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23 May 2012 @ 10:49 am
So. I know the classic racist cliche is "all those people look alike." And the inability to distinguish people of another ethnicity from each other is a fairly standard marker of prejudice.

I have moderate to severe difficulty telling faces apart in general; I tend to run with context, haircuts, and broad categories, and if those change or are too close to someone else's, I can't tell people apart without a lot of familiarity. (I've occasionally mistaken my sisters for each other, or not recognized them immediately, after not seeing them for more than a year. I only have two.) And this difficulty gets worse with PoC, especially if my brain keeps categorizing hairstyles I'm less familiar with as roughly the same thing.

This is a minor inconvenience when it comes to watching movies with a bunch of white guys in suits who I keep mistaking for each other. This is a problem when it comes to my inability to recognize people I interact with on a semi-regular basis. If I've been sitting next to someone in class three days a week all semester, I should be able to recognize them when passing them on campus, and often I can't.

I do not want to be the person doing the "all you people look alike!" thing to PoC. Even if I'm not phrasing it like that. Even if it's true for white folks too.

Does anyone know a way I can fix this, or work around it better? "I'm terrible at recognizing faces and remembering names" may well be the simple truth, but if there's a way to fix this, I'd really rather do so, rather than keep assuring PoC that, hey, it's not my fault I'm confusing them with other PoC. It's not like I have complete face blindness--I can recognize most people I deal with on a regular basis, if I do so in multiple contexts--so I'm hoping there's some way to make this better.
09 May 2012 @ 09:05 am
I wear a keffiyeh. I try my best not to be appropriative about it; it's a solidarity thing and I have talked to several Palestinian friends/associates about it and am usually reassured it's a valid solidarity thing. (And then they usually take it off my head and retie it.)

Today at a coffee shop, a little girl sitting with her mum pointed at me (in a peacoat with the keffiyeh tied around my head to keep the rain off) and said, "She's like us!"

The mum was clearly embarrassed and explained that the girl's father wears the same keffiyeh I do and told her it's not polite to point. I sort of looked at my feet until I bought coffee. I just wonder if I could have handled it differently.
26 October 2011 @ 08:52 am
Ohio State University's STARS group (Students Teaching Against Racism) created a series of posters reminding folks that Halloween costumes supposedly portraying a member of another culture (geisha, sheikh, gang member) are racist and hurtful. View the posters here:


Several stories in the news in the past few years have discussed people throwing "ghetto" parties on college campuses and the like. Please reconsider your choices if you have planned a Halloween costume or party like this, and please speak up when you see others doing so.
21 September 2011 @ 02:50 am
First post here— I've wanted to join for months but thought it might be best to read from the sidelines and only ask for membership when I had an actual question to ask. And now I do have a question, which also has been around for a bit but I didn't see anyone address it here yet. (Apologies if I missed it.)

I'm sure different people have different preferences on this, but as I gradually feel more comfortable writing about race problems and racism, I'm not sure when to speak of the Black community vs. the black community. I understand, albeit vaguely, that capital-b Black developed as a descriptor during the Civil Rights movement, but beyond the actual history of the term, I don't know when it's appropriate to use it now. I see some anti-racist activists and bloggers of various races using Black as a default (often using White as well instead of white), but for every one of them, I see someone who leaves everything lowercase. Is there a logic to this that I've missed?

In short, if Black still has connotations of Black Power and Black Pride, I want to make sure that I use Black in contexts that are respectful to those things, and I want whatever word I use to not sound well-intentioned but ultimately patronizing and presumptuous. On that same note, am I right to see a subtle difference when one uses Black and white instead of Black and White?

Thank you and I apologize if I've phrased any of this awkwardly/problematically.