Op-ed by Howard Eagle
People (depending on who you ask), will either tell you that I have a deserved or undeserved reputation for bashing or judging white folks. It is not true. I make every effort never to judge, nor necessarily bash anyone. However, I will and I do routinely call white folks out on racism.
Also, I do not shy away from debunking the widespread, popular mantra and myth that the sole, or even major problem with racism is institutions and systems, as opposed to individuals. Instead, I also routinely emphasize the vitally important, objective fact that institutions and systems do not establish, perpetuate, and/or maintain themselves — individuals do. In fact, this is my contribution regarding expansion of conventional anti-racist wisdom, knowledge and research. That is, the indisputable premise that the tripartite beast and illness of individual, institutional and structural racism are thoroughly bound up together, completely intertwined and totally inseparable from one another, e.g., there can be no continued institutional and/or structural racism without continued individual racists — by the millions.
Again, institutions (in-and-of-themselves), do not create, perpetuate and/or maintain policies, practices, procedures, rules, regulations and laws that guide and govern them — powerful people do. This is what allows us to accurately discuss the completely entangled nature and essence of the three major forms of racism. To be clear, without individual racism, the other two major forms would necessarily wither and die.
As a deadly serious anti-racist activist and aspiring, authentic, anti-racist expert — what is less known about me is that I actually praise white folks who get it right (whom by the way, as far as I can determine, are few and far in between) — such as the woman whom I refer to as the queen of whiteness, Dr. Robin Di Angelo. I was first introduced to Dr. Di Angelo’s work (years ago) by a former Editor of this publication, Mr. Jahaka Mindstorm. I’ve been studying her ever since.
White people like Dr. Di Angelo are valuable, not only because of their extensive knowledge regarding the historical and contemporary existence, functioning and many manifestations of racism, but because she and others like her, produce a reality by which Black and other anti-racist experts and practitioners of color (whom many white racists will never listen to — no matter how much we know) — to make assertions like: ‘don’t argue with me — argue with your own whiteness expert.’ This type of challenge will sometimes stop white racists in their tracks and actually move them toward introspection, which is an important step, in order to get past what the man whom I refer to as the King of anti-racism, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, calls the “heartbeat,” e.g., chronic denial.
Di Angelo is so skillful as an anti-racist writer and educator that many racist, white conservatives seem happy to see her latest book, Nice Racism: How Progressive White People Perpetuate Racial Harm. That is to say, many racist, white conservatives are intentionally interpreting her latest work to mean that white liberals are the “real racists,” as opposed to conservatives. On the contrary — she’s making the point that many liberals cause more race-based harm mainly because they spend more time around Black folks and other folks of color (attempting and/or pretending to be allies). On the other hand, we know that white conservatives don’t pretend and generally don’t hobnob with Black folks, nor other folks of color.
With regard to her new book, we congratulate Dr. Di Angelo for “keeping race on the table,” which she argues, most, if not all white folks, constantly attempt to push as far underground as possible (based mainly on their own deep-seated, white fragility and cognitive dissonance).
It is interesting to note that our Brother Minister Malcolm X taught us about the very same liberal/conservative phenomenon almost sixty (60) years ago — via his “wolf or fox” analogy. Brother Malcolm was saying (in his own unique way) the same thing that Dr. Di Angelo is saying today — when it comes to racial harm — “that Liberal [e.g., ‘fox’] is the most deceitful; the most dangerous thing in the entire Western Hemisphere,” and of course the ‘wolf’ is not far behind.
Howard Eagle is a longtime educator and local anti-racism advocate, known for his campaigns for the Rochester school board and prolific political and social commentary. Eagle taught social studies in the RCSD for 23 years, before retiring in 2010, and is now an adjunct professor in the Department of African American Studies at SUNY Brockport.
(The views expressed on our opinion pages are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or viewpoint of the Minority Reporter.)