Monthly Archives: October 2012

Why There’s no such thing as Reverse Racism

“…The above is an extreme, clear example, which I use to make it easier to see the fuzzier, more complex situations in which we operate today…Unless you are going to argue that blacks are “naturally” inferior to whites (which is an outright racist position) you have to admit that there is some mechanism that is limiting black opportunity. That’s the mechanism we call “racism.

Now to “Reverse Racism.” It’s crucial to maintain the distinction between the above three terms, because otherwise white people tend to redefine “Discrimination” as “Racism”. Their main argument is that because both blacks and white can discriminate against each other, that “Reverse Racism” is possible. But the truth of the matter is that black people: 1) have far less opportunity to discriminate against whites than whites have to discriminate against blacks, overall; and 2) black people lack a system of institutionalized support that protect them when they discriminate against whites.

It took black and white people working together for one hundred years to get programs like Affirmative Action installed in the U.S., but it took one white man (Alan Bakke) only a single Supreme Court case to get those programs dismantled because he felt he didn’t gain entry into medical school based on his white race… “Reverse Racism” would only describe a society in which all the rules and roles were turned upside down.

White people who complain about “Reverse Racism” are actually complaining about being denied their privileges, rather than being denied their rights. They feel entitled to be hired and not to be discriminated against, even though the norm is white people discriminating against blacks. If, in a rare instance, a black employer discriminates against a white job applicant, that’s not “reverse” anything — it’s simple discrimination. It’s to be condemned on principle, but it’s not evidence of some systematic program by which whites are being deprived of their rights…”

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Author:  Kali Tal


Achebe vs. Conrad: Racism in Heart of Darkness

“… I look back now at my irrational fear of Ayoz, a person I later found to possess excellent character and a kind, giving heart, as pure naivety. It was a fear rooted in the most illogical of grounds: race. As someone who grew to abhor racism I look back, stunned that such ignorant thoughts once infested my mind. But as I have come to be an accepting man I’ve realized something: that despicable ideology is not a rarity. It lurks everywhere in our society: in our minds, in our entertainment, and most certainly in our literature.

Chinua Achebe rocked the boat of the literary world by calling Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness racist. After reading Achebe’s famous essay and Conrad’s novella I’ve come to side with Achebe. Conrad “was a thoroughgoing racist” (Achebe), Heart of Darkness showcases this perfectly. Throughout the novella Conrad describes and portrays the Africans and Africa itself in a condescending and racist way.

Consider first Conrad’s diction. When describing Africans he will often use words bearing a negative connotation. For instance, when describing Kurtz’s African mistress he refers to her as “savage and superb, wild-eyed and magnificent.” Savage is frequently used when describing Africans in the story. The amazon earned some favorable description (aside from the typical “savage”) from Conrad, she was Kurtz’s mistress. Conrad used her to subtly express that Africans who knew their place would receive better treatment from their masters. This amazon was Kurtz’s mistress; she definitely knew her place. Conrad also uses her to contrast with the European girl who loved Kurtz. When Conrad introduces this girl not a negative word can be found. Chinua Achebe drew this same comparison in his criticism of Conrad, stating that “the difference in the attitude of the novelist to these two women is conveyed in too many direct and subfile ways to need elaboration.” Achebe was right, the diction Conrad uses when discussing Africans oozes racism. The words “savage” and “nigger” persist throughout the tale, their usage abundant and derogatory.

As though Conrad’s diction when discussing the Africans is not enough, he also portrays the African characters negatively. Africans in Conrad’s world rarely speak. However, on the rare occasion a black person has something to say the idea is expressed in broken English. “Catch ‘im. Give ‘im to us.” “Mistah Kurtz — he dead.” Through their broken speech Conrad portrays Africans as lesser beings. A European character in the novel never makes a grammatical mistake, nor can a European ever not pronounce a letter. The Africans are lesser, incapable of speaking proper English like a European man. To add to their illiteracy the first quote is from an African who Conrad later describes as a cannibal. Their inability to speak and behave properly couples with Conrad’s diction to create a truly negative and racist portrayal of the African people.Finally we have Conrad’s image of Africa itself. Conrad characterizes Africa as a dark place filled with uncivilized, dark people. To Europeans in the novella Africa is a no-man’s-land, a place where one does not tread unless necessary. The Congo? It is a dark, god-forsaken, wild river; unlike the Thames river, a river tamed by the Europeans. Overall he takes a very condescending tone towards the Africans and their lands, exposing himself as a racist. Conrad was not required to portray and describe the Africans this way; it all comes back to the idea of racism.

