we dont need another anti-racism 101
March 17, 2009 § 120 Comments
i used to be an antiracism trainer for a progressive organization a few years ago. i was really really good at.
this year i finally realized after a lot of soul searching that teaching white folks how to be good allies is not helpful to anyone.
now dont get me wrong. i think that white folks working in solidarity with poc in respectful ways is often a good thing.
i just dont think we should teach them how to do it.
now i have known for a long time that no poc is obligated to teach a white person about racism. or explain it.
but i am taking it a step further. we shouldnt do it.
and by this i mean teaching white folks, anti-racism theory, critical race theory, the correct words to use, the words not to use, the correct questions to ask, etc, etc, etc. is a waste of our time. and theirs. and is harmful to building a revolutionary movement or creating good relationships.
the problem is that fundamental to white/euro-centric culture is a break between word and action. between theory and practice.
and so in my experience, folks can learn all the theory, all the right words, all of it and yet act fundamentally the same, live out the same patterns of thoughts, still hold the same fucked-up priorities. and yet spout all of the anti-racist rhetoric.
because that is all it is to them. rhetoric.
people only learn as much as they are willing to learn.
and anti-oppression is not complicated. you dont need to read a book or a take a training or read a blog to learn humility, respect, and love.
im not sure if this is making sense. it is something i have seen and lived and trying to put it in words is difficult.
its like white folks who are professional anti-racists and make money off of being and writing about being anti-racist. which basically means they make money off of racism. and see no problem with that. claiming that they should be paid for what they do. umm…no. not always.
its like us giving white folks all the correct rhetoric just allows for them to be able to better racists, because they are able to justify their racism using anti-racist rhetoric.
in that they are able to say things like: i realize that such and such is a function of racism and then they continue to do the same fucking thing that they just acknowledged was racist.
this happens all the time. like. all. the. time.
do y’all know what i am talking about?
like i know that poc are attempting by teach white folks to be antiracist in order to create a more just world. but our intentions and our impact are not matching. which means that we need to change what we are doing. giving white folks better rhetoric just feeds into the euro-centric mind set.
white folks love love love being told the right words and phrases and theory to use. because white culture does not take rhetoric seriously. white culture does not have a function that says: your words and your actions must match.
this is why so often you hear folks say: that wasnt what i meant. or that wasnt my intention. have we ever wondered why is there so much emphasis on folks intention? why do we think that our personal intention ought to matter so much to others? ought to matter more than the impact of what was said or done?
what folks mean when they say: that was not my intention—is—i did not verbalize in my head: abc instead i verbalized: xyz.
and what you verbalized in your head (or heart) ought to matter more than the harm of your actions?
and instead of changing one’s actions, one changes one’s rhetoric.
why? because in white culture what you verbalize (out loud or not), your internal and external rhetoric is important in and of itself. and yet has little bearing on what you do if what you said when acted upon would undercut or diminish your ability to rise higher on the caterpillar pile.
like its one thing to be anti-racist. its another thing to be respectful or humble or loving. to not take that new job position w/o realizing that there are poc who are more deserving. or to not insult that woc when you know that doing so will increase your readership. or to not quote a woc when you know it will make you sound smarter and garner more respect from white folks.
im not sure if this makes sense.
i guess what i am saying is that in my experience if white folks want to be respectful of poc or understand where they are coming from–they dont need a workshop. there are centuries of writing from poc that they can dive into. there are plenty of poc in their neighborhoods and community organizations. when white folks are ready to be anti-racist, when they are ready to turn from facing the center, to facing the margins, and stand with us. we will be here.
they dont need to be converted or preached to.
they dont need to learn the right words to use. or the right theory.
we dont need more of that.
and it is harmful to them to give them a bunch of new theory and rhetoric while they are still angling to get as close to the center as possible. to get to the top of the caterpillar pile.
and antiracism theory will just be used as another means, another tactic for them to reach their goal.
and the funny thing about culture, is that culture provides us with a set of assumptions that we dont have to verbalize internally or externally in order to act those assumptions out. and one of those assumptions in white culture/eurocentric culture is an isolationist, individualistic sense of success and failure. the: i gots to get mine. you gots to get yours.
and until folks stop living out that cultural assumption, no amount of anti-racist theory is going to do any good.
if anything it will be harmful because now we as poc have just given them one more tactic to get over. get ahead. step on others in the kyriarchy.