Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Why focus on racism?

Why focus on racism specifically, if racism is really just a pattern of elitist behavior? Because focusing on racism can help our society reflect on our worst behaviors of elitism, while paying down the debt our society owes to empirically disfavored groups.

Addressing racism can help address other political and social issues, but not vice-versa:
Addressing racism can teach us how to solve our most pressing social inequities in education, the economy, and our communities. But, we cannot address racism if we do not specifically name it.  Addressing racism can help us to address other forms of elitism, including political extremism, sexism, tribal, and LGBTQ issues. However, the reverse is not true: we cannot address racism by addressing political extremism, sexism, tribal or LGBTQ issues. 

In fact, political extremism, sexism, LGBTQ, and tribal issues have gotten special attention over the years, while addressing racism remains taboo and risky. 

Independent movements across the nation have risen to challenge extremism in politics, but racism remains a problem in every political movement right, left, and middle. Racism is often lobbed as a weapon -- used as a tool to manipulate support for or against 'the other side' without ever solving any racial disparities or inequalities. 

Women have had celebrity power from Hillary Clinton, Emma Watson, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Kate Winslet etc. CEO Tory Burch just started a campaign for 'women's ambition' with several celebrities male and female. 

LGBTQ communities have had major legislative wins in the past few years, and an entire sport boycotted the state of North Carolina to support the trans community. 

Standing Rock had presidential pressure, a celebrity concert from Neil Young, and thousands of veterans show up to support their fight against the XL pipeline. 

Yet, where is the support for black Americans, who suffer the most from elitism in our culture?

Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest police brutality against black Americans -- fans boycotted, the backlash was so severe, Kaepernick was pushed out of his place as a quarterback for the 49ers. The Black Lives Matter movement has been labeled 'terrorist' by several public officials. No celebrities organized a show of support for black Americans who have been systematically killed and criminalized in Ferguson. A concert on Broadway to support Black Lives Matter was canceled, because of the Black Lives Matter stance on the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel's treatment of Palestinians.  The BDS movement is supported by several Jewish organizations, national church organizations, and labor groups, but Broadway felt comfortable punishing BLM for their support of Palestinians.

Black Americans are at once asked to stand up for feminism, LGBTQ communities, and other minorities, while their movements are continually co-opted, marginalized, punished, and ignored. Why? 

We refuse to face our racism head on, and find every way to deflect and deny that which is so clear: 


Racism against black Americans is ubiquitous, accepted, and even fervently guarded/violently reinforced by leaders in our communities. This leads to poverty, crime, and violence in our culture. 

How we treat the least favored among us shows our true character. If we want to change our culture of bullying, exclusion, and elitism -- let's start with addressing racism toward our black citizens and work from there. Addressing racism against black Americans can heal our culture. It can help us see our elitist behavior in the most pronounced relief. 

Facing, and changing our behavior toward black Americans will effect how we treat others facing bullying and exclusion. Black American movements for equal rights are continually co-opted, swept under the rug, punished, and ignored. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

Analysis of Internalized Superiority, and Anti-Racism work in Lewisburg

In the last post, I broke down 'whiteness' and internalized superiority a little bit. I mentioned that internalized superiority has a hierarchy, and that black Americans are on the bottom of that leading to enormous debt to our black citizens in opportunities and resources like education, wealth, jobs, and leadership.

Further up the hierarchy, however, the same behavior exists among 'white' people as well, and can be a significant barrier to white anti-racist work. Not surprisingly, the same elements of internalized superiority are components to negative behaviors like elitism and bullying. The end effect often perpetuates systems of inequality, toxic culture, and weak communities.

Elitism -
1. The belief that certain persons or members of certain groups deserve favored treatment by virtue of their superiority, as in intelligence, social standing, or wealth.
2.
a. Behavior arising from or indicative of such a belief.
b. Control, rule, or domination by the members of an elite.

