Thursday, August 19, 2010

liberal racism

Tim Wise writes that racism manifests in U.S. liberals mostly through an unwillingness to note race as an important part of life in this country. Some folks on the right use race to divide us; Wise thinks we must name and combat racism widely in order to unite us.

He writes:
"liberals and those on the left...contribute to systemic racial inequity...through four primary mechanisms. The first is a well-intended but destructive form of colorblindness. The second is an equally destructive colormuteness...

The third mechanism [is] the favoring of white perspectives over those of people of color, the co-optation of black and brown suffering to score political points, and the unwillingness to engage race and racism even when they are central to the issue being addressed.

And fourth, left activists often marginalize people of color by operating from a framework of extreme class reductionism, which holds that the 'real' issue is class, not race."

Class and race are *both* issues, and neither is reducible to the other.

Wise concludes, "To ignore the unique deprivations of racism (as with sexism, heterosexism, ableism, etc) so as to forward a white-friendly...analysis is inherently marginalizing to the lived experience of black and brown folks in the United States. And what’s more, to ignore racism is to actually weaken the struggle for class unity and economic transformation. Research on this matter is crystal clear: it is in large measure due to racism — and the desire of working class whites to maintain a sense of superiority over workers of color, as a “psychological wage” when real wages and benefits have proven inadequate — that has divided the working class. It is this holding onto the status conferred by whiteness, as a form of “alternate property” (to paraphrase UCLA Law Professor, Cheryl Harris), which has undermined the ability of white and of-color working people to engage in solidarity across racial lines. Unless we discuss the way in which racism and racial inequity weakens our bonds of attachment, we will never be able to forward a truly progressive, let alone radical politics."

Thanks, Clyde.


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