If Everyone Has Been Programmed to Normalize Racism, then What?
A white woman recently said she and other whites face a dilemma when they are a “work in progress” while learning to become more fully anti-racism. My response to her was that all people in America, including black and brown people, absorbed racist ideology from schools, churches and other institutional influences. The question is what are we all doing to overcome the ignorance, reverse the nonsense and stop repeating the cycles of damage caused by systemic racism? There are many ways people can consistently work to overcome racist ideology, but many do not invest time and effort in doing so — and therefore should still be considered part of the problem.
They are passive and think they have nothing to learn. They talk, but refuse to take actions that have impact in the real world. You know if this applies to you, because you will likely still deny, pretend and fail to take any responsibility in any meaningful way to make a positive difference. If you don’t have a clue about what to do, seek consultations from those with expertise and experience to guide your path, and attend various educational and healing programs to hold yourself accountable. Talk is cheap. It’s no different if you want to stop drinking or drugging. You have to be mindful of your own mentalities, addictions and tendencies, in order to check in with yourself. Honesty is crucial. You cannot become conscious enough otherwise.
I, as a black woman, have had incentives to change my worldview for various reasons. I continue to be open to learning and growth as a human being. It will likely take another generation yet to reverse the basic foundations of colonial viewpoints embedded in schools, churches and other institutions. The key is to not deny, collude or be passive in our approaches. To be a real “anti-racist” means recognizing that racism supports abuse of human beings and requires taking a definitive stand against systemic oppression. If white people are actively doing anti-racism thinking and behaviors, being “a work in progress” should result in considerably reducing harm, and it should show up consistently in how people interact with others.
Racists come up with all kinds of lies to justify the systemic mistreatment of, and their own hatred for, black and brown people. They claim inherent superiority because they think whiteness should give them special entitlements they want to deny to other human beings. Yet, they fail to see and correct the ongoing impact of their ignorance, idiocy and lack of goodwill toward those they consider different and “less than” based on self-serving biases related to skin color, ethnicity or culture.
If you do everything you can to prevent other people from having access to basic human rights and resources to live a quality life, why would you expect them to respect you? If people resent you for using positions of power and the authority you gain from unearned privileges to treat them unfairly, discriminate and make life more difficult than necessary, why would they want to even be around you? It should not be a hard concept for thinking people to grasp: “Black people don’t hate white people. We have every right to hate RACIST white people.”
If you put systemic barriers in place to prevent people from being able to survive and have stability related to food, healthcare and housing, why would you expect them to view you as decent? If you seek to prevent them from voting, being educated and earning a decent living, why the hell would you be surprised that people will be pissed off and not want to be bothered by you? Don’t want to be despised? Stop being racist.
When people claim to have a hard time understanding why white supremacy ideology is so offensive beyond reason, a multitude of nuances can be taken into account. Consider this when you wonder why historical racism across generations has caused division among working class people. An anti-racism commitment requires moving beyond talk toward action. Your denial, willful ignorance and apathy make a clear statement. You always have the option to make choices on a daily basis to be — and serve as a model of courage and integrity for — the positive change you say you want to see in the world.