a bar (of any race) I pay attention. I am a survivor of rape. My instinct tells me, based on my past experiences, that walking past a group of drunken men late at night may not be safe for me so I pay attention. I don't believe that all men who frequent bars are rapists. But the few that are, and my unique experience make me hyper aware anyway. Am I wrong?

      I don't think so. I think I'd only be wrong if I let my experience lead me to believe that ALL drunk white men are rapists. I know that is not true. When fear kicks in I remind myself, almost like a mantra.

      I say all of that to say...I get it. I get where you are coming from.

      I think if your only experiences with African-American males is in situations where you worry about your safety your perception of that segment of the population is skewed. I would challenge you to find other and more meaningful ways to interact with these men. Do you have Black doctors, coworkers, friends, neighbors, associates? I would suggest widening your net so you have more diverse experiences with this segment of the population.

      About a year after I was raped I asked a white male friend of mine to take me out to a bar he frequents. He knew my whole story. He was a friend. He took me to a bar with his friends. I knew I was safe. I still struggled. I was triggering like crazy but I knew I was safe. I had a great time with his friends. I cherish that experience.

      When we know that what we feel or think is based on fear I think we have to challenge ourselves out of it. You will find the best way to do that for yourself. Having the desire to address it is the first step.

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  16. Thank you so much for writing this. This week has been especially difficult, living in the deep south and hearing words tossed around that are not in my vocabulary, people sharing thoughts and feelings that I do not share .... that make me cringe.... inside....and hating myself - knowing that I was perpetuating a horrible thing by my silence. Thank you Katie, and all the people who have posted above, for helping give me the courage to speak out the next time. Katie, your last paragraph is spot on, and I, too, cried throughout most of your blog. ~TLA

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  17. Be proud of your bravery and ability to face (and speak) the truth.

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  18. i'm 20 years older than you, meaning i've felt this way way too long. thank you.

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  19. Thank you. I am sharing this onward.

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  20. Katie, what a well written and honest essay. I am glad you were brave enough to write this because it encompasses everything so many of us need to hear. I want to share this with the world. I relate, I commiserate, and you make me want to be a better person, too. Thanks.

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  21. Sharing this everywhere I can. Beautifully captured and endlessly true: time to stop talking and start speaking up. Which you've done beautifully with this piece.

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  22. We will never be perfect in this effort to be good. We breathe in racism, it's part of the very fabric of our lives, we are all culpable, and we are all victims to one extent and another. We can only do our best to make a difference, at least when our courage doesn't fail us. We can only tell the truth, at least when our courage doesn't fail us. "Until we say the truth, there can be no tenderness." But sometimes our courage will fail us. And sometimes, hallelujah, it will not!

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  23. Thank you. Most important piece I have read in a very long time.

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  24. AGAIN, AND HOPEFULLY FOR THE LAST TIME, THIS IS NOT ABOUT RACE!!!! Trayvan could have walked home and he would still be alive, but he decided to backtrack and confront Zimmerman. My issue is that Race peddlers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton always choose the wrong "victim" of Racial Injustice and it always comes back to but them in the ass.

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    1. Its your privilege that allows you to negate the experience of millions in this country. Trayvon had every right to ask why he was being followed by an older, strange man. Even George says that is what he did. George could have stayed in his car after the 911 call. He could have answered Trayvon's questions with a simple, "I'm the neighborhood watch man"

      He chose not to.

      This is about race. Trayvon was a suspect because of his race. Zimmerman's history of calls to 911 was all about black men. Choose to wake up please. Its the only hope for change.

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    2. *Different Anonymous - call me Zalon.* Allow me to speculate here for a moment. Before anyone jumps down my throat - I am definitely not racist(Ask my significant other.) After talking to her, family and friends - which have all had many many many different opinions on what -/really/- went down - we came to a point where we all eventually spot a point in which we agreed. It is -impossible- for anyone to tell us what happened that night. This could have been either persons fault and while race does play a part I can hardly call it racism.

      Racism



      1.The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as...
      2.Prejudice or discrimination directed against someone of a different race based on such a belief.

      Yes, Trayvon was a suspect because of his race - and after looking into the case and history you can see why sort of... unfortunately for Trayvon other black men around his age around that time, wearing similar style of cloth, were breaking into older citizens houses, beating them, and stealing their stuff.

      This is more about social status then anything - I'm sorry to say. Unfortunately, Trayvon's style as it were matched those of these criminals around the area. Had he been going to work in a suit with a brief case - I heavily doubt George would have even bothered with him at all.

      Does race play a part - without a doubt - only because it matches the situation.

      If I was in West Virginia and there were reports of similarly dressed white boys - commiting acts of vandalism - I'd suspect anyone like them to - not because of their race - but because they fit the description, not only the race of the criminals.

      It's discussions like this that make racism prevalent. Racism should have been stomped out ages ago and instead of leaving at an unfortunate event in which a boy died to a man with unclear explanations, we hear how a young black boy was murdered by a Mexican due to racism... making such a claim empowers those that enact racial slurs and other racist remarks.

      Let 'god' sort them out. Speak your mind by all means but claiming this was about race when no one was physically there to witness what happens only ensures that racism happens again.

      If I punch my black friend in the face, I don't do it out of racism - I do it because he 'probably' deserved it... but you'll hear 24 stories of racism out of the twenty five stories of how I punched my friend in the face.

      Just some food for thought - you don't have to agree with me... but if you really care about ridding the world of racism then you won't support it by feeding the fire and pointing out the races involved rather then going - maybe it could have been about race, but it could have been a thousand other things.

      Adieu, good sir. Oh and Katie, I appreciate the write and I hope somehow my words will also effect you and your future decisions - standing up against racism is a noble thing, just be careful not to confuse people for once treating people as equals - for racism.

      I long for the day that I walk outside and see an argument between a black man and white man that doesn't end in people screaming racism. Just look at the world - it isn't about black and white - we're all rising to the point of equality - but both parties have to let go color. Not just one. ;)

      Night everyone.

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    3. I hear what you're saying Zalon, and although this incident may not have been because Trayvon was black. The bottom line is because a man felt superior to another, better than another, no respect for another for whatever reason he felt justified in killing an unarmed boy and knew it didn't matter to him, the police and the judicial system because he was just another young black boy. This is what it implies to me, when this man is found guilty of NOTHING. Let's hope it's not your son or grandson or nephew that doesn't make it home because of these same circumstances

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    4. Didn't Zimmerman get convicted of NOTHING because the jury didn't feel right about sending someone away for 30 years who they believed could NOT be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that Zimmerman was guilty? Is it reasonable to believe that the reason Zimmerman walks free today is because the prosecution failed to deliver a good case?

      I'm more inclined to believe (not convinced), that reason he got away with nothing was not because of his race, but because the Prosecution was not invested in his conviction.

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  25. Your words spoke directly to my heart and to my chronic questioning of how I operate in the world. Thank you for reminding me that it is not enough to fight for social justice just when it feels safe to do so, because that safety is a privilege those I fight for and with do not get.

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  26. Absolutely amazing.

    I grew up not far from the courthouse too. I remember the rally. We had a rock with a pamphlet tied to it thrown on our porch. I don't know if they were intending to go through the glass doors we had there, or just make sure it landed solidly. I remember my parents hiding that pamphlet from my sister and I before throwing it away, but not before I caught a terrifying glimpse of the front image; a grainy photocopy of an old KKK rally, with the words "Were Back!" in large, bold print. We weren't allowed to play outside that day. We could hear the noise from the courthouse, and after the rock was thrown, my parents didn't want us anywhere that something could happen to us.

    I was really, really glad to read this. I am so glad other people from my generation, from my town, are waking up and seeing the bigger picture and the bigger world in the same way I am. This article hit me really hard. I cried, and then had a long talk with my husband explaining what exactly hit home, and the things I'm still shedding from my childhood. Thank you so very much for writing it.

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  27. i have so many of these same feelings and thoughts - and you put them into words so much better than i ever could. this is so honest/real. thanks!

    - mae

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  28. A very thoughtful essay, but I wonder about the part where you attribute your fear of reacting to people who say inappropriate things in public to your being a woman.

    As a man, I too have learned the same lesson. I too have been pushed up against the wall, yelled at, threatened by people who do stuff like this. And I'm sure black women and men have had the same experience.

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    1. What you miss it that, in this particular scenario, with the man being the potential aggressor towards a woman, the woman--biologically speaking--will most likely be the physically weaker party, and thus the more vulnerable. Also, there is the greater possibility that a male aggressor could rape a woman than that he would attempt to rape another man. So yes, I totally understand where Kate is coming from. But then, maybe it's because I'm also a woman.

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  29. A powerful commentary that penetrates the privilege of silence. Vulnerability elicits solidarity, and I applaud you for being vulnerable and uncomfortable! There are very few needs in this world, need is a charged word, but I believe that white folks loudly deconstructing (and owning) white privilege and the social institutions founded on it is one of them.

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  30. Let me start by saying thank you for recognizing that white privilege and racism does exist (subconsciously in most people). Thank you for wanting and striving to change yourself (because that's where it starts). I am an African American women who has experienced racism as early as the age of 4. it was then I realized that there are certain things I am disallowed to do or say or and defend. I have 3 sons and from the womb (soon as I found out their gender) I worried and wondered if they would make it to see the age of 20, My eldest son is a few month shy of 20. I have witnessed harassment and profiling by police directed to him, but I didn't stay passive (they were going to have to kill me to get to him). I have witnessed 2 officers fallowing my 13 year old and baring their guns (not tasers) on his way to the store, and again I confronted them more extremely than the last few times. Found out they only wanted him for questioning (never knew this was how they took people in for questioning) but.... I guess!..... I have been brought under the assumption that I myself was the "stereotypical" black women and I always find it offensive and rather racist when told that I "speak well" or when I'm told I'm extremely intelligent and its fallowed with the question "how far did I get in school". I know that what I have experienced as far as this issue goes that my sons have and will have it far worse than I have. I'm only telling these little snippets of my and my 2 son's stories to show the different aspects of what racism is. it can be passive and it can be aggressive. I in my heart of hearts believe that we all can change but it starts with ourselves and you just took the first step to accomplish this within yourself as well as others and for this I couldn't thank you enough....

