alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.

Are You a "Typical White Person"? Truth Is You Probably Are

I guess it's too much to ask...that white people who take offense to Barack Obama's "typical white person" comment stop to question whether they have themselves been intimidated by black men who pass them in the street and if they've ever personally used any racial or ethnic stereotypes that would make a person of color cringe--and that, if they haven't, they take a "if the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it" approach.

Like I've said a nonillion times or so, without rigorous self-examination, we're all racists (and sexists and homophobes...) by default, by virtue of our socialization in a culture steeped with negative stereotypes. One of my closest college mates is a black man who used as an example of internalized racism his own stiffening spine when he saw another black man coming toward him on an otherwise deserted street--even as he knew how deeply irrational and unfair it was. I've never been a nervous street-meeter--I tend walk with my head up and smile and say hi to everyone--but it's not like I didn't and don't have other internalized shit. The question is not whether we have biases; we all do. The question is whether we leave them unexamined.

So, yeah. To suggest that a typical white person has some sort of racist biases doesn't strike me as particularly controversial.

That said, such sweeping generalizations are dangerous because most people don't like to think that they have unexamined biases or--Maude forbid!--unexamined privilege. I have to be really careful when I'm talking about institutionalized sexism not to say "men" (or even "the typical man") but "lots of men" or "men who haven't thought about this issue" or something that makes abundantly clear my acknowledgement that I am not tarring an entire group with the same brush.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.