• Radical Accountability vs. Security Culture: An Unconditional Apology for My Racism

    by  • April 3, 2013 • Jess, The Shaming Room • 47 Comments

    What Happened

    This past weekend, Veloprovo had its inaugural ride. It was quite an awesome experience — a long, educational ride throughout the city, culminating with a radically positive direct action. Afterwards, we gathered for a celebratory beer, before heading our own respective ways. It was a positive, uplifting experience. Some of the people involved were friends I have made in the activist community. Others, were new friends.

    There is also a cloud that hangs upon that day. If you’ve read the articles in Bike Portland or the Willamette Weekly, or were following Veloprovo on social media, you may have seen some of the fallout.

    There was a man, unknown to myself (and to anyone else in the group), who joined us. Actually, roughly half the people in the group were unknown to me, but I’ll return to that thought later. This man was special. He stood out. He had a brand new bike, and brand new biking clothes. He had a hat with a bike on it. He didn’t talk much. He filmed a great deal of the event. He was built. He had Asian features. His bike made beeping noises.

    There was something about this man that raised the hackles of some of the membership of our group. For many of us, this is not our first proverbial activist rodeo. During the Occupy phenomenon, as well as other protest & action events, we’ve had the experience of affinity groups being infiltrated by undercover police. We’ve had the experience of being surveilled via social media. We’ve occasionally picked out cops that we have come to recognize, in civilian clothes, walking amongst us in photos of the early days of the Occupy movement. Some of us, myself included, have even learned that we have FBI files.

    We can call what happened hyper-vigilance. We can even be a bit more self-effacing, and call it paranoia. But the truth is, there’s a word for what we did, and we have to own up to that. That word is: snitch-jacketing.

    There really was no official group consensus or decision. We’re all autonomous individuals. This was one of those things that began to grow under its own inertia. I myself played my part in it, for which I am ashamed.

    When I saw the first post, suggesting this man was a cop, I was concerned that this conversation was happening in public without first being verified. I said the worst thing I could have under these circumstances: nothing.

    But my own complicity in this matter is far worse. Eventually, a video was found of Portland Police Captain Uehara. A cop, built, with Asian features. At first glance, he did seem to bear a striking resemblance. This seemed to pretty much wrap it up. Our group, advertising itself as a vehicle for transformative radical direct action, had been infiltrated by the Portland Police. Every belief we held about the security state was proved true.

    Except for one little detail. We were, all of us, completely wrong.

    What Went Wrong

    This man was not Captain Uehara. In fact, this man — Kris — was new to Portland. He doesn’t speak a great deal of English, hence why he was so quiet. He just wanted to meet some like-minded people, and ride his bicycle. We know this now, because his wife saw his photo posted on the internet, suggesting that he was a cop.

    Kris handled this by employing a radical and unexpected tactic: direct, open communication. He told us that he heard about this, and that he wanted to set the story straight. (We can learn a lot from him, about how to resolve a misunderstanding.)

    He probably wins the prize for being the nicest guy in the world. Everybody in the group was replete with embarassed apologies, offers of beers, and some explanations of what we’ve been through in the past two years that contributed to our paranoia. Kris accepted our apologies, and is joining us on our next ride.

    What Went Wronger

    Alas, this was not the end.

    The trigger had already been pulled. Kris’ photo had already been posted, and even photoshopped, via social media. BikePortland.org had already run a story on the allegation of an undercover cop, complete with photo. And now, the Willamette Weekly was running a story on the entire shameful debacle.

    We looked pretty bad.

    Then some of us replied, via article comments and social media.

    Now we looked worse.

    In private, many of us responded by apologizing. In public, the tone of many of our responses — at least to me — was quite defensive. It seemed like Veloprovo was taking the stance that, in the name of security, that this sort of thing was to be expected. That it wasn’t “wrong.” That it will happen again, and that this is the price of eternal vigilance. Ugh.

    To be perfectly frank, there is a very ugly truth that we need to confront. Maybe something we don’t want to admit to ourselves, because of the self-evaluation and change that it requires of us to admit it. I think it would be helpful for those of us (myself included), who mostly look remarkably alike ourselves, to say this out loud: “all Asian people don’t look alike.”

