When we live in a world that is so imbalanced with respect to power. It is easy to stay quiet while witnessing oppression. In fact, I would say that the whole system is built by this process.
What are you talking about Pran? These are good people that you’re implying are being racist. My main issue with well-meaning people is their silence and therefore their complicity. Yes, my tone may be a little hostile, but please bear with me.
If I were to tell you that people of colour in this country (the UK) in 2019 are discriminated against in terms of education, healthcare, and employment, etc. Many well-meaning people would disagree with me. Even when faced with the bare facts and cold hard data, often people tend to question its authenticity, deny its existence and cite personal anecdotes, it goes on.If I were to tell you that people of colour in this country (the UK) in 2019 are discriminated against in terms of education, healthcare, and employment, etc. Many well-meaning people would disagree with me. Even when... Click To Tweet
This is or may be described as white fragility (please google the work of Robin Di Angelo if you are unaware of this term). However, I believe this questioning (and fragility) is partly caused by the deliberate act of unknowing. The act of questioning data, the direct testimony of people of colour, even judicial reviews, etc. not only fogs the issue but it gives all in power a get out of jail free card.
As a man, I benefit from patriarchal structures, it is difficult for me to accept that I live in a world where I accept (through my silence) that women are treated worse than men. If I accept that this is wrong, if I accept that this happens, I have to then consequently accept that this is okay by me because after all I have benefited and continue to benefit from this imbalance. The easiest option here is to deny the existence of this power.
This denial and self-protection are normally expressed in the form of defensive moves.
‘These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviours such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation. These behaviours, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium.’
There have been many narratives that have been deliberately used to excuse people in power. There are parallels here with the justifications for slavery;
1. Slaves were grateful to their benevolent slave masters for the opportunities to work in the “new world“. This denies the existence or minimises the impact of their experience.
2. Slavery has often been based on scripture, once you assign meaning to a higher power, it is no longer our responsibility as human beings it is the responsibility of God. This becomes a holy duty. This is a textbook example of passing the blame.
3. People of colour are heathens and savages. Thus it falls to the white man and the ‘white man’s burden’ (Rudyard Kipling, the colonialist writer of the jungle book and the poem by the same name) to civilise them, bring them democracy and ‘help’ them. This is how the white saviourism/white saviour complex is often justified.
4. People of colour are of different races, ‘the Negroid race is a form of great ape species’, 3 and 4 both serve to dehumanise people of colour. This narrative is the most powerful, good people would and could not, treat other human beings in this way but as soon as we don’t see them as humans or lower forms of humans. Things look different.
Within education, let me quote some statements I have heard and read over the years;
‘These black inner-city children need strict structures, this is absent in their home lives. It’s our responsibility to provide this at school.’
‘My vocation is to help these poor children. (from a score of middle-class people who have moved to London).’
‘We are all these pupils have, their parents don’t even speak to them in English, how are they ever going to move forward in life.’
‘If parents aren’t going to give these children the cultural capital, as a school has to, it is our social responsibility to show them the great work of Shakespeare’
‘These kids need training (behaviour) their parents don’t have the skills to do it.’
‘These kids from the estate are like animals.’
‘These pupils need punitive measures, it is the only way they learn.’
The longer we accept this narrative, and I know that we benefit from them, it makes life easier. It makes life easier for us, those in power and firmly put people of colour or any protected characteristic in their place.
This pervades throughout society, we have one of two options, we choose to continue with the current structure (racist structures) or we choose another way (anti-racist). The act of saying ‘I am not racist…’ is silence. Thus yes, not acknowledging, staying silent or not fighting against these narratives, leaves you duplicitously complicit, yes, this leaves you a racist.This pervades throughout society, we have one of two options, we choose to continue with the current structure (racist structures) or we choose another way (anti-racist) Click To Tweet