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How to Be An Antiracist Ep. 17

Podcast Description

Success

Homework

  1. Page 222: “Toure and Hamilton could not have foreseen how their concepts of overt and covert racism would be used by people across the ideological board to turn racism into something hidden and unknowable.” How does this statement parallel how the academic work of Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” is being used by white people to avoid taking responsibility for their role in maintaining and benefiting from racism?
  2. Page 223: What strategies and language can you adopt to help you convey an understanding and responsibility of racist policies to individuals in your life who are unfamiliar?
  3. Page 224: How would you explain the differences between the dictionary definition of “racism/ist: a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” with the ideas” and the one provided in chapter 1 “one who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inaction or expressing a racist idea”?

Transcription

00:10

Hello everyone, and welcome to today’s episode of the #CauseAScene Book Club selection “How to be an Antiracist”, Chapter 17: “Success”. We’re gonna start on page 217. I highlighted that first sentence, and something to think about as we read.

Finance scholar Boyce Watkins lectured on racism as a disease.

On page 218:

Success. The dark road we fear. Where antiracist power and policy predominate. Where equal opportunities and thus outcomes exist between the equal groups. Where people blamed policy, not people, for societal problems. Where nearly everyone has more than they have today. Where racist power lives on the margins, like antiracist power does today. Where antiracist ideas are our common sense, like racist ideas are today.

Neither failure nor success is written. The story of our generation will be based on what we’re willing to do. Are we willing to endure the grueling fight against racist power and policy? Are we willing to transform the antiracist power we gather within us to antiracist power in our society?

01:22

Okay, on page 219:

“Instead of describing racism as a disease, don’t you think racism is more like an organ?” I asked the lecturer. “Isn’t racism essential for America to function? Isn’t the system of racism essential for America to live?”

All my leading questions did not bait Boyce Watkins into the defense of his disease conception. Too bad. I wanted to engage him. I was not much of an intellectual. I closed myself off to the new ideas that did not feel good. Meaning I shopped for conceptions of racism that fit my ideology and self identity.

02:00

And then I wrote in the margins: “This is common. This is why we have the constant debate of the dictionary definition of racism and then social science’s more developed definition of what racism is.”

Asking antiracists to change their perspective on racism can be as destabilizing as asking racists to change their perspective on the races. Antiracists can be as doctrinaire in their view of racism as racists can be in their view of not-racism. How can antiracists ask racists to open their minds and change when we are close-minded and unwilling to change? I ignored my own hypocrisy, as people customarily do when it means giving up what they hold dear. Giving up my conception of racism meant giving up my view of the world and myself. I would not without a fight. I would lash out to anyone who “attacked” me with new ideas unless I feared and respected them…

03:00

Page 220:

“Racism is both overt and covert,” Toure and Hamilton explained. “It takes two closely related forms, individual whites acting against individual Blacks, and acts by the total white community against the Black community. We call these individual racism and institutional racism. The first consists of overt acts by individuals… The second type is less overt, far more subtle, less identifiable in terms of specific individuals committing the acts.” They distinguished, for example, the individual racism of “white terrorists” who bombed a Black church and kill Black children from the institutional racism of “when in that same city—Birmingham, Alabama—five hundred Black babies die each year because of the lack of proper food, shelter, and medical facilities.”

03:51

So we’re in the margin. “This separating into two camps is my current issue with white presidential candidates.”

So my issue is this: when I say the separation into two camps. They don’t talk about, they’ll talk about Medicare for All, college should be free, they’ll talk about climate change, they’ll talk about these things as individual failings of our society. What they won’t talk about… and then they’ll talk about racism, as in, Black Lives Matter and the fact that the medical system… Black women are dying in childbirth. They’ll talk about those things, but they don’t talk about them together. They don’t draw the parallels or make the connections that Medicare for All, free education, all these things will not change unless we fundamentally… I don’t care if you enact any of this.