    I mean, in hindsight knowing that they’re different people, look again…

    "I saw the photo of the man in the yellow shirt. That is definitely not Capt. Uehara." -- PPB spokesman Lt. Mike Marshman

    “I saw the photo of the man in the yellow shirt. That is definitely not Capt. Uehara.” — PPB spokesman Lt. Mike Marshman

    The dearth of a public commons, of liveable urban public spaces, has many negative consequences to our society. That belief is core to the philosophy of Veloprovo. One of those consequences is keeping us segregated in our bubbles. What happened with Kris is a product of just how separated we have become from one another. This is an insidious truth that has a long history in Portland — longer even than the collusion between the auto/oil industries and our urban planners.

    The handling of this issue is a blocking concern to me, and so, I felt compelled to write this, to attempt to shift the discussion away from protecting our egos… and towards improving ourselves.

    Sometimes it’s more appropriate to apologize unconditionally, than to explain our justifications.

    A Few Words on “Security”

    It’s important that we analyze our cry of “security,” as justification for what happened.

    To start with, let’s examine the concern that this man was filming us.

    What’s curious about this concern is the fact that he was not the only one. Many of us were taking photos throughout the entire ride — eager to post these photos to social media, to show our friends how cool we are. (Why else do you think I go through every photo to tag myself?)

    As far as I recall, there was also no discussion of security culture at the beginning of the ride, nor on the event invitation — which was public.

    He wasn’t the only person I didn’t know at the ride. He wasn’t the only quiet person who barely spoke. He wasn’t the only person documenting the ride. He wasn’t even the only person proclaiming to be fresh from a new town. But he was the only person who raised a suspicion. What was different about him?

    “Security culture” can often be a buzzword for shutting down debate within the activist community. Like “transparency,” it is more of an ideology than a practice.

    So, in the name of “security,” what have we really accomplished?

    1. We contacted Portland Police, asking them if they placed an undercover in our activist group, thereby ensuring that the Portland Police are aware of our group, as well as the fact that we’re doing things that make us paranoid about being infiltrated. (This is, in reality, the only genuine security issue of the entire affair.)
    2. We snitch-jacketed an innocent man, quite publicly. That’s not OK.
    3. We acquired rather embarassing bad press. (And not undeservedly.)
    4. Some of us have made questionable — even subtly racist, in my opinion — comments on Twitter, Facebook, and published articles.
    5. We cried wolf, thereby compromising the investigation of future questions of security.

    What We Must Do Better

    Splitting hairs between “remarking on an allegation” versus “making an allegation” is a pedantic way of avoiding responsibility for what we very, very clearly did. The age-old cry of “security” cannot trump the values of justice and accountability, or else our fight is meaningless. This line of reasoning can’t become a precedent for us, unless we’re simply here to replicate the power structures we claim to oppose. We are just as subject to the human capacity for ass-covering as our well-paid, button-down psycopath counterparts in the state capitol. Any time our line of reasoning lines up with theirs, we need to reevaluate.

    Kris: when I watched that video of Captain Uehara, and thereby came to share the belief that you were an undercover cop: that was an example of the institutional racism that is so often invisible to those of us with privilege. This is a rampant phenomenon in Portland, and, indeed, our entire civilization. I would not have so easily confused two well-built white men. Perhaps it’s because I’m surrounded by white men all of the time — sure, I can pull out the old “but I have Asian friends” card, but I can also count the number of those friends with one hand. I am sorry. What we did was wrong. Period.

    I may not be personally responsible for creating this institutional, cultural racism. But, particularly as someone who was born into this world armed to the teeth with privilege, it is my duty to call myself out on it when it manifests through me. As someone who genuinely believes in a revolutionary movement, it is my duty to call my friends out, as well. It’s not about us. It’s about the institutions we live in, that we were born into. We can own up to that, and change our relationship to those institutions, without feeling like it is an attack upon our character. Indeed, it is a sign of character to do so.

    Don’t take it so personally, my friends. I’ve got this on my hands just as much as you do. We have to do better. And if we are willing to be as fearless in questioning ourselves as we are in questioning the state, we will.

