Defining Racism in the United States: A Starting Point

29 Jul

racism_logo_sqThere has been an amazing amount of discussion after I posted my Paula Deen/ Trayvon Martin story.  While I am so appreciative of much of the conversations, I have to admit a few items gave me pause.  I shared this article on LinkedIn’s Diversity A World of Change group and I’m not sure that several people, while prolific in their comments, truly understand the definition of the word Racism.

Sadly, Racism, Prejudice, Discrimination, and Bigotry seem to be used a great deal as though they are interchangeable.  These words are not interchangeable — they are not all synonyms for Racism.  Racism has to contain an institutional and structural power dynamic.  Here in the United States that power dynamic is held primarily by white, heterosexual, middle-aged, Christian, well educated men; these are the people who establish norms in our society and have a great deal of unearned privilege because of the color of their skin.  This group, called the dominant culture, creates laws and policies — laws and policies that have an ugly history and were designed to help white folk while oppressing folks of color. Thus, Racism is: structural, institutional and systemic power that allows for discrimination and bigotry affecting someone’s health, well being, safety, and livelihood based on real or perceived racial or ethnic affiliation.

Perhaps a bit of a history lesson might be useful here.  Let us keep in mind the multi-generational impact of these laws both economically and emotionally.  1857 the Dred Scott Decision: The Supreme Court said that all people of African dissent were not and could not be counted as citizens of the United States.  Let us jump to 1935 with the start of Social Security — a great act to be passed, but sadly it did not initially apply to anyone who was not white, a significant economic impact.  Now let us move to the 1945 GI Bill — great opportunity for soldiers returning from WWII. Sadly, this bill did not initially apply to any of the soldiers of color returning from WWII.  Here we see a HUGE economic impact for generations of whites with great advantage and thus a huge disadvantage for multi-generations of people of color.  The GI Bill allowed for white soldiers to buy their first home and get a college education; this would qualify as unearned privilege due to one’s skin color.

Let us jump to 1954 when we witness the Termination Act.  The Termination Act stripped ALL Native Americans from their identities as our government told all of these people: “Okay, you are white now, so you must live in the cities and turn over your lands to the U.S. government.”  The cultural and financial impact on Native Americans was and remains profound.

Even more recent and disgraceful is SB1070 adopted by Arizona in 2010 and then adopted by Alabama in 2011, which demands that ALL Latinos/Hispanics must have proof of citizenship on them at all times.  If someone with dark skin that is, or is perceived, to be Latino/Hispanic and cannot provide documentation of citizenship, they can be put in jail.

I approach the work of equity and marginalization as a gay man.  Working as an agent of change means I am also obligated to know about the start of Gay Liberation in 1969.  The LGBT community has a long history of being targeted and imprisoned.  Until 2003 with Lawrence v. Texas, it was against the law to be gay in the United States.  Sadly, regardless of Lawrence v. Texas, it is still against the law in most states in the south.  In fact, the LGBT community have zero rights and protections in almost all of the South.  My personal call to action is to stand in solidarity with all those that are oppressed by the dominant culture and to honor their narratives–to understand how LGBT people of color are targeted and why.

This history is carried with all targeted people and passed down from generation to generation, much like if you are Jewish your family knows about the Holocaust because it affected your family for many generations.  Of course, the impact is more severe if one carries more than one of these identities.  For example, if you are a woman and a woman of color or if you are a man and a gay man of color, the impact is far worse.

Finally, let us illustrate the sad state of racism in the United States with the belligerent, bellicose, bigot Ted Nugent.  As of late, Nugent seems to be the appointed spokesperson of the GOP.  In response to the Zimmerman verdict, Nugent went on a racist tirade:

Why wasn’t Trayvon [Martin] educated and raised to simply approach someone he wasn’t sure about and politely ask what was going on and explain he was headed home? Had he, I am confident that Zimmerman would have called off the authorities and everything would have been fine.Why the nasty “creepy a– cracker” racism and impulse to attack? Where does this come from? Is it the same mindless tendency to violence we see in black communities across America, most heartbreakingly in Chicago pretty much every day of the week?…When you live in a fog of denial, usually inspired by substance abuse — you know with all the lies about dope being a victimless crime, I think you’re listening to the victims of this dopey crime, because their brains are fried. They’re either fried on substance abuse, and all of them know who I’m talking about.

