going back to africa

Reunifying African diaspora across the Americas with each other, their pride, history, culture, true homes & identity…

Archive for the tag “race card”

Going the Distance

The old saying, “The end justifies the means” seems to be the most common form of consequentialism used by whites to excuse the behavior of their ancestors. Coupled with the White Saviour Complex, many whites honestly believe that if it hadn’t been for them, the world would be in utter shambles; That almost nothing of significance had taken place among any group of people prior to their so-called myriad of achievements. That their intervention was absolutely necessary & that they made the most contributions to help develop the modern world & that almost every tactic used to do so was vital & that the ‘good’ results far outweighs any perceived ‘bad’ done to reach them.

Those who make these type of claims often will reach beyond the outer ends of the universe to validate them, glossing over, ignoring or oblivious to underlying factors to their ‘truths’. For instance, on the subject of slavery, too often do whites bring up instances of whites being slaves – failing to acknowledge that they still benefit today from the enslavement & following marginalization of blacks vs. no blacks in America having ever received any benefits from the enslavement of whites. Or they’ll try to absolve themselves of any responsibility of trying to help end systemic racism by pointing out that their ancestors had nothing to do with slavery, as if that’s somehow relevant.

Every single white person in America benefits from systemic racism no matter what their ancestors history, or their socioeconomic status. Many whites ancestors came to America for a better life knowing full well what took place to secure these lands & make it a wealthy & powerful country. Yet instead of shaming America & fighting for the people who have been displaced, alienated, dehumanized, exploited & marginalized, they flocked here to take advantage of the freedoms achieved off the genocide & enslavement of those people. They will also mention such in the context of how many other groups of people faced major hardships throughout history who have been able to recover at lightning speeds past what black people have thus far – failing to acknowledge the countless ways in which blacks efforts have been undermined. Quick to remind us that slavery was so long ago, not recognizing that slavery hasn’t really ended in this country, it’s just evolved.

See, for centuries now, whites have had to make these grandiose claims in order to fill their egos & to solidify their false sense of superiority. When most of your entire history, existence & worth has been built up & made powerful off the perceived worthlessness & powerlessness of others, this image of superiority must be upheld by any means necessary to keep those claims valid. One example, to point out that nations all over the globe have had their conflicts & wars, that there are none without a dark past, that still – America is the most just & civilized, yet failing to mention the over 130 wars the US is currently fighting. Quick to point out the warlords & terrorists in other nations, not realizing that we are also the warlords & terrorists occupying & destabilizing others nations. But it’s for the greater good, right? Maybe for white America, not everybody!

America thinks it knows what’s best for everybody, yet only does what’s best for itself at the expense of everybody else. And far too many white Americans believe that they should be praised & that everyone should be thankful for all the freedoms they feel they made possible, instead of acknowledging, praising & being thankful for all the indigenous people robbed & slaughtered, & those who were enslaved & marginalized in order to make modern white American life possible. And far too many like to believe that the worst of what America has done was so long ago, that nobody today should be held accountable, despite the fact they still benefit from those atrocities today. That there are still no limits to the distances whites will reach to maintain their image & validate their privilege.

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Example: This highly disrespectful plaque posted at a Georgia State Park, claiming that white ‘pioneers’ blazed the trail of civilization there, not mentioning the hate, disease, genocide, slavery & other atrocities they blazed to achieve their definition of civil.

One repeatedly used tactic to keep America’s “Good Guy” image is to always claim there’s an entity out to take away or destroy everything that America holds dear, the main thing being freedom. That these entities want to do to America what America has always done & continues to do to others. Over the past nearly two decades, America’s main boogey-men have tended to be Muslim. In the beginning, the focus was mainly regional & mostly on key figures, but lately it’s broadening out to an entire religion & culture whose people make up nearly a quarter of the global population, due to the actions of a few. Now, maybe I am reaching quite a distance myself in pondering the possibilities of some of the great lengths America is going to strengthen the integrity of its image:

I don’t see how the same country who has so many citizens standing behind a person like Donald Trump could have ever elected Obama, let alone twice. I truly believe that Obama was used as a pacifier to shut black people up. To pretend to itself & the rest of the world that we’ve finally transcended race, also using him to shut gays up – to pretend to the rest of the world that we’ve finally transcended our gender & sexuality issues. Now Hillary has be used to try to shut the women up – to make it appear that America is now truly a place where all people are equal & treated as such, despite reality showing us the contrary.

And America still needs its boogey-man to look down upon, to appear holier than thou. Just days after a national broadcast of the funeral of very well-known & respected Muslim man, Muhammad Ali, who sacrificed his freedom to refrain from using violence, a Muslim man attacks America, targeting our gays that America has only very recently started acting like they cared about? The timing is impeccable… America couldn’t let the Muslim community be shed in a positive light for more than a few days. Sorry, but not sorry if I don’t believe that a single gunman, who had just days before purchased the weapons used, was able to become such a skilled gun operator & shooter in such a short time. Or that he was accurate enough to shoot over 100 people without anyone even trying to stop him. That a man under previous investigation by the FBI was not heavily surveilled after making a weapons purchase.