    About

    Livestreamer. Activist. Multimedia guy. Author. Recluse. Miser.

    http://jessehadden.com/

    47 comments on “Radical Accountability vs. Security Culture: An Unconditional Apology for My Racism

    1. A couple times (at a public protests) due to folks being concerned or worried a particular undercover cop might be in our midst I have gone up to people and asked them “what is your interest here?” or “Why are you filming peoples faces?” … (1) first time I asked a guy taking pictures I got no reply back and the person left (2) time I asked all I got was a picture of me taken by the person and some rude words (3) next time I asked, I was at an Immigrants Rights march, a conversation developed between us, the man told me he was filming for his website about Traveling to Portland, (he gave me the URL) he was an immigrant, and when I mentioned that some of the people were worried he might be a cop with a camera he was deeply concerned. In his country freedom to take pictures in public wasn’t anywhere near like here, police also disappear-ed people in his country, and he felt offended that he was being wrongly targeted. After a long interesting (re-assuring) talk, I am assured he is genuine and honestly not a cop, and have since seen him a few times where we now chat some about cameras etc, and act respectful towards each other. Until I actually spoke with him and shared information on that day … “we were all pretty sure he was a cop” –> and true as wasn’t …he is far from being a cop. Thanks Jesse for posting this article, its worth discussing and important to be thinking about.

    2. word, jess. well put and good on you for taking responsibility and making some very valid points about suspicions and racism. Hopefully your credibility will be a beacon within this group to which people look towards and learn a thing or three about themselves :)

    3. Thanks for writing this, I think there’s some very crucial points made here that have not been offered thus far.

      In response I should say that no one factor drew much suspicion, but upon reviewing several details beyond the physical resemblance, many people on the ride as well as several journalists who were privy to the info we had agreed this was the same person.

      Had we been correct, I doubt any accusation of racial bias would have arose. Had the individual been caucasian, I doubt any allegation of racial bias would have come up regardless of whether we correct or incorrect.

      I knew almost everyone there besides Kris. When he arrived, I shook his hand, gave him a sticker, and we introduced ourselves. He showed up at the last possible second before we left, which seemed a bit strange considering none of us knew him.

      Having worked with other activists who have been beaten and arrested, I am very cautious of Portland law enforcement.

      Kris didn’t say much on the ride, but took a lot of video. Regardless, I didn’t see any reason for alarm. It wasn’t until the next day that images of the police captain emerged wearing the exact same glasses, with the same abbreviated first name, and after an exhausting day of comparing dozens of photos trying to disprove the connection, enough people within the group as well as other journalists besides Jonathan felt the PPB was being dishonest, that the individual on the ride was likely working as an undercover police officer.

      For the record, there is a distinction between asking questions publicly about specific police actions and making an actual accusation. Jon’s article was offering what was known with the intent that in doing so more info would arise to set the record straight. That did happen and he promptly updated the article accordingly.

      All parties involved have apologized publicly. Personally, I was hoping the focus of the narrative would remain on the ride itself, hence my leaving out any mention of what we suspected from my recap. Once the evidence seemed conclusive, I expected Bikeportland might do a write up, but not that soon. I wish more time had been allowed to get the story right, but from here we can only make amends and move forward.

      I truly regret not trying harder to disprove this false conclusion. But human beings make mistakes, each and every one of us. And we have reached out to Kris to apologize for being wrong, and we will be coming together via beers and bicycles to make amends and hopefully new friends while building trust for one another where ever possible.

      The direct action we took on Sunday was a huge success, but out of well-founded worry over being surveilled, we collectively made the wrong call when we truly thought we were right. I’ll freely admit that and take responsibility for this error.

      Feel free to join us next Monday at 5:30pm as we use our bikes to build community and build new friendships: https://www.facebook.com/events/549677315063287/

      • yeah, the point is that if the “suspect” had been white, this mistake would not have happened, not that there wouldn’t have been any accusations of racism. QED.

        • I don’t see how that’s relevant, it very well could have happened. The ethnicity of an individual does not bar them from serving as a police officer. Had a caucasian individual displayed the same behavior, and then somebody found numerous images of a police officer that looked just like that person, nobody would bother citing ethnicity as a factor. If anything, the media claiming that race was the thing that drew a connection are not only incorrect, but are willfully trying to generate controversy where there was none. Kris, as well as the other parties involved, want to move on. I agree with him.

