I am not a racist……

According to Robin DiAngelo, saying you are NOT racist is virtually proof that you are.

In her book, White Fragility, one of her main points to establishing your racist card is being defensive about the accusation.  Further, if you DON’T consider yourself white-privileged, you are in denial of said privilege and, once again, prove that you are racist.

I don’t buy it.  

Admittedly, a lot of what she has to say is simple, common sense and true.  So, I buy a lot of it.  We have systemically racist systems and we we live them unconsciously.  Fair enough.  I get that.  But she is also saying that white people living in a white society are over protected and privileged by their whiteness.  Perhaps.  But I see a lot of white people damaged into addiction and homelessness by that same so-called privileged society she points to.  There is much more comfort for the white guy than, perhaps, the black guy but, when you are down and out, colour isn’t gonna save you.  And the deplorables who support Trump sure as hell don’t think they are privileged.

And, not coincidentally, it seems that a black guy living in a black society doesn’t fare much better but, according to DiAngelo, that is probably because the black society exists in the larger white-influenced world.

Still, a system originally designed by whites FOR whites (mostly) is a leg-up for a white person compared to a person-of-colour IF the only determinant is skin colour.  I do not think the primary prejudice is skin colour.  It is economics.  Economic status (wealth) is actually a more relevant determinant by far.

She also condemns the white guy for being angry when confronted with his ‘racism’.  I am not so sure that some anger and defensiveness is not called for.  Again, she is NOT wrong in raising the issues she raises but she does so in a provocative manner.  I felt some anger.  RACISM is a bad word.  To call anyone, regardless of colour, a racist is to be insulting and accusatory even if they mean it in an educational way.  A doctor who sees a patient and shouts, “You fat!” is not a good doctor regardless of the accuracy of her observation.

I guess we all should be sensitized more than we are.  And she has taken on herself to do that for the good of everyone.  So, good on her.  But, that there will be some push-back is to be expected.  An insult is often intended as an insult rather than a lesson.  I recall distinctly being yelled at once by a First Nations guy (when I was sitting in my office at the Downtown Clinic in the middle of skid row), “Get off my land, white man!”

I went over to him and said, “I am on your land only because you say it is yours.  Native culture used to claim that no one owned the land.  And I agree with them, not you or the bastards who invented the land ownership system.  And, just so you know, I own no land.  I live on a cheap boat that I owe money on.  I can’t afford land.  You have a reserve at least.  You can go home.  I can’t.  Your life ain’t easy, but neither is mine.  My father was ruined by the war.  We were and are still poor-as-dirt.  And I can’t afford to go to the school the government will pay you to go to.  My student loans are just too high to continue.  If I could, I would trade my circumstance for yours right now.  Not your brains.  Not your attitude and certainly not your now-miserable health but, if you got it together, your path today is way, way easier than mine.” 

Of course, at the time, I was surfing the blindness of being part of the so-called HUGE WAVE of ‘white privilege’ and not seeing quite how that was playing out for me and against him in the long run.  But, to be sure, I was not consciously discriminating against him as First Nations.  I was providing him health care service.  Free and to the best of my ability.  I was, however, starting to feel a bit of bull-moose-to-bull moose tension in the air and he sensed it and left.  I have never forgotten.

I was also the only white kid in an all black school in an all-black almost-ghetto in San Francisco (very poor but not ‘burnt-out’ hulks of buildings full of drug addicts like some). I have been a minority many times in my life if you don’t simply measure by skin colour.  Poverty is a very prejudicial definer of where you sit in society’s hierarchy.  So is being the ‘new kid’ in class thirteen times before graduation (we moved a lot).  But, I admit that all of those things were temporary and skin colour is not.  So, I do NOT disagree with DiAngelo…only the way she is making her point.

I also want to make a point that seems never to be made…weird...but here it is: I am NOT a racist in any way consciously and will endeavour to correct myself when I become aware of any unconscious racism.  I also do NOT expect other races to endeavour to be as conscious as I am trying to be. We all walk our own path, carry our own cross.

But I am less of a racist (conscious or unconscious) than I am a culturalist.  I do NOT judge people by the colour of their skin but, I admit, I do tend to judge societies and cultures and behaviours by their values and morals.  I am a smidge intolerant of religious zealots for instance.  I have no problem with their religion so long as it is tolerant of others but zealotry tends to be intolerant of others and so I make a judgment to ‘not like that’.  I do NOT throw stones or denigrate Jehova’s Winesses, devout Hasidim, shouting rattlesnake-handlers and the like but I confess to not being keen on what they have to preach.  My bad.

