Last night, my daughter and I watched the news together (something we rarely do because I mostly hate the network news). We saw the Rutgers womens' basketball team players stand up and speak eloquently and with great dignity about the hurtful nature of the kinds of remarks that Don Imus and people like him make as a way of profiting from racism and sexism (and other kinds of ugliness). Their coach Vivian Stringer about what it means when young people grow up in a culture that accepts this kind of racist and sexist language as OK, as "just a joke."
My daughter and I had a conversation about this story--it was a good "teachable moment." I had to explain to her why "nappy-headed" was a racist insult, but she already knew about the word "ho" (tells us what is going around on the playground).
This underscored for me the necessity for white folks like me to be active and not passive in anti-racist work, something that is really hard to do, and doesn't always get a great reception from people we'd like to work with as allies, but something that we have to do anyway. Reading Professor Zero and Hah! as well as Changeseeker (who write about this situation) is very instructive. I highly recommend reading The Unapologetic Mexican's series "la lente blanca"/the white lens" for some amazing insight into this whole thing.
I don't write on this blog much about these issues, because I'm trying to limit the time I spend here, but I've been thinking about this a lot, and I think I have to start coming out of my blog shell, where some things feel safe to blog about and some things don't.
White people have to do the hard work of unlearning racism, too. One of the premises of This Bridge Called My Back was that people of color and feminists get tired of having to explain racism and sesim over and over again to people with (unrecognized) privilege of some kind, only to hear some form of denial ("but I'M not racist!" "but what about when women are mean to men?") At the same time, there is some justifiable anger when a white person talking about racism get attention that other folks talking about racism don't: "why do you only listen when a white man says it? Haven't I been telling you this for ages?" Both of these things are real. Sometimes the hardest part about being an ally to any kind of struggle is being listening to anger and trying not to take it personally, even when it takes a personal form. It IS hard.
So I'm going to see Tim Wise, a white anti-racism activist, who will be speaking on campus (probably about this) this Friday about his new book White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son. , because I want to see how a white anti-racist man stands up and speaks out. Here are some links to some of his articles, courtesy of Eric Stoller. I want to see who is in the audience, and what their responses are as much as I want to hear what he has to say.