Monday, February 28, 2005

What passes for education 

One of the "products" (and in this case, I think scare quotes are appropriate) that came out of the settlement over an anti-Semitism suit at St. Cloud State was a mandated publication that was to trumpet affirmative action efforts locally. Now on its fourth issue, it has gone from being a glossy paean to its diversity efforts (take for example this issue from last summer) to now including strong advocacy points. In the latest issue online the publishers included a list titled "28 Common Racist Attitudes and Behaviors that Indicate a Detour or Wrong Turn into White Guilt, Denial or Defensiveness." (Inhale.) It does not appear they printed this part of the article due to space considerations, but it merits your attention to see what people who head anti-racist initiatives on our campus think. Here are just a few examples.
1. I�m Colorblind.
�People are just people; I don�t see color; we�re all just human.� Or �I don�t think of you as Chinese.� Or �We all bleed red when we�re cut.� Or �Character, not color, is what counts with me.�
Statements like these assume that people of color are just like you, white; that they have the same dreams, standards, problems, and peeves that you do. �Colorblindness� negates the cultural values, norms, expectations and life experiences of people of color. Even if an individual white person could ignore a person�s color, society does not. By saying we are not different, that you don�t see the color, you are also saying you don�t see your whiteness. This denies the people of colors� experience of racism and your experience of privilege.

13. The Penitent.
�I am so sorry for the way whites have treated your people.� Or �I am sorry for the terrible things that white man just said to you.�
While there is probably no harm in the �sorry,� if it is not attached to some action taken against racism, it is most often just another expression of white guilt. Being an ally to people of color is not limited to an apology for other white people�s behavior, it must include anti-racist action.

22. Smoke and Mirrors.
You use the current PC language; you listen to the right music; we state the liberal line; you�re seen at the right meetings with the right people. You even interrupt racist remarks when the right people are watching and when there is no risk to us. You look like an anti-racist.
This is the �Avon Ally,� the cosmetic approach. People of color and other white anti-racists see through this pretense quickly. This pseudo-anti-racist posturing only serves to collude with racism and weakens the credibility of sincere white anti-racists.

23. I Have To Do My Personal Work.
�I have to do my personal work first.� Or �Ending racism is only about changing personal attitudes.�
If you assume that personal reflection and interpersonal work are the end of your job as an anti-racist, you would stay out of the public, institutional arenas. You would ignore cultural racist practices that don�t include whites personally. Whites wouldn�t take action, until they have finished ridding themselves of all racist conditioning. And since that complete �cure� will never happen, you would never take any institutional or cultural anti-racist action.
Within the article to which this piece was attached, the author indicates the transformative, childhood-correcting nature on American campuses:
Children do not choose to learn racist lessons. Our generous child wisdom tells us racism is wrong, but there is no escape from the daily catechism of racist teaching. We resisted the lies, the deceit and the injustice of racism, but without the skills to counter the messages. The conditioning fills one with fear, suspicion and stereotypes. You internalize your beliefs about people of color, yourself, other white people and about being white. Those internalized attitudes become actualized into racist behavior.
Who does she think is providing that daily catechism? This is the problem on American campuses, that faculty think the world around them is racist and that taxpayers are paying them to provide corrective measures. This is what they think their job is: Reprogramming. Re-engineering.

And what does this have to do with the settlement of an anti-Semitism suit?