Responding to a question about Jews and race

Anonymous said to realsocialskills:

I really don’t want to be rude but can you explain to me why there is some sort of line between being Jewish and white? I keep hearing this sentiment that people should not compare the two because of religion and culture but that to me is like Russian people saying they aren’t white because of religions and culture. I don’t mean to hurt feelings but I’m black and Native and I’ve face discrimination based on my looks but I’ve never been able to tell when a person was Jewish just by looking them. Help?

Also I know that there are Jewish people of color but this goes back to my ask of what do people see on them, their Jewishness or their skin color because unless Jewishness is a part of color then we would call them mixed instead of Jewish poc because that skin and lineage mixes with another skin and lineage and produces someone with a dual identity. If I’m out of place, sorry but I’m confused cause I’ve never thought anyone was Jewish from looking at them unless they had a religious identifier.

Realsocialskills said:

The very short version: All Jews are affected by anti-Jewish racism. Some Jews, in some contexts, also have white privilege. Both of these things matter.

White supremacists don’t think that Jews are white. And other ideologies of racism have intensely targeted Jews. (Including Nazism, but not limited to Nazism.)

Most living Jews are very closely related to Jews who were murdered by anti-Jewish racists. (Grandparents, parents, great-grandparents brothers, sisters, spouses, cousins, etc.)

Many living Jews are first-generation refugees from anti-Jewish racial persecution, (or closely related to people who are). Jews have been repeatedly expelled from many, many places.

There are a lot of towns in Europe in which every Jewish resident was murdered. And a lot of Jews who were the sole survivors of those places, and who lost their entire families.

(There are few speakers of Yiddish today because so many Yiddish speakers were murdered by racists. The National Yiddish Book Center is dedicated to preserving as much literature as possible).

This isn’t just about culture and ethnicity. Converting to another religion did not save Jews from racial persecution. Neither did assimilating and acting like everyone else. And this isn’t a new thing, throughout history, Jews have been seen as racially suspect even if they convert to Christianity or another religion, regardless of actual behavior

Race and color are not the same thing. Color is a physical fact. Race is a social construct. And it’s socially constructed in different ways in different times and places. In the US, race mostly gets defined in terms of color. It’s defined differently in different times and places. In Europe, demographic forms have often listed “Jewish” as a race.

It’s also true that in the United States, light-skinned Jews have a degree of white privilege. Especially in liberal cities. Especially in comparison to black people and Native people. Jews are far less likely to face employment discrimination, and far less likely to face police violence. (It happens to Jews too, but it happens to black and Native people a lot more.) And any number of things.

But Jews are only seen as white some of the time. There are physical racialized characteristics associated with Jews. For instance, big noses.  There is also an antisemitic belief that Jews have horns, which used to be commonly believed in the US. It used to be fairly common for Jewish women to get nose jobs to escape from that racial characterization. For most white people, being seen as white has not required body modification.

When people look at skin color, they will probably see a white person. When they know that someone is a Jew, they may not see a white person anymore. It’s not about religious beliefs — Jews are seen as less white regardless of behavior and regardless of belief. (Jews who practice Judaism are often more *visible* as Jews, but anti-Jewish racism can’t be reduced to religious differences.) The novel/movie Gentleman’s Agreement is a good depiction of this issue. (It’s on Netflix, and your public library likely has a copy of the book.)

Related to this, white supremacists don’t think that Jews are white. As you know, white supremacy is still significant in the United States. Steve Bannon’s role in the Trump administration is causing Jews to fear for their own safety. People who are consistently seen as white are mostly not asking themselves “Do I need to flee the country?” (Unless they’re also gay or lesbian or trans or disabled or otherwise marginalized.)

