Sunday, May 18, 2008

Racism and the Way to Reconciliation

Let me first apologize to nonAfrican American minorities. I’m much more learned and versed to race relations as it pertains to white Americans and black Americans. The process to reconciliation is pretty much the same, though, if that helps.

As we begin this conversation, let’s first address some issues we know are fact. For example, fact: anti-black/African racism is pervasive in America.

Here are some other facts. Due to this racism, African Americans are at a disadvantage in all the following areas: school discipline; academic tracking; health care and medical treatment; criminal justice; employment; income; wealth accumulation; and, other areas.

Fact: affirmative action does minorities good while not displacing white Americans.

Fact: white Americans often hold greater anti-black bias than they are willing to admit ("Mapping White College Students' Racial Ideology" by Eduardo Bonilla-Silva and Tyrome Forman).

Fact: when white supremacy is challenged, white supremacy being pro-white bias, white Americans often deny its existence and demonstrate even greater anti-black bias ("Racial Attitudes in Response to Thoughts of White Privilege" by Nyla R. Branscombe and Michael T Schmitt).

Fact: white Americans are poor detectors of racism unless it’s blatant. This and the two previous facts prevent the overwhelming majority of white Americans from having anything beneficial to contribute to a conversation on racial reconciliation. And as black Americans are the ones who suffer from anti-black bias held by society at large, I feel it’s only fair that we (and other minorities) determine the terms of conversation. And I know telling others to shut-up is just not done; and, my prohibition on most white American contribution is harsh. But how else do we solve a problem that most white Americans deny either in quality and quantity, personal responsibility, or just outright deny?

And I only prohibit most, not all. Those white Americans who see themselves not as white or even American and/or those who are willing to endure the brunt of years of pent up anger may have something usable to contribute. I dare not refuse them the opportunity to speak. You would do well to do more listening than talking if your contribution sounds something like this: everyone is racist; what about reverse-racism?; why do we always have to focus on white people’s racism?; I wasn’t there, therefore it’s not my fault; how dare you suggest I have nothing to contribute! That’s racism; you’re making me feel uncomfortable, therefore I will disengage; etc and et al. In other words, if your response is a defensive one, please, keep it to yourself. Or, better yet, forget it altogether.

Now, this is not to say that white Americans should place the burden of finding a way to racial harmony on black Americans. This isn't to say that white Americans have absolutely nothing to contribute. This is to say, however, that your reflexive defensive responses aren't getting us anywhere. And that's a fact.

Fact: African Americans don’t ally with each other on the basis of skin color or even on similar culture; we find solidarity amongst each other on the basis of a common struggle against anti-black bias. It’s not our heritage, not our history that binds us. We are bound together by our common cause of true justice and racial equality.

Fact: there is no problem within the Black Community that an end to white supremacy won’t solve (taken from a quote by Tim Wise, a white anti-racist activist). Therefore, we will not discuss problems within the Black Community as though they don’t exist elsewhere and under other conditions.

I will, however, discuss a path towards racial harmony. It is simple. Perhaps easier said than done, but simple.

White Americans must stop identifying their whiteness in terms of its superior position to others. That is to say, be white and proud. Be proud of your families and neighborhoods. But you cannot continue taking pride in the success you have that others do not, or cannot, attain. The fact is your success sometimes comes at a price that others pay or is success others don't have the opportunity to attain. Hard words to hear, I’m sure. But true.

This brings me to my next point. White Americans must stop defining truth and reality. Rev. Jeremiah Wright spoke the truth. He lives in reality. If there is going to be racial reconciliation, white Americans have to quit calling the truth a lie and reality a fantasy.

Now, let’s address American history. First and perhaps most importantly, it would be nice if the truth was taught in our schools and colleges. Our “Founding Fathers” enjoyed great success and the leisure to achieve their accomplishments due to the wealth that African slavery and the African slave trade generated. And just as white Americans point to Europe as the beginning of the American tale, so too is there a tale to be told from Africa. She should speak as well.

Before you start on your guilt trip, no one is blaming you for what happened in the past. It’s true that none of us were there. What’s also true is that there is yet a debt that has not been paid. There remain stolen goods, if you will, that have not been returned. Yes, it’s true that all the slaves and even their sons and daughters have died. What’s also true, however, is that money doesn’t die; it gains compound interest.

And presently, white Americans everyday enjoy undue advantages based on the color of their skin.

So what’s the answer? How do we go from racial tension to racial harmony?

Well, integration is only part of the solution. That solution being true equality. Address everyone’s history and literature and contributions to mathematics and science. Fund all schools the same amount of money, regardless of the property-value of the neighborhood. Promote students based on their actual standardized test scores, not on what you imagine their ability to be. Diagnose and treat each patient’s ailment, not their race. Only pull over a driver who has actually broken a traffic law. Punish the crime, not the person. And so on and so forth.

And why isn’t integration the sole answer? Just because white students sit next to black students doesn’t mean an end to racism. This is especially so since whiteness is taught as superior. White American dialect is the standard; white American dialect is “proper.” European and white American literature and music are classics. If, instead, literature and music from across the globe were taught as equals, we would see white supremacy begin to fall. If African American vernacular English were treated as an equal dialect, even if not the academic or business dialect, white supremacy would begin to crumble.

These are just my own initial suggestions and ideas. These are neither comprehensive nor exhaustive. If you really seek the end of white supremacy, you would do well to seek out other anti-racist activists.
Posted by no1kstate at 6:06 PM
Labels: Anti-Racism, Equality and Justice

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This isn't too complicated. If you disagree with me, I'm more than happy to have an honest discussion. I'm quite open to learning new facts and ideas. I'm dying for a conservative to explain their ideas in a sensible way.

But, I do have rules, and they also apply to those who agree with me. They just get the benefit of my already knowing the fact they'll be referring to.

So, here're the comment thread rules:

1 - Use facts.
2 - Refer to policy.
3 - Don't rely on theories and conjectures. Show me how, for example, a public health insurance option will lead to "rationing" of health care.
4 - No unfounded attacks on any entity.

If you break those rules, I will edit your comment to my own whimsical satisfaction.

Lastly, perhaps most importantly, I'm not going to entertain too much pro-white/racism-denying discussion. I want this to be a space to discuss strategies to fight racism, not space where I have to fight racism. I want anti-racists to be able to come here for a mental respite. If what you're interested in doing is attempting to demonstrate the fallacy of anti-racism by repeating the same ole comments and questions and accusations we hear all the time, please do that somewhere else.

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