Would America really go that far to push its agendas, to stabilize its image, to keep its ego inflated? Hasn’t it before? And gone even further? To what ends will America go to prove its better than the rest while simultaneously acting as bad as the worst??

White Fragility

by

Robin DiAngelo [a white woman]

(with minor editing by me)

White people in North America live in a social environment that protects & insulates them from race-based stress. This insulated environment of racial protection builds white expectations for racial comfort, while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress, leading to what I refer to as White Fragility.

White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear & guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence & leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. This document explicates the dynamics of White Fragility.

I am a white woman. I am standing beside a black woman. We are facing a group of white people who are seated in front of us. We are in their workplace, and have been hired by their employer to lead them in a dialogue about race. The room is filled with tension and charged with hostility. I have just presented a definition of racism that includes the acknowledgment that whites hold social & institutional power over people of color [PoC]. A white man is pounding his fist on the table. His face is red and he is furious. As he pounds he yells, “White people have been discriminated against for 25 years! A white person can’t get a job anymore!” I look around the room & see 40 employed people, all white. There are no PoC in this workplace. Something is happening here, and it isn’t based in the racial reality of the workplace. I am feeling unnerved by this man’s disconnection with that reality & his lack of sensitivity to the impact this is having on my co-facilitator, the only person of color in the room. Why is this white man so angry? Why is he being so careless about the impact of his anger? Why are all the other white people either sitting in silent agreement with him or tuning out? We have, after all, only articulated a definition of racism.

White people in North America live in a social environment that protects & insulates them from race-based stress. Fine identifies this insulation when she observes “… how Whiteness accrues privilege & status; gets itself surrounded by protective pillows of resources and/or benefits of the doubt; how Whiteness repels gossip & voyeurism and instead demands dignity…” [Although white racial insulation is somewhat mediated by social class (with poor & working class urban whites being generally less racially insulated than suburban or rural whites), the larger social environment insulates & protects whites as a group through institutions, cultural representations, media, school textbooks, movies, advertising, dominant discourses, etc] Whites are rarely without these “protective pillows,” and when they are, it is usually temporary & by choice. This insulated environment of racial privilege builds white expectations for racial comfort, while at the same time lowering the ability to tolerate racial stress.

For many white people, a single required multicultural education course taken in college, or required “cultural competency training” in their workplace, is the only time they may encounter a direct & sustained challenge to their racial understandings. But even in this arena, not all multicultural courses or training programs talk directly about racism, much less address white privilege. It is far more the norm for these courses & programs to use racially coded language such as “urban,” “inner city,” & “disadvantaged” but to rarely use “white” or “over-advantaged” or “privileged.” This racially coded language reproduces racist images & perspectives while it simultaneously reproduces the comfortable illusion that race & its problems are what “they” have, not us.

Reasons why the facilitators of these courses & trainings may not directly name the dynamics & beneficiaries of racism range from the lack of a valid analysis of racism by white facilitators, personal & economic survival strategies for facilitators of color, and the overall pressure from management to keep the content comfortable & palatable for whites. However, if & when an educational program does directly address racism & the privileging of whites, common white responses include anger, withdrawal, emotional incapacitation, guilt, argumentation & cognitive dissonance (all of which reinforce the pressure on facilitators to avoid directly addressing racism).

So-called progressive whites may not respond with anger, but may still insulate themselves via claims that they are beyond the need for engaging with the content because they “already had a class on this” or “already know this.” These reactions are often seen in anti-racist education endeavors as forms of resistance to the challenge of internalized dominance. These reactions do indeed function as resistance, but it may be useful to also conceptualize them as the result of the reduced psychosocial stamina that racial insulation inculcates. I call this lack of racial stamina White Fragility.

Although mainstream definitions of racism are typically some variation of individual “race prejudice”, which anyone of any race can have, Whiteness scholars define racism as encompassing economic, political, social, and cultural structures, actions, and beliefs that systematize and perpetuate an unequal distribution of privileges, resources and power between white people and PoC. This unequal distribution benefits whites and disadvantages PoC overall and as a group. Racism is not fluid in the U.S.; it does not flow back & forth, one day benefiting whites & another day (or even era) benefiting PoC. The direction of power between whites & PoC is historic, traditional, normalized & deeply embedded in the fabric of U.S. society.

Whiteness itself refers to the specific dimensions of racism that serve to elevate white people over PoC. This definition counters the dominant representation of racism in mainstream education as isolated in discrete behaviors that some individuals may or may not demonstrate & goes beyond naming specific privileges. Whites are theorized as actively shaped, affected, defined & elevated through their racialization & the individual & collective consciousness’ formed within it. Recognizing that the terms I am using are not “theory-neutral ‘descriptors’” but theory-laden constructs inseparable from systems of injustice”, I use the terms white & Whiteness to describe a social process. Frankenberg defines Whiteness as multi-dimensional:

Whiteness is a location of structural advantage, of race privilege. Second, it is a ‘standpoint,’ a place from which White people look at ourselves, at others, and at society. Third, ‘Whiteness’ refers to a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed.