There are significant numbers of antisemitic hate crimes in the United States. They’re reported as religious bias crimes, but that’s somewhat misleading. Eg: This article has an image of anti-semitic graffiti with a swastika and the words “Make America White again”  

Tl;dr The answer to “Are Jews white?” is “sometimes, and it depends on what you mean by white”. If you mean ‘light skinned people who have privilege over black and Native people in the US’, then yes, light-skinned Jews are white. If you mean ‘people who are safe from racialized persecution in the US and worldwide’, then no, Jews aren’t white even when they have light skin.

Light skinned Jews have some degree of white privilege in the US, but it only goes so far. Other white people can count on being seen as white. Jews can’t. Even in situations in white Jews are safe, Jews carry the effects of generational trauma from racial persecution, recent and ancient. The ways in which light skinned Jews have white privilege matter, and the ways in which light skinned Jews do not have white privilege also matter. In most contexts, both of these things are important, and both need to be acknowledged.

Saying no to unwanted touch

Anonymous asked:

One of my friends has recently begun touching me a lot, either by grabbing my hand or knee etc in situations that don’t necessarily feel they warrant such contact and don’t actually feel organic.

At best this is just a case of her being too physical and making me uncomf, at worst, knowing that I’m queer, it may be that she is trying to make me her “experiment,” despite also knowing I’m in a monog. relat.

I can’t tell exactly if I’m overreacting or not but either way, if this continues, I’m not at all sure I know how to handle the situation. It’s difficult for me to imagine navigating this type of conversation, esp if I want to keep the friendship (since I know what I would do if this was a situation with a man, or someone with whom I didn’t want to maintain a friendship).

Plus, being a survivor makes navigating all of this all the more difficult. I would appreciate your advice, thank you.

realsocialskills said:

I don’t have a lot of experience defusing this kind of situation successfully, so I’m not sure my answer will be a good one.

This is my best guess:

First of all, I think you’re probably not overreacting:

  • When people repeatedly touch others in invasive ways, it’s usually not an accident
  • It’s really, really common for people to touch others in invasive ways that are just-barely-deniable
  • People who think others are touching them in creepy ways are usually right
  • This is especially true if the person who is touching you invasively *used* to only touch you in ways you were ok with

Second of all, regardless of why she’s touching you, it’s ok to want it to stop:

  • There are all kinds of reasons that friends sometimes don’t want to be touched in various ways
  • If you don’t want her touching your leg or holding your hand, it’s absolutely your right to have it stop
  • If she’s doing this unintentionally, telling her in the moment to stop might solve the problem
  • Friends do sometimes inadvertently violate the boundaries of friends, *and if they respect their friends, they stop when they find out it isn’t welcome*

Things you might say (possibly in combination with pulling away or pushing her hand away from where you don’t want it to be):

  • “I don’t like that”
  • “I don’t want to hold hands”
  • “Please don’t touch my leg”
  • And if it is repeated, you might add “I meant it”.

She might respond by angrily denying that she’s doing anything wrong. That’s a sign that something is seriously wrong:

  • Telling her to stop touching you in ways you don’t like is not an accusation
  • It just means telling her that you don’t like it and want it to stop
  • It might hurt to hear that, because nobody likes hearing that they’ve done something wrong. But if she lashes out at you about it, that’s a sign that she feels entitled to your body
  • And whether or not it’s sexually motivated, that’s a major problem
  • I wrote this post and this post about that kind of reaction

Captain Awkward also has a post on unwanted and possibly-sexual touching from friends  which might be helpful.

Any of y'all have suggestions?

