Wednesday, March 11, 2009

“Why Anti-Racism Will Fail” by Thandeka

The Reverend Thandeka, author of Learning to Be White, wrote in "Why Anti-Racism Will Fail":
I learned three things:
  • One: All whites in America are racists.
  • Two: No blacks in American are racist. They're prejudiced just like everybody else, but they lack the power of institutional resources to force other racial groups to submit to their will. Thus they can't be racist because racism in this conceptual scheme is defined as prejudice + power.
  • Three: Whites must be shown that they are racists and confess their racism.
Based on my experiences of the training and on my work with some of the anti-racism advocates at the UUA on a racial and cultural diversity task force, I concluded that the anti-racist strategies have three basic problems:
  • First: They violate the first principle of our UU covenant together to actively affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Second: They make an erroneous assumption about the nature and structure of power in America;
  • Third: They misinterpret actions resulting from feelings of shame and powerlessness as evidence of white racism.
She's addressing Unitarian Universalists, but you can read it pretending she's addressing middle class liberals; it works. I can't remember if I read this in '99. It's startling how it hasn't dated. I want to quote all of it. Her analysis of how the antiracism movement works is brilliant.

Here's a choice bit:
The anti-racist charge of white racism gives persons like Dan a way of addressing their moral failure of nerve without having to face a harder truth that they acted in racist ways not because they were racist but because they were afraid of being rejected. The charge of racism does not heal this condition or even describe it. It simply punishes a person for being broken.
If you want to find more of her work on the web: The Latest Form of Infidelity :: Rounding Up Thandeka on the Web :: January :: 2009. Sadly, the Tikkun links are broken.

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