Racist ideology lurks everywhere in our society. These disgusting thoughts dwell in a significant amount of 19th century literature, including Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. Chinua Achebe noted that, calling Conrad a “thoroughgoing” racist. Conrad showed his true colors with the condescending attitude he takes toward Africans, created primarily by his descriptions and portrayal of the “savages.” The hard, ugly truth is that there exists no such thing as a “post-racial” society. There was no such thing in Conrad’s time nor in our time, generations later. Whether you be a foolish youth (as I once was), or an elder with firmly rooted beliefs; a person must see this ugliness within them-self and their society. Just because you are respectful to people of other races, just because you avoid expressing your deepest thoughts; that doesn’t mean those thoughts disappear and you magically aren’t racist. I encourage anyone and everyone to examine themselves. Do these thoughts exist in yourself? If so, why are they in your mind? I said before that a “post-racial” society does not exist. But, perhaps, if we were all to examine ourselves as I have suggested; we would be a few steps closer. ‘

South Africa: ‘What are we doing about this government that is killing us?’

See on Scoop.itCulturally Teaching

South Africa: ‘What are we doing about this government that is killing us?’Socialist PartyThe police killed at least 140 people on 16-17 June 1976, mostly in Soweto, and 600 more as they tried to put down the year-long revolt.

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From Slavery to Mass Incarceration:

For the full version of this essential reading go to:

Original:  Posted by Sandy Bernabei

“Here are the first 4,000 words…

Rethinking race and imprisonment in twenty-first-century America.

Loïc Wacquant

8 Consider three brute facts about racial inequality and imprisonment in contemporary America:

 (i)   Since 1989 and for the first time in national history, African Americans make up a majority of those entering prison each year. Indeed, in four short decades, the ethnic composition of the U.S. inmate population has reversed, turning over from 70 percent white at mid-century to nearly 70 percent black and Latino today, although ethnic patterns of criminal activity have not fundamentally changed during that period.

(ii)   The rate of incarceration for African Americans has soared to levels unknown in any other society and is higher now than the total incarceration rate in the Soviet Union at the zenith of the Gulag and in South Africa at the height of the anti-apartheid struggle. As of mid-1999, close to 800,000 black men were in
custody in federal penitentiaries, state prisons, and county jails—one male out
of every twenty-one, and one out of every nine between twenty and thirty-four. On any given day, upwards of one third of African-American men in their twenties find themselves behind bars, on probation, or on parole. And, at the core of the formerly industrial cities of the North, this proportion often exceeds two thirds.

(iii)   The ratio of black to white imprisonment rates has steadily grown over the past two decades, climbing from about five to one to eight and a half to one. This
rising “racial disproportionality” can be traced directly to the War on Drugs launched by Ronald Reagan and expanded under George Bush, Sr. and Bill Clinton. In ten states,  African Americans are imprisoned at more than ten times
the rate of European Americans. And in the District of Columbia, blacks were thirty-five times more likely than whites to be put behind bars in 1994.

 Students of crime and justice know these grim facts but disagree about their explanation. Most analysts account for the sudden “blackening” of the carceral system—comprising jails, state prisons, federal prisons, and private detention facilities—in terms of trends in crime and its judicial treatment (arrest, prosecution, sentencing); a few have considered such non-judicial variables as the size of the black population, economic factors (the poverty rate, unemployment, income), the value of welfare payments, support for religious fundamentalism, and the dominant political party. But these factors, taken separately and in conjunction, simply cannot account for the magnitude, rapidity, and timing of the recent racialization of U.S. imprisonment, especially as crime rates have been flat and later declining over the past quarter-century.

 Black hyperincarceration

 To understand these phenomena, we first need to break out of the narrow “crime and punishment” paradigm and examine the broader role of the penal system as an instrument for managing dispossessed and dishonored groups. And second, we need to take a longer historical view on the shifting forms of ethno-racial domination in the United States. This double move suggests that the astounding upsurge in black incarceration in the past three decades results from the obsolescence of the ghetto as a device for caste control and the correlative need for a substitute apparatus for keeping (unskilled) African Americans in a subordinate and confined position—physically, socially, and symbolically.

 In the post-Civil Rights era, the remnants of the dark ghetto and an expanding carceral system have become linked in a single system that entraps large numbers of younger black men, who simply move back and forth between the two institutions. This carceral mesh has emerged from two sets of convergent changes: sweeping economic and political forces have reshaped the mid-century
“Black Belt” to make the ghetto more like a prison; and the “inmate society” has broken down in ways that make the prison more like a ghetto. The resulting symbiosis between ghetto and prison enforces the socioeconomic marginality and symbolic taint of an urban black sub-proletariat. Moreover, by producing a racialized public culture that vilifies criminals, it plays a pivotal role in remaking “race” and redefining the citizenry.

