From discourse to action

I started digging around the net to see what anti-racist actions I can do. There are a couple of articles that I’m linking to here. Interestingly, the woman I’m quoting, Catherine Jones, suggests to white people who want to be useful to look for the “less sexy” duties that are so needed by individual women of color, such as child care so that they can do their OWN work for for their OWN liberation:

The Work Is Not The Workshop: Talking and Doing, Visibility and Accountability in the White Anti-Racist Community, by Catherine Jones

“After I started going to lots of anti-racist workshops, I spent a lot of time pondering where exactly it was that I fit into the whole anti-racist picture. At the same time a whole bunch of low-income women of color weren’t even able to get to their meeting a few blocks away ’cause no one was around to watch their kids. A few friends and I decided to start a group that provides childcare for meetings and events held by people-of-color-led organizations in our city. We showed up consistently and we took considerable direction from the moms around the tone, goals and rules of the childcare. At the same time, we also spent a lot of time as a group developing our own principles- around childcare, our group structure, strategies for leadership development, and standards around which groups we would support and why. I learned a lot from that experience about taking leadership from people of color, and developing my own anti-racist principles and sticking to them, and about the variety of ways in which white folks can be in legitimate solidarity with people of color who are fighting for liberation.

Interestingly, when I was working with the childcare collective, one of the biggest challenges we faced as an organization was around getting a group of high profile mostly male white anti-racists to take childcare seriously. Even though in larger anti-racist circles childcare had come to be recognized as legitimate political work, we ran into consistent issues with people who had committed to do childcare regularly but who were ‘too busy’ when we actually called them. One person even told me he thought he had moved ‘beyond’ doing childcare; that childcare was a good introductory activity for people getting to know more about anti-racism, but that he had surpassed that level. This opened up a whole lot of questions to me about where the priorities lie in the white anti-racist community.

Lots of white anti-racists talk about how doing anti-racist work means often taking on the tasks that are ‘not sexy.’ Yet our same community, which advises doing the unsexy work, continues to reward the work that is more high-profile and glamorous. We probably know at least a little bit about the work of folks who put on workshops and travel around the country speaking about racism. This is important work. But what do we hear about the tons of people who even now are driving the family members of a prisoner to visit their incarcerated relative, or making phone calls to housing project residents to let them know when the next community meeting is, or providing translation at an organizing meeting so that recent immigrants can participate in a cross-race struggle for workers’ rights?

That white anti-racist culture places such strong rewards on high-visibility work, like conducting workshops or speaking and writing about racism, while it ignores other aspects of anti-racist work, is dangerous for a variety of reasons. Most obviously, this dynamic contributes to an overall sentiment that if we talk about or think about being anti-racist we are in fact being anti-racist. This idea, in turn, can help to create an anti-racist culture that puts more importance on talking and learning about the work than on actually doing it. An overwhelming critique from organizers of color who work alongside white folks in struggle is that white folks talk too much and do too little. If we are to be truly accountable to revolutionaries of color we need to create a culture that prizes the doing, as much as we prize our abilities to educate each other. Both are crucial if we want to build an effective movement. Look around, is what I finally realized. There are as many, if not more, ways for white anti-racists to plug into the struggle for racial justice as there are white anti-racists.’

And, from Paul Kivel, who suggests some of the “sexier,” more visible actions in his article, Accountability: Who Benefits from Our Work?

– fight for affirmative action
– fight for immigrant rights
– fight against environmental dumping in communities of color
– fight against police brutality
– fight for access to health care
– fight for anti-racist policies and practices in our own workplaces


One Response

  1. Thank you secondwaver, this is great, and much easier to understand than the previous commenter’s objections.

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