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    1. I am also a black woman, 58 years old. I went to elementary school with only one white student. I felt for her because she was different, not only because she was the only white student, but she seemed lonely. She wore the same clothes a lot and I think she was smart, but she didn't seem to apply herself and I think it was because of her own discomfort. When I was a kid race didn't mean anything to me & my playmates until Jr. High when we were bussed to school 50/50 white/black and High School and the Martin Luther King riots. Me and my new founded white counterparts where scared to death to be seen together and some of them had become my best friends. It wasn't until I began working in an all white male trade, that I felt that feeling that you speak of when white men would say to me, "you're not like most black people and you're nothing like your brother and they hadn't never been around my brother or exposed to any other black people, but I couldn't let the opportunity pass me by without setting them straight and conveying to them my point of view. Now my children are grown. I've seen my daughter profiled because her car windows were tinted. My son was treated horribly by by a judge and spoke down to because he said he couldn't pay for a ticket because he had bills more important, like utilities and putting food on the table for his family and she said to him, nothing is more important than paying this fine. He told her he didn't have the money so she put him in jail. Those are the only two times that I started to speak my mind and the judge shut me up by saying, be quiet your daughter is 18 years old and you don't have a say in the matter, or excuse yourself or you'll going to jail with him. Believe me both times I had to leave the court. Things don't appear to be getting better, they seem worst and I believe that the economy in Flint and neighboring cities, no jobs and closing schools and the feeling of no future is why crime rates are so high not young black men.

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  31. I find it odd that you do not take into account that this is a two way street.

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  32. thank you for waking me up. God bless u

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  33. It was a pleasure reading this

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  34. You are wrong black people do need to read this... This is the hope that we secretly harbor, that white people really do get it. You were able to put into words what we desire from white people. Just to stand up for what is right.

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  35. I don't live there so I'm wondering... do the other libraries actually have problems with "gangs of kids roaming around, stealing things and causing trouble"?

    Because in my experience groups of kids, of any race, do sometimes cause trouble. It's not unusual. It is also my experience that theft can be more common in one neighborhood that in a nearby neighborhood. Were there actual problem of bike theft at these other libraries? If so, is it racism to notice a pattern and take sensible steps?

    It's racism to be sure to say, "There's black kids hanging around so I assume there's going to be a problem." But I'm not sure it's racism to say "There's been more problems with theft at these libraries, and less problems with theft at those libraries, and the pattern seems to be linked to demographics, so I'm going to choose my library based on that observation.

    You say that his observation was wrong and stupid and bigoted. Was it actually wrong? Or do you just hope it was wrong? I hope it was wrong. It makes me sad to see crime statistics linked to race demographics.

    I don't know, I don't live there. But it's a question I have with race discussions. I think there is a fine line between racism on the one hand and on the other hand noticing a pattern and making a sensible decision based on that pattern.

    I'm not saying you are wrong. I am asking an honest question. It's difficult question for me to ask because it is easy for someone to assume I have an agenda and assume I'm just saying "Black people are criminals." But I am not saying that and I do not have an agenda. This is the honest question I have. Where is the line between racism and making sane decisions based on a pattern?

    I look forward to your reply.

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    1. http://m.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/07/the-banality-of-richard-cohen-and-racist-profiling/277871/ Start here.

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    2. Thank you for the link. I read it. Still trying to make sense of it. I wondering if the difference is "gangs of kids roaming around" vs ""gangs of black kids roaming around". But that can be accused of ageist. (Would a bored pack of middle aged women with nothing to do steal bikes for kicks?)

      I can see someone saying "If crime is demonstrably higher in black neighborhoods, then we should build less libraries there." That would suck.

      Do you put more cops in a more crime prone neighborhood or is that racist too?

      I'm hope for more links or articles or comments. Thanks.

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    3. "(Would a bored pack of middle aged women with nothing to do steal bikes for kicks?)"

      Now that is a movie I want to see.

      And Ms Prout: you are right. Thanks for writing this.

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    4. I notice a pattern that a lot of white people are racist so I make a sensible decision to treat all white people as though they might be racist.

      Do you feel attacked at all by a statement like this? You should. I struggle with the fact that people of all shades may assume I must be racist because of my skin color. It sucks.

      The irony is that white people get all up in arms about people calling them out for racist behavior, and the worst that can really happen is it mars their reputation or destroys the fantasy of a racism-free world. This kind of blanket discrimination, racial profiling, etc when applied to people of color too often results in death, imprisonment, joblessness, homelessness, etc.

      I understand that you're grappling with some new ideas, Wire, and that's awesome. Keep it up. Remember that maybe the hardest part of accepting and understanding the realities of being white in a racist society is having to voluntarily break down a world view that up till now has seemed to be perfectly logical. It can be painful when, given new information, that world view suddenly is exposed as being flawed. Just remember you're not alone, and not the first white person to start down that path!

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    5. "The irony is that white people get all up in arms about people calling them out for racist behavior, and the worst that can really happen is it mars their reputation or destroys the fantasy of a racism-free world. This kind of blanket discrimination, racial profiling, etc when applied to people of color too often results in death, imprisonment, joblessness, homelessness, etc."

      You are so spot-on with this.

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  36. You are brave and insightful. I am a 73 yr old white guy and I am proud to say I read your piece. I am not proud to say that I have said and done the same things and felt shame. But I am making progress and I feel hopeful through people like you.

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  37. I'm a 28 yr old from Charlotte NC. I'm happy you learned how dangerous avoidance of race can be. I can go into detail about all the racial issues that are presented to us on a regular basis but I won't, I will leave you with this. My mother warned me every time I left the house about my appearance, she always harped on my locs, my clothes hell she didn't want me to drive my 97 Cadillac because of what happened to Trayvon. Every time I left the house her and my pops honestly had that exact same fear that I would find myself in some terrible situation, not because I was doing something stupid, wrong or illegal, but simply because I looked like a suspect, perpetrator, or fit the description. The sad part is my young naive self believed that nobody could get away with something like that, "not in today's world" I would say Lol boy was I wrong. The problem is that white america aka America doesnt much care, and the ppl that do care can't much find the words to express the problems. Just understand that the race card has to be played or you all will forget its there. And know its a volcano forming under that rug were we've been swept...

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  38. Thank you so much Kate for your honesty in sharing your experience. I am a huge believer in Truth. As a black female, I am glad I read this even though you said we need not because we already know. I am glad I read this because it is so rare to hear the truth spoken out without holding back. Reading this was life-giving and life-affirming. If we continue to tell the truth and live our lives with integrity, I do believe this will bring so much healing. Thanks again.
    ~Sandrine

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  39. I just wanted to say that I came upon your blog when a friend sent me a link to this post. I am very moved by your words and your vulnerability for writing them. I can certainly identify with what you have written here, quite eloquently.

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  40. Stopped reading because of the language. Not sure how that helps your story.

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    1. you're a child.

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    2. Cursing is a form of expression!!! And yes Paul you are a child!!

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    3. lol at the people calling you a child. Such open-minded liberals.

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  41. And because of this piece and others like it... I have some small glimmer of hope. Thank you.

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  42. Brilliant insight and well written. Interesting comments though. What exactly is a "good American Liberal?" Can you be a "good American Conservative?" Or is there bigotry around that label of conservative (eg. all conservatives must be racist?). It is impossible to be racist as a "real" conservative. Anyways . . .

    It is hard to even discuss race relations without . . . well, sounding racist but you did a brilliant job. Kudos.

    Dr. JAWS.

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  43. Hand Claps and Finger Snaps ma'am, this was an awesome read. I just wish we all took more time to talk to each other and understand where the other is coming from, so that we have less stereotyping and prejudice. I will be passing this along.

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  44. Thank you for your writing and thoughts. this was very brave of you and it means a lot to me and obviously others. this conversation needs to be had, no longer does it need to be avoided. Its beyond Trayvon and Zimmerman, it's our country, it's our world. Every one may not be an extreme racist, but prejudice is something that runs deeply through many of our veins. The only way to alleviate the prejudice pressures and attitudes that exist in our community WE MUST have this discussion. White, black, hispanic, asain..etc WE ALL need to become more tolerant of each other and develop compassion for each other. Thank you for mentioning white privilege which many attribute to the imagination of minorities. It exist live and well. it's the truth. I am a 27 yr old black woman, college graduate and working on my masters. So many people have and will continue to profile me because of my skin, as if it's anything less than beautiful, regardless of my intelligence/accomplishments and regardless of my contributions to my community. It has happened, it's sad, it doesn't feel good, it causes bitterness. But after it ALL I still try to not judge anyone by their color. So just as someone stated in the comments, about the mexican guy probably having experienced black boys stealing his bike before and thus he was justified in his words... well if that is the case... why should I ever trust a white person in my life after all the oppression my people have endured, from the plantation to the courthouse? The fact that I am able to talk to, build friendships with and appreciate other white people is evidence that it is possible. Love one another and understand one another, it is time to push past the neglect, hatred and hurt on all sides. Thanks again for your writing

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  45. There is a (white) doctor in the Torres Strait Islands of Australia who is mulling this over because I shared it on my facebook feed.

    At the risk of being really, really creepy - can I meet you? I think we live near each other - I am in Bucktown.

    I really like the way you write and, more importantly, the way you think.

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  46. This is incredible. This essay is why blogging is so important.

    You're an incredibly thoughtful writer and I am entirely enchanted. Thank you so much for your voice and contribution.

    Your newest fan,
    Chad

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  47. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1KXSW8OfvSQ&feature=player_embedded

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  48. Thank you for your honesty and eloquence. As a young woman of very mixed heritage, ethnically and racially (black, white, native american, born in Mexico to a US citizen mother and US citizen Mexican-American father) I was raised to never, ever, under any circumstances use racial or ethnic slurs, make generalizations about race or ethnicity, make jokes based on racial/ethnic stereotypes, about ANYBODY. Black, white, brown, yellow, purple, green, whatever... I am shocked by the number of people of all races and ethnicities who throw out racist jokes on a casual basis. I've never found them funny and people get super flustered when they have to explain the punchline to me and I still don't think it is funny. But it is HARD not to go along and stay silent or laugh along, and even harder to open my mouth and say "that's not funny, that's offensive". But we've got to do it and keep doing it; we've got to find the bravery to speak up and out against casual, deeply seated racism. I applaud you.

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  49. A great piece of writing. Thank you for it.

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  50. This. This is the best thing I've read in response to the Zimmerman verdict. And that's saying something.

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  51. "I'd tell you I am white, but you already know that." Actually I thought this was written by a white hating minority. Talk about white guilt.