 A fuller analysis would reveal that this increasing use of imprisonment to shore
up caste division in American society is part of a broader “upsizing” of the state’s penal sector, which, together with the drastic “downsizing” of its social welfare sector, aims at enforcing a regime of flexible and casual wage labor as a norm of citizenship for unskilled segments of the postindustrial working class. This emerging government of poverty weds the “invisible hand” of a deregulated labor market to the “iron fist” of an omnipresent punitive apparatus. It is anchored not by a “prison industrial complex,” as political opponents of the policy of mass incarceration maintain, but by a system of gendered institutions that monitor, train, and neutralize populations recalcitrant or superfluous to the new economic and racial regime: men are handled by its penal wing while (their) women and children are managed by a revamped welfare-workfare system designed to buttress casual employment.

So the hypertrophic growth of imprisonment is one component of a more comprehensive restructuring of the American state to suit the requirements of neoliberalism. But race plays a special role in this emerging system. The United States far outstrips all advanced nations in the international trend towards the penalization of social insecurity. And just as the dismantling of welfare programs was accelerated by a cultural and political conflation of blackness and undeservingness so, too, the “great confinement” of the rejects of market society—the poor, mentally ill, homeless, jobless, and useless—can be painted as a welcome “crackdown” on them, those dark-skinned criminals from a pariah group still considered alien to the national body. The handling of the “underclass” question by the prison system at once reflects, reworks, and reinforces the racial division of American society and plays a key role in the fashioning of a post-Keynesian American state.

 Four peculiar institutions

 The task of defining, confining, and controlling African Americans in the United States has been successively shouldered by four “peculiar institutions”: slavery, the Jim Crow system, the urban ghetto, and the organizational compound formed by the vestiges of the ghetto and the expanding carceral system. The first three served, each in its own way, both to extract labor from African Americans and to demarcate and ultimately seclude them so that they would not “contaminate” the surrounding white society that viewed them as irrevocably inferior and vile.

 These two goals of labor  and social seclusion are in tension: extracting a group’s labor requires regular intercourse with its members, which may blur the line separating  “us” from “them.” Conversely, social isolation can make efficient labor extraction more difficult. When the tension between exploitation and exclusion mounts to the point where it threatens to undermine either of them, the institution is re-stabilized through physical violence: the customary use of the lash and ferocious suppression of slave insurrections on the plantation, terroristic vigilantism and mob lynchings in the post-bellum South, and periodic bombings of Negro homes and pogroms against ghetto residents (such as the six-day riot that shook up Chicago in 1919) ensured that blacks kept to their appointed place at each epoch.

 But the built-in instabilities of unfree labor and the anomaly of caste partition in a formally democratic and highly individualistic society guaranteed that each of these peculiar institutions would in time be undermined by the weight of its internal tensions as well as by black resistance and external opposition, and be replaced by its successor regime. At each new stage, the apparatus of ethno-racial domination became less total and less capable of encompassing all segments and dimensions of the pariah group’s social life. As African Americans differentiated along class lines and acceded to full formal citizenship, the institutional complex charged with keeping them “separate and unequal” grew more differentiated and diffuse, allowing a burgeoning middle and upper class of professionals and salary earners to partially compensate for the negative symbolic capital of blackness through their high-status cultural capital and proximity to centers of political power. But lower-class blacks remained burdened by the triple stigma of “race,” poverty, and putative immorality.

 Slavery (1619–1865)

 From the first years of the colony to the Civil War, slavery determined the collective identity and individual life chances of Americans of African parentage. Orlando Patterson has rightly insisted that slavery is essentially “a relation of domination and not a category of legal thought,” and, moreover, a relation unusual for the inordinate amounts of material and symbolic violence it entails.  In the Americas (as opposed to, say, in the Islamic world, where slavery served no productive purpose), this violence was channeled to fulfil a definite economic end: to appease the nearly insatiable appetite of the plantation for labor. The forcible importation of Africans and West Indians, and the rearing of their descendants under bondage supplied the unfree workforce needed to produce the great staples—tobacco, rice, sugar, and cotton—that were the backbone of North America’s preindustrial economy.

 In the early colonial period, indentured servitude was economically more advantageous than slavery but, by the second half of the seventeenth century, demographic and economic factors conspired to make slavery the preferred source of labor. After the Revolution, human bondage was abolished along the Eastern seaboard and prohibited north and west of the Ohio River, but it spread and solidified throughout the South, as the economic value of slaves rose in concert with the increase in the demand for cotton and the scarcity of labor in the new territories of the Southwest. Once generalized, slavery reconfigured society, culture, and politics in its image, concentrating economic and state power in the hands of a small slaveholder class tied to lower-class whites by patronage relations and to their slaves by a paternalistic code that reinforced the latter’s lack of cultural autonomy and sense of inferiority.