Adult Bullying (experienced by nearly half of all adults) -
Some key examples of Adult Bullying (from NoBullying.com): 
Repeated hurtful and hostile actions 
Actions which are intended to mistreat or control people 
Hurtful verbal and non-verbal communication  
Actions which decrease someone’s intrinsic self-worth
The repetition of insults 
Verbal conduct which any reasonable person might see as humiliating or threatening 
Shouting 
Sabotage work tasks 
Assigning tasks that have impossible deadlines 
Removing responsibility in favor of trivial tasks 
Taking undue credit 
Spreading rumors 
Undervaluing effort on a consistent basis 
Non-productive criticism that never ends

Some Elements of Internalized Superiority -
Demanding conformity, and creating a hierarchy of power to maintain the comfort levels of one section of the population, over others.

Taking credit for other people's work
Dismissing consequences of decisions/actions to 'others'
Focusing on maintaining power for the favored group
Blaming the victim
Hording knowledge
Abusing hierarchy (power) to punish/lock out 'others'

I have seen elitism, bullying, and internalized superiority play out in my interactions with 'diversity' group leaders who are part of the same network from Lewisburg:

From the outset, I was very clear about giving The People's Institute credit when talking about Undoing Racism (R) and the knowledge we gain from their work, because they had relayed to me that they have problems with people stealing their work and not giving them credit. However:

  • Cynthia Peltier of the CommUnity Zone, in a meeting that was supposed to be about me volunteering, instead interrogated me about my personal life, and insisted that we don't need another training, and that Undoing Racism (R) won't be useful. The CommUnity Zone proceeded to then plagiarize Undoing Racism's (R) web material as the foundation for new programming called Race Matters. I had specifically told Peltier in this meeting about the troubles the Institute has with plagiarism. 
  • The United Way Diversity and Inclusion Council touted 'a training' as part of their new programming, but did not name the program, or give credit to The People's Institute. Their description took credit for 'sending several people' to the training, when in fact they sent two people, and were invited and given scholarships by Inequity Analysis, with the understanding that they would help in efforts to build support for others leaders across the region to have the same educational experience. Instead, no credit was given to anyone and the experience is being used to bolster the GSV United Way and their affiliates. The United Way claims that the training gives them authority to 'talk about racism in the community,' when the purpose of the training is to internally examine ones own institution to do a power analysis of whether an organization is serving itself, or its mission. 
  •  
  • Immediately after attending the training together, I was kicked out of the Council for 'disagreements with the chair' which were never explained. They refused to voice any public support for Undoing Racism (R) and Inequity Analysis. Again, I stress, GSV United Way removed me, unethically, while emulating what I, and Undoing Racism(R) training brought to the table.
  • Inequity Analysis asked groups to help with fundraising activities, and offered to help raise money for the Inequity Analysis fund with Art Auctions and concerts around the area. In a conspicuous correlation, The United Way's new initiative The Valley Together has started a new series, "Art in Bars," connected to their new programming to foster diversity. Not that I mind them doing so -- but in context of the situation, it shows disrespect, and further display of internalized superiority.

Additionally, folks from this group continually tried to control and monitor my speech:

  • I was yelled at at a Meet Up! at the Wesleyan Church coffee shop to 'change my mind about Penns Commons' because Jim Buck had worked on it for so long. I had made my opinion known about Penns Commons on an email list conversation. I am still of my own mind about the issue, but it was a real problem for this group in Lewisburg. 
  • I had actually met with Jim Buck for two hours to check out the site of the housing development, where I was told that my opinions 'were along the same racist lines as conservatives.' I assured him that I am not a conservative. He scoffed at me (!), and stated that 'I sound like one.' 
  • When I brought up issues I encountered with Peltier, Buck, and this exchange at the Meet Up, with Susan Jordan (the Chair of the GSV UW Diversity Council) over the weekend when we took Undoing Racism (R) training together, she yelled at me, pounding her fist, telling me that I have a 'messaging problem,' and a 'listening problem' because of my opinion about Penns Commons. I was told that "I talk like I know what I am talking about," and as if "what I say is true." I do have a background in sustainable community development, and my opinion is similar to that of County planners -- but this group was livid about my opinion, and pressured me to stop voicing my point of view -- which I did, and asked to be removed from the email list, because I don't live in Lewisburg. I was added to the email thread, without request, because of my anti-racism work.
  • When I asked Sam Pearson, who was working with Inequity Analysis, but moved to the Diversity Council in sync with my ousting, about this 'messaging issue,' she also was upset with my Penns Commons opinion, and added "Who knows what you are saying when we are not listening." 
  • There were other disagreements Susan Jordan had with me over our training weekend -- about identity issues. The day after our training, Jordan sent me an email asserting that my opinions that she did not agree with compromised my integrity to work on anti-racism issues with Undoing Racism (R), because they don't align with the 'curriculum.' (There is no 'curriculum.' I had been coordinating with The People's Institute for over a year)
There is so much irony in what happened next: I was kicked off of the council because of 'disrespecting Susan,' 'disagreements with leadership,' and 'disrespecting the hierarchy of the council.'  I was silenced and told to speak with no one -- not the public, not the board, not the actual council about anything of my experience with the United Way Leadership. You can read my initial blog about being removed from the council here. It seems impossible to hold GSV United Way Leadership accountable, as they have continually refused to address my concerns; the board has also refused to respond to any concern; and the larger United Way says local issues must be dealt with by the local board. As well, the Daily Item who regularly prints pieces favorable to the GSV UW, has refused to report on this story, or publish my letter to the editor.


