If you can control a man's thinking you do not have to worry about his action. When you determine what a man shall think you do not have to concern yourself about what he will do. If you make a man feel that he is inferior, you do not have to compel him to accept an inferior status, for he will seek it himself. If you make a man think that he is justly an outcast, you do not have to order him to the back door. He will go without being told; and if there is no back door, his very nature [as a result of conditioning] will demand one.”

Carter G. Woodson, The MisEducation of the Negro

 

Woodson made this quote in his courageous text The MisEducation of the Negro.  With this sentiment he articulated how what you learn affects behavior.  The sentiment also highlights how racism and its educational institutions demanded and taught that Black people not self-advocate and instead submit to  inferior status and discrimination.   It demanded that they relegate self-advocacy to private spaces, like kitchen table conversations where it was safe and where power was unlikely to be seated.  The system of racism also demands that those who can classify as white remain silent about human rights violations and, in effect, the system deputized whites as enforcers of the practices that propagate racism and anti-black discrimination.   Woodson's sentiment is applicable today. 

My question is, what motivates one toward or steers one away from being openly anti-racist?   Is fear of consequence a significant factor?  How so?  What consequences or (internal/external) rewards have you or those in your circle of concern experienced for their anti-racist identity? 

Original Post

I think this is a great question. 

As I personally gradually move from the mindset of my family growing up (the adults believed all sorts of negative racist stereotypes) toward becoming anti-racist I find there lots of internal barriers. It is clearly a practice of rewiring and rethinking things that were woven into me as a child. There are biases and assumptions behind every internal nook and cranny. Some of it is "inherited" from my family, some of it comes from just living with privilege. It is hard work to uncover them and sometimes it is hard to be patient with myself and give myself the grace to move through the process instead of "being" there. 

And then, despite my conscious intent and best efforts when I'm called out for not being "there" enough, or accused by someone who has trouble sorting out the role their own internal oppression in a conflict, it takes a lot to stay curious, learning and forgiving of myself and the other person.  I remind myself regularly that this small work compared to the work of POCs dealing with microaggressions continually...and that it takes patience and practice. I think it would be easier  to just retreat into privilege and blame the other person (and I'd be less aware of the pain mine and theirs....) and that is not the road I currently choose to travel. I do have compassion for those that do, and I think part of my work is inviting them to be braver and join for the good of all.

Jody McVittie 
I appreciate your engagement.  As you have chosen to give yourself latitude to look at the "nooks and crannies" of identity and privilege, I too had to and continue to do the same.  To me it is a cornerstone of owning my identity and how I show up in the world.  It is surprising, often times isolating and increasingly openly appreciated.  The most important part  about this discovery and recovery is that how I show up now is real both in terms of history and my values and my vision.  My actions are now congruent with and honest to my lived experience.  
 
As a follow up, I wonder what you mean by the statement "...or accused by someone who has trouble sorting out the role their own internal oppression in a conflict."  What does that look like?  Feel free to message me directly if preferred. 

Now this is engagement.  I am curious to hear the next communication too. May I be included?

I am reading Waking Up White wishing two groups of anti-racist folks. How to practice the delicacy of openness, curiosity and patience every day so that I am able to be present always? Meditation helps but I need to be continuously stressed to be growing.

I prefer tai chi. What practices do you use?

Esther,  You pose good questions.  I have not read Waking Up White though I have heard reference to it.   What do you think of it?  Any new insights?  I too invite others to engage these questions.  I wonder about the different perspectives on and even definitions of "anti-racist," "openness, curiosity and patience." How does our position and orientation about racism influence perspective on those concepts? 

Here is a list of reasons I have used and heard. I do not believe any of them are good reasons, but here they are.

- Don't want to be ostracized by my peers.

- Don't want to argue with family.

- Don't want to "disrespect" an elder.

- Can sympathize with a racist's views i.e. "I used to feel that way."

- Feels like a waste of time to engage with white folks who don't understand basic sociological principles like systemic racism and colonization.

As far as tangible consequences, the only that I have experienced are the loss of a couple of "friends". I know estrangement from family is quite common for openly anti-racist (and pro-LGBT) whites. I have yet to hear of a white person being fired from their job for being openly anti-racist. 

So the consequences pale in comparison to the lived experiences of POC.

Jessica Porten posted:

Here is a list of reasons I have used and heard. I do not believe any of them are good reasons, but here they are.

- Don't want to be ostracized by my peers.

- Don't want to argue with family.

- Don't want to "disrespect" an elder.

- Can sympathize with a racist's views i.e. "I used to feel that way."

- Feels like a waste of time to engage with white folks who don't understand basic sociological principles like systemic racism and colonization.

As far as tangible consequences, the only that I have experienced are the loss of a couple of "friends". I know estrangement from family is quite common for openly anti-racist (and pro-LGBT) whites. I have yet to hear of a white person being fired from their job for being openly anti-racist. 

So the consequences pale in comparison to the lived experiences of POC.

Hi Jessica,

Thank you for such a transparent and vulnerable response!  Your response reminds me that we have all lost so much in this system of racism.  To properly calculate the costs does require a waking up/awareness of the reality around us and the ways racism resides in us. 

As to consequences for Black folks:  speaking for myself, I tend to take a "firm" rather than "loving" (what ever that means) approach to accountability.  For example, I call to task our inability to speak intelligibly about racism as trauma.  I write with that tone. My approach is the same regardless of audience. Regardless of public or private space.  Black family have suggested I shouldn't be so outspoken..keep it at home.  I do realize Why they are concerned.  Yet change doesn't reach a desired end at the dinner table among family; not in the way it needs to systemically. Besides, I am able to do both.  

Just today, someone who attended an event where I spoke told me it changed her life and I know that can't help but inform how she does her work, socializes, and advocates within her circle of influence/concern.  That is a good consequence toward my ultimate goal of racial equity and justice Now, not during the next generation (as promised before and before that too).

 

Hi Pamela,

I think that children growing up in a 'overtly Racist family' want acceptance from the family unit, just as children in a partially covertly Racist family want to be accepted by the family unit, as do children in a Non-Racist household. It has also been noted that it takes a whole village to raise a child, but our 'individualistic culture' has some influence on that too. 

My father didn't become 'overtly racist' until he transitioned from working as a machinist, in a union shop, to becoming/working as a Deputy Sheriff during much of the 'Urban Strife' of the early 1960's. Perhaps his alcohol consumption was a mitigating factor. I think my mother was appalled by that previously unseen side of him-as she never spoke disparagingly of anyone's ethnicity (and our church Pastor-where my mother was an active church member, assisted a Black Family that wished to purchase a home near our neighborhood, but Realtors and Banks had basically "Red-Lined' the purchasers to being white, so our Pastor 'bought' the house for them), as well as that 'side' of my father that cheated on my mother for three years before her suicide- when I was 15. My father remarried less than two months later, ...and soon after, I moved away to a very liberal state-run Youth Home, located almost in the heart of our urban Black Community (I lived next door to Eddie "Son" House, there). My younger sister continued to reside in my father & step-mother's household just a while longer, and I had a couple of occasions to hear her utter 'racial epithets', but she 'moved' to my Uncle and [step-] Aunt's in another state, and there was no overt or covert racism in that household, and my sister was 'discouraged' from talking that way in that household.

Regretably, Oppression can be "trans-Generational", as trauma is. And racism may be more noticeable where substantial numbers of families, even whole villages, and geographic portions of our nation... adopt an overt Racism...

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Robert OlcottAlicia Doktor (ACEs Connection Staff)Karen Clemmer (ACEs Connection Staff)Carey S. Sipp (ACEs Connection Staff)
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