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  52. First of all great job, Keep telling stories. Your raw internal anguish was very compelling. I love the fact that you were so transparent with your struggle. This was an awesome look at another perspective about racism in America. Thanks for putting it online.

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  53. this izzza good 1st step & even though the majority uv the inishul pushback-rezistance will come frummus <(ppl uv color) we won't hav true liber8shun'till thoze frum historikkkly privvlijjd bakgroundz also contibute in major waze,..altho ther hav alwaze been uero-amerikkkin reziztorz, the grimkeez, john brown & countless utherz whom r nameless cauz they wern't/ r'nt f8mus they'v 4 the most part been in the "white" minority,...if it ever shiftz 2 the majority then this f8z uv the madness will b over,... i'm multi-ethnic & multilingual but fenotypically seen az "blak" african descent but since i walk thru various spherez i heer the anti-african descendent commentz frum many peepz who think that b-cauz uv my eduk8shunal acheevmentz & multi-lingwicity don't identify with african-amerikkkinz.. i also know that this occurz becauz the wurld over colonial b8sd steriotypical "racist" ideaz hav laid the groundwork 4 all uv their "experiencez" i'll never 4get arguing with a p.h.d fizzix student frum turkey becauz he swore that all afro-descendent malez pozzesed giant penisez. since i wuz the 1st afro-descent male he had ever encountered i axxd him wher he derived hiz in4m8shun frumm... he told me frum pornograffy... ....... & last tidbit, the hypersexualiz8shun uv afro descendent m8lz iz 1 uv the major reezunz 4 the "white" m8lz feer uvvus. they say we r animakistic subhumanz while at the same time ceating a sexual insecurity amongst themselvz,..which leedz them 2 t8k dire methodz 2 remoov the threat that they themselvz hav kr8ted :)

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  54. After reading comment after comment after blog post after Facebook status where there was such hate, arrogance, and bigotry that I was actually nauseous, this was perfect. This was absolutely perfect. It was honest, raw, truthful and what I needed to read. Thank you.

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  55. Apologizing for being white won't make black people feel better and it seems more offensive than helpful. You seem like a smart and good hearted woman who would never purposely hurt anyone and I think that is enough. You write of your terrible shame and that in college you wanted to listen, learn and apologize for where you are from. Why? It is only right to feel for Trayvon Martin and his family but this piece smells of white guilt. I'm sorry but its true.

    You are not responsible for what white people have done. That is such a silly way to think. Are you only responsible for the mistakes of your own colour? Trayvon was not responsible for other black men's mistakes. I am a white man and i'm in no way responsible for Zimmerman. I feel bad for Trayvon for being killed by a petty man but I am not responsible.

    This shouldn't be a race issue and when it becomes one it divides us as a people rather than unite. It is up for debate whether Zimmerman is a racist or not, a matter of opinion. I think he would have done the same to anyone who he saw as suspicious no matter the colour. This case has sparked the white guilt again and its hard to tell whether you just want to be seen as one of the good whites or not.




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    1. Just to respond - I didn't get the feeling at all that she was apologizing for being white. Apologizing for where she is from means something else... in an abstract way she is using the racially backwards town she grew up in as a symbol for all the progress that still needs to be made in this country, and that she is sorry for. Does that mean its her fault? Hardly. When someone loses a family member or their job, I tell them I am sorry. And I mean it. That doesn't mean I killed or fired anyone. It just means I am genuinely sorry for their struggle. This is what I got from this piece.

      I think gender equality has a long way to go, but that doesn't mean I wish men to feel sorry for being men. I want men who are proud of the men they are - proud of being men who do the right thing and fight the good fight with me. White privilege is a real thing, but I think white guilt is pretty much made up by white people who aren't sure how they are supposed to feel. Here is how you should feel - proud to be a white person who does the right thing and actively fights for equality for everyone.

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    2. Thank you Angel!!! You beat me here and spoke better than I could have.

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    3. I see nowhere in this piece where she "apologizes for being white." Nowhere. It's crystal clear this piece is about apologizing for not being aware and not speaking out against injustice. If your takeaway from this is that the author feels shame for who she is, you either didn't read the article, you have poor reading comprehension, or you mentally translated everything she said through a personal issues filter.

      Taking responsibility and feeling guilt are different things. Taking responsibility means that you own your personal responses to the world as it is. Being responsible is often re-defined as "able to respond." I'm not to blame for slavery, but I'm responsible for helping end its legacy. I'm not to blame for the environment in which I was raised, but I'm responsible for how I react to that. Why? Because I have the power to do so, and because it's my duty as a human being, a Jew, an American and a grownup to leave the world a better place than I found it - to pursue justice, equality, and the American ideals on which this country was founded and has yet to perfectly fulfill.

      You say it "shouldn't be a race issue," but it is whether it "should" be or not. Talking about race does not necessarily cause divisions, but pretending there is no race issue preserves the divisions that already exist.

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    4. You put into words what has been bothering me about the majority of posts I read from "good white liberals."

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  56. yes! I like it.

    Don't feel guilty for being the color (or gender,ethnicity,faith,level of education) that you are - but don't devalue other people because they aren't.

    That goes for everyone. EVERYone.

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  57. Dear Ms.
    Thank You
    -An Black American Female who knows this problem as well

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  58. Moved to tears. It takes so much courage to be honest. And to acknowledge mistakes. And to want to do better. And to care about the world and others and not just ourselves. Your message is SO important. I just want to believe that we can really do it- really come together as one human race and really effect that change that so desperately needs to occur. Not saying I don't have hope. Just trying to wrap my brain around the enormity of it... and the complexity of it....

    Thank you for being you and for being open and for being real.

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  59. Hi Katie,
    My name is also Katy. Like you, I'm a mid-western, twenty-something White girl who also runs far. I just want to say I appreciate your honesty and the complex ideas you write about. In your words I see my own struggle for understanding. Knowing when, and how, to speak up has been a struggle for me, especially in those moments where gender-related fears come into play. I appreciate how you put this fear into perspective; those moments are for some of us the few moments where we feel fear unlike many who live in constant fear.

    I also appreciate that you bring up the complex idea that as white folks we are taught to listen and to privilege, in a sense, the experiences and perspectives of folks of color - however over time I think we (universal 'we') learn that the "ism" is a mindset, that while historically maps onto skin color or gender, for example, is today a mindset that --while still mapping well onto traditional socially constructed categories --transcends color or gender or ability or what have you. The definitive idea that only white people (or men, or heterosexuals) have derogatory and prejudicial thoughts about race (or gender or sexual orientation) can be a really silencing factor for anti-racist/anti-bias work.

    Thank you for your candidness.
    Katy

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    1. "The definitive idea that only white people (or men, or heterosexuals) have derogatory and prejudicial thoughts about race (or gender or sexual orientation) can be a really silencing factor for anti-racist/anti-bias work." Completely agree!Kate's own experience shows someone from a culture/ethnic group (with its own set of struggles against discrimination) who expressed racist ideas. Because race in America has become muddled with culture and ethnicity discussions about race necessarily have to extend beyond black and white.

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  60. This was a wonderful read among all of the news and many opinions that are in the air right now. I loved how you really explained WHY this happened, WHAT happened, and by reading it I feel empowered to do the right thing as well and speak up. I live in a mid-gentrification process neighborhood and I see this happen all the time even if it's not said out loud. I shared this on Facebook (and found it through Facebook), and I very much hope that many many many more people read it. Your words are powerful because they are true and honest and so wonderfully descriptive.

    Thank you very much for your time in writing it.

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  61. Love this. Really articulates what a lot of people can't. That's what good writing does. Bravo!

    With that said, I kept getting hung up on the word "boy" here. It's such a racially charged word. Not trying to rain on the praise here because it's well-deserved. Just...that one thing.

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  62. The Hoagland choice is a bad one. He's the smug white guy at the party who "tells it like it really is." Read this: http://www.poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/22111. His problem, it seems, is that he pats himself on the back for being so "revealing, so true, so honest." Saying what you really think and congratulating yourself for doing it is not heroic; it's narcissistic and privileged. Are we really at a point where white people get big hugs for admitting they might be a little bit racist. Talk about cognitive dissonance. As the saying goes, if a black man wrote that...

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  63. Anonymous -

    Slapping someone for acknowledging something we in the privileged white class desperately need to acknowledge pretty much accomplishes squat.

    It's the equivalent of saying "You're opinion doesn't matter" which, in the case of race relations in America, is horseshit of the highest degree. Further, I get no hint of KP congratulating herself for speaking her truth. I get the distinct sense that she is horribly embarrassed and revealed her shame in a way that many could identify with.

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  64. "Last of the terrible truths is this: because his native tongue was Spanish, this man wasn't white. Not white like how my white self thinks of white. That's a fucked sentence, isn't it? Like, deeply problematic, worth-an-essay-on-its-own, linguistically-privileged fucked" I don't think it's as "fucked" as you think (especially if the man had an accent so you knew his first language was Spanish and you didn't just assume because he looked Latino). I consider myself Latina American (meaning I was born and raised in the U.S. but my parents are from Latin American countries) but I constantly hear people tell me "I thought you were white." And I'm asked to check a box when filling out forms. Yet I really have no clear understanding of what being white means. So I think it's okay that you described him and thought of him as a Latino not a white Latino because frankly I have no clue what that means.

    Sorry for the rant. Thank you for your openness, honesty, and real effort.

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  65. My comments mirror John's. I appreciate your candor, but found myself snagged on a particular sentence.

    "In college, I went in blind to my first roommate situation set-up, and ended up in a suite with two black women from Detroit, a Jewish girl from the outside suburbs, and myself, a small-town white girl."

    A perfect illustration of why your revelation is an important step, but just a step, along a road to a US with a different racial reality. I can only hope that your reference to the black females as 'women' and the white females as 'girls' was intentional social commentary on the fact that black children have a way different experience of youth than their white counterparts. So often racism perpetuates because these attitudes permeate at a subconscious level.

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  66. This was an extremely well-written essay. Thank you for sharing. It is very interesting from my perspective as a biracial (black and white with a bit of American Indian) lesbian who looks white but doesn't identify as such. I don't identify as black, either. But I get TREATED as white by white people, I guess. I'm not 100% sure, though, but I haven't had experiences my mother has had (she's the black/Indian parent who looks more black than Indian). I get treated as white by black people sometimes; I know that for a fact because once it comes out I'm half-black (especially if they see a photo of my mom) they seem more personable and friendly toward me. How's that for irony? Race is a complex construct. The more people understand that it's a SOCIAL CONSTRUCT and not objectively real, this race problem will continue. This isn't about population genetics, it's about the meaning a culture places on the implications of a person with a particular color, face- or body-shape.

