Racism – proudly made in America

20 Jul

When I wrote that meme thing about the six things, the first one was about how much I get pissed off by Crossroads Anti-Racism and that seemed like a fairly odd thing to write. They don’t go around kicking puppies (as far as I know) so it’s not as if they’re the easiest group in the world to hate. But I thought about it, and realized that so few things in the world make me feel that strongly, one way or the other, that I should probably do something with that emotion. So taking a page from writersblocklive I’m going to interactively write my response (tentatively called “against anti-racism, A new paradigm for a new world”). This means that as I write things, or get ideas for things I should write, I post them. This means that you’re reading this book (or whatever it becomes) as I write it, so not only will you read the final thing before everyone else, you’ll read all the early drafts, pieces, and cut bits.
And you can tell me how to change them. And why. Does what I wrote make sense? Are there details missing? Am I wrong? Is there a better metaphor? A different and more useful way to explain something? It’s your mission to let me know.

So without further ado, here’s what I wrote this morning:

       All oranges are fruit. Not all fruit are oranges. Racism is the same way.
One popular theory trumpeted by the Crossroads Ministry is that “race” is an arbitrary term/concept invented in America simultaneously with the term/concept “freedom.” This was done so that slavery could be justified. There were slaves before racism, before “race” was invented, but without the concept of a free country, there was no need to justify slavery in this way. There were slaves before this, but they were never slaves because of something called their “race.” So race and racism is a wholly American creation.
       That’s the theory anyway, but let’s say that the evidence is compelling enough to believe that it’s true. Someone more familiar with the evidence than I am probably would say it’s true. (And there is both scientific and historic evidence for this theory. It’s presented pretty well at this site and not very well or at all on Crossroads’ own site.)
       Race is an illusion. It isn’t real. It’s a category arbitrarily placed onto people by other people. Due to the circumstances of America’s creation, the systems and patterns of behavior which govern America have woven into them a thread of racism.
       Fine. I get that. It’s a good solid theory. I can believe that.
       But it’s not the problem, it’s just one example, one symptom, of a larger disease.
       If fruit is a problem, would you focus on just eliminating the orange, and more specifically, the Systemic American Orange? Why not focus on fruit as a whole?
       Since the beginning of written history (and probably before) humans have always had arbitrary descriptors for groups of people. People have always used those descriptors to divide other people into groups and make over-generalized and likely false assumptions about the people in those groups. Race is just one of the more recent examples. Before race there was “heathen,” “barbarian,” “heretic,” “orthodox” and of course lower and upper classes. The list goes on.
       Saying “You’re a heretic because you eat babies” is the same thing as saying “You’re a slave because you’re black.” One is an apple, and one is an orange, but they’re both fruit. This tendency to divide and assume is a pattern of human behavior, a world program, which has always had power and which needs to be transformed.
       This is one of the things I think which pisses me off so much about the anti-racism movement. In trying to eliminate the Systemic American Orange they’re not going to eliminate fruit, or transform it into something positive. In fact, they may just be creating more fruit, and making things worse.

       Farm and Wilderness now chooses very carefully where they advertise. If a place isn’t “diverse enough” or “anti-racist” they don’t (or are very hesitant to) advertise there. This is a true story. In a summer when enrollment was almost as low as it’s ever been I asked the director of the camp why Farm and Wilderness doesn’t advertise in Quaker Meeting Houses across the world. After all, F&W was founded by Quakers, embodies Quaker ideals, and has Quaker meeting every morning. The director of the camp told me that it would be a good place to advertise but they’re hesitant to do it because Quaker Meeting Houses aren’t “diverse enough.”
       Actually, you know what? That’s probably right. For that matter, I hear they eat babies too, so we really don’t want them.
       So let’s all “squeee!” and “woot!” and “Yay!” and join Crossroads Ministry and their movement to eliminate the Systemic American Orange and replace it with a new fruit of diversity. That will solve nothing, but at least we won’t use “race” for a descriptor as often as we used to.

