Depends on the situation as to what’s acceptable. I talk in general until race is brought up and if it’s relevant, THEN I’ll say “as a white” or “as a white male” or whatever, *if* that’s the social convention in that situation.
Sometimes the races of who is talking or listening makes a difference. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’d prefer it never did but I was raised with that assumption, “If we don’t talk about [x] it goes away” and it turns out that while that works SOMETIMES, it doesn’t ALWAYS. In the case of black vs white, substitute words replaced saying “black”, which made the situation worse because it became an invisible problem for a while, couched under other names.
Thank you. I learned. I spouted the rhetoric I grew up with for a long time but it started to ‘click in’ about four years ago, and I started to grow another pair of eyes.
It was weird. I realized I wasn’t seeing a large part of the world and there’s an awful lot I’ll *never* be able to see because the implicit stuff is learned super young and continually reinforced in ways entirely invisible to the participants.
But once i started to ‘see it’, I realized that the rhetoric I grew up with, “don’t talk about it and everything will be FINE”… wasn’t true in the case of race in America.
So I can hear a little better now. Not as tone deaf as I once was. But I keep learning as I go and I fight white ignorance when I can, just because white ignorance embarrasses me as a human being. They can’t help it automatically but once you see it, it’s definitely like an extra pair of eyes growing.
the rules I follow:
a) I see being in front of me
b) I see human being in front of me
Then, I let them guide me along if needed.
c) if the person I’m talking to mentions race, I mention mine.
Why? Because now the distinctions are important. The frame of reference shifts to another level of detail.
d) I listen for substitute race words. There’s lots of them. Often the people saying the substitute race words don’t even hear them. “normal” (white). “average American” (white male between the ages of 25-40, or 40-65 – something like that), “inner city”/”thugs”/a hundred other things (black men), “welfare mom” (black woman), “at risk youth” (black teenage boys, sometimes girls)…. the list goes on and I doubt I know 10% of them all yet.
That sets up race as being important in the conversation and it’s at that point I bring up my own race and I call out the “implied race” properly, which forces a direct and clear discussion about race, racism, racial inequality and other issues.
e) I use “white privilege” but I’ve learned to be careful about my audience there. If somebody has the assumption that “it’s all economic difference under another name”, it’s deeply embedded in them and I’m not going to be able to root it out right away. I might not be able to at all. So I’ve learned to be careful when to apply the term. I have to see if they’re ready to hear it.
If they’re not, there’s other ways to get there from the side but for white men in particular, it’s a hard one to see, so I try not to rush it..
I wish I had the confidence to do proper public speaking / teaching. But I *am* pretty good at typing and spend as much time online as I can.
So what I do is keep an eye out for situations when they arise during conversations. I’ve made mistakes sometimes. I’ve lost a few friends along the way. But I’ve gained others and strengthened existing ones.
There’s a lot of dumb opinions ‘out there’ that I hear constantly among white friends, or friends who have a white mentality.
“white guilt” is an easy one to get rid of from their vocabulary, at least temporarily. I bring up being glad to be white because it makes live easier, then I can go back and forth with them about how it’s not but it really is, and have them imagine themselves being born black instead of white.
That usually makes them shift gears a lot if I have their ears still.
Up to that point, they often believe they have a “central position” – the “reasonable man position”.
They’re often the hardest people to get to see things too. They get in their own way.
But I try. It’s important.
If I can NOTHING ELSE but convince them to see that ‘it matters because Americans are Americans and if you yourself would never WANT to be black instead of white then you KNOW there’s racial inequality in the USA.”…. then I’ve done something at least.