we dont need another anti-racism 101


i used to be an antiracism trainer for a progressive organization a few years ago. i was really really good at.

this year i finally realized after a lot of soul searching that teaching white folks how to be good allies is not helpful to anyone.

now dont get me wrong. i think that white folks working in solidarity with poc in respectful ways is often a good thing.

i just dont think we should teach them how to do it.
now i have known for a long time that no poc is obligated to teach a white person about racism. or explain it.

but i am taking it a step further. we shouldnt do it.

and by this i mean teaching white folks, anti-racism theory, critical race theory, the correct words to use, the words not to use, the correct questions to ask, etc, etc, etc. is a waste of our time. and theirs. and is harmful to building a revolutionary movement or creating good relationships.

the problem is that fundamental to white/euro-centric culture is a break between word and action. between theory and practice.

and so in my experience, folks can learn all the theory, all the right words, all of it and yet act fundamentally the same, live out the same patterns of thoughts, still hold the same fucked-up priorities. and yet spout all of the anti-racist rhetoric.

because that is all it is to them. rhetoric.

people only learn as much as they are willing to learn.

and anti-oppression is not complicated. you dont need to read a book or a take a training or read a blog to learn humility, respect, and love.

im not sure if this is making sense. it is something i have seen and lived and trying to put it in words is difficult.

its like white folks who are professional anti-racists and make money off of being and writing about being anti-racist. which basically means they make money off of racism. and see no problem with that. claiming that they should be paid for what they do. umm…no. not always.

its like us giving white folks all the correct rhetoric just allows for them to be able to better racists, because they are able to justify their racism using anti-racist rhetoric.

in that they are able to say things like: i realize that such and such is a function of racism and then they continue to do the same fucking thing that they just acknowledged was racist.

this happens all the time. like. all. the. time.

do y’all know what i am talking about?

like i know that poc are attempting by teach white folks to be antiracist in order to create a more just world. but our intentions and our impact are not matching. which means that we need to change what we are doing. giving white folks better rhetoric just feeds into the euro-centric mind set.

white folks love love love being told the right words and phrases and theory to use. because white culture does not take rhetoric seriously. white culture does not have a function that says: your words and your actions must match.

this is why so often you hear folks say: that wasnt what i meant. or that wasnt my intention. have we ever wondered why is there so much emphasis on folks intention? why do we think that our personal intention ought to matter so much to others? ought to matter more than the impact of what was said or done?

what folks mean when they say: that was not my intention—is—i did not verbalize in my head: abc instead i verbalized: xyz.

and what you verbalized in your head (or heart) ought to matter more than the harm of your actions?

and instead of changing one’s actions, one changes one’s rhetoric.

why? because in white culture what you verbalize (out loud or not), your internal and external rhetoric is important in and of itself. and yet has little bearing on what you do if what you said when acted upon would undercut or diminish your ability to rise higher on the caterpillar pile.

like its one thing to be anti-racist. its another thing to be respectful or humble or loving. to not take that new job position w/o realizing that there are poc who are more deserving. or to not insult that woc when you know that doing so will increase your readership. or to not quote a woc when you know it will make you sound smarter and garner more respect from white folks.

im not sure if this makes sense.

i guess what i am saying is that in my experience if white folks want to be respectful of poc or understand where they are coming from–they dont need a workshop. there are centuries of writing from poc that they can dive into. there are plenty of poc in their neighborhoods and community organizations. when white folks are ready to be anti-racist, when they are ready to turn from facing the center, to facing the margins, and stand with us. we will be here.

they dont need to be converted or preached to.

they dont need to learn the right words to use. or the right theory.

we dont need more of that.

and it is harmful to them to give them a bunch of new theory and rhetoric while they are still angling to get as close to the center as possible. to get to the top of the caterpillar pile.

and antiracism theory will just be used as another means, another tactic for them to reach their goal.

and the funny thing about culture, is that culture provides us with a set of assumptions that we dont have to verbalize internally or externally in order to act those assumptions out. and one of those assumptions in white culture/eurocentric culture is an isolationist, individualistic sense of success and failure. the: i gots to get mine. you gots to get yours.

and until folks stop living out that cultural assumption, no amount of anti-racist theory is going to do any good.

if anything it will be harmful because now we as poc have just given them one more tactic to get over. get ahead. step on others in the kyriarchy.

Comment: Some powerful observations here…


2 thoughts on “we dont need another anti-racism 101

  1. Good Idea.

    I experienced something similar today in class. The state mandates a day of cultural awareness in state curriculum and my classmates and I were divided into groups as assigned a topic and a cultural group: Latino/Latina, Jewish, Asian/Chinese and African American.

    The day was full of stereotypes and most of the class agreed privately that the assignment itself was racist. Most of the students are not white however the instructors are. One instructor even assigned some students into a category that they themselves did not identify with but she thought they belonged in, so to remind them that they were underclass.

    My suggestion that they should include White as a category was laughed off then ignored. As if being white is more normal than being otherwise.

    My topic was communication. During my presentation I stressed that when communication with ‘X’ people, it’s important to remember that they are in fact PEOPLE and that no one likes being label a minority. Something which brought on a distinctly unhappy face from our instructor.

    I don’t think drawing lines and distinguishing an unspoken hierarchy is in any way helpful to anyone except the dominant power group. And mandating that minorities become “culturally aware” is farcical at best. Especially since in our line of work the most demanding and vocal clients will not come from any of these groups but instead will be bigoted white Americans.

    Stressing our similarities would have done more good. Here we bang on so much about “Oh I’m this” or “I’m that” and I was the same. Then I went overseas and was kindly and sometimes not so kindly reminded that I was born in American, I was educated in America, I work in America, I watch American television, I eat American food, I wear American clothes and that I am in fact American. This outlook is opposed by certain Americans who believe themselves to be more American than others. They are the ones writing the curriculum and paying for the anti-racism training. Again so to remind other that they are underclass.

    The idea of the melting pot has been done away with because it implies assimilation and an eventual oneness. The salad bowl is now the preferred metaphor for American society. And we all know some people like certain vegetables more than others.

    I’m glad people are starting to realize this. And I enjoyed reading your post.

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