The reason that Inequity Analysis asks for a statement of support from those who accept training scholarships is because properly ensuring accountability requires what The People's Institute calls, 'a net that works': a network of leaders, across fields, and the larger community (cops/teacher/healthcare/social services etc). This 'net that works' is essential to maintaining accountability.

It is counterproductive, and unethical, for one organization to accept scholarships to the training and shut down efforts for the larger community. Undoing Racism (R) is meant to be experienced by a wide range of community leaders -- and again, the program focuses on helping community leaders analyze their own institutions and programs for racial disparities.

What the GSV United Way has done, is to continue on with the patterns of internalized superiority: taking credit where it is not due (and away from the black centered Undoing Racism (R) training); assuming to 'know better'; copying others work; demanding conformity with their leadership; and loyalty to their hierarchy (of course with their leaders at the top); hording information; denying accountability; double standards etc.

This really comes back to power, and abuse of power (even small amounts of power). The United Way leadership abused what power they could to ensure that they would benefit from my efforts, over myself, and the larger 5 county region.

I deserve an apology from the United Way. Inequity Analysis deserves statements of support about the training -- considering that it is the basis of the United Way Diversity and Inclusion Council's new programming. I also think they need to change leadership, and work on their organizational culture. 

Other concerns I have about the leadership at the United Way, the Community Zone, Sustaining Diversity, and other groups rooted in Lewisburg that deal with 'diversity':

I regularly heard bigoted statements against conservatives, like "conservatives are wired to be racist." A lot of action was around "confronting" conservative ideas, things conservatives had said etc., like holding a rally outside of someone's house who has a confederate flag, and trying to get a conservative teacher out of the school system. Most of the understanding around racism was focused on blaming someone else -- especially conservatives. In the last meeting I had with Sam Pearson as part of Inequity Analysis, she asked me to look at an article about 'Talking to Middle Americans about Progressive Issues,' which assumes that 'liberal' ideas are right, and that others just need to be nudged little by little into the 'right' way of thinking.

Racism is not a partisan issue, it is a cultural issue, and we need perspectives from across the political spectrum to properly analyze the issue. 'Liberals' need to look in at themselves, before blaming 'the other side.'

The fight between white people, in an effort to maintain power and comfort, perpetuates racist actions and prevents us from solving problems of racism in our communities.


I had seen conflict with this group coming for quite some time. If you look back through these blogs, you will see mentions here and there of bubbling petty conflict. I offered, as a resolution to the problem, that the council talk about the conflict in the context of the Undoing Racism (R) training we just had -- that we look at our bias against conservatives, and internal bickering and how we might be contributing to the perpetuation of racism in the process. Unfortunately, instead, I was quickly told to never return, and to never talk to anyone about the situation ever again.

One way or another, this pattern of superiority has to be addressed before we can effectively address the perpetuation of racial inequalities. I am still open to an apology from this group, and afterwards, a sharing of our experiences and partnership to bring more understanding to other leaders in our area about how we can 'undo racism' together.



Further reading:
Distancing Behaviors
Racism is not a mental illness
Breaking Down the Non Profit Industrial Complex
Toxic organizational structure vs. Community Centered
Political Exclusion Breeds Extremism and Inhibits Respect 
Dynamics of Power, Inclusion, and Exclusion 

'Whiteness' and Internalized Superiority

What is 'whiteness'? It is a flawed concept, but useful to a degree in explaining racism in the USA.

