May I let my voice be a clarion call. I will use these words for justice. I will use these words for truth. And humour.

Sunday, December 4, 2005


Some notes for presentation to class a couple weeks ago.

music: Sufjan Stevens - Come on Feel the Illinoise

colors: Red and Green

mood: A tad stressed. I had the day off and used much of it for sweet f.a. and finishing off some email, but could've been more productive. just didn't feel like it. Soon Steph and Tina will be home from seeing Pride and Prejudice and I'm supposed to have a song done for a class. Oops...

thoughts: Here's something I was going to post from my racism presentation a Wednesday and a half ago (If you want to know more, get "Uprooting Racism" by Paul Kivel, from which much of this is summarized) :

Some potential working definitions for racism:

Concise: “Racism is the institutionalization of social injustice based on skin color, other physical characteristics, and cultural and religious difference. White racism is the uneven and unfair distribution of power, privilege, land and material goods favoring white people.” 1

Or a less formal definition:

Racism uses physical characteristics like skin color, hair or facial features to classify people as ‘others’, exempting them from coverage under the Golden Rule.

Comprehensive: Racism is the institutionalization of social injustice based on skin color, other physical characteristics, and cultural and religious difference.

White racism is a system through which people in positions of power – and those who support or cooperate with them – in government, corporations, churches, and education work to systematically dominate, exploit, or oppress people of color economically, culturally, religiously, or biologically. This is done using policies, laws, regulations, threats of violence, and biased presentations in the media – including both news and history, in order to influence perception of cultural norms – to maintain uneven and unfair distribution of power, privilege, opportunities, and resources favoring white people as a group, in order to keep power and control in the hands of white people, particularly the white Christian upper class.

At an individual level, racism is: 1) actions mirroring or supporting institutional racism; 2) inherent beliefs that race determines capabilities, worth, or character; or 3) attitudes assuming superiority or higher value of one race’s people or culture.

The definitions above consider that racism comes in a variety of forms:

*Racism by the powerful (white supremacy)
*Racism from one race to another, regardless of who has power
*Racism at an individual level

For this definition, we aimed at a comprehensive enough definition that answers the question, “What does it take to recognize racism (as if you were going to post its picture at the post office on the most wanted list)?” while at the same time attempting to focus on its primary methods and effects, in order to be somewhat concise. We specifically excluded nationalism and ethnicism, and intentionally focused on institutional racism associated with white supremacy.

(During our presentation, we only had ten minutes to try and rework it a bit. We didn't get very far of course, as it could take a committee of very informed people weeks to get consensus on one. And of course, spending too much time getting the defn on paper means less time actually working to end it. IOW, getting a defn is a means, not an end.)
  1. Basics on being a white ally.

    1. It's one of the most critical things we can do to end racism.

    2. What is being an ally?

      1. It's an ongoing process.

        1. Evaluate what we have helped to create

        2. Decide what needs to be done

        3. Talk and listen to others (carefully, from their perspective, and also critically (just as with whites, don't take what people of color say as the gospel truth)). Know that because of personal experiences, racism can play some role in every conversation.

        4. Watch for the struggle to maintain dominance,

        5. And the struggle to break free of oppression.

      2. It means being more sensitive to racism as it happens around you.

    3. Don't make people get loud before you get involved. Don't be complacent.

    4. Understand that if a person expresses anger as a result of oppression, they have every right to do so, and that anger may actually be a last resort. Thank them for it, act on it (with them).

    5. Talk to other white folks. “How are your classes going?” “What you been up to lately?”

    6. What do people of color WANT from an ally? Respect, familiarity, don't take over, provide information, resources, money, take risks, don't take it personally, understanding, teach your children, speak up, don't be scared of my anger, support, listen, don't make assumptions, stand by my side, don't assume you know what's best, your body on the line, make mistakes, honesty, talk to other white people, interrupt jokes and comments, don't ask me to speak for my people.