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    1. I meant "UNTIL people understand it's a social construct and not objectively real, this race problem will continue." whoops! :)

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  67. YOU are a beautiful writer and YOU are incredibly brave. Thank you for your words. They mean so much to me.

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  68. Thank you for being part of the solution ... overhauling a whole culture is quite a chore, happening in one person's heart at a time, until a critical mass of us can speak the truth all the time, throughout every day, without being afraid. Keep up the good work.

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  69. Katie, I'd love to share my thoughts with you via email. I loved it, and I think it's such an important written piece. My email is richardddaily@gmail.com.

    Thanks

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  70. I want you to know that you have given words to my own mute conflict, voice to my own shame-laden silences.

    I struggle, daily, to identify my role in justice, and have often found myself occupying this distorted space of discomfort, tearing at the "white cloak" draped over my own shoulders; pitifully wrestling with the resentment of my own privilege and its harm-woven fabrics, the sparring earnest pretenses of my motions of solidarity, and then, enervated, I anesthetize with a reflection on how many loved ones of color I claim... making a salve out of my collection of their difference.

    Then, looking at such moments like this one, I realize I just made it all about myself.

    This is my awkward best at a thank you.

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  71. Dude. I'm not a woman, true. But it can't be that hard to just say something.

    Over 10 years ago I was at the south Chicago greyhound stop, which is in a primarily black neighbourhood. I was waiting around and then this guy comes up looking for help because he was out of gas and needed a little money. He seemed so relieved since I was the only white guy in the whole area and he thought I would sympathise with him since he was too afraid to ask all the black people around for help.

    It was not hard to tell him "no" since he was being racist. I've hardly thought about that moment until I read this. I'm sorry, but it's easy to intellectualise and make excuses and write blogs about our guilt, but if someone is racist tell them they're wrong. It's actually even easier and you don't have to wallow in your decision forever.

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    1. God it must feel fantastic to have never made a mistake in your entire life. Is your point really that she should have done better? Because, I am pretty sure, if you read the piece, that was her point too.

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    2. Hey, "Dude" who isn't a woman. In our society, women live in fear, regardless of their color. We get harassed, we get the smalls of our backs touched at bars, like just because it's not a "private part" it's somehow an open invitation for men's hands. We get harassed, followed, threatened, intimidated, raped, killed. Or worse, we survive through trauma that we have no idea how to shake off our skin, out of our memory. So, talk about privilege! Good for you for acknowledging "I'm not a woman"..thanks, but no thanks for the rest of your reply. I have never been raped, but I've felt the fear walking home alone at night, walking alone in broad daylight in a new neighborhood, because I know women everywhere who have a story to bear. So, go educate yourself on what it's like to have to look over your shoulder all the time, to have to repeat the words "I don't need to be scared" because of my totally justified fear ie living as a woman in our world. Ask me why when I live in a "well-to-do, safe" neighborhood, that when my husband isn't home, I avoid taking a shower because I picture scenarios where a man enters my home and I've made it easier for him to rape me. Is that fear justified based on my neighborhoods crime stastics? I don't fucking know. What I do fucking know, is that I have every right to feel that way because that is my reality. If this author felt unsure of her safety as a woman, alone with an unknown man at night, then THAT is what she felt, and how dare you question that. Apparently, it WAS "hard to tell him no" because SHE SAID IT WAS. Let us know when you're ready to dismount your high horse! Until my friends, sisters, colleagues, strangers I meet in the bathroom at a restaurant, doctor's office etc don't feel fear because of a society that shames rape and tells us it's our fault, then we WILL feel the way we do. Until my husband, an ER Nurse at a major county hospital comes home and DOES NOT have a story where there was a home invasion and a woman was gang raped and then severely beaten,or a woman raped by her OWN step-father and then HAS TO DECIDE whether to keep the unborn, twin babies that are now growing inside of her even though she has two other children and can hardly feed them, let alone, live with daily reminders of her rape, I will feel the fear and I will question seemingly Latino, White, Black, Asian, purple seemingly stronger then me, seemingly able to cause me harm, MEN.

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  72. When do feminists and allies of color mistrust their white counterparts? When the latter writes 3000+ words of self-pity + self-aggrandizement attempting to take responsibility for all racial and sexual oppression, as though black boys die or don't die at her hands alone.

    I struggled to finish this post as it offended me as a feminist of color pretty much from top to bottom. And I questioned whether to leave a message, but ultimately, like you, decided that it is more important to speak up against oppression than to keep mum.

    I don't discount that this was a moving experience for you or that moving forward you may change your actions or that others like you may find this to be a touching essay, but you are right: people of color do not need to read this. Because the last thing we need is the manifesto of a white "ally" who believes the world rests in her hands.

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    1. Everyone is everyone's ally, and the worlds rests in everyone's hands.

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    2. "The world rests in everyone's hands" ^

      EXACTLY. Sorry Stephanie, but her actions do matter. So do mine. So do yours.

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    3. Everyone is not everyone else's ally when the privileged speak as though the world rests in their hands alone. Saying "this is how black boys die" IS self-aggrandizing and said for and by people who want to pat themselves on the back publicly lash themselves to other's applause.

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    4. IMO, Stephanie and 3rd anonymous (also Stephanie?) are interpreting the contentious statement far too literally. My understanding is that Kate was not saying, "my specific experience directly, explicitly, caused/will cause all black youth to die, woe is me!" She is saying, albeit in a dramatic fashion, that experiences LIKE hers, multiplied many times over among so many of us (i.e., human beings), collectively perpetuate a culture that leads to profiling, targeting, and, all too often, death, of minorities. Her point is that nothing changes unless we all have the courage to make it change, and being human, our courage sometimes--much to our own shame and the potential detriment of others--can fail us.

      Honestly--"manifesto"? Really??

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  73. Thank you for your words! It is wonderful to hear that you are conscious of a struggle that is not your own. But can I say, as a person of color I'm glad you didn't say anything and put yourself in harms way. It is important to stand up in the arenas that matter, at the polls, in the courtrooms etc. You cannot reason with ignorance. Not to say that you shouldn't try but there is a time and a place, and it is important to chose your battles. I can sense that some people have resented you for your essay, I am sorry, but I can certainly say I'm glad that you shared.

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  74. Unfortunate that it takes the death of a teenage boy to get a feminist to admit that she doesn't understand the lived experiences of others. Doubly unfortunate that this clueless child still managed condemn men as dangerous and whites as impotent while making the death of that boy somehow about herself. I bet she wonders why people don't take feminism seriously... lol

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    1. Someone is clueless here, all right. Someone who arrogantly decided to ignore any nuance, balance, context or metaphor in the essay and warp its message to his/her own preexisting biases. Just a smidge antifeminist, are we?

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  75. Good article with an important message (inaction is not neutral, it's part of the problem)

    but I don't like how you generalized men.

    It's always a cheap tactic when someone point out a pesky hypocrisy to try to negate the numerous excellent points made...

    But if you spoke about black people the same way you spoke about men, you'd be a whopping racist.

    Take a look:

    "I am a woman, and my life has taught me that lone [black people] who approach lone woman and say socially inappropriate and/or controversial things are unpredictable, and therefore dangerous. I've told lone [black people] before that I don't like what they say, that I want them to leave me alone. In response, I've been followed, had rocks thrown at me, been physically intimidated until I'm pressed up against a brick wall with a drunk and angry face inches from mine shouting WHAT DID YOU SAY BITCH? I'M GONNA BEAT YOUR ASS."

    Your article will certainly give me and others courage to speak up against overt racism, but you lose credibility when you write with sympathy to the group of the hour and stereotype the next.

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    1. It's so easy to undermine somebody by making a false equivalence. Here's the thing: you cannot simply substitute one term ("black people") for another ("men") in someone else's argument and then point at what a "whopping racist" they would be if they had said what you accuse them of almost saying. That simply isn't what she said, and it's ridiculous to suggest that "black people" is equivalent to "men" in this context, not least because the author is speaking of her personal experience specifically with "lone men." At the same time, to the extent that your argument has a grain of truth, this is precisely what the author is saying: her prejudice against "lone men who approach lone woman and say socially inappropriate and/or controversial things" (and let's be honest--who doesn't share that prejudice?) is similar to the Latino man's prejudice against "black boys." Maybe, like her, his prejudice is based on his own experience. Maybe some black boys stole his bicycle once. In both cases, a specific experience is generalized to become a prejudice against a particular identifiable class of people ("lone men"; "black boys"). In both cases, this is a perfectly human reaction, but it is also wrong. The author recognizes this, and by identifying it and talking about it, she is beginning the process of overthrowing her own prejudices and, hopefully, helping the rest of us to begin the same humbling process ourselves.

      (And your offhand remark about the "group of the hour" is frankly offensive.)

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    2. IDK why we all sit around, believing we can't have honest conversations. It's all about putting on airs, covering up, posing and that crap. Maybe we can't do it on the street, alone at night, with a man saying cock-eyed, off the wall stuff to us out of nowhere. Not all of us and not all the time.

      He could have killed her, for all she knew. What good is she to anybody, dead? Others' racism is terrifying. Same with homophobia and all the rest. Terrifying. But she got to her relatively safe space and published a thoughtful essay on her own limitations & shortcomings. And that opened up a MUCH deeper, far-ranging conversation than provoking a stranger on the street might have done.

      He invoked his privilege, too: assuming he can just tell a lone woman how to think, coercing her as an accomplice, about another race's men, without argument or challenge. Cuz that's what men do: demand obedience, silence, acquiescence. Now, would he have heard this essay? I kind of doubt it.

      Look, where I live == rural, redneck, republican, born again, tea parody -- I don't dare live out of the closet -- about a LOT of things. I have to stay silent b/c I'm all I've got; they've got guns, beer and gawd on their side. IF they knew who I really am, they'd kill me. I'm not exaggerating or pulling melodrama. They'd kill me. So, I have my conversations where I can, when I can. And that's online. Not here, in this county

      I used to live in another county. Just heard word a Gay kid there committed suicide. I was determined to come out. I'd been his neighbor, but closeted, so I was no help to him there. Now, he's dead and I wasn't out so he might find me for support.

