I'm one of them.
There are others who live in the delusion that we are approaching, or living in a "post-racial" society.
I beg to differ.
It should be patently clear to anyone who just went through the trauma of one of the most racially vituperative presidential elections in recent history that racism hasn't magically dissolved into the ether. Doubtful it will get better in the next four years if the millions of racists in this country have anything to say about it.
It really isn't about racist politicians. They are only a symptom of the disease. They got elected by the racists who voted for them. Those same racists will be voting in the next election.
We have a black president for the second time. That has done little to diminish the outpouring of racial hatred here, and in some ways it has only inflamed it.
This is no time to do a victory dance where racism is concerned. It is however, time to ask a serious question.
What are you doing to stop racism?
Since a majority of people in the U.S. think of themselves as "white," I'll address this question to those who are part of that socially constructed group.
According to the 2010 census there are 196,817,552 (63.7%) of people in the U.S. who are classified as "white people." They are not Latinos or African American, Asian or Native American.
But let me narrow it down quite a bit more.
When I look at a headline like this: "Eighty-Eight Percent of Romney Voters Were White," I'm not talking to those whites. This is addressed to the 56 percent of whites who voted for President Obama.
To narrow it even further, this is really a plea to those white people who consider themselves to be progressive. I have no idea what percentage of that 56 percent think of themselves in those terms.
But if you are one of them, this is written to you. You have to become part of an anti-racism vanguard.
Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans didn't make this a racist country. Not one of these groups has the power to maintain systemic racial inequality. Before you can overturn 400 years of racism built into the foundations of this nation, you have to first change those who keep the system in place.
None of us—meaning people of color—can fix you. The only person who can begin to right these wrongs is you. Most of us don't live in your neighborhoods, nor do we work with you, or even go to school with you. Most of us aren't married to you. Most of you have white children, parents, in-laws, cousins and co-workers.
Few of you get up each morning and say as you look in the mirror while you brush your teeth, "Today, I'm going out to do battle against racism." You aren't driven by that, your whole life is not shaped by being the wrong color, and though you may get outraged from time to time, when reminded by the more heinous offenses against us, it isn't your rallying cry. You expect us to lead the various poc civil rights movements from our own segregated spaces and you'll join in from time to time, or perhaps make a donation to "our" worthy causes. You don't wake up in the morning each day and say to yourselves—I have white privilege, and that's not alright.
You still go to family celebrations with racists. When at gatherings with none of us present rarely do you confront others there with you about their racism. What makes it harder is that you rarely look at your own unconscious acceptance of a world that allows racism and privilege to fester, boil and erupt.
I really don't care what you have decided your main cause is—the environment, climate change, Occupy Wall Street, feminism, gay rights, health care, education, the war ... all worthy.
This is not about causes. This is about ending racism.
It starts and ends with you.
Before you get all bent out of shape and respond with "but but but ... I am not a racist," that isn't my point. My point is you are probably not an anti-racism warrior.
Until all of you are, racism will go along its merry way destroying us all.
If the most progressive among you aren't part of the solution, the problem of racism stays with us.
This isn't an impossible task. I wish you could try being black like me. I manage to live work, eat, sleep, play, laugh and make love every damn day being black, feeling racism, reading racism, hearing racism. But you can't. You are white like you, and virtually immune to what you see as my problem.
Not every person of color is a part of the battle either. But every single person of color knows they are "not white." Even if they try to delude themselves or are crippled by self-hate. And before you say, "But, but, but 'X' group is racist too ..." stop. Not one person in "X" group has the power to change white America. Not one person in "X" group maintains the systems of racism.
(Continue reading below the fold.))
Ask yourself how often do you read anything written by people of color.
Do you own any artwork by people of color?
How often do you go to films or plays produced and/or directed by people of color?
How integrated are social gatherings you attend?
How integrated is your neighborhood or school?
Who are the people of color who are part of your social networks?
How often do you discuss race or racism with them?
How frequently have you openly confronted someone you know making racist remarks and explained to the person why their remarks are unacceptable to you?
How much do you know about Black, Latino, Native American or Asian American/Pacific Islander history?
Right here at Daily Kos there are several communities that post articles and stories written from the POV of people of color.
They get very minimal support. There are very few of us here percentage-wise, and it is often disheartening to see that for the most part, we will rarely graze the rec list, or if we do we don't stay there very long.
Make an effort to seek out places and spaces where you can learn from and interact with people of color. Learn to listen. In those interactions, become more self-aware of almost automatic suppression tactics you might employ, some of which are linked below.
The following documentary is not new. Yet not enough people have seen it. If you've seen it already pass it on to some people you know. Watch it with friends. The website also has a useful downloadable conversation guide.
