Damned-if-you do, damned-if-you-don’t

The identification of racism against non-white people in any situation is always possible and rarely, if ever, falsifiable because it does not have to be intentional or conscious (see also, impact versus intent). For example, if a black customer and a white customer entered a store at the same time, and the white sales assistant approached the white customer to offer help first, this could be identified as racism because it prioritized the white person’s needs (see also, centering). However, if the sales assistant approached the black customer first, this could also be identified as racism because it could be read as indicating a distrust of black people and unwillingness to have them browse the shelves unsupervised. The shop assistant’s perception of her own motivations are irrelevant, and, to be a conscientious antiracist, she would need to admit her racism and pledge to do better.

In fact, the antiracism approach would start from the following assumption, as phrased by critical race educator Robin DiAngelo (author of White Fragility): the question is not did racism take place?’ but rather, how did racism manifest in this situation?’” (Source.) As such, the racism of the shop assistant in the preceding example—and, more specifically, the racism underlying and defining her interactions with the customers—is fully assumed, though probably hidden (see also, mask).

Antiracism - New Discourses

July 14, 2020

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