Monday, October 15, 2007

Look Inward

Congress is looking at the Jena 6 matter:
The House Judiciary Committee has scheduled a hearing on the Jena Six case Tuesday morning, less than a week after a youth at the center of the controversy was locked up again.
Which is all to the good. Not only to prevent these young men from becoming just another set of stats, but--is this too much to hope--to keep the struggle for justice in the forefront of our minds.

Even as I write this, I feel a little disheartened, not the least because in my heart I do accuse the liberals (or progressives, if that is the term you prefer) of shying away from social justice issues having to do with race. Or not shying away, exactly, but refusing to buckle in for the long ride. Oh, they will hitchhike here and there on a cause, especially if it allows them to castigate the conservatives (not that there's anything wrong with that, and I like to have me my fun, too) or if it allows them to congratulate themselves for their open-mindedness, as if they are somehow virtuous for not being as racist as the conservatives are.

dnA at Too Sense puts it bluntly:
Most white people don't care about what they see as "black" problems. Not even liberal white people.
Which was followed up by commenter Francis L. Holland:
For some reason, white are willing to believe that they are partly at fault for the systematic war on Iraq, but they are not willing to believe that they are partly at fault for the systematic war on Black people here at home. We pose the triple threat threat that they, once having embraced fairness here in the United States - they may have to integrate with us; they may have to share power with us; and they may have to share economic resources with us.
All whites benefit from the systematically racist workings of the way we live in America. I just saw A Lesson Before Dying. A little boy is looking at a globe and asks his teacher if there are white people in Yugoslavia. The teacher says no. The boy asks, "Who does all the work?" Where does the wealth of this country come from? Who benefits. Race is all about economics.

When he was young, W.E.B. Du Bois (so generously and charitably) believed that racism came from ignorance, but later in life believed that "material relationships masked themselves to the guise of race relationships."

We are responsible for what we know. Good intentions are not enough. Refraining from behaving in an overtly racist and discriminatory manner does not absolve one from responsibility. Good God, there is a war on Black people in this country. But it is a home war, it's been going on for so long, it's soooooooooooooo boring. Can we talk about Iraq instead? But oh God, the Black people. . .why should I feel guilty?

Guilt serves a beautiful purpose, you know. It is an indication that all is not well in the soul. You should feel guilty because you benefit from the sufferings of others. You will stop feeling guilty when you take some kind of action--when you refuse to countenance racist jokes, when you educate yourself about what this country has done and is still doing to Black people, when you examine every corner of your soul and scrub it clean, when you stop saying--when you stop thinking--things like, "What do they want, anyway?" or "So I got on this bus, and it was full of Black guys" or "I just never know what to say to them."

What used to be called "the Negro problem" is never going to go away. Pick a side. (If you say nothing, if you do nothing, you have picked your side.) (Although the problem, as how I look at it, is a white problem. It is a white problem with looking inward, with having integrity, with facing the truth, with accepting guilt and responsibility and making reparation and changing how we live and think and behave in this country. What is happening is evil, and those who stand by and let it happen are as bad as the perpetrators.)

UPDATE: I keep thinking about this. I don't think I said what I really wanted to say, which is that American whites who do not wish to support the current oppressive racist structure of how we live must first figure out how to recognize that they are part of the oppression, then identify what their role is, and then somehow extricate themselves as much as possible, at least untangle their thoughts from the dominating racism, and only then is it possible to begin any kind of positive action. Applying rigorous honesty the whole time, and being willing to come face to face with some ugly and then keep going.

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