Black Women Writers @ Southwestern University

An English / Feminist Studies / Race & Ethnicity Studies Course Blog

Commentary on “Something About the Subject Makes It Hard To Name”

1 Comment

Something I found to be particularly interesting in Gloria Yamato’s 2004 work is her delineation between the forms of racism she has observed. They are as follows: 1) aware, blatant racism, 2) aware, covert racism, 3) unaware, unintentional racism, and 4) unaware, self-righteous racism. I believe she does a good job at revealing the different faces that racism can show, and through that, also solidifies her position that racism is completely pervasive in our society. While aware, blatant racism is the most visible and vicious, I believe that the other 3 sorts can be equally, if not more, harmful than the first.

While aware, blatant racism is certainly awful, the use of it can be pretty strongly associated with radicals and therefore easily be written off as the rantings of a person with antiquated and backwards morals, but the other three cannot be. Aware, covert racism can make a person’s life simply more difficult to live, and it is also harmful to a person’s self identity, causing questions to arise within a person as to why this person may have lost their job, have to pay exorbitant rent, or for some reason not be able to find vacancies in hotels. With persistence, this can cause the internalization of racism, and severely diminish a person’s self image even more. Unaware, unintentional racism can be equally as deleterious to self image and just as able to internalize the racism a person is experiencing. Unaware, self-righteous racism seems a bit silly to me. What right does any person outside a culture have to tell a person within that culture to be more active in that culture? None.

I will leave you with a question: Which form of racism would you consider most harmful, and why?

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One thought on “Commentary on “Something About the Subject Makes It Hard To Name”

  1. Some of these forms of racism are addressed in Ann duCille’s “The Occult of True Black Womanhood”. On p.604 of the essay, duCille writes “Indeed, the question of who is authorized to teach African American discourse is riddled with ironies, paradoxes and contradictions. Black scholars duly and properly trained and credentialed in traditional fields–medieval studies, for example–are often assumed or expected to be ready, willing, and able to teach black studies course.” This quote makes the reader aware of a racism towards black scholars that could be interpreted to fit unaware/unintentional racism or unaware/self-righteous racism. Professors in the academic community may assume that they are being nice to the black scholar by allowing them to teach a black studies course (something they must be interested in teaching) while perhaps catering to minority students (who must only be comfortable being taught black studies by a black scholar). This situation could also be interpreted as unaware/self-righteous racism. Despite these scholars being trained in subjects that they are truly passionate about, they are expected to endorse and enjoy teaching Black culture. For these Black scholars, clarifying their lack of knowledge on black culture or passion towards another field must put them in a very uncomfortable situation.

    In response to your question, I would not consider any form of racism more harmful than the rest. However, I find the unaware/unintentional racism the most troubling. I think it’s fair to assume that everyone has had an encounter with this type of racism or seen it addressed in public. When someone is addressed on this type of racism, they can react defensively (somehow confirming to everyone else that they are indeed racist) or feel an overwhelming sense of guilt (which helps them confirm to themselves that they are indeed racist). Though we are all racist in some way or form, it is hard enough to admit this to yourself without invalidating all of ways you have fought against oppression in your life and all of the good things you have done. Actually having a conversation with others about the ways you are or have been racist can be even more difficult. Having a conversation about race is opening yourself up to the criticism of others and trying to work through your uncomfortable feelings. Then, for those who have been at the receiving end of unaware/unintentional racism, experiencing this can lead the person to lose hope for humanity, distrust others and constantly wonder how these problems can still occur when the internet is supposed to inform people about the issues of the world and bring people together.

    I think Yamato indirectly addresses the lack of “safe places to actually feel what we’ve been forced to repress each time we were a victim of, witness to or perpetrator of racism” that exist in our circles, our home, our world and even our college campuses.

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