When people say “I can’t” I’ll sometimes encourage them to say “I decided not to” or something instead. Nobody can predict the future, so maybe nobody can know for sure whether somebody would be able to do something if they tried some more times. However, a person has a right to decide to stop. They may judge that it’s so unlikely they would succeed that it’s not worth trying; and doing it may not be worth a tremendous amount to them. I also have a right to my opinion that maybe they can.
realsocialskills answered:
You have a right to your opinion, but you don’t have the right to have them respect your assessment of their abilities. You especially do not have the right to have them take your opinion into consideration when they’re deciding what they can and can’t do.
Inability to do things is real. And yes, I may sometimes be wrong about my inability to do things, but taking it seriously when I think I can’t do something matters. Even if I’m wrong.
There’s a difference between deciding I don’t want to do something, and deciding that I think I am incapable of something, or that doing the thing is unacceptably risky for me.
Even if other people think I’m wrong - I still have the right to assess what my limits are and act accordingly. And even though I will sometimes mistakenly think that I am unable to do something I am actually capable of, “I can’t” is still a vital part of my vocabulary.
There’s a difference between not wanting to do a thing, and reaching the conclusion that I’m probably not capable of doing the thing and that trying is hurting me.
I need to be able to acknowledge that I have limits in order to manage them correctly, and do what I can instead of pretending that enough willpower makes everything possible.
So does everyone else. In particular, people with disabilities who have been taught that we’re not allowed to take physical limitation seriously. But being disabled and physically limited isn’t a moral failing. It’s just a fact of life that sometimes needs to be accounted for.

Not all harm is accidental

One thing I think some people forget is that there are people in the world who will try to hurt you on purpose, who know they are hurting you and are trying to hurt you. A lot of people seem to assume that everyone who does bad things is acting from ignorance or privilege and while that’s often true, some people know that what they’re doing is harmful and that’s WHY they do it, because they WANT to hurt others. Something to keep in mind.

December 8th 2013, 1:58:00 pm · 7 hours ago
I feel like your last post might have been in response to an ask I sent about “autism experts.” I don’t exactly have the privilege that my comment might have implied (I’m neither NT nor autistic), and I didn’t mean to be condescending or invasive. Just meant that, at least in the education system, things could improve. That’s all. I’m sorry.
Realsocialskills answered:
That post wasn’t in response to you; it’s been in the queue for a while. I think I somewhat disagree with what you said in your ask, but I wasn’t offended by it and it wasn’t in any way inappropriate to ask that.
This isn’t the kind of blog I was talking about, anyway - this is not a space specific to a marginalized group, it’s a public space applicable to anyone who finds it useful.

Do you think that reassurance-seeking is always a bad thing? Because some of your posts seem to imply it.
realsocialskills said:
I didn’t realize my posts sounded that way, but I see what you mean now that you point it out.
No, seeking reassurance isn’t always a bad thing. It can be really good to seek reassurance, and I think everyone needs to do that at least occasionally. If you are afraid that something is wrong, it’s ok to want to check. And it’s ok to do that with the expectation that things are probably ok and that you just need to hear it.
What’s bad is when people seek *unconditional* reassurance. When people seek unconditional reassurance, they want to be convinced that things are ok at all costs - even if things are horribly wrong. That’s dangerous, and destructive. (And particularly dangerous if the thing that’s wrong is the result of something they’re going, but it’s destructive even when the problem is in no way their fault).

Words like “bully”, “tease” or “abuse” are labels. Then someone can say “No, it isn’t!” because it doesn’t match the images in their mind. I think it’s better to describe what happened in terms that can’t be disagreed with, and to describe your own feelings, which others aren’t really in a position to disagree with. For example: “He stood close to me. I felt intimidated. He mentioned my disability in a sing-song voice. I felt humiliated. He struck me, and I could still feel it 30 minutes later.”
realsocialskills answered:
I think it’s important to have a way of talking about these things that isn’t just a matter of subjective feelings.
Because feelings can be wrong, or at least misleading. A bigot can feel humiliated by seeing someone they as subhuman being treated as my equal. A racist can feel intimidated by the presence of a person of color. In that case, the problem is that someone is a bigot or a racist. If they change how they think, they’ll feel better.
In contrast, if someone is experiencing injustice, the solution is for the injustice to stop. And it’s ok to oppose injustice by saying “this is wrong”; you don’t have to soften it by making it about your feelings.
Humiliation feels the same whether or not anyone is wronging you - you have to think about what’s going on and get a lot right to be able to figure out what to do.
Understanding the actual situation matters.
Push come to shove, it matters what’s true, and that’s not always a matter of feelings.
If we want to stop bullying, we have to be able to use words that acknowledge that people actually are bullying others. We can’t just focus on the fact that people feel bullied.

crysmilecry answered: I think generally people don’t answer because they forgot or tumblr ate it or they’re anxious and so normally asking again is fair?

realsocialskills said:

I think that is often the case, yes. But I’m not sure how to explain how to tell *when* that is the case. Do you know of any good rules of thumb?

