Thursday, January 10, 2019

MLK Holiday Reflection: Majority of Whites Don’t Want to Discuss – Deal With Racism

by Kenny Anderson

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was racially murdered - politically assassinated over 50 years ago (4/4/68), King’s birthday became a U.S. national holiday in 1983 thirty-six years ago and racial equality for most Blacks in America today still remains just a romantic dream.

I believe racial equality is elusive in one aspect because the definition of racism remains unclear and narrow as a major ongoing topic of discussion. The problem is most whites define racism as prejudiced attitudes toward Blacks or having a hateful attitude like a Klansman; this definition is simplistic and limited in scope.

The scope of racism has several attitudinal expressions beyond discrimination and hate: condescending, paternalistic, indifference, pseudo-benignness, victim blaming, and paranoia (Negrophobia). Most importantly racism is ‘power privilege’, not only do whites receive ego gratification or ‘psychic income’, they received the benefits of ‘material income’ as well. Thus racism becomes the reactionary ideas and attitudes that justify white-skin privilege.

Based on the expanded definition that I have presented, it would be very naive on the part of Blacks to think most whites want to honestly discuss racial equality. How can there be racially equality when white power privilege causes racial inequality? In my estimation racism boils down to the covert and overt disrespectful attitude that most whites have toward Blacks due to their dominant advantage.

From my perspective, as long as Blacks continue to appeal for racial equality by attempting to change the racist attitudes of whites through dialogue then the focus of our struggle will continue to only produce the creation of human relations workshops, classes on racism, commissions to study racism or maybe some temporary social programs. 

“Whites, it must frankly be said, are not putting in a similar mass effort to reeducate themselves out of their racial ignorance. It is an aspect of their sense of superiority that the white people of America believe they have so little to learn. The reality of substantial investment to assist Negroes into the twentieth century, adjusting to Negro neighbors and genuine school integration, is still a nightmare for all too many white Americans. These are the deepest causes for contemporary abrasions between the races. Loose and easy language about equality, resonant resolutions about brotherhood fall pleasantly on the ear, but for the Negro there is a credibility gap he cannot overlook. He remembers that with each modest advance the white population promptly raises the argument that the Negro has come far enough. Each step forward accents an ever-present tendency to backlash." Martin Luther King, Jr.
There's always room for sincere dialogue between Blacks and whites concerning racial equality. However, according to white sociologist Robin Di’Angelo it’s hard for whites to have honest conversations with Blacks regarding racism due to whites’ thin-skinned defensive reactions.

In her new book ‘White Fragility’ Di’Angelo argues that most white people consider having a frank conversation about racism would be a challenge to their racial worldview - as a challenge to their identities as good moral people. 

Yes, truthfully discussing racism makes most whites uncomfortable, so they avoid genuine conversations about racism; they view it as making them feel guilty, they take it personal - they feel attacked. 

For most whites if you don’t talk about racism then it doesn’t exist and many more of them are tired of talking about racism - it’s annoying! Furthermore there is a racial divide when in it comes to defining racism, as Dr. King stated: 

“There's not even a common language when the term equality is used. Negro and white have a fundamental different definition. Negroes have proceeded from the premise that equality means what it says and have taken white Americans at their word when they talked of it as an objective. But most whites in America, including many person of goodwill proceed from a premise that equality is a loose expression for improvement. White Americans are not even psychologically organized to close the gap; essentially it seeks only to make it less painful and less obvious but in most respects to retain it. Jobs are harder and costlier to create than voting rolls. Eradication of slum housing million is complex far beyond integrating buses and lunch counters.”  

From my perspective, trying to convince whites about racism and waiting to get them to agree on a common definition of racism is a road to nowhere. As Blacks our primary focus should be on self-determination developing our own equality.

Even if a miracle occurred and all whites stop being racist today most Blacks will still be faced with the same political, economic, and sociocultural crisis that racial oppression caused yesterday.

Blacks Can’t Wait on Whites for Racial Equality

In 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. declared, “Why We Can't Wait.” King’s declaration reflected his deep disappointment and impatience with this country's slow pace of progress toward eradicating racial inequality and segregation.

King realize that blacks in 1963 had made little progress declaring “Why We Can't Wait.” King affirmed the politics of Black self-reliance and the tactical use of nonviolent direct action to end segregation in southern cities.

King wanted to emphasize to Blacks that political inactivity and neglecting our self-responsibility will only postpone our progress in the struggle against racial oppression.

Moreover, King understood that the Civil Rights Movement was relative, that Civil Rights legislation was no panacea, and that the Civil Rights struggle was not a total victory, as King stated: 

“In assessing the results of the Negro Revolution so far, it can be concluded that Negroes have established a foothold, no more. Negroes have fought and won, but our engagements were skirmishes, not climactic battles. Negroes have not yet paid the full price for freedom.” 

I believe King’s declarative statement why we can't wait, is more relative today than when it was stated over 55 years ago. The crisis of most Blacks in the post-Civil Rights era is a result of the assumption ‘false expectation’ that after the Civil Rights struggle Black progress would be on a continual basis.

As Blacks continually waited on white liberalism and the democratic party for dependent progress to occur we left unattended the growing unprecedented socioeconomic problems that were emerging internally in our communities due to our unfounded belief that external aid would be coming. 

In the process of depending on government agencies and private employers for intervention progress, federal affirmative action policies were being eliminated and social services funds were being slashed; while corporations were downsizing massive jobs disproportionately affecting Blacks.

Indeed, the socioeconomic problems have been in full bloom in most Black communities engulfing our people in an unending cycle of joblessness, poverty, welfare, broken homes, homelessness, drugs, sickness, violence, and mass imprisonment.

Due to our self-determination neglect especially under the Black president ‘Obama’ who manipulated, pacified, and neglected Black folks; unrealisitcally depending on him for a ‘change we could believe in’; we responded negatively ‘hope only’ resultantly our challenges grew seemingly to be insurmountable. 

Our challenge now under ‘Trumpism’ white nationalism backlash and beyond is to transform our negative inactions into positive actions. Yes, there is an extreme emergency in so many Black communities; with urgency we must develop intervention strategies and some Black Panther Party like survival programs to assist millions of Black folks who are at-risk.

A sudden change is needed to improve our perilous situation; if we don't act now too many of our communities will continue on a downgrading cycle of deterioration, despair, and deaths. 

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