Calling All White People, Part 10
(A periodic attempt to mobilize white people for something other than supporting just other melanin-deficient folks and maintaining a status quo of a nation geared toward whiteness as the baseline and the norm)
By An Average White Guy
TODAY’S EPISODE: If you hate yourself or your whiteness, you’re doing anti-racism wrong
[To find other installments of “Calling All White People,” click here]
There is a somewhat trite, oft-misused and sometimes patronizing old Christian (mostly from evangelistic types) saying that goes: “I don’t hate the sinner, but I hate the sin.”
The sentiment is good, really. You can disapprove of actions without having to hate the person. You can see the bad things people do and still recognize their basic humanity. You can have some judgment (and who of us is free of that?) and still have kindness/mercy. I mean, it’s a shame that a lot of the folks who use that saying actually do hate the people they see as sinners, but the basic sentiment is sound.
I know, I know; where’s he going with this?
If you’re white and you’re interested in racial justice, anti-racism, racial equity and all that, and you hate your whiteness, you’re not doing anyone any favors. Especially if your hatred of whiteness (already problematic) becomes self-hatred, too. If your actions for balancing the racial playing field end up becoming the result of “white guilt.”
Don’t get me wrong. As white people, we have plenty of guilt historically speaking and right now in the present day. Plenty of blood on our hands, as it were. And even if we personally don’t do racist things (or very often) and even if our parents and maybe even grandparents didn’t (unlikely, but possible), we still benefit from a system and society framed around whiteness and we still have all kinds of privilege. We benefit from the sins of the past.
And so we get back to hating the sin but not the sinner. Sort of.
It’s OK to hate the large parts of our history (American history or otherwise) in which white people did terrible things to non-white people. It’s OK to hate that you get a ton benefits (often subtle and unspoken) that you wish your family, friends, acquaintances, co-workers and other fellow citizens of color also had (but usually don’t). It’s OK to see the wrongness in that and to work to change things so that they don’t operate based on the principle of more power and access the closer you are to white.
But self-hate, no. Hating your whiteness, no. There are things in life we can’t control; we should be able, therefore, to control any impulses toward self-hate while still working for justice and often letting people of color guide a lot of the process toward making society more equal.
Self-hate is self-defeating. For one thing, it’s injurious and draining. For another, it plays into the hands of white supremacist types and racism deniers. Think about it: How often and for how long have they accused white racial justice folks of hating themselves and hating whiteness? Of reverse-racism and other similarly ridiculous things.
So, don’t play into their hands by actually going down that steep and slippery slope. One of the things racist/bigoted folks almost never have going for them are facts, figures and science. The research and the numbers consistently show how racism plays out systemically as well as personally in our society. People on the far right have never been able to significantly or logically back up their claims of reverse racism or disprove racism with facts and figures unless they twist them massively or take them completely out of context.
However, if white people in large numbers start giving into the notion that they should do racial justice out of a sense of self-flagellation or begin to express hatred of their whiteness and fellow white people, then they make those racist asshats right for once. And the last thing we need to do is give them any foothold. They already ignore the real and undeniable numbers that show racism has effects over decades and centuries and has not gone away. God forbid we actually give them something numerically verifiable to back up their outlandish claims that racial justice work is only an act of senseless guilt and ultimately is “genocidal” to the white race.
In short, do racial justice (or support it heavily) because it’s the right and humane and loving thing to do, not because you are trying to work off the sins of previous generations or your own past racial sins.
Hate the racism; don’t hate your race.
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