By the nineteenth century the sharp dichotomy between bondsmen and freemen  had been racialized: the militant defense of slavery generated an elaborate ideology that justified the subhuman condition imposed upon blacks by their inferior biological makeup. Particularly in the period between the Great Awakening and the Civil War, the specter of insurrection and abolition resulted
in increased hostility toward manumission, miscegenation, and “passing” by Negroes, and a rigid twofold racial schema based on the mythology that God had created a separate species of blacks to be slaves and that persons of mixed descent were against nature and fated to physical extinction. In short, slavery as a system of unfree labor spawned a suffusive racial culture. And that culture remade bondage into something it was not at its outset: a color-coded institution of ethno-racial division

 Jim Crow South (1865–1965)

Emancipation posed a double and deadly threat to Southern society: the overthrow of bondage made slaves formally free laborers, which potentially eliminated the cheap and abundant workforce required to run the plantation economy; black access to civil and political rights also promised to erode the color line initially drawn to bulwark slavery but subsequently entrenched in both North and South. In a first phase, during Reconstruction, the Dixie ruling class promulgated the Black Codes to resolve the first problem by establishing “forced labor and police laws to get the freedman back to the fields under control.”  In a second phase, through the 1880s, the white lower classes joined with the plantation elite to demand the political disenfranchisement and systematic exclusion of former slaves from all major institutions: the Jim Crow regime of racial segregation was born which would hold African Americans in its brutal grip for nearly a century in the Southern states and beyond.

 This regime restricted economic opportunities for African Americans in the Southern cotton fields and the emerging mining and industrial towns of the uplands by limiting their employment to the most dirty and dangerous “nigger work.” Former slaves and their descendants were prohibited from attending churches and schools with whites. And they were methodically banished from the ballot box thanks to an assortment of residency requirements, poll taxes, literacy tests, “grandfather clauses,” and disqualifying criminal offenses.

Most crucially, Jim Crow curtailed social contacts between whites and blacks by relegating the latter to separate residential districts and to the reserved “colored” section of commercial establishments and public facilities, bars and movie houses, parks and beaches, trolleys and buses, waiting rooms and bathrooms. Any and all forms of interaction that might imply social equality between the “races,” or, worse yet, provide an occasion for sexual contact across the color line were rigorously forbidden. Any infringement, real or imagined, was savagely repressed, as testified by periodic explosions of mob violence, beatings, whippings, and rioting against blacks who failed to display proper caste deference. In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, some 2,060 African Americans were lynched, one third of them after being accused of sexual assault or mere social improprieties towards white women. These veritable carnivals of caste rage, during which the bodies of “bad niggah” were ritually desecrated by burning, mutilation, and public exhibition, were fanned by the press, tacitly supported by the churches, and encouraged by complicity from the forces of order. African Americans could hardly turn to the courts for protection since the latter openly put the law of caste above the rule of law: as a Mississippi gentleman put it, “race is greater than law now and then, and protection of women transcends all law, human and divine.”

 The Northern Ghetto (1914–1968)

The ferocity of Jim Crow as a system of labor extraction and seclusion sowed the seeds of its eventual ruin, for blacks fled the South by the millions as soon as the opportunity came. In part a result of economic causes—including a booming demand for unskilled and semi-skilled labor in Northern steel mills, packinghouses, factories, and railroads—this Great Migration was driven by the
irrepressible will to escape the indignities of caste and its attendant material degradation, truncated life horizons, and rampant violence. Indeed, the outmigration of blacks was heaviest in those counties of the Deep South  where lynchings were most frequent. The trek north to Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Philadelphia was thus undertaken by Southern blacks not only to “better their condition” but also to board what Langston Hughes called the “train of freedom,” on a journey filled with biblical imagery and political import: it was a race-conscious gesture of collective defiance and self-affirmation

 Though Northern cities did offer salutary relief from the harsh grip of Southern caste domination and significantly expand the life chances of the former sharecroppers, African Americans there came upon yet another device for economic exploitation and social seclusion: the ghetto. As the Negro population grew, so did the animosity of whites towards them. Previously informal patterns of ethno-racial discrimination and segregation hardened in housing and schools, as well as parks, playgrounds, and beaches. They were extended to the polity, where the promotion of a small cadre of black politicians handpicked by party leaders served to rein in the community’s votes to the benefit of the white-controlled city machine. They were systematized in the economy, where a “job ceiling” set conjointly by white employers and unions kept African Americans trapped in semi-skilled, manual, and servant work that made them especially vulnerable to business downturns.  And, when they tried breach the color bar—by attempting to move outside their reserved perimeter, for instance—blacks were assaulted on the streets by white “athletic clubs” and their houses were bombed by “neighborhood improvement societies.” They had no choice but to take refuge in the secluded territory of the Black Belt and to try to build in it a self-sustaining nexus of institutions that would both shield them from white rule and procure the needs of the castaway community: a “Black Metropolis” lodged “in the womb of the white,” yet hermetically sealed from it.

