Next steps for anti-racist White Americans…

First of all, if you're not anti-racist, but you're a White American, this isn't for you. If you're going to pull some old-line "rebuttals" to well-established academic scholarship on race, this post isn't for you, and your comments will be deleted. I don't have time for your questioning arithmetic when you're in a calculus class. You're a derailer, and I've heard all of your tired arguments before. Nothing new here. Move on.

Still here? Actually want to be a better White person in America? You've already read/watched/participated in stuff like these:

  1. "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" and "Some Notes for Facilitators"
  2. Project Implicit
  3. ELI5: Why is it so controversial when someone says "All Lives Matter" instead of "Black Lives Matter"?
  4. White Fragility
  5. Racial Bias in Perceptions of Others’ Pain
  6. Are You Sure You’re Not Racist?
  7. 13th
Cool. That's a good start.

It's also great that you actually challenge your racist relatives and friends, because that matters, and you are making a difference, and frankly they're more likely to listen to you than to me or other non-White people. Good on you for fighting that good fight.

Some people think it's ridiculous to give "cookies" to people for being decent human beings, but you're trained and raised not to be, so when you fight that, it requires effort.

But you still might feel like "I'm not doing enough. I have a lot of privilege as a White person. What should I be on the lookout for?"

Obviously, call out overt and physically violent racism. That should be obvious. Racial slurs. Harassment.

But also be on the lookout (in yourself and others) for these subtler forms of racism:

  1. Do I think it's okay that White people defend themselves with weapons but insist non-White people resist only non-violently? Why are the Founding Fathers praised for a violent revolution against the British but Martin Luther King, Jr. is praised for being non-violent?
  2. Along similar lines, do I often rush to ask non-White people to forgive White people who've wronged them but show more understanding for White people who are resentful when wronged?
  3. Do I ever feel uncomfortable when I'm the racial minority in a situation? How much control do I have over being in the situations in which I'm the racial minority?
  4. Do I accept unquestionably narratives about all great things (literature, inventions, etc.) being created by White people? What have I done to seek out information on non-White historical figures?
  5. What media do I consume that features only White protagonists? What media have I sought out that features non-White protagonists? Why do I have to seek that out?
  6. Even though I try to treat non-White people well, am I acting more as if they're a guest in my house than as if we are equals in a house that is for all of us?
  7. Do I ever make assumptions that Whites hold majority positions of power because of merit alone? If non-Whites held majority of positions of power in Hollywood, politics, corporate boards, etc. and said it was just meritocracy, how would I feel? How would I imagine fellow White people would feel?
  8. It can be more difficult to see how "meritocracy" works in private hiring practices, but take a look at how straight-presenting cis able-bodied white males get scrutinized for in running for office versus... other folks. Good exercise: imagine public reaction to Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton doing anything Donald Trump has done.
  9. Do you say you're not proud of slavery but still uphold narratives of slaveholders as noble in some way? How have you reacted to buildings named after slaveholders being renamed?
  10. Have you considered how questions like "If you could travel to any time in the past?" or "What actor would play you in a movie of your life?" are different from non-White people in the U.S. than for you?

This isn't a comprehensive list. Just a start. If you're reading this, you've probably gotten through a lot of anti-racism 101. This is your 201. Ask these questions of yourself and other White people as you go through your daily life.

P.S. Even though this is a 101 (not 201) point, just a reminder that this isn't about "White guilt." Feeling guilty or bad about yourself does nothing productive to end racism. See racism, call it out. Fix the system.

P.P.S. Here's an excellent example of White supremacy disguised as sincere concern (i.e., an example of concern trolling with a mix of gaslighting): Regarding “Did Oscar voters go for best or adjust for color?” (Jan. 25): The Oscar’s brilliance has dimmed. Because the question presented itself, it is already done. The once proud symbol of accomplishment in the entertainment industry has been smudged. An evaluation of skills and talent have been tainted by the irrelevant factors of diversity and political correctness. The pinnacle sign of accomplishment in the entertainment industry cannot recover and regain the respect it once had even with its sometimes troubling history. Most hurt of all are the nominees and recipients who can never know if they earned the award through talent or ethnicity. Oscars were always about merit before? Non-Whites didn't win Oscars in the past, not because they didn't get leading roles and juicy dramatic roles, but because they just weren't as good actors? Everybody knows that's hogwash. White actors now don't know if they won awards through talent or ethnicity. Why is it suddenly a bad thing for non-White actors to not know?

One thought on “Next steps for anti-racist White Americans…”

  1. It’s been since perhaps 2008 or 2009 since I regularly read your blog, and I’m glad to see that you’re still posting occasionally. I remember your work very fondly, because I was sincerely religious then, and I didn’t see very many others who were of my political persuasion.

    I’m curious about your specific stance on item 1.).

    I think that the Black Panthers armed “cop watching” operations in California in the 60s are among the most righteous and courageous acts of protest in our nation’s history. Not tone policing: could it have been bad messaging? Maybe, sure. Was it right? Yes, I think so. They found a legal solution to a substantive problem and risked their lives for justice.

    I think MLK has been praised for being nonviolent in contrast to some recent unwieldy protests, but that might be deservedly so. I think even vandalism in the course of an otherwise well-intentioned protest is a gift to the enemy. Our side will win the middle by being principled and having a strong message. If we do so much as break windows we make it a right-wing photo-op.

    The Deacons for Defense too. I think there’s a proud history of armed self-defense in this country. I’m not sure it’s frequently acknowledged. I’ve found many people on our side treat armed self-defense as contrary or hypocrtitical in view of supporting /some kind/ of gun control. For what it’s worth, I’m pro-gun, and I don’t support any measures beyond improvements to NICS, and I don’t see that as a contraction. Self-defense is a basic human right.

    As an aside, in view of that horrendous election, I’m also curious as to whether or not you agree with the portmortem assessment as to whether a lack of an economic message is the reason that we lost.

    Warmly,

    Paul

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