The fact that the severely misguided and undereducated Nugent feels justified making these very public racist comments, along with people like Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robertson makes it quite clear that we still have a long way to go around issues of racial and gender equity.

Call to action: Imagine how powerful we could be if all of the targeted populations joined together to stop this type of oppression and even more powerful if we enlist the support of all of our allies that are within the dominant culture?

My hope in publishing this article is to encourage and invite people to engage in a meaningful dialogue around the issues of race, gender, power, and equity.  I hope many will contribute to this conversation in a respectful manner and also correct me if I have committed any trespass in my exposition here.  That being said, I certainly appreciate all of the comments people offer on the Facebook and on LinkedIn; might I invite you to also share those comments here on the blog, so as to reach a larger audience?


36 Responses to “Defining Racism in the United States: A Starting Point”

  1. dykewriter July 29, 2013 at 6:58 am #

    Social tolerance of racism becomes systemic oppression

    the expression of bigotry is a person with a prejudice and the power to enforce it

    the term racism is archaic and incorrect – there are no subspecies of homo sapiens

    what we need to do is be allowed to prevent stupid people from being in charge

    and that’s just practically workplace management

    and at the society level. we need a religious test for political office to prevent them from holding one

    • dykewriter July 29, 2013 at 6:59 am #

      and average intelligence is not smart enough for leadership

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 29, 2013 at 7:01 am #

      Nina, it does seem that, in some respects, people’s tolerance for more subtle forms of racism has sadly increased.

      • dykewriter July 29, 2013 at 7:11 am #

        I think it’s part of this bizarre

        everyone’s entitled to express their opinion

        no matter the lack of factual content

        or logic

        or being socially capable

        it’s like things that used to be rare mental health conditions are now the social norm

        capitalism is psychopathic predation of the worst kind

        and the worker class voting to maintain it

        all I can think is John Stienbeck’s quote

        americans don’t realize they are an exploited proletariat

        they think they are temporarily embarrassed millionaires

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 29, 2013 at 7:13 am #

        Nina, there is certainly a culture of spouting opinions without facts. I call it the Fox News model culture.

      • dykewriter July 29, 2013 at 8:25 am #


        yes, they tried to enter the Canada market

        but they failed to meet the legislative definition of news and was told

        proganda is not news in canada

        while in the US, they went to court and won the right to make up stories

        I can’t pretend things are what they pretend to be

        I see what is

    • Phil Hughes July 30, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      We have 330 million people in the nationbut hopefully a low probability that an incident hits which is has tragedy on both sides. Unfortunately the Martin/Zimmerman incident hit that low probability event. But as a property holder whose life has been hurt badly by totally senseless theft and sabotage I know that there much be the ability to ask people what they are doing. The point is that no matter what George Zimmerman said Trayvon Martin should not have attacked him. Futhermore, had Zimmerman not been able to defend himself I think that he would be dead and Martin’s lfe would be ruined.

      These incidents are far more probable as we fail to pull our weight in the world as indicated by the Deficit and the Current Account Deficit. We have to make up $3,000 in productivity for every man woman in the nation, else drop the cost of living, else a combination of the two and we have to do so by manufacturing which most do not see as glamorous enough. If we do not, the probability of these shades of gray encounters are going to go up and the encounters themselves are going to go up.

      • penguinlad August 1, 2013 at 7:30 am #

        I have to disagree with your reasoning, Phil. Creating a moral equivalency between a vigilante accosting a black teen wearing a hoodie and a scared kid shoving the angry guy with the gun is flawed reasoning at best. Your theory that Zimmerman would have died if he hadn’t killed Martin comes out of nowhere and ignores the fact that BOTH of them could still be living happy, productive lives if he had just minded his own business and not made racist assumptions.

        To your second point, yes, our economic situation is still bad. Think about how much worse it is for the historically oppressed and marginalized. What are we doing to address that?

  2. Central Oregon Coast NOW July 29, 2013 at 9:43 am #

    Reblogged this on Central Oregon Coast NOW.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 29, 2013 at 9:49 am #

      Thank you for reblogging this, Nancy. Let us hope it will inspire some conversations around race and how all of us can interrupt oppression.

  3. Sara July 29, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

    Nice, nice, nice, Michael! I mean that sincerely. I’ll have to find my way to LinkedIn to catch the conversation, but just your exposition satisfies my heart (the one in my head, too). Thank you.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt July 29, 2013 at 3:25 pm #

      Sara, thank you! I hope you know that I, and many many others, stand on your shoulders as we do this work called social justice. You have and continue to inspire all of us to stand in solidarity with all those that are oppressed.

  4. Jay August 1, 2013 at 1:19 am #

    I suspect I’m sticking my nose into a hornet’s nest here, but the definition of racism you give in bold text isn’t the typical dictionary definition:

    1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.
    2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.
    3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races.

    I know I’ll very likely never convince you of this, but your definition is, in my opinion, overtly politicized in a manner that I find problematic if not hypocritical. If the only people who are capable of being racists themselves must belong to a specific racial group, aren’t you ascribing behavioral and ideological traits to individuals based upon their race? By implying that people of color are incapable of being racist, aren’t you endowing those individuals with behavioral and ideological traits solely on the basis of race/color/ethnicity?

    I know it is a common trope on the left to embrace some variation of your definition (which brutally simplified amounts to: only white people can be racists), I’m just not convinced that definition is either factually accurate or politically helpful. Isn’t the content of our character more important than the color of our skin? Can’t anyone of any race be bigoted, hateful, intolerant–and if so, why must we reserve the epithet ‘racist’ for individuals who belong to one particular race? Aren’t there examples of people of color in positions of authority, some of whom may hold bigoted beliefs and are in a position to wield power over other individuals who may be of any race/color/ethnicity?

    As I said before, I have no expectation of convincing you I’m correct in asserting that anyone can be a racist, but I wanted to voice my perspective in a hopefully respectful and thoughtful manner.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 1, 2013 at 7:09 am #

      Jay, I was hoping someone would engage in this much needed conversation. I fear you may have oversimplified the definition I offered for racism. Racism is inextricably tied to institutional and structural power, regardless of what the “dictionary” written by the dominant culture says.

      I wholly agree that people of color can be bigoted, discriminatory, and prejudiced. However, that is not the same as being racist and systematically precluding an entire population from employment, housing, or healthcare. I would further agree that people of color can behave in racist aggressions against people of their own race, called internalized racism and lateral racism.

      I think what I like most about your comment Jay is that it, I hope, creates a space for more people to be engaged in this conversation and to reflect on words and what they mean and the impact of words and behavior. I don’t believe any of us approach this work from a place of innocence.

      • tamaseavey August 1, 2013 at 7:56 am #

        Hello everyone! I finally figured out blogging. I posted the following last night on the LinkedIn discussion on defining racism. However, it seems to have been pulled (I’m sure for a review before they will post it). So, Michael, I thought I would post it here.

        I wanted to share a personal story – a story of experience.

        In 1994, here in upstate NY, I served as the founder and chair of a community group called the Citizens Alliance Against Racism (CAAR). The group was formed to address serious issues of institutional racism – long time – long standing – in our community’s school district – a predominately white school district. It was a very public struggle – it was a very tumultuous time for the community. During the challenge a number of incidents occurred – I was repeatedly spit upon and called the N word at public meetings that I attended, I wound requiring law enforcement protection resulting from the number of death threats I received and an uncovered plot on the part of a group of white business men to fire bomb my home. An angry, white woman, attempted to drive her car into me and my young daughters while we walked in a convenient store parking lot. I lost my job in a very “creative” way. These are just a few incidents I offer from the experience. CAAR was comprised of about 50 members – 2/3 white. No member of CAAR wished to be publicly identified as they feared for their jobs, safety and community standing. So I became the only public face identifying and challenging a school district on its systemic and individual racist practices. To make a very long story a bit shorter, CAAR was successful in enlisting the help of the NYS Department of Education who held a series of forums and investigatory sessions in the community and with the district. The racism was so blatant, and long standing that the Department of Ed had no choice but to issue findings of the presence of community and educational racism that was pervasive ad wholly encompassing the entire community’s children of color and they issued a plan of correction to the district to force change.

