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Thursday, April 28, 2005

who's responsible for combating racism?

A friend of mine asked me a question last night at the town hall meeting on race and Harvard organizations that got me thinking: "when was the last time you saw a group of white people working together to end racism? I honestly didn't know. But why is that? Shouldn't all of us be just as concerned, me as someone who benifits from a racist system and someone of color who is hurt by it? Shouldn't white people care? I recommend this OpEd from yesterday and I'd love to hear what you think (whether you're a whitie like me or not...)


At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Top-notch OpEd. Audre Lorde would be proud. Kyle really gets it: white un-separation takes active involvement, not just sporadic cultural curiosity. And while this kind of engagement can be uncomfortable at first (let's face it: random white folks claiming to want to combat racism are going to encounter some suspicion, at minimum ), pain is part of the process in ripping away the blinders of privilege.

Then again, removal of blinders may not be the best metaphor here. White people (or anyone seeking to engage others across cultural divides) should not expect to reach sudden and rapturous enlightenment after working side by side with minorities for a critical time period. The quest to "understand the plight" of the minority does not have a true endpoint; instead, it is an endless transformation process requiring sustained effort and a willingness to make oneself vulnerable. Sensitivity to this fact is crucial in avoiding essentializing those we aim to "understand" and with whom we want to join in solidarity.

At 12:36 PM, Anonymous Paloma Zepeda said...

Actually, the last time a group of white people worked together to end racism? Let's see-- a group of white people helped work to end segregation, a group of white lawyers filed briefs for the NAACP in Brown, and in Mendez v. Westminster, whites fought against apartheid too, and it was a white president who ended slavery. Groups of white people have fought and can fight racism. White people should care, as you rightly observe, but white people do care, which you choose to ignore.


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