Thursday, July 31, 2008

Addresing Racism

I want to share a very well-crafted video that I found (surprisingly) in my lazy Facebook forays a couple of nights ago. Usually Facebook is just an excuse for me to compare myself to my peers and wonder how they're doing, so I was shocked that it wielded this great video. My friend who manages the blog Atoms Arranged Meaningwise was the one who originally found it, and all kudos should go to her.

[Image description: In a grey-toned video a young light-skinned man speaks directly to the camera. He is wearing a T-shirt and has short close-cropped hair. At times, key phrases appear on the screen next to him in yellow. The video has a slightly jerky feel, but it is intentional.]

I really enjoyed this video, and the subsequent blog "Ill Doctrine". I didn't know if I would enjoy it as the premise, of how to speak to someone about race, is a premise that could easily go poorly and conclude around some basic sweeping statement. The statement is a little broad, but based on my experiences of working in multiple situations where I've had to encounter racist comments, I do agree on his conclusion. The man in the video is clearly well-versed at what he does, and I think his messaging reflects a very scary reality. The reality that being called "racist" is one of the most often-used criticisms that people can easily deny by claiming "black friends" or "having international family". Confronting racism is something no one but a handful of people want to address, so you have to, as he put is, "have a strategy". No one want to admit to racism, but an individual act can be much more manageable to address.

There are very few people who are consciously racist or white supremacist, people who do believe that white folks are biologically and intellectually better than folks of color. However, there are many many people who believe this but are not aware that they do, and this includes a lot of folks who are consciously attempting to live anti-racist lives. I wrote about one of these confrontations earlier, and I used a similar approach of addressing the issue and not the personality of the person. I think the approach the person in this video advocates allows for more of these conversations to continue, so that an individual can eventually address their internalized white supremacy and racism. It's an approach that I hope to embody, and that I know has worked successfully on me. As you address an individual act (being surprised to find a Latino man in the applicant pool for a CEO job), the individual might begin to consider why they (who don't believe themselves to be racist) would have a white supremacist thought, and they begin to examine what they think about Latino men and their education.

Edit: One of my colleagues brought to my attention that the RaceWire blog has also picked up on this video and has added some fantastic commentary on where the Ill Doctrine falls short. It's an incredible read, as always.


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