White People challenging White Supremacy & Institutional Racism

In LIFESTYLE on July 18, 2008 at UTC.53.31.

The Cambridge Center for Adult Education offers: “The White People Challenging Racism Workshop.” The classes are held at the Cambridge, Massachusets campus in Harvard Square. For $27, White people learn that Institutional Racism is there responsibility and totally up to them to change and eradicate it. What would make a white person come to a class like this? Could it be guilt? Could it be an awakening from centuries of white-privelege?

The classes reportedly started back in 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. The founder of the Boston based Community Change, Inc. is Horace Seldon. The group works to promote racial equality and justice by confronting systematic racism in various forms of manifestation.  Mr. Seldon, explains the groups mission (they are non-profit) in an essay entitled: “Pluralism and Racism” where his premise is that all white groups have benefitted from and contributed to the perpetuation of racism.

“As soon as they enter the door enrollees are asked the question, in what ways have Whites institutionalized racism, (i.e.) through trade unions, urban school systems?” said Barbara Beckwith, 70, one of 12 co-facilitators conducting the five sessions. “Some of them look at you sort of funny; and you can tell that maybe they now feel they are in the wrong class, but they don’t leave.

“The first exercise is called “speaking up” which starts with the class members openly sharing personal issues with racism. Next comes role playing, learning to become agents for change; and finally they have to devise an action plan to change the culture of an institution where they work, worship or hold membership.”

Students are instructed to first read essays by Peggy McIntosh, an anti-racism activist, and author of “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Ms. McIntosh wrote, “I have come to see White privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks.”

So, do you mean white folks have been given certain passes? Yes, they benefit from transparency, meaning they can go along every day in their lives without the reminder of their racial background, yet alone the fear of it working against them. For they are immuned to ramifications of racial caste systems that permeate the “global village.” They always feel normal and welcomed in all veins of public, social, and institutional walks of life!

It reminds me of a skit that Eddie Murphy did on “Saturday Night Live” back in the day. It was hilarious, yet fascinating to me because he dressed in “white face,”  and no matter where he went he was always given the best service, compliments, even free stuff. All his treatment was predicated on his white skin, not his merits. It left an indelible impression in my young mind, and a profound lesson I would not soon forget.

“This is what Frederick Douglass and James Baldwin were talking about—seeing racism as a White man’s issue—and acting on it from that perspective,” said Paul Marcus, Community Change Inc. executive director. Organizations like Community Change Inc. began to pop up in late 1968, some as a response to the Kerner Commission Report, which said there were two Americas, one Black, and one White.

“Mr. Marcus, a mentee of the owner (Horace Seldon), says there is a constant battle to challenge the permanence of racism in America.” I would agree with Mr. Marcus, until now, that battle has been waged predominantly by the victims of racism.

America has the history of blaming the victim for the issues that arise from the victimization. Like, if a woman is raped she must have done something or acted a certain way to warrant the crime. Likewise, most often than not when victims of racism cry foul the establishment suggests that were playing the “race card” in an attempt to debunk the wrong by brushing it aside without a real investigation.

 “Most White people do not see the institutional and cultural systems in place to keep racism locked into our way of life, a Matrix of racism, and how it affects people of color,” Mr. Marcus said. “Sometimes it feels like we are just holding back a flood (of racism) that will break through at any time.”

I couldn’t have said it any better myself so let’s hope that since this charge is coming from one who knows first hand the victimization; others who operate in transparency pick up the mantle of justice and equality to eradicate this all-emcompassing scourge of human relations. In the words of MLK “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!” Pass it on!!

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