Put more bluntly: my white values are somewhat steeped in the Judaeo-Christian ethic and tempered a bit with First Nations and Confucius thoughts with an open mind on everything but, I have a few values and morals that, when added up, tend to point in the J-C ethic kind of philosophy.  I can and do make value judgments.  But they are culture/society based judgments, not pigment-based.   I am a culturalist.

11 thoughts on “I am not a racist……

  1. Why would anyone suppose that you are racist? Prejudices are learned in the affective domain or the domain of emotions, feelings, values, & attitudes, Racism is a prejudice acquired through the domain of affective learning. Such learning is in light of one’s views on one’s sense of superiority. I recall my grandmother’s dismay that a family of Pickaninnys had moved in next door. Or her dislike of French on cereal boxes.Canada is a bilingual country. For her the Scots were best at everything. At the time her comments were confusing to me and years later though reflection the illogical nature of her prejudices became clear.

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    • My title was a rhetorical one referring to the gist of DiAngelo’s best seller, White Fragility. By HER definition we are all guilty of racism – pretty much. If you are white and living in a white-designed society, you are guilty. AND she is getting a lot of air-time. I disagree with her ‘tone’ on all that. NOT SO MUCH her points but she is accusatory and insulting and, worse, says that anyone who might accuse her of that is simply proving their fragility. AND racism.
      But I HAVE been directly accused. In the past. Several times, actually. OUR LIFE OFF THE GRID referenced an encounter on the phone with someone whose accent was so strong that comprehension was difficult for me. In writing that account, I wrote their side in pidgin-English. And was promptly chastised for being racist. Had I written that exchange in perfect English, it would have made no sense. NOT writing that account would have been censorship and stupid. Sometimes, you can’t win.

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  2. It is an artifact of our PC culture that the use of a dialect is sometimes taken as a sign of unreflective prejudice. Dialects in narratives are to be expected. As for white privilege some people have more social capital than others and to suggest that one’s colour imparts homogeneity of views and influence. False. It is a glittering generality.

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  3. No Di Angelo’s thesis is flawed. She had a feeling about ‘white privilege.’ I did not respond earlier because I was thinking about what to say. Being white according to her comes with privilege but she presents no evidence to support her views. My childhood was impoverished as was yours. I suppose her assertion is that just because I was unaware of my ‘privilege’ that does not mean I did not have it. ‘White poverty is equal to white privilege.’ Wow! People of all races have social capital or power and influence. Some more than others but this attribute is not unique to the white race. It is a feature in all societies.

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    • I agree. I was surprised to learn that Gandhi thought less of blacks. Maybe MLK thought less of whites. Maybe every culture looks down on the culture of the ‘other’….? I do not look down on pigment but I do have cultural values so…..?

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  4. Robin DiAngelo
    “DiAngelo received her Ph.D. in multicultural education from the University of Washington in 2004, with a dissertation entitled “Whiteness in racial dialogue: a discourse analysis”.[4] Her Ph.D. committee was chaired by James A. Banks.[3] In 2007, she joined the faculty of Westfield State University,[5] where she was named a tenured professor of multicultural education in 2014….”
    ++++

    My Gawd.
    A Doctor of Multicultural “Education” who’s focus is on “White Privilege”.?!?!?!
    And her students with huge debt wonder why they cant find work anywhere but Starbucks?

    Ms DiAngelo should have focussed on the self analysis of a psychiatrists couch to save the rest of humanity the endless “anti white” screed she spews forth.

    As you both have so eloquently pointed out.
    You were both poor, white and not privileged. As was I.
    So much for Ms. DiAngelo’s broad smear of the entire white race with the wave of her hand.
    It wouldnt be the first time a “professor” garantees their precarious tenure by voicing some ridiculous, anti everything theorum to stir the masses up
    What the hell, it got Trump elected..

    Pure sensationalist drivel.designed to generate headlines.
    It worked but I aint buyin what she’s selling

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    • Oh, I have been called worse. I can handle it. And, like I said, DiAngelo makes some valid points. Ya gotta listen and think about them. But, overall, I pretty much agree with Non-con. This is sensationalist and provocative and intended to sell books and promote DiAngelo as much as anything else. And, given her history, she may be a one-trick pony who is gonna ride this as long as it pays. I think the previous blog on Davos links in somewhat…..the poorer people get, the more they look for scapegoats and prejudice and hatred tag along for the ride.
      And I KNEW your last comment was a joke. Me? Sexist?

      Liked by 1 person

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