Racism (when the anger starts)

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by Neil Godfrey

Rather than try to cover for now the many sides to the racism question that Reni Eddo-Lodge raises in her book Why I’ve Stopped Talking to White People about Race, I’ll just mention one thought that has lodged uppermost in my mind as I think back on my reading.

I know the Australian situation better than either the British or American experiences and for the first time, at least as far as I can remember, I paused to try to imagine what it might be like being born into an aboriginal family. Healthwise, what are their chances compared with a white person’s? We know the expected life-span of aboriginals is significantly less than it is for whites. What sorts of supports do children have at home with their schooling and how likely is it that aboriginal adolescents will escape brushes with the police — and what are their chances of seeing the inside of a prison compared with white people? And then why is it that we keep hearing of deaths in custody? Having lived for some years in the Northern Territory did make me far more aware of aboriginal conditions and experiences than I would have had had I never left the major urban areas on the east coast of Australia.

Poor comparisons can also be made with suburban areas where first and second-generation non-English speaking immigrants tend to live. Would a white person feel comfortable imagining being born into one of those communities as opposed to a stable white one?

Thinking of it like that drives home, at least for me, the reality of what is meant by systemic racism. We can expect that Australians would be outraged and governments would act the highest priority reforms and assistance packages to make the lives of (white) people in such communities on a par with the rest of the population with respect to genuine equality of opportunities in life. The rest of the (white) population would, in the main, surely expect the government to take those urgent measures.

What dismays me is when I hear some white Australians, including elected representatives, complain about unfair welfare “handouts” to aboriginal and other minority groups. Those complainants demand “equality” and “fairness” for all — and call for policies to be colourblind as the way to being truly fair and equal. Those calls fail to understand — as Reni Eddo-Lodge makes readers all the more starkly aware — that being colourblind in the current situation is only perpetuating a system that sets aboriginals at a disadvantage from the moment of their birth. And that’s where the anger and hostility start: with the failure to recognize the currently unequal experiences of whites compared with black and brown races. The anger surfaces when there is blindness to the white experience of privilege in what is touted as a multiracial society.

I see from some of the comments on the earlier posts that I am happily not alone having these thoughts. It’s something a white person has to make an effort to understand, I think.


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3 thoughts on “Racism (when the anger starts)”

  1. I’ll make one more comment, then leave this issue alone.

    I would like to alert readers to the likelihood that “systemic racism” in the Eddo-Lodge book is not a synonym for the common concept of systematic racism, and as below, is a Trojan horse for (permanent) remedial measures of forced equity (equality of outcome).

    The below in brackets is a quotation from definition of “Racism, Systemic” https://newdiscourses.com/tftw-racism-systemic/ by James Lindsay:

    [A key point to register here is that, while the usual definition of racism is partially recognized within Critical Social Justice, under its purview, “racism” means something different, or at least something more—and more vague. Racism has been re-defined as a system. It’s not an action or a disposition. It’s a mysterious system that is immanent (ubiquitous, ordinary, permanent, but just beneath the surface – see also, mask). Further, being racist is a property sometimes explicitly connected to white people (see also, whiteness) and, in some renderings, one that white people cannot possibly escape. Even being actively antiracist begins with recognizing and engaging one’s own inherent complicity in racist systems, following Theorists Robin DiAngelo and Barbara Applebaum, for instance. For DiAngelo, the goal isn’t to cease being racist, which is impossible; it is to “be less white.”

    “Racism,” then, is a Trojan-Horse term because it is a powerfully morally salient term—one of the most morally salient in contemporary society—and yet it doesn’t mean what most people think it means. It is very different to be associated with some vague system of power than it is to intentionally engage in bigoted attitudes and actions against someone based upon facts about their racial, ethnic, or national origin. The Critical Social Justice meaning of “racism,” and what mandates follow from it, are thus able to be institutionalized in many cases because people are allowed to believe that “racism” means the common-parlance definition and, perhaps, something a bit more complicated to do with “systems of racism.” This is to all appearances a deliberate trick being played by advocates of Critical Social Justice on a good-intentioned populace, given the phrasing “systems of racism” (when racism is defined to mean a system in the first place).”]

    1. You seem very concerned about an imaginary future where you might, possibly, be discriminated against for being white, with your bogeyman of ‘forced’ equity.
      Conversely, you seem highly averse to doing anything much about the current situation, where other people are definitely already being discriminated against every day for being not-white.
      I think that we can agree that a proper levelling of the playing field would naturally lead to, entirely unforced, equality of outcome. That is, unless you subscribe to the idea that melanin levels are somehow tied to intrinsic levels of worth and achievement.

    2. I don’t see how the full definition of racism that is imputed into the thinking of the likes of Eddo-Lodge can be supported in what has been discussed in any of the posts here so far, nor can I see how it is an honest and true representation of what she spells out as her view of the problem of racism. We need to be careful in taking the words of opponents as true and accurate indications of what we really understand the situation to be. A part of the definition quoted does come close to the facts about systemic racism but pollutes the ideas with misdirected and unjustified political innuendo. I think we need to focus on the definitions or the terms as a proponent for an idea uses them in a discussion, and not rely on opponents to tell us what the other side is saying.

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