Frankenberg & other theorists use Whiteness to signify a set of locations that are historically, socially, politically & culturally produced, and which are intrinsically linked to dynamic relations of domination. Whiteness is thus conceptualized as a constellation of processes & practices rather than as a discrete entity (i.e. skin color alone). Whiteness is dynamic, relational, and operating at all times & on myriad levels. These processes & practices include basic rights, values, beliefs, perspectives & experiences purported to be commonly shared by all, but which are actually only consistently afforded to white people. Whiteness Studies begin with the premise that racism & white privilege exist in both traditional & modern forms, and rather than work to prove its existence, work to reveal it. This document explores the dynamics of one aspect of Whiteness & its effects, White Fragility.

Triggers

White Fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, & guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence & leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium. Racial stress results from an interruption to what is racially familiar. These interruptions can take a variety of forms and come from a range of sources, including:

• Suggesting that a white person’s viewpoint comes from a racialized frame of reference (challenge to objectivity)
• PoC talking directly about their racial perspectives (challenge to white racial codes)
• PoC choosing not to protect the racial feelings of white people in regards to race (challenge to white racial expectations and need/entitlement to racial comfort)
• PoC not being willing to tell their stories or answer questions about their racial experiences (challenge to colonialist relations)
• A fellow white not providing agreement with one’s interpretations (challenge to white solidarity)
• Receiving feedback that one’s behavior had a racist impact (challenge to white liberalism)
• Suggesting that group membership is significant (challenge to individualism)
• An acknowledgment that access is unequal between racial groups (challenge to meritocracy)
• Being presented with a person of color in a position of leadership (challenge to white authority);
• Being presented with information about other racial groups through, for example, movies in which PoC drive the action but are not in stereotypical roles, or multicultural education (challenge to white centrality).

In a white dominant environment, each of these challenges becomes exceptional. In turn, whites are often at a loss for how to respond in constructive ways. Whites have not had to build the cognitive or affective skills, or develop the stamina that would allow for constructive engagement across racial divides. Bourdieu’s concept of habitus may be useful here. According to Bourdieu, habitus is a socialized subjectivity; a set of dispositions which generate practices & perceptions. As such, habitus only exists in, through, and because of the practices of agents & their interaction with each other & with the rest of their environment. Based on the previous conditions & experiences that produce it, habitus produces & reproduces thoughts, perceptions, expressions & actions. Strategies of response to “disequilibrium” in the habitus are not based on conscious intentionality, but rather result from unconscious dispositions towards practice, and depend on the power position the agent occupies in the social structure.

White Fragility may be conceptualized as a product of the habitus, a response or “condition” produced & reproduced by the continual social & material advantages of the white structural position. Omi & Winant posit the U.S. racial order as an “unstable equilibrium,” kept equilibrated by the State, but still unstable due to continual conflicts of interests & challenges to the racial order. Using Omi & Winant’s concept of unstable racial equilibrium, white privilege can be thought of as unstable racial equilibrium at the level of habitus. When any of the above triggers (challenges in the habitus) occur, the resulting disequilibrium becomes intolerable. Because White Fragility finds its support in & is a function of white privilege, fragility & privilege result in responses that function to restore equilibrium & return the resources “lost” via the challenge – resistance towards the trigger, shutting down and/or tuning out, indulgence in emotional incapacitation such as guilt or “hurt feelings”, exiting, or a combination of these responses.

whiteContinued below: See White Fragility 2

White Fragility 3

Racial Belonging
White people enjoy a deeply internalized, largely unconscious sense of racial belonging in U.S. society. This racial belonging is instilled via the whiteness embedded in the culture at large. Everywhere we look, we see our own racial image reflected back to us – in our heroes & heroines, in standards of beauty, in our role-models & teachers, in our textbooks &historical memory, in the media, in religious iconography including the image of God himself, etc. In virtually any situation or image deemed valuable in dominant society, whites belong. Indeed, it is rare for most whites to experience a sense of not belonging & such experiences are usually very temporary, easily avoidable situations. Racial belonging becomes deeply internalized & taken for granted.

In dominant society, interruption of racial belonging is rare & thus destabilizing & frightening to whites. Whites consistently choose & enjoy racial segregation. Living, working & playing in racial segregation is unremarkable as long as it is not named or made explicitly intentional. For example, in many anti-racist endeavors, a common exercise is to separate into caucus groups by race in order to discuss issues specific to your racial group & without the pressure or stress of other groups’ presence. Generally, PoC appreciate this opportunity for racial fellowship, but white people typically become very uncomfortable, agitated & upset – even though this temporary separation is in the service of addressing racism.


Responses include a disorienting sense of themselves as not just people, but most particularly white people; a curious sense of loss about this contrived & temporary separation which they don’t feel about the real & on-going segregation in their daily lives & anxiety about not knowing what is going on in the groups of color. The irony, again, is that most whites live in racial segregation every day & in fact, are the group most likely to intentionally choose that segregation (albeit obscured in racially coded language such as seeking “good schools” & “good neighborhoods”). This segregation is unremarkable until it is named as deliberate – i.e. “We are now going to separate by race for a short exercise.”I posit that it is the intentionality that is so disquieting – as long as we don’t mean to separate, as long as it “just happens” that we live segregated lives, we can maintain a (fragile) identity of racial innocence.