          • It’s extremely relevant. That you continue to maintain the officer “looked just like that person,” when anyone who has lived among Asian people or is Asian themselves can immediately recognize them as different individuals, speaks to your unwillingness to check your privilege and makes your proclamation of “(taking) responsibility for this error” seem disingenuous.

            • What you are looking at is one comparison shot. The people who spent hour investigating this matter compared dozens of photos, and all involved came to the same conclusion. We’ve apologized for being wrong publicly, and did so immediately. You’re picking up on this story only just now, but all parties who were actually involved resolved this entire misunderstanding within a matter of minutes. We actually went out and rode together over beers just tonight.

              Photos of our ride our here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.506817902715641.1073741836.100001623066825&type=1

      • Tho I have mixed feelings as as a person of color I have experienced racism my whole life, I want to thank you for this post. People of privilege must challenge themselves constantly to a) recognize that they are privileged and b) recognize how their socialization as one of privilege positions them only one step away from becoming the oppressor.

    4. You know what? This is a really mature and well-written piece. I hadn’t head of Veloprovo until I read BikePortland’s retraction, filtered through a Joseph Rose tweet. (I’m more of a solidarity-with-bicyclists kind of guy at this point rather than a bicycler myself. I plan to get a bike soon, though.) As a sympathetic “outsider” you are right; the whole fiasco did make your group look bad. But this honest appraisal of what went “wrong and wronger” makes you look much better. Humans make mistakes. Some humans can learn from them. Keep up the good work, and hopefully Kris will become a good friend to your causes and, even more importantly, you guys. Which is a long-winded way of getting to: “Someday, everyone will laugh about this.” :)

    5. Yeah, whoa. Snitch jacketing is arguably as dangerous as the real snitches themselves. This should be (and I trust is) taken very seriously. There is a security culture packet that I have that y’all might wanna study.

      I’m glad you put this out Jess, and am glad that you aren’t defensive. I appreciate it, and I know it can be hard to admit racism, and being hurtful and wrong publicly. You’re right, a defensive tone around this is totally inappropriate.

      Lemme know if you want the security study packet.

    6. There is talk of racial profiling by police, the powers thAt be and the system at large and this is truth. And why? In my opinion because of paranoia, control and power. This can happen in any movement or organisation as well. The question is, does one want to be like the perpetrators and if not how can you change this?

      • This is a really good comment. We’re having similar discussions as to how group-think got engaged so quickly and when confidence overtook skepticism. Of course most people aren’t privy to this and are talking about it at a different level, but for us, this is the biggest challenge we’ve identified. How do we communicate an idea for a better world, take risks in producing ideas in public, and not reproduce the othering process that causes us to be beaten and surveilled in the first place?

        Thanks for this comment.

    7. The big problem here is snitch-jacketing. We should never make direct accusations unless we are certain of it, otherwise we risk alienating people and spreading paranoia. Infiltration is always a real possibility, but we can’t let mere possibilities disrupt our work. I think it’s clear from this that we need to have some discussions about security culture, and I’d definitely like to check out whatever material Kari has to offer.

      Without detracting from this, I do want to politely disagree with Jess on one point: I don’t think it’s appropriate to use the word “racist” on this. If a white-skinned person is in Asia and gets mixed up with another white person, is it a mistake, or is it automatically a racist mistake? There is a real perceptual phenomenon in which people (especially faces) from outside groups tend to get lumped together, with the major reason being simple familiarity. In social psychology this is known as the out-group homogeneity effect. Obviously this COULD become the basis for idiotic and borderline racist statements like “but they all look the same!”, which confuses a very limited perception with an unchanging reality. In this case it wasn’t, because they definitely share many common features, and one happens to be a police captain.

      tl;dr: Saying they look similar is not racist. Going from there to public accusations and media comments was clearly a mistake, and it shows that we need to learn more about security culture.

    8. Look, I get people mixed up all he time. But the police officer picture and the bike rider picture…don’t even look the same.

      I guess I’m lucky I grew up Asian in Seattle.

    9. As an Asian American who cycles and also loves my cars – I read about this incident with interest.

      Jess – kudos to you for the sincere and heartfelt mea culpa.

