Monday, June 30, 2008

How can white people join the anti-racist discussion?

That's the question I tackled today on Anti-Racist Parent in response to this letter from a white parent of white children.

Dear Anti-Racist Parent,

I need some help. I am a white mother of white children. But having been raised in a community that was predominantly minority and largely economically disadvantaged, I’ve always been concerned about race issues in our country. I’ve been a long-time reader of ARP and I am committed to raising my two girls (and any other children we may have) to be anti-racist. I posted ARP’s widget on my blog as soon as you developed it, and around that same time I began a category about race issues.

Many people are confused (and sometimes angered) by my decision to discuss
race. They assume that because I am white, married to a white man (a fact that surprised even me, given my dating history), and have white children, I have no stake in the matter. They seem to think that unless I am raising children of a different race or am married to someone of a different race, my opinion does not and should not count. (In fact, when I added your widget to my blog, I received an e-mail thanking me for posting it even though you weren’t sure why I did.)

I could not feel more strongly that it does.

I recognize, as fully as I can, that my life has been blessed with a level of privilege simply by being white that people of other races will never have. I also recognize that I surely have my own biases and prejudices that color the way I see other races. I fight daily to overcome those and to recognize them for what they are. But I am human, and flawed, and I make mistakes and speak out of turn.

That being said, many, many white people in the United States have strong feelings about eliminating racism, or eliminating as much of it as they can. I believe that an open discussion of the myriad issues that face us is absolutely crucial to our
success.

I have tried to open that discussion on my blog, using the same tactics (namely, dry humor) I routinely use to discuss other aspects of my life. Inevitably, I anger some. Even when I am discussing the behavior of my own race. I can understand if some people don’t like or agree with my humor, and I’m not above being called out if I’ve overstepped good taste. I’ve even been known to rethink and argument and change my mind, hopefully for the better.

What I don’t understand is the condemnation of a white woman speaking about race, period. I do have a stake in this world of ours, where race is such a factor. So my question is this: How do white people enter the discussion? Can it be done without angering people? Or is that too optimistic and unrealistic?

Thanks in advance for any feedback,

Julia

Read my response to Julia's letter.

2 comments:

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey there Tami! {waves}

Good post!

I love that you said:
Misstep number three is believing that studying, sleeping with, befriending, adopting, marrying or living next door to people of color allows a white person to become an expert on Asianness or blackness or Native Americanness.

Continue to blow the trumpet, my sista!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

Anonymous said...

Sensible letter and sensible analysis of letter.

I believe we have a conversation about race in America, but it's largely fake.

I believe we have a conversation about gender in America, but it too is largely fake.

Only at the grassroots level, one person at a time, do you usually have meaningful discussions.

Men and whites are dumb on these issues, and while you'll usually have CNN talk about race more seriously than sexism (mainly because the men go home to dominate their wives), and whites go home to other whites, it is still fake and superficial.

There are no excuses anymore, there is plenty of information out there. It's all about mental laziness for whites, and it's about men wanting their wives as servants, housekeepers and bearers of their last names pasted on the female!

But let's keep trying. Individuals do have breakthroughs.

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