White People Working for Positive Systemic Change - Paradoxes

 PREAMBLE-RAMBLE

My editor (me) believes that perhaps this writing is about "conundrums", rather than "paradoxes".   He also believes that if this is critically important to you, you might want to stop now - and not continue reading.


2020 U.S. Presidential Election

White People are 57.8% of the U.S. population and 71% of the eligible voters voted, so - multiplied together one gets:  .41

Black People are 14.1% of the U.S. population and 63% of the eligible voters voted, so multiplied together one gets: .09

Though there are 4.1 (57.8 / 14.1) times as many white as Black People, their 2020 voting totals were 4.6 (.41 / .09) times as many white as Black People who voted, due to the higher percentage of whites to Blacks who voted.

40% of white men voted for Biden

57% of white men voted for Trump

48.9% of the population is male

4.6 (white voters vs. Black voters) x 40% (male) x 48.9% (% of population male) = .90

95% (Black women voted for Biden) x 51.1% (% of population female) = .49

.90 / .49 = 1.96 - ratio of votes between white men and Black Women

57.8% (percentage of population - white) x 48.9% (percentage of men) = 28% of the population is white men

14.1% (percentage of population women) x 51.1% (percentage of women) = 7% of the population is Black Women

White Men are four times as numerous as Black Women

White Men, being four times as numerous as Black Women, produced 1.96 (less than half) times as many of the votes for Joe Biden as did Black Women.

(data and sources for statistics above at bottom of writing)

Quite simply, and basically, Black Women - were the deciding voters who got Joe Biden elected.

While Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X - get much of the popular acclaim for leading the Civil Rights Movement, Black women were the "heart" of the push for Civil Rights and did much more of the work towards equality than Black Men did.

Palestinian Women - similarly - do the majority of the work towards Palestinian Rights.

Within the modern Women's Movement - Lesbian/Queer/Trans and Black (+LatinX) Women - have done and continue to do a disproportionately large amount of the work seeking Gender Justice and Equality.

I have been in a number of Anti-Racism trainings.   60-80% of the participants are (always) women.  Of the male participants, always a disproportionately high percentage are clearly Queer/Gay.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1. Preamble-Ramble (above)

2. Basics

3. Paradoxes

4. How We Should Deal with the Paradoxes

5. Significant Influences - Suggested Readings - Relevant Groups

BASICS

Significant work among white people working towards ending racism often shares a lot of common similarities.   

Kimberle Crenshaw - https://www.law.columbia.edu/faculty/kimberle-w-crenshaw - a law professor at Columbia Law School, has helped build a movement towards ending racism.   Her naming of "intersectionality" as well as significant work on Critical Race Theory and other significant issues has been incredibly important.

Many other scholars, writers and others have strongly influenced the movement(s) working towards systemic change related to racism, sexism, classism, homo/lesbian/trans-phobias and other related areas.

The murders of Traevon Martin (2012), Michael Brown (2014), Breonna Taylor (2020) and George Floyd (2020) have helped influence the beginning and growth of the Black Lives Movement.   The Black Lives Matter Movement began in 2014 through the initial efforts of Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi.

The concept of Critical Race Theory has also been important related to Black Lives Matters and most major anti-racism work.

White anti-racism efforts have had noted leaders of the past including people such as: Anne and Carl Braden, Peggy McIntosh, and Myles Horton.

Standing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) - www.surj.org - has been the most significant effort of white people seeking racial justice over the past 12 years.

In recent years increasing numbers of white people have begun educating themselves and working in various ways to support the efforts of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) working for racial justice for all.

Very significant to the work is the basic fact that "white people" are a social construct.  It began and became important during the last half of the 17th century in what later became the United States.  Prior to the concept of "race", people were identified by their country of origin and/or where they lived. 

British working class people often valued cooperation with neighboring people in various ways.  Wealthy landowning elites in cooperation with the leadership in the government and churches destroyed much of the common sharing.   This made the masses of much more dependent upon the elites.   There was little middle class in those days.

Poor people were encouraged and forced to emigrate to the British colony which later became the United States.  They were servants indentured to wealthy landowners for periods of roughly seven to 15 years.   Lesser numbers of Black slaves and Native People worked alongside them.

Initially there was significant mixing among these people all living in poverty.  Some slaves were able to buy their own freedom.  Going into the second half of the 17th Century, small scale insurrections began happening among these impoverished working people.  Harsher treatment of workers coincided with a slowdown in the emigration from England. The landowning class faced the potential of losing power when in 1675-1676 Bacon's rebellion persisted.   British troops were eventually brought in to crush the insurrection.