Psychic freedom
Because race is constructed as residing in PoC, whites don’t bear the social burden of race. We move easily through our society without a sense of ourselves as racialized subjects. We see race as operating when PoC are present, but all-white spaces as “pure” spaces – untainted by race vis á vis the absence of the carriers of race (& thereby the racial polluters) – PoC. This perspective is perfectly captured in a familiar white statement, “I was lucky. I grew up in an all-white neighborhood so I didn’t learn anything about racism.” In this discursive move, whiteness gains its meaning through its purported lack of encounter with non-whiteness.

 Because racial segregation is deemed socially valuable while simultaneously unracial & unremarkable, we rarely, if ever, have to think about race & racism & receive no penalty for not thinking about it. In fact, whites are more likely to be penalized (primarily by other whites) for bringing race up in a social justice context than for ignoring it (however, it is acceptable to bring race up indirectly & in ways that reinforce racist attitudes, i.e. warning other whites to stay away from certain neighborhoods, etc.). This frees whites from carrying the psychic burden of race.

 Race is for PoC to think about – it is what happens to “them” – they can bring it up if it is an issue for them (although if they do, we can dismiss it as a personal problem, the “race card”, or the reason for their problems). This allows whites to devote much more psychological energy to other issues & prevents us from developing the stamina to sustain attention on an issue as charged & uncomfortable as race.

Constant messages that we are more valuable – through representation in everything
Living in a white dominant context, we receive constant messages that we are better & more important than PoC. These messages operate on multiple levels & are conveyed in a range of ways. For example: our centrality in history textbooks, historical representations & perspectives; our centrality in media & advertising (i.e., a recent Vogue magazine cover boldly stated, “The World’s Next Top Models” – every woman on the front cover was white); our teachers, role-models, heroes & heroines; everyday discourse on “good” neighborhoods & schools & who is in them; popular TV shows centered around friendship circles that are all white (i.e. Friends, Seinfeld); religious iconography that depicts God, Adam & Eve & other key figures as white, commentary on new stories about how shocking any crime is that occurs in white suburbs & the lack of a sense of loss about the absence of PoC in most white people’s lives. While one may explicitly reject the notion that one is inherently better than another, one cannot avoid internalizing the message of white superiority, as it is ubiquitous in mainstream culture.
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Continued below: See White Fragility 4

White Fragility 4

What does White Fragility look like?
A large body of research about children & race demonstrates that children start to construct ideas about race very early; a sense of white superiority & knowledge of racial power codes appears to develop as early as pre-school states:

As in other Western nations, white children born in the United States inherit the moral predicament of living in a white supremacist society. Raised to experience their racially based advantages as fair & normal, white children receive little if any instruction regarding the predicament they face, let alone any guidance in how to resolve it. Therefore, they experience or learn about racial tension without understanding Euro-Americans’ historical responsibility for it & knowing virtually nothing about their contemporary roles in perpetuating it.

At the same time that it is ubiquitous, white superiority also remains unnamed & explicitly denied by most whites. If white children become adults who explicitly oppose racism, as do many, they often organize their identity around a denial of the racially based privileges they hold that reinforce racist disadvantage for others. What is particularly problematic about this contradiction is that white moral objection to racism increases white resistance to acknowledging complicity with it. In a white supremacist context, white identity in large part rests upon a foundation of (superficial) racial toleration & acceptance.

Whites who position themselves as liberal often opt to protect what they perceive as their moral reputations, rather than recognize or change their participation in systems of inequity & domination. In so responding, whites invoke the power to choose when, how & how much to address or challenge racism. Thus, pointing out white advantages will often trigger patterns of confusion, defensiveness & righteous indignation. When confronted with a challenge to white racial codes, many white liberals use the speech of self-defense. This discourse enables defenders to protect their moral character against what they perceive as accusation & attack while deflecting any recognition of culpability or need of accountability. Focusing on restoring their moral standing through these tactics, whites are able to avoid the question of white privilege. Those who lead whites in discussions of race may find the discourse of self-defense familiar. Via this discourse, whites position themselves as victimized, slammed, blamed & attacked.
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These self-defense claims work on multiple levels to: position the speakers as morally superior while obscuring the true power of their social advantages; blame others with less social power for their discomfort; falsely position that discomfort as dangerous & re-inscribe racist imagery. This discourse of victimization also enables whites to avoid responsibility for the racial power & privilege they wield. By positioning themselves as victims of anti-racist efforts, they cannot be the beneficiaries of white privilege. Claiming that they have been treated unfairly via a challenge to their position or an expectation that they listen to the perspectives & experiences of PoC, they are able to demand that more social resources (such as time & attention) be channeled in their direction to help them cope with this mistreatment.
A cogent example of White Fragility occurred recently during a workplace anti-racism training I co-facilitated with an inter-racial team. One of the white participants left the session & went back to her desk, upset at receiving (what appeared to the training team as) sensitive & diplomatic feedback on how some of her statements had impacted several PoC in the room. At break, several other white participants approached us (the trainers) & reported that they had talked to the woman at her desk & she was very upset that her statements had been challenged. They wanted to alert us to the fact that she literally “might be having a heart-attack.” Upon questioning from us, they clarified that they meant this literally. These co-workers were sincere in their fear that the young woman might actually physically die as a result of the feedback. Of course, when news of the woman’s potentially fatal condition reached the rest of the participant group, all attention was immediately focused back onto her & away from the impact she had had on the PoC. As Vodde states, “If privilege is defined as a legitimization of one’s entitlement to resources, it can also be defined as permission to escape or avoid any challenges to this entitlement”.
The language of violence that many whites use to describe anti-racist endeavors is not without significance, as it is another example of the way that White Fragility distorts & perverts reality. By employing terms that connote physical abuse, whites tap into the classic discourse of PoC (particularly blacks) as dangerous & violent. This discourse perverts the actual direction of danger that exists between whites & others. The history of brutal, extensive, institutionalized & ongoing violence perpetrated by whites against PoC—slavery, genocide, lynching, whipping, forced sterilization & medical experimentation to mention a few—becomes profoundly trivialized when whites claim they don’t feel safe or are under attack when in the rare situation of merely talking about race with PoC. The use of this discourse illustrates how fragile & ill-equipped most white people are to confront racial tensions & their subsequent projection of this tension onto PoC. Goldberg argues that the questions surrounding racial discourse should not focus so much on how true stereotypes are, but how the truth claims they offer are a part of a larger worldview that authorizes & normalizes forms of domination & control. Further, it is relevant to ask: Under what conditions are those truth-claims clung to most tenaciously?
Lynching_of_Laura_Nelson_and_her_son_2
 Bonilla-Silva documents a manifestation of White Fragility in his study of color-blind white racism. He states, “Because the new racial climate in America forbids the open expression of racially based feelings, views & positions, when whites discuss issues that make them uncomfortable, they become almost incomprehensible – I, I, I, I don’t mean, you know, but…- ”. Probing forbidden racial issues results in verbal incoherence – digressions, long pauses, repetition & self-corrections. He suggests that this incoherent talk is a function of talking about race in a world that insists race does not matter.

