Power and Privilege: UndoingJuly 25, 2011 Leave a comment
In case you missed my earlier posts in this series, [include hyperlink to first post], I am raising a series of questions about power and privilege in social change work at the invitation of the “Walk the Talk” zine/book project. Prior questions included:
- “How do I handle my privileges responsibly and avoid the “oppression Olympics?”
- How do I figure out which privileges to leverage, which to minimize and which to divest?
- When is it more responsible to “hold the bag” and when is it more important to “let the ball bounce?” and What has my contribution been and how do my colleagues of color see me?
Today I want to pose two related questions.
How do we “undo racism” without also “undoing race?” and…
How do we “undo race” without leaving racism in place?
Because racial categories in the U.S. were created to rationalize and reinforce social, political and economic stratification and oppression, I don’t see how we can end racism without also ending race. In so many ways, there is no such thing as race apart from racism. But simply dropping all mention of racial categories won’t put an end to racialized outcomes on just about every indicator of individual and community well being. And that won’t put an end to the ways we all have internalized messages about the superiority of whiteness and the inferiority of all else. So, how do we continue to work against racism and monitor progress on eliminating racialized outcomes without inadvertently giving racial categories more legitimacy than we ought? And, if we are successful, how will I be different and who will I be in a world where there is no racism and no race—when I am no longer a black woman? Even as I write this, I wonder if that’s even what we want?
What do you think?