Chapter 3 - What if I talk about race wrong?
"There is no shoving the four hundred years' racial oppression and violence toothpaste back in the toothpaste tube" (43).
History cannot be undone but our understanding and reconciling with our history needs to take place.
"In fact, it's our desire to not talk race that increases the necessity of its discussion. Because our desire to not talk about race also causes us to ignore race in areas where lack of racial consideration can have real detrimental effects on the lives of others--say, in school boards, community programs, and local government" (43-44).
I cannot remember any discussions about race in any of my formal schooling or outside the classroom until I was a teacher in the classroom. I have had to learn that my role is to listen and reach out to other White people to encourage growth in race conversations.
"The truth is, we live in a society where the color of your skin still says a lot about your prognosis for success in life. This is the reality right now, and ignoring race will not change that. We have a real problem of racial inequity and injustice in our society, and we cannot wish it away. We have to tackle this problem with real action, and we will not know what needs to be done if we are not willing to talk about it" (44-45).
Basic Conversation Tips
1. State your intentions.
2. Remember what your top priority in the conversation is and don't let your emotions top that.
3. Do your research.
4. Don't make your antiracism argument oppressive against other groups.
5. When you start to feel defensive, stop to ask yourself why.
6. Do not tone police.
7. If you are white, watch how many times you say "I" and "me."
8. Ask yourself: Am I trying to be right, or am I trying to do better?
9. Do not force people of color into discussions of race.
Tips For When Conversations Go Very Wrong
1. Stop trying to jump back in when a conversation is beyond saving.
3. Don't write your synopsis of this conversation as "the time you got yelled at."
4. Don't insist that people give you credit for your intentions.
5. Don't beat yourself up.
6. Remember that it is worth the risk and commit to trying again.
"These conversations will never become easy, but they will become easier. They will never be painless, but they can lessen future pain. They will never be risk-free, but they will always be worth it."
Chapter 4 - Why am I always being told to "check my privilege"?
"Not only is the concept of privilege integral to our real world understanding of issues of race in the West, it is crucial to the success of any efforts towards social justice that we make" (59).
Definition of privilege - "Privilege, in the social justice context, is an advantage or a set of advantages that you have that others do not" (59).
"When we are willing to check our privilege, we are not only identifying areas where we are perpetuating oppression in order to stop personally perpetuating that oppression, but we are also identifying areas where we have the power and access to change the system as a whole" (64-65).
Chapter 5 - What is intersectionality and why do I need it?
"Intersectionality, the belief that our social justice movements must consider all the intersections of identity, privilege, and oppression that people face in order to be just and effective, is the number one requirement of all of the work that I do" (74).
"Each of us has a myriad of identities--our gender, class, race, sexuality, and so much more--that inform our experiences in life and our interactions with the world" (75).
I need to read more and learn more from Kimberle Crenshaw.
"Problems" of Intersectionality
1. Slows things down.
2. Brings people face-to-face with their privilege.
3. Decentralizes people who are used to being the primary focus of the movements they are a part of.
4. Forces people to interact with, listen to, and consider people they don't usually interact with, listen to, or consider.
"But if you don't embrace intersectionality, even if you make progress for some, you will look around one day and find that you've become the oppressor of others" (79).
I am interested in progress and I need to understand my privilege and check it often to understand viewpoints coming from people who have different intersections.
Starting this book with the recent lynching of a Ahmaud Arbery is sobering. I ran this morning as part of the #runwithahmaud movement and reflected on my privilege of not having to worry too much about being confronted by racism, but instead being hit by a distracted driver.
I am here for the conversation to learn. I am here to listen. I am here to be an ally and stand with those who are daily impacted by racist ideas and people.
I take my responsibility seriously.
Wanting to be a good human being and a good neighbor.
As a father of two young ladies who are Black and Native.
As a father very White little boy.
As an educator, decolonizing my curriculum and learning from all perspectives and not centering the White voice.
Chapter 1 - Is it really about race?
I have experienced this type of conversation before when talking about race. In Chapter 1 Oluo states, "Disadvantaged white people are not erased by discussions of disadvantages facing people of color, just as brain cancer is not erased by talking about breast cancer. They are two different issues with two different treatments, and they require two different conversations" (18). Having a discussion about how race impacts each event matters and not take away the humanness of others at the same time.
