By Mel Harkrader Pine
Racism: An institutionalized system of economic, political, social, and cultural relations that ensures that one racial group has and maintains power and privilege over all others in all aspects of life. — UUA Handout
A discussion with my wife last night led me to make sure I was right about the official definition of racism as determined by the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), so I looked it up. The quotation above is the first line. I encourage you to read it all.
I’m supposed believe that “one racial group [presumably white people like me, for instance, with historic roots in Europe] has and maintains power and privilege over all others in all aspects of life.” That’s a lot of power and prestige. Who knew?
The first problem is that we whites with European roots are not one race any more than all people with roots in sub-Saharan Africa are one race. My anti-racist friends tell me I just don’t understand, or recognize, the systemic nature of racism. But no culture lives under just one system.
A white friend of mine told me recently that, if he and a black man walked into a room, he would immediately have higher status than the black man. When struck me immediately was the guy saying it — a blues musician with both arms heavily sleeved in tattoos. If he, dressed in his casual gig-appropriate clothing, walked into a bank board meeting with, say, John Legend, dressed as in the photo, who would have prestige and who would be considered a misfit?
So many systems in play.
Yes, on balance, we ahites have it better than blacks. On balance. And, yes, there’s a cultural system in force. But it’s one of many systems.
I’m short, fat, 72 years old, bald, and have an odd walk. Those are each systemic limitations. I’m also smart and articulate as well as white — systemic advantages. But those characteristics aren’t races, you say. Well, they each have genetic components, so maybe they’re as “racial” as the designations “black” and “white.”
Here’s more from the UUA:
It is worth noting that many people believe that People of Color and other people marginalized by race or ethnicity cannot be racist, because their skin color automatically takes away racial benefits.
Persons of color may be hostile toward whites, according to the UUA, “but such attitudes must be distinguished from systematic control over the lives/lifestyles of White people.”
And let’s address those automatic benefits I’m supposed to gain from racism. The UUA apparently believes that there’s a fixed amount of oppression in the world. So I benefit because you are more oppressed than I am. That sounds awfully like the wrathful God of the Old Testament, who needs to mete out a certain amount of punishment every year.
Strange thinking from a religion founded in part on universal salvation.
Rev. Dr. Thandeka dealt in 1999 with the reasons why the UUA’s anti-racism program would fail, and this weekend she posted her paper on her Facebook page. While her statistics are now somewhat dated, her truth is stronger than ever.
Oppression and racism harm us all, and we white folks benefit only from their net reduction.
Copyright 2018 © Mel Harkrader Pine