White academics

Craven, Jim jcraven at clark.edu
Thu Jul 24 11:43:08 MDT 2003

David Quarter summarily asserts:

>>There are NO ignorant "white academics", or "white activists". There
are ignorant academics/activists who happen to be of Italian, German, Dutch,
English, Anglo-saxon, Scottish, Spanish, Basque, Catalonian, mixed European,
etc. origin. I suspect that foreknowledge of  their "race" does little to
explain their ignorance.<<

Response Jim C: This statement reminds me of some typical whites who scream
they have no part in racism because subjectively they have no racist
feelings and THEIR relatives had no part in slavery... This is a refusal to
acknowledge that this system was founded, built and run on racism, genocide,
exploitation and the conferring of "white privilege" even on those who never
actually sought it. The point is that this system, and those who run it and
benefit most from it do not need to explicitly lay out and confer white
privilege, and acknowledge that is what they are doing, they just do it.
When some white academic scores a job based on his/her whiteness--the real
reason--even without having sought such privilege, that person's subjective
intentions or degreee of awareness of what was really going on has nothing
to do with what objectively was really going on.

There are aspects of the realities faced by oppressed minorities that cannot
be learned from books; they can only be really grasped and understood
through immersion in those aspects of those realities; that is why the
linking up of people from different groups (and yes people are categorized
and treated differently in different
gender/class/strata/racial/ethnic/sexual-orientation/age groups. Race, for
example, may be useless as a biological construct, and I personally believe
that to be the case, but as a social construct it is a reality that serves
to increase or decrease awareness of and access to other realities or
aspects of reality.

We are all ignorant--only on different subjects. Some of our ignorance comes
from lack of opportunity to become less ignorant about a given subject; but
some of it may be self-created/imposed/reinforced--particularly through
ultra-sensitivity and defensiveness to certain facts and realities being
exposed and our part in all of it. For example, I know all sorts of
activists, well intended, very aware of many issues and alternate realities
and struggles all over the world who refuse to even consider that as members
of the dominant "race" (in social construct terms) they simply would not
likely be where they are without the privilege they inherited and
gained--never having actually sought it--through their physical appearance,
skin color, gender, etc. Or they refuse to even consider that while they are
waxing eloquent about Palestine, East Timor, what Stalin said, what Trotsky
said, why England had unique conditions for the genesis of capitalism, etc,
they are living on stolen land, are objectively part of the oppression and
genocide against Indigenous Peoples through their unwillful or willful
blindness and even depraved indifference to the realities of Indigenous
Peoples or African Americans about which they could learn more but have
failed to learn about and show any real concern for--perhaps opting for
causes that might be more personally interesting like picking causes at a

The same applies in the Indian world. I once heard a Maori Elder and
well-known activist claim that extreme homophobia is an integral part of
Maori culture. I do not know if that claim is true, but I do know that in
Indian Country, homophobia is a real and ugly phenomenon. We have all sorts
of Indian activists waxing eloquent about the realities of genocide in
Indian Country yet unwilling to even consider that with their apparent
homophobia, and unwillingness to get educated, they are objectively serving
some of the same forces and interests that also oppress Indians about whom
they are concerned. Or some of the male Indian  activists will refuse to
acknowledge that even in the Indian world, where both males and females are
opressed, being Indian males, they have been given some marginal
privileges--whether sought or unsought--denied to Indian females as females.
By denying the objective realities and effects of male privilege, white
privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc they objectively--and in some cases
subjectively--help to promote and reinforce such realities and their
inexorable consequences.

Nothing in what I am saying or have said explicitly or implicitly says or
means, or should be taken to say  mean, by anyone familiar with elementary
logic and language, anything about how ALL members of any group supposedly
think or act or any kind of assertion about alleged "universal traits or
postures" of members of any socially constructed group.

As for outing which progressive lists or individuals fail to appreciate
andlink-up with Indigenous realities and struggles, practicing buffet
activism, there is no need. Their apparent defensiveness and refusal to even
acknowledge this issue of hyper-reductionism and "pick-your-favorite" cause
or to acknowledge the realities (and therefore covering up the ugly effects)
of conferred class/race/gender/sexual orientation privilege--whether sought
or unsought--effectively expose who ther are and where they operate.

Jim C.

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