Race and Ethnic Conflict: Contending Views on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Ethnoviolence

By Fred L. Pincus; Howard J. Ehrlich | Go to book overview

33
Privileged Polemics
White Antiracist Activists

EILEEN O'BRIEN

Malcolm [X] gave a speech and a white woman went up to him afterwards and said, "I really loved your speech and I loved what you said and I agree with what you believe and I want to help. How can I help? What can I do?" And he looked at her and said, "nothing!" and walked away. And then, years later, he was self- critical in the way that real revolutionaries are--sincere and blunt towards yourself like you would be towards someone else--and said, "I'm not proud of that answer. I should have talked to her about working in the white community." . . . The problem exists among white people.

--Steve, an antiracist activist

Luckily, there are individual non-black people who have divested of their racism.... We have yet to have a significant body of writing from these individuals that gives expression to how they have shifted attitudes and daily vigilantly resist becoming reinvested in white supremacy.

-- bell hooks

In the wake of the recent and ongoing backlash against racial equality in the United States, it has become evident that whites of all backgrounds play a role in orchestrating the daily rituals of white racism that keep this hostile racial climate intact ( Feagin and Vera 1995). From actions as blatant as cross-burnings, killings, and inflammatory racial remarks to the subtle messages of "you-don't-belong- here" directed at African Americans and other people of color throughout their daily existence, white Americans assist in keeping racism alive and well in this country. If Frederick Douglass was right in saying "power concedes nothing without demand," we might expect that this white racism has no hope of becoming eradicated, especially not by way of voluntary concessions by white Americans. Yet there is a considerable presence of antiracist white Americans who are doing just that. Although these individuals are the exception rather than the rule, it

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