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Decentering whiteness

Posted in decentering whiteness

At CSWAC we contend that society in the United States is centered on white American culture. This culture controls access to power and resources, and the values it upholds are taken to be the central values of our society. We believe it is neither fair nor just for a single cultural group to control central access to power and resources and to determine societal values. Accordingly, we believe white American culture needs to be taken out of the center of our society. We call this “decentering whiteness.” Rather than a single cultural group occupying in the center, we believe the…

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What white people can do

Posted in ally work, organizing, and personal development

To my beloved white community, Lists are circulating: what white people can do about Ferguson, Eric Garner, Reneisha MacBride, about racism and white privilege.  There are so many possible, powerful steps. This is my list of seven essential actions for white people: Coming from a space of love and justice, own our racism.  Get that we are the problem.  We ARE racist!  This doesn’t mean we’re evil or to blame; it doesn’t necessarily mean we run around committing violence against people of color.  It means white people have been unwittingly and unwillingly co-opted by the racial oppression pervading our society.  Like…

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A tale of two cultures

Posted in history, and white American culture

African American culture is a familiar phenomenon. We have African American inspired styles of dress, personal names, cuisine, speech, music, literature and art. The black church is a well-known institution, as is the black media. Black History Month is a staple of elementary and secondary education and public TV. Names of historic African American figures have become familiar. Back in the 1960s, from a mainstream perch it was uncommon to see such widespread African American cultural expression. It took the Civil Rights movement, and later black nationalist efforts and a heightened black political consciousness (black power, black pride, and black…

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White fear of Black men

Posted in white American culture

I have been devoted to a white anti-racist path for close to a dozen years, but I still stiffen with fear and a state of heightened awareness when I find myself alone on a darkened street with one or more Black men nearby. As a dedicated student of anti-racist facts and principles I know intellectually that white people are five times more likely to be attacked by another white person than by a Black one and that two-thirds of the rapes committed in our country are by white men.  I am aware that the vast majority of corporate criminals are…

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Moving through white guilt

Posted in organizing, personal development, and white privilege

Guilt matters.  Guilt must always matter.  Unless guilt matters, the whole world is meaningless.  – from the play JB by Archibald MacLeish Over the past decade that I have been active in the Movement for Racial Justice I have heard, countless times, the claim by some white people that my colleagues and I are just trying to make them feel guilty about the persistent and pervasive existence of racism.  I am here to state without reservation that this is not the case. Yet, we do want to move all of us beyond an intellectual understanding of what racism is and what it…

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White people working it out

Posted in organizing, and personal development

My friend Jim Edler, who posted in June, is a pioneer.  In the early 1970s, Jim and colleagues were leading anti-racism trainings for white people in tandem with trainings for people of color.  Jim’s unpublished dissertation of January 1974, White on White: An Anti-Racism Manual for White Educators in the Process of Becoming explores what can be done about “our white problem.” Nowadays, if people discuss the topic at all, we usually talk about “racism” or even “white supremacy.”  But at the time Jim and a few others such as Robert Terry  and Judith Katz were breaking new ground, the common vernacular was “the black problem.”  If people…

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Let’s recognize white American culture

Posted in white American culture

White people in the United States share a common history of immigration from Europe and assimilation into United States society. As a group we share a common language, and a common understanding of normative values, aesthetic preferences, and many other things. In other words, we share a culture. Sure, individual stories and preferences differ. And there is great variety in the experiences of white Americans. But that is true of people in any culture. The larger picture is that we share a cultural experience. You wouldn’t know it if you asked us. Most white Americans deny that white American culture…

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Growing edges for white allies

Posted in ally work

As a 30-year veteran of the movement, I know one thing for sure: the struggle against racism is the most unforgiving. It is in no way like saving the animals or the environment, important issues in which I participate and act as an ally.  As an African American, I have to prioritize anti-racism work. And the reaction to those of us who take on that struggle is as ugly and stressful as it gets. Recently I have had the honor of fighting gentrification in wealthy Westchester County, NY, alongside a gallant group of White anti-racism workers. This experience has been…

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Shenandoah redux

Posted in European American heritage

Yesterday one of my summer students stayed after to talk about Ralph Ellison’s short story “Battle Royal.” We talked for two hours, each of us leaving with assigned reading or viewing. I agreed to read some of the sources he’d used for a high school paper he’d written about the KKK. Their real purpose, he told me, had been to defend the south from carpetbaggers.  Only a few renegade branches turned to violence.  Oh? He in turn agreed to watch the film version of “Slavery by Another Name.” I would have tried for the book but it’s finals time at this engineering…

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Transitions & white anti-racism: Thoughts from a white guy

Posted in personal development

There is something important and precious about white folks genuinely struggling for clarity and understanding about our common culture and the inescapable cognitive and emotional poison we’ve ingested by growing up here.   Even more important is what we actually DO with our insights, vulnerability, courage and freedom as we focus on becoming an authentic piece of anti-racist solutions. I am white and also very hungry to equate that with constructive anti-racist behavior. It is important to me to be working that agenda while recognizing and owning that I have been handcuffed to destructive misperceptions about myself, about people of color, and about my country along with…

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