Friday, September 10, 2010

the privileged ignorance of anti-racism, or Censorship at Racialicious, Part 3

Latoya Peterson added a long "Mod Note" to comment 21 at “"COLORBLINDNESS,” “ILLUMINATED INDIVIDUALISM,” POOR WHITES, AND MAD MEN: THE TIM WISE INTERVIEW, PART 1. It contains this astonishing example of the ignorance of anti-racists:
What's frustrating - and something has been discussed here, particularly with reference to the publishing industry - is when a POC creator wants to move their work into the mainstream and they are blocked by a gatekeeper, not because the work is not good, but because "we've already published a book written by a XXX author this year." Then it isn't even about the quality of the work - the publisher is operating off a racist assumption that titles geared toward people of color will not sell with white audiences.
Publishing may be the least racist business in the USA because the old joke about the internet always applied: No one knows you're a dog.

Publishers care about books, not authors. They sell what sells. That's just how capitalism works; they have to make a profit, or they die. So they try to figure out if primary colors sell better than secondary colors, if pictures of humans sell better than pictures of things, if illustrative scenes sell better than characters who seem to be posing for the viewer, etc.

But they don't give a damn about the color of the author.

(They sometimes care about the color of the character on the cover, but that's another discussion.)

She says,
...many of the critiques I do about diversity in the media are frustrating as all hell, since people who are decision makers will happily wring their hands about the problem, but not take steps to change the behavior to get the desired outcome.
Her vagueness is typical of anti-racism. What are the steps she wants "decision makers" to make?

She says,
Reed also doesn't include many references to back up his assertions. He is essentially riffing on different movements, until he strikes on an inherently dishonest opinion:

I remain curious why the “debate” over antiracism as a politics takes such indirect and evasive forms—like the analogizing and guilt by association, moralistic bombast in lieu of concrete argument—and why it persists in establishing, even often while denying the move, the terms of debate as race vs. class. I’m increasingly convinced that a likely reason is that the race line is itself a class line, one that is entirely consistent with the neoliberal redefinition of equality and democracy.

It's not a matter of race versus class. It's a matter of race and class.
That's what anti-racists say now; they've finally realized they can no longer ignore class entirely. But only a couple of years ago, they said bringing up class issues was derailing. See Liz Henry's bingo card to identify racists, where "class issue" is a square.

Those who study the history of class and race find they're eternally linked, but anti-racists insist on a divide. Ms. Peterson says:
...class based discrimination and race based discrimination are separate things, though they have some common notes. For those of us who grew up dealing with both, the two are simply different. Setting the two concepts against each other trying to prove the righteousness of one over another doesn't serve any real purpose.
That depends on which side of the divide you support. Those who enjoy class privilege like to think they can focus on racism alone.

She says,
If Reed submitted this to me, I would ask him to go back and revise it, adding in more references to support his arguments, discuss the work of activists that are not Tim Wise for comparison purposes (i.e. people like the folks over at United for a Fair Economy, which speaks specifically to the roles of race and class in our society and published a comprehensive textbook - The Color of Weath - detailing how racial discrimination was the root cause of creating an economic underclass to be exploited, and spends a lot of time discussing specific policy based solutions that would close the gaps that must address race, or else the problem is being dodged, yet again!) and overall build a stronger case for the assertion he makes.
As capitalists go, United for a Fair Economy are decent folks, and their site is useful. But they're an organization created by and for philanthropists. The "fair economy" they're united for is an economic pyramid with philanthropists at the top and the rest of us serving them.

A quote anti-racists should know: “Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

Looking for that, I found another I quite like:

“All philanthropy... is only a savory fumigation burning at the mouth of a sewer. This incense offering makes the air more endurable to passers-by, but it does not hinder the infection in the sewer from spreading.” — Ellen Key


  1. I'm just stuck trying to figure out exactly what "an inherently dishonest opinion" is. Are we supposed to believe that Reed can't possibly hold that opinion in reality? And, in fact, no one can because there is something in its very nature that makes it unholdable? 'Cause, I mean, I've heard people express an awful lot of opinions that are inherently ridiculous... but dishonest? Ummm...

    (Yes, yes, I do often get stuck on nit-picky details and entirely miss the point. Why do ask?)

  2. "The privileged ignorance of anti-racism". Oh what an ironic title.

