PHIL CAMPBELL: Your article, "The Skin Game" [Phil Campbell, May 17], totally hit home with me. Going to public school in suburban Chicago, whites were constantly harassed by blacks who were never called to task.
I've never had a problem with Asians, Native Americans, or with most Hispanics. And I do feel sorry for the 25 percent or so of American blacks who are actually trying to make something of themselves.
[But] if I see a black, my instant thought is to avoid them. Am I prejudiced, or am I realistic and experienced? No other ethnic group in America deliberately and routinely walks out in front of moving cars, and then shoots you a "look" as though YOU are somehow at fault. No other group has received nearly so much assistance--even though others (specifically Asians) have suffered as much or worse--and yet constantly wallows in their own mire of indignant self-pity. No other ethnic group promotes ignorance and violence like the American blacks.
Jay Link, via e-mail
EDITOR: As [I am] a graduate of a large urban high school in which white students were by far the minority, Phil Campbell's article brought back some unpleasant memories. Verbal and violent harassment were regularly directed at those of us who were of European descent. I recall what seemed like an unspoken rule among teachers, administrators, and parents that these daily attacks were to be accepted as part of the price required for "privileged race" status. Ironically, those of real privilege were attending gilded suburban schools, whereas we students from working-class families were subjected to the flagellations of white liberal guilt manifested in urban schools.
Anonymous, via e-mail
PHIL CAMPBELL: The people you describe in "The Skin Game" sound as though they are conforming to PC cant, ignoring the elephant in the living room.
We all know that the most virulent racism in the country today is that of black on white--that blacks commit a hugely disproportionate amount of crime in America; that blacks are more violent than any other ethnic group; that blacks cannot compete on equal terms in our schools and universities. We know all of these things to be true, yet we pretend that they are not so.
When is somebody in our government going to have the courage to admit the truth and do something about it? Unless we change the situation, our country is doomed.
Anonymous, via e-mail
EDITORS: As an African American male, teacher, and community activist, I can completely understand that in this period of incomplete education and PC rhetoric about race, blacks are going to begin to openly express their displeasure and resentment for the YEARS of being minimized, neglected, red-lined, and abused institutionally by the various systems of our region. There must be a realization that blacks are finally moving into a period where they are no longer afraid to voice or act out their frustrations.
Seattle is not an overtly racist zone--it is a very covertly racist zone full of denying white liberals--but there are enough issues that give rise to the very real potential of a backlash. [Kids in general] act out based on their current cultural values (Jackass, MTV2, South Park), so what makes black kids different? Are black kids supposed to not be upset?
Unfortunately "black leaders" cannot and have not handled the responsibility of creating constructive, proactive dialogue around these issues with black youth, just as they have not worked to help them deal with the police, the law, or economic realities. Black kids do not need to be harassing white folks because they feel it is some kind of post-millennial free-for-all. White kids need to be taught that blacks are pissed, and they will begin to bear the brunt of their forefathers' sins. Is this right? No. Is it real? Yes.
Eddie Hill, Nu Tribes Art Collective
EDITORS: Ever since the violence of Mardi Gras occurred, writers for The Stranger have been frequently using the word "racism," apparently without ever looking into what this word actually means. Racism is not mere prejudice, but a historical term denoting a doctrine of racial superiority.
In the 19th and early 20th century, people such as Joseph Arthur Gobineau and Houston Stewart Chamberlain (white guys who were mainly interested in pressing forward the supposed superiority of their own kind of culture or nationality) began to attribute cultural and psychological values to race. This approach, called racism, culminated in the vicious racial doctrines of Nazi Germany, and especially in anti-Semitism.
Of course, before that, "racial superiority" was used in an attempt to justify chattel slavery in the United States. During [times of slavery], African Americans were, by law, only three-fifths of a human being. That was racism. Aside from a few small movements, racism has always meant that white and/or Christian people are superior to all others. To use this term for all instances of racial prejudice dilutes the meaning of the word.
Todd Tollefson, Seattle
PHIL CAMPBELL: Since everybody in your article seems quite puzzled by the phenomenon of "white racial harassment," let's look at the two possibilities:
1. White people, as a race, have been systematically, politically, financially, and historically controlled or damaged by black people as a race. Hence, black people harass white people because they have more power and have been "trained" to abuse it (and white people).
2. Black people, as a race, have been systematically, politically, financially, and historically controlled or damaged by white people as a race. Hence, black people are angry and strike back in various ways, including (but not limited to) "harassment."
Why is this so difficult to figure out? Especially in liberal cities like Seattle, white people have learned to be "politically correct" and not to verbally harass other ethnic cultures. This may not necessarily translate to improved jobs and housing, but hey, at least we can feel better about ourselves. Black people have no particular reason to be "politically correct"; why the surprise that they can--and do--lash back?
I'm not trying to justify hate or abuse, no matter who does it. I'm not trying to say white students shouldn't feel upset when they get harassed. But if we keep ignoring the roots of our problem--the inequality of power--we'll never get out of this mess.
Ken Fremont-Smith, via e-mail
EDITORS: Thank you to The Stranger for covering the topic of racial harassment against white students in Seattle high schools. As a young, white Seattle native, I am all too familiar with "progressive" Seattle's perpetual silence on the most difficult questions about race.
White-skin privilege continues to be a major force in American society and in Seattle life. However, for the sizable chunk of white kids who report racial harassment, what they experience most vividly will be the names and insults that are hollered at them on the street and in the hallways of their schools. Shame has a powerful way of sticking with you: We can all remember the times we were scolded by our parents more clearly than the times we were praised. And for white kids, not only will they remember that they were taunted, they will remember that nobody told them they had the right to be angry or to stick up for themselves.
If Pamela Hillard and other school administrators won't talk about this, who will? Liberals are afraid to address the complexities of white identity because they have conceded that white people have nothing to complain about. The mainstream is silent at best on the issue. Conservative voices are left alone to address white anxiety. If the taunting and the teasing that white kids in Seattle schools are enduring is not addressed in an open and honest way, the ensuing backlash will be the responsibility of the lazy and uncreative white Left, not the right wing, [which] will surely be blamed.
It is painful and destructive for any kid of any color to be singled out and harassed because of their race or ethnicity. It is particularly destructive when kids are told, through silence, by their schools and their communities, that they have nothing to complain about.