a certain urgency
I happened across an excellent discussion of How Not to be Insane When Accused of Racism, with some really insightful (and some not so insightful) comments attached.
For whatever reason, people don't openly call me on racism, but I catch myself out sometimes. And I get extremely embarrassed and troubled -- unnaturally so, I think. I brood for weeks. The thing that really engages me about the discussion of "HNTBIWAOR" (above) is how much it focuses on the dynamic between accuser and accused, and how little is said about the reasons why the accusation is such a hard-hitting one to right-thinking white folks.
Why? Is it the terribleness of the crime? How can we compare a conversational slip up with the horrific actions that are motivated by deep-seated racial hatred? They are different ends of a spectrum, and yet we (you and me) maintain their association, and by extension associate the racist remark with all other racist actions. And then, because race is an artificial construct, and racism is not about race at all but about the power that one group maintains over others in society, we associate the racist remark with all manner of socioeconomic injustice and inequality.
Johnny Cash used to say that he wore black because as just as his own behavior might be, there is still a shameful amount of injustice in our society. And, guilt aside, there is no good purpose or redeeming quality to racist thought, no reason for it to exist at all.
I have some measure of social and economic power, in a society and economy that is (still) a product of the racism of my ancestors. I don't consider myself racist, but I feel that, as a white American, I must be complicit in racism, and that is both extremely frustrating and deeply depressing. Troubling. Shameful. It doesn't belong in our ideal world, and yet it is as plain as day in our real world.
It's a bit like going to the park, and seeing the sign on the playground fence that says "All adults in this area must be accompanied by a child." I am keenly aware of my inner pervert, my inner racist, my inner sexist and queer basher and drunk driver and all of the other demons that haunt my fallen, post-enlightenment soul. To have one of them pointed out to me (yep, still there) immediately engages my defenses.
Anyway, major thanks to Ampersand for spinning this thread. I am utterly fascinated. Sorry for the rambling.
By Psydeshow on December 4, 2005 at 1:10pm