Any advice on Tumblr etiquette? Like, if an ask gets ignored, is it okay to send one later?

realsocialskills said:

I think it depends.

On this blog, absolutely it’s ok to send another ask later. My ability to write this blog fluctuates a lot, and sometimes seeing something again makes me able to write about it. 

And it’s often ok on other tumblrs too, especially since Tumblr tends to eat asks. But sometimes it’s not ok, so it’s good to be cautious about that.

A couple of things:

  • I think it’s rude to say things like “Why didn’t you answer my ask?!” in a follow-up ask. No one owes you an answer, and it’s invasive to imply that they do.
  • I think it’s ok to ask if your asks are bothering them or if they’re welcome, though
  • Sending several follow-up asks in quick succession to someone who has never answered you is likely to be seen as invasive, especially on a personal tumblr. (It’s ok on this one, though.)
  • Before you send an ask, it’s a good idea to check someone’s FAQ. A lot of blogs only welcome certain types of asks, or asks from certain kinds of people. (For instance, feminist blogs often do not welcome asks from men; POC-oriented blogs often do not welcome asks from white people.)
  • This is particularly the case if your initial ask was ignored - check the FAQ to see if there’s a reason it may have been unwelcome before you send another ask

There’s probably more to it than that. What do y'all think?

In general, I find most organizations that are worth doing business with can simply be asked “What are the most common complaints about [your organization]”. Obviously, they will still present any weaknesses with a positive spin, but they should have an answer, and any evasiveness or a complete lack of response should strike one as very suspicious
realsocialskills said:
That sounds promising, but I’ve never tried that.
Are there answers you’ve received that you regard as green flags?

I often have problems with phrases that are literally neutral, but have negative connotations. For example: for years, I thought ‘forget about it’ was a polite way to tell someone that they didn’t have to worry about a situation. Eventually, I realized this was insulting. If possible, could you please list some more phrases that are literally neutral but have negative connotations? Possible with the connotative definition?
Realsocialskills answered:
Most of these aren’t always negative, but they can have negative connotations depending on context and tone. 
  • That’s nice (“I don’t care”)
  • Uh huh (“I don’t believe you and/or I wish you’d shut up about this”)
  • Fine (Can be taken to mean “I’m not ok with this, but I’d rather put up with it than discuss it further. I’m probably going to stay mad about this”
  • Whatever (“I don’t respect your opinion and want you to shut up about it”)
  • Never mind (“I wish you’d shut up.” or “You’re obviously not going to do anything worthwhile about this, so I want to drop the subject”)
  • I hope you’re happy (“You’re doing a stupid thing that I have contempt for”)
  • Duly noted (“I don’t care”)
  • It doesn’t matter (“It matters, but I don’t respect you enough to say why”)
  • I guess (“I don’t think I agree, but I don’t want to say why”)
  • Thanks for sharing (“What you said was inappropriately personal”)
  • Interesting (“That’s boring, annoying, or offensive, and I would like you to stop talking about it”)
  • Really? (In certain tones it can mean “I don’t believe you and can’t believe you would say such a stupid thing” or “I think you’re lying to me and I’m angry about that.” It doesn’t always have that kind of connotation, though - it can also just be a way of expressing surprise.)
  • Good luck with that (“That’s a stupid idea” or “That’s going to fail and I can’t believe you’re trying it”)
  • If you say so (“I don’t believe you and can’t believe you would say such a stupid thing”)

The racist ice cream joke you just posted about can also be swung in the direction of sexual harassment. When kids found out my friend and I were lesbians, they would torment us with similar jokes just to get us to “admit” to liking dick. I still don’t understand why jokes like that could be funny to anyone.
realsocialskills said:
Yes, that’s another really common kind of hate joke. I have some theories about why people tell jokes like that, but they’re not yet well-formed enough to explain outside my head.