This incoherence is one demonstration that many white people are unprepared to engage, even on a preliminary level, in an exploration of their racial perspectives that could lead to a shift in their understanding of racism. This lack of preparedness results in the maintenance of white power, because the ability to determine which narrative are authorized & which are suppressed is the foundation of cultural domination. Further, this lack of preparedness has further implications, for if whites cannot engage with an exploration of alternate racial perspectives, they can only reinscribe white perspectives as universal.

 However, an assertion that whites do not engage with dynamics of racial discourse is somewhat misleading. White people do notice the racial locations of racial others & discuss this freely among themselves, albeit often in coded ways. Their refusal to directly acknowledge this race talk results in a kind of split consciousness that leads to the incoherence Bonilla-Silva documents above. This denial also guarantees that the racial misinformation that circulates in the culture & frames their perspectives will be left unexamined. The continual retreat from the discomfort of authentic racial engagement in a culture infused with racial disparity limits the ability to form authentic connections across racial lines & results in a perpetual cycle that works to hold racism in place.

Continued below: See White Fragility in Conclusion

White Fragility in conclusion

Conclusion
White people often believe that multicultural / anti-racist education is only necessary for those who interact with “minorities” or in “diverse” environments. However, the dynamics discussed here suggest that it is critical that all white people build the stamina to sustain conscious & explicit engagement with race. When whites posit race as non-operative because there are few, if any, PoC in their immediate environments, Whiteness is reinscribed ever more deeply. When whites only notice “raced others,” we reinscribe Whiteness by continuing to posit Whiteness as universal & non-Whiteness as other. Further, if we can’t listen to or comprehend the perspectives of PoC, we cannot bridge cross-racial divides. A continual retreat from the discomfort of authentic racial engagement results in a perpetual cycle that works to hold racism in place. While anti-racist efforts ultimately seek to transform institutionalized racism, anti-racist education may be most effective by starting at the micro level.

 The goal is to generate the development of perspectives & skills that enable all people, regardless of racial location, to be active initiators of change. Since all individuals who live within a racist system are enmeshed in its relations, this means that all are responsible for either perpetuating or transforming that system. However, although all individuals play a role in keeping the system active, the responsibility for change is not equally shared. White racism is ultimately a white problem & the burden for interrupting it belongs to white people. Conversations about Whiteness might best happen within the context of a larger conversation about racism. It is useful to start at the micro level of analysis & move to the macro, from the individual out to the interpersonal, societal & institutional. Starting with the individual & moving outward to the ultimate framework for racism – Whiteness – allows for the pacing that is necessary for many white people for approaching the challenging study of race. In this way, a discourse on Whiteness becomes part of a process rather than an event.

 Many white people have never been given direct or complex information about racism before & often cannot explicitly see, feel, or understand it. PoC are generally much more aware of racism on a personal level, but due to the wider society’s silence & denial of it, often do not have a macro-level framework from which to analyze their experiences. Further, dominant society “assigns” different roles to different groups of color & a critical consciousness about racism varies not only between individuals within groups, but also between groups. For example, many African Americans relate having been “prepared” by parents to live in a racist society, while many Asian heritage people say that racism was never directly discussed in their homes. A macro-level analysis may offer a framework to understand different interpretations & performances across & between racial groups. In this way, all parties benefit & efforts are not solely focused on whites (which works to re-center Whiteness).