      As for some of the other responders – I can say that there is a reason that some people consider members of your group to be “Critical Massholes”.

      Get over yourselves already.

        • Now that you’ve called me out on this I have to retract that “some” and make it one:

          q Tzal in particular struck me as an ass. And I’m guilty of generalization myself. I’ve had one chance encounter with Critical Mass in Seattle and they were complete and total assholes so my bias is showing.

          If he doesn’t realize that just being born white guy is an advantage – he really doesn’t get it.

          Honestly – any white male in Portland is not going to have to deal with things that people of color have to deal with on a day to day basis.

          My dad said to me when I was young – “it’s a white mans world. Just deal with it” Tell me he wasn’t right.

          It may not be overt racism as it was in our past but let’s face it – you’ve got one leg up on everyone else.

          Apologies for the exaggeration on the “some” My bad.

    10. Nice apology but too little, too late, don’t take it personally. If I was Kris, I would not want to be friends with any of the people involved as their only motivation to get to know me would be based on white guilt and/or to validate their own denials about being racist and for acting in the exact same way a racist cop would. I have been told repeatedly, “All Asians look alike” starting in freaking preschool, so of course, we’re a little hypervigilant and paranoid about racism, but this sort of thing can be expected, living in a racist society and all. I don’t know why any self-respecting Asian or person of color would want to participate or join in your next activist rodeo because if the shit hit the fan, and push came to shove, we cannot trust that you’d have our backs and can’t trust that you’d stand in solidarity with us when it really matters, because you can’t even tell us apart!

    11. As an Asian American who went bike riding in Portland during his visit in 2007 and had a great time there, this incident won’t stop me from riding a bike in Portland again. But I’m just hoping and praying that I never get to ride a bike anywhere near you people.

    12. Jess,

      As an Asian American, I appreciate your sincere apology and your efforts to make things right. “Apologies” usually come in the form of “I’m sorry if you were offended”, which is not only not an apology, but actually further insults the victims.

      It’s quite refreshing to see an honest, unconditional apology. We are all humans, and we all make mistakes, even we minorities can be guilty of racism towards other races sometimes. What matters is that we recognize it, own up to it, and make ourselves and others better for it. Thank you for doing that.

    13. I, too, appreciate your real apology. How refreshing indeed! I’m writing from a different part of the country and don’t know too much about Portland, but the Census says it’s 7% Asian. I’m sure there are pockets of your city with Asian American youths, adults, and elders who are underserved in their schools and their communities. How about spending time with them by offering bicycle safety lessons? Or any other projects that could use volunteers? Spend considerable meaningful time with us, and you’ll sure be able to tell us apart at some point :-)

    14. this apology is really fucking lacking.

      does your group just not have a not-white person willing to talk about what happened?

      because maybe it would be best to let someone speak who might actually understand why people are mad abt this

      besides, those two looking nothing alike.

    15. Yes, if I was captain of the local police force I will definitely send one of my guys or even myself to infiltrate a group of urban, ‘activists’ cyclists…..becoz there is apparently no other worthwhile crime-fighting/prevention to do in Portland….you guys are that much a threat and concern. And of all people, it’s decided to pick on the odd-looking Asian dude? Poor guy.

      But very well-written, brave and insightful apology by Jess. I respect that part.

    16. Folks,

      I don’t know anything about your organization or your cause, but being Asian American and the recipient of some very hard stares on a daily basis, and I live in liberal California, I just want to pose this question. Does it seem logical to any of you that a planted cop would be anything other than white? Think!

    17. I really appreciated your thoughtful analysis and such a truly humbled apology. I too think that many of the responses to this mess have been defensive and ugly. After reading this you strike me as unflinching in self reflection and that is a powerful, beautiful thing. How else can we change the world if we are unwilling to identify what’s in our own hearts? I wish you the best in life’s journey.

    18. Why do you note that Chris was quiet b/c he doesn’t much English. I thought that Chris was from Florida? If that is the case, why would he not speak English? Am I mistaken?

      If he is from Florida, and you assume that he doesn’t speak much English, then here is yet another example of your racism.

