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:
- 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.
- This person/s’ malfeasance diminishes the respect he/she deserves as a person.
- 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.
- 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.
Confessions of Liberal Intolerance
Why Hillary Clinton Does Not Deserve the Black Vote
Should Blacks Boycott Elections?
These Black People are Not Voting