Power and Privilege: Undoing

July 25, 2011 3 Comments

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:

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?


  • Charlie Jones says:

    Big time questions, Cynthia. Enough to make one’s head spin. Looking forward to seeing what others might think about this….

  • Cynthia Silva Parker says:

    I did get a comment on Facebook (based on the tweet about the post, not the actual post). Guess other heads might be spinning too!

  • Gibrán says:

    That’s the crux of it right there Cynthia – thanks for naming it so clearly. Just today we are learning of the GROWING wealth gap between whites vs Latinos and Black People. The structural nature of racialized outcomes is devastating.

    Worsening economic numbers, public education in crisis, incarceration – these are among the numerous painful factors that clearly point to structural racism and its resiliency.

    Embedded in your questions I find another one – has our approach to justice failed and so we must re-evaluate OR is our discourse and approach correct and it just needs greater reach (more of us doing it)?

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