Open Thread: Racism 101, Beyond Bingo Cards

by Latoya Peterson

Regular reader Elton Joe recently sent around a Facebook message around a spate of comments over at Digg, about a New York Times opinion piece inspired by Eric Holder’s comments about being “a nation of cowards.”

After reading through the normal comments accompanying a piece about race – blacks are the real racists, an instance of bad behavior by one member of a certain racial group is equated to an entire history of discrimination and subjugation, the insistence that slavery was so long ago that nothing else is happening, accusations of “playing the race card” and the ever interesting “if whites are a nation of cowards, are blacks a nation of bitches?” question (with 41 diggs) – Elton had enough. He wrote:

I propose we make a cheat sheet with the most common arguments about racism followed by summary counterarguments. I’m not saying that answers to racism are short and easy, but I keep seeing and hearing the same inane, clichéd statements over and over and over again, on the Internet, in daily conversation, on TV, in movies, and in print, especially from deniers of racism who misunderstand what racism even is.

For dialogue on racism to even get off the ground, we must require people who don’t know shit about racism, who have never experienced it, who, indeed, benefit from it, to SHUT UP FOR ONCE and let people who have something to say say something instead of having our voices
eternally stifled and marginalized. That censorship is at the core of the systematized oppression that is racism.

Can we begin by agreeing that racism is not just about blacks and whites? Can we agree that racism is not just about you and me as individuals and our personal experiences, but rather, that things happen and things exist whether or not we’re aware of them? Can we make sure we’re on the same page about facts like white privilege and the racial injustice integral to the history of the United States?

If we can’t form a basic launching pad of factual information about racism in the first place, I’m afraid “dialogue” on racism is going to continue to take the form it’s taken for hundreds of years–denial and hypocrisy. “Dialogue” will only serve as a way for stereotypes and personal prejudices to become even more subtle and reinforced.

I proposed to Elton that we make this an open thread, and he agreed. Carmen and I have often debated doing something along the lines of the Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog or Nezua’s Glosario for basic race principles.

So, we’re opening this one up to the room.

1. What would this look like? (A wiki? A blog? A hyperlinked document?)
2. What topics/common complaints would you want to see addressed?