Friday, August 22, 2008

Racism 101

I used to have to deliver this lecture--or one very much like it--once per semester in every class I taught in graduate and undergraduate teacher education programs, both in Oklahoma and Louisiana. It was depressingly necessary, because the perfusion of the specious, spurious claims by whites of being 'victims' of 'reverse racism' by blacks or other minorities on white folks.

I now find it necessary to pull it out about once every six months on the blogs, too, where--one could only hope--there might be a slightly higher level of critical acuity, given that so many bloggers are actually adults, in responsible positions. But, alas:
Racism is NEVER merely a matter of individual acts of bias or bigotry
(The following was occasioned by an exchange on MLW, part of which constitutes the first, italicized paragraph. One commentor had remarked that a couple of Southern states were in play for Obama this year because there were serious efforts underway to register an estimated half- to three/quarters of a million hitherto unregistered voters in those places.)

Are you saying that Black voters are racists? That they will vote for the Black candidate without thinking? That their only question is whether obama is Black enough?

Are you saying blacks are, in general, worse off today than in 1965 because of 'liberal' politics, affirmative action, voting rights, and the like? That seems a risible assertion. Perhaps because of racist reaction to traditional liberal notions of advocating for racial justice and social equity, I suppose that case might be made. But that's clearly a case of blaming the victims who have been historically deprived of equity and justice.

A black voting GOP, as JC Watts' daddy said during his campaign (which I worked on; though he wasn't the first person to say it, he was the first person I ever heard say it) for Labor Commissioner in Oklahoma in '98, is like a chicken voting for the Colonel...

Racism is not an "individual" fault. It is societal. The Japanese practice racism against the Ainu and Koreans, as well as all other 'gaijin.' In northern New Mexico until fairly recently (and still in the more remote villages and towns) Chicano 'racism' did occur, where it would be difficult for a Native Amreican, or an Anglo to get the good, county jobs, for example, because they were not part of the dominant Chicano culture of the area. Racism is the institutionalization of notions of racial superiority. Racism is prejudice PLUS power to enact prejudice to the detriment of the allegedly, customarily, 'inferior' group.

So the answer is No, they are not 'racists' for preferring Obama. They would be 'voting their best interests.' Their choice would, to me be about as anti-racist as any vote could be, because they would be voting against the (defacto) racist GOP a party which has only flourished these last 40 years because of their wholesale adoption of racism as the organizing principle of their Southern Strategy...

Unfortunately, because of racism among whites (which is the only kind there is in most of the USofA)--that is, the systematic, quasi-official, socially embedded exploitation of white prejudice, bias, and bigotry against blacks and other people of color to keep them in positions of degraded citizenship, economic adversity, and social repression (in 1950, the majority of convicts in US prisons outside the South were white; today, because the carceral system has been appropriated as a tool of racial control, the vast majority everywhere are 'minorities')--Obama is being forced by the white racist establishment--to foresake the traditional liberal positions advocating for racial justice and social equity to allay the fears that he won't turn the tables...

I used to assign readings by Tim Wise. This piece was published in 2000:
The most unfortunate thing about all of this is that by neglecting to address institutional racism and other forms of structural inequity, it becomes all the more difficult to adequately confront the individual-level attitudinal biases about which we hear so much. Put simply, so long as our society is one in which certain folks-say, white, heterosexual men-are disproportionately found in prominent decision-making positions, and certain other folks-say people of color, women of all colors, and gays and lesbians-are disproportionately found in subordinate positions, it will be seen by many as quite obvious (or perhaps not thought of at all, but simply internalized) that those straight white guys must be smarter, or harder working than the rest, and thus, deserve their position, while those without power must likewise deserve their subjugation thanks to one or another genetic, cultural or moral flaw. This is how the myth of meritocracy works with regard to class, and it works just as well with race, gender, or sexual orientation: inculcating the mindset that the winners won because the losers are, well, losers.

So long as identifiable inequity is allowed to exist to any significant degree between socially-constructed and classified groups, this stratification-alongside the subjective propaganda which holds that individual initiative is the key to success or failure-will continue to produce racists: those like John Rocker, and those like the millions of other folks who frankly agreed with what he said, differing only on the style of delivery. It's time we got busy addressing the problem itself, rather than merely its occasional, highly public, symptomatic manifestations. Sound advice: and you didn't even have to check yourself in for therapy to get it.
Or check this out:

1 comment:

Tom the Redhunter said...

My, you sound angry about it all. Are you sure your "lecture" wasn't political indoctrination disguised as education? Given what I see on the rest of your blog, I suspect you may have made David Horowitz' list of 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.