What do you think about talking sexually (“I got a butt plug” kind of thing) in public (maybe at the mall) with friends? I like to talk about (often, gay) sex (it’s fun and liberating), and don’t care who hears, but there’s the issue of children sometimes being around without my knowing, and other people having had terrible experiences (e.g. rape). So, how does one appropriately talk about sex while keeping in mind the feelings of those who can overhear? Refrain? Whisper? With a protest banner?

realsocialskills said:

I think, generally speaking, it’s rude to talk about explicit details of sex in public places where you are likely to be overheard.

I think this is especially important in contexts in which people can’t escape easily. For instance, having sexually explicit conversations on the subway is bad because people have no choice but to listen.

This isn’t just a matter of consideration for people who have been raped or otherwise harmed. It’s also a matter of boundaries. Most people regard hearing explicit details about someone’s sex life or fantasies to be a form of sexual behavior. (Similar to how people regard phone sex or reading porn as sexual acts). Talking that way around people who don’t want to hear it can be a form of involving others in your sex life without their permission.

It’s especially bad if you’re talking this way when kids are around, which is generally the case in public places.

It’s different in contexts in which there’s an understanding that sexually explicit conversations are likely. For instance, if you’re at a convention centered around sexuality, then having sexually explicit conversations in convention space is probably not rude. (Having them directly *with* people who haven’t indicated clearly that they want to have that kind of conversation with you *is* rude and creepy, though).

It’s also different if you’re keeping a reasonable distance from others and keeping your voices down. If someone has to be going out of their way to listen in order to hear you, then they’re responsible for their decision to eavesdrop.

Basically, don’t subject people to explicit conversations about sexuality unless they’re willing participants.

What defines abuse? Like say someone is unsure of weather the way they are treated by another is actual abuse and is worried that if they try to get help it will be denied and only get worse?
realsocialskills said:
Here’s the thing. When people are inclined to violate your boundaries, they will often do just about anything they can to derail things when you tell them to knock it off.
One common way they do this is to start an argument about whether something is technically bad enough to be abuse or not.
That’s usually beside the point. What’s relevant is that you are being pressured into putting up with something that hurts you. And sometimes you need help getting them to stop hurting you.
That’s what’s important. Not whether something technically qualifies as abuse according to some formalized definition.

Is it okay not to tell someone something because you think they’ll disapprove? Assume it’s something that doesn’t affect their life, only yours, but you know they like hearing about your life and you know their feelings will be hurt if you don’t tell them. Do you have an obligation to tell them?
realsocialskills said:
There are very few things you have an obligation to tell other people about when they’re not personally affected. In fact, off hand, I can’t think of any. (Although, it’s not always 100% straightforward what does and doesn’t directly affect someone. Some things that seem like they don’t actually do.)
That said, outright lying about something the other person is likely to find out about tends to backfire, because it can have a corrosive effect on you. It can make you feel like you must be doing something wrong if you have to lie about it, and it can make you anxious about what will happen when they inevitably find out about it. Sometimes it’s a good idea anyway, but often it is not.
If someone is personally offended that you keep some parts of your life private, that’s a major red flag. It’s a sign that this relationship has bad boundaries.
No friends tell each other everything; no one approves of everything their friend does. There are always at least a few things that it’s better not to discuss. 
In mutually respectful friendships, both people understand this and respect one another’s privacy. If someone expect you to tell them everything and gets upset when you don’t, they’re being controlling. They’re not treating you as an equal.
And it usually gets worse over time. If someone can convince you that you’re not allowed to have any boundaries or privacy, they usually keep pushing.
Some people who do this start acting right if you assert boundaries and refuse to tolerate it when they’re breached. That doesn’t always work, though. Sometimes you can assert boundaries enough to make the relationship work even if they never really respect them willingly. Sometimes that doesn’t work and the friendship can’t be safe even if you really, really like them in other ways.