        As a result of the work, I was unemployable in my community for close to two years – using the time to make lemonade out of lemons for certain. Once I was able to secure work, I used the opportunities to research the internal operations of non-profit human service organizations in our area as they related to diversity, inclusion, systemic racism and cultural competency. Research that I am currently compiling for further efforts in creating change. And, I have spent many, many years identifying, documenting and watching the trends of dialogue and work in communities across the country that relate to the aforementioned.

        I don’t understand much, I admit, to why there is so much confusion to the definition of individual, institutional and cultural racism in our country. The definition of what it is has not changed since this country’s inception. What HAS changed is how it is displayed – the many creative, complex, subtle and not so subtle practices of it. Institution (systems) after institution, in lock step with each other, layer after layer of interconnectedness – forced- in a number of ways to ensure the maintenance of white superiority in every area of power that exists. I teach diversity, inclusion, cultural competency and believe in the concepts in their truly intended states. However, I see far too many organizations checking the diversity training box, overtly re-forming and re-defining diversity so as to render it ineffective and to ensure the white workplace and community necessity of superiority and to maintain the power resulting from it. And I see the same trends for all the other ISM’s present in our society, of course, with continuing, long term, devastating impacts and consequences to affected populations.

        Chains can take more forms than just metal link chains and collars. The whip across the back of people of color to force compliance now takes on many forms. Racism as a systemic practice? – Is alive and well – no matter the number of dialogues and misrepresentations people buy into.

        The eradication of racism from the fabric of our society represents overwhelming, integral change to how our country functions, the principles it is built on and will need the dedication, commitment and truthful dialogue of many to address it. While there may be many different perceptions that we’d like to call “different truths” – truth – as a point of fact – remains singular in its definition and multiple in its application. Racism will end as a systematic method of forced compliance and maintenance of power when there are rewards to ending it and penalties for perpetuating it not the other way around.

        Thanks so much for listening! Take care.

        On Thu, Aug 1, 2013 at 10:09 AM, Social Justice For All wrote:

        > ** > Michael Hulshof-Schmidt commented: “Jay, I was hoping someone would > engage in this much needed conversation. I fear you may have oversimplified > the definition I offered for racism. Racism is inextricably tied to > institutional and structural power, regardless of what the “dictionary” > writte” >

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 1, 2013 at 8:06 am #


        Thank you so very much for honoring all of us with this personal account. While I am horribly saddened by your experience, I am exceedingly grateful it brought to the work you do around diversity and inclusion. I’m very happy to be in such good company. Yes, I, too, am not a fan of organizations that take a “check box” approach to diversity and inclusion training. Even though, my company offers “Cultural Competency” trainings, we are always very quick to acknowledge that NO one is ever culturally competent. We always have room to grow and learn.

        Finally, I would offer that when ever someone offers their narrative, as you have here, we need to honor it and appreciate it as a call to action from all. IF all the targeted populations could join together in solidarity, we have a great chance of creating equity.


      • tamaseavey August 1, 2013 at 8:14 am #

        Thanks, Michael. I feel the same as you do and despite the challenges present in the work and resulting from bringing the conversation to the table – I feel there are many benefits to be gained from an open dialogue. As I like to say – Onward…..:-)

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 1, 2013 at 8:17 am #

        Tama, I’m just grateful that folks are willing to be engaged in this conversation. This is never easy work, but it is so worthwhile. For me, we are enacting bell hooks’ “Transformative Experience.”