I believe my life experiences are valid and meaningful as a white person, I have no right to invalidate the life experiences of a person of color because I do not understand or experienced what they have. Every experience matters and I need to listen and learn.
Chapter 2 - What is racism?
Definition: Racism is any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power.
Ending systems of oppression is far more important than trying to win the hearts and minds of individuals.
"We have to remember that racism was designed to support an economic and social system for those at the very top. This was never motivated by hatred of people of color, and the goal was never in and of itself simply the subjugation of people of color. The ultimate goal of racism was the profit and comfort of the white race, specifically, of rich white men. The oppression of people of color was an easy way to get this wealth and power, and racism was a good way to justify it. This is not about sentiment beyond the ways in which our sentiment is manipulated to maintain an unjust system of power."
I am reading this to playing in a role in ending the systems that continue to oppress Black and Brown people.
I learned from this reading that tying racism to the systemic causes and effects will allow for learning and change to take place.
I want to reflect on my thoughts and actions to continue my work of being an antiracist.
I am very excited to be reading this book along with my 12 year-old daughter, Trinity. I will be adding her reflections to these posts as we learn together.
Why is it so hard to admit that we’re wrong?
Why do we try to act like we’ve never been racist before?
Why is it so hard to talk about race and why does it make us feel so uncomfortable?
Why do we try to deny what we said or did was wrong even though we know that it was wrong or hurtful?
We all have different brains, thoughts, and ideas but we all have feelings, so why should the color of mine or your skin get to decide what or how we get to feel our feelings that belong to us?
We all have the right to decide what we say and do, so you can’t defend yourself by saying “ well, I wasn’t try to” or “it wasn’t what I was trying to do”, because even if it wasn’t on purpose you still said it and you can’t deny it.
Why is it our nature to try to be better than everybody else if it’s money, fame, or anything else we feel the need to be better than the rest?
I connected to and with her when she said “personally, my blackness is a history of strength, beauty, and creativity that I draw on every day” because I love to experience and express my history and it’s culture and beauty of it all.
I like how she compared how if you say something to a white person it doesn’t have the same effect if you said something to a Black person. I believe you can’t be racist to a White person because if a Black person if pulled over by the cops and you see it you tell their boss or principal they’ll be labeled for life. If you do the exact same thing to a White person it will likely mean nothing and you'll probably end up joking about it instead of getting fired. Also less likely the white person will be label "suspicious" or a "threat" to anyone.
Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope by bell hooks
Finding bell hooks as allowed me to continue to learn at the intersections of antiracism, feminism, justice, education as a political act, and love. I need to keep the Habits of the Heart and Mind in the forefront of my mind as I attempt to develop community both within and outside of the classroom. I still have a lot to learn and will be seeking other books by bell hooks.
Below are quotes that I found meaningful as I read.
“The best thing for being sad is to learn something. That is the only thing that never fails...Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the thing for you. Parker Palmer in T.H. White’s The Once and Future King
“To successfully do the work of unlearning domination, a democratic educator has to cultivate a spirit of hopefulness about the capacity of individuals to change.” bell hooks
“The teacher who serves continually affirms by his or her practice that educating students is really the primary agenda, not self-aggrandizement or assertion of personal power.” bell hooks
“Committed acts of caring lets all students know that the purpose of education is not to dominate, or prepare them to be dominators, but rather create the conditions for freedom. Caring educators open the mind, allowing students to embrace a world of knowing that is always subject to change and challenge.” bell hooks
“This is why progressive educators, democratic educators, must be consistently vigilant about voicing hope and promise as well as opposition to those dominating forces that close off free speech and diminish the power of dialogue.” Ron Scapp
“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word love here not merely in the personal sense not as a state of being, or a state of grace—not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring growth.” James Baldwin
“Love will always move us away from domination in all its forms. Love will always challenge and change us. This is the heart of the matter.” bell hooks
“Yet today’s frantic need to push towards deadlines, covering set amounts of material, allows very little room, if any, for silence, for free-flowing work. Most of us teach and are taught that it is only the future that really matters.” bell hooks
“Thay describes being in touch as being ‘aware of what is going on in your body, in your feelings, in your mind.’ This state evokes in us an awareness of interbeing. When we practice interbeing in the classroom we are transformed not just by one individuals’s presence but by our collective presence. Experiencing the world of learning we can make together in community is the ecstatic moment that makes us come and come again to the present, to the now, to the place where we are real.” Thích Nhất Hạnh (Thay) and bell hooks
Ann Petry - The Street - protest novel
Parker Palmer’s essay “The Grace of Great Things: Reclaiming the Sacred in Knowing, Teaching and Learning.”