      So, I wanted to come out here. So, I posted a notice on this county's democratic party facebook page. I got platitudes & pats on the back from three people. NONE will meet me, face to face, to offer support for me being out.

      So, I can't do it. I just can't. I won't die for the amusement of mobs & mindlessness.

      I don't have the privilege to be out, in real life.

      That doesn't mean I can't be useful, though.

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  76. way to represent kzoo (a mutual friend on fb shared this), you're a dope writer.

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  77. My boyfriend was just held up at gunpoint on the 4th, by a black woman, in the safest neighborhood of manhattan. Outside our apartment, across from carries brownstone on sex and the city. The cops say its rampant right now. This story has happened to friends across the country. We are from the south: I learned more black history than anything else growing up. I have never been racist, despite growing up in Atlanta, yet when in graduate school in New Orleans, first encountered reverse racism. I was robbed too, last year, in broad daylight, on seventh avenue, in manhattan (also safest neighborhood, west village). Reading this shit is ridiculous. It's not a stereotype. It happens daily. Social media makes this all such a joke. Get held up at gunpoint or robbed, in a major city, where crime ISN'T an issue (unlike Atlanta or Nola), then tell me about leaving your bike tied up without fear. Who gives a fuck about a bike. Get shot for your wallet, and tell me about what race they were.

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    1. You say you have "never been racist" yet this whole reply was full of racism cause I'm sure white people never rob anyone. Reverse racism does not exist. You are a joke.

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    2. You, a white person, was robbed by someone who happened to be a black person. Therefore it's "reverse racism"? Um, NO.

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    3. crime isn't an issue in new york? are you crazy?

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  78. Someone in a FB group I follow just posted this and I am so glad they did. I am a Black woman, and I have been FUMING this week. This awful, terrible week has been full of sleepless nights, anger, and most of all pain. It hurts not only seeing the verdict, but seeing how so many people agree with it. Seeing so many people deny the very real and obvious case of racism--not only on the part of gz, but in the whole scenario. I'm tired of hearing, "Trayvon should not have been killed, but..." Black boys do not get the benefit of the doubt, even when they're the ones who end up with a bullet in their heart and 6 feet under. It hurts.

    I don't want to thank you for "getting it" but thank you for stepping up and addressing it head on. The denial of racism/anti-blackness perpetuates the death of Black and all people of color in this society. Even the white people who have been marching for Trayvon and angered by this are quick to say "this could have been my son..." and I'm just like "No, it couldn't have been and that's the problem."



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    1. "I'm tired of hearing, "Trayvon should not have been killed, but..." Black boys do not get the benefit of the doubt, even when they're the ones who end up with a bullet in their heart and 6 feet under. It hurts."

      That, is exactly it.

      I've seen this a lot not only with racism but also on victims who are demonized. I personally speak up about rape culture. Often rape culture blames the rape victim, "she should have done this or that," etc.. The things I was hearing about Trayvon and what he did and did not do?? Brought that right back home.

      Rape victims are put down for not fighting back. This kid fought back and it wasn't okay? I called friends to talk about it because.. it was just too much.

      The problem is people are trying to make what happened "fair" when .. it WASN'T fair. At all. Trayvon was racially profiled by a man with a hero complex. Do you know how many times I have stopped to look at houses while walking home? Plenty. I would never have been suspected of anything for doing that. Never. I stopped to look at home sbecause I was just.. LOOKING. And I bet Trayvon was doing exactly that. just looking at what's around.. and he had to defend himself for it.. Anyway.. I'll stop. I'll stop.

      You're right. If I had a son, Trayvon couldn't have been my son because more than likely he'd be white.. and white people aren't looked at the same way as anyone who is clearly not white. we all.. know it. *sigh*

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  79. I applaud you for this honest and insightful post.
    Good for you!
    A shame that a good deal of the people commenting - whom this piece was meant for, are missing the point, and in some cases - perpetuating the very paradigms you sought to challenge.

    There were (too) many noteworthy reflections but I will address only a couple:

    I always say that I am almost always the first black (and African) person most of my non black counterparts interact with on an intimate level other than the cab driver or the maid. It is exhausting for me, but necessary - and better for the world.
    It is true that I have many Caucasian friends and have been in long term interracial relationships ...but often, I do not count on these people to truly "get" me and be there for me whenever I encounter racist acts. They almost always disappoint and I often get fed up with having to explain EVERYTHING all the time. It is alienating. It is sad.

    Even under more trivial circumstances, it is only ever a rare few souls who have the wisdom and courage to objectively look at the world (even when their privileged position does not impose any need for them to), speak up and do what is right. I do not expect the entire Caucasian population to be extraordinary because as you stated, socialization runs deep.

    However, as we continue to move forward into a world that is becoming more and more globalized, I do strongly encourage Sincere reflection (however uncomfortable) and Active, open Listening - as this goes such a long way.

    I often do not expect to be fully understood as I could never know what it feels like to live as little person/dwarf (although I try to empathize and acknowledge that I do NOT know) and hence, I don't expect the average Caucasian to know what it is like to walk in my shoes.

    But a sincere effort to understand me - to NOT immediately dismiss me, demean my experiences, disregard historical residue and my very "self" - goes such a long way. And that is when trust can be nurtured and evolution can take place for all parties involved.

    Again, thank you for your words. You have done what is right and I hope to hear about more and more people like you in the world.

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  80. This is a very powerful piece. Thank you :D

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  81. Thank you..if only more people wers as introspective and..HONEST!

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  82. really well written, honest and powerful piece. Isms are so intertwined and culturally based that its tough to rank them on their level of urgency however; one of those "isms" (misogynism/sexism),around since the beginning of time with no sign of letting up, is so pervasive (class/caste-less) throughout all societies it only helps perpetuate things like racism etc...

    Katie Prout, piece, was not trying to justify her silence but we all immediately understood why, self-preservation. The bigger issue is why normalize her being afraid to speak up against a Man? If said latino was a latina, we wouldn't have had this post to reflect on in the first place and it would have been a teaching moment to said latino. I wholeheartedly believe that until women are free,my struggle, our struggle (the "being black" struggle) will never cease to exist and divide us even further.

    I think more people need to read this blog and I will forward it to as many people as I can. I do not want to be SILENT.

    One of my favorite quote was: " if you have come here to help me you are wasting our time. But, if you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together."

    Katie, as a prisoner to misogyny and the other isms I thank you for fighting with us for our freedom and liberation brave soldier!

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  83. Thanks for your thoughts, Katie! I've been grappling with some similar issues and this was very thought-provoking for me! :)

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  84. K, I think you are being unnecessarily hard on yourself. It is another myth or misconception when you are raised in white privilege that what YOU say in any single solitary moment will really have that big of an impact on anything.

    It rarely does.

    And your caution about your own physical safety, alone with a man you don't know, trumps any moralizing you could have done in that moment.

    There is another issue to, that you don't mention. There is a strong likelihood of truth that bikes are being stolen in greater number at libraries located in low-income areas (regardless of the color). He framed it in color, but if he framed it on economics, such as ("At these other libraries in the poor areas, my bike gets stolen ... there are these gangs of boys that go around stealing bikes") then would you have been okay with it? Because said this slightly different way, I will bet my $.02 that what he was saying was factually true.

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  85. Another HUMAN BEING stands up and identifies themself. How many more are standing/will stand? I love the human 'race' coz no one wins, we all get to arrive at the finish line, in our own time, at our own pace. THEN we get to answer for HOW we ran the race!

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  86. Kate, you have packed a lot of insight into this piece. I've been doing workshops for white people for several years that get at some of what you are saying here, where I basically talk about how big these problems are and how we get stalled out because we don't know how to solve them. But really the first step toward change is that white people have to speak up whenever we can. We find lots of excuses not to, and many of them may be valid in that moment, but if we don't start there we don't ever start, and that's how we got to this point. Thanks for sharing your struggles with this issue. Hope its okay if I share this with the folks that I talk to in the future...

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    1. I am going to amend my statement. The first step is noticing injustice, which white privilege allows us to ignore most of the time, and then feeling responsible for doing something. Speaking up is the critical first step in actually doing something about it.

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  87. I would love feedback on a situation I had just the other night, because I find that reading the part about where you did not say anything to him, familiar. As Allies we have been taught to listen more than speak. I also don't think it's appropriate for white people generally to 'check' people of color on what's racist, so I am having a hard time with this piece and struggling. What happened the other night: I, a white woman, went to dinner with 10 other people, all African American. We were sitting next to two tables of almost all Asian Americans-10 per table, and the word "nigga" kept coming out of some of their mouths. It made me very uncomfortable, as it did my company. I said straight up out loud to the group, "If they were white, I would check them, but they're not." And this is how I feel still. Exactly because of White Supremacy, I felt like it would be not only an awkward dynamic for telling people of color how to talk, but also possibly endangering the lives of the people I was with, being that it apparently is ok to kill Black people in this country and get away with it. So....I am still really struggling with that part. Maybe it's the way you approach it, but I am still trying to wrap my head around a white person taking the kind of action you are talking about. Maybe it's situational, but from your piece I didn't get that. Thoughts please from people who have been doing anti-racist work for a long time....

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    1. I can sympathize with fearing for safety because you never know how strangers might react. I also understand you don't want to look like the pedantic "White Savior." On the other hand, if people are people and bigotry is bigotry, why should a member of a minority get a pass when they're being bigoted to a different minority? Does it amount to special treatment of them for being a minority, as opposed to just treating them like a person? Definitely an awkward situation for you. I think I would have done just what you did: Taken a cue from the people I was with in order not to cause a disturbance, but let them know I was uncomfortable and disgusted with the behavior of the other party, just as they were.

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    2. I had a similar issue pointed out to me last year. I will never forget what she said.

      Over drinks, one of the members in my book club said, "I don't care if that person is old. They shouldn't get a pass on being called out on their racist comments just because they're old. They're a racist and we should say something."

      I have used the "well, they're older and a part of a certain generation so.. it's not like they're going to change" idea to not confront. A part of me felt disrespectful by the idea of confronting people older than me? And by older, I mean people who could be my parents or grandparents. It's an odd one.. At least it was until she pointed that out.

      She is right. I haven't looked back since.

      AND, for a while there I hung out with a lot of Indians. My jaw DROPPED at all the racist comments I heard, said in light tones. I loved that group of people. They were really cool but they also said a lot of ignorant racist stuff, too. Some people just didn't see it as such a big deal. It was the first time I truly understood not just white people are racist and it isn't ONLY white people who need to check their racism. White people are the primary racist group in MY experience (because, well, I'm white). I hadn't thought that the world beyond white people would ALSO be racist.

