no passing, no passes

05/06/2012

fumbling over talking about race and urbanism with L, i explain how uncomfortable the homogeneity of my friendships and acquaintances in [other city] made me, how i felt like in almost any given situation i was the closest person to a PoC in the room, and i’m fairly translucent (by which i mean: i pass, whether unintentionally or not, and experience white privilege in my daily life). it felt telling. i feel like that occurrence given as a recurring situation is evidence of underlying problems, the way that race and racism are but aren’t a part of the dialogue in those rooms, the way that homogeneity in [other city] felt palpable.

how did you learn to talk about race?

i feel like my parents each had a distinct way of conveying discourse about race and racism. my father’s tack was to ignore racism by pretending to be colorblind (“we’re all just people!”), and essentialising our own heritage down to food and language without exploring colonialism beyond military history, primarily that written by (what i would consider to be) the oppressor. my mother’s strategy was in policing identities and behaviours, making broad stroke generalisations and racist jokes in poor taste.

i feel like for a long time it was easier for me to see racism in individual circumstances, and glossed over in the way it creates and strengthens structural and institutional inequalities.

i’m still working on all of it, the language in which i understand concepts, the concepts themselves.

i feel like the most brain-opening thing that happened to me was at some point i started hearing people calling out racism as white supremacy culture. something clicked there, “aha!” and i began to do a lot more concerned reading. i would say that this is where my anarchism comes from, but it’s not. my anarchism comes from a whole host of observations and experiences, based on what some anarchists would dismiss as identity politics. (guess i’ll never be a member of the (A) team now?)

it seems like a lot of the time when people talk about white supremacy outside of activist/radical contexts, people are thinking of racist skinhead punks or neo-nazis. but when i talk about white supremacy culture i am talking about white supremacy as a

historically-based, institutionally-perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of continents, nations and peoples of color by white peoples and nations of the European continent; for the purpose of establishing, maintaining and defending a system of wealth, power and privilege.

definition from here.

i am talking about white supremacy culture as the culture the perpetuates those systems, either overtly (through imprisonment, economic/educational discrimination, etc) or with the assumption that whiteness is “normal,” the assumptions that other, well…everyone who has not been assimilated. and so on.

whiteness as the Borg, anyone?

anyhow. there are a lot of shitty narratives that contribute to white supremacy culture, and i’m trying to work on calling them out, both internally and externally. accountability is (of course) uncomfortable–but it also gives me a lot of hope.

this piece, Challenging White Supremacy Culture in Organizations by Tema Okun, is a worthwhile stop along the way.

more reading, more thinking, more work to do.

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