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(22,336 posts)
Sat Jun 20, 2015, 08:13 AM Jun 2015

Racism is the default

This article is actually called "11 Ways White America Avoids Taking Responsibility for its Racism." However, I'm not copying any of the 11 ways, so I didn't put that in the subject line. I'm more interested in how this article describes racism as a default setting perpetuated by everyone, and not just horrible things done by horrible people, so that's the part I copied. But there's lots of interesting stuff here.


I am white. I write and teach about what it means to be white in a society that proclaims race meaningless, yet remains deeply divided by race. A fundamental but very challenging part of my work is moving white people from an individual understanding of racism—i.e. only some people are racist and those people are bad—to a structural understanding. A structural understanding recognizes racism as a default system that institutionalizes an unequal distribution of resources and power between white people and people of color. This system is historic, taken for granted, deeply embedded, and it works to the benefit of whites.

The two most effective beliefs that prevent us (whites) from seeing racism as a system are: that racists are bad people and that racism is conscious dislike;

if we are well-intended and do not consciously dislike people of color, we cannot be racist. This is why it is so common for white people to cite their friends and family members as evidence of their lack of racism. However, when you understand racism as a system of structured relations into which we are all socialized, you understand that intentions are irrelevant. And when you understand how socialization works, you understand that much of racial bias is unconscious. Negative messages about people of color circulate all around us. While having friends of color is better than not having them, it doesn’t change the overall system or prevent racism from surfacing in our relationships. The societal default is white superiority and we are fed a steady diet of it 24/7. To not actively seek to interrupt racism is to internalize and accept it.

As part of my work I teach, lead and participate in affinity groups, facilitate workshops, and mentor other whites on recognizing and interrupting racism in our lives. As a facilitator, I am in a position to give white people feedback on how their unintentional racism is manifesting. This has allowed me to repeatedly observe several common patterns of response. The most common by far is outrage:

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Racism is the default (Original Post) gollygee Jun 2015 OP
its a sick world beachbum bob Jun 2015 #1
My rec is for your post and the parts of the original you quoted. Erich Bloodaxe BSN Jun 2015 #2
That's exactly what the article is about though gollygee Jun 2015 #3
Not entirely. Read the 'list of steps' closely. Erich Bloodaxe BSN Jun 2015 #4

beachbum bob

(10,437 posts)
1. its a sick world
Sat Jun 20, 2015, 08:18 AM
Jun 2015

where inside of conservative land where they operate in a world filled with hate, paranoia, fear.....jealously and punishment. A dangerous mix of societal ills that feed them. And unfortunately many if not most do not recognize their own ills in the same way an alcoholic doesn't recognize he is a drunk or a pill popper is a drug addict. All cut from the same wood.....and pretty much untreatable until the individual can admit to the self-truth.

Erich Bloodaxe BSN

(14,733 posts)
2. My rec is for your post and the parts of the original you quoted.
Sat Jun 20, 2015, 08:27 AM
Jun 2015

I think the original article is partially right and partially wrong, as I think it lumps simple teaching practices in with 'white fragility' issues.

Whether or not your target audience is 'fragile', you still want to actually teach something, and to best do that, you want to employ proven pedagogical steps. And those steps are the same for any audience, any subject. That's why 'tone matters'. Not because you're trying to shield people from realizing they contribute to bad things, not because you're trying to not 'hurt their feelings', but because you want your message to actually be listened to and understood, not just heard and dismissed. You have to lead the audience around to internalizing and accepting the message, not try to force it onto them, and thus immediately set them on the defensive. And again, that's for ANY message.

People who sneer at the notion that 'tone matters' are hurting their own ability to communicate effectively and to propagate their message. I'd be willing to bet the author of that piece takes a specific 'tone' when leading and participating in 'affinity groups and workshops', in the name of getting his or her message across more effectively.


(22,336 posts)
3. That's exactly what the article is about though
Sat Jun 20, 2015, 08:35 AM
Jun 2015

That we won't accept feedback unless it's presented in a certain way.

I know it's hard to hear, for the reasons both you and the author state, but it's something that we can personally do: try to hear feedback about racism without needing it presented in a certain way, and without getting defensive.

There's a part at the end where the author said she spoke to a group of people of color and asked what it would be like if white people could hear feedback about racism without getting defensive, and one man said, "It would be revolutionary." I really feel like "revolutionary" is what we need.

Erich Bloodaxe BSN

(14,733 posts)
4. Not entirely. Read the 'list of steps' closely.
Sat Jun 20, 2015, 08:44 AM
Jun 2015

It has things like '...and don't ever give me criticism again'.

It's not a real list of steps to get your message across as a message of frustration about being ineffective at getting a message across. And part of that ineffectiveness comes in dismissing some of those teaching steps because they feel too much like 'coddling' white people. Look at any classroom. The teachers use a 'tone' that is appropriate to teaching. Why? because it WORKS. If tone didn't matter, our education system would be a heck of a lot different.

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