May 23, 2019

We become effective allies when we dismantle fear

By Doctor Meta L. Schettler

I teach Africana Studies here on campus and recently attended the Discussing Whiteness event hosted by the Cross Cultural and Gender Center.

We heard that the university had received negative complaints as soon as the event was advertised.

This negative reaction explicitly proves the need for more conversations about race, racism and white American identity. At this crucial time, politically, more than ever we need skills to recognize and call out white nationalism and recognize its divisive negativity.

White Americans will need to learn to move past defensiveness, fear and/or resentment to dismantle attitudes, habits and privileges which prevent us from being effective allies. Given the apparent popularity of xenophobic and bigoted statements made in last year’s election campaign, we have learned that appealing to racial fears stirs up hate crimes and intolerance nationwide in public spaces and our schools.

We too quickly forget that Donald Trump strongly supported fringe theories about President Barack Obama not being a U.S. citizen, and now his racial targeting has continued in this new administration. We need to continually call out this administration’s white nationalist agenda, from protesting the recent Muslim travel ban to calling out their offensive lack of acknowledgement of Jewish victims on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Whiteness is constructed. Let us not let politicians with pathological and autocratic agendas tell us how to behave or react. We will need to open up even more constructive spaces to build stronger dialogues about race and racism to overcome the negative forces currently at play.

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