Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Taring the Scales of Justice: thoughts on (white) denial

Tare: To set a display to show zero weight
From Karl's last post:
"Do we sweep it under the rug once again, reassuring one another under the cozy blanket of triumphalism? Or do we step forward and acknowledge the reality many of us cannot help but be aware of and tackle the racism that surrounds us and dwells within us?"
Rock on, Karl Smith, rock on.

Thank you for reminding us that racism is everyone's issue - no matter how "far" away we are from "those" racists.

Perhaps people can accuse white liberals of hypocrisy - but in my experience, I have usually found such accusations merely a timid veil for an unwillingness to face one's own complicity in oppression.

But just because we are accomplice to the systems of privilege that stratify our society does not mean that we're "off the hook" for speaking and acting against them.

So often, I feel, the fear of hypocrisy or of individual ineffectiveness paralyzes our moral sensitivities. The greatest conservative lie that haunts all activism today is the idea that if you choose to protest, you'd better fix the problem, too. In other words: if you don't have the solution, don't point out the problem.

I know I've felt this before. For instance, how can I - a middle-class American - have the audacity to oppose unchecked globalization? After all, don't I owe pretty much everything I own to the global system of production and trade? Probably. But that doesn't somehow make it okay.

People are born into histories they have had no part in creating - ancestries of advantage, epics of entitlement, pedigrees of privilege, traditions of tyranny - and must therefore make a choice: do we take responsibility for the injustices of our forebears, regardless of how much we've benefited from them? Or do we "call it even" and clear the record?

I think the choice of moral people is clear - my duty is to proclaim my hypocrisy, loud and unproud, and speak and act to repair the legacy of exploitation. And of course, this means something different for me (as a queer person of color) than it does for Karl (a straight white male). It's not going to be "fair" and "equal" - but real justice never is.

Racism is not about whether YOU or I am a racist. It's not about whether YOU or I can fix the problem ourselves. It's about confronting the entire history of a nation and a world, and saying, "No." Whether we are willing to fight our history seems to determine who is progressive and who is not. What choice will you make?

No comments: