A middle class and over-educated white woman shares her brilliant thoughts on racism

As the title may suggest, I feel unqualified and almost idiotic for posting about racism in the aftermath of Charlottesville. But I also feel weird not saying anything, because silence in these cases makes it seem like I’m apathetic at best, and a closet white supremacy sympathizer at worst. So here are a few rambles I have. If you see issues with any of this, I welcome respectful dialogue. My point is not to say “I’M RIGHT!” but “This is where I’m coming from.” But I’m a life-long learner, so .. fire away.

Human lives were lost 

As soon as a tragedy happens, each political side eagerly points out how the ideology and policies that the “other side” promoted caused the problem. It’s so predictable I would think it was funny, except it’s also sickening. Look, I even give myself space to grieve for a while after I put down my little research rats. Can we not do that for a human life? Would we really rather downplay or ignore the loss of a human life than accidentally express support for a political view we don’t share? Eck.

Signal-to-noise

Let me be clear – white supremacy is both terrifying and infuriating. I 100% condemn this strange neo-Nazi uprising. Now, is my experience with mainly upper-middle class and overly educated people of all races especially relevant to the racial discussion? Probabblyyyyy not.  So when stuff like this happens, one of the most respectful things I can think of is to just shut up for a day or two (reduce the noise) and let other people’s voices be heard (increase the signal).

Trump is an orange herring

Did I vote for Trump? No.* Do I resent the blanket accusations toward Trump supporters? Um, yes. Many people I know and love voted for Trump – some hesitantly, some enthusiastically. And guess what? Many of them are vehemently NOT racist.** Demanding that Trump supporters bear the responsibility for each and every one of his buffooneries is asinine. Moreover, blaming Trump generally for racial conflict is asinine. Remember how everyone stopped being racist when Obama was the President? Oh yeah.. me neither. Look –Trump’s rhetoric seems to have emboldened some extremist groups to organize and “go public,” and that’s not okay. But he didn’t create racism, and he’s one orange man. Over-focusing on him and everything he tweets is a waste of your emotional energy. Even more so, funneling your frustration and hatred over racism toward Trump voters at large is counter-productive. Racial harmony is going to require the cooperation and heart-change of people of all races. Antagonizing, accusing, and insulting an entire group of people (a sizable proportion of which hated Hillary more than they loved Trump, I’d wager) is going to further alienate them when we need to bring them into the fold. As a final point – if Trump supporters, white males, or whoever are obligated to post something so that people don’t think terrible things about them, is it really meaningful?

Embracing the tension

I’m afraid that if I “scratch that itch,” by posting something about Charlottesville – it will give me a false sense of accomplishment. I will soak up the approval of my anti-racist friends, and we’ll pat each other on the back for not being “part of the problem.” And then what next? I will sip my tulsi tea and serenely read a theological book in the safe confines of my gated apartment complex. So I rather know that I’m not doing anything than feel self-satisfied at doing something that cost me nothing and actually gained me some social media cred.

What to do?

That being said, I would really rather do something. But what? This may shock you, but many people in PhD world – where I spend 90% of my time – are not racist,** or at least not openly so. I could be wrong, but I would guess academia is one of the friendliest environments for people of all types of racially diverse backgrounds. Academia is basically a meritocracy, sprinkled with affirmative-action type of policies. So it’s not like I have many chances to say, “Hey! That racist joke isn’t funny!” And University policies seem to be rather friendly toward people of diverse backgrounds, especially those who are traditionally underrepresented in certain fields (like STEM). So besides aggressively posting anti-racist status updates on social media – which only other anti-racists will read – what should I do? I’m not trying to absolve myself of responsibility – I’m genuinely curious.

— EDITORIAL NOTES —

*I didn’t vote for Hillary, either! But I did vote! Write in, baby!

**In this context, I mean racist as in “gee golly, wish we could go back to the good ol’ days of Jim Crow!” Everyone has nasty prejudices and snobberies and divisiveness in their own hearts, which I truly believe only Jesus can heal. But on a political level, I (maybe naively) think you can advocate for change that leads to equality and opportunity for people of all races to flourish — even before every single person’s heart is 100% pure.

Advertisements

8 thoughts on “A middle class and over-educated white woman shares her brilliant thoughts on racism

  1. First, let me start with some words that I’ve wanted to say for a long time, but haven’t had the nerve: it’s so lovely: ur humility, combined with nuanced thought, combined with *constructive* criticism, combined with sympathy for *all*, even sympathy for people who you feel have erred in a serious way. It’s significant, lasting unassumedness: becoming, upon dames not lacking much in the way of education.