In reaction the "white race" was (essentially) created.   Poor "white" people were allowed minimal rights that other "races" did not have.   Laws were passed regarding intimate relations between the races.  Over time myths were created related to (wealthy) white women, "sexual" Black women and "beastlike" Black men.  In reality wealthy white men preyed upon Black female slaves and Black slaves were frequently punished for allegedly assaulting white women.

While white working class people had more rights than both Black slaves and free people, their pay levels were always kept low, because slave labor was regular competition.  Slavery became the major wealth producer in both the North and South.   The plantations moved southward, while processing of plantation products, manufacturing, financing and shipping interests were headquartered in major Northeastern cities.

Though slavery was abolished after The Civil War, segregation and related discrimination against Black and other BIPOC (Black Indigenous and People of Color) has continued as a major weapon.   Recently, white Alabamans helped defeat a unionization effort significantly risking lower wages to ensure that frequently they would make a little more in wages than Black fellow workers.   Divide and conquer - is effective in various ways.

Black, LatinX and Native people have long lead the efforts to end racism in the United States.   Other activists - feminists, queer, gay, lesbian, trans, disability and more have similarly worked towards systemic change.

Significant opposition has opposed efforts for positive systemic change.   Such efforts have come most notedly from an increasingly conservative Republican Party.   The Evangelical Christian Right has allied with conservative economic forces most notably through some very wealthy individuals such as the Koch Brothers (one of whom passed away recently).

Those opposing efforts at work on systemic racism often rely upon a combination of ridicule and a focus on individual racism.    Ideas are put forth such as that the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960's created an equal playing field.  White people attest that they "do not see race" (while Black People must constantly see it to survive).   People need to "earn" everything that they may not have - because we have true equality.   Also put forth is the idea that affirmative action policies and the core idea of continuing systemic racism - disincentivize Black People from studying hard in school and moving ahead.

In a related way this vision of racism focuses narrowly upon peoples' use of offensive of individual words and/or statements that blatantly describe Black People in derogatory ways.  Often minimized or ignored are things like methodically designed studies which show, for example that identical resumes that describe:  "James" vs. "Jamil" - will consistently result in "James" getting far more positive responses than "Jamil" will get.

Anti-racism educators helping white people work towards ending racism often focus upon teaching:

1. A history of race and racism,

2. How the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960's - helped end de jure racism - so that, for example, a Black person could stay in hotels and eat in restaurants nationwide, but did not end residential,  educational, occupational and other disparities,

3. Continuing average racial differences in wealth as well as the impossibility of "catching up" - persists,

4. Intersectionality - racism, sexism and classism - as well as homo/lesbian/trans phobias intersect affecting how we have and lack privilege,

5. Racism is often tied to classism.  The super-wealthy upper 1-2% - build their own wealth - while convincing white people that they are not getting ahead because of Black (and other BIPOC).  They try to convince BIPOC that they aren't getting ahead because they aren't working hard enough.,

6. We, white people, need to work on our own (systemic) racism,

7. We should work to end systemic racism, understanding its class basis,

8. We should help other white people understand these things so that they will join us in working to end systemic racism.

Others explain these basics far better than I have!   I prefer to focus upon the paradoxes and why they are problematic.



PARADOXES

1. Rarely - should one focus upon a simple - "majority rules" approach.   Monied interests  can readily overcome their small numbers.   Single issue - foci often can give substantial power - such as how historically the NRA (National Rifle Association) or in the recent past through the present "Pro-Life" supporters are prevailing, despite having minority views (see documentation at end of writing),

2. Commonly - emotions -  particularly fears - can motivate far more than rational arguments,

3. Class is important in looking at systemic change.   Looking at things as the "upper 1-2% vs. the lower 98-99%" is simplistic and often far from the true picture from a class perspective,

4. There is often an inverse correlation between privilege and motivation to work for change.  To the degree that one has privilege, one has more potential  power.

HOW WE SHOULD DEAL WITH PARADOXES

Black and other BIPOC People have done incredible work towards ending racism.  During the mid-1960's, Black leaders such as Stokely Carmichael rejected white leadership and involvement.   They spoke of the importance of white people working within white communities to end the racist practices of white people.

1968 was a pivotal year.   Martin Luther King, Jr. and then Robert Kennedy were killed by assassins.    "Law and Order" - became a buzzword for a reaction against the push for Civil Rights and equality.

Racism will not end while remaining (only) as a "Black Problem".    Similarly - rape and domestic violence will persist as long they remain "women's problems".

The question remains as to how racism will become a "white" issue, rather than a "Black" issue.

Initially - most of us - need to recognize and work on our own traumas.   Where we don't have mental health issues to work on, we often need to work on processing our own historical (and present) traumas.   

As a Jew, for example, I need to process not only the Holocaust, but also the hurt in me from the murders of Jews in Shtetls and many other places over the centuries.   

