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

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

one could possibly want to talk about. Thus, anyone who did not subscribe to this philosophy was trying to "escape" or avoid dealing with issues of racism.

I bring up the differences in the organizational cultures of various antiracist groups to show that white antiracists, like any other group, are not monolithic. They are negotiating a better path in a culture that is extremely oppressive along the lines of race as well as many other issues. Hence, there are few places to look for guidance. As another white antiracist group, White Women Challenging Racism, has recently written, "While many sports stars, Hollywood actors, and cartoon characters are household names, few of us could name even five white antiracists--in this generation, decade, or century. The effect of this historical amnesia is that few white people have role models or ways of knowing what has worked before--and not" ( Thompson et al. 1997:354). As Steve put it:

So I started trying to be not racist and was totally unsuccessful at it, and still I am not skilled at it, because you get programmed at an early age and then deprogramming your uncontrollable mental processes as a white person that grew up in this culture-- or as a male, for that matter--is not that easy! So this is why it's a lifelong kind of evolution. But if you're trying, who gives a shift? [laughs] That's the most you can do!

The white antiracists I have talked to are forging ahead the best way they know how, in the absence of any nationally based antiracist organization.


CONCLUSION

The data presented here suggest several possible answers to the questions of who white antiracists are, what they do, and how they think about race. The white antiracists here were heterogeneous with respect to social class, and most were brought to antiracist action through some sort of empathic experience. As with other work of this nature, double-stigmatization on the part of white women seemed to heighten their awareness about racial issues, but more commonly a two-pronged type of awareness occurred. Although many use approximating experiences to develop empathy with people of color, it usually took more than one experience for that to develop, in a "two-pronged" pattern. Some men, in particular, do not use approximating experiences but instead are affected by organizational culture, depending on their generation. Men who grew up in the seventies came up into an antiwar culture that made radical activism imperative across the board for all types of issues. For younger men, coming into contact with an organization such as ARA might be all that is needed to prompt them to action.

Although they downplayed the importance of their sacrifices and losses, several white antiracists had experienced them due to their actions, including loss of friends and job security and threats on their lives. White antiracists also appear very different from people of color in terms of their readiness and willingness to aggressively challenge racist incidents. Many of them were also aware that, as whites in a white supremacist society, they were afforded the power and privilege to be able to take such a stand, engaging in "privileged polemics." This finding might be a site of future research in terms of what the role of white people should be in combating racism. The question of whether separate tactics for white and

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