'Whiteness' is a reference to 'power' more than race.

'Whiteness' is a normative political power (rooted in law, religion, science, and the media), crowned with the ability to distribute wealth, resources, and opportunities. You can see this in US history in laws like the 1790 Naturalization Act, which were influenced by other embedded political institutions like religion and science. For instance, some interpretations of biblical stories like 'The Curse of Ham', and Ishmael created disfavored groups of blacks, and Arabs.

Why is 'whiteness' a flawed concept? It is a flawed concept because it links oppressive power to 'whiteness' as a racial construct. When used in extreme rhetoric like George Ciccariello-Maher, associate professor of politics and global studies at Drexel, in his Christmas Eve tweet for a 'white genocide,' it can perpetuate cycles of racial violence, and misunderstanding.

The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond call this 'whiteness' internalized superiority, which I think is a much more appropriate, widely applicable, and accurate label.

The Institute connects internalized superiority and 'whiteness' with the history of power dynamics and social norms in the USA.

Internalized superiority in the USA centers norms and power in 'white' spheres of influence. It is a power structure that only 'whites' are born into. Internalized superiority is 'a way' of acting that perpetuates favoritism and inequality. In the USA, the favored group, the group in power, the social norms, are centered on 'whiteness.' In other countries or historical contexts what is considered 'white' might not be the group in power, or the norm.

This way of acting superior affects American culture beyond racism. In fact, in the workshop, facilitators focused on how 'white' people treat each other -- and how internalized superiority creates abusive, inauthentic, and dehumanizing social interactions based on ego in 'white' spheres of influence.

These interactions -- this way of behaving -- is counterproductive to addressing issues of equality/inequality. Internalized superiority is a number one reason why the USA has made such little progress in the area of racism, according to the People's Institute for Survival and Beyond's co-founder, Ronald Chisolm:





This is reflected in my experience with the GSV United Way, and other leaders from Lewisburg, while trying to work with them on anti-racism efforts in our community. You can see an analysis specifically about my experience with this group and internalized superiority in the next blog here.

So, what is 'whiteness' again, or internalized superiority?


'Whiteness' as rightness: social and cultural norms in the USA are centered on what seems 'right' to 'white' people. For instance, black professionals are often asked to straighten their hair, and are asked to not wear cornrows or afros; 'Americans' don't want to hear a 'foreign' accent when they call customer service; covering the head or wearing certain dress is taboo in the workplace.

If we look, we can see this pattern in smaller ways within 'white culture' itself -- restrictions on died hair, piercings, tattoos, dress codes -- basically demanding conformity, and creating a hierarchy of power to maintain the comfort levels of one section of the population, over others.

There are other, more nefarious, patterns of behavior that tag along with 'power always being right,' and it is not surprising that these patterns line up with bullying and toxic organizational culture.Things like: taking credit for other people's work; dismissing consequences of decisions/actions to 'others,' and focusing on maintaining power for the favored group; blaming the victim; hording knowledge; assuming to 'know better'; using hierarchy to punish/lock out 'others'; double standards; etc.

The end result is an inability to form authentic and meaningful relationships with 'others,' and a breakdown of community. What The Institute conveyed to us in the workshop was that internalized superiority is harmful, not only to disfavored 'non-white' groups, but to 'white' groups as well.

In a racialized context, because the pattern favors those at the top of the hierarchy, those at the bottom come out with the least access to power, resources, and opportunities -- hence institutional disparities for black Americans are the worst in our culture. 

Examples of Acceptable dress/behavior/ideology: 
Suits/slacks and button down shirts/shaved (men and women)/
trimmed hair of natural color (even died 'natural')/
compliant to conforming/light skinned/
speaks without an accent, and with 'proper' English (even 'American' accents like from Boston/Wisconsin/Texas are discriminated against)/
Christian/'American' as European Centered/
more education should correspond to more power

Who meets these descriptions?: 'Professionals,' Christians, descendants of European culture, and those who will follow these standards/norms/requirements to be 'accepted.' So, at the top here, we have 'proper whites.' Well educated, light skinned, professionally dressed, 'well' spoken, Religious (Christian)  

Are citizens with these characteristics afforded more access to opportunity and resources? Should they be? Are citizens who do not meet these norms denied access to opportunities and resources? Should they be? Does it align with American values, to answer yes to any these questions?
 