“He [Palmer] explains that education, teaching, and learning, is about more than gathering information or getting a job: ‘Education is about healing and wholeness. It is about empowerment, liberation, transcendence, about renewing the vitality of life. It is about finding and claiming ourselves and our place in the world. . . . I want to explore what it might mean to reclaim the sacred at the heart of knowing, teaching and learning—to reclaim it from an essentially depressive mode of knowing that honors only data, logic, analysis, and a systematic disconnection of self from the world, self from others.’ Many students come to schools and colleges already feeling a profound sense of disconnection. Schooling that does not honor the needs of the spirit intensifies that sense of being lost, of being unable to connect.” Parker Palmer and bell hooks
“The assumption seems to be that if the heart is closed, the mind will open even wider. In actuality, it is the failure to achieve harmony of mind, body, and spirit that has furthered anti-intellectualism in our culture and made our schools mere factories.” bell hooks
Rachel Naomi Remen’s essay “Educating for Mission, Meaning, and Compassion”
The Habits is Heart and Mind, essential for creating and maintaining community
Chapter 17 - Success
”Policymakers and policies make societies and institutions, not the other way around. The United States is a racist nation because it’s policymakers and policies have been racist from the beginning.” Pg. 223
Being an antiracist is going to be a lifetime journey because there will always be policies that have to be checked and ideas evaluated as being racist.
Being an antiracist is supporting antiracist policies or expressing antiracist ideas.
Success is my learning and gaining new perspectives in becoming a better person for those around me. Recognizing my racist ideas and policies that I have supported is good but it will not stop there. This is an ongoing process that will never be complete.
Chapter 16 - Failure
Activist: One who has a record of power or policy change.
Civilizing programs will fail since all racial groups are already on the same cultural level...Healing symptoms instead of changing policies is bound to fail in healing society." Pg. 202
"Challenging the conjoined twins (racism and capitalism) is bound to fail to address economic-racial inequity." Pg. 202
"The problem of race has always been at its core the problem of power, not the problem of immorality of ignorance." Pg. 208
"To fight for mental and moral changes after policy is changed means fighting alongside growing benefits and the dissipation of fears, making it possible for antiracist power to succeed. To fight for mental and moral change as a prerequisite for policy change is to fight against growing fears and apathy, making it almost impossible for antiracist power to succeed." Pg. 208
"Self-critique allows change. Changing shows flexibility. Antiracist power must be flexible to match the flexibility of racist power, propelled only by the craving for power to shape policy in their inequitable interests." Pg. 214
Protest = organizing people for a prolonged campaign that forces policy change
Demonstration = mobilizing people momentarily to publicize a problem
"Unless power cannot economically or politically or professionally afford bad press--as power could not during the Cold War, as power cannot during election season, as power cannot close to bankruptcy--power typically ignores demonstrations." Pg. 215
How can I use my position as an educator and sponsor of my schools Black Student Union? How can I remove barriers for the students to protest racist ideas and policies that they encounter during the school day and school year? I need to continue to learn strategies and solutions to racist ideas and policies.
Chapter 15 - Sexuality
Queer Racism: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between race-sexualities and are substantiated by racist ideas about race-sexualities.
Queer Antiracism: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between race-sexualities and are substantiated by antiracist ideas about race-sexualities.
I cannot be an antiracist if I am homophobic or transphobic.
”To be queer antiracist is to serve as an ally to transgender people, to intersex people, to women, to the non-gender-conforming, to homosexuals, to their intersections, meaning listening, learning, and being led by their equalizing ideas, by their equalizing policy campaigns, by their power struggle for equal opportunity.” Pg. 197
I am cisgender straight white male and with this comes privilege. Cisgender means I identify by the sex I was assigned at birth. I need to reflect on how these areas affect how I am accepted in the spaces that I enter.
