Friday, February 5, 2016

Yesterday

morning I reluctantly went to the Project Implicit website to repeat the Implicit Association Test on race. I say reluctantly because I truly dreaded taking that test again. I made reference to this test in a post I wrote just about one year ago. I had taken the test and found that...in contradistinction to every conscious belief and position that I held (and hold) that I had a moderate preference for European Americans ... and by implication ... a bias against African Americans. When I got the results of that test it stunned me.

I was devastated and disgusted. Devastated that I held such biases and disgusted that I had been influenced and manipulated...without my permission or desire or awareness...by my culture (including the media, the omissions and distortions of the institutions of my nation and by my upbringing and my family and my friends) to have, to hold and to be influenced by these out of awareness preferences and biases. David Shih wrote beautifully about aspects of these distortions in a blog post aptly titled "White Happened to You".

The presence of such leanings in me angered and repulsed me...it still does. I was already well embarked on a quest to educate myself about those ugly and monstrous distortions called colonialism and racism and whiteness and white privilege so I used those strong feelings of revulsion to provide energy and motivation for continuing to work at expanding and increasing my comprehension and understanding. I was very upset and...in many ways...I still am.

And yet that distress and upset is somewhat tempered at the results I obtained when I re-took the test yesterday. Lo and behold...the results showed that my preferences now were moderately tilted toward African Americans...and by implication...moderately biased against European Americans. I have to say...I was shocked and elated. My efforts had worked...my out of awareness leanings...as measured by the test were now consistent and in line with where my conscious thinkings and comprehensions and orientations have come to be located.

The grappling and reading and thinking and feeling (including agonizing and despairing) that I have done (and continue to experience) over these past months (years even) have brought me to the understanding that, in general, we white people are dramatically and profoundly flawed and deficient in our apprehension and comprehension of our created society here in the United States. And...that this here society we all swim in is, in general, more accurately and insightfully perceived and understood by people of color...especially women of color.  We do not understand or comprehend ourselves (we white people) and we definitely do not understand or comprehend the experiences and insights of those citizens here who are people of color.

It's impossible for me to adequately express my gratitude to those writers of articles and books and creators of videos that I've read and watched. I've downloaded and printed and read and marked up innumerable articles and essays and blog posts. I've purchased or obtained from the library book after book after book...and read them...and copied pages from many of them. I've made myself seek out people of color and pestered them to talk with me and reflect with me. Making myself interact with people was the hardest because I'm not a particularly social person. But...I have to say...that's been maybe the most enjoyable and rewarding aspect of this journey. And I'm infinitely grateful to those who took the time and had the patience to put up with me.

I recently had the most wonderful compliment from a terrific friend I have, who is socially positioned as a woman and as a Native American tribal member, she told me (and she's over 40 years old) that she had never heard a white person talk like me in her whole life. I felt incredibly honored by what she said and also I felt horribly sad and depressed. How can this be?

I've gotten off my butt and attended workshops and lectures and presentations about diversity and racism and justice and sexism. I joined a local group that worked toward getting local city codes revised to exclude discrimination by landlords (and others) against folks because of their sexual orientation. I attended a panel discussion at the OKC campus of Langston University regarding justice for thirteen women of color who had been raped by a police officer.

In this process of seeking, I've come to be uncomfortable whenever I'm in meetings where there are only white people. I look for the faces of people of color wherever I go...because seeing them is comforting and desirable for me. I've attended presentations about activism for Native Americans and presentations about activism for African Americans and been warmed by being one of the few white faces in the meetings.

Look...if you are raced as white and you're reading this then you have one of the biggest and bestest tools of all...access to the incredible wealth of information and media that's available on the internet. I don't know whether I could have made this shift in my comprehension without it. I'm in awe of those who did it before this phenomenal resource was available.

If you're raced as white and don't struggle and grapple with this flim-flamming that's been crammed into your comprehension and outlook...you don't know what you're missing. There's a richness and depth of awareness that is hidden from you that you would not...and cannot...believe unless you struggle with perceiving it. And...that struggle is not fun...it hurts and it is scarey and uncomfortable. But...the discomfort is a guidepost too...it lets you know you're on what's probably a true path.

What surprised and pleased me this morning about writing this post is that two...not one but two excellent and informative blog posts were just written by two terrific writers that I follow. The first, over on the Sistah Vegan blog, is a mind blower. She included in her post a video of Judge Vonda Evans exemplifying exactly what I'm attempting to communicate here.

People of color...especially women of color...have so much to teach we white people. So very much and yet...as Dr. Harper notes in her writing...we mostly meet those gifts with disdain and ugliness and hatred and ignoring.  And I think her diagnosis of why is exactly correct...we turn away from what is offered because it scares the bejesus out of us. To accept the gifts means coming to comprehend our deficiencies and our warpings...and...yes...our culpability for perpetuating and participating in a horrid and destructive system. One that harms us as well as our victims. And that is hard and uncomfortable and painful...so we all too often turn away.

The second blog post that melds so well with what I'm trying to express is posted over on the Aphro-ism blog. There, Syl Ko, writes a superlative piece about aspects of the deficiencies of the contemporary animal rights movement. It's a humdinger...but...for me anyway...it's one that I will have to read and then read again and then even again to begin to grasp it's meanings. It's always worth the struggle though. Always.

We white people have lots and lots and lots of work to do...but...I'm extremely pleased to be able to tell you that it does pay off...you can influence your own biases...even the hidden ones. Happy Black Women's History Month!




1 comment:

Christine said...

As usual your article presents much food for thought and I admit that since reading your recent posts I have considered things about racism that I had otherwise not given much thought to. I think we all have innate and unconscious prejudices as a result of upbringing and other influences within our lives at an early age and which continues even in adulthood. Such prejudicial thoughts arise from time to time as unwanted thoughts before we can do anything about them, and as long as they are recognised for what they are and not acted upon they do no harm. At least if we are aware of such prejudices and act accordingly such as ignoring them and treating all people equally regardless of race gender or any other discrimination this is a good start. After all it is action which counts, thoughts stay where they are and harm no one. What is wrong is when people do not question what they have been taught and do not question their prejudices and biases. I do feel some discomfort about thoughts of this nature however these thoughts come unbidden, inner wisperings which have been instilled over so many years and cannot easily be erased but can fortunately be ignored.