 Although this “black city within the white”—as black scholars from DuBois and Frazier to Oliver Cox and Kenneth Clark have consistently characterized the ghetto—served the functions of extraction and seclusion, it differed from the earlier peculiar institution in the degree of organizational autonomy it permitted black Americans. The urban Black Belt enabled African Americans to fully develop their own social and symbolic forms and thereby accumulate the group capacities needed to escalate their resistance to continued caste subordination.

 Analyzing the workings of the ghetto as mechanism of ethno-racial control highlights its kinship with the prison. Thus the ghetto is a kind of “ethno-racial prison” in that it encloses a stigmatized population with its own distinctive organizations and culture. And the prison functions as a “judicial ghetto” relegating individuals disgraced by criminal conviction to a secluded space harboring the social relations and cultural norms of a “society of captives.”  So when the capacity of the ghetto to ensure caste domination was undercut in the 1960s by economic restructuring that made African-American labor expendable and by the mass protest that finally won blacks full voting rights, the carceral system began to function as a substitute apparatus for enforcing the shifting color line and containing segments of the African-American community devoid of economic utility and political pull. As the ghetto became more like a prison (what I call the “hyperghetto”) and the prison became more like a ghetto, the two
institutions increasingly fused to form the fast-expanding carceral system that constitutes America’s fourth “peculiar institution.”

 “Prisonization” of the ghetto

 The hyperghetto presents four main characteristics that differentiate it sharply from the communal ghetto of mid-century and converge to make its social structure and cultural climate akin to those of the prison. I will consider each in turn by drawing a schematic contrast between the mid-century “Bronzeville” depicted by St. Clair Drake and Horace Cayton  fieldwork, statistical analysis, and survey data.

Class segregation over racial segregation

 Mid-century American ghettos contained a full complement of classes, for the  simple reasons that the black bourgeoisie was barred from escaping while a majority of adults were gainfully employed in a gamut of occupations. True, from the 1920s onward, Chicago’s South Side featured clearly demarcated subdivisions stratified by class, with the small elite of black doctors, lawyers, teachers, and businessmen residing in the more stable and desirable neighborhoods adjacent to white districts at the southern end, while the families of laborers and domestic workers massed themselves in areas of blight, crime, and dissolution towards the northern end. But the social distance between the classes was limited by physical proximity and extensive family ties; the black bourgeoisie’s economic power rested on supplying goods and services to its lower-class brethren. Moreover, “brown” residents of the city were united in their rejection of caste subordination and an abiding concern to “advance the race,” despite internecine divisions and the mutual panning of “big Negroes” and “riff-raff.” As a result, the postwar ghetto was integrated both socially and structurally.

 Today’s black bourgeoisie still lives under strict segregation and its life chances continue to be curtailed by its geographic and symbolic contiguity with the African-American sub-proletariat. Nonetheless, it has gained considerable physical distance from the heart of the ghetto by establishing satellite black neighborhoods at the urban periphery and in the suburbs. Its economic basis has
shifted from the black community to the state; employment in public bureaucracies accounts for most of the growth in the number of professional, managerial, and technical positions held by African Americans over the past thirty years. The genealogical ties of the black bourgeoisie to the black poor have also grown more remote and diffuse. Moreover, the historic center of the Black Belt has experienced massive depopulation and deproletarianization, such that a large majority of its residents are no longer employed: two thirds of the adults in Bronzeville did not hold a job in 1980, compared to fewer than half thirty years earlier, and three out of every four households were headed by women, while the official poverty rate hovered near 50 percent.

 These shifts in the social composition of the ghetto make it socially akin to the prison, dominated as the latter is by the most precarious fractions of the urban proletariat: the unemployed, the casually employed, and the uneducated. In 1991, fully 36 percent of the half-million people housed by U.S. jails were jobless at the time of their arrest and another 15 percent worked only part-time or irregularly. One half had not finished high school and two thirds earned less than a thousand dollars a month; in addition, half the inmates were raised in homes receiving welfare and only 16 percent were married. Residents of the hyperghetto and clients of the prison system thus present similar profiles in economic marginality and social disintegration.