Chapter 14 - Gender
Gender Racism: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to inequity between race-genders and are substantiated by racist ideas about race-genders.
Gender Antiracism: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to equity between race-genders and are substantiated by anti-racist ideas about race-genders.
To be antiracist is to reject not only the hierarchy of races but of race-genders.
To truly be antiracist is to be feminist.
To be antiracist (and feminist) is to level the different race-genders, is to root the inequities between the equal race-genders in the policies of gender racism.
To Read/Research List
Alice Walker's "The Color Purple"
Combahee River Collective and Statement
Ida B. Wells
Anna Julia Cooper
Toni Cade Bambara
Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw
I am living with three strong women. I am the husband of a strong, determined and loving woman. My wife has worked so hard and overcome so many barriers to provide for our family. Our two young girls are strong, smart, beautiful, funny, and compassionate. Whitney, my wife, has earned everything she has without the need for me. I have learned to check my patriarchy at the door and live being a feminist. I will help raise our two girls to know their power and abilities to accomplish what they desire. I will recognize the complete equality of not only the women in my life but all women.
Chapter 13 - Space
Space Racism: A powerful collection of racist policies that lead to resource inequity between racialized spaces or the elimination of certain racialized spaces, which are substantiated by racist ideas about racialized spaces.
Space Antiracism: A powerful collection of antiracist policies that lead to racial equity between integrated and protected racialized spaces, which are substantiated by antiracist ideas about racialized spaces.
To be antiracist is to recognize there is no such thing as the "real world," only real worlds, multiple worldviews.
"Resources define a space, resources the conjoined twins divvy up. People make spaces from resources. Comparing spaces across race-classes is like matching fighters of different weight classes, which fighting sports consider unfair." Pg. 172.
Use pages 173-178 to teach how the US Supreme Court has compounded racism within the US.
To be antiracist is to support the voluntary integration of bodies attracted by cultural difference, a shared humanity.
To be antiracist is to champion resource equity by challenging the racist policies that produce resource inequity.
To be antiracist is to equate and nurture difference among racial groups.
Chapter 12 - Class
Class Racist: One who is racializing the classes, supporting policies of racial capitalism against those race-classes, and justifying them by racist ideas about those race-classes.
Antiracist Anticapitalist: One who is opposing racial capitalism.
"Whoever creates the norm creates the hierarchy and positions their own race-class at the top of the hierarchy." Pg. 153.
Conjoined twins - capitalism and racism - were born together with the transatlantic slave trade of African people.
"In the twenty-first century, persisting racial inequities in poverty, unemployment, and wealth show the lifework of the conjoined twins." Pg. 157.
The history of capitalism --of world warring, classing, slave trading, enslaving, colonizing, depressing wages, and dispossessing land and labor and resources and rights--bears out the conservative definition of capitalism." Pg. 161.
To be antiracist is to recognize neither poor Blacks nor elite Blacks as the truest representative of Black people.
To love capitalism can lead to a love racism. I will advocate to remove profit motive in areas such as education, healthcare, utilities, mass media and incarceration. I will advocate for policies that don't create hierarchy.
Chapter 11 - Black
Powerless Defense: The illusory, concealing, disempowering, and racist idea that Black people can’t be racist because Black people don’t have power.
“When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him to stand here or go yonder. He wiki find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it.” Carter G. Woodson
“The powerless defense shields people of color from charges of racism even when they are reproducing racist policies and justifying them with the same racist ideas as the White people they call racist.” Pg. 140
No matter what position I hold I will have the power to be an antiracist. No matter the position anyone holds, they will have the power to promote antiracist ideas and policies.
Before reading this chapter and learning how to be an antiracist, I was promoting the racist idea of the powerless effect. Now, I understand how this has been used to mask the racism of those who in their positions promoted racist ideas and policies. Carter Woodson’s quote supports the idea that Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian and Middle Eastern people could hold and express racist ideas. I have learned that history is not a conflict between White and Black but between racists and antiracists.
Mr. Dylan Wince