A friend sent me a blog post recently that was entitled Five Racist Anti-Racism Responses “Good” White Women Give to Viral Posts. It was written by a white woman named Katie Anthony, a self-described “Feminist Werewolf.” The friend who sent it to me is black (or technically bi-racial) with the endorsement that she often feels this way herself.
Katie Anthony is a good writer, and her essay was strong. The bottom line is that she believed that there are five responses that progressive white women shouldn’t indulge. Those five responses were identified as:
- The Self-Flagellating “I’m So Ashamed to be a White Woman” Response
- The “Not All White Women Are Like That, Personally I Hate Her” Response
- The “Focusing on a Non-Racist Element of the Video” Response
- The “If I Had Been There, I would have . . . ” Response
- The “Graduate of An Anti-Racism Seminar Explains The Roots of Systemic Racism” Response
The correct response, according to Katie Anthony, is to say “I see you,” or “that’s awful,” which is “an expression of connection that isn’t about you and your feelings.”
So, Katie Anthony is not wrong that when it comes to racism white people should be more concerned about the actual racism than with their feelings about the racism. And people who are outraged by racism but then don’t follow up with actions should learn to do better.
But my friends, why be so quick to reject and diminish the support of people that you’re going to need?
Consider Katie Anthony’s post. She says that these five responses are not only undesirable or not optimal, but she labels them as “racist.” That’s pretty strong language, and not necessarily helpful.
When the Charlie Hebdo shootings occurred back in 2015 I, like a lot of other people, was outraged. I put the French flag on my Facebook account and posted some pictures, but there wasn’t a lot more that I could do. It happened in France, it involved fundamentalist Muslims, it included a lot of dynamics that I know nothing about. Does that make me morally deficient?
Likewise, when various school shootings have occurred, I’ve also expressed my outrage on social media, and I have, from time to time, contacted my Senators and Representatives asking them to support certain legislation. I did so after the massacre of elementary school children at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown CT. I figured at the time that if anything could get the federal congress to act, it would be the massacre of elementary school children.
I was wrong.
But someone who follows my social media posts wouldn’t know whether I have or have not donated to the SPLC or contacted my Senator or Representative unless I announced that on social media as well. And Katie Anthony seems to think that there is only one way to be a proper anti-racist.
On of the criticisms that the right has often made of the left is that we’re too “politically correct,” and that viewpoint is not completely wrong. If you think that there is only one way to be a “correct” anti-racist, then you’re drawing your requirements too narrowly. In my opinion.
And finally I just want to say to whomever is out in the streets today and who doesn’t vote in November, you’re an asshole. Voting is the clearest and most direct way that you can have an impact.
- “Performative” is not really a proper word, but never mind that.
- And what did the Women’s March produce? Let’s be honest here: nothing. It produced a sense of collective outrage and a feeling that we’re in it together, which is the same thing supportive social media posts produce. But as for tangible legislative or policy accomplishments, the Women’s March of 2017 produced nothing.
- I haven’t gone to any of the Black Lives Matter marches this year because, being in several high risk groups, I don’t want to catch covid-19.
- I get, by the way, why black people would be pretty exasperated with white people, what with so many of us coming too late to the party, with so many of us naively recognizing only now that racism still exists.