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Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Is the White anti-racist movement racist?

I've subscribed to a white anti-racist network web newsletter for some time now. The latest carries an intriguing, insightful discussion of racial issues within the anti-racist movement. the link is at
Jeff Hitchcock, in the article "A Blessing or a Curse?" responds to a blog entry by "Guerilla Mama"
Excerpts from Guerrilla Mama (AKA Mai'a): "the ones who are the most ’successful’ in anti racism are white. they are the authors, bloggers, consultants, workshop trainers, speakers etc." While critical race people of color provide most of the theory, whites benefit most from the antiracist "industry." "...the line in the anti racism mvmt is that it is white people’s duty and responsibility to speak to white folks about white privilege. people of color shouldnt have to do it."
"but. when white folks are getting mad props, respect, accolades, book deals, professorships, awards, etc. when white folks use the fact that they identify as white to gain a leg up on people of color in the anti racism industry/profession. then it is racism pure and simple. and if you are white and in the anti racism movement then that is what you are doing."

And excerpts from Hitchcock's response: "Her words are troubling, partly because they hold truth, and partly because they obscure." "White people benefit from the very thing we work against." Yet he defends white racist leaders, saying they all acknowledge their debt in learning from people of color (my reply--and do they point their listeners to these voices rather than making them disciples of their own?)He also mentions the "People's Institute for Survival and Beyond, an organization and anti-racist collective led by people of color which over the course of nearly 30 years has single-handedly trained a few hundred thousand people and introduced more white people to anti-racism than the collective body of white anti-racists and whiteness studies scholars combined." He admits that the mainstream attention to the antiracist movement enriches the white practitioners, but claims that in "In the smaller, more concentrated community of white anti-racist activists who wish to be part of a larger multiracial anti-racist movement, that's as much an obstacle as it is a benefit." And what's to be done about this racial injustice within the movement, I ask? My reply on Mai'a's blog is this: "In religious terms, perhaps what the antiracist movement needs is less evangelism and proseletyzing, and more confession and penance and restitution."

Interesting issues--make me squirm a little, gotta fight the defense impulse, ("How dare you question my motivation and sincerity!") and see the white privilege at work within the very movement meant to expose and expunge said privilege.

1 comment:

mai'a said...

huh. strange that hitchcock would write an entire response to a black woman's critique of anti racism on wacan but not link to it as a comment on the post which he is critiquing. that is his choice. it is just an odd anti racist response to a critique of anti racism.

yes. i have heard plenty about how white anti racist leaders point to the work of people of color. and having been an anti racism trainer and consultant for progressive non profit organizations, i have seen plenty of workshop trainers point to pivotal work by people of color. but that isnt the point. the point is that having white gatekeepers is racist. the point is that there is a very critical power dynamic that has not been dismantled in the anti racism movement. how can a movement advocate for the dismantling of a white superiority mind set, when that same mind set is fundamental to the economic and social power with in anti racism? in other words. how dare a movement advocate against racist employment discrimination that unfairly benefits whites. when that movement justifies that same type of employment discrimination in its own ranks?
as i wrote before. this is not necessary. feminism does not have predominant male leaders. lgbtqia movement does not have straight folks as the primary spokesperson. it is not simply a case of a larger global social dynamic happening within a movement.
this is about white supremacy in the anti racism movement.
and i am not shocked to find that there are white anti racist folks who cannot hear that.
as for people's institute. which every body loves to bring up. ok. thank you for bringing up the exception that proves the rule. now give me three more organizations that have the same level of integrity as people's institute and then we can have a conversation about what i have and have not obscured.
furthermore that is a great overestimation of people's institute's influence. i have known some people's institute folk. i would say that while going through people's institute is a badge on the path of 'becoming an anti racism expert'. people's institue can easily be replaced by several other 'encounters' with people of color. for instance living overseas. volunteer work with poc. etc etc. in other words. yes people's institute has been influential, but that influence is not the same thing as privilege. and it does not operate the same way. and it obscures the mechanisms of power to compare white anti racists leadership in anti racism with people's institute's leadership.
i mean people's institute has always been held up as the 'i voted for barack obama' of the white anti racist crowd. long b4 obama's rise.