Another poignant question is: should we blame those who do fit this description and/or those at the top? I argue no. Our Undoing Racism (R) training also tried to relay that 'white' people are not to blame, but are subject to the same cultural requirements. Looking at the roots of these requirements in history, religion, science, and media can help us to understand how social stratification has been perpetuated.

This is why Undoing Racism (R) focuses on institutions, and leaders of institutions as change agents. It is difficult to challenge norms in our textbooks, or organizational/institutional culture, and indeed, The People's Institute notes 'resistance to institutional change' as one of the greatest challenges to 'undoing racism.' Institutional leaders are uniquely positioned to implement change -- by taking down the arbitrary boundaries of 'norms' concerning dress/lifestyle/culture/religion/ideas; by becoming more democratic vs. autocratic in management; by examining their own institutions history, mission, work, and outcomes; identifying racial disparities; naming where internalized superiority may have blocked the right leadership, or  contributed to racial disparities in their work's outcomes.


When power is an end, when power is continually put in the hands of one homogeneous normative character, inequity is inevitable.

All people have value, all people in our communities have something to give -- different perspectives, different strengths, different knowledge. Our country, and indeed our All-American ideals are what have made the US the envy of the world. We lose community, profits, innovations and more by having a narrow definition of what is 'acceptable' and required before someone is a valued member of society -- worthy of equal respect to those who are 'Well educated, light skinned, professionally dressed, 'well' spoken, and Religious (Christian),' or otherwise part of the 'in group.'

Too often those in our communities who fall away from this norm, are less valued, and denied access to equal legal protections, voting access, jobs, leadership roles, investment etc. Those who fall away from the norm are asked to prove more, to be 'exceptional exceptions' in order to gain respect and equality in our communities. Conversely, those who fall away from the norm are judged more harshly, often characterized, and dehumanized -- all of which can lead to harm for the disfavored individual/group.

Connecting internalized superiority to 'whiteness' as a racialized concept is wrong, and harmful. However, reflecting on how internalized superiority has benefited 'whiteness' historically in the USA, religious texts, science, and laws, is vital to understanding what racism is, and how we can stop it.


http://cdn8.openculture.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/13203512/Superman-All-American-Color.jpg
EXTRA:

How too much education can lead to ignorance
Asset Mapping-- there are many excellent resources about this online.
Double Standards of reactions to riots

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Creating a Positive White Identity

There is a hole in anti-racism work: positive white identity. Unfortunately, white identity in anti-racism work is vulnerable, commonly taking on the labels of: oppressive slave owners, creators of slavery, building a culture on slavery, hate criminals, the 'guilty' ones, the 'bad' race, culturally ignorant, cultural appropriators, and even void of a culture at all.

How can 'white' people take part in a conversation about racism under the accusatory burden of these labels?

First of all, our U.S. culture in general needs to educate itself honestly about our multi-cultural struggles and victories. We need to understand the role that our 'white' cultural heritage has played in racism. We also need to connect the dots between our struggles, and struggles throughout human history all over the world.

One poignant part of the Undoing Racism (R) workshop I took was when an Asian woman spoke up against the definition of race provided by the The People's Institute. The workshop leaders claimed that race was a construct that favored 'white' people (scare quotes are mine. See my reflection on the Undoing Racism workshop here.) The woman spoke up to say that other cultures use the same construct of race for power around the world, and she cited examples from her cultural history.

The 'white' race is not the bad race, though it is often said to be so, even by white anti-racist activists.

Before I went to the Undoing Racism (R) training, I prepared by doing research and trying to find others' accounts of taking the training. I found one account challenging -- an account of being asked in a round, "what do you like about being white." I felt like this was a trick question, to reveal some white appropriation of our inherent multi-cultural heritage. After all, my family is American, and we don't have unique cultural recipes, religions, rituals, or holidays passed down from our grandparents. My grandfather was Mormon, and left his church, and my grandmother was an orphan. The closest thing to a passed down recipe is snack of bread in milk, or fried oatmeal (both are very tasty).