      • tamaseavey August 1, 2013 at 8:34 am #

        For sure! I understand, truly do, the hesitancy and fears and impacts to so many just for being engaged in any conversation on race, or for that matter any dialogue around the realities of the impact of prejudices of any nature. And I guess, in reality, I do understand, when you look at the issues in our country, in our communities, in our workplaces the confusions that exist for so many. I like the term Transformative Experience. Rings a lot of bells for me – emotional triggers. While there are times, when direct conversation is needed people still come to embrace and work towards issues in a strategic manner through circumstances that resonate with them – in their hearts, their minds, their spirits.

        Thanks so much for the chart! I love it! I’m definitely going to incorporate it!

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 1, 2013 at 8:38 am #


        I’m glad you like the timeline. I use a lot of bell hooks in my workshops, as well as the work of Paulo Freire. It is important to get all people to see the many benefits of creating equity for historically targeted populations.

      • tamaseavey August 1, 2013 at 8:49 am #

        Speaking of benefits to equity. Do you believe that there are difficulties in creating understandings to what the benefits are? I find that in my area, in my work. That there are benefits to an equitable society, equitable workplace, an inclusive environment – to working for and towards that end- yet, most cannot seem to accept that there are. Benefits are perceived as a “taking away” from one group to give “unearned” to another group. So many see benefits as resulting in deficits to themselves in some way.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 1, 2013 at 8:59 am #

        Tama, I had to laugh here. We both have the same experience in trying to explain the many benefits of equity. I think it is hard for people in the dominant culture to see this as anything other than loosing privilege. I try to break it down from a class and economic perspective. Obviously, this work takes more than just one or two sessions.

      • tamaseavey August 1, 2013 at 9:20 am #

        OK – now you have me chuckling! For certain! More than two sessions and more than 3 hours and more than 1 day. Work with organizations to effect change in the dynamics of diversity and inclusion takes months and many, many different strategies and diverse group involvement.

      • Bruce Thompson August 1, 2013 at 9:26 am #

        Jay, although you thought you were being “respectful,” dictionary meaning – “willingness to show consideration or appreciation and “thoughtful” – “well thought out and considered,” from the perspective of an American Black, you demonstrated neither!

        A partner, White male, (never met before) of a close friend who I allowed to stay in my home, I asked him to leave my house for being “respectful” and “thoughtful” like you! (I have never had to do this before!) He wanted to convince me that he does not see “black” because “all people are the same deep down inside.” I don’t think the “non-white, privileged” Zimmerman took the time to see Trayvon Martin deep-down inside before he murdered him by shooting him with a gun in his heart!

        There is such a concept as collective consciousness, a shared history/social oppression – slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, economic oppression, criminal injustice, sexual orientation oppression/inequality, religious persecution, etc.

        Seeing and being DIFFERENT is good, it’s called diversity! What is not good is deciding some differences are inferior, sick, and/or destructive, not worth protecting or elevating to something of value and worth.

        Note: Have loved, respect, and attracted to EVOLVED and socially-conscious White men – like MICHAEL!

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 1, 2013 at 9:53 am #

        Bryce, you do a marvelous job of showing how language can impact people, regardless of the intent. I will say that you would really like Jay. He does work for social justice and equity; I think all of us are working hard to create space for dialogue. These conversations need to be had and we all demonstrate courage to be engaged and curious. I also realize that all of us will commit some type of trespass along this journey. I know I commit some type of trespass daily and I can only hope that as we have these conversations about race and equity, we create space for forgiveness, repair, and a transformative experience.

      • tamaseavey August 1, 2013 at 10:00 am #

        I must concur – even the most aware of us have moments, make mistakes, face challenges to our commitments. Learning and growing from our experiences and listening so that we can spot those learning opportunities are part of all of our journeys.

        On Thu, Aug 1, 2013 at 12:53 PM, Social Justice For All wrote:

        > ** > Michael Hulshof-Schmidt commented: “Bryce, you do a marvelous job of > showing how language can impact people, regardless of the intent. I will > say that you would really like Jay. He does work for social justice and > equity; I think all of us are working hard to create space for dialogue. T” >

    • penguinlad August 1, 2013 at 7:44 am #

      You make some interesting points, Jay, but I think you overlook the central issue. To call the definition that Michael offers “overtly politicized” ignores the fact that the issue of race in this country is inherently political. The social justice definition (not Michael’s, by the way, but an accepted standard in the field) is not rooted in politics but in equity. If there is not a level playing field, is it not reasonable to assume that language applies differently along different strata?