 Loss of a positive economic function

The transformed class structure of the hyperghetto is a direct product of its evolving position in the transformed urban political economy of the past three decades. From the Great Migration of the interwar years to the 1960s, the ghetto served a positive economic function as reservoir of cheap and pliable labor for the city’s factories. By the 1970s, the engine of the metropolitan economy had passed from manufacturing to business- and knowledge-based services and to factories relocated in suburbs and exurbs, in anti-union states in the South, and in foreign countries.”


Structural Racism; From Slavery to Mass Incarceration:

See on Scoop.itWhite’s Only

“Rethinking race and imprisonment in twenty-first-century America.

Consider three brute facts about racial inequality and imprisonment…”

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White Supremacy Culture

See on Scoop.itWhite’s Only

“…list of characteristics of white supremacy culture, these characteristics listed below r damaging because they r used as norms&standards …”

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Is a Non-Racial South Africa Possible?

GR8 post (as we’ve come to expect)! I do share your thoughts in that a society free of racism is indeed possible, because, as with poverty, discrimination/racism is ‘man-made’ and as such we (being ‘man) can ‘un-make’ same. How? With Focus. One thing we can learn from the old NP/Apartheid Govt. Focus. START seeing Racism in a serious light, see it for what it is and for the damage it does! A slap on the wrist, an apology may well be ‘acceptable’ or even appropriate were you to discover, upon leaving the supermarket, that your child had stuffed a pack of pokemon cards in your pocket for which you hadnt paid; now, should this happen on the regular … your kid has issues … ones which are going to require treatment, not an apology. Likewise, a simple apology does not, cannot, simply is not of the power to erase the ‘k’ word from your vocabulary… the fact that you used it, even think it, to me, says “you are a danger to society, a time bomb” and I for one, dont want my children anywhere near you when that bomb goes off, HELL NO. Anyone who calls a man a “k***r” needs treatment, whether its in the form of community work, an anti-supremacy im a jerk management course, or if need be, 4 walls and a straight-jacket, I don’t really care as long as the ‘punishment fits the crime’ for thats what it is “Racism IS a Crime” and perhaps when we begin to see it as such people will be forced to change their mindset and ‘think’ / think TWICE’.

"...Through My Eyes..."

Sociology defines racism as the belief that races have distinctive cultural characteristics determined by hereditary factors and that this endows some races with an intrinsic superiority over others, as well as abusive or aggressive behaviour towards members of another race on the basis of such a belief

South Africa has a history of racism, which led to the system known as apartheid which was a system of legal racial segregation enforced by the National Party government of South Africa between 1948 and 1993. In this system, the rights of the majority ‘non-white’ inhabitants of South Africa were curtailed and minority rule by white people was maintained. This system came about as strategists in the National Party sought to cement their (white) control over the economic and social system. Initially, the aim of apartheid was to maintain white domination while extending racial separation. However in the 1960s, a plan of ‘Grand…

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A reflection on being a white anti-racist

 “…I’m keenly aware that I’m often privileged to speak critically about race and have my voice and perspectives valued in ways that my friends and colleagues of color can rarely assume. To many, I’m a curiosity – a white person speaking frankly and passionately about race – how about that? And, I’ve been rewarded to be embraced as a sister, friend and ally in the struggle for racial and social justice, freedom and self-determination.

Nonetheless, I know too, there’s a flipside.

I mark myself when I speak critically about Racism. White Supremacy. Whiteness. And yes, White People.

And, I will pay costs for doing so. Certainly, I will pay less of the direct, material costs that people of color pay for their activism; let alone their simply “being non-white” in the world – costs they don’t choose but which have been chosen for them. But at a bare minimum I can count on paying psychic and personal ones.

I often feel deeply misunderstood: curiosity-turned-grotesque; ally-turned-enemy. My academic and experiential knowledge – that which I’ve dedicated my life’s work to – is dismissed by many people, particularly many (most?) white people. I know that the racialized socialization most white people experience both ensures this will happen (often with near-automation) and provides many tools for my invalidation. Rationalizations, justifications, retorts that explain away racial causes for racial outcomes and solidify our collective white privilege – all plentifully available. To these folks I am at best, unrealistic idealist working from the “unreality” of the ivory tower – at worst, I am crazy, misinformed, brainwashed, hateful, evil. Fill in the blank. I know these are costs that have long been born by people of color; choosing to be a white anti-racist means they are my costs now too.