      Radical left groups are notorious from being exclusionary, focusing more on style than substance, and being unable to deal with people who aren’t exactly like them. This comes from a person who has been involved in plenty of radical left collectives. What a pity! Portlandia, you should be ashamed.

      • He (I) blame myself and the others in the group for what we did.

        I’m also talking about “society” in the sense that I am saying that Portland is a place chock-full of institutional racism, and that is why it is often invisible to the people living here.

        • The institutional racism is VERY visible to people of color living in Portland because racist shit like what you did happens to us all the time.

        • I feel like you are using institutional racism as an excuse to not be accountable for your individual racism. Yes, societal norms and behaviors have been shaped by power-institutions, but we don’t need to perpetuate institutional racism with our individual actions. The first step to being anti-racist is recognizing your own racism in order to unlearn it, and I feel that you haven’t even acknowledge that what you did was in fact racist. You did say “We were, all of us, completely wrong”, but I would edit that to “We were, all of us, completely racist.”

    19. What is the website “mismanaging perception”? More like “mismanaging accountability after committing racist actions”, amirite ladies???

    20. “There was a man, unknown to myself (and to anyone else in the group), who joined us. Actually, roughly half the people in the group were unknown to me, but I’ll return to that thought later. This man was special. He stood out. He had a brand new bike, and brand new biking clothes. He had a hat with a bike on it. He didn’t talk much. He filmed a great deal of the event. He was built. He had Asian features. [OMG A STRONG ASIAN MAN.] His bike made beeping noises. [AND NOBODY WANTED TO ASK HIM ABOUT HIS BIKE. And I thought to myself, I feel so uncomfortable that there is an Asian person at this mostly-white event. And I was suspicious of him because I thought that all Asian people were poor because of the institutional racism I am complicit in that limits their opportunities, so I was like "no way does that Asian dude OWN that bike? he's a NARC!

      There was something about this man that raised the hackles of some of the membership of our group [HIS RACE WAS SO DIFFERENT]. For many of us, this is not our first proverbial activist rodeo. During the Occupy phenomenon [WHICH WAS WHITE DOMINATED, AND PERHAPS SHOULD BE CALL RE-OCCUPY THE LAND IS ALREADY OCCUPIED INDIGENOUS LAND], as well as other protest & action events, we’ve had the experience of affinity groups being infiltrated by undercover police [NEVERMIND STOP AND FRISK OR THE RACIAL PROFILING AND DISPARITIES OF THE US CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM]. We’ve had the experience of being surveilled via social media [AND WE DON'T UNDERSTAND PRIVACY SETTINGS]. We’ve occasionally picked out cops that we have come to recognize, in civilian clothes, walking amongst us in photos of the early days of the Occupy movement. Some of us, myself included, have even learned that we have FBI files. [WHILE OTHERS ARE RACIALLY PROFILED EVERY DAY.]

      We’re all autonomous individuals [WHICH IS WHAT A LOT OF WHITE MEN SAY NOT RECOGNIZING THAT POC'S AUTONOMY AND SOVEREIGNTY HAS BEEN OPPRESSED]. This was one of those things that began to grow under its own inertia. [NO ONE HAD THE COURAGE TO SPEAK UP BECAUSE TALKING ABOUT RACE MAKES US FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE.] I myself played my part in it, for which I am ashamed.

      Kris — was new to Portland. He doesn’t speak a great deal of English, hence why he was so quiet. He just wanted to meet some like-minded people, and ride his bicycle.”

      The dearth of a public commons, of liveable urban public spaces, has many negative consequences to our society. That belief is core to the philosophy of Veloprovo. One of those consequences is keeping us segregated in our bubbles. What happened with Kris is a product of just how separated we have become from one another. This is an insidious truth that has a long history in Portland — longer even than the collusion between the auto/oil industries and our urban planners. [Translation: the lack of diversity and inclusion in our movement is a sad consequences of historical forces that we fail to connect to our own present-day exclusionary practices.]“

    21. This navel-gazing is pretty much the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever read. You idiots are suffering some serious delusions of grandeur if you think “the state” gives two fucks about repressing white cyclists in Portland. Since you’re all so fascinated by state surveillance and police harassment, though, you might want to research stop-and-frisk laws or racist marijuana arrests or the NYPD’s dossiers on Muslim citizens. These phenomena also happen to be excellent examples of the “institutionalized racism” you keep bringing up but don’t appear to understand in the slightest. (Hint: institutionalized racism isn’t “invisible”–you’re just willfully blind to it.)