      Perhaps we should just cook up a new piece of jargon (“racio-oppressive behavior”)? But that just lets everyone off the hook, able to sling around the common word without thinking about the about the deeper implications.

      The English language is vibrant because it evolves. Insisting that we look at the implications of words and how they are used should appeal to the linguist and the social worker equally.

  5. prideinmadness August 10, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    I feel like part of the problem is no one knows what racism looks like anymore. Since the KKK isn’t actively walking around in their silly outfits and people are being lynched it’s easy to believe that it’s “gone”. Any “slip” or job given to a white person is then easily justified. Systemic issue are EXTREMELY difficult for people to see despite being in front of their eyes.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 10, 2013 at 7:24 am #

      Yes, you make a wonderful point: “Systemic issue are EXTREMELY difficult for people to see despite being in front of their eyes,” this is where much of the work has to be done. I have been doing workshops and trainings on racial and gender equity and how to become an ally to targeted populations, but it is amazing how we (the collective we) do not want to even hear the word race.

      • Tama Seavey August 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

        Hi all! – to the last two points for everyone’s consideration – in my research of racism on all three levels plus experiencing it all of my life – I’ve noticed that over the past years there seems to have been some sort of collective understanding by the majority of whites that there has been a “lessening” of racism, lessening of discrimination”. Really, what I think has occurred is that the displays of racism – the overtness of it from years ago – that many still think represent racism have become more covert and that it is this “under current” of not SO visible as to be able to point to it directly that is even more insidious and hateful as the consequences of the racist dialogue and actions result in placing the burden of proof on the victim who may not be skilled at verbalizing what they just felt or what just happened to them. So they walk away, angry, confused, that feeling in their stomach that they have just been diminished and even if they know why – they can’t find the words (the acceptable language) to express it or don’t know how to prove it because much of it is a behavior-resulting – in other words – requires that you study someone’s pattern of behavior before you can demonstrate the behavior as racist or resulting from strong prejudice. This style of racism is very effective at creating the end result of disempowerment of targeted populations. And, also the end result of being able to point to the victim and say “s/he is just WAY TOO sensitive. And, not only in racial scenarios but I see the rise of this type of behavior across all of the isms. So, it becomes easier and easier for the mainstream to say, “Racist? I don’t see racism anymore. I think the person just was insensitive”.

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm #

        Tama, you make so many good points here, I hardly know where to start. I have found that just saying the word “race” sets people’s teeth on edge. There is this race to innocence and people (mostly white people) do not want to know how and where they are implicated in sustaining a dominant culture–white, hetero, Christian, male power dynamic. As always, I love when you share your insights here. I also want to make sure I do a good job of honoring your narrative, which needs to be heard!

      • Tama Seavey August 10, 2013 at 3:23 pm #

        Hi Michael,

        Your point is a great one – yes – the backs go up just at the mention of the word race – interestingly enough – not just for whites but also this defensiveness exists within the communities of color – just for different reasons. So, two points – when raising the issue – saying the word, 1. know your audience and the reasons why the defensiveness is present, and 2. raise it anyway and then look to your own skills (which I’m certain you do) to facilitate and move the conversation in the direction that it needs to go. For some, just the mention of the word raises insecurities (“I don’t know [how] to talk about this”, “I will sound stupid or ill-informed”, “I’m going to insult someone”, on and on. The subject of race taps people’s deepest insecurities – especially for white people. I call this covert racism – the “new normal of racism”. It isn’t to me, that racism should be re-defined. Rather, it’s that there is a new normal of the way it is demonstrated. Ways of expression that have become normal and acceptable and I believe this is why even well-meaning white people have such trouble “seeing” it. The new normal of racism has is demonstrated in a way that white people’s socialization – their experience sees as normal, acceptable behavior. So they are shocked and/or resistant to truly “seeing it”. Also, I think this is why trainers who wind up in the face of the issue aren’t really sure how to manage or direct “responsibly” a discussion around the subject of race. The “new normal” requires critical thinking abilities to decipher – to conclude what the patterns of racist behavior are in organizations and society that equate to racism (and again, all the isms). The behavior of racism is no longer the white hood and the “n” word. We need to shift the paradigm of approach. On the “good news note” – once you teach/train people to observe and decipher critically – the behaviors of racism – individual and institutional – most people get it and their light bulb moment is what you term a transformative experience that results in their ability to join forces and take action. Those who don’t get it – quite rapidly “leave the room” literally or figuratively – because the exposure is there and they are quite aware of their agenda.

