Flabbergasted am I.
Over the past couple of days, a debate has popped up on the comment thread of this Monday’s think-piece about my strategies to combat racism. In brief, I stated three concrete approaches that I think will, over time, markedly improve racial dialogue and equality. A commenter expressed his feeling that while he thought my overall outline was good, that the philosophy underpinning it was false and counter-productive:
“But when we have 3 generations of emotional, white guilt laden liberals dominating the debate with no end in sight, sadly this will never happen. The systemic views of those who believe we live in a hugely unjust world will not allow it.”
The commenter was very adamant in his position that the reason for racial disparities was the fault of liberal policies and the mindset that non-white people face systematic discrimination the puts them immediately behind the 8-ball from the get-go.
“Once you realize that most Conservatives couldn’t give a damn about what race you are, and dont see things through the blinders of race/gender/class, the sooner you’ll realize that we could be closer to a society with completely marginalized racism.”
Ah yes, the old “just ignore race and it will go away” canard that I’ve been railing against since I first started posting about race. Well aside from the fact that conservatives do give a damn (take a trip to any conservative-voting part of the country, you’ll see what I mean), even if they didn’t it wouldn’t matter. Racial prejudice is real, and it’s neither enlightened nor noble to pretend as though it’s not.
Why am I so surprised? Because that’s exactly what Tim Wise thinks:
After all, to deny that people of color face unequal opportunities in America—due either to the legacy of past racism, the persistence of racism today, or some other set of structural barriers—is to leave explanations for racial achievement gaps that are racist by definition. If black folks really do have equal opportunity and yet still don’t achieve at levels equal to their white counterparts, then there must be something wrong with them as black people. Either genetically or culturally they must be inferior to whites. There is no other possible explanation.
Beyond the personal biases that exist to some extent within all of us (including those who are progressive), liberals and those on the left operate within institutional spaces and even in our political activism in ways that contribute to systemic racial inequity. This we do through four primary mechanisms. The first is a well-intended but destructive form of colorblindness. The second is an equally destructive colormuteness. These mean, quite literally, a tendency among many on the white liberal-left to neither see nor give voice to race and racism as central issues in our communities and the institutions where we operate, or their connection to and interrelationship with other issues. Both liberal/left colorblindness and colormuteness perpetuate the marginalization of people of color and their concerns, in the larger society and within progressive formations for social change.
Tim expresses everything in these two articles that I’ll try to flesh out over the next however many years I can keep blogging. This is required reading, folks. If you’ve ever said “I want racism to go away” and meant it, these two articles are a great place to start. But of course… you should keep reading here too :P
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