Tuesday, August 16, 2016

He'll empty his pockets for you

Mikki Kendall, a person of color, has put together a series of her tweets of her "rant" (her word) about the difference between the working class and the poor, and what race has to do with it. Two tweets in the series stood out for me (and the second stood out for thousands of others).
This resentment of the success of POC & the myth that affirmative action is unfair hinges on the idea that we're supposed to be poor

The best scam ever run on poor white people was the idea that their financial struggles are the fault of POC & not rich white people.
In reading responses to Kendall's tweets I came across the acknowledgment that this scam is a few hundred years old. And this:
I'll tell you what's at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man that he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll even empty his pockets for you.
– Lyndon Johnson
So the need to feel superior is stronger than the need to feel economically secure.

Sarah Watts, writing for Salon, defines and discusses, white fragility. First the definition, supplied by Dr. Robin DiAngelo, who coined the phrase. The quoted parts are DiAngelo, the rest is from Watts.
White fragility is "a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves." Most white people "live in a social environment that insulates them from race-based stress," due to their privilege as part of the cultural majority. In turn, whites are infrequently challenged and have less of a tolerance to race-based stress, causing them to be hostile, guilty, defensive, or fearful when confronted. In the end, white fragility ensures that conversations about race are derailed, and the status quo of white supremacy is upheld.
Put another way: Most whites live where they don't have to confront race. When they are confronted by racism they feel uncomfortable. As the privileged class in America they expect they should not be made to feel uncomfortable. Thus they try to get out of the situation.

Watts then outlines several ways an ally can determine if they are feeling fragile.

* They change the subject.

* They use inappropriate humor to deflect. An example, "Black labs matter!"

* They get defensive or angry, usually at the person (of color) making them uncomfortable.

* They go out of their way to not focus on "the negative."

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