        I do enjoy talking with you, Michael, too!

      • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt August 10, 2013 at 6:03 pm #

        Tama, I owe you a great debt! These are the types of conversations I was hoping to spark with this article and the one about Paula Deen and Trayvon Martin. We have to delicately create a space for people to grapple with the word race and racism and as facilitators we have to also help people ease into and trust a level of discomfort. Wow! It is a lot to unpack, but it is worth the effort if we are to build a community of allies that stand in solidarity with all targeted populations.

        I probably need to do a better job of making space for people to disagree more openly here if we are to have deeper and more meaningful conversations around race. I think back to Jay’s comment and I really was hoping his comment would help to create that needed space for further conversations with more voices.

        While I work hard at issues of equity, I am also aware that I make mistakes and trespass. I am just as culpable as the rest of my brothers and sisters and have so much more to learn. I suspect this is why I hold such disdain for the term “cultural competency,” as though there were an end point and one could be finished–completely culturally competent.

        With great admiration,

      • Tama Seavey August 10, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

        You do a great job, Michael! I like your term – it aptly describes what I do – create the space for the dialogue to happen and during the dialogue, as the professionals, we have to nudge and nudge and also allow for the human failings – the humanity we encounter while…..still nudging. 🙂 And always, to me, we must remember that the isms – all of them – are verbs in reality – the true revelation of whether or not you are participating in the ism is by your actions not a deficit in one’s language skills. Also, the dialogue professionals are creating is the same dialogue we (professionals) need to be having in the professional realm – with each other. So….you’ll understand when I say you owe me no debt, although I appreciate the sentiment. I believe in the sharing of ideas and experiences – if we (professionals) can’t demonstrate in our connectedness what we are asking others to do and to value then something is truly wrong with our approach. We know, from our own experiences, what anguish is – how we react and what we feel when we are in anguish. While history may be different for the personal journey’s of white gay men or the transgendered or those living in poverty – (and sometimes there is all this arguing about whose experience is worse therefore of less or greater in importance) we need to begin to connect groups of people and garner their support around the true connection – the connection that binds all of us – that to diminish the value of another on the deeply personal basis that we do -what racism does or diminishing or harassing or discriminating because someone is gay causes anguish to that person – I do not use the word anguish lightly. It’s what the human cost is, to me – the creation/causation of anguish.

        So, to me, we can lead people and groups by redefining the conversation and focusing on the end result of the negative – systemic and individual “ism”. All of the discussions about the value of diversity training??? What will it [diversity training] get my company/business/organization? The bottom line is the value of a human life and emotional well being is priceless in any setting. (I am still so moved by your post of the gay man who took his own life). I say – let’s cost justify the expense for that- eliminating the human anguish that one might be causing. So, I’m chuckling, Michael – I know it’s a boat load of info to process. It’s actually the fun part – doing the work to shift our paradigms to where they need to be. Be well, Michael, and thanks so much for creating the opportunity for the discussion! We all learn and grow – I surely do my share of it. 🙂

  6. Neville Ross August 12, 2013 at 6:02 am #

    @dykewriter; There is a Canadian version of Faux Noise called Sun News Network based on and created by the Sun newspapers, in particular the Toronto Sun (, it’s not as popular, and was refused a request by the CRTC to be carried as basic programming on cable systems.

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