Kumbaya anti-racism (c. 1970- ) is where racism is fought by not talking about race, by not seeing people’s skin colour, by not saying certain words or expressing certain thoughts out loud that are politically incorrect.
People often quote Martin Luther King, Jr in support:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
And sometimes they even quote Morgan Freeman, who informed Mike Wallace in 2005 that the way to get rid of racism is to – “Stop talking about it.”
To talk about race, like this blog does, is therefore “divisive”, it keeps racism alive, it is unenlightened, it spreads hatred.
So now most White Americans keep their children from becoming racist by not talking about racism!
It might sound good – except it does not work.
Instead of wiping out racism it has replaced one sort of racism – the open hatred of Jim Crow racism – with another – the silent, subtle contempt of colour-blind racism.
Martin Luther King said something else:
When we view the negative experiences of life, the Negro has a double share. There are twice as many unemployed. The rate of infant mortality among Negroes is double that of whites…
After 40 years of Kumbaya anti-racist thinking in America:
- the black unemployment rate stood at 2.1 times the white rate;
- black babies are 2.6 times more likely to die than white babies.
It also goes against common sense:
What if we applied the same philosophy to other forms of marginalization:
Sexism: I do not see you as a woman, I see you as a person.
Classism: Once we stop seeing people as rich or poor everyone will have the same amount of money.
Anti-Semitism: Talking about the Holocaust spreads hatred and keeps anti-Semitism alive, making another genocide more likely.
In practice the Kumbaya approach is used to silence talk about white racism. So instead of questioning white racism and helping to tear it down, it keeps that racism in place, untouched.
For whites that means they get to keep all the advantages of being white in a white racist society while at the same time sounding anti-racist. At least to themselves. It is yet another morally broken piece of white racist thinking. It is anti-racist in form not function.
For people of colour, the Kumbaya approach leaves them wide open to internalized racism – to self-hatred and self-doubt. It leads them into trying to “transcend” race, to be “American” or “Christian” or “universal” or “just me” – or even an honorary white. But trying to “transcend” race in America means, in effect, trying to become white. As if there is something wrong with being black or Asian or Chicano.
Martin Luther King:
We must stand up and say, “I’m black and I’m beautiful,” and this self-affirmation is the black man’s need, made compelling by the white man’s crimes against him.