Friday, January 8, 2010

the unbearable whiteness and upper class privilege of anti-racism

Wondering why anti-racists don't like to talk about class issues, I finally took advice that's always good if you want to understand anything in a capitalist society: Follow the money.

What I found: Modern anti-racism is a commercial movement driven by graduates of the most expensive private colleges and universities in the US. That may explain why Thandeka, author of Learning To Be White, says anti-racists “make an erroneous assumption about the nature and structure of power in America.”

Though whiteness studies is a racially diverse field, three of anti-racism's most influential promoters, based on how often they're cited by the anti-racists I encounter on the web, are white:

Peggy McIntosh wrote “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” She's the associate director of the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College, one of the fifty most expensive colleges in the US.

Judith H. Katz first defined racism as “prejudice plus power.” She's the Executive Vice President and “Client Brand Lead” of the Kaleel Jamison Consulting Group, a business that prospers by teaching anti-racism.

Tim Wise, a graduate of Tulane University, has lectured about anti-racism at “over 400 college campuses, including Harvard, Stanford, and the Law Schools at Yale, Columbia, and Vanderbilt.” I watched a little of one of his youtube videos, then turned it off when he claimed he was doing what black speakers could not. I was a teenager when my father went to a university in the late 1960s—black speakers were very popular on college campuses then. The idea that someone like Ralph Abernathy or Fannie Lou Hamer could not speak at a college campus today is as silly as the title of one of Wise's books, Speaking Treason Fluently. When the majority of a nation supports diversity, a better title would be Speaking Truisms Fluently.

So far as I can tell, Wise, Katz, and McIntosh are all very good people. That they content themselves with a superficial understanding of injustice in the US— Well, my favorite Sinclair Lewis quote applies yet again: “It's difficult to get a man to understand something if his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

ETA: Most Expensive Colleges for 2009-2010

The Most Expensive U.S. Colleges