For reasons that are hopefully obvious, I’ve recently been on another round of fairly intensive “work” on myself, specifically in an attempt to see people more readily as they see themselves. If you could review my Google history over the years, you’d see fairly wide-range of these kinds of things ranging from better understanding of the country’s relationship to Native Americans, the LGBTQ community, immigration as a whole, and whatnot. This recent round has been another dive into African American history and the interracial relations associated therein.
If you are like me, white and consistently fighting an oblivious nature born of an … um … “classic” education, then you need to do this on your own volition. Otherwise, well, otherwise you’re just kind of stuck in your own narrative. Even with my own curiosities leading me over the years, I am not as educated as I’d like, however. I am and always will be a work in process. I am white, after all. And I am truly constantly fighting that oblivious nature—perhaps an additive result of being also a cis-gendered male born at the end of the boomer range. In other words, I’m about as vanilla as you can get, and at the end of the day about the only thing I can say for myself is that at least I’m very aware of that much, and because of that awareness I am at least trying to change that part of me I need to change to be more naturally aware of other realities.
Anyway, that’s a moderately short ramp up to say I’m going to talk about two things here, both of which I think people like me would benefit from. If you are a person of color and don’t want to sprain your eyes by rolling them too hard, turn back now. You’ve been warned. If you are like me though, white (et all) and wanting to expose yourself to ideas about yourself and the world around you these are a couple interesting places to start.
Here we go.
White Fragility: Why it’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism:
This book has been around for a couple years, but after seeing it on various recommendation lists, I finally started it this week. I’m only nearly finished, but I’m well enough along that I can say Robin DiAngelo has done a good job of laying down the stepping stones that can help you put certain things about our white society into better frameworks. I’m actually pleased that there wasn’t a lot in her work that I found to be fresh learning at its core, but I’ll say I haven’t seen the topics layered together into a package that hangs together as well as her conversation does.
This is a conversation for white people by a white person and about white people. If you can enter into it with an open mind, I think you’ll find that it does not scold so much as helps us hold the mirror up so we can see things about ourselves a bit more clearly—specifically focusing at several times on what we mean when we think of racism, and focusing in on why it’s so hard for us to change that definition within ourselves.
In that light, here is a passage of some interest: “If your definition of a racist is someone who holds conscious dislike of people because of race, then I agree that it is offensive for me to suggest that you are racist when I don’t know you. I also agree that if this is your definition of racism, and you are against racism, then you are not racist. Now breathe. I am not using this definition of racism, and I am not saying that you are immoral. If you can remain open as I lay out my argument, it should soon begin to make sense.”
There’s nothing earth shattering here, really, In fact, I’m willing to admit some people would consider many of the points the books makes to be a bit remedial, but I can recommend it.
Which then brings me to item #2 …
The Truth about the Confederacy in the United States
A video presentation I stumbled upon earlier this morning. It’s long: 1:40. But it doesn’t feel long at all. The presenter is Jeffery Robinson, who represents the ACLU. If that “ACLU” turns you off, I’d ask you to set that feeling aside for a bit. Give him a listen. I appreciated his ability to discuss issues from two sides—or at least to be able to present a point of view that was not his own in such a light as to be able to dissect it with a certain level of dispassion. I like his empathy for people on the “other” side. I also love his reference to the Jimmy Stewart’s conversation in “Anatomy of a Murder,” stating people are never just one thing. They can be a great father, or co-worker, or a fantastic husband, and still be a bank robber.
This good-guy thing is interesting in context, right? Can you be a good guy everywhere else and still need work here?
Well, yes, of course you can—which is an undercurrent of White Fragility, too.
Regardless, I don’t want to write too much about the video because it says what it needs to say all by itself. I decided to share it because several pieces of it have come back to me over the day. Like the book, I’d seen a lot of this before, but unlike the book, Russell did expose me to several new bits—and he tied them together well. It’s a good companion piece to Ava Duvernay’s 13th, which is an eye-opening documentary on mass incarceration (eye-opening for people like me, anyway), and which Netflix is still streaming for free.
So, anyway, I’ll leave you with that.
Have a great day.