And we saw this with the Affordable Care Act. It still left vulnerable people in marginalized communities out. So until we… I live in Georgia. I wasn’t making money at the time. But because Georgia would not take the Medicare part, I could not afford insurance. And yet, because of how the bill was written, I was penalized, for someone who could not afford insurance, I was penalized for not having insurance. And then I had to pay, I had to call in to get a waiver from the IRS or whatever, so that I wouldn’t have to pay that penalty.

It’s not just these things in isolation. We have to look at them as systems, as one thing. It’s like a pendulum. One thing hits the next ball and the next ball and the next ball, and they all impact each other. And so, yeah, that’s my thinking on that. And this is why I’m very… people say I see racism and oppression everywhere. I absolutely do, because until we start reckoning with the connections and all this stuff, we’re not doing ourselves a favor, we’re actually increasing the harm of the more vulnerable. And we’re fooling ourselves if we think we’re making an impact or changing anything.

06:04

OK, continuing on page 220:

But what if the atmosphere racism has been polluting most white people, too? And what if racism has been working in the opposite way for a handful of Black individuals, who find the fresh air of wealth and power in racist atmospheres? Framing institutional racism as acts by the “total white community against the total Black community” accounts for the ways white people benefit from racist policies when compared to their racial peers. (White poor benefit more than Black poor. White women benefit more than Black women. White gays benefit more than Black gays.) But this framing of white people versus Black people does not take into account that all white people do not benefit equally from racism.

And on that sentence, I said, “This is why I reference whiteness compared to Blackness. And I say that no one escapes white supremacy without being harmed.”

For instance, it doesn’t take into account how rich whites benefit more from racist policies than white poor and middle-income people. It does not take into account that Black people are not harmed equally by racism, or that some Black individuals exploit racism to boost their own wealth and power.

But I did not care. I thought I had it all figured out. I thought of racism as an inanimate, invisible, immortal system, not as a living, recognizable, mortal disease of cancer cells that we could identify and treat and kill. I considered the system as essential to the United States as the Constitution. At times I thought white people covertly operated the system, fixed it to benefit the total white community at the expense of the total Black community.

The construct of covert institutional racism opens American eyes to racism and, ironically, closes them, too. Separating the overt individual from the covert institutional veils the specific policy choices that cause racial inequities, policies made by specific people. Covering up the specific policies and policymakers prevents us from identifying and replacing the specific policies and policymakers. We become unconscious to racist policymakers and policies as we lash out angrily at the abstract boogeyman of “the system.”

08:35

And so I wrote here, “I believe both are essential. Again, these are not binary.”

And that’s the one failing I can say about this book, is that so much of what he talks about are in binary. And I don’t know if that’s because of the academic theorize part, but in application, much of… I’m not going to say much, but some of the things that cause me pause, and I challenge, are because it’s from a binary perspective.

Continuing on page 221:

All forms of racism are overt if our antiracist eyes are open to seeing racist policy in racial inequity.

This is what I’m talking about. This is very important. And this is why I see it everywhere. I don’t separate. I just see it.

But we do not see. Our eyes have been closed by racist ideas and the unacknowledged bond between the institutional antiracist and the post-racialist. They bond on the idea that institutional racism is often unseen and unseeable. Because it is covert, the institutional antiracist says. Because it hardly exists, the post-racialist says.

A similar bond exists between implicit bias and post-racialism. They bond on the idea that racist ideas are buried in the mind. Because they are implicit and unconscious, implicit bias says. Because they are dead, post-racialism says.

10:12

And this is another reason I really challenge a lot of the implicit bias training, unconscious bias training that is happening in the workplace. It feeds that narrative of intention over impact. It feeds that narrative of, assume good intent. It feeds that narrative of benefit of the doubt. And it does not for some reason want to examine that there are people who have consciously made the decision to implement, propagate, support, and use racist policies to their benefit at the harm of other people.

And then there’s another category, as I’m speaking here, there’s another category of people who may have been ignorant up to that point. And once they understand or begin to listen or hear—I’m not not even gonna say listen—hear about the lived experiences of people who are different than them and how society and rules and things we create are oppressive and harming them, they make a choice to be complicit. And there are people who are making that choice. There are people who recognize they’re complicit and are working to actively, and it is uncomfortable and they back off, they’re, you know, because we’re all learning this. But there are people who, when they learn that they’re complicit, are OK with being complicit. And we need to stop acting as if they these individuals don’t exist because they do.

11:43

All right, on page 222:

Toure and Hamilton could not have foreseen how their concepts of overt and covert racism would be used by people across the ideological board to turn racism into something hidden and unknowable. Toure and Hamilton were understandably focused on distinguishing the individual from the institutional. They were reacting to the same moderate and liberal and assimilationist forces that all these years later still reduce racism to the individual acts of white Klansmen and Jim Crow politicians and Tea Party Republicans and N-word users and white nationalist shooters and Trumpian politicos. “‘Respectable’ individuals can absolve themselves of individual blame: they would never plant a bomb in a church; they would never stone a Black family,” Toure and Hamilton wrote. “But they continue to support the political officials and institutions that would and do perpetuate institutionally racist policies.”

12:53

And that’s what I just spoke about. And this is your homework assignment number one, on page 222:

Toure and Hamilton could not have foreseen how their concepts off overt and covert racism would be used by people across the ideological board to turn racism into something hidden and unknowable.

How does this statement parallel how the academic work of Robin D’Angelo’s “White Fragility” is being used by white people to avoid taking responsibility for their role in maintaining and benefiting from racism?

OK, I’m gonna read that again. Homework assignment one on page 222:

Toure and Hamilton could not have foreseen how their concepts of overt and covert racism would be used by people across the ideological board to turn racism into something hidden and unknowable.

And I’ve been talking about this a lot recently, and I want you to try to unpack this for yourself—not try—unpack this for yourself.

How does this statement parallel how the academic work of Robin D’Angelo’s “White Fragility” is being used by white people to avoid taking responsibility for their role in maintaining and benefiting from racism?

14:07

All right, so I’m gonna pick up on page 223:

I try to keep everyday people in mind when I use “racist policies” instead of “institutional racism.”

Policymakers and policies make societies and institutions, not the other way around. The United States is a racist nation because its policymakers and policies have been racist from the beginning. The conviction that racist policymakers can be overtaken, and racist policies can be changed, and the racist minds of their victims can be changed, is disputed only by those invested in preserving racist policymakers, policies, and habits of thinking.

Racism has always been terminal and curable. Racism has always been recognizable and mortal.

So this is your question number two; page 223:

What strategies and language can you adopt to help convey an understanding and responsibility of racist policies to individuals in your life who are unfamiliar?

Again, question number two, on page 223:

What strategies and language can you adopt to help convey an understanding and responsibility of racist policies to individuals in your life who are unfamiliar?

15:29

All right, I’m gonna continue down on page 222, and I highlighted: [correction: page 223]

While suburban white teenage boys partied and drank and drove and smoked and snorted and assaulted to the chorus of “boys will be boys,” urban Black boys faced zero tolerance in a policed state.

And I wrote down, “We are not all having the same experiences.” Just again that reminder.

So on page 224:

Then I realized that Black students were demanding Black studies because they consider all the existing disciplines to be racist. That the liberal scholars dominating those disciplines were refusing to identify their assimilationist ideas of racist. That they were identifying as not-racist, like the segregationists they were calling racist. That Black students were calling them both racist, redefining racist ideas. I wanted to write a long history using Black students’ redefinition of racist ideas.

16:28

So now I’m going to question number three.

But before I go to question number three, this is—I want to point out—this is why going back to what I said before about our current all white presidential candidates that we have left, this is my issue. They’re all racist to me. There’re no degrees of not racist.

And it’s because of what I’ve already outlined, they are assimilationist. They have fundamental belief that there’s institutional issues, on one hand, that are benefiting some while harming others, and separate that if they put these inferior individuals, or put these policies, programs, and things in place, this will help these individuals to come up. You know, give them a helping hand. They are in poverty. They are in, you know, they’re Black, they’re Native American, they’re, you know, Indigenous communities, they’re coming across the borders. They just need our hand because where they come from is so bad and, you know, they just need… that is racist.

