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White liberals

Here is something very true from an excellent post by Kai at Zuky:

As I’ve often noted, many white liberals remain oblivious to the depth and breadth of anti-racist work, opting to hide behind the delusion that anyone who votes for Democrats and doesn’t have a pointy hood in the closet is a good guy in the movement toward greater social justice ?? as though the Democratic Party is some bastion of progressivism and not one of two hands strangling US polity on behalf of the ruling class and the corporate-political establishment which sponsors its power. Some might be surprised to learn that when people of color talk about racism amongst ourselves, white liberals often receive a far harsher skewering than white conservatives or overt racists. Many of my POC friends would actually prefer to hang out with an Archie Bunker-type who spits flagrantly offensive opinions, rather than a colorblind liberal whose insidious paternalism, dehumanizing tokenism, and cognitive indoctrination ooze out between superficially progressive words. At least the former gives you something to work with, something above-board to engage and argue against; the latter tacitly insists on imposing and maintaining an illusion of non-racist moral purity which provides little to no room for genuine self-examination or racial dialogue.

Countless blogospheric discussions on racism amply demonstrate the manner in which many white liberals start acting victimized and angry if anyone attempts to burst their racism-free bubble, oftentimes inexplicably bringing up non-white friends, lovers, adopted children, relatives, ancestors; dismissing, belittling, or obtusely misreading substantive historically-informed analysis of white supremacism as either divisive rhetoric or flaming; downplaying racism as an interpersonal social stigma and bad PR, rather than an overarching system of power under which we all live and which has socialized us all; and threatening to walk away from discussion if persons of color do not comform to a narrow white-centered comfort zone. Such people aren’t necessarily racists in the hate-crime sense of the word, but they are usually acting out social dynamics created by racism and replicating the racist social relationships they were conditioned since birth to replicate.

Of course not all white liberals are like this. I’d say that a significant minority of white liberals are actually interested in learning about anti-racism once properly exposed to it. This requires enough humility to admit that people of color have something to teach white folks, a concept that many whites struggle with because racism teaches us that whiteness is the seat of authoritative knowledge, while brownness is the repository of murky musical mysticism which whiteness may dip into at will for spiritual support and servile entertainment. Nevertheless, some white folks manage to claw and bootstrap their way out of their own conditioning, opening their hearts and minds to previously unseen worlds from which the voices and stories of people of color emerge; studying and observing the profound effects of racist society on their own perceptual prisms and on the shape of the world; and consciously, steadily working to counteract those effects. Such people become allies to people of color.

From what I can see, though, a solid majority of white liberals maintain a fairly hostile posture toward anti-racist discourse and critique, while of course adamantly denying this hostility. Many white liberals consider themselves rather enlightened for their ability to retroactively support the Civil Rights movement and to quote safely dead anti-racist icons, even though their present-day physical, intellectual, and political orbits remain mostly segregated. They somehow take pride in being more down with the brown than their conservative brethren; indeed they exhibit a certain strange glee in highlighting and exploiting the macaca and call me moments of their political opponents. Armed with diversity soundbites and melanin-inclusive photo-ops, they seek electoral, financial, and public relations support from people of color. Yet the consistent outcome of their institution-building agendas is to deprioritize and marginalize our voices, perspectives, experiences, concerns, cultures, and initiatives. When you get right down to it, the unrecognized political reality is that most white liberals have more in common with white conservatives ?? social cues, family ties, cognitive biases, cultural backdrops, etc. ?? than they do with people of color. I’m calling this tangle of contradictions the white liberal conundrum.

— Zuky 2007-10-11: The White Liberal Conundrum

You really should read the whole thing.

(Link thanks to Jack Stephens at Alas, A Blog 2007-10-25.)

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