Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Dare Not Speak Its Name

It's a very good article, detailed and thorough (an admitted rarity at Raw Story).  That quote alone, in the tweet, speaks volumes. 

As I've said repeatedly, in America you are either a white supremacist, and therefore a racist; or you're not.  It is not, as I've also noted, the way blacks and "browns" (I hate "Latino," it's a stupid grouping; but then you're stuck classifying by skin color, which is by definition, racist; yet what else do we have?) see the matter.  It's actually better if white Americans admit they are racists, the same way alcoholics and addicts admit their addictions.  It's the first step.

The article includes this quote, from a presentation made, ironically, by a group fearful of critical race theory:

"Since white people are in a state of privilege with regards to racial issues (meaning they can choose not to think about racial issues that don't affect them) they may respond to the whole discussion of race with discomfort."

That's exactly right, and exactly the problem with addressing our national "hidden wound."  I don't have to think about being stopped by a cop for DWB (Driving While Black), yet I've seen cops do that to black drivers.  (I used to sit and wait for my wife to leave work in St. Louis County.  I often observed police stopping drivers for some reason, I never knew why.  The drivers, 100% of the time, were black.  The sole black seminary professor told us stories of being followed, regularly, in department stores.  He looked as "gangsta" as I do, but he was black.  Nobody pays attention to me in department stores.  I had to think about those things to realize how much I've never had to think about racial issues.  I'm a white male, I walk through the world confident nobody's going to bug me, approach me, consider me for assault.  My daughter doesn't.  She explained that "hidden world" to me, too.  It opened wider when my wife nodded in agreement with my daughter, and said she knew what her daughter was talking about.  I've known my wife for 50 years.  I never even suspected.  Yeah, I have a lot of white male privilege.)

That quote in the tweet deserves to be put in context:

Broadly summarized, according to a slide in a presentation by the consulting group that provided the training, critical race theory "analyzes the role of race and racism in perpetuating social disparities between dominant and marginalized racial groups."

Mineo told Raw Story that people who oppose critical race theory don't deserve to be stigmatized.

"Being against critical race theory doesn't mean that someone holds the position of a white supremacist," he said.

The "slide presentation" is the same one that quote above came from.  The summary of critical race theory is seriously deficient, but so it goes.  Being against CRT doesn't mean you're a white supremacist; but it also doesn't mean you either correctly understand CRT, or that you aren't a racist.  And let me say here "racist" means having any opinion on blacks based on skin color rather than individual character, or being blind to the world we've created and defended since at least 1619 that preserves white male privilege above all else.  Yeah, that sounds harsh.  Truth hurts.  If you think that's "in your face," I sympathize.  But the problem is you, not the truth.

Gotta be honest.

So white people can't say they see the world in terms of race, or prefer the system of laws and historical benefits (I recently heard a simple economic commentary that black Americans in general don't have the history of family assets their white counterparts do, and so have a harder time entering into the wealth created by home ownership.  My grandfather ran a used car dealership before I was born.  He lived in a house built by his brother, a carpenter.  My father made his money from the GI Bill and going to college, where he got training to be a CPA.  He did well in the post-war boom, and helped me finance the house I now own free and clear.  He also put me through college, back when it was state-supported and frighteningly cheap.  He had wealth to pass on, and I benefit from that, directly and indirectly, now.  I've owned three houses myself, as he did in his lifetime.  That's a helluva lot of privilege I absolutely take for granted because I don't own two or three houses at once, or have the assets of a Bill Gates.  Most of us don't, but most white people have greater advantage and benefits than most non-whites in this country.  Is that due to racism?  Or is it just the natural order?  Or do we even think about it all that much?).  What we (white people, I mean) certainly don't do is see it in terms of race, or racism.  Racism is bad; and I'm not bad.  I just want to take care of my family, and preserve my property interests by being sure my neighborhood retains its value.  And that means concern for who lives there, among other things.

Flip it around:  you don't have to be a white supremacist to be a racist.  It's actually much easier to be a racist, than it is to be a white supremacist.  To put it in other terms, it's much easier to just not care about religion, than it is to be an avowed atheist.  One is a casual indifference, the other is an activity. Of course, if "none" is your default position (and that mainly means you don't have a church membership, or consider yourself a member of a church, synagogue, mosque, what have you.  Technically I'm a "none," but I'm certainly not an atheist, or even a non-believer), that doesn't affirmatively harm others.  But to say you aren't a racist because you aren't a white supremacist doesn't mean you don't still happily take advantage of the privileges afforded to you if you are white in America.  It just means you are walking through life with your eyes closed.

Orwell said the hardest thing to see is what's right in front of your nose. It's easier to ignore what's in front of your nose if your eyes are closed.  I'd amend his observation, and say the hardest thing to do is to get people to open their eyes.  It is happening (I would not give you false despair); but it's going very slowly.  Most people are quite comfortable with their eyes closed.  So much so I sometimes think the "original sin" is comfort. (I actually think the O.S is selfishness, but remaining comfortable is pretty much the first effect of selfishness.)

One last quote from that slide presentation:

"Critical theory is essentially a religion. Call it wokism, neo-Marxism, neo-racism or identity politics; it utterly lacks in humility and forgiveness and is practiced with religious zealotry."

Usually what people claim for their opposition is what they themselves are proclaiming in the first place.  "Religion" has become an empty term, a placeholder for false ideas, unfounded and untrue, but held zealously by its proponents against all challenges and non-adherents to the idea.  It's an odd replacement for "conspiracy theory," which is really what's being described.  "Religious zealotry" is an echo of the rise of terrorism supposedly rooted in Islam, but terorism and conspiracy theories spring from a common taproot, and that taproot is the refusal to take responsibility.  Oh, the opponents of what they think is CRT think they alone are taking up the responsiblity to protect America:

The Virginia Project launched a "Program on Un-American Activities," which charged that topics like "critical theory, critical race theory, queer theory, equity, transgenderism, cancel culture and other forms of Cultural Marxism" were being wielded as "ideological subversion" against the United States.

That kind of zealotry is actually a way of discarding responsibility, of replacing responsibility to others with responsibility to an idea.  When the idea alone matters, people don't matter.  That sounds like religion to some people, but "Religion is responsibility, or it is nothing at all."  And the hardest part of that kind of responsibility is that it starts first with the individual, and never really gets beyond that.  I am not responsible for you until I am at first fully responsible for me.  Making myself responsible for you (especially if you seek an abortion and I oppose it strongly; or if you don't support the political ideals I do) relieves me of being responsible for me.  You are the problem I must solve; I'm not a problem at all.  

To the extent proponents of "wokism," or "Neo-Marxism, neo-racism, or identity politics" (and no, I don't really know what any of those terms mean; they are pretty much just shibboleths, nothing more) lack humility and forgiveness, I would agree with the criticism of them in that quote.  But humility and forgiveness starts with me.  Those are my "problems."  I can't expect it from you if I'm not practicing it myself, and to practice it I must extend it to you.  That is what my religion teaches.  That is how my religion is responsibility.  And if it isn't that, my religion is nothing at all.

And any religion that is grounds for insisting I must make you change or see you defeated, is no religion at all.  It is, in fact, my religion that teaches me to see my racism, my hidden wound, the privileges I have inherited and continue to take advantage of, for what they are.  It is up to me to change or to see my sins defeated. That is my responsibility.

And responsibility is the hardest thing to face, of all.

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