Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Oops...didn't know we couldn't talk about race...

Let’s get serious for a minute. Stop groaning…shit, y’all know my ass has a serious side (wink). This may not be news to some of you, but others…well, a bitch needs to clear something up for y’all.

Going with the flow…
A bitch received an e-mail from someone today and would like to respond. The e-mail attempted to make the case that discussions of race fuel discontent and contribute to the cultural divide that we see in America today. Clearly, this bitch feels differently, but my ass does feel that such positions are worthy of a response.

Life doesn’t get better when you just ‘go with the flow’. Day to day interactions aren’t made easier when we seek to ignore or tolerate the diversity of our culture. To be clear, a bitch can’t fucking stand statements about tolerance. You tolerate a stench…you do not tolerate me. And my ass does not want to be viewed separate from or in spite of my blackness.

This bitch understands why you may want to play the tolerance game. There is a powerful myth behind it...that tolerance makes things easier...that, by not being different, you will somehow benefit as an individual.

And let me explain why my ass sees that as a myth. A bitch grew up in the 1980’s in a middle class predominately white section of St. Louis County. My first social interactions with my peers took place at school. There were maybe 5 other students of color in our grade school, which might not have been a subject of note except for the fact that a bitch was made glaringly aware by those peers that my ass was different…in a bad way. Each day, a bitch internalized that…embraced and believed it…and began to live it.

Different…in a bad way.

Tolerated…in spite of that difference.

And after internalizing that bullshit, this bitch responded in textbook fashion. My ass made it my singular goal in life to blend and fit in. My clothes had to be just right, my hair had to be ‘like theirs’ and my language…that great social indicator of race in America…had to be ‘acceptable’. This bullshit went on for years…me desperately altering and my peers, with surprising consistency, continuing to ‘tolerate’ me falling short of de-blackifying myself.

Eventually a bitch escaped to college and my ass was blessed to go to a school that had little patience for a conformist. The evolution of an AngryBlackBitch had already begun, but it bloomed when my ass was 17. Thankfully, this bitch evolved into a real person rather than a carefully crafted thing created to make other people feel more comfortable with all of those 'pesky little differences'. Over the years, this bitch has faltered…but never to that dark vacant state of blankness…oh no, my ass is never going all the way back there again.

Now, some may say America has moved on. Many would say that wee little black girls growing up in St. Louis no longer face a world where they are encouraged to play the tolerance game…that young people who are overweight are not stigmatized…that gay and lesbian youth are embraced with love and understanding. And those people would be wrong. But what we are talking about is why they are wrong.

No one can respect what you do not respect in yourself. No one will adore what you do not adore in yourself. But people will ‘tolerate’ what you ’tolerate’ in yourself.

This bitch is not invisible or particularly soothing…my ass is not that comfortable black friend who fits into a safe little box or passively absolves you of your bigotry…and this bitch doesn’t calmly ignore my own bigotry. To do so would be insulting…that tactic assumes that others aren’t capable of respecting me as a black woman and it assumes that this bitch isn’t capable of accepting them for who they are.

And guess what? Life didn’t get easier when a bitch embraced the diversity within me.

What it did was get honest.

So, no… this bitch does not agree that the problems and challenges facing America are exasperated by open discussions of race.

Honey, going with the flow doesn’t make it all better or make it go away. It’s still there…you’re still you.

Maybe one day you’ll want to be.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful post. I, too, have always taken issue with the use of the word "tolerance" in relation to race and sexuality.

AOB said...




shannon said...

My kids' school uses the Virtues system for discipline and teaching social responsibility. Tolerance is one of the virtues they tout. I can see how tolerance is a virtue, sort of, like maybe when it's the opposite of intolerance. But I think the real virtue is celebrating difference, not just tolerating it.

BarefootCajun said...

I dislike the word tolerance for those very same reasons. I still have not learned not to fight what makes me different but I'm trying to learn not to just tolerate myself but to accept myself. Funny, but for me it's much easier to accept others than it is to accept myself.

Admin said...

I hope that book you're writing includes this post and the one about invisibility.

Anonymous said...