      The commenter above is right. Racism is racism, bigotry is bigotry and in the end we're all people. We need to check each other on our ignorance.

      However, considering the situation you were in.. I'm not sure you could've done anything better? Or maybe? I don't know. I think you certainly did the best you could.

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  88. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I have been losing my mind the last few weeks trying to talk about racism with other white people and finding myself turning into a totally patronizing, finger wagging asshole. This piece is brilliant and raw and honest.

    In solidarity,

    Jaime

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  89. I believe the only way to disarm men like this is to express empathy and love and disrupt the person's story. This man is living a life of fear and hate, how aweful, right? Your anger is better expressed in some kind of safe container that isn't going to put you in danger. What would have happened if you could have said something like "I hear its really hard for you to see people as individuals in the present moment, its much easier to lump a group of people together, but if we want to end the violence and stealing and other things that scare us in this world, the only answer is to love everyone as best we can...and its clear to me that what you really want is to feel safe and to love." What a whammy, pow, right to his heart. Racism runs deep, fear runs deep, and this world needs healing and love more than anything else. Thank you for sharing your experience, and I'm happy you can be so transparent about what is happening in your head and heart about this experience.

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  90. So perfectly said. I'm a white female and I've had horrible racist things said to me time after time again by fellow white people - in conversations with strangers and even more unfortunate, with people that I know. And shockingly, while on job interviews when nobody in the room was anything but white. I can't stand it. I can't stand this idea that some people have that all white people are in some secret club and that we all agree with the horrible ideas that certain people have - and that some dare to say out-loud without a second thought. It sickens me. Not to make light of it, but do you remember that skit that Eddie Murphy did back on Saturday night live where he was disguised as a white man? It was silly and humorous but very real in some ways.

    And you're right - sometimes it feels safe to say to these people that what they have just said is horrible and antiquated and sickening. But unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't seem safe to say so at all. It's those times that we definitely wonder if we should just go ahead and risk it - and then we wonder if since their minds will never be changed by anything that we could say, is it just a dumb risk where we could end up getting really hurt. It's during those times that I think back to the decades when my parents were my age with the civil rights marches and the bus rides and sit-ins that risked lives - and took many lives as well and wonder if I would have had the courage to be involved.

    Thanks for writing this. I know that it must have been hard. People are sharing this post all over the place and I think that it's a very good thing that they are. I hope that it makes people think - all kinds of people, no matter what our thoughts are on the current climate that our nation is in.

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  91. Well, Miss Kate great job putting into words what I have suspected all along for some non-minority Americans! I am not much for expletives, but I was deeply and utterly moved by your writing. Let me just start by saying, I am aware sometimes more than others that I am Black. It is a gnawing in the belly that is ever present... to be Black in America. "Land of the Free! Home of the Brave!" I love this country. It's all I know! However when cases like Trayvon's surface I begin to feel more and more like a stranger in a foreign land, only because I am jolted back into the reality that although I don't wear hoodie, listen to rap or wear my pants saggy... I am still considered to be public enemy number one. It doesn't matter that I almost have my graduate degree completed, that I have never had a run in with the law or that I love all people, God's people. The gnawing persists and I am still Adrienne B. Rumph--- Black woman first! I ABSOLUTELY LOVE BEING BLACK! I LOVE BEING ME! And I thank you for dedicating yourself to use your voice to stand for truth. It has motivated me to want to do more and want to be more for my fellow man! And my hope and my prayer is eventually one day all little Black boys like Trayvon will be able to make it home! Bless you! (Less expletives next time, please! :)

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  92. THANK YOU! I appreciate your honesty, openeness, your heart. This is the kind of dialogue we all need to be having. Without the politics or talking points but speaking bravely from the heart human to human about our life experiences. As a bi-racial woman I am keenly aware of both sides of the issue. I understand white fear and Black rage is all too familiar. I have had to make peace with both sides of racial issues and I know how amazing it would be if all people had an understanding of the complexities of racial issues. They are real but they do not have to be divisive. I am really proud of your Essay. Keep being amazing. So much love to you.

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  93. What a great, deep, heart-felt piece. Thank you for sharing your thoughts Kate. I am truly moved by your words. The sentiments you express. The questions you raise. Kudos!

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  94. Thank you for writing this. My immediate reaction while reading was tears, for you, for the man with the bike, for Trayvon Martin. For every boy, girl, man, woman who has been killed or traumatized by racism and discrimination in any form.

    A few comments on the comments:

    Someone commented on the way you generalize men, and quoted this piece of your writing below. I would like to add to this conversation and to those readings this and perhaps thinking the same as the commenter that indeed women must be careful in lone interactions with men. This is not a prejudice, this is a truth. I myself have been alone and confronted by men throughout my life. To those who question or judge the writer for her comments on this, do not. She is stating her experience as a woman in the world. Do not deny her this, it is her truth. This goes especially to men. Perhaps, you as man have never approached, threatened or intimidated a woman, but do not deny that it happens all the time. It has happened to me, my mother , my female friends, so get real, ok. I have had a white man try to break into my car in a parking lot- I screamed NO! and scared the shit out of him and called the cops. I have had a group of Spanish men approach me while walking down the street, commenting and surrounding me, a white man came up and walked me to get me out of the situation. My mother was in her car in and a black man tried to break in and she scared the shit out of him. This is not an issue of race- that is being a woman in the world, ok. Shall I site more incidents? I have plenty. Men of all color comment and say sexually charged things to woman. This is daily. So there is a threat. So, leave the writer alone.

    "I am a woman, and my life has taught me that lone [black people] who approach lone woman and say socially inappropriate and/or controversial things are unpredictable, and therefore dangerous. I've told lone [black people] before that I don't like what they say, that I want them to leave me alone. In response, I've been followed, had rocks thrown at me, been physically intimidated until I'm pressed up against a brick wall with a drunk and angry face inches from mine shouting WHAT DID YOU SAY BITCH? I'M GONNA BEAT YOUR ASS."

    To Stephanie: Indeed this woman's writing matters. How do you discredit this? Have you sat down with yourself and faced your own ideas, questions and prejudices in the world? There is a great disconnect in conversation and understanding between races especially white and black. Instead of criticism, why don't you sit down and write your own truths. Silence is the problem, misrepresenting your truth is a problem. Taking it out on others who are putting their soul into grappling, and wrestling with issues that face us daily such as racism is a problem. And let's not pretend that reverse racism does not exist. I've been there too. If you want details, let me know I'll share them with you. EVERYONE regardless of race needs to confront their own stereotypes and discrimination, whether you are white, black, purple or pink. NO ONE is exempt from this. Not you, or you or you or me.

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  95. Katie, this is a powerful piece. I am struggling with finding the right words to describe the impact this piece had on me. I find myself taking the path of silence far more often than I would like for so many reasons. Next time I am an unwilling listener to someone spouting ignorance, I don't need to, and shouldn't, stay silent. Thank you.

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  96. Forgive yourself, Kate. Without your misstep, you would not have this lesson, these thoughts or this beautiful piece of work to share with the world.

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  97. Katie,

    Perhaps you didn't say all you could've said in your encounter, but your facial expression did do some of the talking for you. The man saw that you were shocked and obviously knew WHY considering what his reaction was. He knew you weren't shocked that bikes were being stolen in the city, but because he had made a racist comment. So don't beat yourself up too terribly; you DID get a message across, even if it wasn't complete.

    I have to admit, though, that I can relate. I have a transgender friend who I was in a public place with the other day. While her back was turned, an older man, a stranger, who worked there, made an exaggerated disgusted-amazed-puzzled face in her direction and shook his head. I think it's safe to say he had no idea that I was friends with the person he was mocking and didn't see us walk in together or he would've made sure MY back was turned too, when he did it. I gave him a stern look that I hoped said, "do you have a problem with my friend?" but I'm not sure he got that message. He waited on me cheerfully enough after that, so I don't know. I would've expected him to either look at me like I was "weird" too, by association, or to be more curt in our transaction if he had understood "the look." Maybe he mistook it for simple impatience with his delay in service. Maybe he just decided he should remember where he was and act a little more professional and pretend nothing happened.

    Part of me says it was better not to have "caused a scene" at that place and time, and part feels like I failed as a friend for not actually opening my mouth and saying something in my friend's defense. She has said before that she's "used to" people staring, whispering, etc., but being "used to" it might be a stoic front. Down deep, it might still hurt. I guess that's something my friend and I shouldn't be afraid to have a discussion about.

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  98. This. Was. Amazing. From one PERSON to ANOTHER, I appreciate the honesty. Whew! *Sharing

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  99. Thank you for posting this I think folk find it easier to make negative comments when they don't put their name or face to their comment. i am a 63 yr old Lesbian Black woman who has been an activist for years and I appreciate your honesty, don't let your growth stop, because some may not agree with what you said. I appreciate your honesty and willingness to look deeply inside yourself and share it with the world, you give me hope

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  100. Oh my gosh.. Tears from that last paragraph.

    This is the honest conversation that is needed. It makes me so choked up. When we do not speak up about injustice, especially when we are in a place of power, it hurts a great deal. It IS the silence. It is the silence that kills.

    I just.. you said it. You did it. And I know what you mean. Some days I speak up, some days I don't. Some days I'm too tired to fight the battle and I just want to rest.. but then letting things slip by because I'm scared?? You're right.. there are people that face much more difficult and scary things than I do simply by walking into the grocery store. I need to remember that.

    Those people are heroes. I face less risk (risk because I'm a woman but I'm basically a second-tiered privileged person since I'm white). I don't think I truly recognized any of this until the last few years. You so well stated the problem we face on our end. I posted your link on my facebook and I will continue posting it elsewhere because it is important. Really, important.

    Thank you for working so hard to write this.

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  101. It's been my experience that people born in other countries, who've moved to the U.S. from Israel, Russia, China, Ireland, and many other places -- have very negative attitudes towards Black people in the U.S., and, because I'm white, they do not hesitate to share their negative attitudes with me. Like you, it's hard to speak up, and say "that's wrong".

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  102. I am mixed race and an example of racial idiocy in our society. I was adopted so I know little about my complete heritage. I know that my birth mother was a young white girl from Utah, probably Mormon. I know that my birth father was also mixed race and spoke Italian, Spanish and French and had olive skin. I also know that because of his mixed race, probably African American as well, I was tagged by the adoption system in Utah as Black.

