Jay Smooth’s “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Learned to Love Talking About Race”

Jay’s talk at TEDx Hampshire College:

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  • Anonymous

    One thought I would add to his commentary is that someone can be racist, but that doesn’t mean they are a “bad” person. I can understand not wanting to outright call someone racist for the sake of trying to have meaningful dialogue regarding racism and prejudice, yet at the same time I feel we then reach the conundrum of there being lots of people saying and doing racist things but there being no named racists. When there are no “racists” people seem to believe racism is not a problem anymore (“I’m not racist but…”). I’ve come across many white people who seem to think being called a racist is worse than actually doing racist things. We need to redefine the word from the extreme and limited definition it has had in recent years.

    • Medusa

      This. Right here. Being called racist is just an opportunity for you to claim victimhood instead of actually examining how what you said or did could be problematic.  This is exactly why Jay’s tactic of focusing the conversation on” what you said” rather than “what you did” is instrumental. I hate having to tiptoe on eggshells around white people’s feelings especially when they are so egregiously displaying their privilege. Unfortunately, it’s fucking difficult to get anywhere otherwise.

      Although I must say I agree with the people who told Jay Smooth that it doesn’t exactly always (or…ever) work.  Any time I try to use the “what you said/did” argument, it turns into “You’re calling me a racist!!  You’re the REAL racist!” bullshit.

      • Binto101

        Interesting point. Especially your last note about this not always working. Another speech on TED by a guy called James Ferrell talks about why this is the case – basically that “what you said/did” isn’t as important as how you really feel about that other person. We all have pretty good “bullshit” detectors built in, and there only has to be slightest bit of insincerity and we detect regardless of how well the other person tries to mask it.

        Therefore, if I feel the other person is inferior, or not as good as myself (and this doesn’t have to be linked to race, but could be based on any number of things such as competence, intellect etc.) than the other person, they will pick that up. And react to this, regardless of how much I insist “I didn’t mean it that way”….

        Anyways – am not doing a good job of describing this. Here is the link: http://youtu.be/YyhOT3jCcR4 to see if this makes sense for yourself!

  • laprofe63

    Thanks for posting! I show the short youtube video he mentions in class because it is very effectively argued, short and to the point. This is a good follow-up. 

    Sad truth is this, many are too cowardly, or mistaken in their desire to be “polite,” and will talk to someone and never tell them “you have spinach in your teeth” –both in the literal and figurative sense.I wish he had said just two words more about what we need to do: have courage.

  • laprofe63

    Thanks for posting! I show the short youtube video he mentions in class because it is very effectively argued, short and to the point. This is a good follow-up. 

    Sad truth is this, many are too cowardly, or mistaken in their desire to be “polite,” and will talk to someone and never tell them “you have spinach in your teeth” –both in the literal and figurative sense.I wish he had said just two words more about what we need to do: have courage.

  • Anonymous

    (Oh man,  I hit post before I was done editing my comment)

    I wished I had seen his “how to tell someone he’s racist” video again before last weekend because I missed an opportunity to have a proper convo with someone who said something ignant. But next time I will be sure to use the “you have something in your teeth” analogy. Hopefully he’ll make a “how to tell someone he’s full of white male privilege” video soon enough.

  • Anonymous

    I have yet to have the “what you said was racist” (though  I missed a  talk but if  I ever do and it turns into a thing, I will definitely use the “saying there’s something in your teeth isn’t a comment your hygiene” analogy.

  • Anonymous

    this is a totally inappropriate comment.. but I wish this man would marry me..  he lives right here in new york and I have the ring..

  • Neurochick

    Thank you for posting this.  This is great.  What he’s talking about is exactly what people should say when disciplining children, to focus on the action, not the person.  Meaning what you said was bad, but that doesn’t mean YOU are bad.  When you tell someone they are bad, they just shut down because that means there’s no room for a change in behavior.  But when you tell someone what they said wasn’t exactly correct, then they can learn from it, that is if they want to. 

    • http://rvcbard.blogspot.com RVCBard

      So are you saying that we should treat grown-ass White folks like children? 

      OK. Then if that’s the case, how about we established some rules appropriate to their level of development? Such as:1. Sit down.2. Shut up (and listen).3. Dinner first, then dessert (ie, do your homework before claiming cookies).4. Clean up your mess.5. You get equal say when you pay equal bills (aka, when you have to live with racism the way POCs do).

      • honeybrown1976

        Love it! Love it! Love it!

        Some people need to realize that there are some bad seeds in the world and no amount of “talking” will end their actions. Otherwise, this site would be unnecessary.

      • Heather

        Actually, it’s a pretty common technique that isn’t reserved for children. Focusing on behavior rather than on someone’s inherent personality has been the aim of the management techniques we use in our workplace. While it certainly won’t change someone’s thoughts who enjoys being a racist jerk, it would help to change people’s actions who don’t realize what they’re doing/saying is racist. Of course, there will always be some folks you SHOULD treat like children, but we can usually tell the difference between the two.

      • Neurochick

        @RVCBard, I LOVE that. 

      • dersk

        No, I think the point was that we should try to communicate effectively. Focusing on the behavior and not the person is generally a lot more effective than, say, trying to get them to shut up by mocking them. If you see what I mean.

    • http://rvcbard.blogspot.com RVCBard

      So are you saying that we should treat grown-ass White folks like children? 

      OK. Then if that’s the case, how about we established some rules appropriate to their level of development? Such as:1. Sit down.2. Shut up (and listen).3. Dinner first, then dessert (ie, do your homework before claiming cookies).4. Clean up your mess.5. You get equal say when you pay equal bills (aka, when you have to live with racism the way POCs do).

  • Grace

    OMG–full of So. Much. #WIN!!! I’m trying to rewatch so I can get some quotes, then sharing. :-)

  • Grace

    OMG–full of So. Much. #WIN!!! I’m trying to rewatch so I can get some quotes, then sharing. :-)

  • Grace

    OMG–full of So. Much. #WIN!!! I’m trying to rewatch so I can get some quotes, then sharing. :-)

  • Grace

    OMG–full of So. Much. #WIN!!! I’m trying to rewatch so I can get some quotes, then sharing. :-)

  • Grace

    OMG–full of So. Much. #WIN!!! I’m trying to rewatch so I can get some quotes, then sharing. :-)