Mann for School Board | home
Keeping Us on the Liberal Plantation
The Politics of Racial Identity
The Civil Rights movement laid the basis for K-12 education reforms that greatly reduced the test score gap in reading and math between white and black K-12 students throughout the US during the 1970s and 1980s. 'Closing the gap' became the strategic aim of the K-12 public school system. However, based on the claim that the 'liberal' school establishment was closing the gap at the expense of the high-performing students, a conservative school reform movement won support from the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties and carried out reforms that have caused the education achievement gap to steadily widen since the late 1980s. -- See "Evidence That School Policies Matter" http://educationright.tripod.com/id173.htm
In 2002 I was a candidate for a seat on the Minneapolis Board of Education who survived a nonpartisan primary election and obtained over 20,000 votes in the general election. It amazed me that whites who call themselves antiracists said that they wouldn't consider voting for me in that school board race because I'm white. However, they said would vote for any and all black candidates, and dismissed my concerns that the black candidates supported the current school district administration (the superintendent is a black woman) and a shift to school policies that have widened the test score gap between whites and blacks.
The race-based voting strategy described above is consistent with the tenets of an 'antiracist' philosophy / strategy promoted by an outfit called 'Anti-Racism for Global Justice (ARGJ), which has ties to the Democratic Party and the liberal peace and justice philanthropic establishment (the Tides Center / Tides Foundation). The ARGJ has a program called Challenging White Supremacy Workshops (CWSW), workshops that are mostly run by and for white antiracist activists. -- See http://www.cwsworkshop.org
Before I examine more closely the CWSW's political strategy, I will briefly (in 3 short paragraphs) explain where I am coming from.
A CLASS ANALYSIS OF RACISM
The society in which we live has an economic, social and political system based on exploitation and nourished by racism [and sexism, heterosexism, elitism, etc.]. This is so because the capitalist class has the means, motive and opportunity to perpetuate institutionalized racism, i.e., a set of laws, customs and practices which effectively deny or restrict access to education, jobs, housing and other things on the basis of race.
"Racism" as defined by the Merrium Webster Dictionary (1994) is "a belief that some races are by nature superior to others, also: discrimination based on such belief." I think most people apply the label "racist" to those who hold and act upon the belief that some races are by nature superior to others, and to others who support laws, customs and practices that foster and reinforce "racism" as defined above.
Most racists aren't as open about their racism as they were in 1915, when the KKK had millions of dues-paying members. Some whites and nonwhites help to advance a racist agenda out of self interest. And the bulk of today's racists are trying to advance their agenda without appearing to be racists (at least in public), a.k.a. "colorblind" racists. Those who are taken in by the camouflage help to advance a racist agenda more or less unwittingly.
THE POLITICS OF RACIAL IDENTITY
A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality. By this definition, people of color cannot be racists, because as peoples within the U.S. system, they do not have the power to back up their prejudices, hostilities or acts of discrimination. (This does not deny the existence of such prejudices, hostilities, acts of rage or discrimination.) -- Challenging White Supremacy Workshop Definitions http://prisonactivist.org/cws/perspectives.html
It should be noted that the word racist as defined above has no utility except as an epithet that connotes about the same thing as the word "white supremacist."
The CWSW definition of racism is based on the false premise that people of color have no power at all to "back up their prejudices" etc. The problem isn't that people of color have no power. The problem is they can't win in a zero-sum political game based on racial identity. In the US, people of color have less power than whites. They are outnumbered by whites, divided against themselves more than whites, and have considerably less property, income and education than whites. The CWSW political strategy is a loser because it is based on the rules of a zero-sum political game based on racial identity.
CWSW lecturers preach that being a racist is not a matter of choice, it's an attribute you're born with and can't change. Further, the white man's burden of privilege must be dealt with through moral witnessing and self-sacrifice. Nothing short of actual martyrdom will relieve you of this burden. Whites who say they are willing to fight racism but fail to confess their sins and seek atonement must be denounced as unrepentant and especially vile sinners. However, those who practice what the CWSW lecturers preach do a lot of confessing and atoning, but many of the actions they take toward the end of eliminating racism are ineffective or counterproductive.