Unlike people of color, I’m much less likely to have a “natural” community of support around me, to encourage me in my efforts – and indeed, love me for them. Choosing to be a white anti-racist scholar-activist has meant that I often feel alienated, particularly from fellow whites who I wish to call “brother” and “sister.” Always difficult, this alienation is most painful when it distances me from the people in my life I deeply love, including family. Even when it doesn’t include direct animosity (which it often doesn’t), please know, feeling at all outside of the circle of family I call “home” hurts.

If I need advice on financial matters I call my brother. He’s an analyst. If I need to know something about home or car repair, I call one of my other brothers. Between them they know how to fix just about anything. I call my sister for any number of the hundreds of things about which she has knowledge. And what of my expertise? I have long been regarded by my family as someone who has a good head on my shoulders, who possesses both intelligence and common sense. I know white worlds well and have been privy to the worlds of people of color in ways that most white people I know have not. I have 20 years of an awareness forged by scholarship and deeply intimate relationships – things learned in and outside of classrooms, in the real worlds of workplaces and homes and countless public spaces. Nonetheless, I sense my knowledge as something to be tolerated, but rarely sought, rarely praised; at times, resented. Perhaps they feel I don’t understand them. Perhaps they feel they don’t understand me. I’m not sure. And then again, they’ve never asked, what in the world did make you choose this unusual path? People of color ask me that all the time.

Usually the white people in my social circles can ignore my racially politicized self as we play out a sort of implicit “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of our own. I imagine they may think “You know, that’s just Jenni – she studies race, she hangs out with black people, she listens to hip hop – she’s just like that.” And then we all agree to pretend that doesn’t matter. But racial barometer moments make the work of ignoring personal racial politics harder to do, for me and therefore, for them.

There was a time I listened to a voice of fear in my head and managed the expression of my politics (little ‘p’) with some of the white people in my life, including my family. If I wanted to post a race critical article or idea on Facebook, for example, I sometimes excluded certain people in my white networks from the posting. Even though I knew this was a direct violation of my personal politics, I did it. Not with a lot of people, but with some. Not all of the time, but on occasion.

And then Trayvon Martin was killed. Parents mourned. African American families anguished, outraged, protested. Precious life and potential wasted; signs of an all-too-familiar and well-documented miscarriage of justice afoot.

I’m not new to the game. I can offer a sharp, race critical analysis of probably any social issue, including the structural patterns that both define and create a tragic outcome like this. Nonetheless, this societal racial barometer was a personal one too. It forced me to call my failed integrity – however “minor” and “reasonable” – into question. I decided then that I had to be, as Audre Lorde encouraged, “deliberate and afraid of nothing.”

I knew I must crush any remaining shred of fear that might ever silence me. Because mothers and fathers panicked for the lives of their sons and daughters. Because the many people of color I love, too, struggle to raise their children healthy and happy and productive and in love with themselves in a world that devalues them and “encodes crime and drugs and lust and danger on their bodies,” (as  Joyce captured so perfectly and tragically). Because there are those in this world that will desperately and unflinchingly and dispassionately explain away their murders as the result of anything other than racism. Because these are, quite literally, matters of life and death. Who was I to be called sister/friend/ally if I was complicit in any way with shielding anyone from these truths? And so many, many more.

I don’t hate white people – or myself. I do not operate out of a sense of guilt. I don’t have some blind or romanticized or misappropriated love for people of color. And though as a sociologist I am trained to examine the social forces that impact people’s lives, I am never blinded from recognizing the power of personal responsibility, of using personal agency to direct the course of our lives positively, to the best of our abilities as people. As I recently told my sister, I am only doing what I believe is just and right, and I’m never going to stop. In that way, I’m certainly a product of the background I share with my siblings, who are giving, kind, wonderful, beautifully-intentioned people. We are each the product of our parents, who taught us to live out our integrity by their example.

In riding the wake of these personal reflections I came to a sad conclusion: that many of the white people I care about in my life will love me (hopefully) in spite of what I do, but maybe never for it. I know the more fearless I become, the more of a problem I am. Even if there is no direct confrontation, the very way I life my life may be experienced as an implicit challenge. But, as I’ve learned through personal experience in the past, the challenges of our lives often create potentialities.

I think of what DuBois wrote about the famous abolitionist John Brown, written into history as a crazy, fanatical murderer, put to death for his criminal actions in working toward the cause of justice.

DuBois wrote that as people at the time watched his trial unfold “wider and wider circles were beginning dimly and more clearly to recognize that his lawlessness was in obedience to the highest call of self-sacrifice for the welfare of his fellow men. They began to ask themselves, What is this cause that can inspire such devotion?” I often meditate on this thought. I try to hold onto the hope that in continuing to seek and speak truth and work toward justice, even as I pay different costs for doing so, some might ask “What is this cause that can inspire such devotion?”