THANK you I am so over that tolerance shit. Let me clarify. I am white, a female, b. 1952 in a small NC town. I actually remember them damn water fountains. I told my mama I thought it sucked when I was 4. I got my MSW from Howard. I think as white people go I may come close to getting it. But I am still a white girl. One thing I have learned is that I have to acknowledge cultural differences in order to appreciate them. To ignore the racial difference between my black clients in the homeless shelter and me is to ignore the crux of who they are. Believe me they'd lost enough. I learned to ask during initial meetings if each would prefer someone of the same race/gender/etc.

This country was founded upon dissention. That did not come about without serious debate. It's the only thing that can help us heal from all this and all that.

Sorry about the soapbox. I just hate that tolerance thing. Great post, You have fabulous insight, but I've told you that before!

soopermouse said...

what you guys need to understand is that this tolerance shit is not only happening in the USA. I have experienced it in Germany, because I am not white enough apparently. I have, to a point, experienced it in England as well.
Tolerance is a bad thing. It implies that the person who is being "tolerated" is somewhat inferior to those doing the tolerance. That it's a generozity act, like we tolerate( horrible word) the old incontinent grandma or the less-than-able nephew at the table.
Tolerance implies that there is a dominant culture that in its infinite "generosity" is allowing those inferior and less adjusted their little quirks.
Well, as far as I care, these people can take their tolerance and shove it.
We have nowadays in britain something called "embracing the diversity". This, I can embrace. We are all equal, although different, and no one's skin colour, culture, sexual preference or education is betterthan the one of someone else.
Not tolerance, like the kind masters of Gone With The Wind were tolerating Mammy's loud mouth, but acceptance as equals.
A comment from my roommate: we were reading about a famous mulatto musician moving from England to the USA. Nick said" why would he want to move to the most racist country of the world??" sad but true.

Disgusted in St. Louis said...

Great post ABB!

I was fortunate, growing up in the 70s, living and attending public school in University City, where I live again since returning to St. Louis a few years ago after 20 years in SoCal. I say fortunate because it was a time and place for me and I believe most of the other kids where race, religion, height, and weight had no bearing on friends and relationships (OK, maybe the geeks like me still got singled out, occasionally).

I experienced a different evolution when I attended college in San Diego in the late 70s. I was subjected to anti-Semitism during my freshman year and witnessed racism on campus. It surpised me, not because of a lack in experiencing it before, but because I was shocked to see it coming from supposedly intelligent kids from California (it was a UC school and over 90% were state residents). This completed my development of intolerance for bigots, racists, and anti-Semites. I admit to losing restraint on more than one occassion and delivering a lesson in physics to another student teaching them that this "jewboy" wasn't going to tolerate their bigotry.

Anonymous said...

Going with the flow allows the destructive status quo to continue unabated. People are in denial about racism, sexism, child rape, corporate dominance, global warming, and so many other diseases, and there is a cultural pressure to silence us on these matters. Ignoring that shit doesn't make it go away, it just lets the bastards win.

monkey said...


i think "going with the flow', means conforming, or at least shutting up just enough as not to irritate whitey.

just hush up about our differences, and it all goes away. what a bullshit, naive attitude to have, let alone spout off for others to take on.

Maven said...

I've always thought that "tolerance" had a real negative vibe to it. Some folks confuse tolerance with RESPECT. We do not have to totally homogenize ourselves with our neighbors so that where we end and they begin is indistinguishable. Rather, if we respect each other's each other's challenges and uniqueness we also end up opening ourselves up to new worlds we never would know about or experience.

I was THRILLED to find out today that Inga Muscio wrote a new book entitled, "Autobiography of a Blue-Eyed Devil: My Life and Times in a Racist, Imperialist Society." I put it on my wish list, but I don't think I'm going to wait for someone to gift me with it. If this book is anything like her womanifesto, "Cunt: A Declaration of Independence," I know I will not be disappointed.

Anonymous said...