       Or we could evolve a little bit. We could develop past this ancient world program which makes us behave the way we do. We’re all individuals, we can program ourselves. We choose our own patterns of behavior. But the first step in this is to recognize the patterns and programs which already have partial control over us. Racism isn’t one of them, it’s merely a symptom of a larger one.


2 Responses to “Racism – proudly made in America”

  1. youngjedi July 23, 2006 at 12:35 am #

    There are few things that we argue over, hopefully constructively
    I agree with the notion that racism is a symptom of a greater ailment, but racism isn’t one of the “patterns and programs which… have partial control over us”? What about consumption (or, more properly, over-consumption)? kicking of puppies? baby-eating? Are they not all patterns and symptoms at once?
    Why aren’t you angered so by Farm & Wilderness’ recycling efforts? Our rape of the environment is a symptom of a larger disease. Suppose F&W made an organizational declaration that environmental degradation was abhorrent enough to a healthy society that they made structural and programmatic changes to overcome it. Would you be equally as adversely judgmental?
    Please enlighten us, then, oh sage of the ivory tower, as to what, specifically, an organization committed to advancing equality should do. So far, all I have ever heard from you is whining. You sound less “determined” and more like someone whose culturally ingrained programming feels threatened and is revolting. I think I know you well enough to know that you have more in mind, but your categorical rejection of anti-racism work and the ire raised in you feels unwarranted.
    I think in this piece you have begun to delve beneath the surface to explain a valid frustration. It would kinder if you did not ridicule others’ efforts and work, ranting about something you have not the educational nor personal experience to criticize. I don’t want to discredit your emotions/leadings/intuition/whatever, but your approach is, so far, postulatory. It’s good that you have begun to acknowledge and even seek out the research that has lead to anti-racism.

    • junorhane July 24, 2006 at 5:21 pm #

      Hopefully we can have a constructive conversation without arguing.
      Do symptoms have partial control over individuals and their behavior, or do diseases?
      Coughing is not a sickness, it’s a symptom. If someone has a cold, their behavior is ultimately affected by that virus, and not their cough, right? The symptom and the disease can’t really be separated, which is why focusing on a symptom, rather than the disease, doesn’t make much sense.
      Racism is not a disease. It is a symptom.
      F&W’s recycling efforts have not, that I’ve seen, changed F&W for the worse. I think their anti-racism efforts have. I’m not against the concept of anti-racism, and I’m all for positive human development, but when things which are supposed to be solutions don’t actually solve anything, and possibly make things worse, I start to question. This is not a quick, kneejerk reaction, this has been forming in my head for more than a decade (which is how long I’ve been familiar with F&W).
      If F & W made an organizational declaration that environmental degredation is abhorrent to our world, and made structural and programmatic changes to overcome it, I would say that’s a great idea. Why haven’t they done this already? But if those programmatic and structural changes transform F&W into something less than it used to be, or something worse, or something un-necessarily different, then I would start to question it and possibly become adversely judgmental.
      I may be a sage in an ivory tower, but I’m not an all knowing one, I’m just one with strong intuition, feelings, and experience and knowledge enough to know how to figure out why I feel the way I do. However, I was unaware that F&W was an organization committed to equality. I thought they were committed to anti-racism.
      These are two different things.
      Since part of my issue is the negative-framing of the whole thing, I’d have less issue with it if they were committed to equality, and dropped the “anti-racism” nomenclature. However, as one of the members of the anti-racism committee explained to me, “anti-racism is more than just equality.”
      As an individual committed to positive human development, I’m all for truth in naming.
      Interestingly, the word “equality” doesn’t appear even once on F&W’s website, nor do they ever mention “anti-racism” as something the organization is committed to. They do mention in the FAQ that things like “discrimination and oppression on the basis of race” are frequently discussed with the campers.

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