I’m no John Brown. No. But I will stand forever, side-by-side, with all my brothers and sisters in the struggle, whoever they may be.”

 Author: ~ Jennifer Mueller (see link below to full article)

MUST READ Article by @AndileMngxitama

An excerpt from andile-mngxitama’s article

“…Uncompromising commitment
Biko’s true legacy can be summarised as an uncompromising commitment to the total liberation of black people. Only in liberating blacks from white supremacy, from the structural violence of marginalisation and from degrading poverty can we start the march to true humanity and a society in which race would not matter. Needless to say, this dream has not just been deferred – it has been defiled.

South Africa is a white supremacist society under ANC management. Biko warned about this when he said: “If we have a mere change of face of those in governing positions, what is likely to happen is that black people will continue to be poor.”

Today, white men live best in this country and black women remain at the bottom. Blacks are gripped by the same inferiority complex that Biko found them in after Sharpeville: they are prepared to face death for an RDP house, a toilet, even a mere R12 500. They are not fighting to own their land and souls; they are fighting to be workers and recipients of crumbs from a state that does not regard them as human.

Blacks have no sense of themselves as a majority in power. We do not see a confident black person demanding high-quality service. Blacks without black consciousness are vulnerable to manipulation by agents of neo-apartheid, such as Julius Malema, who is using their suffering to fight for the ANC tender system that has benefited him and impoverished the people of Limpopo.

Blacks with no black conscious­ness have no memories, no sense of judgment or pride. As Biko said, they stand on the sidelines and watch a game they should be playing.

For South Africa to work, we need a new black, one who is imbued by the true spirit of Black Consciousness, who would reject the ANC integration that Biko described as “the white man’s integration – an integration based on exploitative values. It is an integration in which black would compete with black, using each other as rungs up the stepladder leading them to white values.”

The Mangaung wars are about this terrible competition, a battle in which nothing will be spared – not even the memory of Marikana’s massacred….”

“for I am my mother’s daughter and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart…”

“For I am my mother’s daughter, and the drums of Africa still beat in my heart. They will not let me rest while there is a single Negro boy or girl without a chance to prove his worth.” Mary McLeod Bethune – 1941

Mary McLeod Bethune and Members of the NCNW
The National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) was founded on December 5, 1935, with the support of the leaders of 28 of the most notable black women’s organizations. The founder and president until 1949, Mary McLeod Bethune, envisioned a unified force of black women’s groups fighting to improve racial conditions nationally and internationally.
The NCNW focused on gathering information, making credible contacts, and sponsoring educations programs. The most notable effort in the 1930s was the 1938 White House Conference on Governmental Cooperation in the Approach to the Problems of Negro Women and Children. Beginning with this conference, representatives of the NCNW began to regularly visit the White House to call for more black female administrators in upper-level government positions.
In the 1940s the NCNW engaged in a series of activities including the campaign to desegregate the armed forces and assisting women globally during War World II. In 1941, the NCNW became a member of the U.S. War Department’s Bureau of Public Relations under the Women’s Interest Section where they lobbied for black women in the U.S. Army. By 1942, The Women’s Army Corps (WAC) accepted African American women, admitting them into the service overseas in the 688th Central Postal Battalion. They also launched education campaigns, urging black workers to improve their job skills and to maintain professional attitudes and appearances. In its concern for minority women around the world, the NCNW advocated U.S. participation in the United Nations.

In 1949, Mary McLeod Bethune was succeeded by Dorothy Boulding Ferebee who refocused the group’s efforts toward using the legal system to gain black rights and promote voter registration and education. The NCNW also lobbied for women’s rights legislation, federal aid to education, establishment of a national health-care system, and a permanent Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) to prevent racial discrimination in employment.
In 1953 Vivian Carter Mason was elected president. Mason centralized the structure of the NCNW and was successful in making local councils adhere to NCNW guidelines. During its restructuring, the NCNW increasingly embraced interracial cooperation with white women and with other women of color.
Four years later, in 1957, Dorothy Irene Height became the fourth president, a position she holds until today. In the beginning of Height’s administration, the NCNW explored new methods to finance and otherwise support the emerging Civil Rights movements. Height also personally became one of the major architects of the movement’s strategy. With the passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts in 1964 and 1965, the NCNW shifted its focus to the economic problems affecting black women. After receiving tax-exempt nonprofit status in 1966, the NCNW began to train a number of black women for volunteer community service, help low-income black women in job training, address the problems surrounding black youth, and initiate efforts to help poverty-stricken southern black farmers. By the 1990s the NCNW centered its efforts on youth violence, teenage pregnancy, and drug abuse as well as care of the elderly!
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