 Talking directly about white supremacy & privilege, in addition to providing much needed information & shared definitions, is also in itself a powerful interruption of common (& oppressive) discursive patterns around race. At the same time, white people often need to reflect upon racial information & be allowed to make connections between the information & their own lives. Educators can encourage & support white participants in making their engagement a point of analysis. White Fragility doesn’t always manifest in overt ways; silence & withdrawal are also functions of fragility. Who speaks, who doesn’t speak, when, for how long & with what emotional valence are all keys to understanding the relational patterns that hold oppression in place. Viewing white anger, defensiveness, silence & withdrawal in response to issues of race through the framework of White Fragility may help frame the problem as an issue of stamina-building & thereby guide our interventions accordingly.
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Albert Einstein: The Negro Question

Albert Einstein addressed what was called, in 1946, “The Negro Question” in another document belonging to the so-called ‘Dead Sea Scrolls of physics’.

“I am writing seriously and warningly,” he began, before noting that as a newcomer to America, he might not have the right to speak “about things which concern Americans alone, and which no newcomer should touch.”

But “I do not think such a standpoint is justified,” Einstein wrote. “One who has grown up in an environment takes much for granted. On the other hand, one who has come to this country as a mature person may have a keen eye for everything peculiar and characteristic.”

One characteristic Einstein observed as that the American “sense of equality and human dignity is mainly limited to men of white skins.”

“Even among these there are prejudices of which I as a Jew am clearly conscious,” he continued, “but they are unimportant in comparison with the attitude of the ‘Whites’ toward their fellow-citizens of darker complexion, particularly toward Negroes. The more I feel an American, the more this situation pains me. I can escape the feeling of complicity in it only by speaking out.”

Einstein then addressed the complaints of those who have had “unfavorable experiences…living side by side with Negroes” which have led them to believe “they are not our equals in intelligence, sense of responsibility, or reliability.”

“I am firmly convinced that whoever believes this suffers from a fatal misconception,” he wrote. “Your ancestors dragged these black people from their homes by force; and in the white man’s quest for wealth and an easy life they have been ruthlessly suppressed and exploited, degraded into slavery. The modern prejudice against Negroes is the result of the desire to maintain this unworthy condition.”

Einstein maintained that this position was, in part, a conditioned response that Americans had “unconsciously absorb[ed] as children from [their] environment.” But he implored them to not only be better — but to be better than the Greek philosopher Aristotle.

“The ancient Greeks also had slaves,” he wrote. “They were not Negroes but white men who had been taken captive in war. There could be no talk of racial differences. And yet Aristotle, one of the great Greek philosophers, declared slaves inferior beings who were justly subdued and deprived of their liberty. It is clear that he was enmeshed in a traditional prejudice from which, despite his extraordinary intellect, he could not free himself.”

“We must try to recognize what in our accepted tradition is damaging to our fate and dignity,” Einstein concluded, “and shape our lives accordingly. I believe that whoever tries to think things through honestly will soon recognize how unworthy and even fatal is the traditional bias against Negroes.”

By

Einstein sitting on the front steps of his home in Princeton c. 1950

Einstein sitting on the front steps of his home in Princeton c. 1950

White Man’s Burden

Racial tensions have been high once again across the United States ever since the announcement that the infamous former Officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted in the shooting death of Michael Brown. Protests on the ground & all over social media continue. Endless comments on various news outlets & social networks have been showing much of America’s true colors regarding their sentiments about race, aside from their personal takes on the Grand Jury’s decision not to charge Wilson with a crime.

This is a common theme I’ve noticed for many years now. Almost every news article you can find on any news site about a person of African descent, whether it be good or bad, has a plethora of disparaging remarks left by readers regarding their race. You will rarely find the same occurrence of similar style comments about whites. Trolls are everywhere, and some will say that we shouldn’t believe that these comments reflect the mindsets of most of white America; But could they?

In response to many of the common questions & negative comments made towards people of African descent, I thought I would list a few of the more popular ones I’ve encountered & answer or respond to them:

Q: Why are you people acting like children, rioting & looting, destroying your own neighborhoods? It’s not going to change anything & neither will the boycotts! Why are you protesting over a thug anyway?! He deserved what he got!

A: First off, only a very small percentage of protestors out of thousands all over the country have been damaging/stealing property (I prefer to call them opportunists, as they were not really there to fight injustice, but to take advantage of the situation for selfish reasons) & there has been speculation that many of the fires that were started had been done so by infiltrators in attempts to demonize black people in the media. Video footage of what appears to be police officers starting a fire has also surfaced. Almost every fire during the protests occurred on that same street, where there was a heavy police presence, which would have made it very difficult or highly unlikely that protestors were able to gain access to these buildings to start the fires themselves. A church that was burned was one that the Brown family attended, which was 3 miles away from the rest of the protests & no other buildings in the area were targeted & in the case of DeAndre Joshua, a 20 year old man found shot & burned in a car during the Ferguson protests, have both been speculated to be the work of the KKK. Joshua was a witness that testified before the Grand Jury, and was also a friend of Michael Brown’s.

