September 10, 2018In educating myself about anti-racism, someone suggested I check out the black feminist author bell hooks, so I got a copy of "Yearnings", short essays.
From "The chitlin circuit on black community":
That way "downhome" black folks had of speaking to one another, looking one another directly in the eye (many of us had old folks tell us, don’t look down, look at me when I’m talking to you) was not some quaint country gesture. It was a practice of resistance undoing years of racist teachings that had denied us the power of recognition, the power of the gaze. These looks were affirmations of our being, a balm to wounded spirits.Two from "counter-hegemonic art do the right thing":
Cool Pose, manifested by the expressive lifestyle, is also an aggressive assertion of masculinity. It emphatically says, “White man, this is my turf, you can’t match me here.” Though he may be impotent in the political and corporate world, the black man demonstrates his potency in athletic competition, entertainment and the pulpit with a verve that borders on the spectacular. Through the virtuosity of a performance, he tips the socially balanced scales in his favor. “See me, touch me, hear me, but, white man you can’t copy me.” This is the subliminal message which black males signify in their oftentimes flamboyant performances. Cool Pose, then, becomes the cultural signature for such black men.and then
Racism is not simply prejudice. It does not always take the form of overt discrimination. Often subtle and covert forms of racist domination determine the contemporary lot of black people.That second one has really stuck with me. In the progressive community, there's sometimes a use of the word "racist" that doesn't quite match the vernacular sense of the word - for one thing it's not just about race and ethnic group, and for another, sometimes it draws attention to how insufficient examination of privilege can be complicit in perpetuating bad power structures. Understanding that surface prejudice isn't a requirement is useful.
Finally, a quote from Cornel West in the dialog with bell hooks "Black women and men partnership in the 1990s"
I don’t think it’s a credible notion to believe the black middle class will give up on its material toys. No, the black middle class will act like any other middle class in the human condition; it will attempt to maintain its privilege. There is something seductive about comfort and convenience. The black middle class will not return to the ghetto, especially given the territorial struggles going on with gangs and so forth. Yet, how can we use what power we do have to be sure more resources are available to those who are disadvantaged? So the question becomes “How do we use our responsibility and privilege?” Because, after all, black privilege is a result of black struggle.I don't know if it's unseemly to focus too much on this quote, to use it as a justification for the amount of my own middle-class privilege and material toys I am unlikely to willingly part with. I suspect this helps paint the picture of liberal racism; it's not that we think other groups don't deserve privilege, but we would rather work to help other groups get the same privilege and not worry that much about giving up our own.