Haha! I'm sorry that you grew up in a situation like that... sometimes the unspoken expectations of society can be cruel and unussual. I however, grew up and went to grade school in Atlanta, Georgia, with my best friends, Neil and San'il, who were both Indian, Joshua, who was white like me, and Alisha, a black girl. We were very close and while I can remember little of them in my old age of 23 (well, i feel old anyways :P ), I remember that race never was an issue. In fact, it was here in Texas that I first ran into racism, and strangly enough, it was against me, because I was white. I was at a new school and decided to go talk to some people and try to make friends. Apparently I broke the rules tho, because i was talking to a group of black kids, and I was white. One black eye and cracked rib later, I couldn't help but feel like this was a nightmare. It was really confusing at first, and after my second encounter I realised that the best thing to do was to walk on egg shells around that group, unless I wanted "a cap popped in my ass". The fact that they were black didn't bother me, it was the fact that they had no discipline or respect for others. It was all about them and "playin' da game". Am I racist for thinking these things? No, because I think it's uneducated and ignorent regardless of whether it's an asian, white guy, black guy, or latino speaking so horridly while grabbing their crotches and talking about how they mistreat and disrespect every girl they can.
I guess my point is that regardless of what kind of past we have, we will run into racism, sexism, and the like sooner or later if we already haven't. And please don't get me wrong. Later on, some of my best friends at that school were Ricky, Aaron, and Jordan, all of who were black(namely because all four of us were goth and we were nuts for Anime and Manga). Oh, and on a lighter note, if I get reincarnated, I do wanna come back as a black person! Why? The HAIR! You can do so much cool stuff with the hair! I've always wanted dredlocks, but it just doesn't look right with my hair! lol!

Merry met,
Merry part,
Be true to yourself,
Be true to your heart!


Boltgirl said...

I see "tolerance" as one of the baby steps we were supposed to take as a society on the way from officially sanctioned polarity to embracing and celebrating diversity. The big mistake, though, as other commenters here have pointed out, was casting our lot with "tolerance" rather than "respect." So when the religious right has screamed that granting full civil rights to gay folks, for example, forces them to condone and support people they consider abominations, we have countered by pointing out that they don't have to condone or support anything--they just have to acknowledge our freedom to exist as we are and not discriminate against us in public policy. Somewhere along the line that became equated with tolerance rather than respect.

But to be honest, when I look at some of these shiny white Quiverfull, evangelical families complete with wifely submission, I can't say that I respect that. If respect is truly defined the way "tolerance" currently is, then I respect them--I could not live as they do, but I fully support their right to live they way unimpeded by the government or their neighbors--but I don't see any common ground with them and can't fathom their belief system leading to a fulfilled human experience. In short, I feel about them precisely what many of them proclaim to feel about me--minus the desire to legislate or informally social-sanction them out of existence, of course.

Bougie Black Boy said...

....and this posting, alone, is the prime exactly why you are bougie too! Much love.

Kim said...

My grandmother in her eloquence once pointed out to me that shit floats downstream. So much for going with the flow.

Anonymous said...

My grandmother said the same thing. You are absolutely correct ABB. However, I will never be able to tolerant ignorant broken english in the workplace or functions. Keep that shit on the corner for a good laugh.

Peace Out

Anonymous said...

Gee, I haven't even thought about the word tolerance in ages.
As a white girl growing up in a Chicago South Side neighborhood that is a real mishmash of colors and nationalities, I went to public schools and loved it. Until 7th grade I hadn't a clue that the world attached a significance to people's skin color. I didn't know about poverty either, although there was an impoverished community next door. When I went to high school, located in that impoverished community, I was in a tiny minority and consequently my education was better (in a worldly way)than that of my classmates in college. My next confusion was when I entered college and found myself in the majority. My big hurt came in the dorm dining room, when I came to sit at a table of black girls and found that I wasn't welcome. That was in the late 60's. When we watched the news on the big TV in the common room and learned of violent unrest in many citiea, I was told "You just don't understand". I think I understood as much or perhaps better than these suburban black girls who all came from sheeshy prep schools.
For me, tolerance is what I try to have for bigots and other self-important people.
Respect is harder to grasp. I treat everyone with respect, although I do not respect (in the sense of honoring) those people I strive to tolerate.
Does that make me a bad-ass white bitch? I certainly hope so.wtv

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