White is a Race

Filed under politicking

Tracey and I philosophize about whether or not I can actually label an Asian guy on the bus as Asian:

Seriously, how many times a day do you think about this? I never had to worry about there being anything but white folk in my stories back when I lived in Ohio.


  1. Cristy says:

    You know, with the political-correctorizing that’s going on in commercials, in professional videos (watched a “Safety in the Workplace” video lately?) and in every industry I can think of (entertainment, sports, media, politics, education, etc.), I think we can almost consider ourselves at a point where you can assume that the norm is a mixed bag (that all races are represented in the general population of a story) and then only mention a specific race if something the character is doing is race-specific or stereotypical or the introduction of the person’s race will lend additional description power to their appearance, etc. Does that make any sense? Sorry so long-winded.

    • That’s an interesting point. In a group of random people, especially in NYC, it’s likely that they’ll be mixed. Whereas when my friend Charles writes about his friends in his blog, I assume they’re all black. When my Asian friends at work talk about their friends, I assume they’re all Asian. So even though random American society is totally mixed, it seems like we keep friends who are our race.

      In the end, Tracey and I decided that mentioning his race was probably important to the story simply because I treated him differently in my mind because of it. We also decided that I’ll probably have to talk about the subject pretty carefully when I actually write the story.

      (Also: Hi! Thanks for commenting.)

  2. Laura says:

    I only use white as a descriptor when referring to point guards in the NBA and my friends Ty and Peter, one of which is black.

    I agree with Tracey that we live in a racist society. I think we single people out by their race just because it’s the norm and everyone has always done it. I’m sure everyone I know describes me as their “Asian friend Laura” instead of just Laura, even though I’m about the least Asian person I’ve ever met.

    • So, after I told Cristy that I always assume my black friends are talking about black people and that my Asian friends are talking about Asian people, I read your comment and realized that I always assume you’re talking about white people. Evidently the fact that you’ve talked before about identifying as almost-white has rubbed off on me.

      I’d still probably refer to you as my “Asian friend Laura”, though. Maybe you should start going by something like Ying-Li so people can just refer to you by name.

  3. Sandy says:

    I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I do refer to race when speaking about people other than me, if it’s relevant. I don’t mean to indicate in a larger sense that anything aside from white is “Other,” but for me, it is. I am what I am, and anything different for me, is, to me, Other. I know people who would claim that if you were thinking about this at all, you must be doing something right and therefore are not racist, but I’m afraid that’s giving credit for effort in a world where effort is irrelevant.

    • I think that’s a good way to put it. It’s not Other from The Default, it’s just other from what I am. Although I can imagine Tracey saying something about how our white privilege allows us to say things like that and that it’s still offensive to people who aren’t privileged.

      Also, I just wanted to say that I stopped keeping track of your blog for a while when you stopped posting, but I clicked over there today, and man, every post was interesting. I hope you keep it up.

      • Sandy says:

        Aw, it warms the cockles of my heart that you’ve begun reading again. As you can tell, it’s been a super rough year for me, and part of healing is writing.

      • Tracey says:

        You know me so well. I would have said something similar to that, along with a comment about how “Other” is different from “other”.

  4. Adam says:

    You’re being too self-conscious. When you’re telling a story, often times you want your audience to be able to visualize the scene. What is wrong with using gender, hair color, clothes, age or even race if that allows you to easily and unambiguously describe the people involved?

    • No, I agree that visualization is key. The problem Tracey was pointing out is that I treat white as Default and anything else as Different. When I describe white characters, I talk about hair color, clothes, age, etc., but I never actually mention that they’re white. But when it’s a black person or a Hispanic person or whathaveyou, his or her race seems like the most important thing to me.

    • Jack says:

      says the 34 year old Northern European white male measuring in at 5’8″ with flowing tresses of brown hair over his stripped long-sleeved shirt and light blue jeans

  5. Beth says:

    And yet the real problem with our society is not that it’s racist, but whenever we try to have an important discussion about race/racism, it ends up going to shit. From racism to poop in 12 comments or less!

  6. Oh No U didn’t try to have a convo about race and the Black guy wasn’t invited.. lol.

    I pretty much don’t assume race.
    Well unless the person has a voice like Tom Jones..then I will assume the person is White.

    I call my Asian friend Tomur “my Negro” all the time and he’s 100% Asian and doesn’t even come close to having a tan or looking like Sam L Jackson.

    I make fun of races non stop on my blogs.
    I’ve made fun of the the Black president, and made fun of White folks from Ohio that let rats eat their baby a few weeks ago.

    I don’t think your racist Katie.
    (especially since we made out like two bunny rabbits the last time I was in NY).
    Racist folks would never put their tongue that far down a Black man’s throat when making out.

    I really believe race isn’t the main issue anymore.
    It’s still an issue just not the main issue.

    What divides people now and since the beginning of time is money and religion. The have and the have nots, and the I’m living righteous and your the sinner divisions.

    Religion affects your political views and then it starts to divide folks even more.

    Me…nah. I’m not a racist or an Activist Judge.
    I have threesomes with White and Latino women just as much as I do with Black women (EOE, EOF).

    Unfortunate I have not had the pleasure with Asian women.
    (Hey Laura…How U Doin’? Call me!)

  7. Kelly says:

    I’ve been rolling this around in my brain for a couple days. I tend to describe people in terms of their race when I tell a story too (e.g., “These two white guys walked in and…”).

    Interestingly, I realized that when I’m telling a story about my friends, even to people who don’t know them, I generally don’t reference their races. HOWEVER, when I tell stories about strangers, I usually reference their races only if they’re NOT black. Which is kind of weird for a white girl. But then I realized that, for Shreveport, black is default and everything else is Other.

    If I were writing a story, though, I would reference everyone’s races because being able to visualize what characters look like is very important to me as a reader.

    I should point out, though, that I often use “Redneck” as a race descriptor.