    Now this worked out for me wonderfully. I was adopted by two people who gave me a life I am eternally grateful for. My Mom and Dad were African American and loving parents of a sandy haired, grey eyed little kid who everyone thought they were taking care of for some nice white couple. And I was entirely clueless about it until one day on vacation in Texas at about age 5. When a store clerk happily let me play with a toy ship while she brutally shooed away my cousin because she thought I was white and he was black.

    Later in my life in Utah, in a neighborhood of mixed working class families, I discovered another type of racism. The African American kids rejected me as not Black because I looked white. Despite my legal status at that time and my parents. The Hispanic kids knew I was not white or black and certainly not Hispanic. And the white kids, who could not explain my black parents, equally decided I was an outsider.
    This meant I was often bullied by all three local communities and really never fit into any.

    But again this worked out for me. I found friends who didn't care, friends who are with me now 45 years later. And it created in me a deep distaste for racism of any kind and formed my belief in the equality of all people regardless of race, religion, nationality or any other single aspect of who they are.

    I am sharing this story because there is another race issue to consider. I am representative of a growing community of people around the world who are multi-racial. We are not black, we are not white. To adopt a single race means denying our own heritage. I am thrilled by revelations that my heritage my have Celtic roots, I am proud that my heritage includes African Americans. And I am fascinated to know why my birth father spoke so many languages.

    I inherited their races, and I inherited their shared musical abilities. One of the few things I know about them both. But what they gave me was a racial challenge that I am eternally grateful for. I am not any one race and that gives me the ability to choose to just be human instead. So when i am asked what race are you? I say HUMAN.

    Perhaps the solution to our racial problems is for all of us to learn to make our race nothing more than one aspect of who we are and to make the whole of who we are definitively and proudly HUMAN.

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  103. i read that poem and i really enjoyed it. thanks for providing the link. i feel that it really captured the complicated and dangerous aspects of different expectations. and like you it is a very different poem with the last two lines.

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  104. As a black woman I'd like to say that I appreciate the emotional honesty of this piece. But I also hope you understand that all of this angst means nothing without action. I think America as a whole fails to realize that blacks have only been complete people in the eyes of the law, theoretically free from discrimination, since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. A whopping 49 years we've enjoyed all the rights and privileges of American citizenship, compared to the roughly 250 years we spent as slaves and the 200 we spent as second class citizens. And even aside from the meta level discrimination (rowdy white teenagers are just harmlessly rebellious, while rowdy black teenagers are gang members, drug dealers or violent criminals), there are all the little ways in which black people have to make white people feel comfortable. Before every job interview, I struggle with whether to wear my hair in its natural curls or straighten it, lest I be deemed a political radical or merely too "unkempt". When I walk places holding hands with my almost 6ft, 200lb, bearded fiance (who is black as well), I cringe when I see women who pass by us clutch their purses tighter. These and a thousand other microagressions happen daily.

    As a white person, by calling out racism the worse thing that happens is someone calls you a name, or maybe you lose a friend. For black people, often the price of self dignity is at best monetary- a job promotion you lose for not fully enabling "good old boy" corporate culture. For the unlucky ones like Trayvon, it's your life. I don't mean to beat you up. But somehow many white people remain silent, and think the guilt they feel somehow makes up for the blood that has been and will continue to be shed if things don't change. It's not.

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  105. Honestly, I didn't think I was going to enjoy this; I'm a white man with liberal sympathies, but I also don't tend to like white feminists lecturing other white people about race. I also don't like excessive cursing in essays like this.

    I say this, not to criticize, but to emphasize the profound effect the end had on me.

    As someone who works in a predominantly black neighborhood at a non-profit, and who also moved from an overwhelmingly white city to Memphis, which is 63% black, I've had too many of those experiences and been silent way too often. I need to speak out, just as much as anyone else, without lecturing people.

    And when I read the last 2 paragraphs, I realized you got it just right. As whites, we can go into the suburbs and not be victimized; we can also go into the ghetto and be targets for mugging or violent crime, like any other race. And goddammit, we have an obligation to try to understand our privilege and the lack of it anywhere else! We have to speak up and serve, take it beyond the blogs and into our city. Of course, this isn't only a white mission, but as the privileged majority, we have to make the effort and actually help people.

    Bless you all. I hope we can heal this wounded country eventually; Lord knows we have to try.

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    1. Wow. You can minimize this piece to a white feminist lecturing about race? Talk about a generalization.

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  106. GREAT ARTICLE.
    This is a very insightful article that I can relate to. Growing up in Texas I heard the n-word used frequently, saw many confederate flags flown with impunity, and witnessed the overt racism that was always present. One of the reasons I left my home state over 25 years ago. I literally got tired of arguing with people over things like "black people just aren't as smart as white ones.." and bla bla bla. They just could not see the social and historical aspects that created racism and inequality. More disturbing is that so many people, white people, do not care about challenging the inequalities. I have kept quiet out of just trying to not make waves. I was an insecure, long haired, punk rock loving pot head, so my arguments were just discredited because I was quite obviously, a 'weirdo'. And I was (am) white and privileged! I fled Texas as soon as I could. I couldn't take it anymore and it was not good for someone struggling with mental health issues. You know its bad when even the privileged white boys (even if they are a little 'crazy')are running away because of racism. I admire people who stay and challenge White supremacy in the heartland.

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  109. This was gorgeously written. Thank you SO much for this. And I know everyone said this, but seriously, that last paragraph gave me goosebumps.

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  110. saw the link posted on Facebook...
    thank you...

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  111. Hey Patch Adams... I hope this works out well for you... I have many friends of many colors... however I try to avoid contact with thugs regardless of race... IMO blacks have a responsibility to stop dressing and acting like thugs... whites and all races have a responsibility to accept all decent folks into their lives... nuff said...

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  112. since we are beeing honest... here's a brave black woman... caution this may be too real for most folks.... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLTTX35LNJo

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  113. There is so much in this article I applaud and yet so much that is incomprehensibly wrong. I agree that, as citizens, if we see something that we perceive as wrong wrong, we should step up and do our part to make our society a better place, be it racism, domestic abuse, child abuse, theft, and so on. My only suggestion is that you find a better case to make your point. The Martin/Zimmerman case is just not that case. There are so many cases of actual racism (literally thousands), why adopt one that has nothing to do with racism?

    I must admit that when I first heard of this case, I was outraged that an innocent young man had been killed by a white neighborhood watchman for apparently no reason other than being black. But, as a reasoning, evidenced based, thinking person, I read the police reports, the medical report, the detectives report, the DA's findings, and listening to all the 911 tapes (not the NBC edited version I first heard in the media). After reviewing the evidence, it became clear that Zimmerman was justified in his actions. It is abundantly clear from the physical evidence that Martin instigated the confrontation. The conversation should have gone "Why are you following me?" followed by "What are you doing in this neighborhood?" At that point Martin could have answered, walked away, said F**K you, or anything but strike Zimmerman. (And yes, I know I'm going to get a lot of flack for making that assumption, but it is based on all the evidence, not intuition, or being white. Just as I don't actually know the sun is going to rise tomorrow, but based on the evidence, I'm fairly sure it's going to happen)

    So, I agree that it would be a better world if the author (and everyone else) intervenes when they see a wrong. At the same time, I don't believe we should persecute (and prosecute) Mr. Zimmerman for verbally challenging a hooded youth in his neighborhood that he felt was acting suspiciously. I have done the same in my neighborhood to both white and black strangers. None of them have attacked me, and I have shot none of them. In most cases, it ends with a conversation and me saying have a great night.

    I've rambled long enough. I am willing to accept feedback that is evidence or logic based. Anything else will simply be ignored.

    Thanks for reading.




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  114. I agreed with, and really appreciated, so much of this. But I have to say, I was struck by how much you blamed yourself simply for thinking of your own safety in not being confrontational when you were alone with a strange man who was deliberately saying something unacceptable. As you stated, you've been there before. I think most of us (women) have. We know where that can lead. It is ALWAYS appropriate to think of your safety in such a situation.

    While I understand what you meant in a larger, figurative sense, your instinctive self-preservation was not actually responsible for anyone's death that night. Though unlikely--but who can know?--making the opposite choice might have been responsible for yours, or at least for some other grievous harm done to you. Your last paragraph was excellent, but it also left me perplexed. Surely you must know that the fact that you "got to come home" from your walk to the store doesn't mean that it works that way for all women--yes, including white women.

    One of the most striking things about the way Trayvon Martin has been discussed by both the (white-dominated) media and random (usually white) people is how similar it is to how women who are raped and sometimes murdered are discussed by the (male-dominated) media and random (usually male) people. "What was (s)he doing walking alone there? Look how (s)he was dressed! I'm sure (s)he must have provoked him." We are natural allies, men of color and women of all colors. We must support one another and stand with one another. But we must also protect ourselves when our instincts demand it.

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  115. Great piece, and well written. As a Latino man, I appreciate the guilt! :-D

    I'd also like to offer as a possibility of something you may not have considered, that the man with the Bike said that awful thing to you, thinking it would make you feel SAFER with him. I actually thought that was where the story was leading. Compassion for all, right?

    Thanks for this piece so much!

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  116. I agree with the statements about eradicating racism/intolerance on all fronts-not just white against blacks or vice versa. My family is of Indian decent and we look...Middle Eastern. Some of my family members are Muslim. They are educated, respectful and loving people who also happen to practice a faith that has become taboo in the eyes of many of our fellow Americans. We can no more make sweeping judgments or accurate appraisals of others' character based on their religion of choice than we can their skin color. To me, it is a scary thing when someone you don't know (and who doesn't know you) shoots you a seething look and mumbles "rag head" beneath their breath, just loud enough for you to hear it. It is a scary thing when your family is pulled aside in the airport, pulled over or otherwise singled out because of the clothes they wear or the hue of their skin. I hope that that conversations like these eventually give way to similar ones regarding issues facing other Americans as well.

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  117. " I got up to go buy some snacks, and I walked through neighborhoods where I do not look, dress, or sound like anyone else. I still got to come home."

    Do me a favor, go to certain parts of Philadelphia, Detroit, Camden, Chicago, and Baltimore and walk around, white girl. See if you come home. See if you walk around without nobody staring at you or looking at you suspiciously. See if you don't get hollered at.

