Monday, August 8, 2016
Excellent Anti-Racist Links
This "Unequal Opportunity Race" video from the rich website at the African American Policy Forum is just four minutes long and beautifully explains why people of color are not asking for unfair advantages--just for redress of the unfair advantages still granted white people, above all those who are cisgender males.
I was saddened to see hurtful comments about the video on Youtube and to learn that a school district in Virginia had banned it due to complaints by white parents when it was shown during a first ever Black History month event which was added because of a racist incident at a school football game. The AAPF website has thorough and respectful treatment of the issues including a sobering list of racial disparity facts.
As a mother it especially breaks my heart that black infant mortality in America is twice that of whites and that black babies are 3.5 times more likely to die from complications of low birthweight. True prolife activism must address these issues in getting black babies safely to birth and through their first year of life--and, of course, having a decent chance at life if they do survive--rather than merely trying to prevent abortions and implying that desperate-for-survival black women who choose to terminate are dupes of racist clinic staff who, in turn, are vicious liars aiming to hurt and not help their clients.
Gabriel's post also pointed me to a very helpful (except for the title) essay on call-out culture and conversations about racism at Cracked, which also means it was laugh-out-loud hilarious (which was nice because it drew Katie's attention so I could read her bits without any using up any of my mama preachy points). It's helpful for me as I balance the calls to prophetic proclamation of the Gospel call to anti-racism with humility in owning my own part in white supremacy and gentleness in explaining it to white siblings, the primary call for aspiring white allies.
"Am I a racist?" and "Is what I just did racist?" are not exactly the same question, depending on what you think a "racist" is. Not everybody has the same idea, which is why you get conversations like this:
Natasha: I have nothing against Mexicans; I just don't want them in my neighborhood bringing down property values.
Yvonne: That seems racist.
Natasha: I'm not a racist! I have a lot of black friends! I voted for Obama!
Yvonne's interpretation of a "racist" is a person who does or says racist things. Natasha just said a racist thing, ergo she is a racist. Yvonne is convinced that Natasha is intentionally bullshitting her.
Natasha's idea of a "racist" is less a person and more a golem formed from pure racism, a complete and unvarying package of across-the-board racism toward every race outside of her own, in every way. This Racism Golem is committed to their racism and will never break character by enjoying an NBA game, eating Mexican food, or making pleasant small talk with their Asian co-worker. They are hardcore dedicated to bringing down other races. Racisming so hard, it burns calories.
Natasha will keep basically shouting, "I'm not a Racism Golem!" and Yvonne will keep insisting, "The thing you just said is clearly racist!" but the translation that happens in [their brains] is, "I'm not racist!" and "Yes you are!" They sound like they're arguing about the same point, but they're not.
Both of them could help by being clearer about what they mean, and Yvonne could even throw Natasha a bone and humor her a bit by saying, "You're a great person and I love your attitudes on civil rights, but I think you just have this one blind [sic!] spot toward Latinos we need to talk about."
Happening upon both resources today is especially well timed for me as I prepare for the sacraments of Reconciliation and Healing as part of the spiritual move preparation--ideally with the wonderful Jesuit with whom I celebrated at Pentecost. It has been a long journey from:
1) being raised "color-blind" and thinking racism was over except in the south and certainly not in me to:
2) experiencing tremendous initial conversion on the issue by a cross country flight next to a black businessman nine years ago and beginning to actively study the issue followed by:
3) repeated Screwtape rounds of self righteousness and condemnation of other white people alternating with suppressing the whole issue in my consciousness.
The final stage, began in the last couple years and will probably continue till I die:
4) aiming for a gentle and humble and consistent effort to discern what I am called to on this issue and above all to have those characteristics in conversations with other white people, especially those that are a tiny bit behind me on the issue. It's up and down but I passionately desire to stay at it and when I can have respectful and positive engagement with people with whom I disagree or have different approaches on this and other issues it is amazing how much freer and happier I feel than when I get sucked into stuck and tense combox exchanges.
It felt good to try out some of these principles in the combox of Gabriel's post. I am especially looking forward to his responses and hoping that the first commenter I addressed comes back so I can see if I made any sense to him and if we can find some meeting of the minds and hearts!
I am more and more aware of how my responses and those of others are powerfully tied into personal pain which often turns to mutual triggering. It is amazing how much attending consciously to that as I work through my thoughts and phrase my responses, beginning with any honest affirmations I can give and moving on with a light tone, can get around the stuck places and help build real community with mutual care and respect even across large or controversial differences.
I have often thought it would be an arduous duty to build a calm conversation around hot topics but this feels so much better that it is positive reinforcement to, please God, keep seeking that grace on a daily basis. And to return to the "observations, feelings, needs, requests" format of nonviolent communication.
Edited to add:
After posting I kept reflecting on these questions as I undertook a dubious kitchen experiment involving leftover not-so-silken tofu, an unfairly tasked blender, chocolate pudding mix, dark chocolate almond milk, and an envelope of all-we-had Starbucks peppermint hot chocolate.
This is definitely worth a full post, but I am especially compelled by the different meanings and implications of "racist" as both an adjective and a noun, on a spectrum from terms like "displaying racist behavior" to "acting racist" to "being racist" to "being a racist." I have been thinking for some time of titling a post "My name is Laura...." and continuing "and I'm a racist," or maybe "recovering racist," and the last thing that popped to my head was "and I struggle with racism."
Which eventually made me giggle and then sober as I thought of the way that term has been used by conservative religious folks as a club against LGBT Christians who are only supposed to identify as "struggling with same-sex attraction." I think it might actually be a helpful term in this case though because racism, unlike queerness, is clearly something terrible and to be struggled with--but it also balances humility and avoidance of the intense and resistance producing shame the concept can bring even when only being owned in oneself.