      Please just shut up and leave Kris alone. I guarantee he doesn’t need your “offers of beer.”

      • or the surveillance of Muslim student groups at colleges.

        Why do white people think that reconciliation over beers is the best thing to do? it’s like when that white cop racially profiled (there’s some very visible institutional racism!) Henry Louis Gates Jr. and then they had beers at the White House. It was supposed to symbolize that the parties came to a mutual understanding, but it was a joke, coddling the officer’s racist actions and making the perpetrator not the victim feel better. The best and foremost thing the perpetrator of racist acts needs to do is to recognize the racism, learn from it, unlearn the racism. and move on.

        Racism is an act of violence and I hope you recognize that the victim (target of racism) may not always feel safe to reconvene with the perpetrator of violence (racism) over beers. Some people who have said or done racist things to me have apologized (which I appreciate) and wanted to get together over coffee or drinks. I am not interested in being their friend. I just want them to identify and unlearn their racism and move on. I don’t want to be a part of their unlearning process as their friend. I have better, non-racist friends.

        Also, has anyone mentioned how straight up racist it is that you saw one Asian man and then another Asian man and conflated the two? There is the racist trope “They [a racial group] all look the same to me”, and you done fucked up, son.

        Finally, I feel that you cannot talk confront your own racist actions because you can’t even talk about race in the first place. You say a “man with asian features”. Stop skirting around the issue of race. It was an ASIAN MAN, not a man with ASIAN FEATURES.

    22. Thanks for taking the time to write this and taking the initiative to open up a dialogue about this incident.

      Ironically, institutional racism has placed you in a situation where it would have been much easier for you to carry on with your life, maybe discuss the “simple mistake” amongst your white peer group and remained blissfully ignorant as to the underlying causes of your error or the ramifications for Kris (who hopefully agreed beforehand to let you post his photo on your blog). You had to go out of your way to open lines of communication to other people of color, and that blissful, carefree ignorance is one of the cornerstones of white privilege.

      Once that bubble has been breached, white people are often surprised because of the amount of anger they tap into even with the intent of apologizing and collecting some clues (which abound, I might add). More often than not, the level of hostility with which they’re confronted surprises them, and in turn their naive surprise makes people of color even angrier, creating a feedback loop that frustrates everyone involved.

      I could ramble on forever, but in the interest of brevity, I’ll try to be succinct: much of what you think is true and fine is actually bullshit. I would also argue that many of the control systems used to oppress the poor, pacify the middle class and empower the rich are based on white America’s unwillingness to embrace its history, let alone its present, because so much of white privilege is tied up in feeling separate from (but “equal” to) these “other” people who’ve been slaughtered, exploited and criminalized non-stop since the country was founded. No one can make common cause if everyone’s supposed to be “personally responsible” only for the problems specific to their own racial demographic– and isn’t it great that white people have so few problems?

      I can’t really take all-white activist groups seriously because they are ipso facto ignorant. They supposedly want things to change but at the same time their actions strongly indicate that they like things the way they are. Or even the way they were.

      You probably saw the Matrix—there’s a reason that most of the people outside of the matrix, people who lived in the real world, crappy as it was, were people of color. Good luck finding some reality.

      • Honestly my intent was not to open a dialogue. I never dreamed this article would be read by people outside our sphere. My intent was to show people like me how foolish we were being, and how poor our reasoning was. I think this has come across to some as an attempt at self-justification, rather than self-mockery, which probably means I should take a class on writing.

        Regardless, this feedback has a lot of good points, and I am listening.

    23. And white people always comment to me, “how come all those Asians like to hang out with other Asians?” , or “Asian don’t like to assimilate into normal American society”

      Well this is the excellent example of why, anytime I try to hang out with NON-asian, this kind b#llsh!t happens. Someone always got to make a comment like, “who invited the Asian guy”, “why does he want to be here” something much worse…..

      Asians just aren’t welcome anywhere else, thats why we stick together

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