Friday, November 7, 2008

Anti-racism training

I've been thinking about race relations the past day or so, inspired in part by Larry Wilmore's report on the Daily Show. In the last minute, Larry Wilmore, formerly "Senior Black Correspondent" and now "Senior Executive Commander-in-Chief Correspondent who happens to be Black," says the thing he is most looking forward to is Black Liberal Guilt. He then goes on to say that he wants to volunteer in underprivileged minority neighborhoods and what proud people Hispanics are, "And their kids! Man, do they ever have beautiful children!"

Jon Stewart points out this might be condescending and Wilmore is thrilled to have gotten it right on the first try. As Wilmore says, "It takes a while to know how to blithely praise people whose suffering I don't really understand."

I think I got more anti-racism training in that minute than in the full day of anti-racism training I got from the Diocese. That was one day out of two. I missed the second day, in part because I needed to write a sermon, but also I have to confess because I didn't think I could take any more. And part of it was this icky, condescending liberal guilt that Wilmore nailed in his sketch.

There was valuable stuff in the training, primarily about white privilege which illustrates the (often) invisible advantages white people have gained due to our race. Invisible to us, I should add. But the way it was presented was through a video with all white actors, with a stern, grandmotherly woman lecturing young white folks eager to do good in an underprivileged neighborhood, exactly as Wilmore pointed out. In a refrain, the grandmother would rock in her rocking chair, look over her glasses and intone, "That's white privilege." And so after understanding privilege, then the white kids could go and help out in the black neighborhood, feeling especially guilty.

I came home from that day frustrated because it seemed to me that people actually affected by racism might be better qualified to talk about it, and what's more already had! I came home and watched an Eddie Murphy sketch that illustrated white privilege beautifully, as well as briefly and with laughter. What about Dave Chapelle? Chris Rock? Margaret Cho? So many voices who have made the points that needed making over the years, and we watched a tedious video made entirely by caucasians? What's that about? It's almost as if we thought we knew best. Nooo.... that would be...white privilege.

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