When police officers are exposed to trauma such as handling cases where individuals have been killed, they need support and time to recover from such experiences.

It is in the "class interests" of working class white people to ally with Black and other BIPOC People "against" the interests of wealthy Americans.   The decades long collapse of the union movement at times in the past was effective.    It seems unlikely that a working class movement will build at least in the next few months or years.   

There is a lot of pressure upon working class people.  Emotional reactions - most commonly - lead to lashing out at scapegoats - who rarely are wealthy Americans.   More commonly, Blacks, immigrants, Moslems, and/or Gays are blamed.

Perhaps most relevant - as well as problematic are efforts to organize middle-class white people.   Middle class people cover a relatively broad section of the population.  The 2019 median household income in Chicago was $61,811 (https://datausa.io/profile/geo/chicago-il).   

While such an income for a family of four might perhaps be "middle class", a substantial number of families with incomes close to this could easily be homeless quite rapidly through major expenses or a significant loss of income.  Trying to organize significant numbers of such people would be both challenging, and make a lot of sense.   Often though such people have little time for activism.

Higher income and highly educated middle class people logically seem to make up significant numbers in anti-racism trainings.   They often have some flexibility in their non-work time and the resources and time to do self-education and volunteer work.

Such upper-middle class people are both easier to organize and still a challenge.   Where they are politically active and progressive, oft times they remain divided by conflicting priorities.  For example, some may focus upon climate related issues and avoid dealing substantially with racism.   Some may focus upon health related concerns such as exercise and diet and avoid overtly "political issues".

Some upper-middle class people financially benefit from conservative taxation policies and openly oppose liberal economic policies.   Others think that such policies are in their self-interest, when they really don't help them.   Personally - the  conservative taxation policies as well as the general racist/classist system doesn't directly affect me significantly, except where it relates to the rest of my family - where racism and homo/transphobias have a direct affect.

Upper-middle class white people commonly have no need to oppose racist/classist policies, because only rarely are they hurt by them.   Where they are supportive of progressive systemic change, only rarely will they be strongly committed, such as having a single issue focus on it - comparable to much of the opposition.   Many liberal people believed and may still believe that Joe Biden's election has done enough to bring necessary positive change.

In doing positive systemic change focused work, we need to both reach others where they are at, and have an urgency in doing our work.   We need to get support from others and give them support so we can sustain our work.    Recognizing the lack of urgency among many allies needs to help motivate us to work harder.   At the same time, we also need to take the time to relax, and get away from some of our work (at least), so we don't burn ourselves.

In doing the work, we need to strive for both:

1. Being a part of the world(s) and efforts of others such as Black People, including Trans Women, who may also be differently abled (for example), and at the same time,

2. Giving others- such as Black People - their space - let them help lead - without our interference.

It is a dissonant/ conflicting paradox!

If we are not a part of the world, our "charity" will be condescending, rather than being mutual aid and/or caring, loving support.   If we are in the midst of the causes of others, such as among Black People, our privilege will lead us to unduly influence, if not dominate the efforts we should be supporting.

There are no simple answers!   We need to be in our hearts.  We need to be doing our work for ourselves - not for others.   Our "selves" - need not be the self-centered - crying/screaming - demanding "freedom" similar to individuals - who give us a horribly bad name.   We are caring, loving people.  We want to live in a world where others have the opportunities that we have.  We want the opportunities -for all - that those with more power and wealth have.


Those of us who are male identified particularly need to work on our racism and sexism, while not ignoring how classism and others isms often unfairly also help us.   

To the degree that we are privileged, we need to recognize that our silence and inaction, as well as doing far less than we can, helps kill, injure and slow down many other people.

There is, of course, much more to this, than I can readily discuss here!

In writing, I expose my own limitations and weaknesses.  I wish to recognize the gifts that so many have given me.  I welcome feedback, suggestions - criticisms - and affirmations.

Thank You! - You can reach me (omit - all - "*" symbols) - *m*a*r*x*g*e*o*(at)*gmail(dot)com.

Significant Influences - Suggested Readings - Relevant Groups

GROUPS

Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) - www.surj.org - the largest and most influential group for white people.   In recent years, white men have often disappeared from many local chapters.

Organizing White Men for Collective Liberation (OWMCL) - www.owmcl.org - developed in 2019 significantly out of the lack of male involvement in SURJ - a young organization which will hopefully begin doing a lot more in the short-term.

INFLUENCES - READINGS

Many people have influenced my beliefs.   Steven Botkin of Western Massachusetts has done an incredible job of doing men's work, while living with incredible integrity.   Andrea Dworkin helped me in 1983- speaking in her first speech to a predominantly male audience entitled: "I Want a Twenty Four Hour Truce During Which There is No Rape" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVYWYv32Uso .  (I would note that her words - parallel - what others could easily say about - racism - and white people.