Secondly, I & many others, including a majority of the protestors do not condone such behavior, so it makes no sense to apply the actions of a very small few to the overwhelming majority of peaceful protestors. It also makes no sense to only focus on those few bad ones, as it takes away from the message that the peaceful ones are trying to convey. It’s also quite inhumane to be more concerned with replaceable & repairable property than with the loss of an irreplaceable life, or the lives in this country who face racism on a regular basis. The protests are not only about Michael Brown’s incident either, but being denied a trial that many felt he deserved. They are also the result of built up frustration from a large number of other similar, recent & historical incidents & the obviously biased & broken judicial system. Many of the protests have been in honor of other people who died as a result of police brutality as well.

Thirdly, reports are stating that the boycotts & protests have made a great impact on Black Friday this year, with many stores not reaching their sales goals. The Montgomery Bus Boycotts went on for nearly a year, but in the end, laws were changed & it put America one step closer to racial equality. So some may already be convinced that doing boycotts will not help with the cause, but history proves otherwise.

Q: Why can’t you be more like Martin Luther King, Jr, who was peaceful & spoke of non-violence? He would be turning in his grave right now…

A: MLK was a great man who did many great things & America has not seen another black leader aside from Malcolm X that made such a widespread, positive impact on the movement for civil rights [Jesse Jackson & Al Sharpton are both agents & clowns also used to make blacks look bad. All of their ideals do not reflect that of most Africans in America]. However, let’s not forget who sent these honorable men to those graves & for what reasons.

Many white people seem to have the delusion that if black people in general were more educated, well-mannered, well-dressed & law-abiding, productive citizens, our blackness will magically become impossible to be seen by our oppressors & we would all finally start being treated like equals. King & X were all those things but killed anyway. It doesn’t matter how peaceful or successful black people are, we are often still mistreated based on our race alone. There’s a popular saying by Einstein, that it’s insanity to do the same thing over & over again & expect the same result. MLK & X did make changes, but obviously they weren’t enough & different tactics need to be tried. What those are exactly isn’t yet known, but the boycotts & protests are a start. But to suggest for blacks to be more like King, who played nice & was murdered anyway, is basically telling us to shut up & die. King spoke out against whom he referred to as the “white moderate” & once he started to realize that his methods for equality were largely a mistake & began to express as much, he was killed shortly after. So please, from now on – do not bring him up in regards to our fight against racial injustice. Instead, suggest solutions that will actually work this time around, that we & our children would be alive to benefit from.

Q: Slavery was such a long time ago, so why not let it go? You weren’t a slave! Things are different today, we’re all equal now. So stop playing the victim, pulling the “race card” & blaming whitey for your messed up life! Nobody owes you anything! Plus, Africans sold their own people into slavery so we’re not to blame!

A: Yes, slavery was a long time ago, but another delusion of many whites is that the mistreatment of blacks ended along with it. Many years of peonism & mass incarceration of blacks on false & trumped up charges followed. Segregation only ended about 50yrs ago. Discriminatory banking practices, redlining & gentrification continue in present day. There are still glaring racial disparities in the judicial system. So things really aren’t all that different. The benefits of slavery are still being reaped today (you see can examples of how in my last post), but not by blacks. It must also be remembered that slavery went on for hundreds of years & even though not all whites back then owned slaves, they sat by reaping the benefits, allowing it to continue for centuries. It would be very ignorant to believe that those same types of mindsets do not still exist today in large numbers. The unequal treatment of blacks should be evidence enough, but many bigots would claim that it’s of no fault but our own.

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I’ve also noticed that most whites, when brought up the subject of racism, they automatically assume that to do so means our lives are screwed up & that we believe it’s entirely the fault of white people. I’m sure there are a few blacks that feel that way, but the rest of us know that’s not reality. Successful Africans in America still face discrimination too, so it’s ignorant to believe that it is only disadvantaged blacks who believe that racism is still a serious issue.

Many of the common problems that plague black communities do have origins in the systematic racism that blankets blacks entire history since the days of slavery, all the way up to present day. It was whites who created the environment for the “race card” to even exist by not treating everyone equally from the beginning. They made the race card & dealt it to us; When we are suspicious of racism in certain situations, it’s not “pulling the race card”, it’s genuine diffidence based on history & personal experiences. These past & ongoing experiences have proven to us that in many instances, we are correct in our beliefs that we are being discriminated against. Ironically, many racists will reject the possibility of discrimination if they believe the victims of it were deserving of mistreatment & will pull the race card themselves if they believe that a black person has advanced due to their race alone, not because they actually deserve it:

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And yes, it is a fact that some corrupt African Moors sold their own people into slavery, but that in no way shape or form explains or excuses Europeans barbaric participation. Some whites honestly believe that this fact lessens or eliminates the responsibility of their past involvement. Well, it doesn’t – not even slightly. Also, what many who bring this up almost always fail to mention, is that in a majorityf of those instances, African leaders were manipulated with alcohol, supplied by Europeans, in order to obtain slaves. Another tactic they used was supplying tribes with weapons to attack neighboring tribes with & they’d then buy prisoners of war.

Africans did utilize slavery, however they weren’t known for treating their slaves with brutality like Europeans were. Mansa Musa – the richest man who ever lived, an African – owned thousands of slaves who were not mistreated, wore silks & gold, drank beer.. Oppressed still, but a much higher quality of life than the slaves of America. And again, Africans in America, nor are Africans in Africa, benefiting from slavery or systematic racism that was & is being practiced in the USA like whites still are to this day.

