Sunday, December 23, 2007
So Deeply Ingrained
Disapproving of the system won't be enough to change it. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitude. But a "white" skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us.
Individual acts can palliate but cannot end, these problems.
To redesign social systems we need first to acknowledge their colossal unseen dimensions. The silences and denials surrounding privilege are the key political surrounding privilege are the key political tool here. They keep the thinking about equality or equity incomplete, protecting unearned advantage and conferred dominance by making these subject taboo. Most talk by whites about equal opportunity seems to me now to be about equal opportunity to try to get into a position of dominance while denying that systems of dominance exist.
It seems to me that obliviousness about white advantage, like obliviousness about male advantage, is kept strongly acculturated in the United States so as to maintain the myth of meritocracy, the myth that democratic choice is equally available to all. Keeping most people unaware that freedom of confident action is there for just a small number of people props up those in power and serves to keep power in the hands of the same groups that have most of it already.
One of the most important things that we all have to come to grips with is that RACISM KILLS (as do sexism and homophobia, and all the other oppressions.) If NOLA didn't show the world that for once and for all, it showed us nothing.
So many people don't seem to understand what racism even is. "Are you saying ________ is racist?" "Oh, no, I'd never say THAT." BULLSHIT. Of course ________ is racist. And so is everyone else who can't see that it was the racism (and classism) killing NOLA residents more even than the flood, or who shies away from charging most of our leaders and our whole government, the entire system is racist to the core.
It's as if they think racism (or any of the other oppressions) is necessarily a CONSCIOUS construct: "I really don't like black people -- I think they're inferior, so let's not fund the levees and then someday they may die."
No, perhaps the worst, but certainly the most intransigent aspect of racism is the part(s) based on SUBconscious or even UNconscious beliefs that there are people who simply don't count as much, for whatever reason. But the funny thing is, those people tend overwhelmingly to fall into the oppressed groups. "Oh, it's only black folk (so who cares?)," or "Oh, it's only poor folk (who are lazy and therefore deserve what they get) and old people (past their prime and useless) anyway."
The US is a nation born of genocide, suckled on slavery, and weaned on apartheid, and the weaning process has been largely confined to a bottle at board meetings.
And as someone else mentioned, maybe here, maybe elsewhere, the sin, in the eyes of the white and affluent, is not the racism itself, but being reminded of it.
To be fair, it is so deeply ingrained that most do not even realize it, and their indignation is quite sincere when they insist that they are not a bit racist, some of their best friends are black, and they (or their parents) even marched in Selma.