I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, but it’s gotten pretty bad… whenever I have a moment to think– usually when I’m laying down for bed– my mind defaults to thinking up every single reason I’m a terrible awful failure who doesn’t deserve to exist, and it ends up causing a sort of feedback loop that magnifies those feelings a hundredfold. Do you know anyone who does something similar or might have some advice for breaking the cycle? TIA.
realsocialskils answered:
This isn’t a stupid question. It’s a hard situation to be in, and you’re definitely not the only one.
For me, it helps to have some TV episodes of a show I’ve seen before and like playing in the background when I’m going to sleep. That way, I don’t have totally blank space available to be filled with that kind of thinking.
I also have friends who can help me remember that I don’t actually suck when I’m feeling that way. And at this point, I’ve had that conversation with them enough times that sometimes I can think through what they’d say when I’m in that state of mind.
Some people like things like Calming Manatee, or other cute animal with a positive message sites. That doesn’t work for me, but it does work for a number of people I know.
There are probably better things to do that I don’t know about. Do any of y'all have suggestions?

I can’t look at people without staring. How do NTs get enough information about a person to look away so fast? Or am I not supposed to be taking in information? Is that the point, that I don’t know them so I shouldn’t be looking at them?
realsocialskills answeredL 
I don’t completely understand how NT eye contact works. I think that one thing it’s for is confirmation that someone is paying attention. 
Like, they think that glances verifying that someone is looking in their direction confirms that the person they’re talking to is paying attention. And that they’re noticing them and reacting to them specifically and not just speaking generically.
It can also be used as a request for attention. Like, looking at someone’s face can mean “I would like to talk to you,” and returning the glance can mean “Ok, talk to me.”
A slightly more intense version of this means “I find you sexually attractive and would like intense attention.” Returning that kind of eye contact in a fleeting way can mean “I also find you attractive, and I’m bashfully flirting back.” Returning it in an intense way can mean something along the lines of “Wow, you’re hot. Let’s enjoy our intense mutual attraction.”
Intense eye contact can also mean “I am trying to establish dominance.” In that convention, whoever breaks eye contact first loses.
Avoiding eye contact when someone is attempting to initiate it can signal, in various cases:
  • That you’re afraid of that person
  • That you’re embarrassed or ashamed and don’t want to face them
  • That you’re avoiding them for some other reason
  • That you’re intentionally insulting them by snubbing them and ignoring their requests for attention
Those are the primary things I know about how eye contact in English-speaking NT culture. (Eye contact has dramatically different connotations in some cultures.)
Do any of y'all know of other uses of eye contact? Or things I’m getting wrong?

Well, you wanted a ask c:(I’m typically not good at thinking things up XD) so what inspired you to make this blog ^_^? Like how’d you come up with the idea and such.
I started increasingly noticing things that follow a certain pattern. I think this is the first one I noticed explicitly:
  • Some guy gives a talk on how important social skills are
  • And how people need to learn to interact with each other
  • Then goes on and on about how important eye contact it
  • And then says text doesn’t count, because it’s impossible to communicate nuance or emotion or tone in text
  • So, my shaky grasp of eye contact is a failure of social skills, but his complete inability to understand text-based communication isn’t?

And so I noticed - only certain things get called social skills. That some things that aren’t actually useful skills at all get called social skills. Sometimes things people are taught in the name of social skills are actively anti-helpful.

And that there are a whole lot of things about human interaction that are worth knowing that don’t seem to get talked about much. So I decided to start talking about the things I think I know.