    I've gone through black neighborhoods and I've been yelled at, told to go home, and had things thrown at me.

    It goes both ways. Face the facts.

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  118. Reading all this from Sydney Australia... it's really well written but...: I don't like leaving my bike in certain areas here, even when I live in them, cos there ARE groups of, mostly young men, who'll definitely steal it, and have already stolen my bikes, who are poor usually because they are marginalised for whatever reasons - elements of their background and upbringing combined with current drug use and other behaviours linked back to the marginalisation [Sydney is very 'multicultural' so it's not a case of black/white/brown - Aboriginal people are over-represented clearly, but still in mixed groups]. So I'm thinking that your Hispanic acquaintance made an observation to you that was simply true from his own experience. Jumping down his throat would've achieved very little and possibly would have ended badly for you. So why don't you move past having angst about superficialities and look at why he perceives that black kids would steal his bike at that other library, and what you, with the clout of an educated white bourgeois citizen, can do with civic authorities and others to improve the life of those kids, get jobs into their neighbourhoods, and sports facilities and creative projects. Maybe you could take your creative writing project to that other library where the 'black kids' hang out? Because we are all 'in it for the long hall' [sic - I love the image though! dead man walking?]. Sorry for the ramble, the quality of your writing is very special, cheers, Aly

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  119. One time growing up in Philadelphia, I boarded a SEPTA bus. I believe I was the only white person on the bus. It was crowded and I was standing. Sitting in a seat next to me was a little black boy who was maybe six years old. I looked at him and he looked at me like he had seen a ghost. He exclaimed, "Ew, it's a white person! I hate white people!" I looked around, embarrassed, and everyone just looked down or looked away. The bus turned a corner and my leg lightly brushed the little boy's shoulder. "Ew, she touched me!" he said. No parent scolded him for saying that. Nobody told the boy to be quiet. Everyone just pretended I wasn't there.

    It was really embarrassing. And, yes, this is a true story. Racism goes both ways. A white person can go into a neighborhood (or on a bus) and made to feel unwelcome.

    Welcome to reality. Is there another self-righteous blog post for me to read now?

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    1. Honey, a little kid looked at you. You didn't get shot.

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    2. So... Racism doesn't matter as long as you don't get shot?

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    3. Well, for 1) you posted under anonymous, that also means "coward" on the internet 2) you're cluelessness undermines not her well done poem but also solving the problem of your lameness 3) pointing out other people's bad behaviors to justify being complicit of white people's bad behavior makes you guilty of the same. 4) you're a jerk

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  120. my friend's son was training to be a surgeon at a leading medical school on the west coast,, the director of the school, was the chief surgeon and it was near my friend's son's graduation...during the operation the director/surgeon started to tall a racist joke with the n word...my friend's son said at that moment duriing surery...I don't want to hear this...I never want you to speak this way in front of me again...there was a stunned silence and the operation continued in silence. After the operation the anesthesiologist came up to him and said "thank you" no one has ever said anything before and he always tells off color ethnic jokes and I have always hated it, but because who he was no one ever confronted him before. The father was Nathan Rutstein whose life was committed to combating racism, a former NBC newsman and editor, and educator at U Mass...his son has gone on to become an amazing doctor and human being committed to a world that accepts all people as members of his 'human family'

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  121. This is a nice piece, but it doesn't address (although it doesn't have to) the fact that bias and prejudice are common in non-white populations. Both in the US and abroad. Trying bringing a black boyfriend home in Arab communities.

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  122. It is almost like you are me. Small town white girl from mid-michigan somewhere between east lansing and flint goes to U of M and discovers that white people are not the only people in the world. Moves to Chicago, lives in Pilsen-esqe neighborhood....

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  123. You nailed it with this piece. Well done.

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    1. If there were any lingering doubt that you started a deep conversation, banish it now Katie. Moving, raw, poetic and brutally honest, your words help me grapple with an incomprehensible situation so far from home. --- a Texan in France who hopes we can all sit down together one day for a beautiful meal beyond race, religion or violence

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  124. Hi. Found you through Naked Girl in a a Dress through the Book of Face.

    I've been writing about this for a week now, and your poem, especially the last four lines pretty much crystallize my thoughts and feelings. Well done. You have a new fanboi.

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  125. I actually don't know what to say...but felt I should participate in your efforts of raising awareness.

    As someone who was raised in town that was racist (much like yours)...seeing the KKK march down our Main Street on MLK Day...to be raised as Black+Korean in a town of white people and a handful of blacks...to not fit in the black community...to not fit in the white community...to wonder if a person could understand a voice that had something to say but never knowing what that was...I'm glad to hear your speak up and say it for us.

    Racism in America is still very alive and present. Sometimes I still wonder if the white community realizes it. But reading your post...I know you do. And it gives me hope that others do too.

    Thanks for your brazen and candid writing.

    You ARE making a difference.

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  126. Did you smoke marijuana, hurl racial slurs, and attack a mexican on the way home? Nope? Me either. So I must be a racist. After all, if I didn't do any of those things, it must be because of my white privilege, and if you have the white privilege guilt complex, all whites are racist.

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  127. I personally believe I am more prejudice and judgmental than racist. I judge people by their accomplishments no matter what color of their skin. I see whites, blacks, Mexicans living in a ghetto, I judge them to be lazy and wasting their life. I judge them to be drug addicts or people with no motivation to live a better life. Living off the government pisses me off unless they have a true disability, not some made up one to replace the welfare money they lost after the reform. I get pissed when the white kid with facial piercings walks up to me, holding his skateboard and asks me for a dollar. I tell him "get a job, I Work too hard for my money to give it away to you". I don't get pissed when the black homeless guy comes up to me at the gas station and asks if he can wash my windshield. I will give Him a dollar. He is working for a living, not begging. The alcoholics standing with the cardboard sign...If you look like you messed up your life and there is no hope, I will give you my orange from my lunch. I even carry candy for them. The young kid- they have shelters to feed you, give you guidance, and try to change you before its too late.
    The blacks living in all black communities talking shit about the whites. I have a problem with them. Their families made them this way. They go to the store, to school, rarely exposed to whites but they hate us. I was born in 1960 and all my childhood spent growing up were in white neighborhoods. That's the way it was back then. I had what I needed, sometimes what I desired. Not rich, almost middle class. But I NEVER heard my parents utter a racial comment or joke. When I went to high school it was there I was exposed to black kids.
    All 6 of them. Their parents were well to do and they were very polite and popular kids. None of this acting all tough and gang banging stuff you see elsewhere. It was in high school the I was exposed to the racial jokes, I notice I don't hear racial jokes anymore. I think it was a thing of the 70's and 80's.

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  128. In the 90's I lived in a city that was hit hard by the recession. Black families were moving out of Los Angeles to escape the crime. All they did was bring it to this city. I delivered pizza as a part time job evenings for vacation money. This is where I learned true prejudice....towards me, a white person. I had Never in my life felt I was a racist. But these people were changing me. Going to their homes I was exposed to many things I had never seen before. Hell, there was one neighborhood that we couldn't deliver to at night. The building addresses were in large block letters on top of the apartment buildings for the police helicopters. I saw people smoking crack and almost every house smelled like weed. I had one young girl around 18ish answer the door and her toddler came to the door and peeked out, She screamed at the kid saying "I told you not to come to the door!" as she smacked her 2 yr old, sending her flying across the room. The loud rude talking I heard, no manners taught. The black people not tipping is something I Never understood. Again, I think of it as bad manners. I once picked up a book on etiquette at the library. It's a book on manners in different situations. Heck they even had a section in there on who to tip and how much. What really pissed me off is one episode of Oprah was on tipping and she said the pizza guy $1. Does she not know how dangerous of a job it is? How much wear and tear there is on our vehicles? How much gas costs? That really pissed me off and I never forgave her for that.
    You know how many black men came to the door in their underwear? And it was always the black man that pulled out his wad of hundred dollar bills flipping through them so I would be impressed with his money. Yes that was common.
    But It was the mexican kids who hit me with the bat from behind as I was knocking on a door and told me to give them my "fucking money" as they were grabbing the pizzas from my hands. It was the mexican gang of girls that got me in high school trying to pull me off the busy street into the bushes because one of them said she had a knife. It was those girls who picked me up by my legs and were slamming my head into the pavement. That one was my fault. I quit my high school of rich priviledged white kids and went to a continuation school. I wanted to work full time. I couldn't 'keep up with the Joneses' at my school. Sitting at the lunch tables outside one day we were talking about all the graffiti of Mexican wanna-be gang bangers written all over the tables. This one kid told me to write Mexicans suck goat utters...and being dumb, I did. I had the pen. He liked one of the Mexican girls and told her to get in their little click. The next day is when I was attacked. I told the principle. He said it was my fault and did nothing. I dropped completely out of high school. What is ironic about this is I married a Mexican and my kids are White Mexicans.

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  129. So my thing is I am a high school drop-out. I have worked most of my life. I find ways to make money if I want something. I have owned my own houses. Been a pizza delivery driver for many of those years. Had a housecleaning service for 10 of those years, built and started my own retail store and ran it for 2 years before selling in '05 to move out of state to help my mother with my father who was terminal (the business is still in operation and successful)I travel more than anyone I know. I have been all over the United States and Mexico. I have been divorced for 12 years now and still travel or go somewhere at least once a month. This year I have been to Hawaii, Washington DC, Solvang, Zion national Park, Big Bear, and various shows and attractions in Las Vegas where I live. I get to do all this because I work. I find a way to make decent money without an education. So I am prejudice of LAZY ASS people. I am judgemental. I dont care what color you are I look at lazy, not color. I am prejudice of people who collect food stamps and unemployment. In my mind I see you as White trash and low life. I hate you for making our country go into debt because of YOU! Because you want to be lazy and think the government owes you. It's not the government paying for your lazy asses to stay homw and get high and drink your cheap wine or beer. It's the hard working rich that own the companies giving people jobs that are being taxed so much they won't be able to keep afloat, so there goes more jobs for the rest of us. Or maybe they will just throw in the towel because they don't want to pay your lazy way anymore with their taxes. I'm nor racist. I'm judgemental!

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  130. We are socially trained to be sensitive to perceived offenses to blacks. Now, if it had been a black man on that bike saying the same thing about local Latino boys I wonder if it would have generated quite so much soul searching. You write well but with a lot of anger (which is different from passion). Please keep writing, soul searching, and sharing. - ForThemWhatCare

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