What I found, after mulling the question over for a while, was a lot. A lot that is attributed to western culture and western philosophies. Now, I won't say that western thought and philosophies had no non-white influence -- after all humans have always traveled, shared great thoughts and discoveries, and grown from it. But, what has always driven me to have a deep conviction for human rights, equal rights, and faith in humanity, are ideals of liberty and governance set forth by Greek philosophers like Plato, and Socrates; furthered by enlightenment writers like Locke -- all of which set the basis for our U.S. Constitution, and the reforms of governments around the world toward freedom.

I am glad to be from a culture -- our U.S. culture, that is rooted in the fight for freedom of individuals, and dedicated to goals of tolerance, liberty, and a just balance between the individual and collective good. Rooted in the belief that no one man can own another, or take ownership of another's work. In fact, it is these very roots that have driven me as an activist for human rights and equal treatment under the law, and just laws.

I recently watched a TED talk on the Cyrus Cylinder, which I had never heard of: this is a scroll that is widely influential, throughout history, and throughout the world. It sets an example for inclusive, and tolerant governance:


Personally, I am happy to have grown up in U.S. culture, an amalgamation of cultures in which we have all benefited from sharing knowledge and discoveries. I grew up in Southern California, and Mexican food like quesadillas, burritos, tacos, guacamole, churros etc. are part of my history and culture. As is Chinese food, and Confucianism. My grandma took me to downtown LA as a kid, and sat me at a Chinese bar until I learned how to use chopsticks, sternly telling me, "it is time." According to an online religious quiz, my religious beliefs most closely align with Buddhism, though I think of myself as not religious.

I have lived in Central PA for most of my life now, and so have added things like funnel cakes, perogies, Fastnaght Day, falafel, and halushky to my own, intimate, cultural experience. I no more think of my enjoyment and identification with these multi-cultural elements as cultural appropriation, than I would consider people around the world wearing suits, surfing the net, eating burgers and fries, fighting for western style democracy, or listening to Beethoven as appropriation. Humans have always traveled, shared, and grown.

From western philosophy, to Enlightenment leaders, to US abolitionists, civil rights instigators like John Brown, and the freedom riders...'white' history is full of fight -- fight for the good, for equality, liberty, freedom and justice. These words are not just slogans, they are values paid over and over again in blood and strife -- and we will keep on fighting, and we will keep on growing, not alone, but as the product of continued exploring, sharing, and learning from one another.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

It is Time to Stop Blaming Conservatives for Racism

Clinton and Trump used racial divisiveness to mobilize their bases in the 2016 election. Racism is not a partisan issue. It is one of the oldest, and easiest ways for politicians to mobilize factions of society for or against the other side.

Certainly, a vigorous debate can be had about how each side has used race in our recent election, but there is one easy test for authenticity: who benefits from the statements being made? Have politicians statements been rhetoric to rally votes, or sage insight about how disfavored groups can access equal protections, resources, and opportunities?

Authentic liberal and conservative perspectives can enlighten different facets of racism (as detailed in the last blog), but as long as each side denies their own role, blames the other side, and uses race to maintain their own power, those who are affected by racism will keep losing.

Racism: Race prejudice + power


One simple guide for handling racism: explore, get to know, and own your own part. There is no doubt that one side can lend the other understanding of different aspects of the problem -- but we cannot change the actions of other people -- we can only change our own actions, and that is enough.

Of course, when one does not understand their own role in the societal perpetuation of racism, they can't even change their own actions.

The dogged fact is, white/black/liberal/conservative -- no matter the group, people do not seem to acknowledge their own racism.


"North vs South"

An overarching theme in race relations in the U.S. is that conservatives and The South are 'the racist ones.' The South has a more intimate relationship between blacks and whites than any northerner can know. Most blacks in the US live in the South, because that is where their population came into this country through the slave trade, and immigration of blacks from southern islands. No one has a more intimate, or complicated relationship with race than the South.

When the North blames the South, it implies that the North is free from responsibility when it comes to racism. This is, of course, not the true picture of the problem. In fact, since 1970, black Americans have been moving back to the South, and out of Northern areas. Northern states have an onus to ask themselves, "how are we racist?" When 'the North' blames the South, it puts the entire problem on an 'other' group, freeing itself from guilt and responsibility -- effectively abandoning the problem altogether.

