Being a “good white person” while being critical of racism while never risking the survival of the system of white supremacy and thus your own actual centrality and privilege — does this sound just too good to be true? We understand. But you really can have it all as a White Anti-Racist. This page explains how and why it’s possible.
The Secret Revealed: A Cultural Resource for All White People
We white people have a wonderful cultural resource at our disposal: our words and our actions don’t have to match up. In fact, it’s better if they don’t. Appearance and image is one thing; our actual behavior is another (click this link for more info). This rich cultural resource is what allows us to “have our cake and eat it too.”
*Your image — how you see yourself and how others see you
*Your claimed identity
*Your actions stripped of your interpretation of their meaning
*Your actual actions and the effects of what you actually do
The Key: Keeping it In The Discourse
In a 1998 interview, one of the most prominent and successful White Anti-Racists of our day shared the key to successful White Anti-Racist practice with this statement:
“My role, and the role of other whites, should be to interrupt the dominant discourse on race and racism by any means necessary: the spoken word, art, literature, political essays, media, protest, whatever.
I primarily operate through the mediums of oration and print.” Source
We would all do well to learn from this expert’s technique. Notice that he does NOT say that the role of whites should be to interrupt the system of white supremacy by any means necessary. No — the correct focus is on the discourse.
Focusing on the discourse is the way that White Anti-Racists can keep up appearances (remember, appearances = very important), while simultaneously ensuring that white supremacy isn’t actually threatened.
Remember the old saying, “Do as I Say and Not as I Do?” That gap between saying and doing is a very dear friend to us as White Anti-Racists. As long as you keep yourself and everyone else focused on the saying and not the doing, you can in fact have it all.
As a White Anti-Racist:
You Can: Verbally and/or in writing, invoke John Brown as your role model and hero
But You Don’t Have To: Actually do what he did (i.e. pick up arms and forfeit your life)
You Can: Publish an article criticizing white people for trying to “control meaning”
But You Don’t Have To: Actually quit your job as tenured academic publishing your interpretations and critiques of whiteness
You Can: Ritually confess (“own”) that you are a racist
But You Don’t Have To: Let anyone forget that it is an anti-racist act to confess such a thing
… and so much more!
The Hook: The Necessity of White Agreement
You might be asking yourself, “Now, why would people put up with this kind of behavior from White Anti-Racists?”
That’s a good question — and it has an equally good answer.
First of all, we sound so much better than most other white people. Compared with other white people, we say and write some pretty wonderful things. For example, we actively acknowledge our own white privilege. Most white people don’t even admit that white privilege exists!
And second of all, there is a widespread assumption that no change can occur unless some critical mass of white people agrees to it.
The logic goes like this:
1. No real change can occur without the consent (via raised awareness) of white people.
2. White people will listen better to other white people. The more aware white people (that’s us!) should educate the less aware white people.
3. Thus, discourse among white people is necessary for any real change, and White Anti-Racists are at the very center of the work.
And as we all know from our own experience and observation, white people can engage in discourse endlessly, about pretty much any subject (including very radical-sounding ideas) without ever threatening white supremacy itself.
It’s all part of how this wonderful system works to our advantage.
Isn’t that amazing? Don’t *you* want to be a White Anti-Racist too?
Maybe you’re not convinced yet. Or maybe you are, but just want more to read and think about. Whatever the case, take your next step in this wonderful journey. Click here to learn more about the specific benefits of being a White Anti-Racist: Psychological Benefits, Intellectual Benefits and Career Benefits.
Either way, congratulations — you’re doing good and making a difference just by reading!