Archive for the ‘growing up white’ Category

whiteliesThe following is based on Dr Beverly Tatum’s excellent book, “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” (1997):

According to Dr Beverly Tatum growing up white in America goes something like this, though please note that most whites never get beyond the first stage:

  1. contact: you are just normal. It is people from other races and ethnicities who are different. You think American society is fair, pretty much. You are not racist, you do not see a person’s colour. They could be purple for all you care. Except for the Klan and some skinhead nuts, racism is a thing of the past. Blacks are making a big deal out of nothing.
  2. dis-integration: you have an experience that shows you plain as day that America is racist and unfair. Like maybe your black boyfriend getting pulled over by the police for no good reason. It wakes you up: you start noticing all the white racism that you had been blind to all your life. But this leads to discomfort, anger, shame and guilt. So most likely you will shut off your mind to the whole racism thing. Case closed. But if you do not:
  3. re-integration: you become anti-racist, but since most whites are racist, you find yourself slowly becoming an outcast. The easiest thing would be to just let it go. And so you do: you tell yourself that blacks or Latinos are to blame for their troubles, etc.  Most likely that will be the end of the matter, but sometimes it is not:
  4. pseudo-independent: you still cannot shake the idea that America is racist and unfair. Now you wish you were not white! To escape the shame and guilt you try to become part of the black world or some other world of colour. But it does not work: They do not understand what you are going through, so they cannot help. The shame and guilt remain.
  5. immersion/emersion: only whites can help you and only those who have already been through it all. They are known as white allies. America is too racist to sing their song, but they are out there.  They become your support group. They will help you to unlearn your racism and to fight the good fight against it in American society. Your shame and guilt go away at last.
  6. autonomy: you can mix freely with people of other races and see  them as  individuals and yet still as members of their race. You are still white but now with a much deeper and more solid understanding of what that means.

So it is possible for whites to move past their racism, but it is way harder than you would suppose because it means being something of an outcast, unfortunately.

Jews and white gays have little trouble getting to stage 2, but then have a harder time getting past stage 3 because they do not like owning up to their whiteness: “I am not like other whites”. In some ways, yes, but in other ways, no.

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