    I mean it, though: I have a ton of respect for your opinions.

    As you said, do the people who mock and deride every Trump voter really care about healing our nation? Or do they just care about scoring points with their like-minded friends? “Like”-minded, if you will. I’ve been trying to reach some of my friends who I feel are a bit misguided in their ardent support of Trump, and I think they really appreciate when I agree with them on a sub-point, even if doing so might make me less popular with most of my Facebook friends, who are moderate or liberal. It is tempting to mock them, especially if a clever line comes my way, or if I feel that their logic is beyond flawed. I do think there is a place for such ridiculing*, but if we really love our neighbors–and our enemies–the frequency with which this ostensibly sharp tool is used is probably far too high.

    As far as doing something, I have a few suggestions. I have called out, IRL, a family member who retains some residual racism and classism from her segregationist upbringing, and because we are so close, she came around and apologized for various comments she had made and attitudes she had held. I think that when you are close to someone, and they love you dearly, your disapprobation, even when expressed forcefully and passionately, can lead them to change. If you beat them over the head regularly, it won’t be effective. But if you show them you love them often, while expressing that you are ashamed of them every once in a blue moon, it can be effective. If you can persuade moderately racist companions to be ashamed of their racism, it puts the truly racist minority further and further into the fringe of society. Such alienation may in fact be good: think about how few people would ever admit to being in the KKK. Of course, if you have the opportunity and the courage and feel the calling to befriend a KKK member**, and to gradually try to convert them, all the better. But for the average person to associate overt racism with Nazism is probably best for society.

    Another thing we upper middle class (if not in income, at least in social stature) White ATLiens can do is simply form more friendships with Black people. Even if you are firstly dedicated to your home church, consider attending a more integrated, or even a black church. If you have the time, be a Big Sister to a black girl. Or better yet, come over to my house and teach Brandon and Keema’s daughter Miya piano! The prejudices lie on both sides: some Black people do think White people don’t care about them (and, sadly, they have good reason sometimes). And when Black people think White people only seek to oppress and cheat and disenfranchise them, White people, many of whom do not seek any of these things, may become resentful at the prejudice they receive, and feel a sympathy for Alt-Right perspectives. If fewer Black people feel victimized by Whites, fewer Whites will accuse Black people of always playing the “victim card” (I’m sure you’ve heard some White friends say “Okay guys… slavery ended almost 200 years ago… get over it and get a damn job and support your family!) Along the same lines, helping the Blacks in the roughest neighborhoods to succeed economically and educationally will of course be good in and of itself, while also mitigating the reputation held by many Whites that Blacks are more often “good-for-nothings” and “violent” etc.

    The only little thing I didn’t like about this post was the title. I think we ought not submit to the conventional wisdom that upper middle class Whites are not allowed to have opinions on race relations. It is true, we are currently more economically and politically powerful in the United States, but, as a certain White member of academia once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Also, it is literally impossible to walk a mile in another man’s shoes, but it is possible and commendable to try. And the more that our hearts and our imaginations attempt to understand the plight of less-privileged people groups (experience being the best teacher), the more sympathy we will feel, and the more accurate assessment we will gain of the situation, and then we can, with some confidence and no shame, share our *opinions* on these sensitive matters.

    *”Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit.” One of my favorite proverbs, actually.
    **http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/black-man-daryl-davis-befriends-kkk-documentary-accidental-courtesy_us_585c250de4b0de3a08f495fc

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my graciousness, ty so much for this comment. I truly appreciate the suggestions. I liked ur thoughts!* I have an interview to be a Big Sister next week, actually! Of course, I can’t put in a preferred race of my little sister, lolz.

      I see what you’re saying about not allowing white people to have a voice in the race convo. I agreeeeee… but it also makes sense to me to not dominate the convo.

      Thank you again for reading/commenting, and for your kind words! I respect your opinion too, most days :p

      *agape

      Liked by 1 person

      1. YW! (Doesn’t stand for “You’re White!”)

        Liked by 1 person

      2. But you didn’t notice lyrical mushiness (it seemed likely unnoticed).

        Like

      3. Pfft I noticed! How dare you!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. YTYT (and thank you, too)

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close