Apr 21

Racism: How White People Can Change

Quotes about racism are provided from several books, including How to Be An Antiracist, that help us understand racism better and that offer advice about making appropriate changes.

I. Ibram X. Kendi‘s How to Be an Antiracist

The opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is ‘anti-racist.’ What’s the difference? One endorses either the idea of a racial hierarchy as a racist, or racial equality as an anti-racist. One either believes problems are rooted in groups of people, as a racist, or locates the roots of problems in power and policies, as an anti-racist. One either allows racial inequities to persevere, as a racist, or confronts racial inequities, as an anti-racist. There is no in-between safe space of ‘not racist’.

“Institutional racism” and “structural racism” and “systemic racism” are redundant. Racism itself is institutional, structural, and systemic.

I do not use “microaggression” anymore. I detest the post-racial platform that supported its sudden popularity. I detest its component parts—“micro” and “aggression.” A persistent daily low hum of racist abuse is not minor. I use the term “abuse” because aggression is not as exacting a term. Abuse accurately describes the action and its effects on people: distress, anger, worry, depression, anxiety, pain, fatigue, and suicide.

II. Robin DiAngelo‘s White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism 

White supremacy is more than the idea that whites are superior to people of color; it is the deeper premise that supports this idea—the definition of whites as the norm or standard for human, and people of color as a deviation from that norm.

White people raised in Western society are conditioned into a white supremacist worldview because it is the bedrock of our society and its institutions. Regardless of whether a parent told you that everyone was equal, or the poster in the hall of your white suburban school proclaimed the value of diversity, or you have traveled abroad, or you have people of color in your workplace or family, the ubiquitous socializing power of white supremacy cannot be avoided. The messages circulate 24-7 and have little or nothing to do with intentions, awareness, or agreement.

If I believe that only bad people are racist, I will feel hurt, offended, and shamed when an unaware racist assumption of mine is pointed out. If I instead believe that having racist assumptions is inevitable (but possible to change), I will feel gratitude when an unaware racist assumption is pointed out; now I am aware of and can change that assumption.

III. Reni Eddo-Lodge‘s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race.

White privilege is an absence of the consequences of racism. An absence of structural discrimination, an absence of your race being viewed as a problem first and foremost.

White people are so used to seeing a reflection of themselves in all representations of humanity at all times, that they only notice it when it’s taken away from them.

When I talk about white privilege, I don’t mean that white people have it easy, that they’ve never struggled, or that they’ve never lived in poverty. But white privilege is the fact that if you’re white, your race will almost certainly positively impact your life’s trajectory in some way. And you probably won’t even notice it.

Aug 21

“How to Be Less Stupid About Race”

Called both “a deft, angry analysis for our angry times” (Kirkus Reviews) and “insightful and irreverent” (Publishers Weekly), sociologist Crystal Marie Fleming‘s 2018 How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide covers a lot of territory regarding race and racism, not only in this country but all over the world.

In explaining racism to all of us, Fleming, who identifies as black, admits that she too has needed to learn. States Kirkus: “People are stupid about race, as she herself was, because they haven’t been properly educated. They know nothing of the interdisciplinary Critical Race Theory and think that ‘white supremacy’ references should be limited to guys in hoods and other extremists.”

The following is a sampling of succinct quotes from How to Be Less Stupid About Race:

There is no biological basis to dividing humans into racial categories.

Race is a fundamentally stupid idea that refers to the belief in visible, permanent, hierarchical differences between human groups defined in terms of biology, physical appearance, or ancestry.

Everyone has an opinion about race, but 99 percent of the population has never studied it. And even many textbooks that “talk about race” are filled with lies, inaccuracies, and alternative facts.

Much of the racial stupidity we encounter in everyday life derives from the fact that people think of racism as individual prejudice rather than a broader system and structure of power.

White superiority can’t tolerate millions of people finally realizing that it is pervasive and systematic.

White supremacy persists, to a great degree, because of white folks’ refusal to aggressively challenge other whites on their racism.

There are generations of white people who have been socialized to believe that what we now call racism is just the way it is.

White supremacy is the air we breathe. It’s embedded within our major institutions, our political economy, definitions of citizenship, our cultural codes and expectations, the way resources are distributed, and our psychological biases.

Despite the valiant efforts of white observers to blame the election on the economic anxiety of white workers, study after study has confirmed that Trump’s appeal to whites was primarily driven by race–and racism–not class.

Seventy five percent of whites have no non white friends.

As long as the endemic, systemic nature of white supremacy is successfully minimized or denied, as long as “conversations about race” are mainly about individual attitudes, prejudice, or the actions of a few extremists, then attention is drawn away from the structures and pattern of racial inequality hiding in plain sight.

Racism isn’t just wearing white hoods and burning crosses. It’s also fixing the system so that black votes don’t get counted. It’s outlawing affirmative action at the state level. It’s building more prisons than schools. It’s red lining by financial institutions. It’s television programming that portrays people of color as villains and white people as their victims.

We can only change those things we are willing to face.