  3. serial, I wondered about that, too. I've noticed them accusing people of dishonesty for disagreeing in the past. I think it's just that they're so convinced they're right that they figure anyone who has studied the issue and disagrees must be lying.

    Rochelle, I couldn't resist. So very many of them come from expensive private schools, and they can't bear to consider their class privilege.

  4. Either that or they don't understand what "inherently" and "opinion" actually mean. *grin*

  5. You misunderstand me; I'm talking about you.

  6. Rochelle, certain Will gets that was your meaning. Short version: you missed his irony.

    Long version: having seen, like him, the privileged ignorance of many internet "anti-racists" even as they tromp around screaming about other people's privileged ignorance...

    ...well, frankly, it's like listening to Christians talk about the importance of family values in these days of sin and immorality while in the midst of sexing up their own mistress.

    And, really, having put up with that sort of thing for years-and-years, it's pretty obvious when another group is following the same behavior patterns.

    (Not that pointing that out ever opened the eyes of a true believer, really, or made them stop screaming "sinful godless liberal!" or whatever their group codes people who don't adhere to their tribe's personal politics as God's sacred writ.)

    Will calling them out on the splinter in their own eye while they complain over the mote in's amusing to those of us who get where he's coming from.

    (Even if you think he's being ironic because--or at least I suppose your reasoning might be--being a white guy he's "clearly" privileged and ignorant if he doesn't agree with whatever those folks argue.

    Which, as a pat answer, is great. For me, it's almost up there with "It's true because it's in the Bible."

    But, you know, other people who have actually, really studied the issues and come to different conclusions think differently (which, to some folks, clearly makes them either ignorant fools or demons).

    Of course, that might not be your reasoning at all, so whatever.)

    Actually, it's ironic that you called his ironic title ironic. So...anyways.

    I did say it was the long answer.

  7. This is the sort of post that makes me believe you've dug your hole and now you're going to insist on wallowing in it instead of recognising progress around you and re-engaging in a positive manner. Ms peterson writes that it's a matter of race AND class and trying to prove the as endancy of one over the other is pointless. Instead of addressing what the point of such an effort could possibly be, you dismiss her recognition that the two issues are both in play by saying such a statement comes too late in the game and is somehow negated by years of more ignorant denial by completely different people.

    Not only is that disrespectfull of the current text and author to which you are responding, it's intillectual dishonesty, compounded in your next statement in which you imply there is some point to arguing over which issue trumps the other, and in dividing the issues, only if you stand on the 'correct' side of that divide, and then go on to repeat your standard assertion that anti-racists insist you can consider race without class. That assertion does not appear to hold here-- your quote from ms Peterson espouses the intersectionist belief that they are intertwined. Either she is not an antiracist or your generalization about antiracists no longer is true.

    So you are left fighting a scarecrow -even if it did exist historically, it does not exist in the current field of exchange, so you position yourself swining wildly in midair while your woould-be opponent stands off to the side shaking her head sorrowfully because clearly you cannot see her through the phantasmagorical shades of your previous detractors.

  8. I don't think Will's interested in stomping on the people who actually get that race and class are both in play, netmouse, he's interested in combating the notion that race matters and class does not. Your implication that nobody thinks that any more, and that therefore there's nobody left to combat, is simply wrong. You may well not know anyone like that, but they're out there and they're very loud if you poke your head into the right echo chambers.

  9. I'll actually go further. The narrative may have changed from "class doesn't matter" to "of course class matters, but race and class are separate things, and right now we're talking about race." For some reason, we never talk about class.

    Current Intersectionality Theory seems to mean, for some people, that -isms need to be parsed and separated as finely as possible, and then we only talk about privilege I don't have. We'll get to the privilege I DO have.. uh.. later.

    These things are all interconnected, you can't and shouldn't talk about each in isolation, ESPECIALLY when your isolated talk is so transparently a mechanism for not talking about some things.

    Giving class lip service isn't the same thing as actually talking about these things. Lo, Intersectionality IS Hard, apparently Too Hard for people who say that.

  10. Netmouse, you might also be interested in the work of Eric Williams, who wrote, “Slavery was not born of racism: rather, racism was the consequence of slavery.”

  11. Wikipedia has a nice article about Williams:

    I might look for his autobiography.