There have been studies that show trauma can be inherited & that fear can be passed down through generations via DNA. Behavior can be affected by events in previous generations which have been passed on through a form of genetic memory, animal studies suggest. So although none of the more recent generations of Africans in America have ever been slaves or faced the horrors their ancestors did, it doesn’t mean they aren’t able to internalize the emotions linked to those circumstances. This could also explain some blacks natural aversions to whites. There’s also this thing called being human, which means you have the ability to feel passionately about things even if they didn’t happen to you.

Q: What about stuff like BET, Miss Black America & HBCU’s? If you want to be treated like everyone, why do you separate yourselves? You’re all the real racists!

A: All of those were implemented due to being regularly excluded, not to create an even wider racial divide. Where we were not invited or welcome, we had to create our own versions. You’d think that would be pretty easy to figure out. Things like that still exist today because we are still not included in many ways. At pretty much any major grocery chain or drugstore’s registers, you will rarely ever see people of color gracing the covers of the magazines. Shows like Friends & Seinfeld had virtually no black characters, not even the extras used in the backgrounds. The acceptance rates for minorities at most non-HBCU colleges & universities in America remain very low. Virtually all popular superhero’s are white. Every Barbie commercial mainly features their white dolls, only showing their dolls of other races during the last few seconds & usually positioned in the background, behind the white one who is front & center. It took Disney 72 years to create a black princess & then chose one who kissed a frog – even portraying her as one for the bulk of the film – when in the original fable, the princess never turned into a frog. So even our children are being exposed to white supremacy, showing what the people in this country look like who are valued most, from their early years.

Q: What about “Black-on-Black crime“? You only care when non-black people kill blacks, but not when you kill each other? That’s racist! You need to take care of that problem before you start criticizing others for doing the same!

A: 84% of violent crimes committed against whites are done so by other whites, yet they never bring up their “white-on-white crime” problem. Most violent crimes happen within racial lines, not across them. Aside from that, it’s completely ridiculous to believe that blacks do not care when they lose a loved one by the hands of another black person. The difference is, when blacks kill other blacks, we know that it’s not racially motivated. Most crimes amongst blacks in low-income areas is economically based which stems from capitalism & many generations of systematic racism as well. When people are starving & lacking opportunities, they sometimes resort to desperate measures.

Of course race isn’t a factor in every instance where blacks are harmed or killed by white police, but history has shown us that when it is, the chances that race is a factor are more likely than not. It’s also completely ridiculous to use the theorized black-on-black crime epidemic to downplay the fact that minorities are targeted much more by law enforcement than whites, or as an excuse to make it seem like it should be okay for everybody else to kill blacks too. That’s sick…

Q: If you don’t like it  here, why don’t you leave (go back to Africa)?

A: This is probably the most disrespectful & extremely racist question of all. Africans were brought to this country against their will, stripped of their history, identity, languages & cultures, forced to build this country up without compensation for hundreds of years, all the while being treated like shit (separated, murdered, lynched, burned alive, castrated, all this often times in front of other family members, etc) with very little to no appreciation or remorse expressed in the aftermath, on top of further mistreatment. We’re the ones who have been continuously & very deeply wronged, but it is us that should go??

It would make a whole lot more sense to tell racists to stop treating us as lesser, or suggest that they leave instead, but the mind of a bigot is anything but logical. Don’t they realize that to believe such a thing is the equivalent to thinking that if women want to lower their risk of being sexually harassed or raped, they should never leave home, wear skirts, or avoid being in the presence of men? Or that a youth who is being bullied should the be one to switch schools, or be home-schooled, or ignore the abuse, grow a pair & “get over it”? Perhaps they do & that’s why they make such heartless statements…

All that most Africans in America really want is to be treated according to their character, not their skin colors. They want safe places to raise their children; an environment where they don’t have to teach them how to protect themselves from the very people who are meant to protect them. Is that really so much to ask??

— What makes part of all this the burden of the white man is that although I’m sure many of them are grateful for their privilege, many are in denial that it even exists, nor would they want to let it go by helping to fight for the discriminated to gain equality. It’s not a goal that can be reached without the help of the whites who are perpetuating this privilege & comfortably allowing it to go on, like they did in the past with slavery & the following decades of injustices.

It is a difficult task, it’s uncomfortable & I’m sure many would lose a great deal of friends & family over joining in on the movement. For many whites, it would not be worth it, because it doesn’t negatively impact their lives & they are not willing to disrupt their own for the greater good. Aside from those types, there are many whites who are indeed allies of minorities & sympathize with their struggles, who may still be greeted with distrust & prejudices from minorities. Not saying that it’s right, but it should be understandable & forgivable. With history & personal experiences usually being the cause of such prejudices, it’s not baseless or irrational like pure racism is.

Racism isn’t only pure hatred; It can also be fear, apathy & silence. I am in hopes that this read gives Americas racists a different perspective & possibly help lessen or eliminate their mental illness that is racism & join the movement towards equality, so that America & the rest of the World can be a better place for all of us & future generations…

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