So, the fact that they cannot just say where these individuals are coming from, there’s nothing wrong… First of all, that the US has caused many of the issues in the countries where these individuals are coming across the border from. So we don’t want to talk about our role in that because that would be un-American, quote unquote. And it will require us to take responsibility for things, and that in itself is racist. Because racists don’t take responsibility for anything.

And so instead of saying, these people are just as endowed with the brilliance that we have in the US, and they are leaving a situation that our US government helped create, and they deserve to be here to prosper in our society as equals, as equitably as possible. No, we don’t say that. We say our policies create some shit, but they’re running from a situation in their country because they come from shithole countries. That that is a problem.

18:44

So, getting back to your homework, question number three from page 224:

How would you explain the differences between the dictionary definition of racism / racist:

A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism

with the ideas and the one provided in Chapter One, which is:

One who is supporting a racist policy through their actions or inactions or expressing a racist idea.

I want you to talk about, I know what the differences are here, and this is gonna be a question I actually wanna tease out, because how I worded it as I’m reading it again is very obvious to me. But, I’m going to read it again, and I want you to, this is your homework assignment:

How would you explain the differences between the dictionary definition of racism—and I’m reading the definition—this is what this is:

A belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/racism

with the with the ideas and the one provided in Chapter One of this book:

One who is supporting racist policies through their action or inaction or expressing a racist idea.

20:06

All right, so page 225:

By the summer of 2012, I was finding and tagging every racist idea I could find from history. Racist ideas piled up before me like trash at a landfill. Tens of thousands of pages of Black people being trashed as natural or nurtured beasts, devils, animals, rapists, slaves, criminals, kids, predators, brutes, idiots, prostitutes, cheats, and dependents. More than 500 years of toxic ideas on the Black body.

And I just wanted to share, just put that out there, just because this is not new and this is where again, many of you only became aware of this in 2016. 2012, he was collecting this, and this stuff goes back centuries. This is centuries of this crap. And so just because you are new to it, does not mean it’s new. And just because you are new to it doesn’t mean it changes my lived experience in any way if you’re not taking any action.

21:10

And then we’re on page 227:

Racist ideas fooled me nearly my whole life. I refused to allow them to continue making a fool out of me, a chump out of me, a slave out of me. I realized there is nothing wrong with any of the racial groups and everything wrong with individuals like me who think that there’s something wrong with any of the racial groups. It felt so good to cleanse my mind.

But I did not cleanse my body. I killed most of the toxic trash in my gut between 2012 and 2015. Did not talk about most of it. Tried to laugh it off. Did not address the pain of feeling the racist ideas butchering my Black body for centuries. But how could I worry about my body as I stared at police officers butchering the Black body almost every week on my cellphone? How can I worry about my body when racists blamed the dead, when the dead’s loved ones cried and raged and numbed?

And this is how I’ll close it. I wrote something in the margin: “I never thought I’d find myself in a position of educating the oppressor regarding issues of white supremacy, racism, and harm while also processing my own oppression”.

I really need you to understand this. When we are moving through our book series, our book club selections, I need you to understand that the marginalized voices that I am bringing to you are individuals who have taken on the task of educating their oppressor while also having to process their own oppression.

So even in writing this book, “How to be a Antiracist”, and writing his previous book, “Stamped from the Beginning”—which you really need to read—he has taken on the trauma of all of the history of racist ideas and racist actions in the United States. And he has to process that in a way that allows him to write a book that is informative and engaging and not filled with vitriol and hate for whiteness.

23:24

So with that, I’ll say goodbye and have a wonderful day.

Outro: Please consider becoming an individual sponsor of the #CauseAScene Movement by visiting the website at hashtagcauseascene.com. On behalf of everyone here at #CauseAScene, we’d like to thank you again for listening to today’s show and have a wonderful day.

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How to Be An Antiracist Ep. 17

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