An example of poor tact in the race debate
White students fed up with black professor’s racial screeds, lawsuits fly
Three white college students file racial discrimination complaint against professor over lesson on structural racism
Ran across the first link from the ultraconservative co-worker (which is prefaced “Good! It’s about time!”).
This is the sort of thing I was cautioning about toward the end of Makers vs Takers (http://www.erictb.info/makers-takers.html; and originally written in the post “A very alarming commentary on race relations”) regarding “white privilege”.
People like this stand up and shout this in the midst of a white environment, and the white people around them do not understand and become defensive (and then the conservative blogosphere of course snatches it up as yet another proof blacks are just “race card”-playing “victims”). They never get the point being made, it instead proves their points!
I’m not saying that there is no validity to what she’s saying. (One Upworthy FP post commenter for the second link pointed out “Those three white men pretty much proved the point the teacher was trying to make. They raise a complaint, because they felt uncomfortable, and the schools caves. They didn’t allege what was being taught was wrong….just they didn’t like it; they didn’t want to discuss it. So, white men don’t like it…it’s gotta go. Must be nice in their world.”)
But the way this is being presented is what I described as lacking tact. It’s not even addressing anything specific. Just a general “We are talking about whiteness as a system of oppression.” And apparently, she’s bringing it up all the time, in a class where it’s off topic.
I think this is something that should be written more, as that is less emotional than confronting people head on, or propagandizing it in a class. (Especially a class of those you are implicating, even if you try to qualify it “We are not talking about all white people, or you white people in general” as she did).
Whatever battle we are fighting is rhetorical, or at least driven by rhetoric, as the whole anti-Obama campaign of the last five years shows.
It seems most people don’t believe it’s worth the time to come up with good answers in the rhetorical war; and then, it’s the “who cares what whites think” attitude (which I mention in the book), but then we expect them to listen to stuff like this, out of the blue. We’ve hardly ever even answered the widespread charge that we’re using racism to get “freebies” off of them. So why should they respect any claim we make?
That’s why I like Rowan so much, because his book was powerful, and cut to the chase of the overall problem, rather than going after a specific environment, face to face with people (who of course will become defensive. If you argue they’re in “denial”, then naturally, all the more, they will not get what you’re saying, and then be left only to assume you’re manipulating their guilt for some ulterior purpose).
As I said in the book and the previous article:
What we call “privilege”, the person possessing it takes for granted and sees as normal sustenance. That’s how humans are; whatever they have becomes “standard” or less, and the goal is to gain more. So they don’t think of themselves as “privileged”; let alone because of race.
That they may go along with some subconscious belief should not be used against them. It can be pointed out, but if we rail against them and lump it in as “the same old racism”, they will likely just become defensive.