Home > Uncategorized > Yamato and Conceptions of Racism

Yamato and Conceptions of Racism

I agree with and respect a lot of what Gloria Yamato says about the nature of racism in her article, “Something About the Subject Makes It Hard to Name.” I think her strongest point is that we need to pay attention and make it a point to notice situations in which racism is being perpetrated in our daily lives, especially in unintentional ways.

I think another goal that would be helpful to have is to create meaningful relationships with oppressed people. After all, isn’t segregation, both personal and institutional, one of the major pillars of racism in the United States? I have no doubt that relationships would help to bridge such gaps, because when a rich white person forms a bond with a poor black person, not only does that allow the white person access to the black person’s emotions and viewpoint to a certain extent, but it also gives the black person much more access to the resources and privileges that the rich white person enjoys. I think that is one of China Gallant’s strong points: she recognizes that direct relationships are crucial to bridge the segregation and the economic divide between whites and blacks. A lot of white people are scared of this, scared that they’ll do something or say something even more harmful than just leaving blacks well alone. But the truth is that nothing can be more harmful to black people than silence.

I think also that people need to be careful about the kind of language they use in regard to “fighting” racism. A lot of it is quite militaristic, and breeds a sort of anger (that is partially understandable but nonetheless not helpful) that can be and is used to widen the racial divide. People, though well-intentioned, get it in their heads that a person, or a group of people, or even more broadly, a kind of people, are the enemy and the sole representatives of racism and hatred. I don’t believe the “us versus them” paradigm applies with modern racism; it needs to be all of us cooperating to end an evil that is rarely a political motive or an individual’s dastardly scheme, like the Holocaust, but something which more often happens unconsciously and with the best of intentions.

Lastly, I liked Yamato’s point that guilt can actually stick “unaware/unintentional racists” in a rut of not doing something about racism. As a white person, I don’t think that I should feel responsible or guilty for racism in the United States. The problem with a lot of rhetoric about this issue is that white people feel individually blamed for racism. Don’t feel that way. Just be more aware in your daily life, and be intentional about forming relationships with those who are oppressed and/or different.

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. February 8, 2011 at 4:46 pm

    I like this, Mark, you have a good way of shooting to the heart of issues. My personal guilt usually doesn’t stem from “racism” generally but from the physical residue of racism of which, as a white woman, I am still a beneficiary. By this I mean the equity my family was able to accrue over the years since WWII when the insurance companies opened up their arms to suburban America — to white suburban America, anyway. Because African Americans (along with other non-whites) weren’t permitted to take advantage of the new prosperity in America after the war and so many non-whites are now trapped in cycles of poverty due to purposeful steps taken against them for no better reason than racism.

    I do agree with you though, Mark, in your insight on relationships. I think that was eloquent and very true — well done.

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