The White Liberal

I have been thinking a lot about our discussion from class the other day in which Professor Kinyon was talking about how the white liberal is the most dangerous person in the fight against racism. It is sad because I can see the truth to that statement in a lot of individuals whom I personally know. Rather than being explicitly racist in their thoughts and actions, these individuals are apathetic to the injustice that is occurring because they do not see it as directly affecting them or as being something that is within their power or control to try to change. This passivity only breeds more disinterest and a lack of empathy, and it allows individuals to avoid thinking or caring about other people. If everyone felt this way – that they do not have to do anything because they are “not part of the problem” – our society would lose any altruism that it can attempt to claim.

We are called to care for others, even those who do not have anything in common with us, and to fight for others when we are put into a position of privilege. We should use this privilege to help and speak up for those who are being oppressed. Often, those who have privilege can speak to the oppressors in a way that the oppressed themselves cannot, and it is because of this, among other reasons, that the privileged individuals have the responsibility to fight against injustice. This frequently requires the privileged people to give space and opportunities for the oppressed to speak their truth and to listen empathetically when they do so. This concept of the passivity of the white liberal makes me think a lot about the difference between being “not racist” and being “anti-racist.” In order to fight against the racism that permeates every aspect of our society, it is not enough to just not be part of the problem; rather, anyone who wants to be a true ally needs to actively work to fix the problem.

2 thoughts on “The White Liberal”

  1. I think that fighting for other marginalised identities is definitely something that white people need to do in the revolution, but I can’t help but think that the main fight is within white circles themselves, and by this I mean that it is the job of white people who call themselves “anti-racists” to at least influence those who are simple “not racist.” If white people are working to influence their “white liberal” peers into a stance that dismantles their unearned white privilege, then there is no such thing as “passively standing behind the work of Black activists” (to quote the comment above). Also, just to be clear, I am not accusing you of not thinking of this sentiment in your post! I just wanted to explicitly say it as a part of the conversation since it wasn’t directly addressed.

  2. Hi Meredith, I think the distinction you make between being “not racist” and being “anti-racist” is really important and a concept that gets lost for white liberals. I also agree that anyone who wants to be a true ally needs to actively work to fix the problem, and I have been considering how this applies to our conversation surrounding the revolution. White allies need to take a more active role in this revolution, but they often voice that they do not feel it is their place and passively stand behind the work of Black activists. I do see the flip side of this though, and how problems can arise when white people lead anti-racist initiatives when they come from a place of privilege and bias.

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