Books:   For each book I read, there are far more I lack the time to get to.   It appears that my current reading: Ian Haney Lopez's: Dog Whistle Politics: How Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism & Wrecked The Middle Class - will merit inclusion in the books noted below.  There are many more excellent books than I'm listing below.   The links to the resources below are to my written reviews of them.

At the Dark End of the Street - Danielle McGuire - https://workingtowardsendingracism.blogspot.com/2020/04/what-is-racism-some-important-history.html

The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How our Government Segregated America -Richard Rothstein - https://workingtowardsendingracism.blogspot.com/2020/12/the-color-of-law-richard-rothstein.html

My Grandmother's Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies - Resma Menakem - https://workingtowardsendingracism.blogspot.com/2021/09/my-grandmothers-hands-classic.html

People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent - Joseph E Stiglitz -m http://georgesworldonthewater.blogspot.com/2019/06/people-power-and-profits-joseph.html 

"Promising Young Woman" - (movie - sexism not racism related) - http://georgesworldonthewater.blogspot.com/2021/01/promising-young-woman.html

The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart - Alicia Garza - https://workingtowardsendingracism.blogspot.com/2021/08/the-purpose-of-power-alicia-garza-wow.html

Strangers in their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right - Arlie Russell Hochschild - http://georgesworldonthewater.blogspot.com/2019/07/arlie-russell-hochschild-anger-and.html

Subversive Southerner: Anne Braden and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Cold War South: - Catherine Fosl - https://workingtowardsendingracism.blogspot.com/2020/08/anne-braden-bio-excellent.html

The Sum of US: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together - Heather McGhee

Unapologetic: A Black, Queer, and Feminist Mandate for Radical Movements - Charlene Carruthers

The Upswing: How America Came Together a Century Ago and How We Can Do It Again- Robert D Putnam - http://georgesworldonthewater.blogspot.com/2021/02/the-upswing-robert-d-putnam-fantastic.html

The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us- Paul Tough - http://georgesworldonthewater.blogspot.com/2019/11/paul-tough-years-that-matter-most-how.html

The 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge at Heller - Links to Many Resources on many areas related to Racism - https://heller.brandeis.edu/diversity/learning/21-day.html = A website



Sources of Data used in the Preamble:


Two-Way (Democrat vs. Republican) Support for Democratic Candidates, 2012-2020

https://www.vox.com/2021/5/10/22425178/catalist-report-2020-election-biden-trump-demographics



https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2021/06/30/behind-bidens-2020-victory/pp_2021-06-30_validated-voters_00-02/

  • Non-Hispanic Whites: 71% voter turnout, compared to 65% in 2016.
  • Hispanics: 54%, compared to 48% in 2016.
  • Non-Hispanic Blacks: 63%, compared to 60% in 2016. While voter turnout in this group was higher than in 2016, it did not exceed turnout in 2008 (65%)  

https://www.census.gov/library/stories/2021/04/record-high-turnout-in-2020-general-election.html

As of 2020, non-Hispanic White Americans are the racial and ethnic majority, representing 57.8% of the population. Hispanic and Latino Americans (who may belong to any racial group) are the largest ethnic minority, comprising 18.7% of the population, while Black or African Americans are the largest racial minority, making up 14.1%.[7]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_ethnicity_in_the_United_States

The gender distribution of the nation has remained steady for several years, with women accounting for approximately 51.1 percent of the population since 2013.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/737923/us-population-by-gender/

--

From 2019 - first citation, second from 2021

"Three-quarters of Americans say they want to keep in place the landmark Supreme Court ruling, Roe v. Wade, that made abortion legal in the United States, but a strong majority would like to see restrictions on abortion rights, according to a new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll. …

A total of 77% say the Supreme Court should uphold Roe, but within that there's a lot of nuance — 26% say they would like to see it remain in place, but with more restrictions added; 21% want to see Roe expanded to establish the right to abortion under any circumstance; 16% want to keep it the way it is; and 14% want to see some of the restrictions allowed under Roe reduced. Just 13% overall say it should be overturned."

https://www.npr.org/2019/06/07/730183531/poll-majority-want-to-keep-abortion-legal-but-they-also-want-restrictions

"The poll, conducted June 10-14 among 1,125 U.S. adults, found 57% of respondents believe abortion should be legal overall in all or most cases—with 23% saying it should be legal in all cases and 33% saying only in most cases—including 76% of Democrats and 36% of Republicans.

That percentage was even higher when asked whether abortion should be legal during the first trimester specifically, with 61% saying it should be legal in all or most cases."

https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2021/06/25/majority-of-americans-support-abortion-poll-finds---but-not-later-in-the-pregnancy/?sh=70dde0b25074


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