By Eddie Moore, Jr. et al, Stylus Publishing, March 10, 2015, 1620362074
Everyday White People Confront Racial and Social Injustice is about the right length for me. I started feeling the repetition towards the end.
The stories made me think about my White Privilege. I could write an essay about the number of times I would get away with something that a Black person would not. I made mistakes that would have landed a Black man in jail. I’ve never been in jail, and I’m grateful for that. I have never been hit by a police officer. There was one time where I could have been, and I wasn’t. There have been many times when I’ve been approached by police for various violations and non-violations, and I’ve always walked away.
And, I’ve done many things right that would have not been possible without my White Privilege. I got into good schools. I got good (enough) grades. I worked in various environments where there were no black people. I still do, sadly.
I am “cultural Jew” (see below), but it has not been a hindrance in any sense. I would argue, it was a great benefit. That’s one thing I don’t like about this book. It should have been titled Everyday Jewish People, because many of the stories (at least five) are by Jewish people. Their Jewishness was central, in many ways, to their story. I’m not sure what it says about the book, but the fact there were so many Jews is just not “Everyday”, statistically at least.
The authors talked about their oppressed identities, which I found interesting. Most of the authors are women (another statisical anomaly), and they talked about their feminism. The vast majority are old, which is part of the book, I guess, in that these are mini-memoirs.
I guess the title bothers me in other ways, too. The people are not “everyday” in my sense of the word. I think of Studs Terkel interviewees when I think of “everyday”. These are all highly privileged people who are recognizing some of their privileges. Interestingly, none talked about their Intellect Privilege. That’s something I think about.
Despite all my complaining, I recommend the book, especially if you no nothing about Social Justice work.
[k887] Knapsacks and Baggage [by] Abby L. Ferber
[k905] My family was not very religious, but we were “cultural Jews.” Like many nonreligious Jews, we felt an obligation to carry on our Jewish cultural and religious traditions because they have always been threatened.
[k912] The message I internalized was that Jews were the universal scapegoat, and even when fully assimilated and successful, as they were in Germany prior to the rise of the Nazis, their safety was never secure.
[k914] My Jewish identity is not simply a religious designation I can choose or discard (Ferber, 1999).
[k916] My great-grandmother Anna, for whom I am named, fled a small Russian village at the age of 16 to avoid an arranged marriage. She came to the United States to seek out a cousin who had immigrated earlier. Her parents disowned her, and she never spoke to them again; she later learned that her entire family perished in Nazi concentration camps. I realize how precarious my own existence is; were it not for random actions such as those by each of my great-grandparents, I would not be here today.
[k935] I had trouble understanding how members of my own family could exhibit racist behaviors, given their own connections to oppression.
[k939] I also grew up with a Black Jamaican maid.
[k942] She had two children of her own who were close in age to my siblings and me. It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I wondered if anyone was at home for them. I felt more and more uncomfortable as I recognized that my mother’s own independence was predicated on the subordination of a Black woman.
[k1137] The Political is Personal [by] Kevin Jennings
[k1253] And I remember what my momma always told me as a child: “Kevin, the truth will set you free.” The truth is that every person has worth and value and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. I must continue to speak that truth as long as I live, and I truly believe it will help set us all free.
[k1983] What’s a nice white girle to do in an unjust world like this? [by] Dianne J. Goodman
[k2029] I also keep learning about my sense of entitlement and how my white privilege allows me to take things for granted and be oblivious to the challenges faced by people of color. I remember when I was facilitating a workshop and I first told the story about how I would open up a bag of snacks in a store to taste them so I could decide if my kids would like them and how many I should buy. (I would always pay for whatever I opened.) Seeing the look of shock on the faces of the people of color, it dawned on me that my unconscious assumption that I could just sample food with impunity, because no one ever suspects me of any wrongdoing, was an expression of my white (and class and gender) privilege and sense of entitlement–of being a “nice white girl.”
[k2040] It takes courage to be a leader, to speak up, challenge the status quo, try new initiatives, put oneself out there. I struggle with this frequently, doubting the importance of what I have to say, worrying I will get it wrong, fearing judgment and ridicule. But if I expect others to take risks, I can expect no less of myself. “We can’t teach what we don’t know, and we can’t lead where we won’t go.”
Everything is about relationships. I increasingly believe that everything comes down to relationships. What I care about, how I learn, my motivation to stay engaged, my ability to engage others, the support I get on my journey, opportunities for work, and the effectiveness of my change efforts are all connected to relationships with others. The more I do my own work (see previous guidepost), the stronger and more authentic those relationships can be.
[k2059] I often think about and refer to the words of Pat Parker (1990) from her poem “For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend”: “The first thing you do is forget that I’m black. / Second, you must never forget that I’m black” (p. 297).
[k2194] White Water [by] Gary R. Howard
[k2393] Lesson: Speaking clear-eyed truth to power is a dangerous occupation in this country that claims to uphold human rights and social justice.
[k3418] Resisting Whiteness/Bearing Witness [by] Michelle Fine
[k3461] We were first-(and a half) generation American Jews: hard work, assimilation, love, laughter, and accumulating privilege without noticing.
[k3479] Later in the interview, still not fully aware of how drenched in White my biography and consciousness have been, I asked, “So, when you were in school were you the kind of student who participated a lot in class?”
“No, not me. I was a good kid.”
[k3492] We won the case. The principal was removed. Within a few years, the same man who was found guilty of racism was elected by the general population to be the district’s superintendent of schools.
[k3534] And now I know that a single White antiracist woman just turns into white noise in court. But for 30 years I have engaged in feminist, antiwar, racial justice, and education justice movements, and in struggles against the prison industrial complex, high-stakes testing, gentrification, and exclusion from higher education, and in these delicious, sweaty settings I have learned there is strength when antiracist White allies link arms in coalitions for justice.