  2. Know Your Tactics

    1. Assume racism is everywhere, everyday.

    2. Notice who is the center of attn, and who is center of power.

    3. Understand and learn from the history of whiteness and racism.

    4. Understand the connections between racism, economic issues, sexism, and other forms of injustice.

    5. Take a stand against injustice. (Risky, but healthy, and moral. Intervene, arrest --> makes it safer for intended targets, less safe to harass. Special role for white people – break the idea of collusion, and may be more likely to be really heard.)

    6. Be strategic. (you can't challenge everything)

    7. Don't confuse the current struggle with the greater struggle. (Racism adapts. We will win some, and lose some.)

    8. Support the leadership of people of color. (consistent, critical)

    9. Don't do it alone. (strength in numbers, support, and networks. Use existing available resources.)

    10. Help educate those younger than you, and the next generation against racism.

  3. Know Our History

    1. Most Americans, regardless of race, are horribly misinformed about our racial history.

    2. To be unfamiliar or ignorant of past injustices is close to a denial. To be familiar with historical injustices makes it easier to see more of the same today.

    3. Some good things have happened, which gives us hope.

    4. Native American History Examples

      1. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, actively supported the hunting and extermination of Native Americans.

      2. Manifest Destiny is code for “move over little dog, there's a mean ol' dog movin' in.” And it's not a theory or a prophecy, it is a contrived process which individual American white people have endeavored to carry out.

      3. Though the mainstream of America has made them invisible on remote reservations, Native Americans still exist, and are still actively struggling to regain control of their land in every state in the U.S.

    5. African American History Examples

      1. In early colonial America, there were both Africans and white Europeans who worked as indentured servants. That changed when the landowners saw that they could make indentured servitude permanent, and use the white servants as a buffer.

      2. Approximately 2/3rds of the African people taken from their homeland died in boats on the way to America.

      3. During slavery in America, white people did everything possible to dehumanize, demoralize and degrade African Americans.

      4. Our founding forefathers supported slavery.

      5. Much of this country's achievement has come as a result of slavery.

      6. Lincoln was actually indifferent to the topic of slavery, and only abolished it when he saw it as a measure to save the union.

      7. The white-controlled media system has acted as a gatekeeper to whether/which black voices get mic time since the advent of radio and television.

    6. Asian American History Examples

      1. Between 1850 and 1950, whites passed >600 pieces of legislation limiting Asian immigrants from citizenship. As a result, they had no legal rights, and could be killed “with impunity.”

      2. Despite fears about Asians, government and business leaders imported Chinese people as disposable labor when it was to their interests. (NAFTA, cheap Mexican labor?)

      3. 1992 LA, the media portrayed Korians and African Americans against each other. Korean shop-owners had been forced to set up in poorer African American, and Latino/a neighborhoods, and then when the rioting broke out, the LAPD did not answer their calls for protection. But when rioters moved to shopping malls in Culver City, they were quickly stopped.

    7. Latino/a History Examples

      1. Contrary to our history texts, Spanish colonists have been in much of the United States longer than English colonists.

      2. The United States forcibly usurped Texas, New Mexico, Nevada, California, and three other states from Mexico in the 1840's.

      3. Our Mexican border control policies have worked both to allow businesses cheap access to labor, and to keep the Spanish-speaking people on the fringes and away from control. No citizenship, no rights.

    8. Jewish History Examples

      1. Kicked out of countries/regions for 1000's of years, from biblical times, through the beginning of the Christian church to the holocaust and in Israel now. Blamed as killers of Christ until the Catholic church recanted that claim during the latter half of the 20th century.

      2. When the Jews were being kicked out of Spain in 1492, some of the wealth taken from them went toward Christopher Columbus' journey.

      3. Big myth: Jews have so much money and power in the United States. Propaganda to give white people and others the mistaken impression that the Jews are controlling things.

      4. Muslims have a history of being anti-Semetic, while whites have been both anti-Semetic and anti-Arab. And they've been set up to fight each other in the Mediterranean.

    9. No people from an oppressed race define themselves according to their oppression. They have wide cultures which continue to try to flourish despite all of the setbacks racism has thrown in their paths. The world can only gain when these cultures are free to apply themselves unhindered.

Love yr neighbor.

pax hominibus,

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