I’ve been giving a lot of thought to why W. is irritated in the "B. calls everyone racist; everyone has a cow" thread. And I’ve even read his own post on his site about it. And, actually, it was seeing the title of his post–"I Know How The Invisible Man Felt"–that really got me mulling.
Which Invisible Man? Wells’s? Or Ellison’s?
Because here’s the question I’d like to ask W. When you ask a question, do you expect an answer? I don’t just mean "Yes, I hope people will answer" I mean, can you, out in the world, so regularly expect to be responded to in a positive way when you come to someone’s attention that you interpret non-response as some kind of deliberate statement about what people think of you?
I’m still thinking about Short and Fat’s comment over at Watching the Defectives, too: "I consider racist a pretty ugly term on par with c*nt, n*gg*r, and f*gg*t especially when hurled at other people for no real apparent reason."
I was so taken aback that I had no response for him. I mean, America, please! How many white guys in the history of our nation have hung from trees while crowds of people stood and laughed below because those white guys were "racist"? How many white people leave bars well-known for their racist-friendly atmosphere in groups of two or three because non-whites wait outside for them to leave so that they can beat the shit out of them just for fun? Are all white people encouraged to dress modestly and to never go public places by themselves and to not get drunk in public so that they’re not perceived as racists and thus easy targets for rape?
It’s hard to talk about this stuff and uncomfortable, even for me, and I like to mull this shit over more than most people. But it’s precicely where Short & Fat and W. are upset that I’m starting to get a sense of the real stuff that’s unsaid, and, I presume, unacknowledged.
Here’s what it looks like to me: Some of us presume we will be responded to in some kind of positive fashion when we ask for something. Others of us are completely unaware of how afraid folks are of our capacity for violence, to the point where we can say with certainty that calling someone a "racist" is on par with calling other folks "nigger," "faggot," or "cunt."
I’m not trying to take anyone to task or to make anyone feel bad or to try to start any fights (though I reckon this may). I’m saying, this is what privilege looks like–that we can take for granted that we’ll always be interpreted in the best possible light and, if we aren’t, we experience that as extremely hostile and insulting.