Comfort-seeking is a theme that permeates our historical struggle with issues of racism: aligning with the victims as saviors; or absolving blame by projecting the problems outside of their sphere of influence. 

Facing racism is uncomfortable for everyone, not least of all political minorities who do not have the power to set norms or ensure their own rights. There is enough racism to face in our own families, political groups, and communities, without worrying about if someone else is dealing with racism.


"Liberal vs. Conservative"

Liberal America controls most of our social agencies, and even to great extent media and business operations. The popular narrative is that conservatives are the racists that deny black and other minority groups jobs/homes/fair treatment in government/fair portrayal in the media. But who really controls those spheres?

It is true that Donald Trump made gross negative characterizations of most segments of the population -- racist comments. But it is not OK to assume that the entire population who voted for Trump did so out of racial hate, or that Liberals are free from racist acts. In fact, Clinton and Dems have a long history of perpetuating racism as well. Blaming the 'other side' prevents any constructive work to address the very real problem of racism in our culture.

Black Ambassador for Peace and Sport, Jack Brewer, explains his vote for Donald Trump, and against Clinton's efforts to address racism in his commentary, "Why Hillary Clinton Couldn't Rally the Black Vote."

In fact black support for Dems has been decreasing since '08. In 2012, Democrats lost black and youth votes -- two groups who care deeply about the issue of racism. The trend continued in 2016. Blacks made it clear that they felt like a pawn in the court of politics with neither party showing authentic concern for solving racism.

As well, white rural areas have made their voices heard saying, "don't judge us all as racists." Rural areas have different issues -- mostly economic -- that feel more urgent to them than racism, even though racial hate, and institutional disparities are important issues in rural areas too.

The more liberals demonize and blame rural, white, conservatives, the more they are placed at the center of an issue that seems to them, 'not their issue.' All the while, conservatives are not invited to the conversation about stopping racism, because they are assumed to be racist! 

I have reached out to conservatives, and I know that conservatives care about addressing institutional disparities, and protecting minorities. 

Extremists generally join hate groups, because they are excluded from the community, or 'not accepted.' In fact, demonizing rural white people as racist (even though they have little to no exposure or experience with non-white culture) can create white extremists.

Compared to the number of conservatives in this nation (roughly half, if not more), very few are in the KKK (less than 10,000 by Southern Poverty Law Center numbers), and the left should not assume that a conservative or Republican is to blame for racism.

Conflating the KKK with conservatives empowers the KKK, and de-legitimizes everyday conservatives.

Likewise racism persists in liberals circles, and ignoring liberal racism reinforces systemic denial.

Americans want to understand the issues of racism and have a responsibility to understand the legacy of racism in the US. More urgently, the US must stop the momentum of increasing racial tensions in our culture today. 

Everyone has a role to play. Each group involved in the debate about racism -- conservative/liberal/black/white etc. -- can shed light on certain aspects of the issue. However, deliberations often end up in fights because each side reaches out to blame, instead of seeking partnership to help solve the problem; and each side is steeped in denial when it comes to critiques from other parties.

Some elements of racism cross groups, some issues have to be dealt with inside of each group. As Americans, we all have a stake in ensuring equality in laws, and accessibility of resources and opportunities.

But, if no one comes to understand their own role in perpetuating racism, constructive deliberation about how we can stop racism will continue to stall.


The Harmful Engine of Blame:
  1. If something has gone wrong (or is not the way it should be), then someone other than myself must be identified and blamed for causing the situation.
  2. This person/s’ malfeasance diminishes the respect he/she deserves as a person.
  3. So, it is permissible (and only fitting) to treat this person/s in ways he/she deserves to be treated such as ignoring, name-calling, and in extreme cases, physical assault.
  4. I must not accept any significant degree of responsibility for the situation inasmuch as to do so would be to admit that I am myself also diminished as a person, and therefore deserving of the same disapprobation and negative treatment. (Psychology Today)


Racism: Race prejudice + power

Explore your part -- get to know it, own it, and change.


Get to know conservatives in the documentary, The Other Side -- a liberal travels around conservative America to listen.


More on Understanding the 'other side' by Conscious Bridge.

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