It certainly isn't going to end racism or white privilege. But it can help some white people begin to take a look at themselves.
Mirrors of Privilege: Making Whiteness Visible is a brilliant documentary and a must-see for all people who are interested in justice, spiritual growth and community making. It features the experiences of white women and men who have worked to gain insight into what it means to challenge notions of racism and white supremacy in the United States.
It is painful to be a part of a progressive online community and to often realize that racism is not just something on Fox News. This week I felt slapped in the face reading some of the discussion that took place around 17-year-old Jordan Davis, murdered in Florida, and realized that a few people couldn't "get it" or see how racism was involved in what had occurred. They wanted to spend time pointing fingers at youth who play their music too loud. It was like the "blame Trayvon for having worn a hoodie" deal.
I had to step away from the keyboard. I took a deep breath, and reminded myself that we still have a lot of work to do within our own ranks.
Those few of us who are people of color here are not a monolith. We are a very small minority within the larger space. The combined total of "followers" or regular readers of groups like Native American Netroots, or Black Kos, Barriers and Bridges or LatinoKos is still only a drop in the bucket.
Part of making a commitment to be an anti-racist warrior is to take some time out of your schedule and attend a workshop or training session on white privilege. Take a look at this cartoon. What is your response?
Many of my students have read Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?
Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see black youth seated together in the cafeteria. Of course, it's not just the black kids sitting together-the white, Latino, Asian Pacific, and, in some regions, American Indian youth are clustered in their own groups, too. The same phenomenon can be observed in college dining halls, faculty lounges, and corporate cafeterias. What is going on here? Is this self-segregation a problem we should try to fix, or a coping strategy we should support? How can we get past our reluctance to talk about racial issues to even discuss it? And what about all the other questions we and our children have about race? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, asserts that we do not know how to talk about our racial differences: Whites are afraid of using the wrong words and being perceived as "racist" while parents of color are afraid of exposing their children to painful racial realities too soon. Using real-life examples and the latest research, Tatum presents strong evidence that straight talk about our racial identities-whatever they may be-is essential if we are serious about facilitating communication across racial and ethnic divides. We have waited far too long to begin our conversations about race.In my women's studies classes we read White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh, who is one of the discussants in the Mirrors of Privilege video above.
Before you respond in comments, I'd like to request that you refrain from derailing the discussion.
One of the things that happens here fairly frequently, and on other blogs and in comment spaces around the internet, is suppressing discussions of racism.
I'm going to cite some of them. The author(s) have given permission to cite the whole shebang.
How to Suppress Discussions of RacismObviously I'd prefer that you don't resort to any of these tactics, but I have never written anything here where it hasn't happened. It's part of the process of unraveling racism.
4. Deflect attention away from the specific criticism.
Remember, your goal is to avoid having to focus on what your opponent has actually said. We've compiled a list of helpful phrases that deflect attention away from specific discussion of racism. You can use them to respond to almost any discussion of racism, regardless of the content.
We recommend you mix and match responses; arguing is more fun when there's some variety involved. Be careful not to use all the responses at once, or else your opponent may notice that you are contradicting yourself.
"Why are you complaining about racism instead of sexism/homophobia/ageism/classism/genocide/world hunger?"
"I'm [a member of an oppressed group] and I'm not offended."
"My friend is [a member of an oppressed group] and he/she is not offended."
"Why aren't you talking about the white people in the book/film/comic book/TV show?"
"It's just a book/film/comic book/TV show!"
5. Racism, however ugly, is better than the alternative.
Sometimes, even when you do your best, your opponent is so persistent that you are forced to discuss racism. Don't worry: it's not your fault and soon it won't be your problem.
In most of these cases, you can rely on a few handy responses that define racism in a way that benefits you, prove that racism is better than the measures that would have to be taken against it, or otherwise misdirect your opponent's attention.
"Pointing out racism just makes it harder for us to achieve a colorblind society. You shouldn't judge people based on their race."
"Focusing so much on race just shows that you're racist yourself."
"Minorities can be racist too, you know!"
"Even if it's not the best representation of minority characters, it's better than having no minority characters at all, isn't it?"
"You'd rather have boringly flawless and politically correct minority characters?"
"Everyone knows it's bad to be racist now, so why make people feel defensive and ashamed by pointing incidents out?"
"Maybe it's racist, but what about reverse racism?"
We are moving into a future America which will have major demographic shifts in population. Yet as long as those expanding groups are unequal at the table, mere shifts in population will not eliminate individual racism, nor will it address the deeper systemic aspects of the problem.
It's your choice to be a part of the problem, or part of the solution.